Archive for May, 2010

Letter From New York May 25, 2010

May 25, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

The webisphere and blogosphere were, literally, a twitter about Google’s announcement of Google TV [ ] – a new device that using Android’s OS will allow us to better merge television with the internet, all in one device, the Holy Grail that folks have been looking for since the tantalizing possibility began to emerge lo those many years ago – donkey years in internet time as a British friend of mine might say, meaning not so many years but a long time in the fast changing world of technology.

Google is partnering with Sony and Intel. Sony wants to find a way to leapfrog its competition, which it has been having a hard time staying ahead of and Intel wants to get its chips into the television set. Google gets onto the television screen in the living room with an opportunity to earn money from advertising on that screen. From what I’ve been reading, the device promises a seamless experience between traditional television and web viewing. One reviewer credited Google with working on integrating traditional television as opposed to going around it. Everyone will be watching closely because Google has done so many things right – though it has been no means infallible. YouTube is headed for the bigger screen of television sets, getting ready to play in prime time.

Facebook, another ubiquitous internet player, has found itself taken to task once again for its privacy policy, as it seems to be sharing just about everything you do on Facebook with the companies marketing through the website, sharing profiles and extensive information about you with their partner websites. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, seems to have declared the age of privacy dead. The company’s privacy policy has been called confusing in the extreme while continuously changing. Long in some degree of hot water for the amount of information it gives away, there seems to be something of a backlash right now with May 31 named as the day to disconnect from Facebook. Will we? Probably not. An astounding number of us are members of the Facebook nation, myself included, and it does provide a service and we seem to adore sharing “stuff” with everyone else and everyone seems to relish knowing this “stuff” about us. However, the company does seem to be saying it will make it easier for users to adjust their privacy settings. At the end of the day, people will probably not disconnect themselves from Facebook – we do seem to be living in a day of changing perceptions of privacy. In fact, we seem to relish exposing ourselves on the net through Facebook and Twitter and other social networking sites. We can’t seem to get enough of this sharing thing.

However, Mark Zuckerberg did say in the Washington Post that Facebook may have moved too fast and will simplify the way users can control the amount of information shared. Not exactly an apology…

While the technological webisphere and blogosphere have been all aflutter about Google TV and Facebook’s alleged foibles, others are attempting to read the tea leaves of Arlen Specter’s defeat in Pennsylvania. His switch to the Democratic Party didn’t work out quite the way he had expected. Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul and closely associated with the Tea Party movement, has won the Republican nomination for the Senate in Kentucky. All in all, last week’s election was a bad one for incumbents and bodes well, many say, for Republicans in the fall. Or may be not, say others, as it might appear that the Republican Party is being taken over by the Tea Partiers and it remains to be seen if they can win in general elections. All in all, it looks like it’s going to be a wild election season.

All in all, it’s a wild time out there. World financial markets are in turmoil, the political scene is unpredictable, we’re moving into uncharted territory with the clean up in the Gulf of Mexico. North Korea is saber rattling. The Euro is under pressure. Iraq and Afghanistan grind on. It’s a scary world out there but summer has arrived; there is warmth in the air, green in the trees and hope springs eternal…

Letter From New York May 17, 2010

May 17, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

When I woke this morning, it was a pristine morning at the cottage, the light still early morning gray; the verdant green of the trees coloring the cool morning, the world still damp from a light overnight rain. Staring out into the wild yard of mine, a deer wandered into my view, lazily nibbling at foliage, making its way slowly, gracefully down toward the creek. It was a clean, pure moment.

As I sipped my morning coffee, NPR was giving the latest details on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, telling the world that the amount of oil pouring into the Gulf was likely up to ten times as much as previously announced. Tar balls are beginning to show up on land. Governor Crist of Florida considers this to be a monumental disaster; Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi is calmer, apparently more confident than Governor Crist that the containment efforts will be successful. Meanwhile, workers in the Gulf fishing industry have begun to be laid off…

As the oil slick spreads and as efforts to contain it continue, and as I sipped more coffee while watching the creek flow past, the world is also looking to Washington where President Obama has nominated Elena Kagan, Solicitor General, to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to the nomination until I had a conversation with a colleague who was once a Washington insider, a member of the Carter Administration, a cable lobbyist and an avid follower of what’s happening in Washington today. He was relieved that the right had not ywr questioned Ms. Kagan’s sexuality. Which happened the following day, apparently because she had played softball. It was, I believe, a conservative blogger who posited this. It was taken up then by some conservative newspapers, showcasing a photo of Ms. Kagan playing the suspect sport. ABC News/Washington Post immediately conducted a poll that indicated 71% of Americans didn’t think sexuality should be considered as a factor in choosing someone for the Supreme Court, an indication, to me, of social progress. However, Ms. Kagan and her friends and supporters have said that she was not gay.

