Former Sun CEO on prospects for Silicon Valley now

Scott McNealy, founder and former CEO of Sun Microsystems, talked with the Wall Street Journal about employment and the economy in the supposedly booming Silicon Valley. He thinks much has been lost and may not come back. His comments about the Valley apply to the state and country at large too.

It’s not a terribly job-filled recovery. Productivity gains continue to push the need to hire out. A lot of the jobs today are around two areas: government-sponsored green initiatives and the social-networking space.

I’m skeptical that the green jobs are [going to drive the recovery]. So far, the track record’s been terrible. That’s going to be a challenge for the people here who stuck their neck out to go green.

Much as I strongly support cleantech and renewable energy, he’s right. There’s just no way that government-mandated cleantech initiatives will create jobs anywhere on the scale needed for California. Plus, many such initiatives are wrong-headed and doomed, like California’s coming cap-and-trade system or forcing dump trucks to get new engines, something which will certainly drive many of them out of business.

Then there’s social networking, which is a pretty interesting phenomenon. There’s a lot of energy there, but that’s not a terribly labor-intensive kind of activity. I don’t think social networking is the jobs driver.

Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the social networking sites can maybe create 100,000-150,000 jobs. Again, that’s not going to spur a recovery in the state .

I see a migration from the early days of the Valley. We aren’t doing manufacturing; we aren’t doing design; we aren’t doing computers. It’s all moving to Asia and other places where there are lots of technical engineers who are willing to work at a more reasonable salary because they don’t have to spend $3.5 million on a home and pay half of it to taxes.

Hey, so someone graduates from a prestigious college with a degree in engineering, math, or programming and goes to work for a big tech company in Silicon Valley for $100,000 a year. He’s got it made, right? Not really. He might get a one bedroom apartment for $1500 a month. A car, insurance, utilities, food, and that big student loan could easily chew up another $2,000 a month. So that’s $42,000 a year in expenses. Federal taxes at that bracket are 33% and state tax is 10%. Toss in another 7% for the combined totals of sales taxes and country and city fees and you get 50% tax. Out of that $100,000 a year salary, $7,000 remains after basic expenses and taxes. Yikes.

I think every new transition has created less job opportunity as technology has become very leveraged. I don’t think our education system, our regulations, our government policies have kept pace with the changes that technology is driving.

Our education system is becoming a shambles. Everyone knows it is crumbling yet not much of real substance is being done. Why is this?

I’m not young with my whole future in front of me. My kids are the ones who are going to have to learn Mandarin. I’ve suggested that to all four of them.

Clinton advisers declare war on Obama

James Carville was beyond blunt today, saying “If Hillary gave up one of her balls and gave it to Obama, he’d have two.”

James Carville and Stan Greenberg on the failed Obama economic message.

“During the campaign… their message of ‘what we are doing is working,’ people would get mad, okay,” said Carville. “Most kind of messaging is not very effective, it just goes in one ear out the other. This one, it went in one ear and right to the brain. What were they thinking? It was almost universal. And as opposed to saying ‘These irresponsible, greedy people got us into this mess and we are the only thing between you and them, and we are fighting every day and we understand.’ We kept telling them, don’t tell them it’s working… The White House had the best and brightest. But they mis-underestimated this.”

Or they didn’t care. Let’s not forget, Obama was the early favorite of the investment banks and he has never attacked them in any significant way.

“A metaphor about a car in the ditch when people are in trouble and angry at Wall Street is just out of touch with what is going on,” Greenberg said, with respect to the president’s closing argument during 2010 cycle. Pointing to the polling data he had seen in the lead up to the vote, he added: “At one point, any framework tested better than trying to make the case for success.”

Out of touch, and uncaring, seems to me.

