The Heretical Views of Freeman Dyson

Global warming greatly exaggerated?
What’s wrong with Freeman Dyson?
Maybe the climate models he’s criticizing are off – but perhaps he hasn’t seen the pine beetle destruction across North America – all the way from British Columbia to New Mexico. Perhaps he hasn’t seen the dry, hot weather across California. Perhaps he hasn’t seen the melting Glaciers in Glacier National Park. Perhaps he hasn’t seen the mild winters in the Rockies. Perhaps he hasn’t gotten out of his air-conditioned office…
This is what happens when you get too smart. I agree with his principal point – that PhDs are, for the most part, a bunch of nerds who are too busy examining parts of the elephant to see the animal itself. I even agree that we are not spending enough time working on poverty, infectious diseases, public education and public health. But to say that global warming is somehow less important misses the entire point. Of course they are all related. Of course we have to become radically more serious about sustainable development. But too say something this absurd? Really.
Here’s where I do find myself agreeing with him:
I say the United States has less than a century left of its turn as top nation. Since the modern nation-state was invented, about the year 1500, a succession of countries have taken turns as top nation. First it was Spain, then France, then and Britain, than America. Each term lasted about 150 years. Ours began in 1920 so it should end about 2070.
I agree with his analysis as well:
The reason why each top nation’s term comes to an end is that the top nation becomes overextended militarily, economically and politically. Greater and greater efforts are required to maintain the number one position. Finally, the overextension becomes so extreme that the whole structure collapses. Already we can see in the American posture today some clear symptoms of overextension.
But here’s where he’s missed the boat: the two are connected. If the United States decides to re-invent itself as a sustainable economy, it will lead for another 200 years, period. That is what Obama and Gore have figured out already, but somehow, this smart heretic has not connected the dots.

Swine Flu Updates: How Twitter Makes a Difference (UPDATED)

UPDATED: HealthMap from Google.org and the CDC >>
I have to say I’m not impressed by the swine-flu coverage in the traditional media.
What’s interesting is that one company – Veratect – has done a better job of identifying, elevating, and monitoring this crisis.
Their swine-flu Twitter feed is here. Judge for yourself. >>
Other good sources include the CDC and Google News, and the Flu Wiki
Photos here >>
Background: the politics of health >>

Hitler: Not the Right Management Guru for India

There was disturbing report at the beginning of the week which said that Mein Kampf was flying off the bookshelves in New Delhi, fueled by demand from students “who see it as a self-improvement and management strategy guide for aspiring business leaders, and who were happy to cite it as an inspiration.”
I don’t think so.
In my view, this is merely the latest round in the political extremism which is being fomented by groups like the BJP and thugs like Varun Gandhi.
When politicians use race, religion, and background to divide people and win votes, you know we’re in a bad place. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Republicans or the BJP using these tactics, it’s just plain evil.
We don’t need another Sanjay Gandhi.
There are plenty of candidates out there vying to be India’s Hitler. The question is: where is India’s Obama?
Tata Nano or not, India still has a long way to go to get to Satyameva Jayate
Will a real Gandhi please stand up?

Axel Springer: Thriving in a Dying Industry – Newspapers!

While newspapers and print outfits are losing their shirts all around us, the German company Axel Springer recently reported its “highest net income since the company was founded” 62 years ago.
How is this possible?
What are they doing that our friends at the NY Times aren’t?
From the NYTimes:
Axel Springer generates 14 percent of its revenue online, more than most American newspapers, even though the markets in which it operates — primarily Germany and Eastern Europe — are less digitally developed than the United States.
One reason, Mr. Döpfner said, is that Axel Springer has dared to compete with itself. Instead of trying to protect existing publications, it acquired or created new ones, some of which distribute the same content to different audiences.
At one newsroom in Berlin, for example, journalists produce content for six publications: the national newspaper Die Welt, its Sunday edition and a tabloid version aimed at younger readers; a local paper called Berliner Morgenpost, and two Web sites.
Though advertising has slumped in Germany, Axel Springer has been able to offset the shortfall by raising the price of publications like Bild, which sells more than three million copies. Now Axel Springer is looking for “undervalued assets” to buy.
Mr. Döpfner said the company would even have a look in the United States “if a meaningful position arises in a significant market.”

