Bush brings home recession

The Financial Times has had some interesting articles recently about the challenges America is facing under the Bush Administration. They have a certain way of putting things in perspective:

President George W. Bush likes to say that his job is to confront big problems, not leave them to those who follow. As he prepares to deliver the State of the Union address he has been forced to tackle the issues bequeathed him by the man who has occupied the White House for the past five years: himself.

And when they reach a conclusion, they don’t hold back. Here is their assessment of the Bush administration’s economic policies:

There is only one end to this scenario: higher interest rates. A vigilant Federal Reserve Board will have to boost rates to suppress demand, just as during the Johnson administration. The pressure for higher rates will be even greater given the forthcoming retirement of Alan Greenspan as Fed chairman. His replacement will need to convince financial markets that the Board remains determined to keep inflation in check. The consequences will be a slowdown or worse.

As the rebuilding effort slows, high interest rates and high gasoline prices may pull the economy into recession. Like President Johnson, President Bush took a chance and lost.

So the next question might be how the Defense Department can rephrase the term “lost” into something more palatable. The “Information Operations Roadmap” mission suggests that they are actively spreading propaganda abroad and even at home:

Perhaps the most startling aspect of the roadmap is its acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military’s psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans.

Or maybe the question should be why the US federal government now represents a giant funnel of money to rather specialized interests. The Economist, aside from making fun of Senator Grassley for the Iowa rainforest boondoggle, hints at the real problem:

Lobbyists are not the disease, merely the symptom. Their numbers (in Washington) have doubled in the past five years, to 35,000, because federal spending has grown larger and more wasteful. Earmarks have proliferated under the Republicans, from 1,439 in 1995 to 13,997 last year.

Mr. Bean defends freedom of speech

Rowan Atkinson gave an abolutely brilliant analysis of the UK religious hatred bill and why it should be dismissed. The Guardian reprinted the full text of his speech:

It is absolutely right and reasonable that religions should be protected from threatening language, behaviour and written material but I support the amendment to retain the right to abuse and insult, because of the essentially irrational nature of religious beliefs. That is not to dismiss them: indeed, I’m a great believer that the most important and most sustaining things in life are essentially irrational. Love, beauty, art, friendship, music, spirituality of whatever form, these things make no rational sense yet they are more important than any qualities that are rationally measurable. Those who think that, as they lie on their deathbed, they will be able to judge the success of their lives by how big a BMW they could afford at the end of it, are in for a big surprise. However, it’s their irrational nature that leaves religious beliefs wide open to interpretation, allowing occasionally practices to be established that are wholly contrary to the mores of a civilised, liberal society.

Order Integrity

Data integrity is such a broad category of security it tends to pop up all over. When ordering from a website, for example, do you use just the part number on your order or also rely on the description and photo? The more information we gather about the thing we are ordering the more likely there will be no surprises when it arrives. On the other hand, large quantities of orders require efficiency in managing the related information. What’s the balance or trade-off?

Some companies cleverly use a simple algorithm to add descriptions to their part numbers (e.g. an eight port hub might be part#DL06-hub8). I like that method, personally, as it’s usually very simple and convenient to see if part numbers don’t match a description.

The next time you see a part number, ask yourself how you know that’s the right number for the part and how you verify the items you’re ordering are what can be expected to arrive.

Move on from Enron?

The BBC takes a look at the impact of Enron on the city of Houston. Beyond all the corruption, fraud, sad stories and bankruptcy of the company, their report concludes with a comment of hope:

“But again, this is a city that doesn’t want to remember. They’re not introspective – they just pick themselves up and start over again. That’s what they’ve done.”

And that’s fine, unless it takes you right into the next Enron. The whole point of the Freudian revolution in psychology, I thought, was to actually deal with the issues in a frank and open manner in order to avoid repeating mistakes. I still remember when companies in California were told to completely shut down operations during rolling brown-outs, only to find out that Enron manufactured the shortages.

Not wanting to remember might make it easier to start anew, but if the US does not address energy market corruption the citizens/companies will suffer the same or even worse pain in the future. If you listen to Cheney, you might start to think that the “broken-window fallacy” could become a major policy platform for economic success:

“You’ll thank me for rebuilding your house”
— But my house is still standing
“You’ll thank me for renting you a demolition crew when you have to clear the rubble from your lot”
— What rubble? The house is still standing
“You’ll thank me for burning your house down when the police have to take it over”
— What? Why would the police take it over?
“You’ll thank me for sending the police to get rid of the problem with your neighbors”
— But there’s nothing wrong with the neighbors
“You’ll thank me for buying the properties next door and renting them out to people of my choosing”
— Wait a minute…

Success for the Cheney companies that run energy and reconstruction projects, that is. Failure for the economy.