Anti-War, at Home and Abroad

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Sign the Petition – “I vote and I demand my elected officials end this war”

By now, the full implications of the data contained in the 91,000 Wikileaks files are starting to sink in. Americans have been questioning the war for some time now, and they’re finally putting their foot down and demanding an end. Thousands of calls are pouring in to Congress from around the country, all demanding a NO vote on today’s war funding vote, and thousands more are signing our petition declaring “the Wikileaks ‘War Logs’ are further evidence of a brutal war that’s not worth the cost. I vote, and I demand my elected officials end this war by Dec. 2011.”

Sure, war supporters gave it the old college try. The White House and other political leadership stressed that the leaks contained no new information, incidentally clearing up once and for all the confusion we had over whether they were ignorant or merely incompetent and negligent prosecutors of US foreign policy. Some even tried to deflect the argument on to Wikileaks operator Julian Assange, as if the leak coming from him – or Paris Hilton or Spider-Man – has anything to do with the information it contained.

But their arguments are for naught, the war is now simply indefensible. The facts are on our side, and these leaks do nothing else if not confirm and validate the criticism so far levied against the war in Afghanistan. The effect is to make the IPS headline, “Leaked Reports Make Afghan War Policy More Vulnerable,” seem something like the understatement of the century. Gareth Porter writes:

Among the themes that are documented, sometimes dramatically but often through bland military reports, are the seemingly casual killing of civilians away from combat situations, night raids by special forces that are often based on bad intelligence, the absence of legal constraints on the abuses of Afghan police, and the deeply rooted character of corruption among Afghan officials.

The most politically salient issue highlighted by the new documents, however, is Pakistan’s political and material support for the Taliban insurgency, despite its ostensible support for U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

You could pick just one of those things Porter mentions and it could spell catastrophe for the war. Instead we have all of it. It does more than make the war policy more vulnerable, it puts any war supporting politician in Washington in serious electoral peril. We should take this opportunity, then, to understand what exactly is happening with the anti-war movement.

If left to their own devices, the mainstream media will craft their own stupid and obnoxious narratives about “lefty insurgencies” or “anti-incumbent fever,” and this will poison the eventual policy outcome. If we understand the facts now, and see this as not only a US political dilemma, but as part of a global anti-war movement now finally winding up at President Obama’s doorstep, then we can begin to accelerate our withdrawal more responsibly than the standard media narratives might allow (Get out now! No, stay forever!).

It is not simply a reaction to a failed policy, it is an articulation of an independent vision of selfish foreign and domestic policy interests. Americans, our NATO allies, and even our progressive allies in Pakistan are all working to end the war. It is not for ideology or partisan gain, it is purely in their own selfish interest, in our interest, to end the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Continue reading “Anti-War, at Home and Abroad”

Rethink Afghanistan: How to Get What You Pay For

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

As of this morning, the cost of our war in Afghanistan hit the $1 Trillion mark:

You can head over to Facebook and tell us what you would do with a trillion dollars. You’d be surprised at what you could be getting for that money. You could buy Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn many times over, or buy health care for everyone. Only it’s just a game, isn’t it? You’re not really buying that stuff. But as the video says, you’re not really getting what you’re paying for in Afghanistan either.

You’re not any safer because of that money. If anything, you’re less safe because of that wasted money. California had to cut its “Healthy Families” program, among countless other basic human services. We’re supporting corrupt drug addicts and committed war mongers overseas. We even have airplanes literally falling out of the sky because of how our broken our economy is. That trillion dollars is gone, the war is coming up to its 104th month, and we have only disaster to show for it.

But don’t be fooled by our Facebook app. It’s more than just a game. No, you can’t buy Bill Gates or the Large Hadron Collider, but you can actually force the government to spend money on programs which do make us safer. You can even cut off the war ending funding entirely. After all, the cost is just hitting $1 trillion, it’s not stopping there. It’s only going up, faster and faster as President Obama’s escalation continues. It’s not as simple as dropping your items in a shopping cart, but it doesn’t take much more than that either. With just a little bit of action, you can go way beyond a Facebook game and actually accomplish real change. Continue reading “Rethink Afghanistan: How to Get What You Pay For”