Thursday, December 11, 2008

There has to be a better way to Search ?!!?

Executive summary - Fios white paper

It is no secret that the majority of the cost of discovery resides in the cost of the review. Often, more than 80% of total electronic discovery costs can land here. It is exactly that metric that leads to the existence of e-discovery providers, such as Fios, who have the experience and capacity to ingest large (as in huge) amounts of raw data, disassemble that data to its lowest common level and then systematically and defensibly separate the chaff from the “potentially responsive.” This white paper addresses the growing acceptance, requirement and benefits of concept search technologies for e-discovery review.

Searching for defensibility...and results

It is no secret that the majority of the cost of discovery resides in the cost of the review. Often, more than 80% of total electronic discovery costs can land here. It is exactly that metric that leads to the existence of e-discovery providers, who have the experience and capacity to ingest large (as in huge) amounts of raw data, disassemble that data to its lowest common level, and then systematically and defensibly separate the chaff from the “potentially responsive.” Full-service providers utilize many techniques and industry standards to accomplish this modern miracle, such as:
The repository of known software, file profiles and file signatures maintained by the National Software Reference Library (NSRL) from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Standard data de-duplication methods (believe it or not, more than 27 standard de-duplication measures exist). File signaturing to identify the thousands of file types that may exist throughout an enterprise (your file names can run, but they cannot hide!).

Complex set theory

Boolean search filters – the most relied upon and yet potentially the most error-prone culling technology. The effectiveness of a search filter depends a lot on the underlying data population as well as the ability to identify keyword filters that will accurately isolate the potentially responsive data. Normally, it is less risky to err on the side of over-inclusiveness if there is a choice to be made. However, that choice leaves more data to be manually reviewed and categorized, with obvious impact on costs.

Furthermore, the effectiveness of any keyword filter is dependent upon the understanding and imagination of the list developer. For instance, if you want to find all items related to, say, “seatbelt failure,” is your strategy expansive enough to have included related references such as “passive restraint system breakdown”? In another example, all patents related to “motorcycles” are requested. Is the author of the keyword list knowledgeable enough to include “open air bi-wheeled frame”? (Yes, there really is a patent for that, and, yes, it really is a motorcycle.) Other barriers to successful searching include failing to think of all of the creative ways people can misspell words and names, as well as the nicknames, acronyms or non-case-sensitive terms that may be used to describe a product or person that might not be known to the search creator.

Of course you may be able to construct a very suitable list of search terms, but if someone does not properly “optimize” the list, the desired results may prove elusive. In most modern search technologies, arcane words and symbols are used to specify things like “wildcard” substitution characters or the proximity of words to each other (e.g., term 1 within 12 words of term 2). A lack of expertise in the “lingo” of search syntax can severely hamper the efficacy of a search. In one real-life example, a company was in the midst of a Department of Justice second request as a result of a pending acquisition and had only 45 days to respond. After collecting two terabytes of data, counsel needed to cull down the data to what was potentially responsive to the request. They began the culling process by searching for the stock symbol of the acquired entity. Imagine their surprise when all but one item in the entire document set came back as potentially relevant because the stock symbol was included in the footers and email signatures of nearly all the documents.

The challenge with search term filtering is that it is an imperfect science. While some filters, such as date ranges, are usually reliable when properly applied, keyword filters can be notoriously inaccurate. Keyword filters are simultaneously over-inclusive and under-inclusive in that they have the potential to capture non-relevant documents as well as leave behind relevant documents. In a study of the efficacy of search and retrieval techniques used in the legal community, presented at the 2006 and 2007 Text REtrieval Conference (TREC) proceedings, researchers found that Boolean searches yielded only 22 to 53 percent of the actual relevant content when used to cull the seven million documents stored in the tobacco litigation Master Settlement Agreement database.
More evidence of the inadequacy of conventional search term filtering was recently provided by The Sedona Conference. Of particular note are the two following practice points:

  • “In many settings involving electronically stored information, reliance solely on a manual search process for the purpose of finding responsive documents may be infeasible or unwarranted. In such cases, the use of automated search methods should be viewed as reasonable, valuable, and even necessary.”
  • “The use of search and information retrieval tools does not guarantee that all responsive documents will be identified in large data collections, due to characteristics of human language. Moreover, differing search methods may produce differing results, subject to a measure of statistical variation inherent in the science of information retrieval.”
Even the courts are taking a much deeper view of how potentially relevant data is discovered. Judge Grimm, writing for the US District Court for the District of Maryland in the Victor Stanley v. Creative Pipe case stated, “[W]hile it is universally acknowledged that keyword searches are useful tools for search and retrieval of ESI, all keyword searches are not created equal; and there is a growing body of literature that highlights the risks associated with conducting an unreliable or inadequate keyword search or relying on such searches for privilege review.”

A similar sentiment was also expressed by Judge Facciola, writing for the US District Court for the District of Columbia in U.S. v. O’Keefe: “Whether search terms or ‘keywords’ will yield the information sought is a complicated question involving the interplay, at least, of the sciences of computer technology, statistics and linguistics. See George L. Paul & Jason R. Baron, Information Inflation: Can the Legal System Adapt?', 13 RICH. J.L. & TECH. 10 (2007) * * * Given this complexity, for lawyers and judges to dare opine that a certain search term or terms would be more likely to produce information than the terms that were used is truly to go where angels fear to tread.”

Thus, the real question in e-discovery searching should be, “Is there a better way”?

Fortunately for the future of e-discovery, the answer is yes. While not fully embraced by the courts today, more sophisticated filtering methods are gaining acceptance as tools for excluding spam and non-relevant data.
Enter concept search engines. The idea behind a concept search engine is to create a process analogous to how people think. Computers are essentially non-thinking, obedient servants. They can only match what they’re given with whatever else they find that is identical. That’s how keyword searching works. The problem is that people don’t deal with the world in terms of keywords. We deal with the world in terms of concepts. A concept is something that can be described with many different sets or combinations of keywords. For example, unwanted emails, unsolicited offers and blind contacts are all part of the notion or concept of “spam.” Spam is also a canned meat product. It is just as important to leave out the edible spam as it is to include unwanted emails in a search for “spam.” In Disability Rights Council v. Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, Judge Facciola recommended “concept searching.”

There are three different underlying technologies being used to create concept engines that are finding their way into e-discovery. Natural Language Processing is based loosely on artificial intelligence techniques. Bayesian Inference and Latent Semantic Indexing are both purely mathematical. All have their advantages and applications; however, the mathematical approaches are gaining traction as logical and flexible approaches for addressing e-discovery.

Natural Language Processing

The same folks who were the first-adopters of the mouse and who gave us an early form of the graphical user interface, the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) (which began as a division of Xerox Research in 1970), also developed the first natural language processing (NLP) solutions. The idea behind NLP is that there’s structure to language. In the form of grammar and syntax, that structure can be used to determine what a phrase or sentence is really about. It’s an early form of artificial intelligence.

This is a very neat, elegant solution that’s employed in a number of software applications in use today. It lends itself to multiple languages and even comparison across languages. However, looks can be deceiving. In many ways, NLP is analogous to hydrogen-powered cars. Like NLP, that technology is elegant and appealing, but hydrogen cars won’t be a realistic alternative until an extensive infrastructure is developed to support wide-scale manufacturing, fueling and maintenance.

NLP is very similar. It relies on a wide range of outside information, or “auxiliary structures,” that help differentiate between similar words, variations of words and phrases, slang, technical terms and so on. If you want an NLP system to deconstruct a sentence like, “The bank is on the left,” it doesn’t know if you mean First National Bank in Peoria, Illinois, in La Rive Gauche along the Seine in Paris, or on an airplane that needs to dip its wing to make a left-hand turn. What is “bank”? How is it being used? An NLP technique needs to be told, in essence, how to think about “bank” in this context.

