Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year! 2011!

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Eyebrow-Raising Predictions for 2011 Politics
CBS News political analyst John Dickerson Offers His Forecast
Jan. 1, 2011
(CBS) It turned out that 2010 saw some seismic shifts in politics: the ouster of incumbents on both sides of the aisle, but particularly Democratic ones, as part of President Obama's self-described "shellacking" during
the November mid-term elections, leading to a new, powerful Republican majority in the House of Representatives and a much slimmer Democratic majority in the Senate.
Then, a turnaround so abrupt and thorough it led to Mr. Obama being dubbed "The Comeback Kid" by many pundits, as he scored many significant legislative victories in the closing days of the lame duck Congress.
So what will 2011 bring?
CBS News political analyst John Dickerson has gazed into his crystal ball and come up with his predictions - some of which may surprise you. He revealed them on the special New Year's Day edition of "The Early Show on Saturday Morning":
Congress
How well will the president and new House Speaker John Boehner be able to work together?
I think it is going to get better over time. It is both of their best interests to get things done. They will have fun and they will work together, but in the end they are going to have to be enemies when the campaign for 2012 starts.
What will be the Republicans first order of business when they take control in 2011? Are they going to work with Mr. Obama?
They are going to come out pretty strong. The budget will be the most important issue. They may try to dismantle his healthcare plan. They know they will have to give away some stuff with the negotiation, but I think they are really going to come out strong.
Triangulation
We've been hearing the word "triangulation" a lot. People are talking about President Clinton in 1994. Have you seen any signs of Mr. Obama following the Clinton model? What does it mean for people at home?
We are going to see it, but in a different fashion. We've already seen Mr. Obama do that. He already said he would bring both sides together. With Mr. Clinton, he was always seen as doing it for himself.
Looking Ahead
What are the big issues the president is going to go after? What is at the top of his to do list? He started out focusing on the war, healthcare and stimulus. Now what?
Budget! I think he has a big decision to make about spending priorities. In the State of the Union, he will try to pitch a smarter budget that will invest in training and technology, and doing this will make America more competitive.
2012 Republican Primary
When you look at the potential field of challengers, which Republican will emerge?
It's too early to tell, but I do see Mitt Romney as your traditional frontrunner. And of course, Sarah Palin as you non-traditional.
What does your gut tell you about Palin? Any signs she will be able to be a viable contender in 2012? Does she really want to govern or merely be an influencer and a celebrity?
In a field where there isn't a frontrunner, her popularity will really put her up there. She has her reality show and makes these media appearances for a reason.
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Human Rights 2011: These Tests Will Tell
William F. Schulz
President and CEO, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
Posted: December 31, 2010
It's the time of year to draw up 2010's "best" and "worst" lists. When it comes to human rights, that's pretty easy. The repudiation of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would be on the on the credit side; the continued ravishing of civilians, especially women, in Congo on the debit; and some events right in the middle: Charter 08 author Liu Xiabao was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, sure enough, but Liu Xiabao still languishes in a Chinese prison.
What is far trickier is to spot future trends. Calvin Coolidge once peered into his crystal ball and offered this brave prognostication: "When people are out of work, unemployment will result." Similarly, it is safe to assume that the Chinese will continue to restrict freedoms; that the United States will continue to employ the death penalty; and that some strongman somewhere will steal an election.
Perhaps the more meaningful course is simply to identify those human rights stories to watch in 2011. How these challenges are resolved will tell us much about where human rights are going.
Will Laurent Gbago survive? Africa, long notorious for allowing corruption and brute force to thwart the popular will in elections, has seen a few positive signs in recent years that norms may be shifting. Ellen Sirleaf Johnson's election in Liberia in 2005; the surprisingly peaceful adoption of a new Constitution in Kenya last summer and recent closely contested elections in Tanzania and Guinea have fueled the hope that the continent may be looking with greater favor on legitimate democracy. But now comes Cote d'Ivoire's Laurent Gbago, the clear loser in the recent presidential election there, refusing to vacate his office. The international community has unanimously called on Gbago to step down and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has even threatened military intervention. If Gbago survives or the country devolves once again into civil war, it will send an unmistakable signal that, despite President Obama's calls for Africans to take responsibility for good governance, that message has not yet been widely adopted. Robert Mugabe, among others, will be taking note.
