Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The FED's independence at risk

The past two years the global economy has been rocked by violent turbulence with its root causes in the uncontrolled sub-prime mortgage fall out. With the concept of spreading risk via new financial instruments such as CDO (Collateralized Debt Obligations) and CDS (Credit Default swaps), many financial institutions literally created a fiscal time bomb that could not be defused. As the mortgage crisis began to unfold, the global economy was literally on the brink of collapse. With massive bailouts and heavy tax-payer funded government intervention a second great depression has been avoided or at least delayed.

Some economists partly blame Alan Greenspan and his policies as head of the Federal Reserve (FED). In fact Greenspan himself publicly admitted that the US free-market ideology that he and others have championed for decades may be flawed. Greenspan, in his testimony before the US House Committee on Oversight and Government, said he was shocked at the banks' inability to self-regulate and blamed over-eager investors for the sub-prime housing meltdown that led to the financial crisis. Obviously the low interest rates that the FED pushed during his time as the head of the institution was partly to blame for the crisis. But the FED alone is not the sole perpetrator of the near fiscal collapse. There were a number of other parties who bet their banks on financial instruments that they had no idea about.

In response to all this, Senator Christopher Dodd plans to push for a new Financial Institutions Regulatory Administration (FIRA) that in effect would strip the current FED of its role as a bank supervisor. While this proposal seems like a good move at first, what is alarming is that it gives Congress a greater voice in naming the officials who set interest rates. This is the one last place where we need political interference. This newly proposed FIRA clearly opens the door to political interference with respect to interest rates. Imagine the political uproar every time the FIRA acts on the rates and a member of the Congress does not agree with it, especially if his/her constituents would be directly affected by such a decision. The FED's ability to act independently would be at risk as they would have to pander to political pressures.

As the nation's central bank, the FED has had the unique power in the U.S. financial system to create money, giving it the ability to conduct monetary policy for the U.S. economy. That same power also enables the FED to provide liquidity to the financial system when under stress. The FED has done so and the current FED chairman Ben Bernanke has done quite well given the circumstances. However, it seems that this crisis is pushing Sen. Dodd to do the unthinkable. That is, push politicians to have the ability to influence monetary policy for the country. This should be done so only indirectly and not with such direct powers as Sen. Dodd is suggesting. That would be akin to letting loose a bunch of monkeys in a china shop.

In his comments while announcing the new FIRA proposal, Sen. Dodd said that, "The FED’s regulation of banks has been an abysmal failure,”. He blamed the FED for not preventing the practices that contributed to the financial crisis and led to taxpayer bailouts of major banks. The key question is whether the FED ever had oversight responsibility. I believe it never did. Sen. Dodd's new proposal at most is a knee jerk reaction to the crisis and must be fully evaluated before it is passed. Global investor's perception that this could be the start of political interference in policy setting could harm the already fragile dollar and the US economy. Bank oversight is a must, but not at the risk of harming the FED's independence.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Greatest Rip Off

The white envelopes from the credit card companies usually sit on my desk for a while before they eventually go to the shredder after a quick review. So on a recent afternoon, I sat back to open up all those envelopes to quickly glance through the letters, hoping as usual not to find anything in there, so that I could send them to the shredder. The recent letter started with the usual ominous words "We are making changes to your account terms....". Normally these letters would talk about policy changes to rental-cars, insurance and other such things and I would scan through the letters and not find anything disturbing. But this time there was change and by golly it felt like I had been smacked with a sauce-pan.

The letter from a major credit card company went like this.
"To continue to provide our customers with access to credit, we have had to adjust our pricing. The terms of your account will be changing. These changes include an increase in the variable APR for purchases to 29.99% and will take effect November 30, 2009. As always, you have the right to opt out........ "

Now I have always paid my credit card on time, have no credit card debt, though I use it for many many purposes. I understand that I am not the kind of customer that the credit card companies are looking for, yet they need my business because I bring them hefty revenues via transaction fees which merchants pay them. On some cards I actually pay a yearly fee because it gives me some points/miles or some benefits that I think I need.

So after I got this letter, I called one of the credit card company and their response is that their costs have increased tremendously and that doing the business of "credit" is more expensive now than it was a year ago. But going from a 10% APR to a 30% APR is not fair. But wait a minute, the Fed is literally charging these banks next to 0% APR forcing them to lend. In fact some of them are so bloated with bailout dollars. I understand that the government is trying to change credit laws early nextyear, the pretext being protecting the consumer from abuse by credit card firms. However the card companies are rushing to make changes before the end of the year to avoid any such limits on them starting next year. It's daylight robbery and the senate banking committee is asleep at the wheel, just as they have been for the last 50 years. The legislators are asleep because they are deliberately ignoring the banks who are making whatever changes they want to right now, before any enforcement begins next year. It appears that the legislator are on track to protect the consumers starting next year. Who is the government protecting?

On the other hand, you can't cancel/refuse the card because cancelling a card for any reason has it's own drawbacks. Well, it affects your credit score negatively which will only increase the APR and other credit/borrowing costs as well. The consumer is caught in the middle with having to keep the cards and risk paying a hefty fine for late payments or high interest rates on balances.

Overnight the credit card companies across the board are pulling this stunt and our Government officials just stand by and do nothing. Basically the banks are being allowed to rob the consumer and the US Senate and Congress are the co-conspirators. Many of these cards are offered by banks that have received bailout monies. The government borrowed money from the people to give to the failed banks to allow them to gouge the people. It almost seems like the very government the public put into office is now gouging the public indirectly via the banks. Why is it that the common man has to suffer and pay for the failed policies of the few greedy gecko's. All of this being facilitated by the Cons in Congress. As we speak, US banks are embarking on the greatest rip-off this nation has ever seen and we stand there and do nothing.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Google Wave - The Tsunami of Twaddle? Only time will tell

The web has been abuzz with the controlled beta release of the new Google Wave. Google answer to "How would email be designed today". Well the first time I saw, Vic Gundotra present the live demo a few months ago at "Google IO 2009", he said that they were unveiling a "personal communication and collaboration" tool.

Well at that time, they defined the wave as equal parts of conversation and document. It's a system that allows people to communicate and work together with rich-text, photos, videos, maps, and more in one dashboard. Also anything on a "wave" is shared as long as you invite another person into the wave. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. The playback feature allows anyone joining into the wave at anytime to rewind the wave to see who said what and when. A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

Then I saw this video and saw that it explained best, the way Google wave works and why it is different from email.