Needing to define the context is a real problem for two reasons. The first is that you don’t always know how a particular term, like “bank,” is being used. The second and far more serious problem is that language changes rapidly and regularly. Think about today’s nomenclature. To “google” something is to look it up on the Internet using a popular search engine; however, as recently as five years ago, if you offered to “google” something you’d raise an eyebrow or worse. This problem is exacerbated in e-discovery, where everything happens in the past. When we are trying to analyze a large collection of documents, those documents may likely have been produced five, 10 or more years ago using the terms and language of the time. Let’s take cell phones and hand-held organizers as an example. What did we have for personal digital assistants (PDAs) or smartphones 10 years ago? Are those the same as Palm Pilots? What’s an Apple Newton? Could it make a phone call? We might be experts in forensics, but we’d rather leave history to the academicians.

The two competing mathematical approaches overcome these NLP limitations, but they also present some of their own challenges.

Bayesian Inference

Bayesian Inference has been around for at least 250 years. “Bayes’ theorem” is credited to Reverend Thomas Bayes in a paper published in 1763 after Bayes’ death by his friend Richard Price. It turns out that Bayes himself might not have invented his “theorem.” There’s compelling evidence that one of Isaac Newton’s close friends, the blind mathematician Nicholas Saunderson, developed it in the early 1700s. The main idea behind the theorem is conditional probability. It’s actually fairly simple: If a given event occurs a number of times under certain conditions in the past, and if you can identify other events and similar conditions, there’s a high probability that these events are related. Bayesian Inference has been used to successfully predict any number of things, from drug test results to poker game outcomes.

It can also be used to identify “concepts.” The idea here is to look at a whole collection of documents and identify how people, places, things and events are described in a similar manner. It actually works quite well. Bayesian Inference will be able to determine that “the bank on the left” and “the First National Bank in Peoria, Illinois” and “the financial institution located left of Sanderson in Peoria” are all phrases about the same place. Bayesian inference is at the heart of some very large and successful enterprise search solutions.

For e-discovery, however, there’s a problem. The more conditions you introduce into Bayes’ theorem, the more “variants” of that formula you produce. Put more simply, it’s like factoring: 2 x 2 = 4, but 2 x 2 x 2 = 8 and 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 16. For each additional factor, the increase in the number of potential results is exponential – a result exactly the opposite of our stated objective of reducing the volume of potentially responsive ESI.

Thus, with Bayesian Inference, the more complex the events and conditions, the more “math” the system is going to have to perform to get a result. In the world of e-discovery, it’s rarely as simple as “Mary told Frank about the bank draft.” Very complicated situations can cause software solutions based on Bayesian Inference to go into overdrive. Worse, they may tend to “narrow in” on a given set of results, either because they aren’t able to see all the variations or because the software has been “choked” to yield the desired performance.

Latent Semantic Indexing

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) was first developed at Bell Labs, which subsequently abandoned it. The idea behind LSI is to create a kind of “hyperspace” with lots of dimensions and other mathematical “things” that we mere mortals struggle to understand, and then plot every word and document into this “space.” On some dimension or plane somewhere in this space, documents that are similar are going to get plotted close together. The “closeness” or proximity of similar documents to each other can even be measured. Give an LSI system enough documents and relationships start to emerge.

Like Bayesian Inference, LSI is based purely on mathematics. LSI-based applications don’t get “hung up” on specific words or synonyms. Multiple meanings can be attributed to a single term, such as in our “bank” example. They also have the ability to compare concepts across language boundaries. With a mathematical approach, it’s easy to “train” the system to recognize that “Comment allez-vous?” in French means “How are you?” in English simply by having it analyze two documents that are identical in content but in different languages.

Unlike Bayesian inference, LSI doesn’t expand in scope as variations increase. Every word and every document gets a “plot” or value, regardless of how obscure the word or complex the document may be. This is how the “index,” or vector space, that LSI uses is created. When you go to search an LSI index, it functions as if the system has total recall. In reality, it is finding only the “plots” or “vectors” that are most similar to what you’re searching. The Achilles’ heel of LSI has traditionally been hardware. LSI uses computer memory – lots of it. Let’s face it, “total recall” means you have to “remember” lots and lots of mathematical relationships. This was a problem in the Bell Labs days, when the Intel 8086 microprocessor represented the most advanced processing technology. Today, however, memory is available and cheap, and today’s PCs and servers have 64-bit architectures that allow them to access tons of this inexpensive memory.

Concept-based searching using LSI has been applied to the e-discovery process by leading providers as early as 2003. Newer search applications exploit LSI in ways many companies and their legal teams have never considered. By taking full advantage of conceptual search methodologies, recent technologies are able to offer powerful new features, such as the automatic determination of themes within the data, visual mapping of the relevance of one concept to another and support for cross-lingual capabilities.

We accept Boolean searches as the standard for e-discovery. Most people, including lawyers, are very comfortable with keyword searching. Put in a string of keywords and get back documents that contain those keywords. But Boolean searches are only de facto standards, and the courts are growing increasingly frustrated with legal wrangling and maneuvering involving ESI. Grimm, in Victor Stanley, clearly stated that keyword searching is not enough for privilege review.

The amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures (FRCP), enacted in December 2006, were intended to change that. One outcome of the FRCP amendments is the requirement for opposing counsel to “meet and confer” early in the process and present the courts with their strategy for searching, identifying and preserving ESI relevant to their case. But that requirement has hardly resolved the many difficulties related to limiting the scope and costs of e-discovery. In fact, to the increasing dismay of many in the legal community, the “meet and confer” requirement often results in a situation where the less-prepared party is compelled to agree to keywords, time frames or other search parameters that virtually guarantee either an over-inclusive, overly expansive document set requiring review or a much greater risk that that responsive documents will be missed.

The recent rulings by Judges John M. Facciola and Paul W. Grimm both cite the shortcomings of keyword and Boolean searches and illustrate how an e-discovery process based solely on keyword techniques runs the risk of derailment. These justices, along with dozens of others e-discovery experts, are pressing defendants and plaintiffs alike to augment their “comfortable” keyword search techniques with advanced searching. One might ask if a single watershed case will settle the defensibility of advanced searching, or will dozens of narrower rulings pry the door open and gradually elevate advanced search techniques to the same admissibility as keyword? The details are hard to predict, but the general direction of the courts is clear: Advanced technologies, such as concept searching, supported by sound, defensible process and expert management, will be in increasing demand, especially with judges who are well-versed in ESI.

Are you prepared?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Make It Positive

Metrics and key performance indicators are important performance management tools, but they're only as good as the behaviors they elicit. Unforeseen and undesirable behavior can and of­ten does result.

Finance and IT managers typically drive performance management, but they tend to focus on reporting and decision support, says Frank Buytendijk, VP and fellow of enterprise performance management at Oracle and author of Performance Leadership. They often forget the need to drive people's behaviors, "yet they're always surprised when people don't respond as expected when they're confronted with a budget, scorecard, or key performance indicator."

Classic examples of undesirable behavior include pushing deals into the next quarter because targets have been met or "use-it-or-lose-it" spending against budget at year's end. How do you promote positive performance behavior? Buytendijk suggests these steps:

Balance performance measurements:
"If you only have long-term indicators, nobody has a sense of urgency, and if you only have quarterly targets, people run from little fire to little fire," he says. Develop a mix of long- and short-term indicators, as well as operational and financial ones, so you can see the consequences of day-to-day decisions. Balance quantitative and qualitative measures so high throughput, for example, doesn't come at the cost of quality. Manage with leading metrics and use lagging metrics for externa! reports such as financial statements.

Align corporate and personal objectives:
Companies are typically measured based on profit margins, yet sales compensation programs often reward revenue. To drive desired behavior, align personal goals with the real objectives, but be prepared for hard work. Avoid "we've always measured this way" cop-outs or, worse, "it's too hard to come up with a margin-based compensation scheme."

Consider the "network effect":
Performance management really pays off when it aligns networks, be it departments within a company or partners in a supply chain. Tie together metrics that measure handoff efficiencies from, say, production to distribution or marketing to sales and support, but you have to assign shared responsibility among managers with executive oversight.

