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America is going bankruptDavid Walker is not running for office. He's not pushing partisan politics. He is head of the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress that audits and evaluates the performance of the federal government. He's the comptroller-general of the US, the nation's accountant-in-chief
David Walker is sounding an urgent warning: America is headed down a path to financial ruin. Says Walker, "This is about the future of our country, our kids and grandkids. We the people have to rise up to make sure things get changed."
While America's politicians debate the wisdom of the war in Iraq, and which party is tougher on terror, and whether or not to cut taxes, what they don't talk about is a dirty little secret that everyone knows. The vast majority of economists and budget analysts agree that the US is now on a disastrous course, and will hit economic disaster if nothing is done to correct it.
There's a good reason politicians don't like to talk about the nation's long-term fiscal prospects. The subject is short on political theatrics and long on complicated economics, scary graphs and very big numbers. It reveals serious problems and offers no easy solutions. Anybody who wants to deal with it seriously would have to talk about raising taxes and cutting benefits, bad news that will likely doom any politician.
David Walker is committed to touring the nation through the 2008 elections, talking to anybody who will listen about the fiscal black hole Washington has dug itself. He's dubbed his campaign the "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour". He decries the recklessness of borrowing money from foreign lenders to pay for the operations of the US government. The overwhelming "tsunami" (he calls it) will come when the baby boom generation begins retiring.
Walker's basic message is this: If the United States government conducts business as usual over the next few decades, a national debt that is already $8.5 trillion could reach $46 trillion or more, adjusted for inflation, and could paralyze the US economy. According to some projections, just the interest payments on debt that big would be as much as ALL the taxes the government collects today.
Walker says the US can be likened to Rome before the fall of the empire. America's financial condition is "worse than advertised" and it has a "broken business model." It faces deficits in its budget, its balance of payments, its savings, and its leadership. And every year that nothing is done about it, the problem grows by $2 trillion to $3 trillion.
Nobody denies what David Walker is saying, not even Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke. The presidential candidates shy away from the subject, as if it was simply not there. Who will do anything about it? And when?
Cellphone futuresApple stands out with its innovative designs. While people are fawning over features - like the smart, multitouch screen and the advanced Web browser - there is important technology under the hood. The iPhone has tiny, powerful sensors - accelerometer, ambient light sensor and infrared sensor - which adjust the functions - converting the screen view from portrait to landscape, adjusting the screen brightness, disabling the touch screen when the phone is held to the ear.
A cellphone already has a powerful computer, lots of memory, screen, keyboard and Internet connection. What can you NOT do with your cellphone? Why carry a cellphone and a camera, when one gadget can do both? In some places, people can use cellphones instead of credit-cards - so why carry credit-cards? Soon this multi-function gadget will include sensors, leading to lots of new features and functions.
Built-in sensors and GPS will provide of feedback with contextual clues about users' locations, activities and behaviors. For example, sensor-enabled phones could help monitor exercise habits, keep track of various activities, and let people know whether you're available for a call - or not - to stop annoying interruptions. It can let you know if you need to take a break, or if you're meeting your exercise goals.
To explore possibilities, Intel researchers have used a pager-size gadget that gathers data from 7 sensors: accelerometer, barometer, humidity sensor, thermometer, light sensor, digital compass, and microphone. Most of these are used to determine location and activity, but the microphone can provide interesting clues on social networks - for example, whether a person is having a social chat or a business conversation. To avoid privacy concerns, only information about tone, pitch, and volume are analyzed. So now, your cellphone will become a completely new social-networking and life-enhancing tool.
Well, I didn't stand in line to get an iPhone, though my son Chris (who lives in Santa Maria, CA) got one and is very pleased with it. I'll be playing with it this weekend to see if it gives me goosebumps. And the urge to forsake my PocketPC.
SICKO - Michael Moore's new documentaryMichael Moore's documentary Sicko was released in the US and Canada on June 29th, 2007. It investigates the US health care system with a focus on health insurance and the pharmaceutical industry. The film contrasts America's healthcare system with other universal health care systems, including those in Canada, France, England and Cuba. (Yes, Cuba).
Moore's film has generated much more controversy than his previous anti-Bush-anti-war documentary. It starts humorously with another crack at Bush, but goes on to expose the extravagant amounts the medical industry gives to elected officials. It then continues with lots of stories of ordinary Americans whose health insurance did not cover the diseases and accidents which their medical plans should have paid for, and whose prescription drugs are totally unaffordable.
Michael Moore isn't the first to say that the US health care system is sick - it's a well-known problem that no one seems to want to do much about - blocked perhaps by the overwhelming number of HMO and Pharmaceutical lobbyists.
Of course Michael Moore attracts attacks from biased critics. He seems to have a genius for confrontational stunts. The Cuba boat ride tops them all. It begins when he hears Congressional testimony indicating that detainees at Guantanamo were getting free medical care and nutrition counseling. So he rounded up several volunteer rescue workers who had suffered respiratory and other diseases during the 9/11 World Trade Center attack, whose medical plans did not cover treatment for all their ailments. They go on a small boat from Florida to Gitmo, with the hope that these 9/11 heroes might get the same high-end care that the government said it was giving 9/11 terror suspects. When they wouldn't let him visit, he took his ailing rescue workers to Havana, where they got excellent and sympathetic care from a local clinic. And their US prescriptions were then filled at a fraction of US prices.
