David Kirkpatrick

August 30, 2009

Taking a power sander to his legacy …

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:17 pm

Dick Cheney returns to the public sphere.

He may well avoid any legal problems related to his torture program breaking both United States and international law, but Cheney is certainly cementing his place in history. And it’s not going to be in the American hero section of the library.

From the link:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney asserted on Sunday that the Justice Department’s decision to review detainee interrogation practices by Central Intelligence Agency workers and contractors was “a political move” and that President Obama was trying to “duck the responsibility” by saying the choice was the attorney general’s.

From John Kerry:

Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee and also a decorated Vietnam veteran, responded more bluntly on ABC’s “This Week,” saying that Mr. Cheney had shown through the years “frankly, a disrespect for the Constitution, for sharing of information with Congress, respect for the law, and I’m not surprised that he is upset about this.”

And from John McCain:

Mr. McCain’s sharpest departure from Mr. Cheney came in his criticism of the C.I.A.’s use of extreme interrogation methods, even as Mr. Cheney again insisted that they had provided critical, life-saving intelligence. The senator, a frequent critic of torture, said that such techniques violated the Geneva convention on torture, damaged United States relations with allies, substantially aided al-Qaeda with its recruitment and produced unreliable intelligence.

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August 29, 2009

The Bill of Rights, guns and political events

I’m a huge fan of our founding fathers and the greatest gift they handed down to all United States citizens — the Bill of Rights. Coming from autocracy they laid down in explicit detail the best way to counter such, and totally nailed the order of business. The first amendment protects speech (opinion, etc.) and the second the right to bear arms.

I’m a huge fan of both of those amendments, and in that order. I think open carry (or concealed for that matter) shouldn’t be an issue, but I understand someone having an problem with open carry at political events that become somewhat heated. Particularly open carry at events involving secret service agents who put their lives on the line every day. And especially after the previous occupant of the White House had people arrested for wearing t-shirts, much less packing heat.

All in all, I’d say this Daily Dish reader puts it best:

It is an implicit threat that, if health care comes to this country, him and his friends may have to get violent.  Or put another way, he’s hoping that by exercising his second amendment rights, he can scare people out of using their first amendment rights.  Even if this is legal, can’t we all agree that this is somewhat dickish?

August 28, 2009

Google Chrome mini-review

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:30 pm

Finally broke down and actually tried out Chrome.

The quick reaction? I like it.

It’s pretty spare and not totally user friendly for this particular user, but it feels agile, websites look good, no Flash problems (hint go the Chrome features page and get the auto-download for the plug-in there) and feels a little quicker than my current IE install.

Update 8/29/09 — It’s definitely more quick and might end up my default browser. All in all I’m very impressed with Mountain View’s entry into the browser wars.

Web 2.0 and the taxman

Filed under: Business, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:35 pm

Don’t look now, but it seems state tax authorities are lurking social networking sites to track down tax deadbeats.

From the link:

Tax deadbeats are finding someone actually reads their MySpace and Facebook postings: the taxman.

State revenue agents have begun nabbing scofflaws by mining information posted on social-networking Web sites, from relocation announcements to professional profiles to financial boasts.

In Minnesota, authorities were able to levy back taxes on the wages of a long-sought tax evader after he announced on MySpace that he would be returning to his home town to work as a real-estate broker and gave his employer’s name. The state collected several thousand dollars, the full amount due.

Meanwhile, agents in Nebraska collected $2,000 from a deejay after he advertised on his MySpace page that he would be working at a big public party.

Cato’s Tim Lee on software patents

(Hint: he’s against them …  and I am too)

No link here, this come through the inbox with this title, “The Case against Literary (and Software) Patents” and this descriptor, “Issue #125, August 28, 2009; by Timothy B. Lee.”

If you really feel the need to do some clicking here’s the footer, “Timothy B. Lee is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC. To subscribe or see a list of all previous TechKnowledge articles, visit www.cato.org/tech/tk-index.html.”

I’m going to pull from this excellent piece by Lee, but I’m betting you can find the whole thing following that last link up there. It’s worth the read.

Software patents have been a drain on the IT world for a while and things have become simply out of hand. If you’ve never looked too deeply into the topic, or even never have heard of it, it’s shocking in how the US Patent and Trademark Office has been willingly misused by IT firms. Usually very big IT firms.