In supply chain scenarios, for example, deep integration of logistical systems can to lead to just-in-time efficiencies, but they can also result in one-sided measures that punish one partner and encourage dysfunctional behavior, such as demanding service-level agreements that might tempt a supplier to slack off on quality control. Ensure that the measures drive mutual benefit. Accurate manufacturer forecasts, for example, will improve supplier efficiencies and lower costs for both partners.

by Doug Henschen, Information Week Nov 24, 2008 p37

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Musings about Miles Davis

"The Musings Of Miles" [Rudy Van Gelder Remaster] This was a forerunner of the
Miles Davis Quintet as it was his first session with Red Garland and Philly Joe Jones. Up to then his Prestige dates had been of the "all star" variety. (Oscar Pettiford fills that bill here.) By the fall, John Coltrane and Paul Chambers would come aboard to help form the first of a continuum of great Davis working groups. On "A Night in Tunisia" Philly Joe used special sticks with little cymbals riveted to the shaft. with Red Garland, Oscar Pettiford, Philly Joe Jones.

"Live At The 1963 Monterey Jazz Festival" This previously unreleased live album features Miles Davis on trumpet, George Coleman playing the tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter playing bass and Tony Williams on drums. Produced by Jimmy Lyons, this album was recorded live at the Monterey Jazz Festival on September 22, 1963. All proceeds from this recording go to Monterey Jazz Festival-supported jazz education programs.

"Muted Miles" This hand-picked collection puts a softly-focused blue spotlight on the intimate and unmistakable sound of the one and only Miles Davis playing his horn with a Harmon mute. In fact, this is the first-ever compilation to showcase his seminal harmon mute performances on Prestige! Miles's artfully nuanced playing, presented with the sonic signature of his warmly-buzzing, muted trumpet tone is, to this day, often imitated but never duplicated. Featuring many of the all-time greatest names in jazz including John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and Red Garland, this incredible specially-priced collection is not to be missed.

"Miles Davis Plays For Lovers" One of the most haunting sounds to emerge from the 20th century emanated from Miles Davis’s trumpet. Whether the bell of that horn was open or filled by his trademark Harmon mute, Davis (1926-1991) soloed with surpassing beauty. From 1953 to 1956 he established himself as one of the preeminent balladeers; it was also during this period that he formed his first great quintet, featuring a rapidly-developing tenor saxophonist named John Coltrane. On “’Round Midnight,” “It Never Entered My Mind,” and “My Funny Valentine” (which Coltrane sat out), Davis’s band brought new depth and intimacy to love songs, with the trumpeter’s restrained lyricism offset by Coltrane’s voluble approach. Elsewhere, Davis is joined by such giants as Horace Silver, Charles Mingus (co-composer, with Miles, of the moody blues “Smooch”), and Elvin Jones. Here is a great artist playing for lovers—and offering nary a sentimental note.

"Prestige Profiles Vol. 1" Miles Davis' period with Prestige spanned 1951-1956, which included time spent with John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer, Philly Joe Jones. Miles' use of the trumpet mute was highlighted during this period. Original versions of Walkin', Airegin, and Doxy are featured on this Prestige Profile #1. The bonus disc with the Miles Davis issue highlights other Prestige trumpeters such as Kenny Dorham, Art Farmer/Donald Byrd, and Chet Baker. Gil Evans' composition, Jambangle. from Gil Evans Plus 10 is a nice treat as well.

Although Miles Davis' 1955-1957 quintet had a relatively short life, it went down in history as one of the finest and most interesting bebop combos of the 1950s. It was a group in which different musical personalities did more than coexist -- they complimented and inspired each other. The quintet's front line had two unlikely allies in Davis and the distinctive John Coltrane, whose aggressive, passionate tenor saxophone was quite a contrast to Davis' subtle, understated, cool-toned trumpet. Davis, who was Chet Baker's primary influence and defined cool jazz with his seminal Birth of the Cool sessions of 1949-1950, was a very economical player -- he didn't believe in notes for the sake of notes, whereas Coltrane's solos tended to be a lot longer. But as different as Davis' and Coltrane's musical personalities were, Miles Davis Quintet never failed to sound cohesive. Davis formed the famous group in 1955, hiring Coltrane as well as a rock-solid rhythm section that consisted of bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Philly Joe Jones (not to be confused with swing drummer Jo Jones), and the lyrical pianist Red Garland. The group's sessions of 1955-1956 resulted in four albums on Prestige (Cookin', Relaxin', Workin', and Steamin') and one on Columbia (Round About Midnight). Although the Miles Davis Quintet officially broke up in early 1957, its members were briefly reunited when, in 1958, they formed a sextet with alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley and recorded Milestones for Columbia. Davis and Coltrane continued to work together in 1959 (when Davis recorded the influential modal classic Kind of Blue), but in 1960, Coltrane formed his own group and left the trumpeter's employ for good. ~ Alex Henderson, All Music Guide

"Steamin' With the Miles Davis Qunitet" Of Miles Davis's many bands, none was more influential and popular than the quintet with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. Davis's muted ballads and medium-tempo standards endeared him to the public. The horns' searing exposition of classics like "Salt Peanuts" and "Well, You Needn't" captivated musicians. The searching, restless improvisations of Coltrane intrigued listeners who had a taste for adventure. The flawless rhythm section became a model for bands everywhere. Steamin' is a significant portion of the music of this remarkable group.

Steamin' is more than a great set of performances, even more than a great album by a great improvisatory ensemble, led by one of the century's greatest musicians, although history does seem to prove that it is all of these things. The album comes from the first of Miles Daves' two witheringly great quintets, with Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones in the rhythm section and John Coltrane up front. And somehow, producer Bob Weinstock and engineer Rudy Van Gelder genuinely captured in Van Gelder's Hackensack studio a miniature universe illustrating why Davis stood at the top of his game in 1956. Steamin' is simply one of the most complete sets of music ever and you can experience it again as part of the Rudy Van Gelder Remasters series. He exercises a popular melody from a musical ("Surrey with the Fringe on Top") as a framework for a round of solos that sparkle with genius; during 'Trane's workout, all connection to the original sounds lost until Davis calls the melody back home. "Salt Peanuts" and "Well, You Needn't" remind that in the previous decade, Davis stood on the front lines in the harmonic, melodic and rhythmic revolution in jazz known as bebop. Coltrane sits two of the balladas out to leave Davis in an acoustic quartet, something Davis almost completely stopped soon hereafter. The soft, reticent melody to "When I Fall in Love" profoundly complements Davis' ballad style. liner notes by Chris Slawecki

"The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions" Baseball insiders, as well as those who just love the game, speak reverently of the “five-tool player”: that is, the rare athlete who can hit for average, hit for power, field, throw, and run. In the world of jazz during the mid-1950s, the first great quintet of the trumpeter-bandleader Miles Davis (1926-1991) was a five-tool band, and then some. More than any other ensemble, the Davis five could play burning bebop, churning hard bop, and blithely bouncing show tunes. They breathed new life into long-forgotten standards, and their deep-night ballads, featuring the leader’s insinuating, Harmon-muted melodic statements, could inspire love sonnets for the ages.

Moreover, each supremely gifted member of the group was very much his own man. There was the clipped lyricism of the nattily-attired Davis; the vertiginous flights of the rapidly-developing tenor saxophonist John Coltrane; pianist Red Garland’s bell-like chords and sunny solos; the buoyant lines and eloquent bowing of young bassist Paul Chambers; and drummer Philly Joe Jones’s nonstop drive and slick brush work. Davis and company set the bar almost impossibly high, as these 32 selections, the quintet’s valedictory for Prestige before moving to Columbia, make abundantly clear.

Recorded in three sessions by the legendary engineer Rudy Van Gelder at his Hackensack, New Jersey studio to simulate “typical” nightclub sets, virtually every tune has become a classic. The mercurial trumpeter’s band is cookin’ on “Tune Up,” “Oleo,” and “Salt Peanuts” (with Philly Joe’s solo a model of percussive excitement and musicality); workin’ on “Four,” “Blues by Five,” and “Trane’s Blues”; relaxin’ on “When Lights Are Low,” “Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” and “In Your Own Sweet Way”; and steamin’ on signature ballads such as “It Never Entered My Mind,” “’Round Midnight,” and “My Funny Valentine.”

