Monthly Archives: April 2012

A  court in the Netherlands has upheld a new law to ban foreign tourists from cannabis cafes, the BBC reports. The ban is due to start in three southern provinces next month, and go nationwide by the end of the year.

Amsterdam, perhaps the most popular spot for tourists seeking marijuana, will be subject to the new law by next year.

The Netherlands is known for a liberal drug policy, especially when it comes to so-called “soft” drugs like marijuana. The law is aimed at foreigners who have come to see the country as a soft drugs paradise and to tackle a rise in crime related to the drug trade, Reuters reported. It also aims to stop people from coming to the Netherlands to buy drugs and then taking them back to their home countries to re-sell.

Only locals, whether Dutch or foreign residents, will be allowed to join a coffee shop. A pass would allow Dutch citizens to legally buy cannabis.

Coffee shop owners are protesting the move, saying they shouldn’t be forced to discriminate between tourists and non-tourists. Certainly, the ban on foreigners will be bad for business. How it impacts tourism remains to be seen.



Is anyone surprised?  Goldman Sucks… er, Goldman Sachs is unprofessional, unethical and has no shame whatsoever.  Oh, and their profits are down 23% so they are on track to pay themselves record bonuses again ;  )

“Investigations are deepening into the potential involvement of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. employees in the high-profile Galleon Group insider-trading ring.

U.S. prosecutors and securities regulators are investigating whether a senior Goldman investment banker gave Galleon hedge-fund traders advance word of pending health-care deals, according to people familiar with the matter. The banker, whom the people identified as Matthew Korenberg, is a San Francisco-based managing director for Goldman, a senior post.

Among the merger deals being scrutinized by Los Angeles federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission is the 2009 acquisition by Abbott Laboratories of Advanced Medical Optics, a Santa… ” – WSJ


The case against Lehman Brothers

This week, Steve Kroft investigates the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which triggered a chain reaction that produced the worst financial crisis and economic downturn in 70 years.  It’s his latest report in 5 years of coverage that began in the summer of 2007, more than a year before the US financial collapse.

“I think that we knew it was gonna get pretty big,” Kroft says now, looking back on his early reporting. “I’m not quite sure we knew that Lehman Brothers was gonna go bankrupt. But we knew that Wall Street was in for a very rough ride.”

60 Minutes Video on Lehman HERE

Wall Street wrongdoing: Why no prosecutions?

By 2011, Steve Kroft and his producers began to shift their reporting focus on the Wall Street collapse to accountability.  “Everybody believed that a lot of heads roll, that some people were probably going to go to jail. That certainly hasn’t happened.”  Four years down the road, why haven’t U.S. enforcement agencies tried to prosecute any high-level Wall Street executives?

Kroft and producer James Jacoby began their search for answers last year with this two-part story looking at Countrywide Financial (part 1) and Citigroup (part 2).  “Prosecuting Wall Street” aired in December 2011. As of April, no charges have been filed.

60 Minutes Video on Prosecutions HERE 

Autopsy report on the economic collapse

How did it happen?  That was the question many of us were asking by 2010, when the country was examining the debris of the 2008 financial collapse.  In what Steve Kroft calls an autopsy report on the crisis, this story is a sit-down with Michael Lewis, Wall Street wonderboy-turned-writer, who had published his analysis of the meltdown in “The Big Short.”

“I’m afraid that our culture will come to the conclusion, because it’s always the easy conclusion, that everybody was just a bunch of criminals,” Lewis told Kroft. “I think the story is much more interesting than that. I think it’s a story of mass delusion.”

60 Minutes Video of economic collapse HERE

Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going in the country leveled off in April at 24%, slightly lower than March’s 26%. Satisfaction remains higher than in any month in 2011 except May, and substantially higher than the recent low point last summer of 11%

1999-2012 trend: In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?

Although the latest satisfaction rating of 24%, measured in Gallup’s April 9-12 survey, is two percentage points lower than March’s 26%, it reflects a generally more positive public than was the case for most of last year. Americans’ satisfaction now is also exactly where it was in January 2008, just as the full impact of the recession began to hit home to Americans.

The all-time low point for satisfaction in Gallup’s history is 7% in October 2008. Satisfaction rose into the 30% range after Barack Obama’s inauguration as president in early 2009, and then over time dropped to 11% in August and September of last year.

From a longer-term perspective, Americans’ satisfaction reached its all-time high of 71% in February 1999, toward the end of the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, and hit 70% in December 2001, part of the rally effect that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the introduction of U.S. troops into Afghanistan. Satisfaction gradually drifted downward from that point until 2008, with occasional upward surges such as accompanied the capture of Saddam Hussein in late 2003.

Economy Remains Americans’ Top Concern

As has been the case in recent months, a little more than three in 10 Americans (32%) say the “economy” is the most important problem facing the country, followed closely by unemployment/jobs (25%).

The percentage of Americans mentioning gas or fuel prices is at 8% in April, up only one point from March, thus suggesting no dramatic upsurge in public concern about gas prices, at least as measured by this metric. Americans also were slightly more likely to mention healthcare issues (9%) this month than last (5%), perhaps reflecting the news focus on the Supreme Court’s late March review of the constitutionality of elements of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The top non-economic concern Americans mention is dissatisfaction with Congress and government (12%).

What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today? February-April 2012 results

In general, Americans are significantly more likely to mention economic concerns than non-economic concerns in response to the “most important problem” question — as they have been consistently for the past two years.


FitBit Ultra

Want to shed a few pounds and get a better night’s sleep? Look no further than the Fitbit Ultra ($99.95). The tiny Fitbit device fits on your belt and tracks every step you take, every stair you climb, every chair you sit in, total calories burned, and even studies how often you toss and turn while sleeping. In all, it’s the best fitness tracking device we’ve tested.


