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July 2005

Heart Centered Business Planning

Found this via the Carnival of Personal Finance,
Link: Heart Centered Business Planning.

Heart-centered planning begins and ends with a feeling and head-centered business planning begins and ends with a thought. A feeling resides in your body. A thought resides in your head. Don't laugh, most people have never stopped to understand the difference. And the difference is important. Feelings are a lot more powerful. People buy things because of the feelings they get from doing so. They may use thoughts to rationalize the feelings but it is the feelings that motivate. The same goes for planning. A plan that describes a future with no heart behind it [e.g. "I'd like to be rich"] is doomed to fail. A plan that begins and ends in your heart, integrated with who you are, is a living plan and will always work.

I think the point that it is the feelings that motivate us and ultimately we seek to satisfy our desires (which are feelings) is a very important one! Read the whole thing as too many of us get caught into objective, thought-centric business non-sense!


Private Toll Roads are back

Link: US Congress seen paving way for private toll roads - Boston.com - Nation - News.

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The next road you travel -- and pay a toll to use -- could be privately owned.

Looking for ways to finance highway projects without hitting the public trough, the U.S. Congress appears set to pass a proposal to encourage private ownership of new toll roads.

The provision, part of the highway spending bill now being hammered out by a Senate and House conference committee, would allow private companies to raise up to $15 billion for highway projects with bonds that are exempt from federal income taxes.

Seems like a very good news to me!


A real nany state

Link: The Washington Monthly.

So what's the matter with Kansas? Brad Plumer answers: nothing, really. It's just that they're too well off to respond all that strongly to populist economic messages from Democratic politicians these days. If there were lines at soup kitchens that would be one thing, but the reality is that there aren't many Kansans — or non-Kansans — who are all that badly off.

As evidence, Brad links to a Steve Rose essay that hauls out a bunch of statistics:

  • Only about 11% of Americans qualify for safety net programs (aside from retirement programs).
  • Another 12% have incomes just above the cutoff for safety net programs.
  • The number of good jobs has increased a lot in the past 50 years. Today, only 34% of male workers and 10% percent of female workers are part of the traditional "industrial proletariat.

Interesting, isn't it? Maybe that's socialists everywhere want people to remain poor. Otherwise, they won't get any votes at all! Apparently, liberals (American term) still believe that the problem is not in the message but they need to emphasis different sets of problems - income instability, work/family stress and so on. And while we are at it, why not have a federally funded daycare? Perhaps, liberals are taking the concept of a nany state too seriously!

Still, it's an extremely worthwhile conversation to have. I'd like to
hear suggestions for tackling these kinds of problems that involves big
ideas, not merely a laundry list of wonkishness. But in a country where
even proposing federally funded daycare is pretty much out of bounds, I
don't hold out much hope.


Preparing the ground for a secular-right front in India

The Primary Red of Secular Right India proposes to build a secular-right front in India.

We need clarity of objectives. If our objective is to re-orient India in a secular-right way, that is undoubtedly achievable without the burden of running political parties. If our objective is to capture power through the electoral process, then we should immediately abandon ideology and sign-up at the cult of whatever's-working-now. These are entirely different games.
....
Political parties should be viewed only as highly effective machines to raise and deploy campaign funds for elections. They are not designed to be the petridish where political ideas are innovated. To the extent they talk of ideas, it's only for the purpose of raising campaign funds.
...
In contrast, ideological campaigns (like PNAC) operate across parties and social affiliations; they end up creating unexpectedly refreshing alliances. They are led by a small group of people devoted to their ideas, not to claiming power. As it turns out, if they succeed in converting millions to their way of thinking, they become powerful by proxy. This is a far quicker and less expensive route than the traditional political party approach.
...
Given this, the real tactical question before secular-right Indians is whether we can identify and network a 100 or so like-minded -- and relatively young (mid 30s, early 40s) -- people who are also independently influential in their lives and professions. These people can then leverage their personal and professional credibility -- and intellectual strength -- to make passionate and convincing political arguments that few in the party system dare make.

This seems like a good idea! Additionally, we can encourage existing and new libertarian professionals in fields of law, economics  get get appointed or elected for high-level constitutional posts! In India, people have great respect for learned judges, presidents, election commissioners and so on!

Such appointments are generally for a long term and they have independent power that goes above and beyond the hustle and bustle of day-to-day politics. They don't have to face popularity contests (otherwise knows as elections). And when such authorities take a strong action against politicians such as by done Mr. T. N   Seshan, they are highly popular! The fact that he lost the election afterwards suggests that such people cannot handle popular politics but can do a fine job of controlling corruption and reforming politics!

The idea is to convince highly talented and educated professions and beaurocrats, who are strongly libertarian, to specifically target  getting elected to the constitutional offices!

It will help if there are two strong political parties which are idelogically opposite (such as in US). In such cases, libertarians can naturally present themselves as compromise candidates who are neither psuedo-secular nor religious bigots.

There are many such people currently in the public sphere. For example, P. Chidambaram, Manmohan Singh, Arun Shourie, N. Vittal, and many others!

We can target posts such Governor, RBI, Election Commission, Lokpal, Supreme Court justices, Solicitor General, President and so on.

The twin assault of ideological campaign and having good people at higher constitutional posts will go a long way in ensuring political reforms.


