Monday, July 29, 2013

Disruptive Technologies

I have been reading several articles regarding 'disruptive' technologies in various industries. Here are a few:

Newspapers: Free online content is not only impacting print editions but also online editions that have paywalls. There is also some difficulty in attracting advertisers to mobile devices. Consumers apparently don't pay attention to the ads on these devices.

Telecommunications: Verizon has refused to repair their legacy lines post-Hurricane Sandy. Cell phones are taking the place of these old technologies of copper wires and telephone poles.

Oil Refiners/Environmentalist: The 15% blend of ethanol (E-15) is cutting into retail gasoline refining. And environmentalist think too much acreage is being diverted for ethanol production. There is also a debate that E-15 may damage internal combustion engines.

Utilities: The electricity generation industry is panicking over the increasing use of solar power and federal subsidies that encourages solar power enterprises. They are also concerned about 'net metering.'
Industry spokesmen are becoming hysterical. They see an existential threat to the national grid.

Television: I am morphing into more content viewing via my Apple TV. Here's why, less and shorter commercials. You still need the cable provider, that's true, but 'disruptive' technologies like Aero are already here.

There will be much lobbying to thwart the progress of these 'disruptive' technologies. So stay tuned and watch which state and federal politicians advocate for the industries mentioned, especially the utilities and refiners. Newspapers have accepted the 'disruption' and are working on innovative ways to compete both on and off-line. Telecommunications is also less combative and offering their customers viable and economical alternatives.

It seems that the utilities in particular are strongly opposed to government subsidies to solar enterprises. But, we should note that Congress has for years protected the utility industry with both subsidies and tax advantages. State governors also have a tendency to appoint commissioners friendly towards utilities to state regulatory boards.

Some of these industries are already playing the "too big to fail deck". We, as a nation can't abide this internal war on innovation. There will be blood i.e. realignment of job skills, education needs some serious revamping and the old industries either will be pushed aside or adapt with more capital re-directed to R&D and less to dividends and executive bonuses.

As an aside, people wonder why large financial institutions are fined and do not have to admit guilt for insider trading and/or other criminal acts. People wonder why prosecutors only go after the 'little guy". Well, they are gun-shy after busting Enron. In that case there was serious collateral damage. Arthur Andersen, one of the 'big five' accounting firms, was indicted for its part in the scandal. The indictment was subsequently reversed, yet 30,000 employees lost their jobs. Not only did innocent Enron employees lose jobs and retirement investments but so did Arthur Andersen employees and who knows how many other innocents lost their jobs and retirement nest eggs? So this is one of card's that will be played in the industries 'too big to fail deck'. A recent exception is an indictment against the hedge fund SAC.

I have been using quotation marks (') around the word 'disruptive' because I think it an unfortunate choice to described innovation technology. I wonder if there are technologies sitting on corporate shelves somewhere that could have been developed years ago but were considered too 'disruptive' for the corporation's future?

'The times they are a-changin'.


Newspapers: Newspaper Monopoly That Lost Its Grip

Telecommunications: After Hurricane Sandy, Verizon Takes Hostages

Oil Refining: Corn Ethanol Use In Gasoline Under Review

Utilities: On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities

Television: Spreading Disruption, Shaking Up Cable TV

Financial Services: Corporate Crime and 'Collateral' Damage

Friday, July 19, 2013

The "Lookism" Thing

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has banned boys with a Body Mass Index of 40 or above from this years Jamboree. When I read the headline in the Houston Chronicle I was aghast … aghast I say. But referring to USA Today, where the article originally was reported, fills in the details. This years Jamboree is being held this week in West Virginia and is to be a physically rigorous gathering. Scouts and their parents were given advanced noticed regarding the 40 or over BMI cutoff and also being 100 pounds over their individual ideal weight. There is no mention of handicapped scouts in the article.

But then I was aghast again by another 'lookism' article that appeared in the Opinion Section of the NYT on July 16, 2013, entitled "Fired for Being Beautiful".  James Knight, a dentist, in Fort Dodge Iowa, fired his dental assistant, Melissa Nelson because her  "… beauty was simply too tempting to pass unnoticed and that he was worried he would have an affair with her."