OK. So what are newspapers in this country going to do? Stay tuned.

The Tata Nano: The Rise of Ascetic Engineering

Is Ratan Tata the re-incarnation of Henry Ford?
Suddenly, innovation takes a front seat in the automotive world. And it happens to be led by an Indian engineering sensibility: frugal enough to do the job. This is the type of value-engineering that shifts the mindset of an entire industry:

13 iPod Nanos = 1 Tata Nano. Which Nano do you want?
Congratulations, Ratan Tata and the Tata Motors team of engineers. Brilliant!

World of Ends: Another Manifesto from Doc Searls and David Weinberger

The Cluetrain posse continues their journey:
1. The Internet isn’t complicated
2. The Internet isn’t a thing. It’s an agreement.
3. The Internet is stupid.
4. Adding value to the Internet lowers its value.
5. All the Internet’s value grows on its edges.
6. Money moves to the suburbs.
7. The end of the world? Nah, the world of ends.
8. The Internet’s three virtues:
a. No one owns it
b. Everyone can use it
c. Anyone can improve it
9. If the Internet is so simple, why have so many been so boneheaded about it?
10. Some mistakes we can stop making already
Details >>

Masao Nemoto: Is Your Culture Hurting Competitiveness?

A former senior managing director of Toyota Motor Corporation and renowned leader of their famous manufacturing system, Masao Nemoto is known throughout the world as a leader in quality control and process optimization. In a sense, he is one of the principal architects of the “Toyota Way.”
What we learn from Nemoto is far more than quality management. His ideas on leadership have been documented, and reveal the profound knowledge Nemoto infused into the day-to-day operations at Toyota.
One particular aspect of Nemoto’s thinking has been largely ignored by western companies to their own detriment: coordination between business units.
Nemoto insisted on a culture of shared responsibility. Here’s what Nemoto says:
“One of the most important functions of a division manager is to improve coordination between his own division and other divisions. If you cannot handle this task, please go to work for an American company.” (see his 10 leadership principles below)
Nemoto believed that critical tasks could not be left to a single business unit, but rather should be a collective responsibility.
What has this got to do with leadership?
Nemoto’s point of view says that leaders must lead across the company, not just their own fiefdom. It is ironic, to say the least, that the democratization of business happened first not in the West, but in Japan, at companies like Toyota. Or in Brazil, with Semco.
Note: OK, there are a few American companies in this camp as well: Zappos and W. L. Gore & Associates
Nemoto’s thinking went all the down to the individual worker on the assembly line. Everyone speaks, insists Nemoto, not just management. A direct result of this view is the work principle: problems must be solved at the lowest possible level. All employees take responsibility for problem solving, instead of pushing the issue upwards. Every worker in a process can be stop the work flow, without waiting for a supervisor to make the decision. It is this transparency which drives out defects and makes quality job one. Now wasn’t that a slogan we heard somewhere before?
Next time you bring your business unit heads around the conference table, ask yourself: “Are we competing against each other or against the competition?”
For reference, here are Nemoto’s 10 leadership principles:
1. Improvement after improvement. Managers should look continually for ways to improve the work of their employees. Advance is a gradual, incremental process. They should create all atmosphere conducive to improvements by others.
2. Coordinate between divisions. Managers of individual divisions, departments, or subsidiaries must share responsibility. Nemoto offers this advice to his managers:
One of the most important functions of a division manager is to improve coordination between his own division and other divisions. If you cannot handle this task, please go to work for an American company. A corollary of this is that upper management should not assign important
tasks to only one division.
3. Everyone speaks. This rule guides supervisors of quality circles at Toyota, ensuring participation and learning by all members. It has also been generalized to all meetings and the annual planning process. By hearing everyone’s view, upper management can create realistic plans that have the support of those who must implement them–an essential element in quality programs.
4. Do not scold. An alien concept to most managers. At Toyota the policy is for superiors to avoid giving criticism and threatening punitive measures when mistakes are made. This is the only way to ensure that mistakes will be reported immediately and fully so that the root causes (in policies and processes) can be identified and amended. Assigning blame to the reporter clearly discourages reporting of mistakes and makes it harder to find the underlying cause of a mistake, but it is difficult to train managers to take this approach.
5. Make sure others understand your work. An emphasis on teaching and presentation skills is important because of the need for collaboration. At Toyota, managers are expected to develop their presentation skills and to teach associates about their work so that collaborations will be fuller and more effective.
6. Send the best employees out for rotation. Toyota has a rotation policy to
train employees. There is a strong tendency for managers to keep their best employees from rotation. But the company benefits most in the long run by training its best employees.
7. A command without a deadline is not a command. This rule is used to
ensure that managers always give a deadline or schedule for work. Employees are instructed to ignore requests that are not accompanied by a deadline. The rationale is that without a deadline, tasks are far less likely to be completed.
8. Rehearsal is an ideal occasion for training. Managers and supervisors give numerous presentations and reports. In a QC program there are frequent progress reports. Mr. Nemoto encourages managers to focus on the rehearsal of reports and presentations, and to require that they be rehearsed. Rehearsal time is used to teach presentation skills and to explore problems or lack of understanding of the topic. Because it is informal, rehearsal time is better for learning.
9. Inspection is a failure unless top management takes action. The idea
behind this is that management must prescribe specific remedies whenever a problem is observed or reported. Delegating this task (i.e., by saving “shape up” or “do your best to solve this problem”) is ineffective. So is failing to take any action once a problem is defined.
10. Ask subordinates, “What can I do for you?” At Toyota this is called “creating an opportunity to be heard at the top.” In the first year of a quality-control program, managers hold meetings in which employees brief them about progress.
Three rules guide these informal meetings:
1. Do not postpone the meetings or subordinates will think their project is not taken seriously.
2. Listen to the process, not just the results, since QCs focus in on the process.
3. Ask the presenters whether you can do anything for them. If they ask for help, be sure to act on the request.
This philosophy can be generalized. If top management is perceived as willing to help with problems, employees are more optimistic about tackling the problems and will take management’s goals more seriously.
While reading these principles of Nemoto, I couldn’t help but be reminded of good old Deming.