At the end of the day, my take is that Google wave is a cool tool but will be more disruptive than productive, because not everyone is tuned to work in that manner. The human mind cannot handle realtime communication all the time. The human mind requires people to spend some time together with others, to plan and collaborate, then go off and find some independent time to use their creative juices to put together or build new things. This wave seems like a communication overload to me, where the simplest of things/issues will rise to the top due to the fact that it appears the latest in the thread or wave. People personalities and idiosyncracies will be amplified and in your face at all times. I am sure you have experienced those personalities who love to hear their own voice at meetings and end up disrupting productive meetings. Well let me tell you that Google wave will give an opportunity for those personality types to constantly tout their horn and constantly bring up mediocre issues.

I do understand the Google Wave tries to solve one major problem with email and this is that, not everyone has a full view of the conversation. The single dashboard view for all, regardless of when the join in the conversation and the ability to playback is huge. This should alleviate some of the problems that email has. The reply-all is dreaded because it allows people to just jump in with irrelevant comments and change the trajectory of the original conversation. The second issue is the forwarding of an email thread to someone who jumps into a conversation a bit late and is not privy to what has happened earlier and again changes the trajectory of the conversation inadvertently. Google wave might alleviate some of these issues with the playback feature and the fact that everyone in the wave has the same dashboard view.

I personally don't have an invite as yet and will reserve to change my opinions for later, but however given what is being shown, I can only think of the negative effects of the wave. It seems that "Google wave" will become the "Tsunami of twaddle".

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A modern day Edison - William Kamkwamba

As I read the story of William Kamkwamba, I was floored. A self-taught Malawian boy, read books from a library and used scrap parts from a junkyard to build windmills and bring life-changing electricity to his remote village. In the video he narrates that he could not go to school and had to drop out because his family could not afford the $80 tuition. Instead, he found a library and read books about windmills. All the books only taught him how to use a windmill. No book that he had taught him the basic principles of generating electricity from the wind power. He pursued to learn all the techniques of how to convert that wind energy into electricity and eventually built a windmill that generated electricity for his home.

This is an inspiration to entrepreneurs and kids. It is not that a 14 year old kid can't put together a windmill. The issue here is that he built it from scratch and prevailed despite the conditions and availability of material in his remote Malawian village. If you see the video, you will understand what I mean.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

To Blog or Not to Blog

During the 46th Design Automation Conference (DAC) held in San Francisco, California, I had the opportunity to meet with and talk to John Cooley (ESNUG & Deepchip founder). John was one of the speakers at "Conversation Central" hosted by Synopsys. John's topic was "The Evolution of ESNUG and Deepchip", where he described his journey with ESNUG and now Deepchip. I have to say that over the years, I have met more people who view John with contempt and very few who have directly stated anything to the contrary. When I was at a small startup called Verplex systems, I ran into John at DAC 2000. During my brief conversation with him on topics that included the point of esnug, he abruptly stopped me and said, "Give me the top 10 bugs with Verplex software, known workarounds and fixes in the works and I will be happy to post that on esnug". His position was, "You will get some serious press from that". I was kind of taken aback by his words. I mean who in the EDA world in the right mind would openly put out known bugs and issues for the world to consume. It was imperative that you protect the company and not give the competition any ammunition and openly offer up marketing fodder for the competition. John had ended with "My audience is only interested in hearing about bugs in the software, workarounds and what's being done to fix the bug. This material they will consume, any others they are not interested". We walked away from each other and that was that. We never crossed paths again until now.

This time at DAC, John pretty much repeated the same words that I had heard him say in 2000. I thought, "This guy is relentless, he never gives up his mantra". But there was one change this time around. I had left the EDA world for over 2 years and My time outside of EDA was spent in new areas of Consumer and Enterprise Mobile Applications, and Social Media (SM). Armed with new found knowledge of SM and its acceptance in other areas of the industry, I wanted to come back to DAC to see if I could tie in these new areas and it's relevance and applicability to the high technology industry.

There is no doubt that John has achieved significant success with ESNUG and Deepchip. These forums moderated by John, offers a discussion platform where engineers email him their personal experiences with EDA tools. He forces people to give him real data and not fluff. He wants benchmark data and testcase stats (run time, design size, memory used, crashes, known issues, workarounds etc.). As you know, the tendency within the EDA and the semiconductor design industry is to frown upon this kind of postings by employees. There is the risk that either party may overstep the bounds of their mutual NDA's or that some secrets might be revealed by openly discussing issues at such forums. Also the EDA industry is a small world and one could risk alienating themselves or hurt future job prospects. This is an industry where everyone plays nice. In terms of identity, John gives people the necessary cover if they request anonymity, hoping that they will be elaborate with their posts. While this has mostly resulted in good information exchange for the engineers, much to the EDA world does not look forward to these posts, mainly because this is perceived by them as having their dirty laundry exposed and openly discussed on his forum. I for one, don't believe that John acts against the EDA industry or against any particular company. Neither do I think that he specifically sides with any one company. It is quite clear that he will post articles submitted by his user community as long as they meet the basic requirements he sets for them. John does allow controversial unverified statements or arguments to be posted on his forum. Its obvious he can't really verify the validity of every claim made by these posts. But, he does allow EDA companies to respond to these posts. The only thing John does not allow is people/companies to post any information that he considers as marketing or publicity material. One thing is certain, he seems to cherish controversy.

What surprised me was his comment and strong opinion that, "Engineers should not write personal blogs". He said that engineers should instead post in forums with an established audience, such as He claims to have 25,000 active readers. John argues that the trouble with personal blogs is the following:
  • A blogger may not have enough material to maintain the continuity of the blog site. He quoted some random stats. (#1: 99.5% of blogs fail within 2 months #2: 99.5% consist of 2 or 3 posts on EDA, followed by irrelevant posts or nothing)
  • A blog owner doesn't have time to moderate comments or may be too biased to allow comments against the post.
  • Personal blogs are not focused and some postings are of a personal nature.
  • The audience is limited and that there's no money in it.
  • He says no one ever got a job writing a blog. He counters that by adding that many people on his forum have gotten job offers merely by John's recommendation.
His claim is that established sites like deepchip offer a platform for interactive discussion. Yes, John will give you all kinds of reasons not to write blogs. That's because if you do so and get good at it, maybe he will lose some traffic from his site. He obviously wants to be the center of the universe for EDA discussion. His 25,000 subscribers keep coming back for more and that means he has eyeballs on his site which translates to Ad revenues. Of course he is going to tell you not to write.