Newly remastered, and with insightful liner notes by Bob Blumenthal, The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions is like a game-winning grand slam home run in the bottom of the ninth—in four consecutive World Series games.

Managing the Social Networking Data Sieve

Four steps to containing the legal risks of social sites

Twitter, Facebook, Linkedln and other social networking sites practically beg you to reveal even more information about yourself. Log on and you're asked: What are you doing? What are you doing right now? What are you working on? Whether they mean to or not, any of your employees active on these sites can give away company secrets as easily as they do personal ones, 150-odd characters at a time. For ClOs trying to get a grip on social networking by employees, Tom Mighell, a lawyer and senior manager at Fios, an electronic-discovery consulting firm, offers some starting points:


Many employees will use social networking tools regardless of what you want them to do. Instead of trying to stop them, teach them what to say, or what not to say, about work. For example, employees might be tempted to promote the features of a new product. But should that product become the subject of a product liability claim, those statements could be used as damning evidence, Mighell says. Also, they should be clear about which statements are opinion, which are fact. Talk frankly about the legal risks.


Show how to use social networking tools productively and creatively for work without giving away too much information. For example, solicit expertise but don't get too specific. Wrong: "About to blow major deadline for Project Anaconda. Any SAP Netweaver experts out there? Help!" Right: "Looking for an SAP Netweaver expert."


If information posted on social net­working sites becomes relevant in a lawsuit, you will have to collect it, review it and search it so you can comply with discovery requests. That may mean your social-networking employees may have to give up some privacy—their site passwords, for example. This particular situation hasn't yet come up in court, but it could get messy if the employee refuses to cooperate, Mighell notes.


Designate a couple of people from the tech or legal groups to do sweeps of Facebook, Linkedln and other known hang-outs of your employees, to see who's saying and doing what. Talk to those who aren't following policy, and keep records to prove regular monitoring and enforcement of your rules, he says. You can't defend yourself if you set policy but never enforce it.

by Kim S. Nash, CIO Magazine, November 15, 2008, p.34

Friday, November 14, 2008


Some musicians are sufficiently inspired and influential to be labeled epoch-making. Miles Davis (1926-91) made new jazz epochs every few years. For nearly five decades he was at the center of the music, charting directions and introducing other legendary figures at a rate that is unmatched by his contemporaries in any art form.

The family poverty that makes for jazz melodrama was absent in Davis's background. He grew up in relative affluence in East St. Louis, Illinois and, after filling in with Billy Eckstine's big band while still in high school, journeyed to New York to enroll at Juilliard. He quickly renewed acquaintances with the bebop pioneers he had met in Eckstine's ranks, and by the end of 1945 had assumed the trumpet chair in Charlie Parker's quintet that he continued to hold for much of the next three years.

Davis's first venture as a bandleader was the innovative nonet he created in collaboration with arranger Gil Evans. This band, building on the writing Evans had done for Claude Thornhill and employing such unusual timbres for jazz as those of the French horn and tuba, provided the more subtle yet still harmonically provocative palette that soon became recognized as the "birth of the cool"; Yet in smaller bands of quartet to sextet size that Davis tended to lead in most of his live and studio work for the next several years, the emphasis was on a more assertive rhythmic edge and extended improvisations that revitalized the blues vernacular. A list of key collaborators in this 1951-54 period would have to include J.J. Johnson, Sonny Rollins, John Lewis, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, Milt Jackson, Percy Heath, Kenny Clarke, and Art Blakey, who together were laying the foundation for another stylistic variation, known as hard bop.

After a triumphant performance of "'Round Midnight" in a jam session at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival, Davis was finally able to sustain a permanent band. The personnel (John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones) are indicative of the diversely matched yet ultimately reinforcing ensembles the trumpeter would assemble again and again, bands that could create distinct group sounds behind each soloist and introduce fresh concepts regarding jazz form. While this unit, with the added participation of Cannonball Adderley and Bill Evans, became the dominant small jazz band of the late Fifties and helped popularize material based upon scales and modes, Davis also reunited with Gil Evans for a series of orchestral recordings that redefined the potential of the jazz soloist in a large band context.

The Sixties found Davis putting together another seminal quintet with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. This band took modern combo concepts to the edge of freedom, then incorporated electric instruments and layers of chordal and rhythmic support that launched the jazz-rock or fusion phenomenon. Working with larger, highly amplified bands from 1968 forward, and employing such future stars as Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Joe Zawinul, Keith Jarrett, and John McLaughlin, Davis now concentrated on sound and rhythm more than ever, becoming simultaneously more basic and more abstract in his approach. After a period of retirement in the late Seventies, he returned to studio and live performance with another generation of leaders-to-be (John Scofield, Mike Stern, Kenny Garrett, Bob Berg) and remained jazz's most charismatic figure until his death.

Monday, November 03, 2008

New Tactics for Old Deals

Tips to Help You Get What You Want at the Negotiating Table

Sitting down with a vendor to renegotiate an existing outsourcing contract can be a challenging task. David Patzwald, CIO of Schneider Electric North America, offers the following suggestions for how to make your negotiation sessions a fruitful—not frustrating—experience.

Don't have only IT at the table
Include people from other parts of the business, as close to the top as possible. No matter how much ClOs might wish otherwise, vendors will behave differently when the senior person in the room Is from the business side.

Get blended measures of health

It is important to establish health-of-contract metrics for both financial and emotional satisfaction, and to balance them in the vendor's mind. When one goal becomes more important than the other—racing to meet product delivery milestones leads to cutting the head of production out of the loop—a contract begins to fail.

Include vendor input
The CIO should have the final decision when you're considering whether standing applications or new initiatives should end, but don't make those decisions without first talking to the vendor who services those projects.

- by Diane Frank, CIO, October 15, 2008, p68.

Friday, October 31, 2008

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio - review

    Hebert von Karajan paces Christa Ludwig's Leonore in an exhilarating 1962 performance of Beethoven's Fidelio, recorded live at the Wiener Staatsoper.

    The hyper-controlling Herbert von Karajan probably would not be pleased at the material the Vienna Staatsoper has been releasing from its archives, but who wouldn't trade the glossy sheen of some of the late maestros studio-perfect wares for the blood and guts and mess of a live show? The May 25, 1962 performance of Fidelio that furnished the role debuts of Christa Ludwig (Leonore), Gundula Janowitz (Marzelline) and Walter Berry (Pizarro) never would have satisfied Karajan sonically, with its booming double basses and timpani, its poor vocal balance (especially in the Act I finale) and its occasional slipups (a wrong entrance here, some rushing there), but for the listener there is plenty of dramatic excitement generated as the singers dig into their roles, and the conductor allows Beethoven's score to roar its message of hope and freedom.
    Janowitz and Waldemar Kmentt (Jaquino) don't let the tepid reading of the overture stand in their way but invest the first scene with a sweet urgency Both bring attractive, vibrant sound to roles often cast from the second string, and Janowitzs characteristically pure, dense and full-bodied sound (she went on to become a fine Leonore) brings special heft to Marzelline's lines. The Rocco of Walter Kreppel (even without his "gold" aria) is a warm, affectionate portrayal that grows vocally as the evening progresses.
    From Ludwigs first entrance it's clear she is firmly in control, placing her speaking voice low (she's in disguise as a boy after all) yet aiming for soprano position in a high-lying, dramatic role that would later become one of her signatures. As a child, she had seen her mother perform Leonore with Karajan, and Ludwig had recorded the role for Otto Klemperer in 1961 (still one of the legendary recordings of the century). She often spoke frankly of the treacherous scene and aria "Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin?" and of the final exposed high B with its difficult approach. Here, her determination to keep Karajan from dragging is evident, and to his credit, he supports her in a stunning performance; her evident relief brings a soaring vocal freedom to the rest of the evening, and Ludwigs anguished vocal asides in the prison scene are especially moving.
    Walter Berry, Ludwig's husband at the time and also part of the Klemperer recording, makes a poor first impression in the aria "Ha! Welch ein Augenblick!" in which he is nearly inaudible under the crashing orchestra. The stage director (none other than Herbert von Karajan) must have placed him too far upstage for this important moment. Otherwise Berry's dark and bitingly intense sound makes of Pizarro a nasty, terrifying tyrant.
    The program booklet warns that Jon Vickers was somewhat indisposed, and the tenor struggles through Florestans first scene. But the rest of the act catches fire and culminates in Leonores determined shout "Töt erst sein Weib!" (First kill his wife) and the superb duet "O namenlose Freude," in which Vickers and Ludwig seem to be feasting on each other's energy.
    Predictably, the orchestral moments, except for the overture, are superbly shaped, and the inserted Leonore Overture III gets the evenings longest ovation. The booklet includes a few errors of translation and some mislabeled photographs.

by Judith Malafronte, OperaNews, Nov 2008, p60.
Ludwig, Janowitz; Vickers, Kreppel, Berry, Kmentt, Wachter; Chorus and Orchestra of the Wiener Staatsoper, Karajan. Text and translation. Deutsche Grammophon 477-7364

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why I Support Barack Obama for President by Don Jaycox

This is an outstanding statement from an individual who I have a tremendous amount of respect for. His thoughts are well-reasoned and insightful. Because he doesn't have a blog, I've posted his thoughts here to share with you....