Globalization and Corporate Taxes

If corporations want to be treated like persons, then they will have to pay their taxes like normal people. That’s just another founding principle in the ongoing war on corporatism.
If I go work overseas, I still have to pay US taxes – as long as I’m a US citizen. So why should the corporations be any different?
The tax experts may question this line of thinking, but let’s remember who pays them.
The Hindu has an article on the issue which seems fair and balanced.
Of course, more and more companies are choosing to move to Dubai, where, under a dicatator, they enjoy more freedoms than here in the US. More on Halliburton and KBR here>>
Who needs democracy when you can have bigger profits instead?
It’s all about the size and share of the pie
Funny thing, Dubai is not weathering the global financial as well as might be expected. Many of these offshore companies will come back or disappear. No bails-outs for them! Good luck Dubai.
For individual tax dodgers, watch the weasels squirm as Swiss bank accounts become more transparent. First Switzerland, then Panama and Singapore.
What’s my point in all this raving? Pretty simple really: businesses and individuals have a responsibility to all their constituents, not just shareholders. And the sooner they wake up to that reality, the sooner they will truly become “good citizens of the world.” It’s capitalism 2.0 versus police state 2.0 – which do you prefer?

GlobeSchooling.com: Education Through Travel

When I started my own consulting company back in 2004, my wife and I gradually realized that we didn’t have to keep sitting in Houston for the rest of our lives. We decided that we would travel as a family, visit the places we wanted to learn about, and spend some time in each of these places – learning about the history, geography, literature, culture and, of course, the people. Instead of teaching high school and college kids, my wife would now teach us.
We became globeschoolers: homeschooling on the road. Now we’re in our fifth year of travel. Our base-camp is still Texas, but we get to work, travel, and learn as we go about this country and the world.
My wife’s just started her globeschooling blog, which will explain what we’ve been doing. Really what she’s been doing to educate the kids (and us). I just tag along and learn a few things despite myself!
I’ve been bothering her to get blogging for a while, but apparently it took the Obamas and Earth Wind and Fire, to get her started…

Heart Disease and Indian Politics

India Today gives us a cardio-pulmonary view of the political pulse of India.
I suppose it is pretty stressful being a politician in India and all…
The article also mentions the inevitability of “Rahul Gandhi happening.”
Good luck, Rahul. I hope you’re ready to “happen!”