I want to tell each and every engineer out there that if you feel like writing, please do so. Don't ever let anyone (including John Cooley) discourage you from creating a blog. Just ensure that you counter the 5 points he raises above which are quite valid. Write because you like to do so and not because it's a one time thing. Be expressive, Be bold and take a stance. Plan your blog beyond just the first article.

Just remember:
  • It is very easy to get a blog site up and running.
  • Create a community, find other bloggers and cross link your sites so that you can share viewers.
  • Identify yourself. Don't ever write anonymously, for it is useless.
  • Have pre-screened guest authors share their views on your site, so your site can have regular and quality updates.
  • Don't do it for money. With falling CPM's and low traffic you will hardly get anything to write home about.
  • Allow un-moderated comments. Have people who comment identify themselves to weed out spammers and flamers.
  • Be prudent about what you say and always use common sense. Your first amendment right does not protect you from slander.
  • If you work for a large corporation, make sure that your personal blog does not meander away from the Social Media Policies of your corporation.
  • Provide value to your audience

Monday, August 3, 2009

Can the EDA industry truly leverage Social Media?

I just got back from the 46th Design Automation Conference (DAC) held in San Francisco, California. Having been out of the Electronic Design Automation (EDA) industry for a little over a year now, I was coming back in with an outsider's perspective. My time outside of EDA was spent in new areas of Consumer and Enterprise Mobile Applications, Social Media (SM) and it's relevance and applicability to the high technology industry. I was intrigued to find out that Synopsys, one of the leading EDA companies had created "Conversation Central" at DAC. This was an area where they had some invited speakers and sessions to educate SM newbies and discuss SM techniques.

I had met and networked with karen bartleson of synopsys via twitter and was very interested in finding out what EDA companies were doing with adopting SM methods. I attended a few of the sessions and did run into some very interesting people and differing opinions. I wanted to talk about the general areas that I see as barriers for EDA's adoption of SM techniques.

From my EDA experience, for too long the EDA industry has been clouded in secrecy and justifiably so. We shall not discuss the reasons for that in this blog. EDA customers have generally precluded EDA companies from talking about their relationship. The amount of Non Disclosure Agreements signed between EDA companies and their customers would only make attorneys happy. EDA companies on the other hand have rarely discussed issues about their applications openly on the Internet other than to use it as a platform for press releases (PR). This is in stark contrast to social media methods where open honest conversations are what it's all about. Many EDA vendors would like to help their consumers openly share and discuss issues with applications. However they are comfortable doing so only under a controlled atmosphere such as a users group (UG) community. While these UG forums have helped the user community, the information however remains within that small forum and the larger group of application users do not generally have access to that information.

For the EDA industry to truly leverage social media techniques, whether it be blogging (regular long form blogs) or micro-blogging (twitter, utterz etc.,) it will need an audience. This audience will be mostly comprised of engineers who are always on a time constraint. Any reading material that they might consume must be far from marketing and more closely related to FAQ's and other helpful hints. They are always looking to save time and avoid techniques that could get them in trouble. For this to happen, EDA companies have to make themselves more vulnerable by openly talking about issues without fear of being targeted. by the competition. When I met John Cooley (ESNUG & Deepchip founder), way back in 1999 he said, "My audience is only interested in hearing about bugs in the software, workarounds and what's being done to fix the bug. This material they will consume, any others they are not interested". John has found significant success by offering a moderated discussion platform where people email him the results of their experiences with EDA tools and he gives people the identity cover (anonymity) so that they will be more open with their posts. This has resulted in good information exchange for engineers much to the angst of the EDA companies, because their dirty laundry is openly discussed out on his forum. On occasion, EDA companies find themselves having to defend themselves from baseless accusations when people post anonymously under the guise of protecting themselves from retaliation. However, in my book, I have always had the opinion that there is no value for anonymity on the Internet. If you are going to state an opinion on the Internet, then the only way that it can carry value is for you to identify yourself. For EDA companies to leverage SM, they will have to make themselves more vulnerable by talking about issues that their audience cares about. If they use SM for just PR, then they risk alienating the audience.

The other areas where I see some burden to leveraging SM techniques are the following.

# User behavior: Can you force people within the industry to change and adopt the above mentioned needed behaviors to dabble in SM?

# Protocols: How do companies moderate the discussion when their people start to leverage SM techniques. Do people know what to do? Many large companies have introduced so called "social media rule book" which can run into pages. These guidelines themselves can be daunting to a new user and can deter some real creative ones. Most times, all that it requires is common sense on what you can say and share. The simple rule is, don't say or write things that you will regret later. Remember, there is no "UNDO" button on the Internet. My two rules for corporate social media users especially twitterers. Don't tweet yourself out of a job and Don't tweet yourself into an SEC investigation.

# Generational Diversity: With respect to information, what the last generation regarded as private, the current generation regards as public. In the EDA world this translates to what is shareable and protected information. How do you overcome this hurdle when this dichotomy exists within organizations where both view points are valid? For large multi-nationals where the company is spread across many countries, there is an additional layer of cultural behavior to contend with. What may be acceptable for open discussion in one country may not be perceived so in other countries.

# Listening v/s dispensing: One thing is that SM is all about listening to the customer rather than dispensing marketing information or press releases. SM also enables companies to track consumer trends. While this may work readily for other industries, the EDA industry in it's current state may not be the most appropriate industry. One thing is clear, EDA companies need to understand that SM techniques should be used to gauge customer sentiment and avert any potential public-relations disasters. The key question is, are there enough customers leveraging SM techniques to talk openly about EDA products.

# Quantitative: Finally the key question that will need to be answered is, Can SM techniques provide any measurable return on time and dollar invested. This will be especially hard because of the initial difficulty in understanding what metrics need to be measured to enable one to objectively measure the ROI on adopting SM methods for EDA given all the hurdles.

