Thursday, December 31, 2009

Failure of Intelligence

As more and more news is coming out regarding what is now called by the news media as the underpants Bomber (the Nigerian Guy), it is now become clearer that there was a huge failure of intelligence. There were so many signs that he could have been caught before hand, but whatever is the case, we have spent so much money on intelligence and still the result is that the best way to prevent is as simple as people besides the alleged bomber stop them. No amount of money can replace this simple tactics.

There has always been this case that the intelligence agencies don’t share information among them or pass it along as it seems (by account of the news) and they jealously guard their turf. I don’t understand this if this is the country we have to defend why hesitant in sharing information. If something does happens what kind of turf they would be defending if that turf is destroyed by internal bickering. We need to make absolutely sure that every intelligence agency is on the same page and intelligence and information is shared immediately no matter what little information each agency has. And if it does not happen than heads should roll immediately. I am sick and tired of paying my taxes and at the end of the day what I get is poor response and confused statements and lax security. I go through the security like every body does and if the civil rights are violated so that it makes me secure than I am willing to have that.

Drying up of Credit lines.

In this economy when you really need the money and you can tap into your home equity lines of credit, the banks are refusing to extend or give lines of credit since they believe that the homes will be worth less than what they have assessed or the prices of the houses will come down by the time the lines of credit are approved.

I have read stories about people whose lines of credit were approved but right in the middle of them renovating their houses, their lines we cut out because the bank believes that the house prices have dropped.

It is one extreme measure of what is happening to the credit market. On the one extreme in the previous years, credit lines were extended way too much and there was almost no check as long as the banks believe that the home prices are rising. But now after the collapse of the housing market, the banks have switched on the other side of the spectrum and have curtailed all sorts of credit but especially home equity lines of credit.

Being overly reckless and now overly cautious are the two extremes that the banks are implementing and they don’t seem to get a grasp of what they should be doing in terms of lending out. They should be working towards the middle but they don’t know what the middle is. It is a tragedy and it will keep on cramping the economy unless a kind of balance between the income and credit has been established.

On top of this the government encourages the banks to give out loans and on the other hand guide the banks to check every kind of collateral before giving out money. Everybody right now is in a state of confusion and caution which will have to end if we want the economy to move forward from this state of paralysis.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The growing Cheat Sheet

There is now a growing tendency to outsource your homework to other people and other countries. Although it has been going for a long time but now due to the easy accessibility of the internet, students can easily find their assignments either done by other people or they just download outright from the internet from the various sites that have sprout up to cater to the mostly American Students.

Instead of using their brains and work hard to do the essays, due to many reasons the students find it convenient to either download ideas or whole essays from the internet or just outsource their assignments to third world countries where there is need for the money and have the time to cater to this growing American audience. I am not saying that all students indulge in this practice but it is growing which is just a shame.

The reasons may be many for this growing tendency like students may be hard pressed for time, trying to take on too much course load, partying till the last minute or just easy availability of the subject matter that they are looking for which is ready made. I am also a student and I do go on the internet to research stuff but you know I feel more enjoyment giving my two cents than to have other people give theirs about a topic which they don’t know anything about. Even if they know the topic they would not know how I will be able to present it or articulate it in my own words. And now due to this tendency there sites where the professor can just screen the essay or assignment to find out that if that is really the students or just downloaded off the internet.

So my words to the students or anybody who have been assignment a topic to write about something, try to write in your own words even if you are short of time, because if you get caught then it will be more than embarrassment that you will encounter.

The Great (technological) leap forward:

We are constantly being bombarded by technological innovations which we thought of as luxury a few years ago and now it is being labeled as necessity. If you look at everywhere, the buzz word is now smart. Smart cards, Smart phones, Smart books, Smart chips, anything which is new and somewhat different and advanced is now labeled as smart, like we were using dumb stuff before.

In the last century every thing that was invented was smart for that era but the new century’s so called “Smart” term is being used to signal that we need not have to be located at a certain place (like home or office) to access information or news or be in contact with someone. In other words, every thing is portable or mobile.

The latest to come out with the smart name is Smart books. These are not books technically but ultra small computer competing between the net book and the laptops.

In the beginning there was a desktop computer. People felt constrained to work at a certain place to access their information. Then came the laptop-the need for people to take their work and information everywhere they wanted to go. Then when laptop became a little big expensive and bulky and internet became popular, these news net books came which is used primarily for surfing the internet and checking emails.

Now the newest thing to come to the market later next year is the Smart Book. This has less capability and cheaper than net books but has the features of smart phones.

People are already accessing all the information via their smart phones like internet and email and shopping etc.It is nice to be able to access all the information and knowledge that we can have right at our fingertips but is this technology making us too lazy and easy going or making us really smart in the longer run. Time will tell this but in the meanwhile we can keep on enjoying new and exciting technological advances to come in the future.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A new era of heightened alertness:

Since the attempted bombing of the Detroit flight on Christmas time, it has come to everybody consciousness that we are now in a new era of a never ending war. Eight years after 9/11, we are still nowhere near to finding the main actors behind the attacks and from Afghanistan, this global fight against America and also western countries is nowhere to its logical conclusion.

It is a sad situation but it is a truth that a sense of safety that we used to feel while traveling abroad as an American has become an illusion since our sworn enemies does not distinguish between innocent victims or combatants. Its purpose is to inflict maximum damage and get as much publicity out of that carnage. Its main and only agenda is that to kill as many people (who are opposed to them) as possible and if their own kind are killed so be it (they were just in the way or they are on their side).

It is time that we should accept this reality of a new and unsafe world and revamp our laws and security apparatus so that we would be able to fight the future wars with this relentless enemy with equal relentless intensity because it is a matter of our survival and our future generations.

A New (somewhat) arena of Terror:

So now Yemen has become a new theater of terror (if you want to say so). Yemen can be defined as a failed state (not yet) but they are more poorer and more poorly equipment to take on the terrorists’ haven there. If you want to make a comparison between Pakistan and Yemen, you will find more differences than similarities. Pakistan is not a failed state (as some people have alleged) just because the government cannot handle the situation does not mean every thing is broken down there. If the Pakistan Army wants it, it can take on their home grown terrorists hands down. It has enough soldiers on the ground and enough weapons to take on the Islamic militants if it wants to get serious.

But Yemen is a whole different story. They are trying to fight the separatists in the south and the Houthis rebels in the north and now they are trying to battle Al-Qaeda in Yemen, apart from a failing economy and drought and they are also at the border with Saudi Arabia. So the mixture is very toxic.

There can be very varied solutions to how to deal with Yemen but one of those is definitely not to invade that poor country. We can’t eliminate terrorism just by invading the countries that harbor them intentionally or unintentionally. We will have to be very discrete in helping the Yemeni Government. Covert operations will be a start and lots of economic aid. Covert operations should include small American forces training side by side with Yemeni forces and also providing intelligence and other help without incurring the wrath of the Yemeni people (like they are now experiencing in Pakistan). Economic aid must include aid for the Yemeni people which should be separate from the Military aid and also help Saudi Arabia as they are not yet equipped to handle a full blown border war in that area.

Long lines and Long waits:

This topic will touch almost everyone who has to stand in line and wait and wait and wait and the line does not end and the people servicing the lines are few and fewer. I happen to go to a bank yesterday and I saw a long line with few tellers managing it. My turn came rather quickly but it so happens that these lines are in every retail and service areas dealing with people. One thing I don’t understand is that everybody knows that people have to do their stuff during lunch hour, how come at the same time the people in the stores and financial institutions and post offices become hungry enough that people have to waste their precious time waiting for somebody to help them.