Will Sudan stay "peaceful?" In January south Sudan will almost certainly vote to secede from the north. The last civil war in Sudan cost 2.5 million lives and helped generate the genocide in Darfur. Relative calm has prevailed recently in Darfur and the south but secession could prompt the government in Khartoum to reinstitute its reign of terror in both places. The international community must make clear that that is not an option.
Will the ICC convict? No development in the human rights world over the past decade has held greater promise than the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC). But thus far the Court has failed to convict any of those it has indicted and, what's worse, has been characterized by chaotic administration and sloppy prosecutions. The stakes are enormous: if the ICC is discredited, the best hope for a way to hold tyrants to account for human rights crimes will be lost. The ICC's critics will be delighted. So will the tyrants.
Will Medvedev prevail? With the murders of journalist Anna Politovskaya; human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov; Chechen human rights activist Natalya Estemirova and many others like them having gone unsolved in Russia, profound questions have arisen as to whether the rule of law carries any meaning there. President Dmitry Medvedev has spoken frequently of the need for an independent judiciary, less concentrated power; and more competitive elections; he even vetoed a proposed law that would have restricted antigovernment demonstrations. But until those responsible for attacks on human rights defenders are brought to justice, his sentiments, benign as they appear, can only be interpreted as reflecting duplicity or powerlessness. If the former, Medvedev deserves to be replaced when his term of office ends in 2012; if the latter, he will be.
Will Aung San Suu Kyi stay free? There is no greater human rights heroine in the world today than the leader of the democracy movement in Burma (Myanmar). Suu Kyi is currently engaged in a complicated chess game with the Burmese generals and some of her own supporters to determine the best strategy to employ against Southeast Asia's most brutal regime. She has, for instance, recently rolled back her call for sanctions against the state. The stakes are high -- not just her freedom but Burma's too.
Lots of other stories deserve attention too: Will Venezuela slip further into autocracy? Will the US ever figure out what to do with the Guantanamo prisoners? But how these five play out will have profound implications for the future of human rights and, not incidentally, for tens of millions of people. Stay tuned.
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2011 Predictions: Economy Stalls, Obamacare Dies, iPhone Rules
By Geoffrey James
December 17, 2010
With 2011 just around the corner, it’s time for my annual predictions for the coming year on subject that are (or should be) important to sales professionals.
This time, I have five specific predictions and I’ve included a brief analysis of how you might take advantage of the various situation as the predictions prove true.
So, with no further ado, here are my predictions for the coming year:
Prediction #1:
The Economy Will Continue to Sputter
Despite signs that the economy is slowly recovering, there will be no recovery in unemployment and very possibly a double dip recession. The reason is simple - it is not in the interest of the Republican party to do anything fix the economy until after 2012.
This is not say that there are all kinds of good ideas floating around that could help. In fact, the problems with the economy are probably systemic, and the result of decisions going back to the Clinton years, or even the Reagan years. As such, they’re not easily fixed.
However, even if there were something effective that could be done, the Republican party would be committed to seeing that it doesn’t happen yet, because the natural (and entirely reasonable) priority of the Republican party is the return of one party rule… for the Republican party.
The oft-stated Republican strategy is to ensure that Obama is a one-term president and is replaced by a Republican in 2012, while recapturing the Senate with a filibuster-proof Republican majority to go along with their majority in the House. That’s an entirely reasonable goal for a political party, BTW. No shame there.
The easiest way to accomplish this is to make sure that the country remains in economic pain and unemployment remains high, because the public will inevitably fix the blame for both situations on the party that appears to be in power (the Democrats) rather than the one that’s actually running things (the Republicans).
The tactical implementations of this “scorched earth” strategy on the economy are already coming into place. The best evidence for this is the appointment of Ron Paul to the chairmanship of the committee overseeing the Federal Reserve. Ron Paul is a doctor who thinks he understands economics and wants a return to the gold standard (among other things).
A crackpot, in other words.
Back when I worked in the Fortune 50, whenever we wanted to bollix up an initiative from another group, we made sure to appoint an opinionated fool to head the cross-functional committee. There’s no surer evidence that the Republicans want the economy to stay down than letting loose this particular bull in that particular China shop.
I could give you other examples, but the strategy is so obvious that it’s hardly controversial. The Republican party wants the economy to remain a pig’s breakfast because that’s the surest ticket to one-party rule in 2012.
What this means for sales professionals is simple. The economy will continue to remain weak, with small to medium businesses remaining in the doldrums. Big companies — the ones who are favored by lax regulation, bailouts, billionaire tax breaks, etc. — will continued to suck the air out of the economy, making it tougher for everyone else.