One thing is for certain, media as we know it, is changing. With what I call the "now-media" generation that readily records and posts events, articles and blogs to the web for others to consume, the EDA industry may be forced to adopt SM techniques sooner rather than later. In ending I want to note the EDA people who I met at #46DAC are some of the people to watch in EDA for SM adoption. Karen Bartleson, Robert Dwyer, Daniel Payne, JL Gray, John F Macdonald etc.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The kid who should be CEO of GM

"Who Killed the Electric Car?", the 2006 documentary that took us through the story of the creation, limited commercialization, and subsequent destruction of the battery operated electric vehicle in the US, (specifically the GM EV1). When I saw that documentary only recently, I was really saddened.

During the years 1999 and 2003 I worked for a company called Verplex Systems. During that time, I covered the eastern US region and Canada. It was during that time, I went to visit one customer at Lucent in Ottawa. There I met the first guy who had created his own electric car. His name was Bob Lawrence. When heading out to lunch one day, he suggested to me and my colleague that we take his car (A Volkswagon Jetta). When we drove around that car was nearly silent with just a soft humming noise. When we found out that Bob himself had put that together we were blown away. He had a big batteries in his trunk. An electrical charging cord that came out the front of the vehicle. Recently I found out that he gave up that electric car for a Prius hybrid. I am sure he's making it a plug in as we speak.

However I wanted to take a moment to talk about this kid, a teenager who claims he can't even change the oil in his car. He instead went on the internet found the instructions and converted an old Ford Escort car into an electric car. Why is that normal ordinary people can go and build an electric car, but the big-3 could never build one?

I am sure that one day another documentary will come out with the accusatory finger pointing to the oil companies being responsible for the death of the early electric car. But those conspiracy theories are for another day. Right now, I am so excited that there is a movement toward going completely electric. I wrote about Shai Agassi's plan the other day. I can't wait for the day when I can drive a car for which I don't have to add fuel.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Creative Advertisements

There are some advertisements that totally make sense and then some that are just absurd. Either way the goal of an advertisement is to capture the attention of the audience and then lead them to believe that they need to use the product promoted in the ad.

Any video advertisement usually has about 30 seconds to 1 minute in which to convey its message. These seconds are vital to telling a compelling story. There's a story, a scene, a setup, the people, the dialogues and the product. All these components have to be arranged and choreographed in such a way so as to be able to convey the message quickly.

There are some ads where the character (actor/actress) holds the ad together with a display of their acting skills (delivery of dialogue, display of emotion, physical and or facial expressions). Then there are others that are just supposed to convey the message either with a funny skit or scene, mostly through the unspoken word and all action.

With the advent and ease of use of photo/video editing software, the quality of these ads are getting to a whole other plateau. Some of these ads are really quite amazing and visually stunning. You can basically create an ad nowadays with a simple computer and free software. However the best ads require a creative team that can put together all the ad components and make it compelling for the viewer attention to be captured. That is the first key step toward pushing the product.

I recently saw this ad and was quite amazed by it. I thought I would share it with you all. The agency that designed and produced this video needs some applause.

There are many other ads that amaze me with what they are able to convey in 60 seconds or less. However, for the sake of brevity of this article, I only used one example of an ad that I liked.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Indian Politician's Loan Rage

A Member of Parliament (MP - elected official) in India, has taken it upon himself to judge and punish a bank employee. On a lighter note, I wonder how long before we see elected members of congress and the senate to go after those who created the banking crisis in the same way. Maybe the fear of appearing on a youtube slap video would be a deterrent to many of the greedy gecko's and would make them think twice before starting any scheme which results in systemic risk.

This is no way for any politician to behave, but it happens routinely in India. Politicians think that they are a higher force and take it upon themselves to verbally and physically abuse normal ordinary people. A bunch of thugs, ("goondas" as they are locally called) usually accompany the politicians on their daily beat. This happens because they usually face no consequences from the party higher ups as evidenced here. The MP should be fired by the ruling party, but instead he is just asked to explain himself. He on the other hand, denies having assaulted the bank employee, though the video evidence speaks to the contrary.

I am sure the bank employee on the other hand was guilty of at most following the rules that were in place. Sadly, the employee's case against the politician will go nowhere, but the MP will be back at this again.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Recycling by Building

A Recycled Home built with unused shipping Containers

It's estimated that 18 million shipping containers are used to ship materials around the world. A significant chunk of that ends up in American ports due to the fact that we import more than we export. Now what do we do with the surplus. Well here is one good use for those containers, much better than rusting at the ports and taking up valuable space. Watch this video on CNN and realize the potential of putting together strong homes quickly with shipping containers that might otherwise go to waste.

Amsterdam supposedly has one of the biggest container structures, that houses over a 1,000 students. SG Blocks has found that recycling homes cut construction time in half. Based on the costs of acquisition of these containers, this might be an additional option for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. Building homes with containers saves on high cost of raw material and since the homes are metal, they are naturally water and termite resistant. The finished home can me made to fit in with and look like other existing homes in the community. According to SG-Blocks the company that is leading this effort to build homes from unused containers, it takes 90% less energy to re-purpose containers than to melt them for reuse.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Can Shai Agassi's Battery Centric plan make the world a "Better Place"

Added 6/16. Shai Answered questions posed by Business week which were asked by BW readers. Here are his answers. Watch his answer to my Question (starting at 4:00 min mark) about how we will generate large amounts of clean energy.

"How would you run a whole country without oil" was the question Shai Agassi posed when opening his TED talk about "Better Place", his company, his concept and his dream. I must say I was a bit skeptical when I first heard that. After all as Americans we consume more than 25% of the world's oil and for long we Americans have battled with our addition to Oil. It is a dependency for which we have no near term solution. Shai's argument is that we have to deliver an electric vehicle, something that 99% of the people can drive. Most importantly he says it must be doable with the science we know today and bound by the laws of physics and the laws of economics. I wont go into the explanation of these two limits he talks about here, but it essentially covers the issues of affordability and practicality of the solution. All these thoughts floated in my mind as I listened to the rest of his talk.

He was recently interviewed by Sarah Lacy on tech ticker and part 1 and part 2 of that conversation is available below.



Some Background: If you ask the question, "How much Oil does the world use"? The answer can best be explained by the Cubic Mile of Oil representation since that explains it best with comparisons to all other current energy sources. The world uses one cubic mile of oil per year. Now how much is that? you ask.

