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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Obama Bubble, and the Dot-Coms...

One of my theories about the Dot-Com Bubble of the late 1990s was that, because the internet and web were clearly a new and important change in the world, but one that was extremely poorly understood at the time, there was an almost rational argument for the sky being the limit for anything associated with the internet in, say, 1998. After all, who could possibly predict who wins and who loses? Maybe it'll be email, maybe it'll be search, maybe it'll be selling dogfood on the web, maybe web TV, etc, etc.

By 2000, the business layout of the Internet began to be more visible, the winners and losers both began to be known, and the general outlines of the markets for the winners began to take shape. And like any radically new thing, most plays ended up being losers, or at least ahead of their time - and therefore losers in a business sense. And thus the air is let out of the balloon.

Oddly, the massive predictions for the Internet and commerce using turned out to be true, if a couple years too early and typically in the wrong places...

Anyway, this relates to Obama because his campaign, to this point, looks an awful like a dotcom business plan from 1998: a whole lot of "audacity", change-the-world stuff, and the political equivalent of a growth hockey-stick that shows how, somehow, he'll magically transform life as we know it.

This will work for awhile, possibly long enough for him to get past Hillary. But he's beginning to discuss actual policies, which will inevitably produce discussion and informed debate based on numbers. Will this lead to a popping of the "Obama bubble", or will he go through a brief moment of pain and end up sticking around because his policies make sense?

We'll see...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

McCain shouldn't make Huckabee his running mate

It looks like Senator McCain's going to be the Republican nominee for President. And he looks like the person most likely to beat the Democrat in November.

But he may well toss that away, by making Mike Huckabee his running mate.

This move would lose him the election. Huck hasn't gotten good numbers outside the South, and is even more radioactive to secular economic conservatives than McCain is to culture-cons. Huck made a strategically wise choice to champion the Fair Tax in his Presidential run - it gave him a boost as a tax-fighter that he doesn't merit based on his record - but his governing history in Arkansas was basically pro big-government. And, while secular Americans will vote for a religious President, Huck is the sort of culture warrior and "religious professional" that scares away anyone who isn't an evangelical Christian. As a standalone Presidential candidate, my guess would be that Huck would be hard-pressed to get over 35% of the vote nationally, and he'd be unlikely to win any states outside the South.

For me, Huck is everything I dislike about Bush - "big government conservatism" - and has none of the elements that I liked: Bush's steadfastness in the War on Terror.

Just going by life expectancy, McCain has a 50-50 chance of dying in office, and we'd have a President Huckabee. The prospect of this would be enough to send many independents to Hillary or Obama.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Great Chinese Blizzard of 2008

The biggest underreported story of 2008 is the Great Chinese Blizzard of 2008. Basically, what happened is a large series of snow storms, ice storms, and general unusual cold weather that has persisted for the past couple of weeks throughout the heavily populated areas of eastern China, from Beijing to Guangzhou.

The problem for China is many of these places rarely get snow - the winter is China's dry season - and when they do, they usually get an inch or so that goes away quickly. Shanghai's weather is similar to Atlanta, GA, although a bit colder. Guangzhou's weather is similar to Miami's. Another big problem has been big ice storms, particularly in Hunan Province, of the sort that occasionally hit Portland, Ore or Seattle, WA in several big cities in central China; pictures from the affected cities show several inches of ice, which is playing havoc with the power grid and telecoms. According to Chinese media reports, many of these cities have been without power for over a week, and are running out of food. Also, it hasn't warmed up so the ice isn't melting. This is similar to the ice storms that hit the American Northeast a few years ago; recall that many rural areas didn't have power for a couple of weeks.

And to top it off, this happened during the run up to Chinese New Year - basically Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving rolled into a single family-centric holiday - when hundreds of millions of people try to go home to be with their families. The main media accounts have focused on the Guangzhou train station, which has had several hundred thousand people camped outside waiting for trains that aren't running due to ice and snow. The problem is particularly bad in Guangzhou since that area is where much of China's export manufacturing is located, and tens of millions of peasants have moved there to work. Also, Guangzhou is the southern terminus of the main north-south rail line, which has been open and closed off and on as snow and ice are dealt with further north.

Things appear to be slowly recovering there, but it looks to be a cold, dark, lonely New Years in China this year for many.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Just saw a Tesla

I just saw a Tesla driving near Old Middlefield Road in Mountain View. Very cool...

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