From the essay:

Patent protection was first extended to software in the 1980s, and the practice accelerated in the 1990s. As a result, it is now difficult to create any significant software without infringing a patent. With tens of thousands of software patents granted every year, and no effective indexing method for software patents, there is no cost-effective way to determine which patents cover any piece of software.

Stanford law professor Mark Lemley has documented the unsurprising result: most firms in the IT industry have simply given up trying to avoid patent infringement. Instead, larger firms stockpile patents to use as ammunition when they are inevitably sued for infringement. They also sign broad cross-licensing agreements with other large firms promising not to sue one another. This has prevented patents from bringing the software industry to a standstill, but it’s hard to see how the practice promotes innovation.

Even worse, software patents tilt the playing field against smaller and more innovative software firms. Most small firms develop their technology independently of their larger competitors, but this isn’t enough to prevent liability; incumbents have so many broad software patents that it’s impossible to enter many software markets without infringing some of them. Small firms don�t have the large patent arsenals they need to negotiate for cross-licensing agreements with their rivals. As a consequence, incumbents can use their patent portfolios to drive smaller competitors out of business. Other small firms are forced to pay stiff licensing fees as a cost of entering the software industry. The result is to limit competition rather than promote innovation.

The Supreme Court has been taking steps to rein in the patent bar in recent decisions such as KSR v. Teleflex. But the Court hasn’t directly addressed the patentability of software since 1981, when it ruled (as it had on two previous occasions) that software is ineligible for patent protection. In the intervening years, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears all patent appeals, has seemed to stray far from that principle. But the Supremes have not reviewed any of its key decisions.

The patent at issue in Bilski is not a software patent; it is a “business method” patent that claims a strategy for hedging against financial risk. But the case is being closely watched for its effects on the software patent issue. Patented business methods are often implemented in software; for example, a key decision on the patentability of software, State Street Bank v. Signature Financial Group, involved a software-implemented business method. And the standard articulated by the Federal Circuit in Bilski, known as the �machine-or-transformation test� has been used by the Patent Office in recent months to invalidate several software patents. The Supreme Court could ratify the Federal Circuit’s mildly restrictive standard, or it could articulate its own standard that is either more or less restrictive of patents on software.

Atomic scale image of pentacene

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:54 pm

I’m just going to say wow. You can actually make out the five carbon atoms.

This image of pentacene, a molecule
made up of five carbon rings, was
made using an atomic-force
microscope. Credit: Science/AAAS

From the link:

Using an atomic-force microscope, scientists at IBM Research in Zurich have for the first time made an atomic-scale resolution image of a single molecule, the hydrocarbon pentacene.

Atomic-force microscopy works by scanning a surface with a tiny cantilever whose tip comes to a sharp nanoscale point. As it scans, the cantilever bounces up and down, and data from these movements is compiled to generate a picture of that surface. These microscopes can be used to “see” features much smaller than those visible under light microscopes, whose resolution is limited by the properties of light itself. Atomic-force microscopy literally has atom-scale resolution.

FTC bans most robocall telemarketing

This type of regulation is long, long overdue. Robocalls are invasive, time-wasting and sometimes almost impossible to stop. I’ve done consulting and content for the collections industry and product reviews for IVR (interactive voice response) systems and predictive dialers so I have a working knowledge of the technology and its strengths and weaknesses.

Robocalls can offer a number of bad results. Unscrupulous users of predictive dialers with prerecorded messages can make calls with zero human involvement in the process, hide or spoof the caller ID number to anything (read: fake) they want, and not provide a working number to anyone who listens to the entire call to hopefully stop the annoyance.

Another issue isn’t nearly as sinister, but maybe even worse from an unstoppable irritant perspective. Sometimes either a number gets “lost” in a PD/IVR system and keeps getting called without anyone knowing about it, and even lost in th system where a front-line operator can’t end the calls. Similarly, there are times where a company utilizing PD/IVR systems go out of business, but the calls continue for a time. Maybe a long time if the service is outsourced, the paid-up contract is long and no one from the defunct company informs the telecom outsource to stop the calls.

From the first link way up there:

The Federal Trade Commission said Thursday it is banning many types of prerecorded telemarketing solicitations, known as robocalls. Currently, consumers must specifically join a do-not-call list to avoid them. Starting Sept. 1, telemarketers will first need written permission from the customer to make such calls.

“American consumers have made it crystal clear that few things annoy them more than the billions of commercial telemarketing robocalls they receive every year,” said Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC.

