Conditions for Economic Recovery

On Le Monde’s site, an article was posted concerning the outlook for France’s economic recovery according to Prof. Patrick Artus: Les conditions d’une vraie reprise ne sont pas réunies. Reading the article, a similar argument can be made for the US, with the same conclusion: non, pas encore.

Much like us, France saw a 4th quarter uptick in growth, and much like us it was largely technical, related primarily to inventory depletion. In the US, businesses replaced inventory, but at a slower pace.  Another factor was higher productivity without higher wages.

Prof. Artus explains that in the 70s and 80s, economic cycles were usually linked to inflation – interest rates rose, business activity and consumer consumption slowed, inflation came down, the economy rebounded.  Boom.

Since then, inflation has been tamed, and today’s economic crises are tied more to asset bubbles and excessive indebtedness.  Under these circs., when the economy stumbles (the bubble pops or deficits start to matter), banks stop lending, businesses spending contracts and households consumption gives way to higher savings rates.

According to Prof. Artus, under an expansionist economic policy, the economy’s rebound will require lending to restart, businesses to start investing and households to start spending. (Se what he did there?  Just reverse the progression.  Economists! What can’t they figure out?!  Engineers are said to solve problems we didn’t know we had with solutions we can’t understand.  Can the same be said of economists?  Discuss.)  After some time, salaries will have to rise (remember, this is a Frenchman talking about France. L’union fait la force, l’oignon fait la soupe!).  Prof. Artus doesn’t think France has reached that point, and the idea that a rebound is underway, based on what is required under his economic model, is clearly a thought properly classified as ‘wrong.’

That very same argument can be made of the US, and, in a bit of a two-fer, this argument also helps explain my generally low regard of economists.  My initial responses to this argument are summed up thusly:  “Duh. Really?  You get paid for these insights?”

I admit, not the most professional response, but valid nonetheless.  If one requires evidence that the credit spigot has reopened and loans are flowing, business investment is up and on the rise, household consumption is climbing at the expense of savings, then one would be hard press to claim 4Q09 results in France or the US evidence of the economy’s rebound.  No, if those are your requirements, you will not see the rebound even if you are an optimist or a scientist*!  Under Patrick’s restrictions, you won’t see it unless you look to the past, because you’ll be very much in the midst of the recovery, or even well past it’s juicy bits, and likely to find the first part of the ‘buy low, sell high’ mantra no long available to the investor in you.

It would be more informative to point out where an economy is in its cycle based on the various measures of a model like Patrick’s, which suggests my criticisms may have more to do with the medium (newspapers, the Web) than the message.  In a classroom, I’m almost positive this would be explored to a more meaningful depth and presented in a more informative manner.  So, Prof. Artus, my beef isn’t with you, your model or your abilities, au contraire, but rather in the surfeit of credence given to sloppy economic writing in today’s media.

* A Pessimist sees the glass as half empty
An Optimist sees the glass as half full
A Scientist sees the glass as full of air and water


Google Buzz: G Buzz? Buzzy G? GB? GBH?

When I first herd about Google Buzz, Google’s latest offering (at the time of writing), I was v. excited to take it for a spin.  The first thing that popped into my head went something like this:

Finally!  Now I can access my Twitter and Facebook feeds at work without those meddling filters harshing my social media buzz!

But just a couple of days on, stuck at home the whole time due to the Snopocalypse (I just can’t get behind ‘Snomageddon’), well…, now I’m not so sure.  This rather middle-of-the-road reaction could be because it’s new and I just haven’t put in enough time to understand and appreciate what it can and cannot do.  The same can be said of Google Wave, but I’m still excited about that and fully recognize I have a lot to learn to really take advantage of it.

One notion that jumps to the fore comparing Wave and Buzz is the notion of privacy.  Buzz just showed up in Gmail, a very ‘private’ screen on one’s laptop, pulling in information on friends and raising my concerns about how much of my dull private life is all of a sudden being broadcast into the ether.  Do I really want the guys who’ll raze me mercilessly to know that I did a Google search for Nancy McKeon at 6:17 am because she was in my dream?  No, I don’t.  Luckily, none of them read this blog.  Wave, in contrast, occupies its own screen, in the manner of Google Calendar or Google Docs.  Sure, they’re all connected, but they don’t share the same screen real-estate unless you make it happen.

