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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Record Drop In Home Price Index

The S&P Case-Shiller 20-city index sets marks for monthly and annual declines, as fall extends to 30th straight month.

By Les Christie
CNN Money
March 31, 2009

Housing prices in 20 major cities fell at record monthly and annual levels in January, according to a private report issued Tuesday, with prices down 2.8% from December and 19% from a year earlier.

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index, a comparison of price changes recorded when homes are resold, is considered to be one of the most accurate gauges of market trends available. Its 20-city index has been down for 30 straight months.

Month-over-month home prices fell in all 20 markets during January and are now at late 2003 levels.

“There are very few bright spots that one can see in the data,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard and Poor’s. “Most of the nation appears to remain on a downward path, with all of the 20 metro areas reporting annual declines, and nine of the MSAs (metropolitan statistical areas) falling more than 20% in the last year.”

All told, prices have plunged 29.1% nationally since they peaked during the second quarter of 2006, according to Case-Shiller.

Individual metro areas have fared far worse. In Phoenix, home prices have fallen 35% year-over-year, while Las Vegas has been down 32.5%, San Francisco has been down 32.4% and Miami has fallen 29.4%.

Phoenix has lost 48.5% from its peak, the most of any metro area. Other big losses were absorbed by: Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix, San Francisco and San Diego; each has seen home prices decline more than 40% from their peaks.

All 20 index cities were in negative territory, with Dallas being the least affected at a loss of 4.9%. Others in single-digit losses were: Denver at 5.1%, and Cleveland at 5.2%.

The latest report confirms anecdotal information that has been streaming in from around the nation, according to Mike Larson, a real estate analyst with Weiss Research.

“The pace of decline has picked up recently,” he said. “Arguably, that’s just what we need to drive up sales activity and reduce inventory.”

The nation is grappling with historically high foreclosure rates, which add to inventories of homes for sale and drive down prices. In many markets, a large percentage of the homes changing hands are what’s known as “distressed properties,” meaning they are either bank repossessions or short sales, deals in which owners sell their homes for less than what they owe on their mortgages.

Much of the sales traffic is in foreclosure inventory, which may be skewing price statistics downward because distressed properties are often in poor condition.

But Larson does not expect home prices to improve anytime soon as job losses mount. “The biggest risk going forward is the health of the overall economy,” he said.

There has been a string of positive housing market reports over the past few weeks, pointed out Pat Newport, an analyst with IHS Global Insight. New home sales are rebounding, existing home sales are rising and low interest rates are sending mortgage applications up.

“Those reports are not reflected in the January Case-Shiller report,” he said. They won’t be until at least the February statistics and even the March statistics come out.

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Posted by Elvis on 03/31/09 •
Section Dying America
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IBM Seeks Patents For Offshoring US Jobs

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IBM patent application diagrams method for offshoring employees

By Paul Boutin
The Industry Standard
March 30, 2009

The world’s largest IT services company is attempting to boost its creative cost-cutting techniques with a patent application—number 20090083107 at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office—for a “method and system for strategic global resource sourcing.” (Yes, “resource sourcing.") In short, IBM wants to patent its math for deciding where to offshore staff.

A patented methodology for deciding where to send jobs overseas to cut costs would be a valuable tool that IBM could sell to its corporate clients. But IBM has plenty of opportunity to eat its own dog food: The company continues to slash its own payroll, starting with 4,600 cuts earlier this year and continuing with a HUGE LAYOFF within its 180,000-employee global business services group leaked to the Wall Street Journal last week.

Project Match, an IBM offshoring initiative the Standard reported on last month, offers U.S. employees the chance to stay with IBM by RELOCATING TO ANOTHER COUNTRY, to work in an IBM regional division at local wage rates. IBM has roughly 400,000 employees in 170 countries. As of early February, fewer than ten employees had shown interest in the program.

To be honest, I can’t quite follow the application’s dense language describing how the system works and what’s uniquely special about it. But Figure 2 from the paperwork gives a pretty good idea of what’s involved.

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IBM Seeks Patents For Offshoring US Jobs

By kdawson
Slashdot
September 29, 2007

IBM and other corporations are seeking patents for inventions covering the offshoring of US jobs.

