Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Spoil the Child and Spare the Rod?

Looks like England is where a new educational revolution is taking shape. I thought the US was bad in laxity in education. Well, sorry, but the UK takes the cake for this one. After doing away with "failure" in favor of "deferred success", the latest twist is that one school in the UK is allowing students to cuss at the teachers! But only 5 times in a lecture mind you - we don't students to think there are no rules!!

Much has been made about outsourcing and immigrant workers, but till countries return to the education principles that made them successful, they will be victims of their own success. That is how great civilizations fail ... er, I mean defer future success for several generations.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

La Presidente 2008

This article in CNN got me all excited about the presidential race of 2008. Yes, it's all of three years away, but gosh, look at the field. Of course, while I'd love John McCain to be the next president, he has NO hope of winning the Republican ticket. In my opinion, that honor will go to Jeb Bush or Condi Rice if either decide to run, else Bill Frist will probably be the favorite, with George Allen an outside shot. And no, Rudi Guilliani has no hope, because unlike Democrats, Republicans dont think of who the other side may approve of.

For the Democrats, the race starts and ends with one name - Hillary Clinton. And I think that may be the end of the race. I believe she carries a lot of baggage. Social conservatives hate the thought of Bill being a First Gentleman, fiscal conservatives hate the fact that she pioneered the universal health care plan (good intentions, but here choice was a large govt-managed plan) and too many people think she's too liberal to lead America. I don't think she's as liberal as she's potrayed to be, but perception's a hard thing to beat.

So here would be the fascinating races of 2008:

McCain v Clinton => Large swathes of conservatives would sit out. Tough race, but I'd hope McCain pulls this one off.

Rice v Clinton => Unthinkable! The sad reality is America is not yet ready for having two women run for president. As much as city folk like to think gender bias is dead, it isn't and it will be a long time before something like this happens.

Guillani v Clinton => Impossible! People need something different in the 2 candidates to choose from. While McCain is at least socially conservative, G is a Democrat in Republican robes.

Frist v Clinton => Replay Bush v Kerry, except the Republican ticket doesnt have the Bushian charm (yes, you read that right!) and the Democratic ticket doesnt put you to sleep. But Hillary may pull this off if Bill Clinton hits the stump hard.

Bush v Clinton => If Jeb takes tips from his elder brother rather than his dad, he'd win hands down. While Bush Sr was an incredible statesman (I was enthralled by an interview with Jim Lehrer) George would tell him that statesman dont win elections - "common men" do. And so, like Bush, play the ordinary-man card (even if you did better at Harvard than your "intelligent" opponent) and appeal to the base. Unfortunately for his supporters, I don't know if he could (from what I hear, he's much more like dad)

I can't comment on the Allen nomination because even though he's a senator from my state, I know little about him.

Sidebar: If McCain miraculously wins, it is possible Sen Lindey Graham (R-SC) gets an administration role. Awesome!

Disclaimer: None of these views reflect those of my family, and especially my brother, who practically worships Bill Clinton!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Lance a Dopie?

Allegations that Lance Armstrong may have used performance-enhancing drugs reached a new high after a French newspaper published what they said was an expose on the issue. While we do not know the facts of the case, one can only hope they are untrue. Lance has been a real inspiration to many people I know, and it would be shattering to find out that the story of strength was a lie.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Fallen Soldiers and Their Moms

Why is it that the media gives so much attention to Cindy Sheehan and ignores the fact that so very many military families actually support the war? I respect any mom in her grief of having lost a son, and I know these fallen soldiers chose a profession I'd be too much of a wimp to take to, but as several military moms point out, that's exactly what their children signed up for - to defend freedom. And yet the media, keen to tell a story (that the war is unpopular) continues its daily coverage of Sheehan and Co.

