The White House and the Media continue to misrepresent the deficit controversy. They say that we must raise the debt ceiling or very bad things will occur. But they have it backwards. Raising the debt ceiling at a time when we are spending way more than we can afford is irresponsible. It can only lead to even worse consequences down the road.
A family budget analogy is useful here. Imagine a family with a modest income goes on a spending spree using credit cards. The cards have all reached their spending limits. The family is able to pay the monthly interest on the cards and other living expenses. But the family wants to continue its spending spree. So it demands that the credit card companies increase the cards' spending limits. And not to worry, the family promises it will get its spending under control later.
There are two key questions here. The first is whether a family budget is a reasonable analogy to a government budget. The second is whether it is reasonable to trade an immediate increase in the debt limit for a promise of future spending reductions.
Some economists insist that a large federal budget deficit is not necessarily bad. In fact, my Economics 101 professor, the late Robert Eisner, was among the most vocal proponents of large federal budget deficits (though with some caveats). According to his theory, the analogy doesn't work because unlike an individual family the federal government can stimulate the nation's economy through targeted spending.
That certainly hasn't worked lately. (Has it ever?) While a federal government has more potential sources of future income than a family, it has fewer options for obtaining assistance should things go wrong. No family or government can continue to spend more than it can afford without eventually suffering the consequences. (Arguably, we already are suffering the consequences in the form of high unemployment and a complete absence of private sector growth.)
Raising the debt ceiling is like allowing an alcoholic just one more drink. Anyone can promise to change their ways mañana.
If we truly understand the dangers of a massive and growing federal deficit then we can only reach one conclusion. We must resist calls to raise the debt ceiling and start reducing our spending immediately.
An article in Today's Wall Street Journal describes how Google has been using customer reviews from other sites to beef up its Google Places service:
Google Inc. has made changes to the way its search engine displays information about local businesses, a move that follows the disclosure of a U.S. antitrust investigation of its business practices.
The company said it removed snippets of customer reviews that were taken from other Web firms for its Google "Places" service, which has millions of pages for local businesses. Google's practices have drawn fire from some of those Web companies, and is believed to be among the issues the Federal Trade Commission is investigating.
Since last year, TripAdvisor, Yelp and Citysearch—sites with local-business reviews generated by their visitors—have complained Google effectively stole their content and posted it on Google's own pages. Google Places competes with those sites and provides information on millions of restaurants, hotels and other businesses, including store hours, location and photos.
Following Thursday's change, Google Places showed a marked decline in the number of reviews listed for some businesses. For example, Keens Steakhouse in New York displayed 60 reviews Friday, compared with more than 3,000 last month.
While some rivals welcomed the change, they continued to support the antitrust investigation into Google and complained the company still gives preferential placement to Google Places over links to their sites in search results.
I don't know how to describe this as anything other than stealing. Note also the allegation that Google manipulates search results to favor Google Places. (That Google doctors what it claims to be "unbiased" search results was publicly admitted by a top Google executive quite some time ago.) You can read the rest here.
Steve Jobs said that "Don't Be Evil" is BS. But he either couldn't or wouldn't say why. Hope my Op-Ed at the American Thinker helps:
Google is once again demonstrating that it treats others in ways that it does not want to be treated. Google is requiring users of its latest social networking service, Google+, to have public profiles. Meanwhile, top Google executives are taking advantage of a hidden Google+ feature to enjoy greater privacy.
Google wants Google+ users to disclose the number and identities of their friends. But top Google executives are hiding the very same information. Technology writer Ed Bott learned how when he visited socialstatistics.com, a website that tracks thousands of Google+ users. [The site has since been modified.] Bott observed that four of the top ten users (ranked according to number of "followers") were Googlers. He also noticed something different about them: each displayed a "0" in the "friends" column. Exploring Google+'s user interface, Bott discovered what he describes as a "useful but hard-to-find privacy feature that is disabled by default." He found that clicking on an unlabeled icon opens a dialog box and unchecking one of the settings makes information about your friends private.