According to an IEEE Spectrum article (Jan 2007 issue), a cubic mile of oil has the energy equivalent to:

* 4 Three Gorges dams (China), cranking out hydro-electric power for 50 years.
* 32850 1.65 megawatt wind turbines, cranking for 50 years (at 100% capacity factor).
* 91,250,000 2.1 kW solar PV installations, converting solar energy for 50 years.
* 104 500 megawatt coal-fired electric plants, burning coal for 50 years. OR
* 52 1.1 gigawatt nuclear electric plants, running continuously for 50 years.

Illustration Source: SRI International (Illustration: bryan christie design)

Assuming that we will try to make America independent of Oil. I want to play out the following scenario. Taking into account that we consume 25% of the world's oil, the above 50 year number for each category can be reduced to 12.5 Years (25% of the 50 years in each of the above equivalent scenarios). At this time, I have no idea on what percentage of the US Crude Oil consumption actually goes to produce gasoline that powers cars specifically. I can say that producing the equivalent of that amount in electricity to be able to power all "Better Place" cars in the US will require some staggering amounts of electricity generation. Additionally Shai claims that it is possible to power these cars via clean energy. (He gives examples of Windmills in Denmark and Solar Panels in Israel)

In the US, we have not addressed how we are going to generate massive amounts of clean energy. Power generation by coal is still the predominant method followed by nuclear energy and natural gas (EIA stats). In all his talks, Shai does not talk about where we will find the additional capacity needed especially from clean sources. In fact none of the electric car makers actually address the problem of electricity generation. I would like Shai to address how we will actually generate that much power to convert more cars into his electric vehicle. I for one, believe that Shai's plan is much more viable than any of the other plans out there because it considers the hurdles of affordability and practicality. But my skepticism remains because America has not upgraded it's energy infrastructure and we do not have the resources to produce that kind of electricity to convert all cars to "better place" electric cars.

One way that Shai can increase adoption is by working with customers such as Hertz or Avis to try this out locally in the Bay (SF) area. That may be the catalyst that finally convinces America that this is a viable plan. But yes, the issue of the additional power generation to run cars will still need to be addressed.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"Twitter" A Social Radar! - Pros and Cons

Jeff Pulver's 140 character conference will be taking place in New York City on 16/17 of this month. Various characters from the worldwide twitter community will be descending into NYC to talk about what twitter means to them. They will share their thoughts on subject of twittering and making sense out of 140 characters.

Twitter has been talked about much in the past few months starting from the interesting episodes of "Student who twittered out of an Arrest in Egypt" to the "Hudson crash-landing incident" and many other daily trending topics. I personally use twitter to rant about various things from technology to finance and pretty much everything else in between. I have made a few friends through twitter and though I have never met them in real life I have conversations with them on meaningful topics from time to time.

As an entrepreneur working on technologies that merge presence and leverages micro-expression, I believe that this conference will bring together a meeting of wonderful minds and provide an unique opportunity to interact with people who are thought leaders in the area of applications built around twitter.

I want to list out the pros and cons of twitter here and see what other people have to say about it at the conference.


1) Ambient Awareness: Twitter like updates, though seen as mundane by many is interestingly termed "ambient awareness" by technology writer Clive Thompson. Read his Sixth Sense article here. The process by which you follow quick, abbreviated status updates from the constituents of your extended social network.

2) The Power of Brevity: I believe @biz once called twitter, "the messaging service we didn't know we needed until we had it". I think in some ways the brevity of input to any status updated and the creative ways in which people fine tune their limit of 140 characters to get their point across has shown that communication can occur effectively in micro-expression. Can a twitter like system be expanded to get rid of the clutter of email? Maybe!!

3) A customized newsfeed: Twitter has become a "Social-Radar" for me as it gives me an instantaneous view of what is going on with the people that I follow. I am also aware of breaking news from various parts of the world as I follow tweets from people and organizations of locations I am interested in. Twitter has become my listening device. It provides a source stream of information that when appropriately filtered gives me more specific information than random rants at the water-fountain. The trending topics section gives me an idea of what is the topic of discussion at the moment in the outer reaches of twitter and whether I should listen in and contribute if necessary.

4) A Marketing/PR tool kit: Twitter is an automatic system/tool-kit for marketing and public relations. You can reach out to your customers and ask them about products or features and get their feedback instantaneously. Product roll out information, recall notices, links to announcements and other information that needs to be quickly disseminated publicly can be done via twitter with a link to the main article leading people back to the company website. Having a presence on twitter is powerful for companies in many ways.


1) Quality of Information: A Harvard business publishing article by by Bill Heil and Mikolaj Piskorski states that the top 10% of prolific twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets. On a typical online social network, the top 10% of users account for 30% of all production. Many of these top tweeters could just be using twitter as a quicksand to lead people away to their websites or businesses. You will have to filter and prune your following list from time to time for the sake of sanity.

2) Vulnerability: Earlier this year at Soccomm, Jeff Pulver stated that it was important to share the human side of yourself in the social network that you belong to. This vulnerability as he defined it further as, "You have to put your guard down when you want to connect to people so that they do not doubt your true intentions and see you for the person that you are". One should be careful in what they reveal about themself on twitter or elsewhere on the web. Recently an AZ twitterer alleges that his home was robbed because he tweeted about where he was on vacation. Be vulnerable to earn people's trust, but not vulnerable to cause you harm.

3) Chatter effect: Twitter tends to create a lot more noise than signal at certain times. For example, I find there is a lot of duplication of info when you are following a trending topic especially as people start re-tweeting (RT) other people's information. This can sometimes cause mis-information as unverfied information can get propogated and pushed. I experienced some of this misinformation when I was following the mumbai terror attack on twitter.

4) Twitter Safety: Don't tweet your way into an SEC investigation and don't tweet your way out of a job. Companies whose employees tweet must be aware of the limits of what their employees can or can't talk about in these public forums. Then there is the good example of that potential Cisco employee who tweeted himself out of a job by making a lame comment on twitter. Also another famous example of notorious tweets is that of @keyinfluencer whose tweet about Memphis was picked up by a Fedex (based in Memphis) employee and sent up the chain. Read Peter Shankman's post on the same.

In the end, I conclude by saying twitter and the very concept of micro-expression is a valuable tool. A plethora of twitter based applications are available and listed at the conference site as well. Use it wisely. Some of my favorites are "stocktwits", "tweetdeck" and "twitpic".

Hope to see some of you fellow tweeters at the 140 conf.