The USPTO is considering IBM’s patent application for OUTSOURCING OF SERVICES, a ‘method for identifying human-resource work content to outsource offshore of an organization’ to ‘countries where cheaper labor prices and/or cheaper materials are available.’ Then there’s Big Blue’s ELECTRONIC MARKETPLACE FOR IDENTIFYING, ASSESSING, RESERVING AND ENGAGING KNOWLEDGE-WORKERS FOR AN ASSIGNMENT USING TRADE-OFF ANALYSIS, which provides a HANDY-DANDY IBM CALCULATOR that drives home the point that you’ll pay less for IGS India workers, whether onshore or offshore. And with its SYSTEM AND METHOD OF USING SPEECH RECOGNITION AT CALL CENTERS TO IMPROVE THEIR EFFICIENCY AND CUSTOMER SATISFACTION, IBM describes how to operate in ‘low cost foreign countries’ with ‘support people not having good English language skills, or having an accent that makes it difficult to understand them’ by exploiting technology DEVELOPED FOR STUDENTS WHO ARE DEAF OR HARD OF HEARING, as well as other ACCENT REDUCTION techniques.

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Posted by Elvis on 03/31/09 •
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Monday, March 30, 2009

The Mother of All Privacy Battles Part 15 - US Web-Privacy Bill Coming

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Surreptitiously tracking individual users’ Internet activity cuts to the heart of consumer privacy, “Embarqs apparent use of this technology without directly notifying affected customers that their activity was being tracked, collected and analyzed raises serious privacy red flags.”
- Rep. Edward Markey

Boucher-Backed Measure Would Seek Opt-In, Opt-Out Provisions

By John Eggerton
Multichannel
March 30, 2009

Top House and Senate Democrats are working on legislation that would prevent online marketers from sharing Web-surfing information unless Internet users allowed them to.

Thats according to House Communications, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee chairman Rick Boucher (D.-Va.), who told Multichannel News that such a bill was in the works and was one of his top legislative priorities.

The issue of online behavioral marketing has gained traction recently, spurred by privacy concerns and by media companies need to find new ways for advertisers to reach aggregated audiences at a time of fragmented viewing and multiplying delivery platforms.

Boucher’s predecessor atop the committee, REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D-Mass.), held a hearing last fall on the issue and helped quash a test by ad-tracking company NEBUAD and cable operator CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS.

In an interview, Boucher said he was teaming with Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), ranking member of his subcommittee, and Joe Barton (R-Texas), ranking full committee member, on a bill that would apply across the board to behavioral advertising and data collection by Web sites.

“The goal would be to give the Internet user a sense that information about him that is collected by Web sites is well understood by the user, so he has an opportunity to know what is collected,” Boucher said. “He would then have an opportunity to act in a way that prevents that Web site using that information to market him personally, and an even broader opportunity to prevent the transfer of that information about him to third parties.”

Boucher envisions a combination of opt-in and opt-out requirements.

“Opt-in would apply where the information is conveyed to third parties,” he said, “while opt out would apply where the Web site that collects the information is using that information directly to market the customers from whom it is collected.”

Center for Digital Democracy executive director Jeff Chester was pleased at the news. He has long advocated more government regulation of targeted behavioral marketing, including requiring an opt-in model that protects privacy.

“Chairman Boucher clearly understands the need for Congress to protect the privacy of U.S. consumers,” Chester said. “If consumers had known a few years ago that their information was being collected surreptitiously online so they could be behaviorally targeted for high-priced mortgages and loans, some of the current financial crisis might have been avoided.”

Chester suggested Boucher is not going far enough, though.

“We are calling on Chairman Boucher to ensure that all Web sites offer consumers opt-in - not just the ones that send the data to third parties,” Chester said. “Every Web site should be required to respect the privacy of consumers. Giving first-party sites an opt-out-only rule is a copout. Chairman Boucher needs to ensure his bill also truly protects consumers by requiring Web sites to explain when the interactive advertising has been created to work in a stealth-like manner.”

Adonis Hoffman, senior vice president and counsel to the American Association of Advertising Agencies, said he doesn’t think legislation is needed.

“There is probably an effective way to balance two seemingly competing interests without legislation,” he said. “What about a framework that empowers consumers to protect their data on the one hand, yet allows marketers to advertise based on what is relevant and of interest to that consumer, on the other hand - all underpinning free content online? This cant be far away, and is probably on the launching pad as we speak.”

Hoffman said marketers already have an incentive to get it right without legislation or regulation. “I suspect that is the intent of the [Federal Trade Commission] guidelines for self-regulation in this area, which the industry is taking quite seriously.”