As a result, I’m debating whether or not to click the “turn off buzz” link at the bottom of my Gmail page, but if I do that, how will I learn what it can and cannot do, what it will and will not do?  I suppose I can read about other users’ experiences.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that my initial excitement about Buzz has turned to uncertainty and privacy concerns.

OK, true, that latter concern is rich considering how many Google products I already use!  Ha ha!  Privacy!  I’m funny…

“Ok, ‘Jesus Phone’? Yeah, bit excessive, but the iPhone is…”

This morning I woke up about an hour and half before the alarms set on my iPhone were schedule to go off (at 06h45 and 07h00, as if you were wondering, which you probably weren’t, but anyway there it is). I expected to wake up before they went off, since I had climbed between the flannel  panels much earlier than usual, but, really, who cares? This is supposed to be about the iPhone, not the Curve’s nocturnal habits, so let’s move on, shall we? Aaaannnnd we’re walking…

As I was saying before some unctuously uncouth creature cut me off, I arose ‘ere the dawn’, and reached for (wait for it…, wait for it…) my iPhone *insert here MP3 of angelic aria or something by Lamb* It was still dark, but I knew I was up for the day, so I started it by finding out what the world had got up to whilst I lay ‘gently slumberin’. Having fired up the TUAW app because I wasn’t yet prepared to read the the hard news, I read through a few articles, including one by Chris Rawson I’d spotted yesterday: Buyer’s Guide: 33 things you don’t need if you have an iPhone.  What really caught my attention was a reminder that I had meant to download Stanza, like, forever ago.  Totally forgot.  Long story s., I clicked on the App Store icon, searched for and found the targeted app, installed it, fired it up, and grabbed some literary goodies from Project Gutenberg, which I was into BiP (‘Before the iPhone’).  Included in my morning’s cache were two books by my favorite author, P.G. Wodehouse.  Yes, I actually own the physical books, but this way I can have them with me at, basically, all times.  Wonderful.

This was all done laying in bed, surrounding by a darkened room, engulfed in the feeling of infinite time to kill.  That’s to say, peacefully.  Having done all this, my mind began to wander, pondering what I had just accomplished, and how during the BiP period, when a lesser smartphone was my trusted companion, I never  had the patience to do more than see what e-mails had arrived.  This started me thinking about the validity of Chris’ suggesting that the iPhone was, under certain circs., the appropriate replacement for not only one’s laptop, but also for the (over) exalted netbook.

Though I complain about the battery life in my 2G iPhone, among other things associated with it, I must say that it’s my own damn fault!  I use this device far more frequently for a much broader range of application than I have any other mobile device I’ve owned.  That includes my Dell Axiom and the Blackberry Pearl, both out of which I feel I got my money’s worth, mind you.  But the iPhone?  Oh ho ho! This is the device made real that I wanted the others to be. It’s my phone, my mobile source of news and information.  I wear it on my arm when I run, using it as my primary iPod now that it has usurped my 5G iPod, which now, like a technological spinster, rarely gets out of the house these days.  I play games on it, I follow the world’s comings and goings through a variety of apps (sorry Mr. Softie, you’re wrong about that too), and I use it to stay connected to my family and friends, to help me when I’m lost in the wilds of VA, to keep me on schedule, to be able to talk about the weather.  It makes life easier, or at least more convenient.  It’s proven to be a disruptive technology in the handset market, and could further disrupt the telecom industry, if done properly. I hope…

Plus, it’s got this super cool new music feature!

Apple! Don’t Let Voldemort Bork Your Handset, Or Taze Your Customers, Bro!

Oh come on! You know I didn't mean it!This past week-end, I wasted my time setting up two unlocked Blackberry Pearls for family members, and during this rousing process decided to add MMS to my unlocked iPhone – I needed a moment or two of telecommunicatory (I love making up new words!) release from the trials and tribulations of dealing with RIM’s bastard spawn.

So, on the iPhone I open up Settings, yada yada yada, blah blah blah, there is no place on the Network screen for me to enter the MMS settings! I know the phone is capable of handling MMS – I previously had SwirlyMMS installed, noted the enabled MMS settings, but refused to drop the $12+ large for the privilege of using something I should already have available to me. It’s the principle of the thing, man. Just because Apple has decided to hang out with the telecom Death Eaters on this side of the pond doesn’t mean that they should go all-in and act like Voldemort’s bitch. Or maybe it does. I mean, really. In my quest to resolve the issue (for, like, $0.00), I discovered through the power of Google that on some 2G iPhone, access to the MMS setting is available, on others, not so much, which translates into it being as easy to fix as pushing out a software update.