Here is Melissa Nelson.

So here is James Knight.

And here is James the stud again.

So are we done here, you know better than that … enter the lawyers. A sex discrimination case was filed in an Iowa district court and it was dismissed. The court determined that Ms. Nelson was not fired '… because of her gender but because she was a threat to the marriage of Dr. Knight.' 
It seems the good doctor informed his wife of his 'urges' and she insisted that he fire Ms. Nelson. 

Again, enter the lawyers, who appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the lower court's judgement. According to the court an employee, "… may be lawfully terminated simply because the boss views the employee as an 'irresistible attraction.' ''

Are you aghast yet?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Beer Index

Heard on NPR's program Planet Money.

It was an interview hosted by Melissa Block. It concerns the Federal Reserves Beige Book. No numbers, no contradictory economic theories. People call up the 'lumber guy', for example and ask him … "How's business?" So it's just full of antidotal stories that gives an overall picture of the economy. Now the Beige Book is online so you can read it here.

So what about this Beer Index thing?

Several years ago while compiling the Beige Book people notice an advance warning about the coming housing market crash. It had to do with the decrease in convenience store beer sales reinforced by a downward trend in the beer distribution business. Construction workers stopped buying six-packs after work. "Why?", you ask. Because it was inferred, and proved to be correct that these guys were not working anymore.

So as the title of Melissa Block's  program state, if you want to know about the economy try the "Ask Your Uncle Approach To Economics."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Immersion Journalism

Never heard of immersion journalism until last Sunday. Some journalist were discussing it on a C-SPAN book TV program. Although, I may never have heard the terms before, unbeknownst to me, I  had previously read an immersion journal article. It was an amazing New York Times article called 'Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek' by John Branch. Some of you have viewed it already. I say viewed because with immersion journalism it's more than reading, it is a 3D interactive non-fiction experience. Immersion journalism differs from gaming formats. For one thing it is long form journalism. Visual enhancements are integrated into the reporting.

There is a lot of hand-ringing within the newspaper and magazine business regarding loss of advertising revenues, and problems with profitable mobile advertising. Well, stop the moaning an jump onto and put your readers into long form immersion journalism.

I guess I should warn you that the term is not exclusive. Some reporters use this term to describe a reporting style where you immerse yourself in the story sans the interactive features. Anthropologists and sociologists have done this for years it's called participant observation. It's more of a longitudinal reporting. What we are talking about here is an evolution in newspaper and magazine reporting. It may or may not be longitudinal but in will always be integrated with interactive features.

If you want to know more about immersion journalism  Wikipedia has a comprehensive description.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

“The bride, 97, is keeping her name.”

Margaux Laskey is one of my favorite NYT writers. She writes wedding announcements in the Sunday paper and had her own wedding announcement in 2010.

A recent example of her excellent writing is entitled, "A Life Graced With Love and Notes". I'm not kidding, I DO like to read Margaux's wedding announcements. She is like a feature writer and much of her writing is poetic. I know it reads like those Christmas letters we used to get from friends … do people still do that? But, why not? Marriage is a celebration and those who can afford it get Margaux to present their love for each other to a world-wide audience. I wish Christina and Simon a happy life. 

By the way here is the announcement from the title of this post, A Lifetime of Happiness, Part 2

Now there is some criticism of this section of the NYT, the most notable probably is an ex-Gawker writer Katie Baker. Katie lets us in on the format and a scoring system she calls NUPTIALS to use when reading these wedding essays. 

Special Situations

So yes they are somewhat pretentious and an easy target for those with a satiric bent, but try and write one about you and your mate. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mountains and Oceans

In the July/August, 2013 issue of The Atlantic, Shell Oil Company has a very interesting advertisement that I guess they call Scenarios.

Shell's President, Marvin Odum, introduces Scenarios thusly, "So how can we best make choices now that will look smart 20 years in the future? 50 years, 100?"

Again Mr. Odum, ""Mountains"foresees a strong role for government and the introduction of firm and far-reaching policy measures, while "Oceans" describes a more prosperous yet volatile world. Two very real possibilities; two very different sets of outcomes; two thought-provoking futures that need to be considered by decision-makers everywhere."

Okay, "Mountains" brings to my mind barriers and obstacles, while "Oceans" is a wide expanse of smooth sailing, so to speak. Not too subtle Mr. Odum, but I might be prejudging.

Each scenario has the requirement of political co-operation and each scenario has a competitive component. Both to my mind have winners and losers. I don't see a level playing field in either scenario so in the end we are where we are now.

If you wish to know more go to

Thursday, July 11, 2013


The BBC is presenting a series on world-wide corruption via its radio program, but it also has an interactive website here. On this link you will find a corruption index.  Click on the percentage legend to the left of the map and see what percent of those responding to the survey by Transparency International said they paid a bribe for favors.

Surprise, surprise … political parties, police, judiciary, legislative bodies and appointed officials are the most corrupt, in that order (On the right side of the above map is a vertical link, 'Which Public Body Is Seen As The Most Corrupt'). Once on that map you can click on the categories. For my Australian friends the Media pops up as the most corrupt.

Other Source:

Transparency International Spells It Out: Politicians Are The Most Corrupt


Quit commenting in the comments section of your local on-line news source that Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden should be tried for treason and the same goes for Nidal Hasan and Barak Obama. They can't be tried for treason.


Yep, for decades we have been killing many, many people around the world and they have been killing us, but no declared war has been fought by the United States.

Treason is the only crime stated in the Constitution that is 'defined and has a standard for conviction'… Article III, Section III. And a citizen can only be tried for treason if we are in a state of war and only Congress can put us in that state and they haven't done that since 1941.

Other Sources:

Constitutional FAQ

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Bring Up The Bodies"

Just when you think we can't possibly harm each other more then we already have, along comes
K. L. A.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Where In The World Is John Burns?

John Burns

This is not a post for everyone because it's an inside the New York Times water cooler stuff and probably only fans of the "Grey Lady" will appreciate it.

John Burns was a recurrent presence on TV news, reporting from trouble spots around the globe. A kind of male Christiane Amanpour. He also wrote in depth feature articles for the NYT and was very good at his craft. Then he disappeared for awhile only to resurface as a 'helper' to Rachel Donadio in Rome reporting on the election of Benedict XVI.

Last Sunday, I was watching posthumous Q&A interview on C-SPAN with Michael Hastings a Rolling Stone's reporter and author. [Go to 'Watch This Program' on the right side of the web page.] During the interview Hastings said some alarming things about John Burns. Burns was a mouth piece for the military and Stanley McChrystal and his reporting my have been biased in that regard (my interpretation). So, is this why he was bumped up to London bureau chief? And now we learn that Burns has been moved from that position to writing about "enterprising stories about the world of sports."

If you have an interest in this topic, Google: Michael Hastings on John Burns

Monday, July 1, 2013

Running Them Out Of The Temple

Social Security, now will automatically deposit my Social Security check in something called Direct Express. It is managed by Comerica and there are fees associated with using this debit card. Recipients of Social Security do have an option of direct deposit to their bank accounts and Coemica has a reasonable fee structure, so no grips here ... yet.

However, my experience is that there is an erratic acceptance of the Direct Express card both on-line and at box stores. Netflix won't take the card (I don't care because I have issues with Netflix.), AT&T thinks it's a gift card, Capital One will only take on-line payments from bank accounts. This requires me to pay fees for money orders which in effect is a forced usury fee to use my own money.

I am much better off than the people in this article. How outrageous to exploit minimum wage workers with fee after fee after fee. (Chase Bank will raise your interest rate on credit cards if you don't use them.) Exploiting the lower class both financially and politically has become a national past time of the financial and political elite in this country. Next in line is the ever shrinking middle class,

The working class in this country has no advocates anymore. Labor unions are going the way of the dinosaurs and politicians, even at the local level, are more interested in accumulating money from large contributors for re-election than representing the larger constituency, thanks to the Supreme Courts idiotic Citizens United judgement  The most insidious aspect of this dynamic is that the victims of this downward spiral support this. Just read the comment sections of your local on-line newspaper edition. This support is based on a confused ideology combined with a self-destructive Schadenfreude without a critical examination of its corrupting, narcissistic nature.