Violators will face penalties of up to $16,000 per call.

Don’t expect phone solicitations to disappear completely, though.

Calls that are not trying to sell goods and services to consumers will be exempt, such as those that provide information like flight cancellations and delivery notices and those from debt collectors.

Other calls not covered include those from politicians, charities that contact consumers directly, banks, insurers, phone companies, surveys and certain health care messages such as prescription notifications. The FTC said those don’t fall under its jurisdiction.

And calls made by humans rather than automated systems will still be allowed, unless the phone number is on the National Do Not Call Registry.

But the FTC said the ban should cover most robocalls, forcing marketers to turn to more expensive live calls, or ramp up efforts in direct mail, e-mail and TV ads.

The ban is part of amendments to the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule announced a year ago.

August 27, 2009

401(k) cap may drop next year

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:27 pm

Only by $500, but it sure seems counterproductive to long-term fiscal sanity for individuals. I’m guessing Congress will pass something to prevent this forcing of the IRS’s hand on the issue.

From the link:

Low inflation has made food and gas more affordable during the recession, but there’s a downside: Social Security beneficiaries probably won’t get a raise next year, and the IRS may reduce the amount workers can contribute to their 401(k) plans.The IRS will announce 2010 contribution limits for 401(k) plans in October, based on a formula tied to the inflation rate in the third quarter vs. the year-ago quarter. For 2009, most workers can contribute up to $16,500 to their 401(k) plans, plus an additional $5,500 if they’re 50 or older. Unless inflation picks up in August and September, the IRS could be forced to reduce the cutoff to $16,000 in 2010, according to an analysis by Mercer, a human resources consultant. The threshold for catch-up contributions could be reduced to $5,000. This would mark the first time the IRS has reduced 401(k) contribution limits.

Looking into the first eleven dimensions

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:34 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — Multidimensional research is always fun.

Beyond space and time: Fractals, hyperspace and more
NewScientist, Aug. 26, 2009

NewScientist explores dimensions from zero to 10D string theory in a special feature.

 
Read Original Article>>

Solar power costs coming down

Filed under: Business, Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:45 am

This NYT story isn’t news for anyone who’s been following solar power and the technical breakthroughs and real-world suppliers (many in China as the article points out) the industry has seen the last few years. 

It is an interesting read and lays out a lot considerations for going solar — particularly for residential structures.

From the first link:

But the cost of solar panels has plunged lately, changing the economics for many homeowners. Mr. Hare ended up paying $77,000 for a large solar setup that he figures might have cost him $100,000 a year ago.

“I just thought, ‘Wow, this is an opportunity to do the most for the least,’ ” Mr. Hare said.

For solar shoppers these days, the price is right. Panel prices have fallen about 40 percent since the middle of last year, driven down partly by an increase in the supply of a crucial ingredient for panels, according to analysts at the investment bank Piper Jaffray.

The price drops — coupled with recently expanded federal incentives — could shrink the time it takes solar panels to pay for themselves to 16 years, from 22 years, in places with high electricity costs, according to Glenn Harris, chief executive of SunCentric, a solar consulting group. That calculation does not include state rebates, which can sometimes improve the economics considerably.

American consumers have the rest of the world to thank for the big solar price break.

Until recently, panel makers had been constrained by limited production of polysilicon, which goes into most types of panels. But more factories making the material have opened, as have more plants churning out the panels themselves — especially in China.

August 26, 2009

Jobs aren’t recovering with economy

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:14 pm

Not exciting news, and the title’s probably a little bit misleading since it should read something closer to “don’t expect jobs to recover along with the economy once the economy really starts recovering.” Or something along those sobering lines.

From the link:

The mood regarding the U.S. economy may be inching, ever so slowly, toward optimism. But don’t expect to see much improvement on the jobs front anytime soon. The economy’s following a script for a jobless recovery, and unemployment is likely to stay high, if not get slightly worse.The Congressional Budget Office painted a worsening picture for joblessness on Tuesday: The CBO sees unemployment peaking at 10.4% next year from an average of 9.3% this year, before it falls to 9.1% in 2011.

So how can there be a recovery without job growth to go with it?

To start, companies were unusually quick on the trigger initiating massive layoffs during this downturn. But they’re unlikely to be equally zealous about hiring people back, especially since productivity is so high right now. The Labor Department reported that non-farm productivity grew at a 6.4% annual rate in the second quarter, the largest gain since the third quarter of 2003.