In theory, any Google+ user can hide the number and identities of their friends. But Google+'s designers went out of their way to discourage most users from doing this. As the world's biggest data-mining operation, Google knows more about user behavior than anyone else. Most users presume the default settings are best and won't try to change them. Still, other users might be curious, so Google hid the dialog box behind an unlabeled icon. Those users who do manage to find it would have to uncheck a box; Google knows that some users would never think to do that while others would worry about unintended consequences. In the end, only insiders and power users get privacy.
Unfortunately, this isn't an isolated case: Google routinely treats others in ways that Google does not want to be treated. Google advocates open systems -- particularly in markets Google does not control. But Google's search engine and ad auctions are closed systems. Google claims that it cares about users' privacy. But Google's previous social networking service, Google Buzz, outraged users by publicly disclosing their Gmail contacts. And Google's Street View cars eavesdropped on users' wireless networks. Google tells users they should accept the loss of privacy as a modern fact of life while Google zealously guards its search, ad auction, and infrastructure secrets.
How does Google get away with treating others in ways that Google does not want to be treated? Google's founders crafted a brilliant public relations strategy (pretending all the while that they don't engage in PR). They insist that Google isn't in business to make money but to make the world a better place. And they said, "You can make money without doing evil." These claims were used to convince people that Google is the world's most ethical company. And it worked: Google has gained the trust of one billion users.
To wit, Google gets away with violating the Golden Rule by claiming it has invented something better. By touting its "Don't Be Evil" motto, Google brushes aside a principle that has been universally recognized as the single best guide to ethical behavior for well over two millennia.
It's hard to argue with Google's "Don't Be Evil" motto; everyone agrees that companies should not be evil. However, as a guide to ethical behavior "Don't Be Evil" is seriously flawed. In fact, it may be the lowest business ethics standard ever devised. Most people think of evil as the worst extreme on the ethical continuum. Evil is what we fear most. When asked for an example of a truly evil person, most people will think of someone such as Adolph Hitler or Osama bin Laden. It goes without saying that businesses should not be evil.
Most unethical business practices fall short of evil. Lying and cheating are wrong, but few people would consider someone who makes false claims on a job application to be evil. By promising not to be evil, Google leaves room for infringing copyrights, falsely claiming that its search engine is unbiased, and misrepresenting the purpose of its free products and services.
"Don't Be Evil" is a clever slogan that skips right past the kinds of ethical decisions businesses must make every day. If Google's leaders agreed to being treated the way they treat others, then rest assured that they would be more respectful of others. The Golden Rule is still the best guide to proper behavior. It's time for Google to admit what ethical people have known since antiquity.
Ira Brodsky is co-author with Scott Cleland of the new book Search & Destroy: Why You Can't Trust Google Inc.Visit www.SearchAndDestroyBook.com.
I am amazed at how willing some people are to totally ditch their privacy for "more relevant ads." I'm willing to give up a little privacy for more relevant ads in specific areas. But forfeiting all privacy means forfeiting safety, individuality, and even free expression. And always receiving "more relevant ads" is like donning blinders.
I confess that during the 1990s I was leery of privacy activists. At that time the issue was whether individual websites should be allowed to recognize returning users and track how they used their sites. It struck me as counterproductive to prevent websites from leveraging personalization technology. Plus, privacy activists seemed to be calling for government intervention in a market offering consumers more and more choices.
However, things have changed. With retail and wholesale search, embedded YouTube videos, and Google Analytics—to name just a few—Google can track you almost everywhere you go on the Web. I don't mind being recognized by Amazon.com and being presented book recommendations. But I don't want to be tracked everywhere and at all times. Nor do I only want to see ads that reinforce my existing interests and likes. (Advertising is a great way to spur new interests.)
I've learned that privacy is important. Without privacy, you can’t be who you want, because you are forced to reveal everything. Without privacy, there’s little opportunity for independent thought or dissent, because your ideas are immediately subjected to public scrutiny. Without privacy, there can be no human dignity, because others can barge in on you whenever they like.
Here's the kicker: You cannot establish and maintain your personal identity without privacy. Your account numbers, user IDs, passwords, and phone numbers are your private property. Keeping that information confidential is not only legitimate, it’s necessary for your safety.
I also reject Eric Schmidt's creepy argument: “If you're online all the time, computers are generating a lot of information about you. This is not a Google decision, this is a societal decision.” The fact that a decision is a "societal decision" does not make it right.