Monday, October 20, 2008

Zakaria and Powell break with McCain and the GOP

Bad news for Republicans in California, Florida, New York, and (embarrassing posturing) in Virginia.

This is in addition to recent scandals in Idaho, Alaska, Florida, and nationally. Another day, another chip in the Republican armor.

Fareed Zakaria and Colin Powell make powerful arguments for Barak Obama for President.

Review: Joseph Stiglitz, Making Globalization Work

Overall, Making Globalization Work seems shockingly light: akin to Stiglitz lending his Nobel Economic credentials to the agenda of the World Social Forum. Instead of an independent viewpoint, Stiglitz seems to fully endorse the “anti-globalization” thesis defined activists like Vandana Shiva and Naomi Klein.

However, for me, there were a few interesting takeaways:

1. In The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs writes of natural resources as the key differentiator between countries that did and did not make it out of the "poverty trap"—UK and Bolivia, for example.

Stiglitz, on the other hand, points to the "resource curse": "It's no accident that so many resource-rich countries are far from democratic. The riches breed bad governance." He cites Nigeria, Congo, Iraq, Middle East, and Russia.

It seems you’re thus “damned if you have” and “damned if you don’t.” Perhaps another explanation of the underlying phenomenon is required.

2. Throughout the book Stiglitz condemns colonialism, IMF, and "shock therapy", similarly to (right-leaning) William Easterly in The White Man's Burden.

This is a stunning policy agreement, as it is rooted in completely different ideologies. While Easterly links all three policies to Western governmental meddling in “exotic lands,” Stiglitz considers the first two as examples of (mercantilist/pro-corporate-interest) "globalization" and the last as "market fundamentalism"—exactly the reverse of Easterly.

3. Finally, Stiglitz recognizes—as does Sachs—"free markets" as the foundation of a happy, abundant society and condemns socialist excesses. However, almost in the same breath, he proposes heavy Keynesian, if not essentially socialist, reforms to help "improve” these markets.

This rhetorical give-and-take is an important economic reform consideration. It seems that given such liberal concerns of the slippery slope towards unfettered markets and their opposite—conservative apprehension of the slide towards socialism—any sound, bipartisan economic reform proposal will have to appeal to the language and thinking of both to gain broad support.

This is particularly true of current economic institution reforms in the U.S. and internationally. If past is any example, these are likely to turn out as the battle of two lobbies—pro-aid and pro-corporate interest—neither one of which is necessarily pro-freedom or pro-prosperity.

The Google/T-Mobile G1: Neat but clunky

(Originally posted on Facebook on Sept. 23, based on G1 launch demonstrations and reporting)
G1 shows why cross-company orchestration in technology is so hard to do, and why Jobs-ian obsessive integration sometimes wins.

If you're a techie looking for the next toy and are already on the T-Mobile network, the G1 is for you. But, only a more streamlined, lighter, smaller next-generation "G2" would likely have the consumer "whoomph" to give Apple a real run for its money.

G1's operating system--the first "live" implementation of Google's Android--has a lot of neat features, but not necessarily ones non-tech-geeks will find most intuitive or useful. For example, the phone allows drag-and-drop onto three separate icon desktops, but has only a bare-bones built-in music player.

The phone's physical design, by HTC, is more reminiscent of the original, circa-1996 Palm Pilot than a modern smartphone. That's surprising, as HTC also ships slick Windows Mobile handsets like the HTC Touch.

Finally, as Verizon might say, "it's the network." T-Mobile has a bit of a ways to go on its 3G network rollout, which, of course, it promises to do this fall.

What's in it for Google?

Google is donating Android code as open source. So, what's in this for Google?

Mobile advertising is the official raison-d'etre, but it's still nascent and difficult to implement despite growing screen sizes.

Features-bundling is another, and G1 is full of it. If your world consists of Gmail, Google Maps, and YouTube, this phone is for you. If you have more diverse online preferences, however, you may find G1's built-in "steering" towards these services somewhat irritating.

Controlling key technology in future mobile development is the third, but as Dylan Tweney of Wired points out, Google must move quickly to prevent Android balkanization and loss of brand.
"The company needs to set up an aggressive "Googlephone" partners program." "If Google doesn't do that, Android will quickly disappear into the morass of poorly-branded smartphone operating systems that consumers don't give a damn about, alongside Symbian, Windows Mobile and the Palm OS. And Google will have lost the mobile game."

Great minds think alike?

New York Times' David Pogue writing on Oct. 16 agrees with my original review, giving the G1 the following report card: "software, A-. Phone, B-. Network, C".