Locating Flight 447

The disappearance of Air France Flight 447 and its 228 passengers over the Atlantic Ocean this week is a great tragedy. What is even more tragic is that a simple $300 device could have located the final (or last known location), aiding rescuers and emergency to get to the area of the crash site sooner. The Brazilian and French planes had to fly hundreds to square miles of open ocean looking for clues on the open waters.

Could this device* have helped us reach the crash site sooner?
(*Magellan Maestro 4350 pictured above - Any GPS device would suffice)

Today due to limitations of radar coverage, you are flying un-tracked over vast stretches of oceans, in the middle of the Atlantic on U.S.-European routes or over the pacific. Currently pilots resort to calling controllers with estimated positions every hour or so. The call-ins is again dependent on radio and radar coverage. Even though the aircraft is rigged with systems to send automatic messages to the home base, this does not include a simple lat-long coordinate information which can easily be gathered by installing a GPS chip along with other components on the plane with some simple software code written around it to send this information to the automatic data transmitter.

Even if an electrical failure disabled the GPS device, the last known location can be clearly established by establishing a flight path from the incremental GPS updates. This need to determine approximate location is imperative for crashes like the AF 447 or other air crashes over the ocean with limited radar coverage. I am positive that each aircraft on the planet can be fitted with this device for a total cost of less than a $1000 per install. A small price to pay for a lot to gain. I hope airlines and the FAA realize the urgency of this and implement this low cost system before the proposed costly overhaul of radar or satellite systems.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Amazon Kindle for textbooks - Its About time

One Kindle to replace them all (text books)

The announcement that Amazon plans to unveil a new large-screen version of its Kindle e-book, bundled with other features designed to appeal to periodical and academic textbook publishers, brings me great Joy. For years and years textbooks, magazines and newspapers have used the one resource "paper" which leads to immense destruction of forests. With Kindle for Textbooks and its adoption by a few universities is just what we needed as an alternative to paper.

I can only imagine the benefits for students with this device. Imagine if each school or university pre-loads all their textbooks and assignment papers due dates and other pertinent information into this one device that students can carry around. The students can first of all carry lighter loads, always have the most up to date materials and receive any updates or new versions of the text books over the air.

I would most certainly buy a device, though I would prefer to wait for the second generation. I would like the kinks in the first generation product to be identified by the students and for amazon to fix them. This is not the only device, Sony has its own e-Reader. Here is a comparison of the e-reader and the regular kindle. Some of the pros and cons of the two are mentioned here.

The lesser our need for paper, the better it is for our forests and our planet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Week

A quick update post on doing my part to combat global warming and deforestation. Last year I had planted 80 saplings of various trees and had written about it here. I had planted about half the saplings in the yard and the other half in a special holding area I had created for them.

I can't believe that one year has passed by so quickly already. As we celebrate earth week 2009, I wanted to update the status of the saplings. So far most of them have survived. It seems that I may have lost about 10 of the saplings due to the cold winter. However, I am optimistic that they may all come back. A big project for this week will be to replant the 40 or so saplings from the holding area in different parts of the yard.

We also had a visitor come by quite a few times last year and inspect the saplings holding area. You can see the saplings in the background, this little fox would spend his time in the general vicinity. He is now gone, I am assuming he got big and left for greener (er... meatier) pastures.

Well I will update pics when I have them after I have replanted the 40 saplings from the holding area. Do you part to leave a better earth to our children. We owe it to them. Plant a tree. Do what you can. Every little action counts.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Great Scot: From Obscurity to Celebrity


In February of this year, I was at Soccomm, a conference organized by Jeff Pulver that examines the role of social media and communications. At the conference Jeff opened his talk on the subject of the "importance and power of vulnerability". "Vulnerability", as he defined it, was that it was important to share the human side of yourself in the social network that you belong to. He further defined it as "You have to put your guard down when you want to connect to people so that they do not doubt your true intentions and see you for the person that you are". The subtlety of this definition was hard to explain until this past week. I cannot find a better example of Jeff Pulver's definition of "vulnerability". That example or person is Susan Boyle.

If you have not heard of Susan Boyle by now, you have probably been hiding under a rock for the last one week. Over the last few days, Susan Boyle has emerged as a household name. She has gone from being a nobody to being an instant celebrity. What amazes me is that this 47 year old single woman came determined to audition for the "Britain's Got Talent" show and was undeterred by the negative atmosphere surrounding the few minutes before she sang her rendition of "I dreamed a dream" from Les Misérables.

Some stats for you here: Note that these numbers may be irrelevant or outdated by the time you read them. The total views of all her audition videos are now over 20 Million. Yes, in a matter of one week: She has garnered 20 million views on youtube, her name is the top-ranking trend on twitter, She has quite a few Facebook fan pages , a Wikipedia page and a fan page at On top of that, she is on every major news network and constantly being hounded for interviews. I am sure she can handle the onslaught of the media pressure as cooly as she handled her audition.

What I want to bring out here is the example Susan sets for entrepreneurs in all walks of life. She set out with a purpose because she made a promise to her mother to do something with her life. Susan boyle let her guard down, became "vulnerable" and stepped up to the plate. She did not let her age or the long odds be a deterrent to her own dreams. At every step of the audition process, it seemed like she was being setup for failure. She was mocked by the crowds and the judges, her pre-audition interviews, the choice of the video snippet the program producers decided to roll (that of her eating) and the fact the crowds groaned in discomfort and laughter at who she wanted to be "Elaine Paige", envisioning the fool that she was going to make of herself.

All that lasted a mere 10 seconds into her rendition of the song and she blew away each and every doubter in that audience. In quick stattaco like bursts, she won over waves and waves of audiences and melted their hearts. At the end of it, she had obliterated the maniacal "pitt-bull" doubters and beat them into loving puppy-dogs. Key take away from this for entrepreneurs is that If you have a dream, do not be scared of saying who you are (be vulnerable) and what you want to do. Doubters will remain doubters and you must pursue your goals and dreams and not be deterred by challenges. Susan Boyle, I don't care if you win the contest or not, in my book you are already a winner for you are living proof that talent can defy perceptions, age and expectations.

