Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Still searching for the green

School is finally starting to calm down…which means finals are close! The sweltering heat has also made it excruciatingly difficult to do anything productive. I just might have to escape to the library for the free air conditioning…

Today’s Washington Post featured an interesting article on Facebook’s “Causes” application, which lets you donate directly to your cause of choice. The article mentions that despite a large non-profit presence on Facebook Causes, many organizations have experienced very small financial return.

This is a major concern surrounding internet-based ventures. Many supposedly lucrative companies–such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and some argue even Google–have yet to actually produce real, sustainable profits, or at least profits that match the premium other companies/investors have put on it. Couple this with the “everything should be free” general attitude many internet users hold, and the popularity of open-source, non-profit profits. Donations can only go so far. To match those investors’ high expectations, you need a viable business model. How much is Google actually pulling in from advertisers (I should probably get around to looking at financial statements and annual reports sometime for this one)? Google gives out products like candy on Halloween.

Are there really cookies waiting for us in the jar, or were there never any to begin with?

Until a new or successful business model brings in real dollars–and soon–there are going to be some very angry investors out there.

Someone told me something pretty interesting last week: “Just because all this technology is out there doesn’t mean companies have to utilize it all.” A valid point. Do people really follow company twitters that extensively? How many blogs are out there that no one reads (maybe even this one?)? Causes is a good publicity mechanism, but it seems that for now, traditional fundraising remains dominant.

Worst case scenario for internet-based companies. Could you face and calm this angry mob?

Worst case scenario for internet-based companies. Could you face and calm this angry mob?

Or, if you’re like me and delete/ignore all requests (including Causes), perhaps the application isn’t such a great publicity tool after all. I ignore many because I feel that many people with Causes are just bandwagon supporters. For example, look towards Facebook Groups. Many Facebook users will go as far as joining a group for something believe in (think of all those “NO NEW FACEBOOK” groups, or “One Million Strong for __Your Name Here__), but usually will do nothing past that. In this way, Causes is reduced to a means of broadcasting empty, unsubstantiated support for “causes,” which can merely be collected like Boy Scout patches, stamps, or Pokemon cards.

I’m not a cynic–in fact, I’m an ardent user of web 2.0–but I do think one should cautiously consider whether or not a business is actually viable before jumping on the “Facebook is work $203498320498320 billion dollars” bandwagon. So show me the money! And I want real dollars, none of that huge, unsubstantiated P/E ratio bs.


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I just started reading Paul Krugman’s Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 for my Rhetoric of Contemporary Politics class, and in my opinion it’s a great read if you want to get a better grasp of the current economic situation. I’ve only read the first couple of chapters so far, but it gives a good economic history of Latin America in the 1980s/early 1990s and thirty-year slump Japan seems to be stuck in, and then asks probing questions on whether or not government solutions worked. Like I said, very relevant. Plus, it’s pretty short.

extremely informative yet easy-to-read.

Krugman's new and improved Return of Depression Economics: extremely informative yet easy-to-read.

I’ve turned into quite the news junkie since I ended my summer internship at NPR last year (I guess that’s what getting AP wires straight to your inbox does to you). It’s only gotten worse this semester, since one of my classes (that I have since dropped) offered a heavily discounted student subscription to the Wall Street Journal at $2/week. In addition to reading the WSJ in print, I also get the New York Times, Financial Times, Times, and The American Prospect delivered to my inbox. That’s 5 regular news sources! I also get the Nation and AlterNet, but those have turned far too liberal for my taste in the past couple of years. I also haven’t been keeping up with the National Review…just not enough time to be balanced I suppose.

But back to Japan…my attention was first turned to it when I noticed a Capital Journal article in the WSJ a week or two ago, which noted that part of the Republican resistance to the stimulus package stemmed from the lessons learned (or not learned?) from what happened to Japan in the 1990s. For those of you that don’t know the back story, Japan was in an extremely similar situation in the 1990s; burst real estate bubble, credit crunch, low interest rates, and slow rate of economic growth. The government injected a huge stimulus package…that didn’t work (or at least, it didn’t return growth to what it used to be). Now the country is faced with a huge tax burden to pay off that hefty package.

The current economic crisis has left many a businessman feeling more than a little gloomy.

The current economic crisis has left many a businessman feeling more than a little gloomy.

Only things are much, much, worse. On top of negative fertility rate, Japan’s index has taken a nosedive while its currency value has been rising (meaning that doing business with Japanese firms will be more expensive). The Financial Times says that growth is at a 35-year low and that the Nikkei is at a 3-month low. To top it off, their finance minister is resigning due to an embarrassing drunken appearance at a G-7 event. Ouch.

Japan just can’t catch a break these days.