Therefore, if you’re planning on making big money next year in sales, either get a job with a big multinational, or sell to them. They’re the ones that are going to do well. Everyone and everything else… not so much.
Prediction #2:
Obamacare Will Be Gutted
The lynchpin of Obamacare — the requirement that everyone purchase health insurance or pay a tax — will be gutted, probably by being declared unconstitutional by the Roberts court.
What will remain, after the evisceration, will be a few consumer protections, which will be paid for (and then some) by massive increases in premiums for individuals and small businesses.
Here’s why. The purpose of the healthcare industry in the United States is to make a profit, not to keep people healthy.
To do this most effectively, the healthcare industry must ensure that 1) people who might get sick don’t get insured, 2) people without money don’t get treated, and 3) both groups die as quickly as possible after they’ve expended whatever money they do have (or if they can’t get somebody else to pay their bill.)
If you disagree with the previous paragraph, you’re letting your emotions get in the way of your common sense. What part of “for profit” don’t you understand?
In the United States, big business largely controls the outcome of elections, and provides the main source of employment for politicians who leave office. As a result, the only “healthcare legislation” that’s going to get passed, and stay in the law books, is legislation that increases the profits of the healthcare industry.
A perfect example is the Medicare Drug Plan from the Bush era, which essentially got middle class Americans to pay massive amounts of money to drug companies to provide over-priced drugs to old people. It’s corporate welfare at its finest, with grandma getting the benefit.
Obamacare would have had the same effect overall (in terms of goosing healthcare profits), by insuring vast numbers of poor people, and transferring the charge to the middle class. That’s why it got passed, rather than some form of universal healthcare that would deconstruct the for-profit element. It’s corporate welfare at its finest, with cousin Clem (the unemployed coal miner) getting the benefit.
However, unlike old people (who tend to vote Republican), poor people (especially the ethnic poor) tend to vote Democratic. Therefore, it is not in the interest of the Republican party to keep those folks healthy and alive, even though it would mean higher revenues for the healthcare industry.
It’s kinda like the way the Republican party keeps blocking the idea of moving election day to a weekend, when more poor and working people would be able to vote. Even though that would make for a more representative democracy, it would also make it harder to elect Republicans… so it’s not going to happen.
Now, please, please, please do not think that for a moment I believe that more than a very few Republicans consciously comprehend the REAL reason behind the Republican party’s organizational opposition to anything resembling universal healthcare — that it would be better for the party if poor people croak before they can vote.
Most of the Republicans that I know personally are kindhearted folk who would give you the shirt off their backs. Even so, organizations have an “intelligence” of their own, which often transcends the intent of the people within the organization. In this case, the organization wants poor people (i.e. Democratic voters) to die more quickly, even if the individual members give heavily to charities that help the poor.
Since there’s a disconnect between organizational goals of the Republican party and the personal values of individual Republicans in the party, the REAL reason for Republican party opposition of Obamacare will never come up.
Instead, the opposition will get melded into arguments about what’s “constitutional”, which is a pretty hilarious argument to have in a country that’s just established the right to arbitrarily assassinate any U.S. citizen without even a judicial review. (Constitution? Yeah, right. Tell me when it gets back from vacation, OK?)
Or the opposition will focus on “affordability”, even though Obamacare would have paid for itself and the country apparently has enough extra money floating around to give billionaires a humongous tax break during a deficit-exploding recession.
Besides that, the U.S. is already paying vastly more per person than any other country on healthcare, with inferior results. (It always amazes me that people who believe in American exceptionalism can also believe that we can’t possibly implement cost-effective universal healthcare better than Canada.)
Anyway, what this means for sales people is that the for-profit healthcare industry will continue to grow like gangbusters, consuming ever larger amounts of the U.S. economy. Jobs in insurance sales, medical equipments sales, hospital services, etc. will continue to be secure and (for those who are skilled) lucrative. Overall, a move to a career in the healthcare sales is probably the smartest thing a sales professional can do at this point.
Especially if the job comes with health insurance.
Prediction #3:
Verizon iPhone Will Flatten Android Sales
Assuming that Apple doesn’t get hammered by the previous prediction, I think there’s no question that once iPhone is available on Verizon, it will immediately clobber sales of Android phones on that carrier. And that process will continue wherever the iPhone becomes available.