I go the post office in the afternoon and there is a long line with few clerks to help you out and the lines move very slowly. As soon as the lunch hour draws to a close, there seems to more clerks than customers. My suggestion would be that either they should hire or assign more people at lunch hour to customer service desks or have a lunch hour after customers are served usually between noon to two o’clock. I don’t mean to starve anybody in between but if these people have to go out, they should take turn to either reassign other employees to the front desk or divide their lunch hours so that they have half in between and half after when the normal lunch hours finish. So that nobody suffers and people will be able to do more work than to hang around a line waiting for their turn to get served.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Paid vs. Free Content:

If you don’t already know, here it is. There is an ongoing debate among newspaper publishers to charge for their online content. In the past these online addition of the print newspapers were being supported by advertisement which use to be make up for the cost of running the online addition of the newspaper. But no more since this recession started, it has ravaged this model of online newspaper being supported by advertisement and there is now talk of how to charge for some content like some newspapers already do.

But the question is will charging for content reduce readership or will it increase it depending on the loyalty of the subscribers.

Even with the few newspapers that are charging right now, there is enough free content on their online editions that you don’t need to pay for the whole edition. NYT one of my favorite newspapers tried it a few years ago to charge for some content but ultimately decided that it was futile. Maybe they will decide in the future.

The question is now will people have other sources that they can look into without paying for the online newspapers. And the answer is yes. These newspapers don’t create enough original content for anybody right now to pay for them. They still chase the same story and same event which you can read or even see on the television .Apart from that there are enough blogs out there which keep these news hungry people fulfilled with all the latest news.

So in order to be viable as a paid subscription (which is very hard right now due to high unemployment) these newspapers will need to create exclusive contents like the movies or books if they want to have subscription on their online editions. It is as simple as that. Very few people will be pay for the same news item which they can see it anywhere else for free.

Terrorism in the Sky:-2

So how do we increase security in the sky? In my humble opinion lighters and matches and any incendiary items should be outright banned. It should not be allowed to be in carry on luggage and also in checked baggage. I know that these measures will be inconvenience to some people but that is what the reality is now and we should not relax it under any circumstances. Another is that only one carry on luggage should be allowed to taken per person and it must be thoroughly checked even after it has gone through the scanners.

The taking off of shoes and the belt and the metals items can continue but in addition to that every body passing through scanners must be checked individually by the male and female officer. Because it is obvious that even after passing through the scanners the alleged Nigerian guy was able to sneak the power stuck with his leg. So there can be two layers of security, one is the scanner and one is the human touch. Checked baggage should be checked again by the security official once in front of the passenger so that it before going on the plane it could be taken out if found suspicious.

I know it is a pain in the neck and there will be long lines (and complaints) but it is just necessary. On the Domestic flights passengers should be asked to come at least 3 hours before departure and at least 5 hours before International flights.

The name of every passenger arriving from International destinations should be thoroughly checked against the entire list the government has compiled and that individual should be thoroughly checked before issuing any visa or boarding any flight bound for the United States. Even if the flight is going to be late so be it, as the saying goes better safe than sorry. Sky marshals should be in every flight, domestic or international so that any act of terrorism should be immediately stopped.

I believe that there will be additional security measures that will and should be taken so that every body will feel safe and I believe that even though it will be a hassle but generally people will feel more secure.

Terrorism in the Sky:

So as you have all heard and read and saw that there was an attempt to blow up a Detroit bound plane by an alleged terrorist. I don’t know man but it would have been scary like hell just to be with those courageous people on the plane with their loved ones waiting at the airport to receive them and this one deranged or whatever you want to call him tries to blow up the plane just to make a point. The question here arises how was he able to board the plane in the first place when his father had already informed the U.S. about the potential radicalization of his son and he went on a European plane and how he was able to smuggle the powdery stuff on his leg and try to light it up.

There must be a breakdown of security steps anywhere between the Nigeria and Holland. The U.S. should also be not absolved of the fact that the security system failed and it was just because of a few people that the alleged terrorist was unable to carry out his plan.

I believe that strict security should be in place no matter what the time is as the terrorists are trying to find some loophole in the airplane security and then it would be too late.

We should be equally determined not to let our security and guard down at any time. I am sad but this is the reality that we will have to live up for a long time or maybe it is the new way of flying.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

End of Year and Holidays

Tomorrow is Christmas. Due to the Political Correctness we are now suppose to say happy holidays. But sorry to say I still don’t get it. I just get one day off on Christmas and that’s it so why do we have to call it happy holidays. Maybe Season’s Greetings should be more appropriate or maybe we should ask first if the people whom we are going to greet if they will be off for the whole month of December or ask people if they will get offended by a certain type of greeting.

You know maybe I am being blunt but no offense to anybody, we should say what is right for the occasion, and it is more of being accepted or of not offending anybody’s feelings that we have a neutral greeting. But most of the world still says what is essentially a Christmas season. We should be worried about what our economic situation and not worry about being politically correct all the time since we can’t change the facts just by hiding behind some mirage or fa├žade. Well I hope I may not have offended anybody’s feeling by inputting my two cents into this situation (and if I did I apologize in advance) and it is just my personal opinion, otherwise it is up to the individuals how they approach life.

Finally the Health Care Bill

Finally it is a done deal. The Senate today passed the Health Care bill of its own. Now it will have to reconcile the bill with the House version (which contains the public option). Now we will see what all the hoopla was all about. The bill was passed with all the Democrats on one side and all the Republicans on the other side. It was a shame that it

The bill did not pass with the bipartisan support that the senate wanted, but that is what democracy is all about. But I believe that nobody on either side tried their best to explain why this one sided bill had to pass. Was it that bad that the Republicans opposed it by tooth and nail, and was it that the Democrats wanted to pass the bill no matter what the final outcome was? These are the questions only time will tell.

When all is said and done, we will see how much it will cost the tax payers and who are the losers and winners in this Bill. But for now the democrats should relish in their victory and the Republican should mourn the defeat that they should have been expecting given the minority status that they have in the house and the Senate and the failure of them to not convince enough democrats to back their side.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Turning Hobbies into Money-Making Businesses-3

Now that you more or less know what to do with your hobby, how to go about transforming it into a business. Well you can sell it on internet which is the best place to connect with other hobbyist of your kind. The internet has vastly increased the opportunity to have your own business out of your hobby without spending thousands of dollars in rent and other fixed costs in a physical storefront. Plus the internet knows no boundaries. While you may be constrained by your physical storefront geographical location, with the internet you are only limited by your geographical imagination and by how you can reach beyond your primary location.

For me, my hobbies are watching movies (not owning) and on the internet and information of any kind. I can be an expert on movies (since as I said before I have already watched more than 6,000 movies and counting). So I can just start my business of wanting to give an honest view of what the movie was like and so on. But I would definitely urge you that if you have a hobby, don’t let it be your hobby alone, share it with the world and even get some money because in these tough economic times everybody needs money and also since you already have inventory (meaning your stuff as the hobby) you would not even need that much investment initially to start.

Turning Hobbies into Money-Making Businesses-2

I used to have a stamp collection with stamps dating back to the 1960s and 1970s but I believe that I gave it to somebody else and now I think back that if I would have kept them it would have grown bigger and maybe it would have become a business. But I also grew out of the stamp collecting habit. But it is not so with many people. They keep on collecting stuff right up to when they leave this world.

I saw a man on TV who had comics from the 1930s and he is now grown out of it and now selling his collection in these hard times. You can go to any classified ads site and find people selling their comic, DVDs, VHS collection. But apart from the familiar collection, I have seen people collecting magnets, bangles, plastic bugs, miniature cars,

Car collection (if you have the money) is big too. Movie posters from the past era and rare books, paintings and the like.

You definitely have the knowledge of what your hobby is so why not put it to good use and make money out of it. Once you get into the business of selling your stuff which was your hobby, you will find plenty of company in that area. You will be able to get in touch with people who share your hobby and maybe you can get rare stuff from them to sell it on your business.