In ending I want to say, that sometimes "vulnerability" is viewed as a weakness, but in fact the openness and candor of a person is actually more powerful than any perceived weakness. I borrow this quote from Jim Rohm, "If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary"

Friday, March 20, 2009

Why I oppose the AIG bonus tax bill

We are all aware of the tremendous amount of tax payer dollars being used to prop up AIG. Its in the news everyday. Everyone I know, me included is outraged at the bonuses being paid to some of the executives. Having been in many positions before where my total compensation has been a mix of base salary and a target bonus, I know that every bonus dollar I ever earned was tied to achieving some performance metric or sale of products. So in that sense I do not understand these bonuses that are going to pad the wallets of the executives in the particular division that caused this financial collapse of AIG.

Having cleared that up, I want to now bring your attention to the issue of Congress trying to pass an AIG bonus tax bill with the expressed intent to reclaim those tax-payer dollars. I am against this hasty tax bill because it draws parallels for me on another hasty tax bill that was passed many years ago and now haunts more people than it was ever intended to target.

The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) was introduced by the Tax Reform Act of 1969. It was intended to target just 155 high-income U.S. households that used the many existing tax loopholes to literally avoid paying income tax. President Lyndon Johnson's Treasury secretary Joseph Barr and the Asst Sec of the Treasury, Stanley S. Surrey created the initial proposals to tighten the tax loopholes that eventually led to the creation of the AMT. In April 1969 President Nixon's Administration presented its proposal for tax reform to Congress and It eventually became law. The bill, I believe was created in such haste that the AMT proposal did not include the language to adjust for inflation. Congress for years has just sat on this and done nothing about it. 40 years later, it affects more Americans than it ever was intended to apply to. There are even horror stories of this tax affecting people who bought stocks which later dropped in value during the dot-com boom, but they still owed tremendous amounts of AMT dollars to the IRS.

It is thought that by 2010, over 30 million taxpayers will be affected by AMT. Over 94 percent of married filers who have children and make $75,000 to $100,000 will pay higher taxes due to the AMT. This tax that was designed as a parallel tax system in 1969 to ensure that that a few people in higher tax bracket didn't evade paying any taxes through loopholes has now become a comman man's tax burden. Even with all this staggering data, Congress does not do anything about the AMT year after year, because its now become a significant source of tax revenues.

This is single reason why I oppose the AIG-bonus tax bill. I am of the opinion that unless the AIG-Bonus tax bill is very narrowly defined and very very temporary, it will eventually affect a much larger set of people who were never the original target of such hastily passed tax laws. I don't want my government to be reactionary and put in laws that will hurt more people in the future. I want my government to be smart about this and find other ways to recover this outrageous bonus money, not through a hastily drafted document. Let us not repeat the mistake that was AMT (IRS 6251) with another called AIG-tax.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The friction against alternative energy and grid infrastructure

An estimated 50 million people across the US and Canada were affected by the great big blackout of 2003. I remember this because I was scheduled to travel to Canada that day and the blackout caused so many disruptions that eventually I just canceled the trip. I am reminded of this as I read about two events this past week.

The first one I read about was the strong opposition to the planned new high-voltage power line by PSE&G. Eight towns in Morris and Sussex counties of NJ, have formed a coalition to fight this proposal by PSE&G to build the 45-mile, $750 million power line project that cuts through North Jersey.

Construction of this has not even begun and it is estimated to take about 2-1/2 years. PSE&G estimates that the new line needs to be in service by the summer of 2012 to avoid overloaded lines and possible blackouts and brownouts in New Jersey. The power-line project would include installation of towers with heights ranging from 180 to 190 feet, almost twice the height of what exists along the route now. PSE&G says that the new line is imperative and would provide a better and more reliable power system. However the towns are opposing it because of an array of issues regarding health, safety and economic concerns. It seems to me most home owners near the property view the towers as an ugly eyesore.

The second article I read with great interest was that NJ Gov. Jon Corzine's policy push to use alternative, clean energy sources has run into headwinds. Critics of the offshore wind generation project say that it will harm the ocean ecology. Gov. Corzine wants wind farms to supply 1,000 megawatts of electricity. This energy would be enough to power about 375,000 homes. There is a proposal to increase the capacity over time to supply over a million homes with clean wind energy.

The cost barriers for implementing alternative energy sources are already so high. Alternative energy needs extremely high investment infrastructure. Reliable power is paramount as we cannot have blackouts like 2003, which could lead to national security issues. The public who are quick to complain when grid failures occur are however quicker to stall projects that solve the problems. As we modernize our grid, some people will have to live with taller towers in their backyards or unsightly wind-towers. In some cases these offshore wind towers may harm the ocean ecology temporarily. We as a nation are facing challenging times. Opposition to alternative energy sources like off shore wind farms and grid upgrade and reconstruction will only increase the overall cost of these projects.

Local townships and municipalities should understand the immense importance of educating their citizens to support such projects. Instead we see local governments opposing them in fear that some of these projects will lead to destruction of property values and hence tax revenues. To counter this, public utilities should offer greater incentives to the people or townships who are in the path of the power lines. Maybe a 50% reduction on electricity bills for the next 20 years based on current usage would get the public and the townships to reconsider the opposition to the development of a super grid. This incentive limited to those homes within 150 feet of the towers themselves. Also make these incentives transferable to enable an easy sale of the home. I believe that the utilities could easily absorb this cost over 20 years as opposed to years of legal costs of fighting local governments and public.

In the same way, we cannot be delay the installation of offshore wind turbines. In the long run the ecological cost of building these alternative power sources will be far lesser than the threat of global warming that we face.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Competition of the future & the American education system

A few months ago, I sat down with friends over dinner and engaged in a passionate argument about the education system in America. I argued on the side that the times were changing and what had worked in America until now was not going to work in the future. I said that America is woefully behind on education in math and science and that the future belonged to kids who excel in math and science. The next generation of world leaders in both private and public sectors would come from countries that pushed math and science vigorously.

My friends argued that America has a more holistic education system and that it prepares kids to be more creative and artistic. They argued that they would want their kids to pursue their dreams and also consider becoming artists or go into other fields that don't necessarily need math and science. These career paths as opposed to scientists and doctors, the fields which require intense math and science reading.

I argued that it does not matter what fields people go to, but quickness of math and a higher than general knowledge of science are essential components of the next generation of workers. My argument was that it has become imperative that knowledge in these fields is now essential as the global workforce is a lot smarter and individuals have to deal with a more business savvy approach to everyday life. The discussion continued into the wee hours of the dawn, but many did not make an effort to view the scene from my point.

I talked about the documentary "2 Million Minutes", which hopefully will give them some more food for thought about the discussions we had.