Wireless industry under the gun

Filed under: Business, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:13 pm

I won’t go all the way out to say the wireless sector regularly engages in bad business practices, but it’s pretty hard to argue the industry has been best serving the customer for, let’s say, the last 15 years.

Good luck in staring down a government with rolled-up sleeves and the political will to impose heavy regulation on offending businesses.

More regulation may not be the answer, but a bit more electronics liberation would be nice.

Check out the disingenuous quote from the CTIA veep below — wireless offerings are cheaper than 15 (fifteen!) years ago? Really? And there are services you can get today that weren’t available in 1994? Wow that progress thing is just so cool! Thanks for setting this story straight Mr. Spokesman.

From the link:

Facing an unprecedented onslaught of criticism of its pricing practices, exclusive handset deals and other moves, the wireless industry is gearing up to defend itself in hearings before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other government groups.”The wireless industry in the U.S. has the coolest handsets, the applications are more robust, and the networks have the highest speeds with the lowest pricing,” said Christopher Guttman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs at the CTIA in an interview today. “Can things get better? Yes. But things will get better.”

The CTIA, an association of carriers, handset makers and a growing number of wireless ecosystem players like Google Inc., says it is a bit confused by the level of criticism heaped upon the industry in recent weeks. Critics have leveled a variety of complaints ranging from what they contend is a lack of wireless innovation to overcharging for monthly services, Guttman-McCabe said.

Click here to find out more!“I think it’s extremely hard to understand the criticism we’re hearing,” Guttman-McCabe said. “People pay … a hell of a lot less than they paid [for wireless services] 15 years ago, and think of what you get now that you couldn’t get then.”The CTIA is planning to carefully watch the FCC’s meeting on Thursday to consider whether to conduct three probes, or “inquiries,” into the wireless industry. The FCC will decide whether it will work to find ways to encourage wireless vendors to be more innovative, competitive and open in providing information to consumers looking to buy wireless services.

Ted Kennedy, RIP

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:47 pm

Whatever your opinion of the longtime senator from Massachusetts as a man, a statesman or simply as a politician, you have to admit he played the game in D.C. for as long and as well as anyone in modern memory. Many senators serve a very long time, very few remain so engaged and relevant their entire time in office. Until his sudden illness Ted was an active participant on Capital Hill.

From the linked NYT obituary:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a son of one of the most storied families in American politics, a man who knew acclaim and tragedy in near-equal measure and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate, died late Tuesday night. He was 77.

The death of Mr. Kennedy, who had been battling brain cancer, was announced Wednesday morning in a statement by the Kennedy family, which was already mourning the death of the senator’s sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver two weeks earlier.

“Edward M. Kennedy — the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply – died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port,” the statement said. “We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever.”

August 22, 2009

Mexico decriminalizes drugs …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:52 am

… in personal use quantities. The first recent drug policy action taken in the Western Hemisphere that actually makes sense. Hopefully this a start of a changing dynamic that leads to an end of the absolutely disastrous “war on drugs” on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border.

And begins to put an end to murderous black marketeers working in both nations.

From the link:

Mexico decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and heroin on Friday—a move that prosecutors say makes sense even in the midst of the government’s grueling battle against drug traffickers.Prosecutors said the new law sets clear limits that keep Mexico’s corruption-prone police from extorting casual users and offers addicts free treatment to keep growing domestic drug use in check.

“This is not legalization, this is regulating the issue and giving citizens greater legal certainty,” said Bernardo Espino del Castillo of the attorney general’s office.

The new law sets out maximum “personal use” amounts for drugs, also including LSD and methamphetamine. People detained with those quantities no longer face criminal prosecution.

August 21, 2009

Intro to DaaS

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:22 pm

Just when you were getting used to cloud computing and SaaS (software-as-a-service), along comes another buzzy tech player — data-as-a-service, or DaaS.

From the link:

Unfortunately, the business world has given this baby a jargony name: Data as a Service, or its diminutive, DaaS. It rhymes with SaaS, its better-known cousin that stands for Software as a Service. SaaS is the catchall name for on-demand software applications like those on an iPhone. DaaS, in contrast, recognizes that software is becoming a commodity; it’s data mixed with software that’s king.

Watch out for correspondence audits from the IRS

I’d like to see some legislation taking this ability away from the IRS. Too many problems, to many moving parts, not enough personal interaction and very clearly not enough protection for the taxpayer.