Turning Hobbies into Money-Making Businesses

Everybody has a hobby no matter what. It maybe something normal like stamp collecting, coin collection, movie figures or movie posters and countless other hobbies. May be you have a hobby which is out of the norm like collecting bugs or insects or something like that. But whatever hobby you have you can create some money out of it if you are not so much sentimentally attached to it. I can understand that hobbies are initiated when one becomes fascinated by something and then when it grows you become emotionally attached to it and it is hard to part with it especially when you are young.

But even if you feel like you don’t want to commercialize your hobby it can just happen by chance. Look at what people are selling online; a few of them are selling stuff which they started as a hobby and then it grew it a business.
The best part of the turning a hobby into a business that can become your livelihood is that you already know every thing about the product (I hope) and you just become an expert in it and the love and the passion that you show for your hobby can be easily translated into a money making business. Although it is hard to part with some of your hobby stuff and if it is not possible you can always trade in your excess stuff with the ones that you want much more. In that sense you can also leverage (use to your advantage) your excess stuff and sell it like a commodity and maybe after a while online.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Becoming your own Boss:

Due to this recession more and more undergraduates and graduates are going the entrepreneur way. It seems logical that if the jobless rates are soaring and they have to pay the bills, they can’t wait for the right job or any job for that matter to apply and wait for the result. Meanwhile the bills keep on piling up for these debt laden youngsters. So instead of toiling countless hours searching for the perfect job and then working for somebody else, they have decided to strike on their own.

As I said before, although I believe that Entrepreneurship is the best route if you have what it takes but mind you it is not for everybody’s cup of cake. First you have to deal with the finances, then the long hours and waiting for your fruits of labor to ripe and your social life going down for the first few years at least. But I believe that once you are done with all this, you will find it very satisfying. Since you are already expecting to work long hours in some financial institutions, why not work for yourself.

Too much dependence on Non existence Money:

There is a news out there stating that unless states comes up with additional funds, the school funding will be out by billions of dollars once the federal stimulus money runs out later. This is a fundamental problem with state revenues. When times were flush (when economy was artificially growing) state employees were promised billions of dollars like printing press printing non existent money. Every body was fine and dandy getting the raises and the bonus that they thought they were entitled too without knowing that the money was just bogus money. Now that the economy has gone down the drain and the cuts are being implemented every where, these states are scrambling to come up with funds which may not be there.

In the past the states used to raise property taxes but with the value of the properties plunging all over and the unemployment rate soaring, the tax revenues are not there as it use to be. The dependence of the states on the Federal stimulus funds was a one time deal which has delayed the inevitable task of raising funds in the future. Either you cut the entitlement and raises of state employees or raise the taxes. Both are not the choices that the politicians like so they keep on bickering every year at budget time not to hurt their constituents but it will have to happen one day and the time to do it is coming sooner than they would like to think.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mortgage Modifications Realty:

There is a report out there which says that more than 20 percent of people who had their mortgages modified failed to pay mortgage payments for two months or more. That means that 20 percent of the people even after their mortgage payments went down were unable to pay their mortgages. This is really serious. The basis of mortgage modification was that since the houses were bought at inflated prices and high interest rates so the logic was that if we modify the loans and make the principal and interest rates low enough, people will be able to keep their homes and make payment.

But the rule was that if you keep making payment at the new rate for three months then your modification will become permanent. But some people (20 percent) have failed this criterion. It seems that majority of these folks were either not able to buy the houses at any cost or that they have lost their jobs and are unable to pay even these reduced payments. I will definitely go for the second part since it is illogical to believe that after going to all the hassle of loan modification, these hard pressed people will not pay their payments on time if they had the means (jobs).

Again it all boils down to the job market. If the job market comes back in 2010 we will eventually see a decline in forced foreclosure, otherwise these loan modifications program will be an exercise in futility and waste of tax payers time and money.

Climate change debate:-3

So as I said before, even if the industrialized countries are to blame for it, do they have to pay for the sins of the developing nations who may be polluting in the future? It is now a fact that global warming is here to stay and it would be foolish not to accept this. We can reduce it but unless we stop producing things which add to the pollution, this process will continue. The only way now is how to reduce it. We need to start accepting our responsibilities as nations and individuals and try to reduce the effect of harmful pollutants. I know that in the short run, it will hurt everybody in some way or another.

I think that for now the rich industrialized nations should shoulder this burden but the amount of pollutants being sent out by rapidly developing nations should also share this burden and start paying for it in some way.

Now it is impossible to set quotas for how each country should be able to pollute the environment, since there is no international monitoring agency to make sure that the countries don’t cheat. Even if there is one, how and by what measure it will do it and what kind of fines or sanctions the violating nations should face.

It seems like the momentum for the climate change debate is in the United States, Europe and some advance countries. Since the developing countries are more preoccupied with providing just basic necessities to their populations, it would be impossible to force them to follow the same rules as the rich countries.

We can just hope that a consensus is reached sooner to fight this global warming menace otherwise we will be loosing a lot of populated islands in the future due to rising water levels.

Climate change debate:-2

So over the weekend we had a record snowfall in the Northeastern part of the United States. Now it begs the question for some folks, if the world is warming what to make of this. Well as I said it before, the scientists see a trend and not a one time phenomenon to designate it as a sign of global warming or cooling. Now it is being documented that the icebergs in Greenland and the arctic are melting faster. Also in the Himalayas where most of the world’s populations depends on the snow of the mountains, the ice cap are melting faster than before which will make it harder to get water for those people. So maybe we are responsible for the global warming. But now the question is who is responsible and who should pay for it.

Well when the world was industrializing and still is, the industrial countries were polluting the environment, but now that they are not industrializing, they are pressurizing the developing countries to slow the process of polluting. The developing countries in turn say that since they were the original reason of this so called global warming they should share the majority of the burden, since the developing countries don’t have the means and revenue to shoulder this burden and also they are developing so they don’t have to play by these rules. Once they are developed then they would be able to shoulder the costs of the warming. But it would be too late at that time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Climate change debate:

After much debate with myself whether to dive into controversial subjects or not, I decided why not, I can also have my two cents (or pennies or whatever currency) worth of opinions into the equation. So here I am going into one of the most controversial topic of all time (I believe) whether our earth is warming and at what speed and who is responsible and who should pay for it and what should be done about it. Before I go full blown into it, my opinion is just my opinion, nobody has to go haywire if I don’t agree with them and nobody should be excited that I side with them.

So let’s see where I shall start. Is the earth really warming? That is a billion (or a trillion dollar questions depending upon the estimated costs need to fix it if any). There is as much divergent view as there are people. Most of the views are fairly controversial but most are fairly a shrug on the part of people. The scientist say that yes the earth is warming but there are few who say otherwise. Every time there is a harsh weather in one year people start to discuss if it is warming or just plain old cold weather. The people point out that if it is so cold how is the earth getter warmer. But the scientists don’t see it a once in a year phenomenon but rather a long path where they can say that it is getting warmer. But here again if it getting warmer by how much. This is more controversial since the amount by which it is getting warmer can have an impact of policies of the various governments and survival for some (like some low lying islands).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Heart breaks in the Mid-West

I read some stories today that how the economy is wreaking havoc on the lives of people in the Mid West especially Ohio and the states where the old manufacturing are dying and not being replaced by anything tangible like other manufacturing jobs which can lead to at least a middle class living. It is eye opening that the people who have worked hard all their lives are now being shut out of the economy since they are not equipped to handle the service sector.