What’s up with Dubai?

Not much apparently.
When foreigners are abandoning their cars at the airport so they can avoid debtors prison, you know the economy has taken a turn for the worse.
Read all about it >>

Indian Innovation: Distributed R&D

The points raised by Anil Gupta and Haiyan Wang in their book – Getting China and India Right: Strategies for Leveraging the World’s Fastest Growing Economies for Global Advantage are echoed in this BusinessWeek article by Gunjan Bagla and Atul Goel.
So are things slowing down with the global recession? Here’s what they say:
We believe there may be a temporary hiccup in R&D globalization, caused primarily by companies freezing in their tracks as they reassess the new financial realities. But as soon as they rebuild their product road maps, nimble companies will actually accelerate their globalization efforts, pushed harder by tight budgets and the realization that the old ways can be disastrous.
Next up: What’s up with Dubai?

Ripples in the Indian Blogosphere: L.K. Advani versus Amitabh Bachhan

In India, we see L.K. Advani from the opposition fundamentalist BJP party try his hand at blogging. While I wonder, if at his age he’s ever used a computer, the posts are somewhat entertaining. For example he talks about why democracy has taken root in India, but not in Pakistan – and uses the words of the late Benazir Bhutto to make his point.
According to Bhutto: “I attribute your country’s success to two factors: firstly, your Army is apolitical; and secondly, your Election Commission is constitutionally independent of the Executive.”
No kidding.
Too bad the BJP doesn’t care too much about apolitical anything; they’re the ones that have sought to divide India by religion, and I believe that, by definition, is a great disservice to India’s cultural heritage. Sort of like the Taliban destroying Buddhist statues in Afghanisthan, but not on the same scale of intolerance.
In terms of influence, however, I’d say Bollywood (or should we call that Mollywood?) icon Amitabh Bachchan‘s blog, corny as it is, has more of an impact across the Indian world – from Mumbai to San Francisco. I just wish he’d focus on bigger issues and less on his daily ablutions. For example, when speaking about his recent trip to Davos, he could have talked about the issues in greater depth.
If and when he does so, he will become India’s answer to Bono.
Here’s a comment he makes which shows how he can, in fact, influence the growth of a secular India:
To me Cinema has always been, apart from its entertainment value, a medium of great integration. When we enter the darkened hall of a theatre we never ask whether the person sitting next to me is a Hindu or a Muslim, or Sikh or Christian. We are never concerned with the colour of his or her skin. Of being black or white or brown. We watch before us the unfolding of a story, where we laugh together at the jokes, sing their songs together, cry together at the same emotions. There are sadly very few institutions left in this world that can propagate the values of such an event. In a world filling rapidly with hate and violence, perhaps this is one medium that prides itself in bringing together, in integrating people rather than dividing them. The popularity of Indian Cinema within our shores and now increasingly outside, is not just the stars and their physical attraction, is not just the song and dance, is not just the escapist nature of our stories, but the fact that it brings us poetic justice within 3 hours. Poetic justice for most of us, does not come within a lifetime, sometimes several lifetimes. What better example of global understanding can there be, in these strained and uncertain times.
Now let’s work on real justice, and leave the entertainment to the politicians… where is India’s Barack Obama?