"I truly believe this is the most important election of my lifetime, and that is why I strongly endorse Barack Obama for President. I have written this commentary to: (a) Express my strongly held view that the hopes and aspirations of our Nation will be best served by Obama's election, and (b) Persuade any who might still be undecided to vote for him. I write this for people who care what I think, but want to encourage all of you to really research the candidates from many angles. Don't take the easy way out and just digest what you are fed by CNN, NBC or Fox News. Democracy requires an informed and engaged electorate! So here goes...

John McCain
"It may seem odd to begin a declaration for Senator Obama with a statement about John McCain. First, I will say I respect John McCain's service to our country, as I do the other men and women who have served this nation in uniform. However, that service does not mean he will make the best President, or frankly even a good President. While I was a strong supporter of McCain in the 2000 election, I have followed him for the past 8 years with a growing sense of disappointment as I watch the steady erosion of the principles that once defined him: centrist politics, decency, bipartisanship, honesty, integrity, and little pandering to special interests. Unfortunately, his campaign this year has been shameful, and I am truly saddened given my prior admiration for him.

Leadership & Inspiration
"Leadership is my business. I try to practice it all the time, and I try to learn from great leaders. Leaders give you a sense of direction, purpose, inspiration, and confidence about the future. I see very few people who I view as truly gifted leaders, and Barack Obama is one of them. I think the number one thing America lacks today is confidence. Right behind that, hope. Right behind that, inspiration. Obama brings all of these things to America far better than any other candidate. That is why so many young people (and old ones like me) are so strongly behind him (see endorsements below). We need his leadership and inspiration very badly.

"Barack Obama is smart. Smarter than me and most of the people I know. He is a Constitutional scholar in an era when the Constitution and our civil liberties are under attack. He surrounds himself with smart, qualified advisors and then listens to them. No one is perfect, and no one knows everything. Smart, self aware people like Obama are keenly aware of both what they know, and more importantly what they don't know. That's why they try to surround themselves with other smart people to shore up their areas of weakness. In the last two elections, many Americans voted for a man they thought they'd like to share a beer with - a good old boy who can't pronounce nuclear and cuts brush for fun. That didn't work out so well for us. President of the United States may well be the hardest job in the world. I want the smartest person I can find for that job.

Judgment in General & The Iraq War in Specific
"McCain likes to slam Barack for not supporting the surge and for changing his economic / tax policy. He ignores the fact that Obama opposed this disastrous war from the start -- against the tide of American opinion at the time. He thought it would be a grave error, and his judgment proved to be dead on. As for the Surge, I agreed with it's purpose and tactics. The Iraq Study Group, (not McCain) made a compelling argument for the action, but keep in mind that the entire concept was to make the best of a bad situation. Obama disagreed. OK. It is understandable that he would be skeptical given the administration's track record up to that point. Look, we will never know how things would have gone without the Surge, but I do know that concurrent with the Surge was The Sunni Awakening movement, aimed at driving Al Qaeda out of Iraq. Many (including me) credit The Awakening with much of the reduction in violence. How much is anyone's guess. As for Obama changing his economic and tax policy on the fly -- I say BRAVO! Smart people with good judgment adapt to changing conditions. Ideologues do not. I have no time for ideologues - left or right leaning. Adaptability is one of the most important traits in good leaders. They watch, they listen, they learn, they adapt. That's a good thing! The "flip flop" attack used by Republicans is idiotic. A lack of adaptability contributed heavily to the gigantic mess we're in overseas.

Supreme Court
"The next President will appoint at least one and perhaps as many as three Supreme Court Justices. And they will serve for life! The Supreme Court is possibly the most important institution of government because they are the protectors of our Constitution and our civil liberties. When a President leaves office, their budget, tax and foreign policy legacy might endure for 2, 4, maybe 8 years, but their Supreme Court picks last a lifetime. The court must be balanced, and it's not right now. If it's too far left or right it's bad for the country. Bush has pushed the court from a centrist balance, with the likes of Sandra Day O'Connor casting tie-breaking votes (a Reagan appointee, btw) to a court that is now strongly leaning to the right. Ruth Bader Ginsberg is the next most likely to retire, and if McCain replaces her, the court will be unacceptably far to the right for a long time. Obama appointees are much more likely to bring the court back into balance.

The Economy / Taxes
"The Obama tax plan will cost me more money but will help the vast majority of people reading this. That's OK. As Warren Buffett said "I don't need a tax break. Others do." Barack's economic policy makes much more sense to me than McCain's and it is likely to spur economic recovery much more quickly. While I will be personally disadvantaged by it -- as will lots of other high income people -- and that's OK for America. It's not wealth redistribution, it's economic fairness, pure and simple. What a lot of people don't realize is that today's tax brackets are a comparative bargain for wealthy people. After WWI, the top tax rate for the wealthy was 77%. During the Great Depression it rose to 92% and remained there until 1964! It plunged to 38% in 1987 and today it's just 35%. And Capital Gains tax at 15% is a huge gift to wealthy investors. They don't make their money through payroll checks. They make it on investments. A regular person making $50,000 taking a standard deduction will pay 22% to 30% federal tax (depending on how you choose to count payroll tax paid by employers.) An investor making $1,000,000 on investments will pay only 15%. That's insane. Oh, and "Joe the plumber" will absolutely, unequivocally, undeniably pay less tax under Obama. Don't believe me. Read their plans for yourself on each candidate's web site. For a quick non-partisan comparison, see:

"Note: I do not agree with Obama's plan to raise corporate taxes on large corporations because in a global economy it may drive those large companies overseas. However, I believe Obama will reconsider this part of his plan once in office. He has good advisors on that front. However, the myth of Small-business-owner-Joe-the-plumber-getting-hurt is just that -- a myth. A sham.

America's Place in the Global Community
"I was in Europe on 9/11 and I can tell you that the outpouring of support and solidarity from our European allies was astounding. Even countries like Russia supported us. I was overwhelmed. You had headlines in Le Monde of Paris that read "Today, we are all Americans." In the last seven years we have completely squandered that good will and our standing in the world. We went from the assaulted party to the assaulters. A blinded Cyclops lashing out at anything within our reach. Whether or not this feels like a fair view of the US, it is now pervasive around the world. We went from the most admired country in the world to one of the most reviled. Whether we like it or not, we are in a Global Community and we can't "go it alone" -- it won't work. We need to restore the world's faith that we are a fair and just society internally and externally. The faith that in the US - perhaps uniquely in the world - anyone can aspire to be anything. Interestingly, much of the world is amazed and astounded that just seven years after 9/11 America could possibly elect a man like Obama -- a black man with the middle name Hussein, with a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, raised partly in Indonesia by a single-parent struggling to make ends meet. Yet he can rise to the most powerful office in the world on the strength of his intellect, determination and unwavering sense of hope. It is the uniquely powerful story of America, and it makes everyone around the globe stop and rethink their view of our country. Maybe we've misjudged America. That opens the door to dialog, compromise, and global cooperation. Just what we need to fight global terrorism effectively. Obama will restore our ability to reassert leadership -- not by force of weapons -- but by the force of our ideals.