The more jobs are vanishing, the more it is pushing people to retire prematurely and filing for unemployment and disability benefits and selling their stuff to pawn shops just to get by. The emphasis on education is fine and dandy but if the jobs are not there how are you going to put that education to use. If you move to where the jobs are then whole cities in the Midwest will die. And if there is no major employer than the affiliated businesses like schools, hospitals, restaurants, grocery stores, departmental stores, entertainment houses will not exist also. The only job right now for young folks in that area is to go to the Military. They have the option to move but for older folks who have lived all their lives there and built what is supposed to be middle class lives, where are they suppose to go at this age. This is the main thing to ponder right now. We cannot and should not expect that everybody is able to work for the service sector. We really need to revive manufacturing in this country for the sake of the future generation who all may not to work at minimum wages in the service sector and who like to follow in the forefathers footsteps.

New (or not) Office rules:-2

Now just before I start to give my opinions about this office rules. Just to let you know that it is up to the courts to decide these on a case by case basis, I am just giving my opinion and it should be considered as such. If you are not sure what is and is not appropriate office privacy policy regarding internet surfing and emails, just proceed on the side of caution. You can surf the internet (that is why the company provided you to do) but you don’t have to go to the auction sites (if allowed) or the porn sites (a big NO NO) or gaming sites. There are plenty of sites you can surf without being on the radar of the company policy. Some companies completely block some sites like blogging and private email sites. If you want to send an email, you can send it via your company’s email system. But be forewarned that the email may be intercepted for any company secrets, in appropriate behavior and the like. Social networking sites are an iffy, they can be blocked by some companies but others allow them, but again it is better to not go there. You can wait for the eight hours to go home and surf the web. If I had a company I would first bar the staff to surf some sites and if that does not work then block it completely. I am completely on the company’s side that if you are working on their computers and on their time, you need to concentrate on your work. Occasionally you can go and surf to kill the routine or just read some news but to play games and check your emails and go shopping for long moments of time I would not approve of.

Anyway just use your common sense and especially in this economy try to stay away from the internet as much as possible if you are at work. It would be good for you and the company too.

New (or not) Office rules:

As usual for your reading pleasure I keep on searching for articles which I find interesting enough to merit my attention and as usual I did find something that is common sense but people don’t find it so. It is about what is and what is not private when you work in a corporate environment. This article was about a guy who was playing fantasy football and was caught by the company management and they fired him along with 3 other people. Although the guy has a Master’s degree but he feels that it was inappropriate for the financial company to fire him since he believes that other people (especially management) do play it. The article further states that it was know that the company forbids their employees to play fantasy football but as the article alleged was never properly conveyed to the staff that it was forbidden.

Now what is fair and not fair in the company environment has been an ongoing debate since the new technological age (meaning social networking sites, email, auction sites, gaming sites etc.). Employees feel that what they do in private is of no business of the company while the company feels that what goes through its computers and what the employees do at the company’s time should be monitored to protect the company against lawsuits and also its bottom line (meaning Profits).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Dire State of New York Finances:

New York State is facing the same dilemma as most of the other states are: how to provide services without spending cuts and tax increase. This has led to infighting between the Governor’s office and the legislature. The latter is trying to preserve most

of the spending and trying to avoid cuts and raising taxes while the former has to balance the budget in accordance with the state’s constitution but have to pass through the legislature which has the purse to pass the budget.

It is becoming an uphill battle between the two. Now the MTA (the metropolitan transportation authority) the agency running the New York subway and the LIRR and the metro-north and the buses with drastic cuts in subway and bus services because they are in the deep red. Now the question is what gives. The most obvious choice for New York State will be curtailing spending. Although it will hurt the poor the most, but to raise taxes will have more direct effect. And for how long and how high the taxes should go before it becomes counterproductive.

You can tax the rich but you have only so many rich in the State and they have the option to leave if taxed too much. New York has been relying too much on Wall Street bonuses for too long to balance their budgets but with the current economic environment and the hostility the country has shown towards outsize bonuses, the state will have a hard time to lean on these bonuses in the future. They will have to make a budget with less bonuses in mind in the future and they will have to stop promising the unions money which they promises when times are flush because times have now changed and everybody (including the unions) will have to make sacrifices to make New York city better and financially more stable unless it wants to end up like California (which is much more diversified but has its share of dependency on personal income taxes).

Reversing the Foreign Brain Drain-5

Now people will think that it will cost us a lot of money. But it won’t since we already have programs in place for family visa people. We can just create a new category for these foreign graduates. The amount of innovation and highly skill people that we will gain will largely offset whatever cost we will incur. Plus since laws will be in place to make sure there is no abuse, the prevailing wages will be given to these people. It will surely end the abuse that we are encountering for H1 visas and we can even eliminate or even reduce the number of visas allocated for the H1 since we will be fulfilling our needs with these graduates.

If you see all the advance western countries, most of them have programs and rules in place to give highly skilled people a high chance of immigrating to their countries. We should be doing the same, initiating a point system like they have it in Canada and Australia, where more points are given to educational skills and language. Just to make sure that we are not increasing the immigration too much, we can reduce the other categories of immigrant visas (not too much) to accommodate this particular category of highly skilled and educated people and also improve the quality of what kind of immigrants do we really need to have now and in the future.

Since we are issuing immigrant visas in the hundreds of thousands, it would be fair to say that out of that hundreds of thousands, we can create a category for all these foreign-born graduates (meaning graduates of U.S. colleges and Universities- just to clarify) capping this category to ten thousand (10,000) each year initially on a trial basis and then can be raised as need arises.

Reversing the Foreign Brain Drain-4

So how to reverse this brain drain and entice the best and brightest foreigners to stay in this country. First the following are my suggestions:

1. Whoever does his or her doctorate or any other professional degree (like law, medicine, accounting certificates, engineering) should be granted or offered permanent residency within a month of their graduation since they have already paid their dues to this country and fully integrated (hopefully) to the lifestyles and values to which we all hold dear.

2. If someone has graduated with a masters degree in engineering, hard sciences (like math, physics, biology, chemistry and the like) or any other field which we deem to see that there is a shortfall should be granted or offered a permanent residency within six months of their graduation. Since these most sought after fields are mostly short on candidates for hire, this can give an excellent opportunity for the employers to tap into this huge stream of people.

3. If someone has graduated with a bachelor’s degree in any hard sciences and engineering should be offered permanent residency within two years of their graduation, provided they can secure some kind of employment in their fields. If within those two years they proceed to do their masters, then we can revert to the second criteria and then we can grant them the chance to stay here earlier.

4. If any of the above foreigners have an idea to start a business, he or she should be encouraged and partnered with potential investors so that they will have a chance to have their ideas grow up.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reversing the Foreign Brain Drain-3

As most people may not know that the Silicon Valley in California is home to many immigrants who came here and innovated and became extremely successful in what they created. The in-depth capital markets and ready access to available investors who were willing to take risks on unproved idea has attracted many of these talented inventors. Still right now if somebody has an idea and they want funding for it, they try to raise funds in the U.S. since this is where the action is right now. We don’t want to finish this action. Although I can understand the security issues that has crept up due to the September 11, 2001 events but does this have to mean that we will close our doors to talented people.

The world has changed and we can longer claim to be the land of opportunity when other developing countries are attracting more talent than us. Remember we don’t have the monopoly on talent; the biggest advantage that we have is the environment where we can harness the talents of these foreign graduates (in addition to ours). Less than 20 years ago we did not had any competition regarding where talented people wanted to go but now the same people have the opportunity to go home and have more satisfying standard of living among friends and family.

We need to make sure that we keep most of the graduates who come here to study and then when they want to stay face enormous hurdles in getting their permanent residency

Reversing the Foreign Brain Drain-2

So this brain drain is happening is making the people happy here. They say that since we already have a high unemployment and then these foreign graduates are hired at much lower salary and take away whatever few jobs we have right now so it is just fine that they come here study and leave. But it is not as simple as that. These people are not unskilled people; they have been trained in our country and educated in our finest educational institutions. They have the desire to stay here and contribute towards the prosperity of this country. If we will create hurdles in their path, then we will be defeating two purposes on which this country was founded. First it is that it is the land of opportunity and anybody with skills and determination can become what he or she wants to be. And second this is a country of immigrants. We should welcome these skilled people with open arms and provide them an opportunity to thrive and innovate and create jobs.