Book Review: “Getting India and China Right” by Anil Gupta and Haiyan Wang

The edge has become the core.
That’s the central idea presented by Anil Gupta and Haiyan Wang in their new book – Getting China and India Right: Strategies for Leveraging the World’s Fastest Growing Economies for Global Advantage.
It’s not enough to merely be present in India and China, argue the authors.
Their thesis: “…any Fortune 1000 company that is not busy figuring out how to leverage the rise of China and India to transform the entire company runs a serious risk of not being around as an independent entity within ten to fifteen years…”
China and India are different from all other countries in that they present four “stories” or opportunities rolled into one:
1) Mega Markets: they provide growth opportunities for every product and service
2) Cost Efficiency Platforms: with low wage rates, they can help reduce your global cost structure
3) Innovation Platforms: the talent pool of engineers and scientists can boost your firm’s technical and innovation capabilities
4) Launching Pads for New Global Competitors: your next global competitors are likely to emerge from here
So what are you supposed to do?
The book guides you, chapter by chapter, to explore the following imperatives:
1) Compete in India and China simultaneously. Why? Four reasons: i) the growth trajectory for both countries places them as the world’s top 4 and 5 markets for every product and service imaginable; ii) India and China offer (for the time being) complementary strengths in services and manufacturing respectively; iii) there are also remarkable similarities which help your company transfer learning from China to India and vice-versa, accelerating your success in both countries; and finally, iv) an integrated China and India strategy helps you reduce your political, economic, and intellectual property risks inherent in operating in just India or China.
2) Compete for mega market dominance through micro-customers. The authors show you how to compete at the top, middle and bottom of the pyramid in India and China. What I found especially interesting was the authors’ insistence that innovation opportunities abound at the bottom of the pyramid and that companies should use this segment as a “learning laboratory” for the discovery of new business models!
3) Leverage China and India for global dominance. There are three opportunities: cost arbitrage, intellectual arbitrage, and business model innovation – each of which can help you build a global platform for competitive advantage.
4) Compete with the locals – the dragons and tigers. The authors show you how to defend yourself and compete against the emerging titans in India and China using three key strategic initiatives: i) attack these emerging titans on their own turf; ii) neutralize their supply-chain advantages by tapping into the cost effective and innovation opportunities available in both countries; and iii) pursue an integrated India plus China strategy which, oddly enough, is more difficult for the emerging players in both countries.
5) Compete for local talent. You must project a positive and visible presence in the local media and local academic institutions. You can offer better global career opportunities for employees outside of India and China. Finally, by being sensitive to cultural and social mores, your company can build strong emotional ties to employee families – spouses, and yes, parents! The authors also suggest you hire in second and third tier cities to achieve lower salary scales and reduced turnover rates. (Wuxi is calling!)
6) Rethink what it means to be a global enterprise. The authors give us four areas to rethink – global strategy, innovation, organization, and lastly, our very mindsets. They warn us to stay slightly ahead of the changes in each of these areas, lest we get left behind on the road to global competition.
This is not a light read, but it is an essential one for every manager or leader with global vision. What I haven’t mentioned in this blog post is the detailed case studies and business examples the authors present to make their case.
Ignore the timely warnings and insightful lessons in this book, and chances are we’ll see you on TV asking for a government bailout.
For more info, see Wang’s blog here and this article in the Wall Street Journal>>

Susan Solomon: “Global Warming is Irreversible”

Now what?
Our carbon drain is clogged, and we’re going to drown in our own bathtub.
Here’s the bad news:
“People have imagined that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide that the climate would go back to normal in 100 years or 200 years. What we’re showing here is that’s not right. It’s essentially an irreversible change that will last for more than a thousand years,” says Susan Solomon on NPR
Are you ready for long droughts and rising seas? While some environmentalists are worried about the extinction of polar bears and emperor penguins, or the dying oceans, I’m thinking about human extinction. As usual, the poor will be hit the hardest.
Poor Al Gore keeps trying to wake us up:

This is a national security issue which makes Al-Qaeda look like the Peanuts.
Meanwhile, the Republicans, led by Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are still on their “global warming is a hoax” bandwagon.