Readiness to be President
"Let's be honest: No one is qualified to be US president if they haven't already held the job. While the VP job comes close, there is no other job that is remotely close. Not even the Governor of California, (7th largest economy in the world) gains the experience needed to run the US. The job of Senator is vastly different from that of President, and being a Senator for 21 years is not appreciably more valuable than 4 years in my view. In the end you need to trust in intelligence, judgment, integrity and the ability to "learn on the job" as McCain derisively puts it. John F Kennedy entered the White House at age 43 after 6 years in the Senate -- a young upstart with nearly the same Senate experience as Obama. He certainly had no real experience to be President. But he was smart and surrounded himself with other smart people. Still, his first test was the Bay of Pigs and it didn't go well. (A huge mistake he inherited from Eisenhower). But he learned and adapted, and in doing so not only faced down Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but also gave us the vision and commitment to put a man on the moon. An extraordinary achievement.

"I view Obama as having the superior intelligence, demeanor, judgment and temperament to assume the role of President and be successful. Do I think McCain would be a better Commander in Chief of our Military? Maybe. But it worries me that his philosophy on leadership is to: (a) Hang tough - a noble if bullheaded view, (b) Don't talk to our enemies unless they first agree to play by our rules - insane, and (c) Provide Iraq with an indefinite commitment on US troops. Our country cannot tolerate another 4 years in Iraq -- financially, culturally, politically, or socially. I do think that Obama has all the qualities that will make him better at all other aspects of running this country, and he will put in place the right leadership at the Pentagon - as Clinton did with Secretary William Cohen - and will keep our country safe.

"Most laughable to me is the notion that should McCain expire in office, Sarah Palin, the 16-month governor of Alaska, whose total state population is 20% the size of the San Diego metro area and equal in size to the combined suburbs of Chula Vista, Escondido and Oceanside, is somehow qualified with the requisite "executive experience" to occupy the oval office. For me, that huge lapse in judgment by McCain completely sealed the deal. He placed the country's future at stake for a calculated political stunt aimed at placating the right wing of the Republican party and attracting the small group of disaffected Hillary supporters who could be tricked into voting for someone who is at odds with most of what Hillary stands for. Picking Joe Lieberman would have been a masterstroke, but Sarah Palin was a blunder of epic proportions.
Obama is Endorsed by Many Non-Partisan National Leaders
Obviously, the party faithful will always endorse their own candidate. They are a given on both sides. These are more interesting:

Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, richest man in the world, considered to be the most savvy investor in the world.
Colin Powell, Former Secretary of State under GW Bush, National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (89–93)
Paul Volker, Chairman of the Federal Reserve under Reagan.
Paul O'Neill, former Secretary of the Treasury under GW Bush
Scott McClellan, former White House Press Secretary under GW Bush
William H. Donaldson, former Chairman of the SEC under GW Bush
Christopher Buckley, conservative writer and satirist, son of William F. Buckley
Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Clinton, former Harvard Economics professor, incredibly smart.
Robert Rubin, former Secretary of the Treasury, former Chairman of Goldman Sachs. Incredibly smart.
Fareed Zakaria writer and columnist on World Affairs. Incredibly smart and insightful. Read his analysis of world events.
Wesley Clark, former General, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
71 Nobel Laureates.
70 current and former Foreign Policy experts.
218 Major newspapers & magazines (compared to McCain's 80).

Fallacies Directed Against Obama - from the merely Dubious to the Outright Absurd
(To be addressed in a later commentary)
· Obama is unknown, shady, can't be trusted.
· Guilt by Association - Ayers and Rev Wright.
· That he is a Muslim.
· That he hates America.
· That he strangles kittens for fun. (I'm pretty sure this one was intended as satire, but not the others.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

An American Who Lives Life On His Own Terms - Douglas Kennedy

Douglas Kennedy is the most famous American writer in Europe. His books sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Bookstores find it difficult to keep them in stock. Here in the United States, however, Kennedy is not so well known, boycotted by publishing houses. Why? Is it because he personifies a different America? Yet the man — haunted by the fleetingness of time and the emptiness of our consumerist existence — really has only one creed, and that is Art. We met at the Cafe de Flore, in Paris, in the neighborhood of Saint Germain des Pres. He was right on time for our 11 o'clock appointment. As he happily extended his hand, I noticed that he had rounded out a bit with age (in both senses of the term). He greeted me with a pleasant "Bonjour" with a slight American accent. Several young Parisians sitting at a nearby table in this legendary cafe could not believe their eyes. Douglas Kennedy, in person, sitting only a few feet away! (After he left, they came over to ask me if it was really him). Kennedy put his umbrella on a bench and began by apologizing while looking at his watch. "I don't have much time, only half an hour. Is that ok?" Seeing me frown, he took out his cell phone and dialed. "Hello. I will be late..." After hanging up, he cheerfully added, "Now we have one hour."

Assuredly, the man was in a hurry. Along with his success, time has become a precious commodity. To say he has become successful is perhaps an understatement. His latest book, The Woman in the Fifth, published in 2007, sold over 600,000 copies in France and 250,000 in London. Although he has not been published in his native America for more than a decade, he has triumphed everywhere else. Today, Douglas lives in London with his wife, Amelia, and their two children. He also has a pied-a-terre in Paris, in this same intellectual and Bohemian neighborhood. Over the last few years, he has learned French and now speaks it fluently. "France? I like it here, and the French adore American culture... but yes, it's a damned shambles here," he declared, seeming to delight in the last phrase. For him, life is elsewhere, away from the famous "daily existence" that he writes about in his books. Death? "It doesn't scare me," he answered, brushing the idea away with a flick of his wrist. What really concerns him, however, is the cul-de-sac (also the title of one of his books) of daily life — a detestable job, a failed marriage, trapped in personal problems. It is for these reasons that he can only live "elsewhere," somewhere between his homes in London, Berlin, Malta, and Paris.

"My books have been translated into 18 languages," he continued with a smile. "I have a publisher in all those countries." Then the smile disappeared. "But yes, it does hurt me that I don't have a publisher in my own country." The reason for this lack of support is not because he has ignored America. On the contrary, the many facets of this nation make up the subjects of all his books. Among his thrillers are The Pursuit of Happiness, which portrays a journalist caught up in the web of McCarthyism, and A Special Relationship, in which a young woman dreams only of a quiet life with her husband, children, and a 4 x 4. George Bush's decision to go to war and the resulting events shatter her dream. "Since Bush became President, America's image has become disastrous around the world. The only positive thing to come out of this mess is that I have met many interesting people, artists for the most part, who, like me, were anti-Bush." Kennedy is more than a clever author of thrillers. He incarnates a part of the American subconscious, revolted by materialism and the blindness that it produces.

Kennedy admits to being somewhat of a schizophrenic — he criticizes his country while also adoring it. He loves it so much that, after his long 20-year exile, he purchased a home in Maine. Surprising, don't you think, for a man who recently mused, "Hell? It is living in a small town in the middle of Maine where shopping at the mall is the main cultural activity."

Douglas Kennedy, the writer who creates nightmares throughout his books, continues his own pursuit of happiness, which takes him, in a strange twist of fate, towards America.

by Marie-Pierre Valli, Watch Your Time, Oct 2008, p9

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Choice

We cannot expect one man to heal every wound, to solve every major crisis of policy. So much of the Presidency, as they say, is a matter of waking up in the morning and trying to drink from a fire hydrant. In the quiet of the Oval Office, the noise of immediate demands can be deafening. And yet Obama has precisely the temperament to shut out the noise when necessary and concentrate on the essential. The election of Obama—a man of mixed ethnicity, at once comfortable in the world and utterly representative of twenty-first-century America—would, at a stroke, reverse our country’s image abroad and refresh its spirit at home. His ascendance to the Presidency would be a symbolic culmination of the civil- and voting-rights acts of the nineteen-sixties and the century-long struggles for equality that preceded them. It could not help but say something encouraging, even exhilarating, about the country, about its dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness, about its fidelity, after all, to the values it proclaims in its textbooks. At a moment of economic calamity, international perplexity, political failure, and battered morale, America needs both uplift and realism, both change and steadiness. It needs a leader temperamentally, intellectually, and emotionally attuned to the complexities of our troubled globe. That leader’s name is Barack Obama.
the Editors, New Yorker magazine, Oct 13 2008, p51

Friday, October 10, 2008

Crisis-speak: a glossary

Illiquidity - If you owe someone a dollar and you don’t have one, you are illiquid.