This prediction runs contrary to what most pundits seem to believe, which is that the Verizon iPhone will largely cannibalize AT&T’s base. I think the punditry-that-be continues to underestimate iPhone because they’re replaying the Macintosh vs. PC narrative in their baby-boomer memory.
But that ancient narrative simply doesn’t apply in this case. That was then; this is now. Instead, here are six reasons that the Verizon iPhone will kick Android’s little plastic tuchus:
Reason #1: Android phones have been available on AT&T for some time but iPhone continues to be the big seller that’s in big demand.
Reason #2: Android phones are not consistent with each other and therefore are going to be competing with each other for the people who don’t want an iPhone.
Reason #3: Android phones are not significantly less expensive than iPhones and do not offer any significant advantages, other than running on other carriers that AT&T. A disappearing primary market differentiator, in other worlds.
Reason #4: Android applications are largely unvetted and are a hacking disaster waiting to happen. By contrast, Apple’s controlled distribution model is far more consumer friendly.
Reason #5: Android phones are consistently one generation behind iPhone, as evidenced by the inability of the Android community to come up with a viable iPad competitor.
Reason #6: Android phones are less family-friendly, and as smartphones grow in market share, much of growth will be in family plans, with phones used by children.
Just so you know, I’m far from an Apple fan boy and I don’t have an iPhone. But I know when a product is going to be hot, and as soon a iPhone shakes the AT&T monkey from its back, the iPhone is going to take off like crazy.
What this means for sales professionals is simple: the iPhone is going to be the standard handheld device for sales professionals. Despite the current noise about support for other platforms, the action (and the applications you want) are going to be on the iPhone. It’s really that simple.
Prediction #4:
High Tech Firms Will Be Caught Using Slave Labor
This story has actually been floating around in the industry for some years, but there’s been a lack of hard data to draw the lines between examples of slave labor in China and the consumer electronics sold in the United States.
Here’s the situation. Some regions in China tolerate employment practices that make antebellum slavery in the U.S.A. seem like a picnic in a park. In one recently reported case, a Chinese company imprisoned retarded people, forced them to manufacture construction materials without pay, fed them dog food, did not let them shower for years, and beat them when they tried to escape.
As I see it, it’s only a matter of time before somebody starts tracing up the supply chains of companies like Apple, HP, and Dell to find abuses that, if not as dramatic as the example above, are likely to make American consumers (who are basically decent folk) want to puke.
The problem, of course, is outsourcing, which is a way to reduce cost-of-goods by relocating the manufacturing where it can be done more cheaply. And while some of that cost-savings comes from lower salaries, a lot of it also comes from lax and unenforced environmental and labor laws.
The reason I think the scandal is going to break is that we’re entering a period where “leaks” are getting more publicity and attention. I believe it’s only a matter of time before somebody finds a smoking gun showing that U.S. top executives know of (or should have known of) slave labor somewhere in their supply chain.
When this proverbial hits the proverbial, there’s going to be hell to pay for the sales professionals selling for the firms that get caught. To protect themselves, sales professionals in high tech hardware should be laying the groundwork to move into the software and services segments, which will not be affected.
Prediction #5:
Sales Tech Firms Will Massively Consolidate
This one is very specific to the sales profession, but also deals with a huge segment of the software industry — applications for sales and marketing.
Over the past decade, there’s been an explosion of new technology for sales and marketing, much of which has taken the form of add-on applications to on-demand CRM systems, specifically Salesforce.com.
What we have now is a market for sales and marketing software that’s dominated, on the one hand, by two enormous enterprise CRM vendors (SAP and Oracle) and, on the other hand, by Salesforce.com and its extensive collection of AppExchange partners.
This creates an inherently unstable market, where the smaller vendors are ripe for acquisition by the larger ones. That, in fact, already began last year, with Salesforce.com’s plans to acquire the lead generation firm Jigsaw.
Salesforce.com’s press release on that deal was telling, in that it discussed the purchase as “a strategic entry into the $3 billion market for cloud-based business to business data services.” That’s the kind of noises that companies make when they feel that they’re not getting a big enough piece of the pie.
I therefore believe that Salesforce.com intends to begin purchasing selected AppExchange vendors in order to continue the growth in their revenue stream. The public positioning will be “better integration” but the real issue will be how much money and market share will be going to Salesforce.com.
My sources say that the rumors at the recent Dreamforce conference were that the companies likely to be acquired include Cloud9 Analytics, Marketo and VerticalResponse.
I’ve discussed this prediction with several AppExchange CEOs (not from the firms mentioned above, needless to say), all of whom believe that this is how the market will probably play itself out. As one CEO rather colorfully put it: “[Salesforce.com CEO Mark] Benioff is dying to get into a d**k waving contest with Larry Ellison and Steve Ballmer.”
What this means for sales professionals is some churning and complexity in their sales and marketing systems. As your vendors are acquired and merged, it will become more difficult to ensure that applications will run as expected. However, this will have some advantages to the sales force because the big vendors will add credibility and longevity to the software that’s acquired.
Also, it’s likely that the price for sales technology will go up as control of integrated functionality devolves into a smaller number of companies. This will begin to play itself out next year and continue for about 5 years, after which things will settle down with three or four dominant vendors, probably SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, and a vastly expanded Salesforce.com.
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Will Arthur Laffer Predictions of 2011 Economic Collapse Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?
Financial Crisis Already Hitting Home for Many
Jan Corn, Yahoo! Contributor Network
Jun 11, 2010
People are extremely nervous about the financial situation in the nation. So, when economist Arthur Laffer, listed as one of Wall Street's Biggest Bears by Forbes, writes a piece for the Wall Street Journal focusing on economic collapse in 2011, people take heed. The buzz is building about Laffer's predictions of a double-dip recession - and worse - in 2011. His words were stark and to the point: the economy will collapse in 2011.
Are Nation's Financial Worries Fueled by Laffer's Financial Take?
It may not take much to fuel the fires of people's financial fears in today's economy, and Laffer's words could do just that. Here in Indiana, the economic impact is already taking its toll as homes on or near our street, normally selling briskly, sit for so long that they are taken off the market and put back on sale again a year or two later - where they sit again. People are already jittery. I see and talk to them every day.
Local Financial Impact Already Felt in Indiana and Across Nation
Meanwhile, people struggle to stay in those homes, pay their bills and hope that the economy improves. Signs of hard times are everywhere here. Even garage sales are more like estate sales, with desperate homeowners selling items they would never consider parting with before.
Things don't appear to be improving any time soon. Indiana foreclosure rates went up 17 percent in April and loans which were at least 90 days behind on payments rose to 7.9 percent, according to IndyStar.com.
Today, I stopped at a garage sale near our house, where the homeowner told me that they were downsizing (not by choice) and moving from a modest but nice home to a 988 sq. foot apartment. They were forced to sell antiques, family heirlooms, and barely used designer furniture for a fraction of the prices they'd paid and for less money than they might have gotten in better times.
I'm seeing items for sale at these sales which bring tears to the eyes of those parting with them. The economy is spooking them, and they want to save what they can and live on even less than before - far less.
This brings me back back to Laffer and his gloomy forecasts about dire prospects for the economy. Do we really face an economic collapse in this country? Even if we don't, could the predictions of Laffer and others like him become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Just by writing an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, he got enough attention to hit Google Trends, a parameter of public interest in Laffer's take on the economy. The larger question is whether people will believe him. If enough financial and economic experts share his opinion, could frightened consumers turn those words into reality? Or would they truly have no choice, without enough funds left to spend money and help stimulate the economy?
It is hard not to think back to the fears felt by many when the gloom and doom prophets predicted that Y2K would cause the end of the world - or, more recently, the very real crisis felt on Wall Street which brought the economy to the brink of a Great Depression.
Laffer Makes Connection Between Expiration of Tax Cuts and Increased Taxes
Laffer ties his views to the expiration of tax cuts for the wealthy. As tax rates soar on income, dividends and capital gains in January, Laffer believes the results will be a worst-case scenario. How bad will tax increases get? Personal income taxes (federal) will go from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, federal dividend taxes could go as high as 39.6 percent (from 15%) and estate taxes will soar from zero percent to 55 percent.
Middle Class Predicted to Feel Financial Impact in 2011 and Beyond
But, it isn't only the wealthy that Laffer sees taking the hit. Payroll taxes will go up within two years, with state and local taxes rising by next year. The Alternative Minimum Tax will hit middle class taxpayers harder than ever. In short, Laffer sees everyone being affected by the tax, payroll, and other changes on the horizon, with economic growth coming to a halt. Whether he is right or wrong, I'm seeing more and more friends and neighbors who aren't willing to wait around for the outcome. They are selling their homes for a loss, retiring early, downsizing, putting away whatever savings they can, and preparing to hunker down for the next few years - or longer.
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