Go see SICKO. It will show you how hospitals dump homeless patients on the street because they can't pay, how doctors get bonuses for avoiding expensive procedures, how health insurance companies block legitimate payments while their executives make big bucks for achieving bigger profits. It'll demonstrate why the US has slipped to No. 37 in health care around the world, slightly ahead of Slovenia.
ISA - International Society of AutomationHey, have you seen the ISA video on Youtube? It's professionally done, presents an excellent view of ISA, and includes a good discussion of the tangible benefits of membership that make ISA a great society. This video was prepared Oct. 2006, and has already been widely distributed.
Recently, I spent a couple of days with Pat Gouhin, the new ISA Executive Director. We had plenty of time to talk as we drove together from Los Angeles to San Diego to address ISA sections in both locations. Pat had already read my articles, criticizing ISA's bloated bank-account and volunteer-driven paralysis-analysis; we discussed possibilities and alternatives. I was impressed that he already has significant experience with volunteer-driven organizations and knows what to do, how to do it, and perhaps most importantly when to do it.
Pat Gouhin is actively promoting the international growth and success of ISA. He sent me this upbeat email recently:
"Next week I am off to meet with Senators in DC to begin to make a name for Automation and increase their awareness of the profession. And the end of the week will be spent at a strategic planning workshop for the Automation Federation. A feature article in the August issue of Automation World will be on Work Force Development.
"We are making good progress and are focused on the right things. We are even seeing the membership numbers beginning to increase. Yes, it is incremental and we have a long way to go to get to your objective of 100K, but it is up.
"As for the free standard benefit that you and I discussed in January, we had 4,200 downloads in all of 2006; through the first 5 months of 2007 we had 46,000. So we ARE getting the additional exposure that we were hoping for, and much of it is in the international arena.
"By mid October I hope to tell you that ISA will be formally known as the International Society of Automation."
Pinto podcasts feature new robot speakerI've been podcasting JimPinto.com eNews regularly for over a year - since March 2006 - and some 300+ people seem to listen. Indeed, those who subscribe to these podcasts over Apple iTunes and other RSS services, seem to like "automatic" downloads when they connect, to listen later, when they're ready.
My old friend and colleague, Rob Henley (now President of fast growing San Diego based IOSELECT) told me the other day that he was driving somewhere out in the world on a sales trip, listening to his iPOD downloads, when suddenly Jim Pinto's voice came on with an eNews podcast. I gather it was a pleasant surprise.
Well anyway, recording these audio podcasts is a chore - it takes only about 20 minutes to speak a spontaneous summary of the eNews. But, editing it down to the final 12-15 minutes is something I don't particularly enjoy. I have an Indian-English-American accent; Americans think I have an English accent, my British friends say I sound Indian, and in India they're not quite sure where I'm from. I speak too fast, and then there are a lot of pauses and repetitions which I have to edit out. The podcast process takes me at least a couple of hours. You know, it's so much easier to edit text - my software does the spell-check and grammar corrections.
But hey, now I've hired a robot to read eNews, and convert it automatically into an MP3 podcast. So, listen to the latest eNews podcast. I'll introduce Jimbot (my robot speaker) and then he'll continue to read this issue of eNews. Please forgive some of his pronunciation problems (he's still learning) and also I'm getting a better voice for him soon.
So, listen to the latest JimPinto.com eNews #233, 12 July 2007 - podcast, or download and save the MP3 file. Tell me whether you like Jimbot, and how you think he can improve. Please send me an email (click the link below) to let me know.
eFeedbackIn April 2002, Jonathan Schacher [firstname.lastname@example.org] made a comment (or was it a prediction?) regarding offshore manufacturing and the worth of the American worker. Now he has this to say:
"Not only that, but now our political leaders on both sides of the aisle, including the man which the Electoral College put in the office of President, are making statements that they need to legally bring in cheap foreign labor to do the jobs that American workers will not do.
"Bull#$%&$@ - what these greedy corporations and now their political mouthpieces really mean is that the American worker won't do those jobs for the meager wages that they want to pay to keep their fat profit margins.
"If these political and industrial leaders don't wake up soon, our country WILL be a 3rd world economy with us begging for help from those very countries that got our jobs - just as I had predicted."
"If they had an SD expansion slot, I'd be one of the nuts standing in line to buy the first model. I love the integration with Google and for me (an existing AT&T customer), it's only $20 a month extra.
I'm not signing a two-year agreement to get an iPhone either. They either offer a one-year, or I'll wait until they do.
"Maybe I will wait for the generation 2 model, when they fix some of the quirks. Apple has definitely raised the bar on what a mobile phone should be. Sure there are phones that do what the iPhone does, but no one does it with the level of elegance and simplicity."
"The Office of the President of the US today is a problem, and I suspect will continue to be a problem even after the 2008 elections regardless of who wins. But Congress has the power to begin to fix things internally by creating term limits, making lobbying illegal, and enacting a long list of other internal fixes. But who will do that?"
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