Thursday, January 17, 2008

DHS releases REAL ID Regulation

Last week, DHS announced a final rule establishing minimum standards for state-issued drivers’ licenses and identification cards. For more specific information please refer to the press release.

As a security professional it does baffle me a bit that we have not come closer to a national ID card by now (veiled attempts to force everyone to obtain a passport aside). I am a States rights advocate, and a national ID card (or national drivers’ license format) would go a long way to curbing fraud and misrepresentation without impinging on our fundamental federalist beliefs. At this point in history, it is acceptable for the federal government to set formatting guidelines as to the look, feel, and content of such a card. Input can be gathered from the states and of course, distribution and validation must be done at the state level, but a set of standards has been long overdue.

Politics of Pandering

With the primary season in full swing, states holding early contests are seeing their fair share of pandering from the candidates this year. Mitt Romney, the native-born son of Michigan pulled out a huge win in the GOP primary this week after blasting the state with millions of dollars of targeted ads and far-reaching promises, which included pledges to rebuild the auto-industry... [from the Whitehouse].

President Romney plans to hold round-table meetings (within his first 100 days, mind you) with all relevant parties to intervene on behalf of GM and Ford, bringing together labor and management. I guess since the Dems weren’t contesting the state, someone had to use the John Edwards playbook. It’s nice to know that a top priority of the Republican candidate would be to intervene on behalf of the “free-market” to stop 40-year economic trends within his first 100 days. Good thing there is nothing else pressing in 2009.

As over-the-top as the Romney speeches may have been (and they worked, mind you) John Edwards wasn’t to be out-foxed when it comes to populist pandering. In a debate Tuesday night in Nevada (home of Yucca Mountain), Edwards said, “absolutely no [to nuclear power]”. Forget that nuclear power is an absolutely necessary component for energy independence. What matters is that anti-nuclear sentiment goes a long way in a state where the only nuclear waste facility in the US is located.

Of course Michigan and Nevada don’t hold a candle to the pandering that happens every 4 years in Iowa. Iowanians are fortunate enough to have administration after administration fawn over their ethanol production as the fuel source to save our county. Food supply be damned, we will make ethanol the gasoline of tomorrow (even it does cost twice as much). Because Iowa is the first caucus and candidates need momentum right away.

Seriously, in the internet age, I hope we can “start” holding politicians accountable, or at least stop giving them our votes based on blatant attempts to buy us off. At some point, we need to look at records of candidates and base our judgment on the merit of their own statements. I know this may sound preachy, but do we really need a luxury car salesman as President, or can we (at least once a generation), ask for a leader with conviction and (dare I say it) honesty?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Mortgage-Relief Reaction

Left-leaning economic populists will deride President Bush’s Mortgage-Relief plan as not going far enough to “right” the mortgage crises. Free-market supply-siders will react to the relief plan as a bailout for the financially reckless. How this will play out during the election year is already quite clear, good versus evil. Democrats will undoubtedly say that the plan illustrates republican greed, by being too restrictive on helping those in need. Meanwhile, Republicans will comeback with arguments of fiscal responsibility against poor risk decisions.

However, I feel the real point, the theory and end-result of economic fallout will be ignored. The free-market system (when left alone) will correct itself as it has here and that in-and-of itself is fundamental to the success of free-market economies. The price of risk leads to prudence and calculated investments. If bailouts become the norm (as in socialist-leaning Europe) the economy and investment market becomes unstable as Smith’s Invisible Hand is replaced by State intervention.

Its not an argument of teaching lessons to risk takers, but rather allowing the market to evolve without regulation and intervention by short-term economic policies.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Small Business - Redefined?

The National Venture Capital Association is backing a bill, passed by the House in September, that redefines the parameters of small businesses and thus their eligibility for grants and federal funding. Under the House version, ownership groups such as those associated with the NVCA would have more ability to go after federal funding programs via majority-owned small business affiliates. Currently, businesses owned primarily by VC firms are not classified as "Small" and thus are excluded from these contracts.

There is a Senate version of this legislation which leaves out the language entitling VC firms to "flood" the market for federal funding. Groups like the American Small Business League and the NFIB are opposed to the House version, but it seems the Senate version may pass, leaving it up to conference to decide the difference.

If it does clear the Senate, the conference committee will have to keep in mind that President Bush has voiced his opinion against the House version and would do well to curb the influence of the VC lobbyists in this process or face the veto pen in 2008.

When should we believe Intelligence Reports?

I don't know about you, but when I hear that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is commending our intelligence reports, I begin to feel a bit queasy.

I hope that the recent reports on the Iranian nuclear program are accurate, but of course we all are a bit skeptical in the wake of the WMD debacle. The report says Iran stopped all signs of its covert nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Two things strike me about this report. First, 2003 is an interesting time. Could there be a Libya-effect going on in Iran? Did the Iraq invasion send the same message to Iran as it did to Muammar al-Gaddafi, that the US is serious under a Bush adminstration about its claims to follow through on promises against nuclear proliferation. And if so, isn't that tantamount to an admission, at least on some level, to effective foreign policy from the Bush White House?

Second, isn't the meaning of "covert" programs that they are ideally hidden from foreign intelligence and subsequently their reports? Could Iran be learning from the Soviets and actually creating a subterfuge to win international support while at the same time still developing those arms, which if discovered would encourage international sanctions?

We as a nation may have our doubts about "intelligence reports," but I certainly have my doubts about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and anything he claims as a victory.

Article worth a read

If you're looking for an insightful view into management practices as they relate to business risk and national economic policy with the backdrop of the sub-prime crunch and $100-a-barrel oil, then take a look at this month's issue of Fortune Magazine. Fortune's Nina Easton provides an insightful look into our current administration's economic policy with an exclusive interview with Vice-President Dick Cheney.

The former Haliburton CEO and current Veep provides insight into the government's role on bailouts for risk-taking lenders and consumers, as well as thoughts on national risk-aversion policies for preventing an oil shortage.