Here Comes the Tech Greenwave: Asus’ Bamboo PC

Asus Bamboo PC
The Asus Bamboo PC is here, supposedly.
Asus is advertising it, even linking to Amazon, where it seems like they’re not quite ready for it.
My cynical side sees this is the latest in the greenwashing movement in the high-tech industry. If they’re serious, however, I applaud them.
Here’s how ASUS puts it:
ASUS has created a strategy dubbed the “4 Green Home Runs” to deliver greener products for the consumer. The “Green Home Runs” are Green Design, Green Manufacturing, Green Procurement and Green Service and Marketing.
OK, let’s do it – a green value-chain! I just hope we don’t learn later that they’re clearing Giant Panda habitat to make PC covers.
Geek info: ASUS U6V-V1-Bamboo 12.1-Inch Laptop (2.53 GHz Intel T9400 Processor, 4 GB RAM, 320 GB Hard Drive, Nvidia 9300M GS Graphics, Vista Business)
BTW, Bamboo is pretty nifty and is definitely one of those “sustainable products for our future.”

Video: Bill Gates on the Future of Aid

UPDATE: You can download the annual letter (PDF) here or read it online here >>
The Economist video interview with BG:

The interviewer has a bit of a chip on his shoulder, but Gates does a convincing job of focusing on the issues. I really think Gates has finally found his true calling.
Sign up for his annual letter >>

Shuo chang – Chinese Hip-Hop: The Birth of the Individual?


The NYTimes has an interesting story on the underground world of hip-hop in China >>
Wong Li, a 24-year-old from Dongbei, says in one of his freestyle raps:
If you don’t have a nice car or cash
You won’t get no honeys
Don’t you know China is only a heaven for rich old men
You know this world is full of corruption
Babies die from drinking milk.

He often performs in a downtown Beijing nightclub and uses Chinese proverbs in his lyrics to create social commentary.
Mr. Wong, who became interested in hip-hop when he heard Public Enemy in the mid-’90s, said rapping helps him deal with bitterness that comes with realizing he is one of the millions left out of China’s economic boom.
“All people care about is money,” he said. “If you don’t have money, you’re treated like garbage. And if you’re not local to the city you live in, people discriminate against you; they give you the worst jobs to do.”
It takes a revolution… to make a solution.

World Reaction to President Obama

FRANCE
President Nicolas Sarkozy
We are eager for him to get to work so that with him we can change the world.
GERMANY
Chancellor Angela Merkel
I want to say that I believe today is a very special day not only for the United States of America but also a special day for billions of people all over the world.
The fact that a colored president is being inaugurated and the fact the we a looking at an intensive transatlantic co-operation is something that not only moves the heads and thoughts but also the hearts. And I want to wish the new American President Barack Obama all the best, much strength and health and God’s blessing .And I want to say that Germany is prepared to liaise with him very intensely and very openly.
UNITED KINGDOM
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
The whole world is watching the inauguration of President Obama, witnessing a new chapter in both American history and the world’s history.He’s not only the first black American president but he sets out with the determination to solve the world’s problems.
RUSSIA
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
We are ready for this. Our president confirmed this in a telephone conversation with Barack Obama straight after he was elected. I think there will be additional telephone – and not only telephone – contacts between our leaders.
SPAIN
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero
Obama gives us hope and his words put us on a better path for a smooth and fruitful relationship with the Spanish government. The arrival of Obama gives us an opportunity we won’t pass up.
JAPAN
Prime Minister Taro Aso
Japan and the United States are allies who share universal values and strategic interests. I am convinced that Japan and the United States, both in a position to lead the world, can build a better future by working together to share knowledge, willingness, passion and strategy. With this belief, I wish to join hands with President Obama in further strengthening the Japan-US alliance and striving for peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and the world.
ITALY
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Many hopes and expectations have been piled on him, not just by the American people but also the rest of the world. The thing to do is to send him the most affectionate and cordial wishes so that he can fulfil these expectations.
VATICAN
Pope Benedict XVI
I pray that you will be confirmed in your resolve to promote understanding, co-operation and peace among the nations, so that all may share in the banquet of life which God wills to set for the whole human family.I offer cordial good wishes, together with the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you unfailing wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high responsibilities.
IRAN
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki
We prefer to wait and see what the practical policies of the American government will be.
PALESTINE
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad
We wish him well and we look forward to active engagement on the part of his administration, in co-operation with important members of the international community.
GAZA
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum
He came with a change and he needs to change the foreign policy of the United States towards honouring the freedom rights and democratic rights of nations, he must support the freedom of our Palestinian people and their rights and conventions.
ISRAEL
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Obama has mobilised the greatest amount of good will and support in all walks of life. This mobilisation of good will is becoming his strength in its own right. And I think all of us expect to translate this occasion into a real opportunity to pacify, to meet, to have a dialogue and bring a solution of peace to all parties concerned.
VENEZUELA
President Hugo Chavez
Hopefully the arrival of a new president will mark a real change in relations between the United States and the countries of the Third World, one of respect for sovereignty and the freedom of the people. But nobody here should be under any illusions. This is the North American Empire we are talking about.
THAILAND
King Bhumibol Adulyadej
On the occasion of your assumption of the Office of the President of the United States of America, I am pleased to extend to your Excellency my sincere congratulations and best wishes for your success and happiness as well as for the greater progress and prosperity of the United States of America and her people.
AUSTRALIA
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
I look forward very much to working with President Obama, the next president of the United States. Because we have a huge challenge ahead and it begins by working together on the global financial crisis.
UNITED NATIONS
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
I sincerely hope that President Obama will make as a matter of priority these Middle Eastern policies. As a member of the Quartet, as the leader of the world, the United States has full responsibility to lead this peace process so that this two-state solution, Israel, Palestinians can live in peace and security side by side.
EU
President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso
We are living through challenging times. And the challenges we face have no respect for national frontiers. What we need is new global governance and a new basis for prosperity. I sincerely believe that Europe and the United States must work together and with our partners around the world to devise and implement this new agenda for globalization.