Technology in the age of terrorism

CNN brought direct telecast of wars into our drawing rooms and forever transformed our attitudes towards wars! Whenever technology and conflicts meet they impact each other significantly!

Many ordinary people who were caught in the London blasts captured and relayed live footage of the London blasts!
Link: Millions of eyes and ears - Glenn Reynolds - MSNBC.com.

Because tight security prevented news crews from quickly reaching the bombing sites, the cellphone footage was all that was immediately available from underground.  Its instant embrace by traditional news networks underscored how an evolving technology can take on new and unexpected roles.
...
British television network ITN received dozens of video clips, some by e-mail and others from survivors of the blasts who brought their phones directly to the London newsroom. Some of the video clips were too gruesome too air, according to one senior editor.

Tom Evslin of Fractals of Change blog lets us know that his daugher had no trouble calling him, thanks to the VOIP phone from Vonage, while it was difficult to get phone calls into and out of London after the terrorists attacks.

According to CNN it has been difficult to get phone calls into and out of London.

Kate has no trouble reaching us presumably because we have a London Vonage number ($4.99/month – nothing per minute) so she makes only a local call and the Internet then carries the call to us. She can even call our London number on her mobile and give us progress reports on her hike (which I hope she’ll keep doing).

According to both CNN and our own experience, the Internet is working to, from, and within London.

During 9/11 when we were running VoIP wholesaler ITXC, we had first hand experience of how well the Internet coped with both physical destruction and an overload.

We handled unaccustomed volumes of domestic calls over our Internet connections as the traditional phone network, despite smart and heroic efforts by its operators, was temporarily brought to its knees.

The same has been true during earthquakes and other natural disasters.

So much for the 99.9999% reliability and availibility of POTS!
Remember the state-owned Videsh Sanchar Nigam, now privatized and purchased by the  Tata, and Department of Telecom (DOT) of India were against VOIP in India!


Who knew minimum wage law reduces employment

Link: Catallarchy.

ACORN, a group that crusades for the minimum wage, has been trying to pay its employees below the minimum wage for years. Ad hominem attack, right? No, there’s more to it:

In a suit ACORN filed to exempt itself from California’s minimum wage laws, the organization wrote in its brief:
“As acknowledged both by the trial court and California, the more that ACORN must pay each individual outreach worker–either because of minimum wage or overtime requirements–the fewer outreach workers it will be able to hire.”


Yeh, this will scare terrorists

So, according to the BJP, what is an "equally fitting" response to terrorists attack? Protests! Get that, the way to fight terrorism is to protest against it! Can these idiots think beyond bandhs and protests? Does BJP think that there is a All India Terrorists Party that is in power in India or elsewhere that they are protesting against?
Link: The Hindu News Update Service.

Guwahati, July 5. (PTI): BJP president L K Advani today said the party would hold nationwide protests tomorrow over the terrorist attack at the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

"Tomorrow, all over the country we will protest and express anguish over the incident. The form of the protest will be decided later", he told reporters here.

Advani said Ram Janmabhoomi has been a "very sacred place" for the people of the country and the "response to the attack over it should also be equally fitting".


Libertarian Party mourns the London attacks, but ...

I received an email from the Libertarian Party about the terrorist attacks in London.
Link: National Libertarian Party.

(Washington, D.C.)  This morning, the world learned of multiple terrorist attacks that have killed dozens of men and women in London and wounded hundreds more.  National Libertarian Party Executive Director Joe Seehusen issued the following statement:

 

"Today is not a day for politics or posturing.  Instead we should focus our thoughts and prayers on the victims and their families.  As the people of the United Kingdom mourned our losses on September 11th, we do the same for them today.  Our hearts go out both to those who have lost loved ones today and to all of the victims who remain."

 

He continued, "While we mourn today, we must continue preparing our thoughts to bring an end to the hate and fear that leads to such attacks."

Yup, this is not a day for politics or posturing! While London is still busy removing the dead and taking care of the injured, LP has already figured out the reasons that leads to such attacks (hate and fear)!


Pearls of wisdom from Charlie Munger

If you always wondered what it takes to be a successful investor, then who better to tell it than Charlie Munger. Charlie Munger is a partner of Warren Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. He is also the chairman of Wesco Financials. Here is the speech he gave on the Art of Stock Picking. Just one example from the speech ought to tempt anybody to read the whole thing:

For example, one great advantage of scale taught in all of the business schools of the world is cost reductions along the so-called experience curve. Just doing something complicated in more and more volume enables human beings, who are trying to improve and are motivated by the incentives of capitalism, to do it more and more efficiently.

The very nature of things is that if you get a whole lot of volume through your joint, you get better at processing that volume. That's an enormous advantage. And it has a lot to do with which businesses succeed and fail....

Let's go through a list albeit an incomplete one of possible advantages of scale. Some come from simple geometry. If you're building a great spherical tank, obviously as you build it bigger, the amount of steel you use in the surface goes up with the square and the cubic volume goes up with the cube. So as you increase the dimensions, you can hold a lot more volume per unit area of steel.

And there are all kinds of things like that where the simple geometry the simple reality gives you an advantage of scale.

Here is a another great speech from Charlie Munger, attacking academic  economists.
Update: Atanu Dey has an article giving a set of useful mental tools and ideas.