All in all, it seemed a shabby trick and a stretch. Softball = lesbianism. Hmmmm….

While oil has flowed in the Gulf and Ms. Kagan has had her sexuality questioned, the American public found itself united in laughter in watching Betty White host Saturday Night Live, propelling it to its highest ratings since the political campaign of 2008. She is, as she pointed out frequently, 88 ½ years old. If you missed this iconic figure keep up with the youngsters, you can catch it on She deserved her standing ovation at the end of the show and was reported to have left the after party at 3:30 in the morning only because she had a 6:30 a.m. flight to catch. Bravo to Betty!

Kudos were flying to Betty White while investigators scrambled to find out why the Dow plummeted a 1000 points in seconds a week ago last Thursday. Some stocks fell near to zero before things started sorting themselves out. It seems someone typed in a billion instead of a million and chaos ensued. Don’t they have a “Are you sure?” button in their program? I can’t close out of my browser without being asked if I am sure I really want to do that. I would hope a trader would have as much.

Apparently not. So the beat goes on. And it’s not been a pretty week this past week or so, even if alleviated by the presence of Betty White on SNL. It’s been grim though sometimes in watching the news you miss that. There was an incisive report on ABC about Teri Hatcher’s new website, aimed at “chicks.” It saddened me that we paid that much attention to “chicks” while the world was in such need of healing – on so many levels.

Letter From New York May 6, 2010

May 6, 2010

   Show Spelled[kuh n-teyn-muh nt]
the act or condition of containing.
an act or policy of restricting the territorial growth or ideological influence of another, esp. a hostile nation.
(in a nuclear power plant) an enclosure completely surrounding a nuclear reactor, designed to prevent the release of radioactive material in the event of an accident.

I’ve been thinking a lot about containment the last few days – there are lots of things happening that seem to need containing.

First of all, there is the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that definitely needs containing – the slick is spreading and is reaching shore, threatening the fishing industry in the Gulf region, another in a series of catastrophes that have bedeviled them since Katrina hit five years ago. Deep beneath the ocean surface, crude keeps burbling out – at five times the rate originally thought, now covering an area larger than Puerto Rico. And the efforts to stop the well from spilling have so far proven ineffective – not all of British Petroleum’s men and efforts combined with those of the U.S. government have been able to put this Humpty Dumpty together again.

BP’s CEO Hayward was heard to say: what did we do to deserve this? Perhaps not pay enough attention to well safety? Eleven men are missing and presumed dead. Some are already declaring the fishing industry in the Gulf dead on arrival, not seeing a way that they will recover from what is becoming the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

There is a lot of effort going into containing this catastrophe with its attendant ecological and political fallout – the Obama Administration is scurrying to contain accusations that it moved too slowly in responding to the situation, desperate to avoid comparisons to the Bush Administration’s response to Katrina.

And while BP’s Hayward is doing his best to contain the oil spill and the corporate backlash, another CEO, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs is doing his best to contain the potential damage to his financial behemoth as it faces both civil and criminal investigations over the way it handled sales of mortgage back securities. He appeared before a very hostile Congress, where some comments from lawmakers had to be bleeped because the language was so strong. He did a good enough job in Washington that most think he will save his job. Friday night he appeared on Charlie Rose, again elegantly and eloquently defending his company while promising more careful oversight going forward as a result of current corporate soul searching. It was exactly what you’d expect from the CEO of Goldman Sachs after being taken to task so severely by Congress. It was a worthy effort at containment.

The State of Arizona is working to contain the fallout that is resulting from passing a tough immigration law. While the majority of Arizonans favor the law [as do, apparently a majority of Americans] there were protests held in something like eighty cities this past weekend and many are calling for boycotts of the State of Arizona. This was not unexpected though what was unexpected, according to an Arizonan interviewed on NPR, was that some Arizona companies are taking about boycotting Arizona.

And, certainly sobering to me, was waking to the news on Sunday, that a car bomb had failed to go off in Times Square on Saturday night – a failure on the part of the men who assembled it. New York has been lucky in containing such threats as these, having stopped a crew intent on bombing the subway last year and saved this time by apparent incompetence. But it is a sobering thought, and I am grateful that this incident did not result in death and destruction. Awareness is heightened that we are vulnerable and efforts are continuing to be made to wrack mayhem on us. And this will be a condition that will be hard to contain.

Thinking about the news of the week, it seems that it has all been about the “act or condition of containing,” fighting back ecological disaster, corporate catastrophe and political fallout. Legions are engaged in stopping the oil spill, legal and public relations legions are engaged in walling off BP and Goldman Sachs from their troubles, and so on and on…men’s efforts to enclose and contain the toxic results of acts of other human beings.