Insolvency - If you owe someone a dollar and you don’t have one, and if you sold everything that you own and you still wouldn’t have one, you are insolvent. (But as long as you own something that’s hard to put a value on, no one can prove that you’re insolvent. Upon this rock stands the entire financial system.)

Moral hazard - Economistese for “It’s only a rental.” You get to party, and someone else cleans up the mess. It turns out that the banking system was only a rental, except that after taxpayers rebuild the engine, the bankers expect it back for another spin.

Risk - In Victorian times, what investors were paid to bear. Thanks to recent innovations in financial engineering, however, risk can be so finely sliced, traded, and transferred that no one even notices when it ends up in Aunt Millie’s bank account.

Mark-to-market valuation - The antiquated notion that a thing is worth what someone else is willing to pay for it, its current market value. Okay in rising markets, but when prices fall, techniques such as “mark-to-model” or “mark-to-myth” better support investor confidence.

Hold-to-maturity valuation - A financial asset represents a bunch of promises by someone to pay you money in the future. If you pretend you know how well those promises will be kept, you can pretend you know the value of the asset.

Libor - An interest rate that London bankers charge one another to borrow money. Important, because whatever bankers have to pay, the rest of us have to pay and then some.

TED spread - Not a condiment. A measure of stress in the credit markets, defined as the difference between what your average bank and Uncle Sam have to pay to get a three-month loan.

Counterparty meltdown - The biggest, most secret fear of the credit crisis. Suppose Alice owes Bob a million dollars, Bob owes Sue a million dollars, and Sue owes Alice a million dollars. Since Alice, Bob, and Sue each owe and are owed a million dollars, these big obligations wash out, they are all okay. But suppose Sue has huge gambling debts and declares bankruptcy. Now Alice owes a million dollars to Bob, but no one owes Alice anything. Alice doesn’t have the money, now that she can’t take it from Sue, so she declares bankruptcy too. Bob still owes money to Sue, and Alice is gone, so he is broke as well. In a network of interlocking debtors, one bankruptcy can force many to go down.

Depression - An implicit threat by way of which financial institutions are able to extort ransom to the tune of seven hundred billions.

by Steven Randy Waldman, New York, Oct 13, p.12

Thursday, October 09, 2008

How about a little loyalty?

Here's the evolution of loyalty in the Bush years:
1) Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals safety, turns down a five-year, $9 million offer from the Rams to stay with his original team, and then, after September 11, turns down a three-year, $3.6 million offer from the Cardinals in order to join the Army, and then he is klled by friendly fire in Afganistan, his means of death covered up by the U.S. military.
2) Scott McClellan willfully aids the president in misleading the public about the war in Iraq, and then turns on his ex-boss, write a successful book about his failures, and tours.
The connection between these two narratives? The kind of loyal man that great countries are built from dies an unncessary death, while the kind of worm that can never be of use to anyone thrives and prospers. Betrayal grows ever more grotesque while loyalty seems increasingly futile.
- Stephen Marche, Esquire, Nov 08 p.34

Friday, September 26, 2008

What's Next?

The Greed & Fear guru surveys The Future:

Of all those who "saw it coming," few did so with the clarity of Christopher Wood, who watched it unfold from Asia, where he analyzes markets for the Hong Kong-based CLSA. In his weekly newsletter Greed & Fear, Wood has warned for three years that the massive securitization of debt would lead to disaster, and since the middle of 2007, he has been particularly bearish on 'Western financials" —a strategy that morphed into the conventional wisdom. This is where he sees things heading.

It'll Get Better Soon-and Then Worse
There will be a rally commencing in the next couple of months. But that won't be the end of it — we'll retest the lows later. The policy of bailing out companies prevents a precipitous decline but also prevents a V-shaped recovery. When Asia had its crisis in '97-'98, everything went basically straight down, then went back up almost as fast—a V. But in America, the housing market's going to remain basically weak. It's not going to completely implode, because Fannie and Freddie have not collapsed, but it's certainly not going to pick up. The recovery in the U.S. is going to be L-shaped, which is to say a long period of malaise.

Supersize Me, Says Government
To stimulate the economy next year, you'll have a fiscal infrastructure package, regardless of who's elected president Maybe high-speed trains on both sides of the coast, the equivalent of the shinkansen. If they don't, that'll be dumb. The U.S. needs to upgrade its infrastructure, and I think U.S. policy-makers now understand they can’t just cut rates and get consumers to borrow more.

Smartest Guys Leave the Room
Wall Street will become rather boring. As the investment banks become part of the heavily regulated banks, you'll get a proliferation of boutiques, living off advisory and not big capital. The talent won't want to sit in these big bureaucracies.

It'll Be Worse in London
New York's been playing second fiddle to London for the last five years. But more of the problems have come out of the works in New York because accounting in the TJ.S. is more transparent. I can tell you for a fact European banks are sitting on all kinds of junk that isn't marked properly. So all these problems will emerge in Europe with a lag. Commercial real estate in London is already a disaster.

Don't Plan for a Global Depression
I see China slowing to maybe 8 percent growth next year, India 7, but no worse. I don't think Brazil's going to collapse. This whole emerging-market story is still in play. A lot of people don't agree. They say the rest of the world is going to collapse along with America and the U.K. But the companies and the consumers in China, India, Brazil, Russia, they're not highly leveraged. They're not leveraged at all, actually. So there is great opportunity. Everybody who doesn't own stocks in Asia, emerging markets, should start buying them now.

Go Middle East, Young Man
In the U.K. and the U.S., there's massive excess capacity in financial services. If I'm a kid coming out of Wharton, I would say the best single opportunity would be to go to the Middle East. No income tax in Dubai, that's a good point.

Taking the Pain Will Bring the Gains
There are going to be casualties of this, it's not pleasant, but the less the U.S. bails everybody out, the more bullish it is for the US. in the long run. Because it means the system isn't completely corrupt. You can't have socialism for rich people, capitalism for everybody else.

Interview by Hugo Lindgren
September 29, 2008 New York Magazine page 27

Thursday, September 18, 2008


With only 50 days left until the election it still seems like there is plenty of time between now and then to decided how to help get our guy elected to the White House. THAT IS NOT THE CASE.

This new president will stop or continue the war in Iraq.
This new president will appoint 3 or 4 Justices to the Supreme Court.
This new president will increase or decrease the size of the federal deficit.
This new president may or may not support a comprehensive national health insurance plan.
This new president might raise your taxes.

It doesn’t matter who you support.
What does matter is that you DO SOMETHING NOW!

You need to donate money to the presidential campaign so that they can tell their story.
Any contribution, $5 or $25 is more than nothing and nothing means that you are helping the other guy win.

You need to tell everyone you know and trust that they too need to contribute a few dollars to the presidential campaign. They need to add their financial resources to fight to get their guy elected. Wondering after the election why their guy lost, won’t help. NOW IS THE TIME TO DO SOMETHING.

If you can, give up next Saturday to help register new voters. Voter registration deadlines are fast approaching. Some states have voter registration deadlines in beginning or middle of October. You can contact your local League of Women Voters for info on how to help register new voters and get involved. If you help register ten or 100 new voters – it can help make a difference in your district or precinct. You doing the same this Saturday in 10,000 other communities could translate into a million new voters. That all by itself would change the outcome of this election. DO SOMETHING.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rethinking Fathers' Rights

By Dahlia Lithwick

Every few years, some father who believes he's been wronged by the family-court system grabs headlines and draws attention to the flawed ways in which we split up families. Custody proceedings are often brutal and adversarial. Otherwise-fit parents can be drawn into a bare-knuckle fight over who poses a greater danger to the children. (Consider the recent Christie Brinkley custody spectacle, in which allegations of Dad's porn use and Mom's overreliance on nannies became Exhibits A and B, although both facts were legally immaterial.)