I just found this other data point today and it was quite revealing in terms of some of the metrics. I hope you view this as well.

In ending, I just want to say that public school systems in America in general are doing what they can to prepare the next generation of kids, given the fiscal constraints that they work with. However, it is upto the parents to guide their children and help them succeed given the new reality.

Friday, February 6, 2009

What is Social Communications and how to leverage it?

Have you wondered what is Social Media and what it offers? Who should use it and whether this new medium can be leveraged by companies, entrepreneurs and others alike? If you did, you should plan on attending the one day "Social Communications Summit" being held in New York City, on Feb 10th. Jeff Pulver, producer of this summit, wrote "We are living in a time where our phones have become Social Communication devices and that presence is quickly becoming a trigger point for communication".

As a society, we are becoming more and more connected and mobile, able to do things while being mobile. Personal Presence is still evolving as we speak. This evolution of presence, Pulver states "has huge implications for advertising, media and telecom". For me personally, as a Co-Founder of MOBOW, a startup developing products in the mobile presence arena , this aspect of presence made this summit a must attend.

The summit is interesting because it offers a preliminary glimpse as to how the various aspects of social media will play out. Pulver has invited members from the Media, Internet, Communications and Entertainment industries as speakers. I am personally interested in understanding the Investment appetite in this area, Effect of social communication on media and enterprise adoption as well.

Investment: Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and an early investor in Twitter is one of the speakers. I am interested in his outlook on investment in mobile in general , and also in this area of social communications. I hope to be able to understand the implications of micro-social expression as he sees it in the enterprise arena. Twitter has been a great consumer application with lots of users and large scale adoption. I myself am a ardent fan of twitter. However , enterprise adoption of twitter-like applications are facing an uphill battle. I believe that's due to the fact that many users in large companies already work in small teams and creation/maintenance of a shared micro expression feed to expressly state what they are working on is seen as a waste of time. I believe that applications that address "goal/task oriented micro expression" with ties into existing content creation mechanisms, along with an identity/contact/group management component to identify relevant participants and smooth mobile content delivery are the keys to success in this emerging nexus between adoption of social media and the reluctant enterprise arena.

Effect on Media: David Kirkpatrick (Senior Editor - Fortune Magazine) recently interviewed Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) on stage at DLD09. David is currently writing a book about "The Facebook Effect" . It would be interesting to hear what David has to share from DLD09 regarding Facebook. Apparently Facebook's Connect will be a big focus for FB in 2009. This ties in well with Jeff Pulver's talk at the #soc09, the theme of which is "Connected Culture".

Some of the other interesting speakers are Jeff Jarvis who wrote "What would Google do". He recently spoke about the "Life is a beta" culture about how Google produces products. I have heard him speak at the NY tech meetup and he was also on the Brian Lehrer show today (Feb 6th 2009). While his fascination for Google and the way they do business or product development will be interesting to hear, I would also like to see him address how Social Communications in the realm of "Let your customers decide features", will be adopted by Enterprise Companies, particularly those apprehensive about IP protection.

Engaging Social Media for marketing: Marketing campaigns have to be carefully plotted out. Clueless campaings can face backlash especially by the watchful eyes and ears of the powerful group of Mommy-Bloggers. As many of us know, a small but vociferous self-professed "Motrin Moms", derailed an entire Johnson & Johnson Motrin television and print campaign. The campaign was met with such resistance by the likes of Katja Presnal that eventually executives apologized publicly for allegedly being insensitive and pulled the entire campaign. This incident was a little unsettling for marketers, because it proved that in this day and age of Facebook, twitter and other means of expression (where people have a huge following), news, especially one that angers a subset of the population travels fast. Has this caused companies like J&J to be reluctant to leverage Social Media or should they actually work with focus groups, before releasing campaigns publicly?

There are other tracks which discuss music, and entertainment especially as it applies to social gaming. Overall, I think that the Social Communication conference is a great opportunity for evaluating new means of communication, leveraging presence in a relevant way, advertising, investment and other opportunities in this area. Come, mingle and be a part of the new Social media revolution.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
- Thomas Jefferson

The past year has been monumentally destructive for the equity markets. Financial companies and credit worldwide have nearly been crippled. Fear has invaded the markets and there is no sense in some of the characteristics exhibited by individual investors. I sometimes sit back and wonder in awe the global effect that this economic slowdown has had. Millions of people worldwide are facing unemployment and here in the US, President Obama faces a monstrous task of injecting confidence and rebuilding the US economy.

As I sit back and think about the events of the past year, I am seeing a silver lining in all the doom and gloom of the market and the economy. The very fact that the plug was pulled from those irrelevant lofty valuations caused the excesses of the market eco-system to come out of the woodwork. What this has done is to out the nefarious schemes of people like Bernie Madoff (U.S) and Ramalinga Raju (Indian software giant Satyam Computer Services). The markets had started to flatten and slide by late 2007 and it took almost a year of falling values to trickle down to the point where the schemes laid out by these men unraveled. A lot of people have lost their entire life savings due to these alleged ponzi schemes. It is a sad thing, but in a way this downturn caused more schemes and crimes from being perpetrated. I sincerely hope that all of the illegal schemes will be revealed before the next uptick in the markets and the economy. I say this because when the markets are good and generally rising, dirt can get swept up under the rug, excesses get ignored and thievery can be hidden.

The incoming president’s cabinet members had some issues as well. Timothy geithner and Tom Daschle had unpaid taxes. Would they have paid it if it were not for the promising roles that they were about to undertake? Why did the IRS not catch them or audit them. Tom Daschle had not paid taxes to the tune of over a 100,000 dollars (Late Breaking news as I am writing this, Daschle has withdrawn). These people only chose to pay after the vetting process for the cabinet posts.

In the same way, why did the SEC choose to go after Martha Stewart and prosecute her for a pity-some gain on insider trading charges, when many others got off easy? The question here is, "Was the SEC asleep at the wheel when Madoff was concocting income statements?". Doesn’t the SEC actually do a random check of claim of trades executed as a means to verify the authenticity of income via equity trading?

Thomas Jefferson said that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. In much the same way, the needs, greed and excesses of society must be shed from time to time. Unfortunately the patriots pay (lose money), but the tyrants are revealed. Hopefully justice will prevail.

* Note: As the American way goes, at the time of this writing those parties that stand accused of crimes. are all innocent until proven guilty (with exceptions).