From the link:

A new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration lends support to growing complaints about the Internal Revenue Service’s big audit-by-mail program.

The IRS has increasingly relied on these correspondence audits, focused on one or two narrow issues, to maintain its audit coverage of normal taxpayers as its auditor corps has shrunk. Taxpayers are sent a letter that, for example, says their charitable or un-reimbursed employee business deductions will be denied and a certain amount of extra taxes assessed unless they provide acceptable documentation supporting the deductions within 30 days.

But the TIGTA report concludes that the correspondence audit results reported by the IRS are “inaccurate and overstated” and that there are operational problems with the program, including significant mail processing delays. These delays can cause taxpayers who respond with documentation within the required time to be assessed extra taxes because their responses don’t get to the right IRS employee in time. Eventually, they may be able to get those taxes abated through an “audit reconsideration,” but the average time to conclude one of those is 159 days, TIGTA estimates.

Video to appear in print magazine next month

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:06 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — This news caught me by complete suprise and fairly well blew me away. Just wow.

Video appears in paper magazines
BBC News, Aug. 20, 2009

The first video-in-print ads, using chips and thin screens around the size of mobile phone displays, will appear in select copies of Entertainment Weekly magazine in September and hold 40 minutes of video.

The first clips will be promos for CBS programs and Pepsi.

 
Read Original Article>>

US companies are cash-rich

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:01 pm

And all this mattress stuffing isn’t doing much for the economy. The free market needs liquidity or things tend to stagnate.

From the link:

American companies are now sitting on record mountains of cash in an indication of deep worries about the economy’s future.Even though analysts forecast a return to U.S. economic growth by the third quarter, companies have yet to show any major signs of rehiring or spending.

And with consumers also hoarding cash at near record levels, a cautious stance by companies could add to worries about the sustainability of an economic recovery.

New process lowers cost of LEDs

A lot of work has been done in the world of LEDs as a viable, cost-effective lighting source — particularly with OLEDs — and here’s some interesting news on inorganic LEDs and a new technique to help bring manufacuturing costs down for that lighting tech.

From the second link:

A new technique makes it possible to print flexible arrays of thin inorganic light-emitting diodes for displays and lighting. The new printing process is a hybrid between the methods currently used to make inorganic and organic LEDs, and it brings some of the advantages of each, combining the flexibility, thinness and ease of manufacturing organic polymers with the brightness and long-term stability of inorganic compounds. It could be used to make high-quality flexible displays and less expensive LED lighting systems.

Inorganic LEDs are bright and long lasting, but the expense of manufacturing them has led to them being used mainly in niche applications such as billboard-size displays for sports arenas. What’s more, the manufacturing process for making inorganic LED displays is complex, because each LED must be individually cut and placed, says John Rogers, a materials science professor in the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. So display manufacturers have turned to organic materials, which can be printed and are cheaper. While LED-based lighting systems are attractive because of their low energy consumption, they remain expensive. The new printing process, developed by Rogers and described today in the journal Science, could bring down the cost of inorganic LEDs because it would require less material and simpler manufacturing techniques.

3D patterned nanostructures

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:45 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — very cool news in nanotechnlogy. Beautiful and practical, a great combination.

First 3-D Patterned Nanostructures
Technology Review, Aug. 20, 2009

3-D nanostructures with patterned surfaces for drug delivery, electronics, and other applications have been made by Johns Hopkins University chemists.

They created arrays of patterned, cross-shaped nickel structures on a silicon wafer, then added tin hinges. When placed in a plasma etching chamber, the flat structures folded up into cubes and released from the wafer. To make nanocubes as small as 100 nanometers a side, the researchers added another panel.


(ACS/Nano Letters)

 
Read Original Article>>

August 20, 2009

Food for taxation thought

An interesting study out of the University of Michigan on the federal income tax and how that tax burden is spread out by region and size of your home town or city.

The release:

City dwellers bear disproportionate federal tax burden

Live in an expensive city? Think you pay too much in federal taxes? If so, a study in the current issue of the Journal of Political Economy finds that you’re exactly right.

According to David Albouy, a University of Michigan economist, workers in expensive cities in the Northeast, Great Lakes and Pacific regions bear a disproportionate share of the federal tax burden, effectively paying 27 percent more in federal income taxes than workers with similar skills in a small city or rural area.