The FTC last month released a report that revises and extends guidelines for online marketing and privacy protection it issued for public comment in December 2007. It urged the industry to voluntarily adopt an opt-in model for releasing sensitive information, including on finance, kids, and health.

Jon Leibowitz, an FTC commissioner and President Obamas pick as the next chairman, warned that adopting these voluntary guidelines could be the only alternative to government intervention.

“Industry needs to do a better job of meaningful, rigorous SELF-REGULATION, or it will certainly invite legislation by Congress and a more regulatory approach by our commission,” Leibowitz said. “Put simply, this could be the last clear chance to show that self-regulation can and will- effectively protect consumers privacy in a dynamic online marketplace.”

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Posted by Elvis on 03/30/09 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy
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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dawn Of A New America

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Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
- Isaiah 1:2

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.
- Revelations 22:18-20

If you want to feel encouraged about our economic near future not this damned decade but the one to come - ignore the stock traders and go talk to some venture capitalists. They aren’t quite giddy (after the ‘80s and ‘90s and ‘00s, beware all giddiness), but they are optimistic about an imminent tide of innovations in technology, energy and transportation. Recall, please, the national mood in the mid-’70s: after the 1960s party, we found ourselves in a slough of despondency, with an oil crisis, a terrible recession, a kind of Weimarish embrace of decadence, national malaise and at that very dispirited moment, Microsoft and Apple were founded. The next transformative, moneymaking technologies and businesses are no doubt coming soon to a garage near you.
- Kurt Andersen

The End of Excess. Is This Crisis Good for America?

By Kurt Andersen
Time
March 29, 2009

DON’T PRETEND we didn’t see this coming for a long, long time.

In the early 1980s, around the time Ronald Reagan became President and Wall Street’s great modern bull market began, we started gambling (and winning!) and thinking magically. From 1980 to 2007, the median price of a new American home quadrupled. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed from 803 in the summer of 1982 to 14,165 in the fall of 2007. From the beginning of the ‘80s through 2007, the share of disposable income that each household spent servicing its mortgage and consumer debt increased 35%. Back in 1982, the average household saved 11% of its disposable income. By 2007 that number was less than 1%. (See TIME’s TOP 25 PEOPLE TO BLAME for the financial crisis.)

The same zeitgeist made gambling ubiquitous: until the late ‘80s, only Nevada and New Jersey had casinos, but now 12 states do, and 48 have some form of legalized betting. It’s as if we decided that Mardi Gras and Christmas are so much fun, we ought to make them a year-round way of life. And we started living large literally as well as figuratively. From the beginning to the end of the long boom, the size of the average new house increased by about half. Meanwhile, the average American gained about a pound a year, so that an adult of a given age is now at least 20 lb. heavier than someone the same age back then. In the late ‘70s, 15% of Americans were obese; now a third are. (Read WHAT’S THE BEST DIET? Eating Less Food.)

We saw what was happening for years, for decades, but we ignored it or shrugged it off, preferring to imagine that we weren’t really headed over the falls. The U.S. auto industry has been in deep trouble for more than a quarter-century. The median household income has been steadily declining this century ... but, but, but our houses and our 401(k)s were ballooning in value, right? Even smart, proudly rational people engaged in magical thinking, acting as if the new power of the Internet and its New Economy would miraculously make everything copacetic again. We all clapped our hands and believed in fairies.

The popular culture tried to warn us. For 20 years, we’ve had Homer Simpson’s spot-on caricature of the quintessential American: CHILDISH, IRRESPONSIBLE, WILLFULLY OBLIVIOUS, FAT AND HAPPY. And more recently we winced at the ultra-Homerized former earthlings of WALL-E.

We knew, in our heart of hearts, that something had to give. Remember when each decade, not long after it finished, assumed a distinct character? We all knew and know what “the ‘50s” mean, and they definitively ended with the Pill, J.F.K.’s assassination and the Beatles just as “the ‘60s” ended when Americans got tired of being alarmed and hectored, and “the ‘70s” ended when stimulants became more popular than depressants and AIDS appeared. But in all salient respects, “the ‘80s” - Reaganism’s reshaping of the political economy, the thrall of the PC, the vertiginous rise in the stock market did not end.