Thinking about strapping a color-screened gadget to your wrist in an effort to look even geekier? Why not give the Pebble ($115 and up) a shot instead.  Developed by the same minds behind the inPulse smartwatch for Blackberry, the Pebble is an ePaper smartwatch for iOS and Android that connects to your handset via Bluetooth, offering wrist-based notifications like caller ID, email, calendar alerts, and Facebook and Twitter messages, the ability to function as a music controller, workout computer, and golf rangefinder, and, of course, a variety of sexy watchfaces for plain ol’ time-telling. On Kickstarter now, with shipments to begin in September.

Garmin Approach S3

We’ve seen several GPS-enabled golfing assistants, but the trouble with those is often simply remembering to bring them along. The Garmin Approach S3 ($350) alleviates this problem by taking the form of a touchscreen GPS watch, giving you handy access to data for over 27,000 courses worldwide — including distances to doglegs, layup points, and pins — a rugged, waterproof body, and a “digital caddy” to keep track of your strokes.

Paper (iPad app)

Another day, another revolutionary iPad app. Paper (Free with $8 add-on) is an absolutely beautiful app for creating anything you would normally do on real paper — you know, stuff like storyboarding your indie film, general note taking, sketching a nude model, or painting a watercolor landscape of the prison yard.


NO, THEY CAN’T! Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed (NEW BOOK BY JOHN STOSSEL)

Politicians say “Yes, we can!” and claim they solve our problems.

When the mortgage market crashed, the President said their new law, Dodd-Frank, would create a “new financial system” so such things would never happen again.

After 9/11, Senator Tom Daschle declared “you can’t professionalize if you don’t federalize!” The Senate voted 100-0 to create the TSA to run airport security.

Politicians’ promises are endless. They say they’ll: create jobs, “make college affordable for all,” protect the disabled, give disadvantaged kids a head start, and invest in “cutting edge innovation.”

But they can’t achieve what they promise.

•Billionaire Mark Cuban and other job-creators explain why government’s rules now prevent the job creation that was once America’s hallmark.

•Dodd-Frank, instead of stopping fraud, added layers to already incomprehensible banking laws. Stossel shows how simple rules in the Cayman Islands not only stop fraud, but they also create prosperity.

•While the TSA creates long lines, misses actual terrorists, and angers passengers, screeners working for a private company at one big airport work faster, more cheerfully, and find more contraband. We show how the private company does it.

•Did you know that the U of Missouri is proud to have a “leisure resort” on campus? Naomi Riley, author of The Faculty Lounges: And Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Pay For, explains how government aid led to massive tuition hikes.

•Since the Americans with Disabilities Act took effect, fewer disabled people have been able to work.

•Lisa Snell from the Reason Foundation explains how the government’s own research found that Head Start did not help poor kids. Government’s response? Spend even more.

Government grows, despite its repeated failure.

Politicians are wrong when they say “Yes, we can”, but the fact that government can’t doesn’t mean that we can’t. Free people accomplish wonderful things. While government wastes billions on boondoggles like Solyndra, X-prize founder Peter Diamandis explains how private investors have created cars that get 100mpg, space ships, and much faster ways to clean up oil spills, all without charging taxpayers a penny.

Without big government, life can be great.


Eh, what does Jack Welch know about leadership, anyway?  He’s only the most widely respected CEO of the last twenty years or so and the founder of a school that develops leaders in the business world, plus the author of a book or two on the subject.  Former GE chief Jack Welch unloaded on Barack Obama yesterday for his chronic lack of leadership, manifest mainly through the ever-expanding universe of scapegoats that Obama cites for the failures of his economic policies.  Welch thinks that Obama has become positively Nixonian — or maybe worse (via Instapundit):

President Obama’s “divide-and-conquer” approach isn’t what great leaders doJack Welch said Thursday. …

“It was the insurance executives in health care. It was the bankers in the collapse. It was the oil companies as oil prices go up. It was Congress if things didn’t go the way he wanted. And recently it’s been the Supreme Court,” he said.

“He’s got an enemies list that would make Richard Nixon proud.”

Welch, who helmed GE for 21 years and founded the Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University, penned an op-ed article for Reuters with wife Suzy Welch this week in which he tackled the idea ofObama’s enemies list.

“Surely his supporters must think this particular tactic is effective, but there can be no denying that the country is more polarized than when Obama took office,” Welch wrote, making a case for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

In his Reuters column, Welch writes, “Over the past three years, Obama has taken a sort of divide-and-conquer approach, amassing a list of enemies that would make Richard Nixon proud – bankers, healthcare insurance providers, oil companies, wealthy taxpayers, Congress and, most recently, the Supreme Court. Surely his supporters must think this particular tactic is effective, but there can be no denying that the country is more polarized than when Obama took office.

Without doubt, Romney is not the model leader (his apparent lack of authenticity can be jarring), but he has a quality that would serve him well as president – good old American pragmatism. Perhaps that’s the businessman in him. Or perhaps you just learn to do what you’ve got to do when you’re a GOP governor in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts or the man charged with salvaging the scandal-ridden Salt Lake City Olympics. If Romney’s long record suggests anything, it’s that he knows how to manage people and organizations to get things accomplished without a lot of internecine warfare.

Look, Obama may be a great campaigner and Romney (to date) somewhat the opposite. But neither man is running to be Campaigner-in-Chief.

In politics, as in business, the leader’s job needs to be filled by a leader, and no effective leader, regardless of ideology, keeps an enemies list.”