I think those that remember Japan rightly have reservations about the stimulus package. History teaches us to learn from example. Let’s try to learn from mistakes that have already been made so we can avoid making the same ones ourselves.

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Obama: modern Woodrow Wilson?

In an article in today’s New York Times titled “Election Unleashes a Flood of Hope Worldwide,” leaders around the world celebrated Obama’s victory as a step towards progress and as a sign of American willingness to embark in a new direction in foreign policy (well, almost everyone; the president of Russia announced Russia would start deploying missiles if the U.S. got in their way).

After reading this, I saw an uncanny similarity to the promises Woodrow Wilson made at the close of World War I. Like Obama, Wilson had the world on his side, and a catchy Fourteen Points doctrine to boot. The victors thought he would  let them have their way, the Italians thought they would be rewarded for helping the Allies, and colonized nations were especially keen on his idea of self-determination of peoples. Even the losers thought they would receive more favorable treaty terms. Instead, no one was happy by the end of the peace negotiations, and almost all were disappointed. The U.S. later withdrew from the very League of Nations that he had proposed (of course, they tried to make this up later in starting the United Nations after the second world war. Leave it up to us Americans to do something like that).

Wilson: greatly admired at the end of the Great War, then seen as overrated after the writing of the Treaty of Versailles.

Obama isn’t a messiah, nor is he the sole answer to all our problems. He’s not perfect. But I think he’s a step in the right direction. So if the next four years don’t go as smoothly as planned, or if the economy doesn’t suddenly get better in the next month, I hope that people don’t give up on their government.

But then again, you can’t say Bush didn’t try. He might get a gold star for effort, but he still screwed up our reputation with the rest of the world in the process. Let’s hope that Obama can do better.

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At 11:40, I got back from what has got to be one of the most memorable moments of my life Рan impromptu street celebration in the streets of Berkeley. Apparently this was just one of many street celebrations across the nation, but Berkeley still got its 15 seconds of fame on CNN and KGO.  What started as a grouping of about 100-150 students when I arrived at around 9:30 quickly ballooned into a thousand people (maybe even thousands?) by the time I left.

One word: amazing.

I can tell you that standing in the middle of the intersection at Durant and Telegraph was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. It was absurd, enthralling, and chaotic, all at the same time; we’re lucky that no one got hurt (at least not yet), and that it wasn’t a full-on riot. You could see the elation in everyone’s faces and feel the excitement behind cheers of “Yes we can,” “Yes we did,” “Obama,” and “No more Bush.” Drivers honked while pedestrians responded with screams of “OBAMA!” People sang the national anthem, popped champagne, patted the sides of the buses (the 51 driver honked back), climbed onto street lamps, trees, and traffic lights. Anna carried me on her shoulders for a bit (then again, this was the girl that spun me around 19 times on my birthday, so I guess it’s no surprise). Some fireworks were even set off. I saw one student draped in an American flag; others were banging pots in rhythm to a saxophonist’s tune while people danced around them.

(Photo credit: Albert Lin)

Parth called it “our generation’s Free Speech Movement” (right before he said, “ONWARD TO PEOPLE’S PARK!” He didn’t end up going, though). Rohan and others have agreed that Obama is “our generation’s Kennedy.” I’m proud to say that I cast my vote for Senator Barack Obama in 2008, and I wish I could be in DC on January 20th to see him sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. Someone donate a plane ticket and let me crash at their place, please?

One thing is for sure: history was made tonight, and we were a part of it. Congratulations, and here’s to the change that will come in the next four years.

P.S. Join the “I was in the Obama parade” facebook group if you haven’t already.

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After catching up on some of Katherine’s snarky, well-written, and always entertaining blog entries, I’ve decided to start up a blog myself.

Some of you may be aware of that other blog floating “out in the ether” (as Jessie would say), but that’s personal. Let’s keep this blog’s entries mostly business. Or something less invasive than an online journal and closer to a soapbox that I can climb on and from which I can spew out random, personal-and-yet-not-personal thoughts whenever I feel like it.

So in my inaugurating entry, let’s start with some thoughts on the biggest issue on most people’s minds right now (or mine, anyway): the presidential election of 2008.


This election is one of the most fascinating in recent American history. Let’s start with the obvious: this election will be historic no matter what the outcome. If we choose the left, we’ll be electing the first black (half black?) president in history. If we choose the right, a woman will ascend to the office of the Vice President.

But beyond that, our nation seems to also be teetering on the brink of total crisis. I remember sitting in a lecture for Econ 1 last year when the professor informed us that this was a “bad time for the economy but a very interesting time to be studying economics.” She’s right: we’ve got an energy crisis, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the collapsing of banks, the food shortage, inflation, and growing unemployment – not to mention the collapses of banks and financial institutions. Luckily, thanks to government intervention with the bailout and increased regulation, things look a little better (read: it won’t be as bad as 1929), but we’ve still got a lot of work to do ahead.