Although my suggestion to welcome these graduates will not be liked by everybody but it is essential that we keep the U.S. the land of opportunity for these graduates. I know that we have a high unemployment rate but these graduates are not taking jobs away from the U.S. born graduates. If proper rules and laws are in place, I don’t see that how it will add to the unemployment of the local (U.S.) graduates.

Reversing the Foreign Brain Drain

I read an article today regarding how foreign graduates are leaving in droves back to their countries because of the strict Visa requirements, uncertainty about how long will take to become permanent resident here and also because the opportunity back home is far greater than it is here. I am talking specifically about India and China because they are growing the fastest while the U.S. is mired in a recession with no signs of coming out of it pretty soon (no matter what the government and the economists say otherwise).

Furthermore the cutbacks in hiring and freezing of salaries and lost opportunity due to continued recession has made the journey back home a pleasant one, not to mention being close to friends and family and a patriotic duty to contribute to the advancement of their countries have made them think twice about staying in the U.S.

But the main culprit I believe is that after September 11, 2001, the strict requirements that the highly educated people have to go through to get the work visa plus the additional regulations burdened on the American Corporations in terms of hiring these people have made these corporations hesitant to hire foreign graduates.

I know that there is very much abuse of the so called H1 visa regarding hiring of the foreign graduates with low salary and this has created a backlash. But that does not mean that we should have highly restrictive requirements to fulfill in order for the corporations to hire H1 people. After all there is also much abuse also in other government programs but they are still assisting a lot of people despite their drawbacks. So we should be devising plans to stop this brain drain from becoming a tidal wave. I will talk about this much more in my later posts.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Is the Recession really over?

Recently (like on Saturday) I had to buy some stuff for the family and to my surprise there were two long lines in the store. In another store I went, it was really very hard to juggle your cart past the next cart. It was just plain crazy. I guess people are getting more confident in spending their money. But it may be that they don’t have any choice since its Christmas time and most of the people, even if they don’t have enough money will try to buy presents and gifts for their loved ones even if it means going into debt.

I guess that the Christmas time (or holiday time whichever you prefer) means that people are still going to buy since the enticement (meaning Discounts) by the retailers are so much that we the people will still find some money to pay for it. So maybe the month of December will distort the retail sales figure in January 2010 (or maybe it will not). But my point is that the Recession that so many economists are now claiming is over will not be so until we see significant improvements in employment figures and the retail sales figures will have to show a trend of more than two months to reflect any thing near the end of Recession.

Hot Jobs Industries:-7

As I said in my previous post, the non traditional jobs are being ignored by lot of people just because it is more physical in nature. But once you are in it, you will feel that you have not wasted your time. Plus the biggest aspect is that in this new economy where everything is being outsourced, these jobs are in no danger of being outsourced. Because lets see first like an auto mechanic, unless you are physically inspecting the car you would not know what is wrong with it. Same goes with plumbing- you can’t ask the people in other countries to fix your leak on the internet and so goes with air conditioning, refrigeration, construction contractor, home inspector, electrician and the like.

Although to be fair, I never went to the non traditional route since I was never exposed to them and was expected to follow the college route, but now after seeing so many people out of work and still want to be in the office, I recommend (only my opinion) that they should explore this route instead of waiting and waiting and waiting and sending out hundreds of resume to highly competitive and scare jobs, this is the way right now. Money is good and hours are more of less flexible and you can even make more money over the weekend freelancing (if you are employee of a company) since these skills are in great demand.

Hot Jobs Industries:-6

Now we come to the fact that not all of us are made for college or have the money to pay for college or not have the time for college. It is not that they have a low IQ or lazy or poor. It is just that it really needs a lot of time and discipline and money to pursue a Four year degree. Not everybody has that kind of discipline to do that. For these folks it is either you make whatever money and obligations you have to the time you want to spend in college. So don’t despair, there are many skills you can learn without investing the time and money and still come out with a decent paying job or even start your own business (if you have the money and inclination).

Many jobs which people think are below their level of dignity or which need somewhat physical work are shunned by people just because of that or maybe it is the pressure of their parents or their friends that they are unwilling to broaden their horizon of seeking out non traditional sources of income. By which I mean like plumbing, electrician, air conditioning and refrigeration repair person, auto mechanic, TV and computer repair man, construction contractor, medical billing and many others which you don’t have to spend a lot of money or time in years to learn the trade. And you can also start your own small business which does not need much capital to start. It is the path that one should consider if they consider the college route as too traditional or too boring (time consuming/money spending). And the pay is really good too, especially if you are your own boss, you can earn same amount of money as a college graduate.

The key fact here is that one should explore all options apart from the college to see what the best fit is for them, because we will still need these non traditional jobs no matter what happens to the economy.

Hot Jobs Industries:-5

Engineering: This is one field that is also expected to grow in the future. Already the top pay of undergraduates is in the field of engineering. Petroleum, Mechanical, Civil, Architectural, software, electrical engineering are the fields right now that pay the highest starting undergraduate salaries anywhere. Although you need to have a specific mindset to be in these fields, but if you decide to major in engineering, the monetary rewards are very high and it has high number of unfilled vacant jobs. By specific mindset I mean you have to be good at mathematical and analytical skills because it involves lots of math.

Due to a backlash against foreign workers in the engineering fields and also fewer Americans are joining these fields, the employers are constantly finding it harder to fill vacant jobs, so your chances of find employment is very good to excellent.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hot Jobs Industries:-4

Health Care: This industry will see a rapid growth since most of us are getting aged and less are being born. We will need more nurses and nurses’ assistants, Pharmacists and Doctors (all kinds). More and more people will be living longer and will need assistance in caring for them. More nursing homes and even if not at home then home care will mean more jobs for people related to the health profession. Nurses will be at the forefront and thus will be facing a huge shortage of them. Although more and more laid off people are opting to become a nurse but the shortage of spaces at nursing schools and of nursing instructors will mean that nursing will continue to the top source of job creation.

More people living longer means that to treat them we will need to train more doctors and thus their demand will continue to rise. Although the supply will be less since it takes the most time to train and educate doctors, the supply will not be able to catch up to demand and thus more demand.

After Doctors, Pharmacists will be in great demand since they are in the forefront of providing accurate information about drugs to patients. And the interaction between the Pharmacists and the patients are increasing leading to more demand.

Hot Jobs Industries:-3

Accounting: Now here is a field that I personally like (I am majoring in it in college just to let you know my bias). Accounting field has always been in demand more or less but now after 9/11/2001 and the passage of Sarbane/Oxley act, accounting field has become an in demand field. You know every body needs an accountant to balance their books and file their returns. But now the increased emphasizes of scrutinizing books and making sure the companies are complying with the laws make it ever more likely that accounting degree holders will find a job. Although most of the time it deals with numbers and the hours are long (especially during the tax season), the increasing job security that comes with this field makes it very attractive to people who loves numbers.

For a start you need to have a Bachelors’ degree to get a job (a minimum), but if you really want to progress, you will need a certification called CPA (Certified Public Accountant), which I believe is the ultimate height of your accounting career. Since most of the companies crave the CPA licensure. Different states have different requirements for licensing a CPA but you have a uniform Exam which entails 150 hours of credit of Study (most states). You need to have a working experience of at least one year in order to get a license. There are different sub fields with accounting like Accounts receivable, Accounts payable, general accounting, management accounting etc. So if you want a steady and stable income, this is the field to be in right now and in the future.