So come on, Apple. Show me the magic and make me happy with a little MMS loving on my iPhone. We’ll talk about you leaving Voldemort some other time because when I look in your eyes, I can see you’re not really happy, that you die a little death everytime someone questions why you two are even still together. You even got a new OS and upgraded yourself, but does Voldemort even care? “No! I don’t want to tether tonight! And no MMS either. I’ve had a hard day killing muggles and what not! Make me some dinner!” Apple, you don’t want that for the rest of your life. You deserve better than that. Don’t you? Come on, smile… Then leave his ass.

iPhone, T-Mobile and Sprint: A Telecommunication Ménage à Trois Waiting to Happen?

Step out of the box

Step out of the box

We all know someone, or “someone who knows someone” that wants an iPhone, but refuses to willingly get in bed with the telecom company currently enjoying a monogamous US relationship with said object of desire.  (Apparently this thing is shaking it down with someone new in every town.)

The upshot thus far has been successful attempts to get the iPhone to stray from its domestic partner, to “explore” unknown pleasures with “others”, if you will.  The Pwnage that has led to this telecommunication cuckoldry has not fully sated the desires of those who lust after the iPhone’s many 3G charms.  Instead, this wicked jealousy has given rise to plots and schemes that would spirit the iPhone from its cramped, loveless quarters with promises of adventure and full-on sexy times.

With that in mind, I came across a quote, but I cannot remember the source at this moment, and I’m too lazy to look it up, that suggested T-Mobile lease some of Sprint’s 3G 1900/2100 MHz spectrum to make the iPhone fully functional on its network.  If Sprint actually has 3G spectrum in that bandwidth, and this scheme could actually work, that would be absolutely wonderful! (I like T-Mobile.) This would enable Apple and T-Mobile to gain some important intelligence on the viability of officially running the iPhone on T-Mob’s network.  They could gauge the iPhone’s use on its network with full 3G capabilities enabled through an on-going examination of their own parameters, as well as “listening” to the blogsphere and the mainstream media (which would eventually get round to writing articles based on select blog posts).

Judging by the backlash against That Other Telecom Co. through searches on Google and Twitter, there is substantial dissatisfaction and pent-up demand in the U.S. for the world’s greatest daily-use electronic device.  And judging by the number of unlocked iPhones all ready in use on T-Mob’s network (and no, I don’t have any verifiable data, just a hunch), there are a lot of people in this country with telecommunication itches that are just not being scratched.

The time has come for the iPhone to find a new partner, maybe try an open relationship or just go balls-deep in a 3G telecommunications orgy and let every able-bodied carrier have a go…

Re: Right-Wing Teabagging:

Would you care for dressing?

After they’ve had their fill of teabagging at their tea parties, and have verily shot their collective load, what’s next? Salad tossing parties?

Would you care for dressing?

Swiss Secrecy Subtly Subdued

How do you say "drop a dime" in French? Ok then, how about in German?

Looks like UBS struck a deal with US authorities that includes (1) payment to Uncle Sam for his troubles ($780 million) and (2) disclosure of private info on American clients who thought they were just out of the Tax Man’s reach.  And then they’re going to close the offshore accounts of their American clientele, you know, for shits & giggles.

This raises such a lot of operatic questions –  is the fat lady belting out her final aria and is she nearing the last note that signals the end of a banking era being the two most heard in these parts.  Such drastic, far reaching moves by UBS has undoubtedly raised the specter that the traditional role of Swiss banking as a haven for those chasing financial anonymity may not be long for this world.

It’s easy for me to sit here and say “good riddance” because I don’t have the kind of funds that would make a non-interest bearing account in the middle of Europe an attractive proposition.  Were I on the other side of the table as a full-fledged member of the financial patricians, my feelings might not be so plebeian.

But I’m not, so they are.

Plus, and this to me is the really important part, it sets a precedent for The Hague to go after the funds accumulated by all the corrupt Third World rulers (and some in the First and Second, too) who have stashed their ill-gotten gains in Swiss accounts while simultaneously giving their people the finger.

I, Hambricscurvus Maximus say: “Let The Games Begin!!!!!!!!  Release the Lions!!!!!”