Clinton won the 1992 presidential race with the catchphrase “It’s the economy, stupid,” and I think we’re seeing a lot of backlash against Senator McCain in the past couple of weeks because of the same reason. As gleaned from the 2004 presidential election, good and bad PR (whether true or not) can significantly influence voters. Even if McCain has the better economic policy, he has done an abysmal job of waging war against Obama’s phenomenal PR. Bush’s appeal to Congress that reminded voters of which party McCain came from, as well as the media’s scrutiny of his “fundamentals of the economy,” certainly didn’t help either. On the flip side, McCain has made an admirable effort to connect Obama’s economic policy with raising taxes, which has likely been the cause of his recent increase in popularity.

A word aside about taxes: no one likes them, but they are necessary. People shouldn’t staunchly oppose raising taxes while demanding more funding for government health care, social security, etc. at the same time. Government programs aren’t free; someone has to pay for them. Republicans AND Democrats alike have increased taxes (let’s not forget one of the most famous broken promises of the late twentieth century: “read my lips: no new taxes”). When you vote, you have to weigh which programs are worthy enough to take your tax dollars and which ones don’t deserve a penny. The accusation of “Don’t vote for him because he’ll increase taxes” is one that should be taken with a grain of salt.

Greed on Wall Street isn’t totally to blame for the current financial crisis, but it is definitely a large part of the problem. I’m an economist, but I’m also a pragmatist. As much faith I’d like to have in bankers, CFOs, etc., I’m pretty sure someone down the line would break the honor code when “regulating” themselves. It’s precisely the same reason why I don’t think perfect communism can exist – a classless society can’t sustain itself as long as you have one person who, in their own self-interest, works against the goals of society. I think that the current financial situation is a lesson in what can happen if you don’t have a system of checks and balances. Some (not total) regulation is required; for example, without antitrust legislation, the very principles of entrepreneurship and innovation would be undermined. The Constitution was designed as a system of safety nets; we learned what can happen if there is no regulation in 1929, and in 2008 we’re still figuring out how to address the issue. Bottom line, let us learn from this lesson and put some regulation in place so that we can prevent a similar situation in the future.

The economy is complicated, and it certainly can’t be completely fixed in four years. Real things are on the line. People have lost their jobs, their homes, their 401Ks, and their faith in their government. Whoever the next POTUS (ahh, it feels so good to use that acronym again) is, he will have a hell of a time trying to fix the system.

Next on the list: foreign policy. Most people forgot that America is fighting two wars, and many also tune out the daily news segments on the latest suicide bombing or attack in the middle east. Clearly, we have a problem. It’s important that the next president rally support behind the troops and his strategy in Iraq/Afghanistan. We’ve lost enough morale as it is, and it’ll be increasingly harder to justify the millions spent in Iraq every day when people are suffering financially at home. It’s a shame for someone to die for his country for a war/war strategy that his fellow citizens do not support. It’s also a shame to hate on the troops or the institution (like the Army, Marines, or the National Guard) for following orders from the top, so shame on you Code Pink.

And one last diversion. This is just a conclusion of thoughts on the race overall. First of all, it’s been a LONG race. Obama has been campaigning since I was a carefree second semester senior in high school. I think I can speak for many when I say that I’m looking forward to this being over tomorrow night (and I pray that this won’t be ruined with a sequel to Bush/Gore in 2000: The Butterfly Ballot Strikes Back). Second, I have to say that I’m really impressed with the different mediums the campaigns have utilized. The election has expanded beyond TV and print to include text messages, videos, facebook pages, and of course, more blogging than ever before. People have so many options for tuning into politics, and I’m in full support of democratizing the election process. Lastly, I love the surge of youth interest this election has stimulated. We saw a spike in 2006, and I’m sure that we’ll turn out one of the highest numbers ever tomorrow. Whether it’s been a McCain or Obama (or even McKinney!) supporter, students across the country have been jolted from the politically apathetic and self-absorbed stupor we’ve been accused of and have held countless rallies, canvassed a variety of neighborhoods, and called thousands of households in an effort to get the vote out. I’m proud of that, and I hope this isn’t a one-time phenomenon but rather an indicator of the awareness of our duty as citizens to this country.

There are a lot of other important issues at stake – energy independence/innovation, education reform, national security, and more. When you go cast your ballot tomorrow (or think smugly about the absentee ballot you’ve already mailed in), I hope you make a choice that you won’t regret four years from now.


And that’s how I roll on this blog.

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