Why the disparity? Workers in cities are generally paid higher wages than similarly skilled workers in smaller towns, so they’re taxed at higher rates. That may sound fair, until one considers the higher cost of living in cities, which means those higher wages don’t provide any extra buying power. The federal income tax system doesn’t account for cost of living. So the effect is that workers in expensive cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago pay more in taxes even though their real income is essentially the same as workers in smaller, cheaper places.

The extra burden wouldn’t be so excessive if more federal tax dollars were returned to urban areas in the form of higher federal spending. But according to Albouy’s research, that’s not the case. His data show that more federal dollars are actually spent in rural areas, despite the fact that cities send far more cash to Washington. The net effect of all this is a transfer of $269 million from workers in high-cost areas to workers in lower cost rural areas in 2008 alone.

Over the long haul, Albouy says, the larger tax burden causes workers to flee large urban centers in the Northeast and settle in less expensive places in the South. So to some extent, it may have been the federal tax system that put the rust on the rust belt.

Detroit is a perfect example of a city that gets the short end of the stick.

“With its high wage levels, Detroit was, until recently, contributing far more in federal revenues per capita than most other places for over one hundred years,” Albouy said. The recent federal bailout to Detroit automakers “is peanuts relative to the extra billions the city has poured into Washington over the 20th Century.”

One expensive area that escapes the higher burden is Hawaii. Costs in Hawaiian cities are high, but wages remain low because people are willing to accept lower pay to live by the beach. As a result, Hawaiians aren’t pounded by taxes the way New Yorkers are. But it also means that “powerhouse cities like New York indirectly subsidize people to live in really nice locations like Hawaii,” Albouy said.

Albouy’s analysis adds new empirical weight to a debate that started in the 1970s with the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Moynihan commissioned a series of reports that showed the Northeast and Midwest sent far more money to Washington than it got back. Albouy’s research is the first to provide an estimate of how much more individual workers in cities pay.

Albouy says that city folk shouldn’t expect relief from this system anytime soon.

“Highly taxed areas tend to be in large cities inside of populous states, which have low Congressional representation per capita, making the prospect of reform daunting,” he writes.

 

###

 

David Albouy, “The Unequal Geographic Burden of Federal Taxation,” Journal of Political Economy 117:4, August 2009.

One of the oldest and most prestigious journals in economics, the Journal of Political Economy has since 1892 presented significant research and scholarship in economic theory and practice. The journal aims to publish highly selective, widely cited articles of current relevance that will have a long-term impact on economics research.

Health care reform heading for split bill?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:57 am

Seems to be the favored option right now. I’m still fairly certain something substantial will pass within two years, and right now it looks as soon as four months.

CPAs becoming optimistic

Doesn’t mean a whole lot in terms of real world affect, but it is interesting to see how financial execs see the current state of the economy. (Hint: their sector has a huge influence on who’s wearing rose-tinted glasses and who isn’t.) I have a suspicion some of those optimists are feeling better in order to fight off the fatigue of this recessionary beatdown.

From the link:

 Heightened optimism among CPA financial executives seems to indicate the worst of the recession is in the past, but the consensus is growing that the U.S. economy is still a ways off from achieving a full recovery. While optimism about the economy continued to improve and spread across most industries in the third quarter, the percentage of executives who don’t see a recovery beginning until at least the second half of 2010 increased substantially (27% vs. 43%) from the previous quarter, according to a survey released Wednesday.

 When asked about the economic outlook for their own organizations, optimists outnumbered pessimists for the first time since the third quarter of 2008, according to results from the Business & Industry Economic Outlook Survey Q3 2009, conducted by the AICPA and the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. About 38% of respondents were optimistic or very optimistic about the economic prospects for their organization over the next 12 months, while 29% were very pessimistic or pessimistic. Thirty-three percent were neutral. Respondents also were more optimistic about their own organizations than about the U.S. economy as a whole (38% vs. 26%), continuing the trend seen over the past two years.

 Although optimism was more widespread than in previous surveys, it was not evenly distributed across all industries. Respondents from professional services and technology organizations see a brighter outlook for the upcoming year, with 49% and 61%, respectively, reporting they’re optimistic, compared with their colleagues in real estate and construction, who were 29% and 28% optimistic, respectively.

More bad housing news

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:26 am

Any economic recovery is still a long ways from Main Street. The worst news from this mortgage report is a third of the new foreclosures were on prime fixed loans.

From the link:

An industry group says a record of more than 13 percent of American homeowners with a mortgage are either behind on their payments or in foreclosure as the recession throws more people out of work.