Hot Jobs Industries:-2

So it is either you further your education or try to find a decent paying job. But right now a decent paying job is just a dream. And even if you could find one, you need to have a college degree. Since the way to enter the middle class dream like auto industry and also construction and manufacturing are in decline, you are in a catch-22 situation. You want to earn money but a decent paying job will require a college degree but since a college degree costs money you are again stuck in getting a lower paying or any job which pays living wages job. But for those of you who are fortunate enough to wait out this recession and go to get a degree, there are a number of fields from which you can choose which can brighten your prospect of gaining a decent paying job (again that word).

Again what is a decent paying job? For a single guy with no responsibility and less social life, it can be 11 to 15 dollars an hour but for a person with a family of four (whose spouse is not working) it can be anywhere from 21 dollars and up. But this amount can be very tight and you will have to live within a very restrictive budget. But anyway a number of articles are coming out relentlessly stating which industries are good for the future and which field you should be majoring in school. I will give you a rundown of the fields which are now hot and will be in the future.

Hot Jobs Industries

So now since the holiday season is here, it is not that we should sit back and relax during this month. I mean us- the unemployed, underemployed, part-time employed and the like should be preparing for to look for a job or be preparing for what to do for the future. Although there is a perception out there that since it is holiday season, the hiring managers are not looking for people but this can be the perfect time to sharpen your skills and aggressively look for the jobs.
But for those of you who are recently laid off or just plain discouraged to look for a job, you can always think about what you plan to do to support yourself or your family. Most of the people that I have read about are going back to school. But you know what it is really hard now to support yourself and equally harder now to go to school since schools are becoming more expensive and out of reach for lower income people. Even if you have the desire to learn and educate yourself, the harsh reality of financing your education comes as a big hurdle. Just imagine for a minute that if you get financial aid that is your education is paid for but still your going to school, transportation, groceries, health insurance has still to be covered. So there is always an opportunity cost of either going back to school or just survive, especially if you are living in high living cost states of the Northeast.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

All these Health News Galore:

It’s like everyday I hear the health news, do this and do that and you will be healthy as an ox. Today it was you don’t drink alcohol and coffee at the same time. It just drives me nuts to hear all these health news and then one health news contradicts the previous one just because they isolated one cause and took another one. The simple news is that if you have a balance diet of vitamins, carbohydrates, iron, proteins etc and just do the exercise you will be just fine. By exercise I mean you don’t have to literally go to the gym and sweat your back off. Just plain walking will be just fine.
You know most of the obesity that is afflicting us is that we don’t do too much physical activity. Everything is now remote controlled. Before we had to literally get up to change the channel of the TV or the volume. But now that activity you can do by just sitting on your back. Then there is the computer activity, desktop you had to come literally to the table to do your work and then the laptop came. Washing and drying of your clothes also took our physical activity away. Same can be said of the dish washer.

I don’t mean to say that all this technology is bad, it is really good and it cuts down time to do those chores and concentrate on other things. But maybe other things are not that physically demanding that people are doing. And then there is the telecommuting which altogether avoids the possibility of going to the office and doing your office work from home. It really has its advantages but we still need to do some exercise. And if people are not able to go to the gym, the most basic and free exercise is to walk. Just walking in the park or even your neighborhood every day will make you feel healthy and cut down on these horrendous obesity rates that Americans are having with all the diseases accompanying it.

The New Job Game-7

So now the parts remain about the references and the Skills. References you can either put like available on request or you can skip it altogether but don’t write anybody’s name or title or company name. Their application will specify the references request. Just also make sure that the person you are referencing knows about it in advance so that he can give you a good recommendation, otherwise a surprise call can either make your reference person resentful or just cause him or her to give you a bad recommendation.

About skills, just write about any system you have worked on and which you are comfortable with. You can also write any language skills that you have. But try to skip the hobbies part since it is not necessarily part of your resume.

Since most of the resumes are now being scanned by machines, try to put as much key words relevant to your industry in it so it can be scanned accordingly and accurately instead of floating around in several departments. Computer savvy has now become the buzz word and the employers are now looking at the social media sites for anything which they can find, so try to be as discreet as possible posting anything which may jeopardize your chances of employment now or in the future. If you don’t want to embarrass yourself, try to steer clear of every thing which may be construed as unethical or unprofessional because it can catch you when you least want it to be.

The New Job Game-6

To put your experience it should be relevant to the job you are applying for otherwise it will go to the garbage pale (I know from experience believe me). But unless you apply for a job which you have no experience for you will not even be considered. Even if you qualify as an experienced person but are over qualified (like you were the executive of the company), your prospective employer will be reluctant to hire you for a reduced pay since he or she will feel that you would not be happy and will jump ship as soon as the economy becomes better or a good opportunity arrives. That is the main reluctance of the employers right now to hire overqualified persons.

But whatever happens you have to put your experiences right in your resume for the last

Fifteen years starting from the latest one and then down from there. Do not right every thing you have done otherwise your resume will be like for six pages and people don’t have the time. Try to keep it under three pages, preferably two is better

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The New Job Game-5

So now that we are done with countless resume variations and format of the resumes. We should next tackle the skills. Before I go there let me reiterate that five or six variations of your resume will be more than enough to land you a job (mind you not a dream job). But now that since even entry level jobs are stating that you should have at least one year of experience(meaning that they don’t want to train you but scoop you from the competitors) most of the resumes should be in format of your experience first and then your degrees. If you don’t have enough experience than emphasize your degree. Another thing I have noticed during all my readings of job hunting is the crucial matter of whether to include your GPA or not. Most of the people say that if it is above 3.00 out of 4.00 mention it otherwise skip it. To me just don’t mention it when some interview asks you then you can say verbally. The employer may or may not hire you on the basis of your GPA alone, but if your experience is relevant and stronger than the GPA will not matter at all. Just stir clear of your GPA numbers.

The New Job Game-4

So how do you ace that interview and first of all how do you get that interview. Many ways have been suggested, successful in some cases and unsuccessful in others. The experts always say that you should tailor made your resume according to the specifics of the job. But if you are going to send out for example 10 resumes a day, you will have to tailor made 10 resumes. Although it may seems easier due to the abundance of all kinds of software to make this task easier. But if you are a prolific resume sender and desperate for a job you may send out two hundred resumes during one month or two. Do you really want to have two hundred different resumes and can you have the organizational patience to know to whom you sent your resume. Now the cover letter part. With these two hundred resumes in hand, you will have to customize your cover letter two hundred times. Again will you be able to do that having the organizational patience and skill. I don’t think that most of the people follow this advice, if they do they would already been hired and not be sharing their stories spread out on the internet.

Now the format of the resume. Again it all depends upon if you are just new out of College or have years of experience. The experts say that if you have experience emphasize that first and for the new College graduates, you should emphasize your degree first.

The New Job Game-3

But just by being creative just don’t cut it anymore either. It may either repulse the prospective employer or may even hire you. But you should be aware that an employer needs to know what you can do for the company. If you are in a company where there is no need to be creative or just have to follow rules than being creative and standing out will not do the job. Although it may and I say MAY make you look outstanding and get a foot in the door (meaning the interview) but ultimately it comes to what you can do for the company and what you are bringing to the table (meaning the company).

In this economy the old adage that it is not what you know but who you know still counts.

There are so many articles out there on the internet and in the bookstores regarding how to find a job and how to approach the companies, prepare for the interview, what to do when you are there and what to do during the interview that after a while you feel like even if you have done all of it, you are still worried about your chances of being hired.

I just believe if you read only one good article you can increase your chances of getting hired but you have to do your homework thoroughly and use common sense. Although at the end it will all come down to the head count that they company is going to have.

The New Job Game-2

Since the employers are in the driver’s seat right now and they hold all the strings and since they are being overwhelmed by hundreds of resumes for even one job, they are devising creative ways to make sure they have the right person before they hire. The quality of the applicants has gone up tremendously and that is why the employers having a field day hiring people. It is not to say that they have a jolly good time sorting out hundreds of qualified and unqualified and over-or under-qualified applicants to choose from. It is just that they have more time to evaluate all the resumes and then call only the lucky ones.