To be fair, I don't think it's just a liberal bias. I think it's the media's need to find news. Sheehan is news. People saying they support our policies aren't. You could do a piece emphasizing how life in Iraq is compared to barbaric Saddam times, but negative stories sell - positive ones don't (except when we are overcome with emotion like after 9/11) Oh, and they actually take some work. Sure, there are common men in Baghdad who hate the US, but I bet you there are just as many appreciative that they could actually vote for a government (and heck, did they vote or what!)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Tenure Clock

I was heartened to learn that Princeton is giving new parents an additional year for tenure review. At last someone is seriously trying to address this issue. It is indeed tragic that most female professors either have stay-at-home husbands or are single. (Why not the male professors? Could it be, like Harvard President Summers suggested, that they don't give a damn. To be fair, many of the male professors have stay-at-home or work-parttime wives). I think the future will see more realization that parents have a responsibility to family, and we will see in both academe and in industry a greater flexibility in this arena.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Common Man Beats Detroit, Tokyo and Berlin

I was delighted to read this story about how people are rigging their cars to get 80 mpg, and in some cases as much as 250 mpg. The solution, adding additional batteries which are charged with a plug-in electrical outlet, is simple, and in this era of surging gas prices represents economic sense (besides being friendly to future generations who'd like to have a planet to live in!)

Out of Gaza

Israeli troops are now in the process of withdrawing from Gaza. This is indeed a gutsy (if somewhat risky) call by Sharon. It's now up to moderate Palestinians to take the next step towards peace. This could be a historic opportunity, but one only hopes the Abbas and co don't fritter it away, because if they do, we could see blood flowing in the Middle East for a long time to come.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Grieving President

This article offers a touching potrait of a president who publicly remains strong, while privately grieving with the widows of US troops fallen in Iraq, and is a must read for all those who, influenced by a liberal media, potray Bush to be some sort of emotionless demon. I used to be one of them, but I have increasingly realized that this is basically a decent man!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Goodbye Peter!

I was truly disappointed to hear of the passing of Peter Jennings, ABC News anchor. Here was a guy who dropped out of high school, and yet achieved tremendous success and popularity for being more learned than his peers. I loved Peter's style of being casual on screen, making it seem like he was chatting with you, one on one, rather than the traditional scripted style that Brokaw and Rather followed. But in the last couple of days since his death, I have learnt a lot about his sense of humor, his love for children, and so many issues. Peter, you lived a good life ... goodbye and we will miss you!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Ok, so I'm obsessed with Bubble Talk

Here's the latest, this from a Fannie Mae document that can be found here. While there's tons of interesting data, I picked these two charts to highlight, because they represent data I had been looking for.

Notice the rising inventory of new homes - BAD BAD!

Rental vacanies have been rising, suggesting a surplus of homes. While this could be because of the mania of individuals trying to buy new homes, and we might see this number drop as the bubble cools off, the levels are worrying given the level of debt. In my city (Charlottesville, VA), apartment complexes are cutting rents by as much as 30-40% due to oversupply of homes.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Paul Graham site

For those of you who didn't read the comments to the previous post, my friend Sriram had a link to an interesting article at www.paulgraham.com. I also found this article a good read, so I would encourage y'all to surf through the list of articles at that site.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Detroit is Finished!

The US auto manufacturers desperately need a brand overhaul, and a serious analysis of why they are in the mess they are. As a Honda lover, I'll tell you why - quality, or rather lack thereof. But rather than address that as well as the obvious image problem they suffer from, Detroit has chosen to throw employee discounts at every Tom, Dick and Harry. This simply won't work. You will see plenty of enthusiasic headlines like this one - Big Three automakers post double-digit gains: Popular employee-pricing discounts deliver blowout results, but in the end what matters is profits.

According to MSN's Moneycentral, Ford and GM's net profit margin's are 1.5% and -0.6%. Put simply, on average, on that $25,000 car you buy, Ford was making all of 374 bucks after expenses, while GM was actually losing money! Clearly with margins that small, increased volume from employee discounts aren't going to help. No wonder analysts have been revising earnings estimates for the next quarter down - Starmine estimates analysts have reduced Ford's earnings by 57% in the last month, and GM's by an astounding 341%! YOW!!!

Granted, what Ford and GM may be trying to do is get rid of inventory, and this is a reasonable goal. But there appears little plan to what the impact will be on brand value, or indeed how to improve brand value! Detroit needs to think quick, or perish like many a business before.