Despite the fact that divorce is rarely triggered by violence or abuse, the incentives to allege that a man is abusive and out of control are undeniable. They tap into age-old stereotypes about men and ensure that Mom becomes the primary custodian. Even without abuse allegations, simple rules of physics (one child cannot be split into two and two cannot be split into four) make it likely that many good fathers will be downgraded from full-time dads to alternating-weekend-carpool dads. They will be asked to pay at least one-third of their salaries in child support for that privilege. Simple rules of modern life make it likely that an ex-wife will someday decide that a job or new husband demands a move to a faraway state. At which point the alternating-weekend-carpool dad is again demoted—to a Thanksgivings-if-you're-lucky dad.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fire and Ice

by Joan Acocella

The dance form known as stepping was invented by fraternities at black colleges around the nineteen-twenties. The students did these drills, presumably as a show of both power and togetherness, at initiation ceremonies. Eventually, stepping moved into the quad, where the houses started holding competitions, each trying to prove that it was the coolest. The competitions went public (see the 2007 movie "Stomp the Yard"). In its classic form, stepping looks like a cross betwen a military parade (tightly synchronized unison work) and African dance: syncopation, clapping, body patting, footwork like there's no tomorrow. Step Afrika!, which claims to be the first professional stepping company - it was founded by C. Brian Williams (Alpha Phi Alpha, Howard University, same house as Martin Luther King, Jr.) in 1994 - will perform on August 16, first in an afternoon "family" program, then in a regular evening show, as part of Lincoln Center Out of Doors. Outdoors is a good place for stepping, because this is a noisy art.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Oh, life is bigger
It's bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I've said too much
I set it up

That's me in the corner

That's me in the spotlight, I'm
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no, I've said too much
I haven't said enough
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper

Of every waking hour I'm
Choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool, fool
Oh no, I've said too much
I set it up
Consider this
Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I've said too much
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream

That was just a dream

But that was just a dream

Try, cry, why try?

That was just a dream
Just a dream, just a dream

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Chase Your Passion, Not Your Pension

     Most of our adult lives are spent working. Taking into account commuting time, overtime, thinking about our jobs, and worrying about deadlines or problems we spend more of our waking hours in an office or factory, behind a desk, in a meeting, or on the road than we do at home. But too many find their jobs laborious and repetitive, an irritating but necessary interruption between weekends. They would rather get home than get ahead.
      A job is something you do for money. A career is something you do based on an inner desire and motivation. You want to do it, you love doing it, you're excited when you do it. You do it because it is in harmony with your core values and goals.
      People who are paid exactly what they are worth (or more) often find themselves replaced, declared obsolete, and re-engineered out of the organization. Overpaid people are overdrawn in their knowledge bank account. People who are underpaid for the amount and quality of the service they provide are always in demand and always ahead of the money in their knowledge and contribution. So money and opportunity are always chasing them.
      Keep the level of your yearning and learning ahead of your earning. Be inspired to learn as much as you can, to know as much as you can, to gain skills when you can, to find a cause that benefits humankind - and you'll be sought after for your quality of service and dedication to excellence. This motivation will make you oblivious to quitting time and to the length of your workday. You'll awake every morning feeling the passion of pursuit, not just the pursuit of a paycheck. Those who do more than they're paid for are always sought for their services. Their name and work outlive them, and they always command the highest price. Chase your passion, not your pension!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Your Attitude Is Everything

          Attitude is the way you view your life - your experiences, your environment, your opportunities, your problems, your choices and your responses. Attitude is the direction in which you lean on all ideas and issues. It's either failure‑reinforcing or success‑reinforcing.
          Losers see thunderstorms. Winners look for rainbows. Losers see the peril of icy streets. Winners put on their ice skates. Losers put down. Winners lift up. Losers let life happen to them. Winners make life happen for themselves and others. Winning and losing is all about attitude.
          Attitudes begin as harmless thoughts. Then, with practice, they become layered by habit into unbreakable cables to shackle or strengthen our lives. We're scarcely aware they exist. Like comfortable beds, they are easy to fall into but difficult to get out of, once settled in. First we make our attitudes, then our attitudes make us. Attitude is the servant of all the great individuals who have ever lived and, of course, the servant of all the failures as well.
          There is little difference between common people and those who are uncommonly successful. The little difference is in their attitude. The big difference is whether the attitude is positive or negative.
          Your attitude is either the lock on or key to the door of fulfillment. How important is your attitude? In truth, "Attitude is Everything."
          We are not responsible for what happens out there, what others do or think. We are responsible only for how we choose to think and behave. That's our attitude. It is a precious, personal possession.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

excerpt from "The Audacity of Hope"

".... Each day, it seems, thousands of Americans are going about their daily rounds - dropping off the kids at school, driving to the office, flying to a business meeting, shopping at the mall, trying to stay on their diets - and coming to the realization that something is missing. They are deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversion, their sheer busyness are not enough. They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives, something that will relieve a chronic loneliness or lift them above the exhausting, relentless toll of daily life. They need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them - that they are not just destined to travel down a long highway toward nothingness."
from The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Is Obama anti-semitic ?

Thank you for sending me the link to the article that contained the quote, that on its face, calls into the question Sen. Obama's position and his attitude towards Israel.

After reading the entire article, it is very clear that Sen. Obama is (or wishes to appear) to be a strong support of Israel and her security. He states in the same article, "I think that the idea of secure Jewish state is a fundamentally just idea, and a necessary idea, given not only world history but the active existence of anti-Semitism, the potential vulnerability that the Jewish people could still experience." He continues on the same subject by stating, "But the fundamental premise of Israel and the need to preserve a Jewish state that is secure is, I think, a just idea and one that should be supported here in the United States and around the world." It seems clear that one can definitively conclude if only from this article that Sen. Obama supports the state of Israel and understands that it is surrounded by hostile enemies and terrorist organizations. In regards to Hamas, in this article Sen. Obama states, "My position on Hamas is indistinguishable from the position of Hillary Clinton or John McCain. I said they are a terrorist organization and I've repeatedly condemned them. I've repeatedly said, and I mean what I say: since they are a terrorist organization, we should not be dealing with them until they recognize Israel, renounce terrorism, and abide by previous agreements." Until I read that, I was under the impression that Sen. Obama did not object to pre-conditions to meeting with Hamas. I seem to have obtained an incorrect impression of his position - possibly shaped by the media. It is clear that Sen. Obama does support pre-conditions to a dialogue with Hamas, the same pre-conditions articulated by our current Secretary of State Connie Rice.

Regarding the quote..... standing alone without any context it is upsetting and provocative. In the article the quote is followed by this sentence: "The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable." The quote is in regards to the Israeli policy on settlements. To take the quote and apply it to Israel's security or right of existence is totally out of context and a dishonest interpretation of the quote. Sen. Obama was calling into question Israeli settlement policy and its need for re-examination and negotiation. The settlement policy is a 'constant wound.... this constant sore' which impedes a meaningful dialogue between Palestinians and the Israeli government. In fact, former Prime Minister Arial Sharon abandoned the policy of disputed settlements in exchange for peace, however his party's position has been reversed by recent internal events.

I am saddened that the political right and anti-Obama bloggers have taken this sentence and are attempting to provoke the Jewish community into believing that Sen. Obama is anti-Israel. This is the politics of division and diversion. It is the same trick used against Clinton over Whitewater and against Kerry with the Swift Boat ads. It is the politics of the old and we have to be mindful of these attacks.

What I am hopeful for is a meaningful dialogue on all the issues that all Americans will face in this election: the economy, the war, and our environment. It seems clear that this is an attempt to pull us apart, to distract us from the real issues, the real agenda.... which is change.


Sent: Saturday, May 24, 2008 9:05 PM

To: Alvin
Subject: Obama Remark

Alvin--- Below is the Obama quotation that you wanted to see. Also, click on the website to see the entire article.

Interviewer: Do you think that Israel is a drag on America’s reputation overseas?

Obama: No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy.