• AMERICA’S DOMESTIC NONFINANCIAL COMPANIES ARE STILL SITTING ON TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF CASH; The four largest (all technology: Apple, Microsoft, Google, Cisco) alone hold over $300 billion, and many politicians are increasingly “demanding that they start spending in order to create jobs and boost the economy.” Corporate giants have so far ignored both the politicians and public indignation, responding (a) that cash is needed for dividends, stock buybacks, operating reserves and likely acquisitions, but mostly (b) they’re “holding back for fear of the unknown, since a long string of economic events – fiscal cliff & federal budget sequester, recession in Europe, crisis in Cypress, Japanese stimulus, continuing Fed stimulus, health care reform, etc – has made for an uncertain environment… and they’re waiting for the return of confidence and consumer demand.” [CFO MAGAZINE – June 13]
  • A DECADE AGO, TECHNOLOGY WAS TOUTED AS THE “VITAL ENGINE OF GROWTH for the world economy, and the Internet as the single most important event since the Industrial Revolution.” These expectations may yet turn out to be accurate. However, so far, the Information Revolution is far from generating economic prosperity. Notwithstanding some 130 million Smartphones in the U.S. “each with about the same computing power as a 2005 desktop,” productivity has not increased substantially or sustainably and “although the internet has made it easier for people to look for jobs, it hasn’t made much of a difference in reducing unemployment.” One huge factor is that over 200 million Americans use technology for entertainment instead of productive pursuit – each month spending an average of 29 hours online (more than two-thirds of whom average six hours on Facebook alone), as well as six billion collective hours watching YouTube videos. Another factor is that online shopping “just isn’t a very important part of the overall productivity story.” “Technology’s biggest impact has been to deliver a form of addictive entertainment.” [BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK – June 24, 13]

    TELEVISION ALSO CONTINUES TAKING ITS TOLL on productivity. Newest confirmation of waning I.Q. is the audience for Bravo’s “latest entry of Reality TV shows about the ridiculousness of the upper class… After Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of Atlanta featuring brash, wig-pulling black women, and the Shahs of Sunset presenting Iranian-Americans as gaudy and shady…now comes Princesses of Long Island – six Jewish girls, all living at home with their over-bearing parents…money-obsessed with grating nasal accents…aimlessly driving around Great Neck and tanning at their parents pools…and all hoping to get hitched to dudes with cash… Episode titles include ‘You Had Me at Shalom’ and ‘Shabbocalypse Now.” Stupid and insulting, but happily sponsored for couch potatoes. [PEOPLE – July 13]

  • INCREASING CYBER-ATTACKS ON FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS which have temporarily denied customers access to bank accounts may pose a potential ‘cyber Armageddon’ scenario. Of America’s sixteen ‘Critical Infrastructure’ sectors established by Presidential Policy Directive (most of which deal with physical infrastructure ranging from Transportation to Energy, Communications, Manufacturing, Food and Water), officials are currently debating whether the most vulnerable to a cyber-terrorist attack may be the Financial sector. Beyond the risk from loss of electrical power which would shut-down all transactional capacity – but theoretically only temporarily – the international commerce system “works only because of the faith people put into it, from decades of successful transactions governed by legal & accounting norms… Stability is grounded in the belief that financial holdings & transactions are sacrosanct… If, however, the system is seen as vulnerable to manipulation by terrorist groups or crime syndicates…where protected data could be changed, manipulated or destroyed and depositors might never recover their assets,” the entire system would collapse as trust is diluted. But debate is what government is about. [CNN.COM – May 21, 13]
  • THOUGHTS FOR THE WEEK: The U.S. State Department just spent $630,000 on “advertisements and improvements to increase the popularity of the agency’s Facebook page… looking for older, more influential ‘fans’.”

    “The habit of common and continuous speech is a symptom of mental deficiency which proceeds from not knowing what is going on in other people’s minds… The time to stop talking is when the other person nods his head affirmatively but says nothing… Tact is after all a kind of mind reading.”

    ILLUSION doesn’t get any better than this: http://www.youtube.com/embed/Ai4tPe80S6Q?rel=0