Furthermore the minimum requirement for a job is now a Bachelors’ degree even if the job has nothing to do with a degree. It is like you need to have a ticket just to enter a park whether you take the rides or you just sit at the main gate. That is the requirement. So how to stand out among the overcrowded market of College Degree holders.

People have been lately becoming creative about how to stand out. You may have read out the MIT guy who had the word on a huge board saying he is unemployed standing on the street. Or how some guy has put his resume on the front of his T-Shirt and cover letter on the back of it. You really have to be desperate or bold or just plain crazy to do these sorts of things.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The New Job Game

Since this economic crisis, the whole job market has changed to employer driven as compared to employee driven before the crisis. As per some reports there are currently now six (6) people vying for one (1) and that job is being too selective. Employers are being swamped by resumes which are of higher quality and over qualified. That is employers have now more time to be selective and take their own sweet time to hire qualified (and sometimes overqualified) people, just because they can.

Although people are just happy to have a job, not withstanding the huge pay cuts and loss of seniority and ego, but nobody has gauged the hit to their morals once they have settled down in the job. It is really a shame but who can blame these employers. When the economy was overheating they were hard pressed to find employees who were too demanding and now the tables have turned. But now being too careful has given way to desperation on the part of the prospective employees and they have started to show signs of strains. Now the new thing is resumes are not enough but you have to prove yourself by completing specific tasks on time to prove your mettle (as per a report) before offering a job. According to me these are just delaying tactics just to find out who is the hiring material. Because unless you are in a job where job requirements changes daily, most of the jobs are just routine robotic once you settle down to do it.

The Job outlook-2010

It is reported that the job outlook for the year 2010 will be better than this year but not that much. Very few CEOs that have been surveyed plan to do hiring for the next year. They still have that same wait and see attitude regarding the economy and what the government intends to further do about it. The government on the other hand wants to spend more and more without have a concrete plan to deal with the housing mess and the economic mess. As I have said before we don’t have the money and even if we create money by printing it (meaning selling government securities) we will pay for it later on. I understand that it is the government role to take the initiative and create jobs but only through creating confidence and policies that will encourage business expansion.
Now after bailing out the banks with hundreds of billions of dollars and not seeing any result in the expansion of loans (since the banks are trying to preserve cash with all those big losses to cover) now the administration is trying to have main street stimulus for small businesses by doling out more loans. Let’s see what happens with this part of the stimulus.

Bank fees charges ahead

Since the collapse (or near collapse) of the economy and the rescue of the banks by the U.S. taxpayers, Banks have been trying to shore up their balance sheets in every legal conceivable way they can. The U.S. tax payers have given these banks hundreds of billions of dollars to bail them out and since these banks have to pay back to them they are soaking them with every fee to pay them these loans in addition to making profit.

I must agree that it has not been a good ride for these banks. Every time they try to tuck in new fees to previous seemingly free services, some Congressmen (or Congresswomen) in the name of consumer protection tries to introduce some legislation to derail that effort.

Before it was credit card fees (a true and genuine complaint) and overdraft fees and now it is the ATM fees. Banks are under assault from every one. Now they have started to charge a minimum balance fees and next thing we know there will be somebody introducing another legislation. Now I can understand that since we (the taxpayers) bailed them out, they should not be charging us fees but since they are in the business of doing business they will have to charge for things which was taken for granted as free previously. I am not here taking the sides of the financial institutions as I am also being hit by these fees, but in order to become healthy, the banks will have to start charging fees on previously free services whether we like or not.

On the lighter Side:-Movies- Mirrors

Mirrors is a horror movie based on the Korean movie called Into the mirrors, about an ex cop who is hired as security guard at a burnt out departmental store which is built on a Psychiatric hospital with a history of violent experiments to treat schizophrenic patients.

These patients are led into a mirror room and buckled into a chair and asked to confront their fears in the hope of curing their disease. But the mirrors now take the life of their own turning it into an evil force sucking everybody who is in touch with it.

Keifer Sutherland stars in this movie as an ex cop who has been depressed since shooting a cop to death due to a bungled operation and trying to redeem himself by getting hired in that haunted departmental store and stars to investigate strange happenings when he start to encounter evil forces in the mirrors and then tries to save his family from the being dead. Not to give much away the story, it has graphic violence and brief nudity. Definitely not for the kids but for horror fans it is okay treat. Not too much to fuss about.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Taxes Galore!

As was my fear before, the states already strapped for cash has started to raise revenue through other less subtle ways. Like in Georgia, there is an increase in the speeding ticket, in New York it is the horse racing. Kentucky has raised its cigarette taxes and list will go on and on. Although through these ways they are trying to avoid the backlash of the general public by targeting specific portions of the population but the states are still in the red and will keep on accumulating more revenue losses until there is a general consensus to have a broad based tax increase.

The above mentioned increases are miniscule compared with the red ink that is flowing through the budgets of states. There will come a time (not to distant future) either drastic spending will have to be reduced or drastic increase in taxes will have to be initiated. Or the things that people now take for granted as free will no longer be free. This is the dilemma of the states that will not go away by having some accounting gimmicks or some one time infusion of cash (like the Federal Stimulus funds) to balance their budgets (look at what has happened to California and is happening in New York). Nobody wants to increase taxes or pay for that matter but to provide services we will have to swallow this bitter pill or see those services vanish.

The Day of Infamy- December 07, 1941

Lest we forget amid all the turmoil in the housing market and Wall Street and the economy, today is the day that President Roosevelt said would live in infamy. The attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii came today nearly 70 years ago. It was the first attack that the U.S. had encountered (technically Hawaii was not part of the U.S. States) and it took the Isolationist America right into World War II and onto the victory. Commemorations are being held to honor this day. Although this day has now been eclipsed by September 11, 2001 but still the memory of the attack is vivid in the minds of the people who survived and who are still alive.

We should not forget that the oceans that create the distance between the United States and the World are not a hindrance anymore to determined armies. But now the battle is to be fought with individuals who are more determined than ever and have more lethal weapons on their hands. As I said before, our commitments to the rest of the world should be reduced (or scaled back) in order for us to protect ourselves from these determined individuals since our economic reality does not permit us to protect everybody everywhere when we have to foot the bill all by ourselves

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The surprising new Unemployment Numbers!

The new unemployment numbers surprised the economists and all the doomsayers as economy shed only 11,000 jobs bringing down the unemployment rate to 10 percent. The administration must be happy about that. It shows that overall the economy is on the mend. But we will have to see a trend of two to three months before we can be sure that we are out of recession. But now here is the deal, is the new unemployment rate really real or is it masking the fact that many people have become discouraged and simply dropped out of the picture.

Since most of the market look to the government for the unemployment figures, we will assume that the figure must be correct. There can also be another thing that may be hiding behind these numbers. The fact that there aren’t many workers left to fire. The remaining workers are being squeezed to do more by taking up the work of the laid off workers. The future will tell us if that is the case but for now we should start partying like the recession is over (although we are not quite of the woods yet).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The New American Isolationalism:-2

The second thing is that the American public has come to recognize that the China is the No.1 economic power. Although technically that is not so but still when they see that almost everything now is made in China, the perception is that China is economically more advanced than the U.S. although we are more advanced technically but economically we are weak. Although it can be a little bit confusing, but we are a net debtor now and China is the net creditor. Although we are technically more advanced but China will have its say in the future. Other thing is that military that is true that we are the strongest nation in the World but our position has been much weakened by our wasteful invasion of Iraq (which has drained our resources and power) and now by our continuous war in Afghanistan, but still there is no one out there to challenge us militarily but economically we are very weak and this thing has to be corrected, otherwise we will not be able to fund our future wars by just issuing Treasury securities. We need to fix our economic blight and this thing I will continually be emphasizing in my future posts.