The ‘80s spirit endured through the ‘90s and the 2000s, all the way until the fall of 2008, like an awesome winning streak in Vegas that went on and on and on. American-style capitalism triumphed, and thanks to FedEx and the Web, delayed gratification itself came to seem quaint and unnecessary. So what if every year since the turn of the century the U.S. economy grew more slowly than the global economy? Stuff at Wal-Mart and Costco and money itself stayed supercheap! Even 9/11, which supposedly “changed everything,” and the resulting Iraqi debacle came to seem like mere bumps in the road. Even if deep down everyone knew that the spiral of overleveraging and overspending and the prices of stocks and houses were unsustainable, no one wanted to be a buzz kill.

But now everything really has changed. More than a year into the Great Recession, we still aren’t sure if there’s a bottom in sight, and six months after the financial system began imploding, it’s still iffy. The party is finally, definitely over. And the present decade, which we’ve never even agreed what to call - the 2000s? the aughts?  has acquired its permanent character as a historical pivot defined by the nightmares of 9/11 and the Panic of 2008-09. Those of us old enough to remember life before the 26-year-long spree began will probably spend the rest of our lives dealing with its CONSEQUENCES - in economics, foreign policy, culture, politics, the WARP and woof of our daily lives. During the ‘80s and ‘90s, we were Wile E. Coyote racing heedlessly across the endless American landscape at maximum speed and then spent the beginning of the 21st century suspended in midair just past the end of the cliff; gravity reasserted itself, and we plummeted.

In the Road Runner cartoons, after each fall, the coyote is broken and battered but never dies. America isn’t going to expire either. But unlike him, we will be chastened and begin behaving more wisely. For years, enthusiasts for UNFETTERED CAPITALISM have insisted that the withering away of enterprises and entire industries is a healthy and necessary part of a vibrant, self-correcting economic system; now, more than at any time since Joseph Schumpeter popularized the idea of creative destruction in 1942, we must endure the shocking and awesome pain of that metamorphosis. After decades of talking the talk, now we’re all obliged to WALK THE WALK.

We cannot just hunker down, cross our fingers, hysterically pinch our pennies, wait for the crises to pass, blame the bankers and then go back to business as usual. All that conventional wisdom about 2008 being a “change” year? We had no idea. Recently Rush Limbaugh appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, panicking not so much about the economy but about how the political winds are blowing as a result. If we finally manage to achieve something like universal health care, Limbaugh warned, it would mean “the end of America as we know it.” He’s right, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This is the end of the world as we’ve known it. But it isn’t the end of the world.

Yin and Yang

You know the story of the ant and the grasshopper? The ant is disciplined, the grasshopper parties as if the good times will last forever and then winter descends. Americans are, bless us, energetic grasshoppers as well as energetic ants, a sui generis crossbreed, which is why we’ve been so successful as a nation. Our moxie comes in two basic types. We possess the Yankee virtues embodied by the founders: sobriety, hard work, practical ingenuity, common sense, fair play. And then there’s our wilder, faster and looser side, that packet of attributes that makes us American instead of Canadian: impatient, hell-bent, self-invented gamblers, with a weakness for blue smoke and mirrors. A certain fired-up imprudence was present from the beginning, but it required a couple of centuries for the most extravagant version of the American Dream to take hold: starting with the California Gold Rush in 1849 ח riches for the plucking, with no adult supervision we have been repeatedly wont to abandon prudence and the tedium of saving and building in favor of the fantastic idea that anybody, given enough luck and liberty, can make a fortune overnight.

It’s time to ratchet back our wild and crazy grasshopper side and get in touch with our inner ant, to be more artisan-enterpriser and less prospector-speculator, more heroic Greatest Generation and less self-indulgent baby boomer, to return from Oz to Kansas, to become fully reality-based again.

Just as our two-sided national character has always toggled back and forth between its steady and skylarking aspects, so does our national history run in cycles, as writers have noted almost from the beginning. And so once more we are making the periodic shift from an unfettered zeal for individual getting and spending to a rediscovery of the common good, from “the business of America is business” seeming inarguably true to sounding narrow, callous, a little crazy.