Yah-soft or Micro-hoo?

Either way, we know Steve Ballmer will get Yahoo this time around.
So who will be the winner and heavyweight champion of search?
Still Google.

The Story of India



Michael Wood
is the BBC’s answer to Ken Burns, and he does a brilliant job with this six-part documentary. The series starts tomorrow night on PBS. The accompanying website is beautifully done as well.
The show is brought to you by Patak’s, which happens to be the one way you can cook your own “Indian food” in the US, in Germany, France, and of course, the UK. Meena Patak – can you do us all a huge favor and bottle the taste of Moti Mahal’s butter chicken, please?

The Limits of Green: Environmental Branding gets Messy

Prediction: 2009 will get “greenwashing” companies into hot water.
The danger in cause-related marketing is that it causes more harm to a company than good, especially when companies get involved in less than good faith.

This can happen, for example, when a company like P&G gets overzealous in its PR and engineers its own green awards.

And the slope gets slippery when the Sierra Club gets involved with Clorox.

Or when SC Johnson creates its own Greenlist(TM) process – and logo! Does anyone really believe that Windex is a green product?

Or when Dell claims it’s carbon neutral.

The simple question for business is can we trust youThe answer, so far, is no.

After eight years of laissez-faire, perhaps we are finally entering into a new phase of corporate accountability. And it’s not just about greenwashing.

10 Questions (not Predictions) for 2009

1. Will Obama fix the mess?
2. Who will replace Steve Jobs?
3. Will someone fix Yahoo?
4. Will anyone find/catch bin-Laden?
5. How many Bush regulations will be repealed?
6. Will Richard Branson start a Virgin Auto Company?
7. Will Google buy Twitter? Squidoo?
8. Netbooks! The $100 netbook is coming to disrupt the PC market… will it be from Google? or a Nokia?
9. How soon will we see a commercial mortgage collapse?
10. Will real unemployment hit 25%? 30%?