August 19, 2009

Auctioning accounts receivable

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:01 pm

An interesting source of cash for small business during this ongoing credit crunch.

From the link:

Cash flow has become a leading concern for small firms as banks reduce credit lines, shorten maturities and raise rates, according to a May study by the Credit Research Foundation. Among the companies surveyed, 45% said the financial crisis was straining their access to working capital. Almost 70% reported a slowdown in customer payments, and 61% said their top priority was to boost cash flow by getting clients to pay what they owe faster.

The Receivables Exchange (TRE), which runs an online auction market for accounts receivable, is benefiting from these trends. More companies have been turning to the two-year-old firm to raise money as traditional credit sources dry up.

“We take the most liquid of the assets on the balance sheet that they can modify and allow those to trade on a transparent, standardized exchange,” says Nicolas Perkin, president of the New Orleans-based company

Even more invisibility cloak news

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:35 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — I’ve long blogged on invisibility cloak technology, but it seems there’s been a real spate of news lately. In fact I’ve already posted the original release for the news in this article.

Here’s the latest:

Active invisibility cloaks could work at many wavelengths
EE Times, Aug. 18, 2009

Active cloaking devices can use destructive interference, similar to noise-cancelling headphones, to render invisible areas up to 10 times larger than the wavelength of light being disguised and over large regions of space, University of Utah researchers have found.

The researchers predict that engineers will be able to use their method to create active invisibility cloaks that could shield submarines from sonar, planes from radar, and buildings from earthquakes.

 
Read Original Article>>

The health care debate and the GOP

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:12 pm

The health care debate has devolved into posturing on one side and avoidance on the other, but two facts remain: in order to keep the nation solvent, health care — particularly the presently government funded pieces — must be rethought; and by sheer force of will the Democrats can muster the votes to press some type of reform through within the next two years.

The words and actions of the GOP, not the protesters but the elected officials, have gone beyond marginalizing the party to essentially removing the Republican opinion from the sausage-making for whatever bill does hit the floor and pass. Remarks like Senator Chuck Grassley’sreiterating Sarah Palin’s outrageous scare tactics give Democrats the ability to ignore someone who should be a strong advocate for the GOP at the committee level.

The end result is some version of health care reform is very likely to pass before the midterm election in 2010, and that reform bill will contain very few, or more likely zero, Republican fingerprints.

It’s great for an opposition party to oppose the policies from across the aisle. It’s a lot better for the opposition party to challenge and improve those policies.

From the first link:

Given hardening Republican opposition to Congressional health care proposals, Democrats now say they see little chance of the minority’s cooperation in approving any overhaul, and are increasingly focused on drawing support for a final plan from within their own ranks.

Top Democrats said Tuesday that their go-it-alone view was being shaped by what they saw as Republicans’ purposely strident tone against health care legislation during this month’s Congressional recess, as well as remarks by leading Republicans that current proposals were flawed beyond repair.

August 18, 2009

Study finds foreclosure leads to depression

This isn’t a topic to make light of, but a study finding people whose homes have been foreclosed on show signs of clinical depression should suprise no one.

It does point out the larger picture that the toll of this ongoing economic downturn/recession/financial crisis goes far beyond the economics.

The release:

More than 1/3 of homeowners in foreclosure suffer from major depression, Penn study shows

Findings reveal looming health crisis tied to nation’s housing woes

(PHILADELPHIA) – The nation’s home foreclosure epidemic may be taking its toll on Americans’ health as well as their wallets. Nearly half of people studied while undergoing foreclosure reported depressive symptoms, and 37 percent met screening criteria for major depression, according to new University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine research published online this week in the American Journal of Public Health. Many also reported an inability to afford prescription drugs, and skipping meals. The authors say their findings should serve as a call for policy makers to tie health interventions into their response to the nation’s ongoing housing crisis.

“The foreclosure crisis is also a health crisis,” says lead author Craig E. Pollack, MD, MHS, who conducted the research while working as an internist and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at Penn. “We need to do more to ensure that if people lose their homes, they don’t also lose their health.”