But in fact, there are two cyclic waves in American history: one for politics and the general national spirit, the other for economic growth and contraction. Think of the two wave systems as running along the same timeline but perpendicular to each other ח politics on the horizontal, weaving left to right; economics on the vertical, weaving up and down. Each affects the other, but unpredictably. A political or economic era can be as brief as 10 years or as long as a quarter-century, but the politics and economics don’t move obviously in sync. Prosperity, for instance, can reinforce the “natural” political shift toward the right, as it did after World War II and for most of the past 25 years, but it can also accelerate a turn to the left, as it did in the early 1960s. Or the social discombobulations provoked by a given zig, as with the late ‘60s, can make the zag that follows more extreme; thus the long political period we’ve just been through.

Every now and then, the drastic end of flush economic times happens to coincide with the natural end of a conservative political era. Such was the case in the 1930s coming after three straight conservative presidencies, a period of whizbang technological progress (electrification, radio, aviation) and a culture of bon temps rouler ח and such is the case now.

We’ll see soon enough how well President Barack Obama copes, but long before the collapse, he clearly sensed the nature of the historical moment. His Democratic opponents were all over him a year ago when he gave the Reagan Revolution its due, but he was exactly right: “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America ... He tapped into what people were already feeling ... [He] transformed American politics and set the agenda for a long time ... In political terms, we may be in one of those moments where we can get a seismic shift in how the country views itself and our future. And we have to take advantage of that.”

Work the Program

Given that we’ve brought on the current crises through a quarter-century of self-destructive financial excess and overdependence on debt and fossil fuels, during the same quarter-century we’ve all become familiar with a way of thinking about self-destructive excess and dependence. The vocabulary of addiction recovery could come in handy just now. We are like substance abusers coming off a long bender, hitting bottom (we can only hope) and taking the messes we’ve made as a sobering wake-up call. I’ve always thought many of the 12 Steps were superfluous, so here is a streamlined, secularized Three-Step Program for America Bubbleholics Anonymous? ח to start getting back on track:

Admit that we are powerless over addiction to easy money and cheap fossil fuel and living large that our lives had become unmanageable.

Believe that we can, individually and collectively, restore ourselves to sanity and normal living.

Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and be entirely ready to remove our defects of character.

Of course, when addicts finally quit, it feels awful for a while, and that’s where we are right now. The recession, provoked by the sudden, essentially cold-turkey abandonment of spending, lending and borrowing, is something like our national equivalent of the jitters, sweats and seizures that addicts experience right after they give up the junk. Actually, the applicable addiction trope is more like food (or sex) than drugs or booze, since as economic creatures, we can’t quit; we just have to teach ourselves to buy and borrow in moderate, healthier ways. The new America must be about financial temperance, not abstinence.

Our great national rehab won’t be easy. But it wasn’t only in olden times that Americans have coped with breathtaking flux and successfully undertaken dramatic change. In fact, we’ve just done it. During the era recently ended, we adapted to hundreds of TV channels and multiple phone companies and airlines that arise and disappear as fast as strip-mall stores. WOMEN have come close to achieving real equality; being gay has become astoundingly public and unremarkable. And speaking of shaking off addictions, half again as many of us smoked cigarettes in the early ‘80s. We watched (and helped) the Soviet Union and its European empire collapse and watched (and helped) China change from a backward, dangerous Orwellian nation into a booming, much less Orwellian member of the global order. During just the past 15 years, we’ve managed to reduce murders in New York City by two-thirds; grown accustomed to the weird transparency and instant connectedness of the new digital world; sequenced the human genome; and inaugurated a black President. That’s change.

This time around, though, in contrast to the early ‘80s, it’s much clearer from the get-go that one era has ended and a new one is about to begin. A lot of the change will be the result of collective political choices, as we clear away the wreckage, consider the bad habits and ill-advised schemes that got us here and try to refashion our economic and health-care and energy systems accordingly. But at least as much of the new America of the 2010s and beyond will be the result of transformed sensibility, changes in our understanding of what’s important and sensible and attractive, and what feels hollow or silly or nuts.

Begin Again

The reset button has been pushed. So what will be the protocols and look and feel of the America about to emerge?

Only six months ago, we thought we might be on the verge of a remarkable new era ח thanks to the possible election of Obama. It is bizarre how secondary that epochal change now seems. It’s as if Jesus had returned but just afterward extraterrestrials landed, and as a result everybody stopped paying much attention to the holy dude. But it’s also a perfectly apt and gratifying turn of events: candidate Obama positioned himself as a smart, steady character who happened to be black, and the economic emergency that helped ensure his election has pushed the fact of his race and its heavy symbolic freight into the shadows of public consciousness. Once the crises have passed, however, I think we’ll rediscover the ramifications, small and large, of the enlightened national turn we made last Nov. 4 and start enjoying the dawn of a new era of racial reconciliation.

