Random Thoughts: More or Less!

A few random and not so random thoughts have been circling in my brain for the past week.  Here are a few issues worth thinking about a bit.

Microsoft’s little-screen, big-screen interactive future

Big and little screens interacting. That’s Microsoft’s vision of a collaborative future nirvana.

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A new world revealed!

20 years ago, when most of us were still dumb kids despite our relative ages, I was at a meeting with Bill Gates of Microsoft. He gave a presentation on the future of computing as he saw it. He predicted how we would interact with the things around us. He spoke of three devices; a personal interactive device, a portable interactive device, and a social interactive device.  He explained how all three of these devices would deliver the same content in roughly the same manner from any point on the globe. He predicted that the underlying system would be ubiquitous, and the information could come via wire or through the air in various forms.  The most

interesting thing to me at the time was that we would get the data through the same underlying system.  Few today likely remember that the internet at this time was mostly a dream unrealized, that to get information from a floppy had one type of interface and system, to get data from a hard disk another system, and from a network still another system.  Today we have hardly noticed that the view of the files and the method to get the information is largely the same.  Many in the San Francisco Airport Marriott Hotel room were skeptical, to say the least, and some in proximity to my business partner Ken Waters and me were actually chuckling.

This article from CNET, by Brooke Crothers, shows Bill’s progress in making those predictions a reality. I had the good fortune to be there and to hear this presentation. It is gratifying to see his efforts have stayed true to his vision and that we are at the doorstep of this next step in our technological evolution. Perhaps it is my age, and perhaps it is just my perspective but watching the migration of technology, and Windows, over much of the past 30 plus years, I guess I have gained a perspective that some others seem to lack.  For me, I am grateful for it because I see a grand design playing out. Despite the complaints, arguments, and plainly biased attacks, I see a company marching forward to a real and distinct value-based proposition, not the singular marketing prowess of some of their competitors.

Many modern pundits have decried Windows 8’s changes for many ridiculous and superfluous reasons. Oh no, it doesn’t have a start button! Oh my, it is designed for touch and won’t work with a mouse; oh, it’s… (fill in your own blanks) While I do not know if their motivations are due to other alliances or just to their youth and lack of historical context. Perhaps there is a bit of both. But for me, Windows 8 is the beginning of the final step of delivering Bill’s vision. I, for one, am delighted to see it and hope I live long enough to discover the benefits of its ubiquity.

Save the Nincompoops!

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Have we finally arrived at the point where the idiotic spending and regulation of everything under the sun, real or contrived, has finally seen a stopping point? In the above article by Chris Stirewalt, whether you love him or hate him, his point of view is shared by a significant portion of the country (about ½ give or take a few at any point in time)
I guess we can watch this story play out. Or perhaps we can help move the ball securely down this road. People say the pendulum swings both ways over time, and perhaps we are at the beginning of the meridian of this arc. The inertia driving the swing is in the hands of this nation. It is in the hands of the people. While the country is marginally divided, as the minuscule effect of these cuts are realized, barring any grand-stand plays from the administration to focus the cuts on the worst possible things, perhaps we will find the national courage to continue to pare away the recently expanded role of the federal government and return responsibility to the individual. The Constitution says we have the right to do things, not the guarantee someone will do them for us, nor does it say we have an obligation to do most of them(the obligation to spend money for the good of the economy is the one frequently coming to mind for me these days). I see the release of large amounts of illegal immigrants into the streets blamed on sequestration cuts as little more than a tragic play to convince America how bad and cutting is — which reminds me of Castro emptying the Cuban prisons and boating the inmates to Florida as political refugees. Yet, in reality, it shows to me that we should have spent more on securing our border and defense in the first place and less on guaranteeing free stuff to anyone who happens to sleep within our borders.

Giving away everything to everybody just for being born attracts more people to come here illegally to get the free stuff and to take the jobs that we won’t do because we don’t have to do them now – because of the same free stuff. And the cost of the free stuff, not tied to individual output, creativity, and diligence, puts our nation at an uncompetitive advantage over other nations where people work for basic survival. When a person in some other place will work for just $1.00 per day and can make 30 hand-painted coffee cups in a day, they cost about 3.3 cents a cup, and we can buy them after shipping and sales and distribution costs for about 50 cents each. Yet in America, where the average full cost per hour for most jobs, fully loaded with vacation, benefits, healthcare, taxes, and subsidies, comes in at $80.00 per hour, the cost is quite different.

Assuming through automation the same worker can produce 300 “hand-painted” cups per day, the cost to make them is $2.13 per cup, and when you bring this through the supply chain to the retail store, we will pay about $11.95 per cup. To be at the same price as those who do not get our free stuff and all the benefits, the American worker has to make over 850 “hand-painted” cups each day. It was “technology” and automation that we felt allowed us to make more profit and eventually afford more free stuff and entitlements. But we were wrong about the lasting effects of our advantages, wrong as to the extent of the actual cause of our prosperity, and wrong to continue to believe our own hype when solid evidence was contradictory.

“Time to cut costs in America, if we ever expect to regain our economy.”

The New Obamacare Insurance Is Looking More Like Medicaid

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One of the biggest issues I have with the ACA, Obamacare, is that it did nothing to fundamentally alter the bad self-predatory system that is one of the root causes of the issues we have in Healthcare today. This article, by Scott Gottlieb in Forbes Magazine, highlights why I feel this way. One of the law’s effects is for Hospitals to accept lower payments with the plan to carve the money back from other providers in the chain. This is the same cost-shifting that has driven some hospitals to the brink of bankruptcy and eliminated viability for many practicing physician’s businesses. This is an excellent read and something we all need to understand. These kinds of practice modifiers will either increase costs to consumers somewhere else in the chain or restrict services and choices.

What Happens When the Fed Really Does Run Out of Ammunition?

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The above article in Time Magazine by Michael Sivy leads me to wonder how did we move from a nation of personal responsibility that saved our way out of war debt to grow a robust economy and lead the world to one that relies on money created out of thin air injected into the economy with the mantra to the middle class that they should borrow and spend more to “Stimulate the Economy.”
In speaking of these new bonds, Bernanke says, “We can retire them (bonds we created and purchased with money created out of thin air) without selling them” What he is saying is, Yes we created the bonds, sold them mostly to our Federal Reserve Banks with money they printed just to buy them and then instead of retiring these bonds into the market by printing money out of thin air to pay the banks for the bonds we could just print the money and retire the bonds ourselves. Either way, this is nothing but a vehicle to create more money not driven by productive value.
Someone famous once said!

“Beware the money changers!”

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Tom Loker
Tom Loker

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