Update: Journalists-in-Jail Index

Interesting facts:
– there are more online journalists in jail than print journalists.
China leads the world in putting journalists behind bars
– Suspected perpetrators in journalist murder cases:
* Political groups: 31.2%
* Government officials: 18.5%
* Criminal group: 11.1%
* Paramilitaries: 7.2%
* Military: 5.8%
* Local residents: 2.1%
* Mob: 1.2%
* Unknown: 22%
I consider the “Journalists-in-Jail Index” a true measurement of democracy
And now, a music video from Alpha Blondy:

Wuxi Calling

wuxi.jpg
China’s advertising in Silicon Valley, trying to lure Asian-Americans to move to the “Most Aspiring City of Prosperity and Civilization in the Southeast of China.”
Just another act in the global war for talent

Torturing Journalists

The television reporter who threw his shoes at President Bush was burned by a cigarette in the hours after his arrest on Dec. 14 and was beaten so badly by Iraqi security personnel that one of his teeth was knocked out, the reporter’s brother said Sunday after a visit to the jail.
Nice democracy we’ve installed in Iraq… I guess they get their “best practices” from Cheney.
Learn more >>

The Financial Crisis: Perspectives from China and India

James Fallowsinterview with China’s Gao Xiqing, president of the China Investment Corporation is an eye-opener:
– “People, especially Americans, started believing that they can live on other people’s money. And more and more so. First other people’s money in your own country. And then the savings rate comes down, and you start living on other people’s money from outside. At first it was the Japanese. Now the Chinese and the Middle Easterners.
– “If you look at every one of these [derivative] products, they make sense. But in aggregate, they are bullshit. They are crap. They serve to cheat people.
– “I have to say it: you have to do something about pay in the financial system. People in this field have way too much money. And this is not right.
– “Today when we look at all the markets, the U.S. still is probably the most viable, the most predictable. I was trained as a lawyer, and predictability is always very important for me.
– “Americans are not sensitive in that regard. I mean, as a whole. The simple truth today is that your economy is built on the global economy. And it’s built on the support, the gratuitous support, of a lot of countries. So why don’t you come over and … I won’t say kowtow [with a laugh], but at least, be nice to the countries that lend you money.
– “Talk to the Chinese! Talk to the Middle Easterners! And pull your troops back! Take the troops back, demobilize many of the troops, so that you can save some money rather than spending $2 billion every day on them. And then tell your people that you need to save, and come out with a long-term, sustainable financial policy.”
and then there’s the Indian perspective:
– “In India, we never had anything close to the subprime loan,” said Chandra Kochhar, the chief financial officer of India’s largest private bank, Icici. (A few days after I spoke to her, Ms. Kochhar was named the bank’s new chief executive, in a move that had long been anticipated.) “All lending to individuals is based on their income. That is a big difference between your banking system and ours.” She continued: “Indian banks are not levered like American banks. Capital ratios are 12 and 13 percent, instead of 7 or 8 percent. All those exotic structures like C.D.O. and securitizations are a very tiny part of our banking system. So a lot of the temptations didn’t exist.”
– ” “We recognize it as a problem of plenty. It was perpetuated by greedy bankers, whether investment bankers or commercial bankers. The greed to make money is the impression it has made here. Anytime they wanted a loan, people just dipped into their home A.T.M. It was like money was on call.”
Serious business this.

The End of Chinamerica

Interesting commentary from Harvard’s Niall Ferguson:
With China decoupled from America—relying less on exports to the U.S. market, caring less about its currency’s peg to the dollar—the end of Chimerica would have arrived, and with it the balance of global power would be bound to shift. No longer so committed to the Sino-American friendship established back in 1972, China would be free to explore other spheres of global influence, from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, of which Russia is also a member, to its own informal nascent empire in commodity-rich Africa.
Yet commentators should hesitate before prophesying the decline and fall of the United States. It has come through disastrous financial crises before—not just the Great Depression, but also the Great Stagflation of the 1970s—and emerged with its geopolitical position enhanced. That happened in the 1940s and again in the 1980s.
Part of the reason it happened is that the United States has long offered the world’s most benign environment for technological innovation and entrepreneurship.

Read all about it >>

Girl Scouts: Sell This!

One of my pet peeves with the Girl Scouts of America is their exploitation of children:
“…they have to sell 40 boxes of cookies at $3.00 apiece just to make $20.00. The other $2.50 goes to the Girl Scout Organization.”
What a rip-off.
Instead of selling cookies, the Girl Scouts troops should be selling these. And keeping the PCs.
Why can’t www.laptop.org donate or sell PCs to poor schools in the US as well as the rest of the world? C’mon St. Nicholas (Negroponte)!