The New American Isolationalism:-1

A new survey came out stating that the Americans are felling increasing disentanglement with the affairs of the world. This is in contrast to the present U.S. Government effort to engage with the world. The survey also states that this maybe due to the economic problems that we are experiencing at home now. It also shows that American things that China is the No.1 economic power in the world but the U.S. is still the No.1 Military power. It also shows that the American public wants other people to solve their problems themselves with little or no interference from the U.S.

What do we make out of this survey? As I have been consistently saying in my previous posts, we need to take care of ourselves first. We should realize the fact that the world has changed now and we can no longer be considered to provide assistance and interference in other people affairs. Most of our aid goes to governments whose own popularity is worse than ours just because we support them. We need to start disengaging now in the trouble hot spots or scaling back down our international commitments. And I don’t believe that this isolationalism is just going to go away once the economy is fine and good. This is a trend that will grow whether the government likes it or not. We just don’t have infinite amount of resources or the patience to deal with the insurmountable problems that encompass the various regions of the world.

On the lighter Side:-Movies- The International

This movie is based on the real life scandal that rocked the Pakistani Bank of Credit and Commercial International headquartered in Luxembourg. It stars Clive Owen as an Interpol agent and Naomi Watts as a New York Prosecutor trying to stop the bank from dealing in arms. It has enough intrigue and suspense to sustain it through almost two hours of time, especially the shoot out at Guggenheim Museum (a prop not real). Clive Owen as the Interpol agent is very intense and honest regarding his job and feels that if he shuts the bank down it will be all fine and dandy in the world. But as he finds out that all his efforts come to nothing even after the he takes out the Banks top boss. Good performances but overall if you have precious time you can skip this one and do something else otherwise you will still not be disappointed if you like some intrigue. Recommended for the action and effective suspense.

The Jobs (Jobless or Wanted) summit.

After successfully (or not) authorizing (and presenting) his surge in Afghanistan, the next Agenda for the President is Jobs Summit. Already people have started to discount that anything would happen much in this way. This is the biggest domestic agenda that he will face in his Presidency. How to create jobs. Health care bill is fine and dandy and the Afghan War are easy to handle. But to create jobs is one area he will find perplexing.

He cannot force companies to hire people just because the jobs are vanishing. He needs to provide Leadership and incentives for the businesses to hire.

Right now businesses are not in any mood to hire unless they see real progress regarding the Consumer spending habits. And you know what the Jobless people are not going to spend any money if they don’t have jobs (hence the word Jobless). Most of the jobs will be permanently vanished from the jobs landscape and the remaining ones will not be paying that much since people have started to retrench their money and are in the savings mode right now.

The government will not be able to spend more on the stimulus since we don’t have money and don’t want to add to the already hefty budget deficit and big debt. So the only way is to provide hefty incentives like reduce tax loads and help with health care. We really need to focus on Job Creation and it should be our number one Priority right now, more important than Health Care and the Afghan War.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Finally the Afghan (and Pakistan) Surge

As was being leaked by the media (through unknown sources) the President has authorized to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. How will we pay for it is another story but for now, more troops more bloodshed is the strategy. Additionally the President has envisioned a drawdown of troops by the end of the first term of his Presidency (probably by 2011). So the U.S. is now acting like a corporate entity, hiring (surging) in some areas and drawdown (layoff) in some areas.

I believe that this surge will not work if the U.S. is thinking that they will dominate the Afghan population like that. As I have pointed out above, we really need to engage the Taliban (from the point of strength) but the strategy should be on multiple fronts and not the majority on defeating the Taliban (remember Vietnam).

Another thing is that by giving a time table without achieving the objectives (which I highly doubt would be able to accomplish by 2011) we will be giving the insurgents (or militants or Taliban) to wait out the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Furthermore it is not just the Taliban who will wait us out but the Pakistanis too since they have a huge stake in having a friendly (or client) state in Afghanistan.

We should be targeting our resources mostly in Pakistan and convince their leaders of their near fatal obsession with the dominant India. It has crept (or brainwashed) in the psyche of the Pakistan nation so much that they will rather die opposing India than to better their lives. Despite all the aid that we have been giving to Pakistan, the majority of the people there oppose the U.S (similarly to those of Egypt). So we have to change the mindset of the Pakistani People (which include their Politicians) otherwise we will be back to square one once we leave the area.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Borrow Now, Pay Way much later.

Since the COBRA subsidy is coming to an end there is a momentum in Washington to extend it further. You know that COBRA is the federal health insurance program for people who can get insurance through their former employees for 18 months. This extension will be part of the unemployment insurance extension that Congress is considering for the Long term unemployed. The government is paying up to 65 percent of the subsidy for the COBRA with the rest coming from the uninsured.

In my previous posts I am written about how “GREAT” COBRA is but it can be great if the government keeps on subsidizing it. If it does not, COBRA is one of the worst programs out there with no subsidy whatsoever and even higher premiums that one has to pay to keep it. Well anyway, as I was saying if they are going to extend it then the price tag is coming to close to $ 100 Billion (as reported). As usual we will borrow our way to pay this. I have nothing against if the extend it but at what cost? How much borrowing can we keep on borrowing? We should be concentrating on creating good paying jobs rather than keep on having this stimulus spree going on. Not to far away, interest rates will definitely have to rise in order for the government for attract investors to its debt.

This really cannot go on much longer. We need to start taking action and asking our Congressmen (Congresswomen) to support a balanced budget as we try to have a balanced budget in our daily lives.

Dubai or Bust:

The news coming out of Dubai is that one of their government owned (not backed whatever that means) entities have asked the international community (namely creditors) to delay requesting their money back by six months. Well how about that, it was fun when they were building a huge Atlantis there (to be fair they did try to over do it) but now the hen has come to roost. Hopefully they would have learnt their lesson and stop making huge extravagant mega projects for which they did not have the money.

Now you can say that maybe it was not their fault entirely since they sold their dreams to investors all around the world and the investors bought it in droves.

It seems that it takes two to tango and the investors and financial institutions were too

Eager (and overzealous and reckless) in giving credit to them without going over their financials. Maybe it was the illusion created by Dubai that since it is part of a federation and the federation will not let one of its emirates (or states) fail, the richer and the most powerful Abu Dhabi will bail it out. But now it seems that it will do it on a case by case basis. Well it seems that what has happened in the United States (like the reckless extension of funds to subprime borrowers) has spread its tangles to the rich Arab Countries.

Although it seems that the somewhat default of Dubai is being contained and we will have to see how it is tackled by the Emirates, it serves as a lesson to not overextend your loans and always check the financials no matter who the backer is.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday:-2

So now that the Cyber Monday is unofficially (or officially) done. The numbers are out and the surprise is that the sales were up than last year. But people came to the web for deals and discounts. You know that the basic and fun thing about the web is that you can compare hundreds of stores prices right in your house without going to store to store to compare prices. It has cut down the time and also the fuel used to spend to get from one store to another to get the best deal. Now several websites exists only to give you comparison of prices right across of hundreds of stores.

Now let’s see if the momentum keeps on going for people to spend. But only if the deals are great and worthwhile. You know the lure of the shopping this year was that most of the sites offered free shipping on low weight items and even discounted shipping on high weight items. Another thing is that the in order for people to avail the free shipping they had to spend a certain amount in order to get to the deal and in the process people overspend since after reaching the free shipping deal. It does not matter how much they spent afterwards. The shipping is free. Another thing is most of items are sent tax free in states where the web sites don’t have physical presence (enjoy this while it lasts because it won’t remain like that forever). We will see how this spending spree plays out during the holiday season.