In addition to the high number of participants reporting depression symptoms, the study of 250 Philadelphia homeowners undergoing foreclosure also shed light on other health care problems that may be spurred by difficulties keeping up with housing costs. The study participants were recruited with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley, a non-profit, U.S. Housing and Urban Development-approved mortgage counselor. The authors found that compared to a sample of residents in the general public, those in foreclosure were more likely to be uninsured (22 percent compared to 8 percent), though similar health problems were seen among both the insured and uninsured. Nearly 60 percent reported that they had skipped or delayed meals because they couldn’t afford food, and people undergoing foreclosure were also more likely to have forgone filling a prescription because of the expense during the preceding year (48 percent vs. 15 percent). The study also revealed that for 9 percent of respondents, a medical condition in their family was the primary reason for the home foreclosure, and more than a quarter of those surveyed said they had significant unpaid medical bills.

Because the financial hardships of foreclosure may lead homeowners to cut back on health care spending that they consider “discretionary” – preventive care visits, healthy foods or drugs for chronic conditions like hypertension – Pollack theorizes that the prolonged period of time that most homeowners spend in foreclosure could have a serious effect on health outcomes. In addition, the stress of undergoing foreclosure may exacerbate health-undermining behaviors. Among the participants who smoke, for instance, 65 percent said they had been smoking more since they received notice of foreclosure.

The “exceptionally high” rate of depressive symptoms found in the study is especially concerning, Pollack says, compared to previous research showing that only about 12.8 percent of people living in poverty meet criteria for major depressive disorder.

“When people purchase homes, they are buying a piece of the American Dream,” says co-author Julia Lynch, PhD, the Janice and Julian Bers Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences in Penn’s department of political science. “Losing a home can be especially devastating because it means the loss of this dream. When this happens, there is reason to worry not only about the health of the home owner but also that of family members and the broader community they live in.”

The authors say that the data collected in Philadelphia may be only the tip of the iceberg when compared to other cities that have experienced a sharp spike in housing foreclosures. Although foreclosure filings nearly doubled between 2007 and 2008 in Philadelphia, other large cities have higher unemployment and foreclosure rates.

To combat the health problems revealed in the study, Pollack and Lynch suggest that health care workers and mortgage counseling agencies coordinate their efforts to help people at risk of foreclosure access both medical and housing help. Doctors, they suggest, should ask their patients about their housing situation and steer them towards mortgage relief resources. Mortgage counselors, meanwhile, can provide information about how to access safety net health care, enroll in public insurance programs like SCHIP or Medicaid, or apply for nutritional assistance programs for pregnant and nursing mothers and their children. The implications for policy, too, are vast.

“This study raises the stakes of the housing crisis,” Pollack says. “The policy push to get people into mortgage counseling should be combined with health outreach in order to fully help people during this tremendously difficult period in their lives.”

 

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PENN Medicine is a $3.6 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn’s School of Medicine is currently ranked #3 in the nation in U.S.News & World Report’s survey of top research-oriented medical schools; and, according to the National Institutes of Health, received over $366 million in NIH grants (excluding contracts) in the 2008 fiscal year. Supporting 1,700 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) includes its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, rated one of the nation’s top ten “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S.News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, named one of the nation’s “100 Top Hospitals” for cardiovascular care by Thomson Reuters. In addition UPHS includes a primary-care provider network; a faculty practice plan; home care, hospice, and nursing home; three multispecialty satellite facilities; as well as the Penn Medicine at Rittenhouse campus, which offers comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation facilities and outpatient services in multiple specialties.

LinkedIn inks deal with SAP

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:11 pm

News from the world of corporate social networking.

From the link:

SAP has inked a deal with LinkedIn that will provide the software vendor’s channel partners with special tools and services for the popular business social-networking and careers site.The move is the first such agreement LinkedIn has formed with a software vendor, according to a statement. It is also the first instance of collaboration between the companies following an investment SAP’s venture capital arm made in LinkedIn last year.

The offer is available globally and is aimed at channel partners with up to 1,000 employees. It includes a special tool that helps partners find, track and contact appropriate candidates, as well as access to a job posting service on the site. SAP’s announcement indicates that partners will get a discount, but pricing information wasn’t immediately available Thursday.

Click here to find out more!Some 140,000 SAP consultants use LinkedIn, according to SAP.

You can find me at LinkedIn here: http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidkonline

Credit crunch continues

The headline for this linked article is, “Fewer banks tightened credit standards, Fed reports.” Very misleading in terms of the reality on the ground.

Here’s the real news from the subhead:

But credit availability probably won’t return to normal before mid-2010, report says. Also, the Fed and Treasury extend the TALF emergency financing program aimed at boosting lending.

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