A big reason for Obama’s election and high approval ratings is his privileging of the empirical and pragmatic ahead of ideological reflex. We have not, of course, arrived in a golden age of fair-minded, intellectually honest postpartisanship, as proved by the congressional votes on the stimulus package and the redoubled ferocity of brain-dead partisans. But a majority of Americans out in America are dialing back or turning off their ideological autopilots, thanks to the economic crises, Obama’s approach and the postזCold War realities. With the Soviet Union gone and China socialist in name only, the specter of communism is no longer haunting us, and charges of socialism have lost the political power they had for most of the past century. Rather, it’s suddenly capitalist piggishness that provokes genuine rage. When nearly half the House Republicans vote for a confiscatory 90% tax on Wall Street executives’ bonuses, the old “class warfare” lines seem moot.

We haven’t come to the end of ideology, as Daniel Bell asserted in 1960 and Francis Fukuyama restated in 1992, but the familiar polarities of right and left are losing their salience. For a while, America will be in a state of ideological flux which means we’ll be unusually free to improvise a fresh course forward. We can have universal health coverage and public schools unbound from the stultifying grip of teachers’ unions. We can tax fossil fuels so that solar and wind become more economical and commit seriously to nuclear power. We can impose sensible regulatory mechanisms and enthusiastically promote free markets and free trade. We can grow the armed forces to fight all necessary wars but also forgo pork-barrel weapons systems.

It’s not that disagreements about government intervention won’t disappear ח and we’ll continue to have true believers on the left and the right. But with the economy in uncharted territory, we’ll come to recognize that party-line adherence to old political convictions won’t provide any easy way out. Given that it was our unthinking trust in the unthinking certainty of “experts” that got us here securitized debt? credit-default swaps? uh, sure, whatever ח Americans can now revert to their ruthlessly pragmatic, commonsensical selves. Admitting that we aren’t certain exactly how to proceed is liberating, and key. Hyperbolic rants and rigid talking points, in either Limbaughian or Olbermannian flavors, now seem worse than useless, artifacts of a bumptious barroom age.

The utterly international nature of our present economic hell makes it all the scarier. But in the long run, I think we will also see an upside: the meltdown amounts to a spectacular moment of global CONSCIOUSNESS, this generation’s version of the Apollo astronauts’ iconic 1968 photograph of the earth from the moon an unforgettable reminder that all 6.7 billion of us are in this together, profoundly and inextricably interdependent. (The sublime always has a bit of terror mixed in.)

If you want to feel encouraged about our economic near future ח not this damned decade but the one to come ignore the stock traders and go talk to some venture capitalists. They aren’t quite giddy (after the ‘80s and ‘90s and ‘00s, beware all giddiness), but they are optimistic about an imminent tide of innovations in technology, energy and transportation. Recall, please, the national mood in the mid-’70s: after the 1960s party, we found ourselves in a slough of despondency, with an oil crisis, a terrible recession, a kind of Weimarish embrace of decadence, national malaise ח and at that very dispirited moment, Microsoft and Apple were founded. The next transformative, moneymaking technologies and businesses are no doubt coming soon to a garage near you.

The present chastening can’t mean turning into a nation of overcautious, unambitious scaredy-cats. This is the moment for business to think different and think big. The great dying off of quintessentially 20th century businesses presents vast opportunity for entrepreneurs. People will still need (greener) cars, still want to read quality journalism, still listen to recorded music and all the rest. And so as some of the huge, dominant, old-growth trees of our economic forest fall, the seedlings and saplings that is, the people burning to produce and sell new kinds of transportation and media in new, economic ways ח will have a clearer field in which to grow.

The ecology of business and employment at the high end has already been transformed by the Wall Street crash. The end of the boom in the financial industry means that careers manipulating money will no longer be so seductive to such a disproportionate share of our best and brightest. Among the 2007 graduates of Harvard College who went straight to work, half the kids heading to banks and consultancies said that if money weren’t an issue, they’d be embarking on different career paths, and the 20% of the class that went to work in public service, politics, the arts and publishing would instead be 39%. In the postbubble economy, plenty of smart and ambitious young people will still pursue financial careers, God bless them, but other fields will get a bigger share of the cream.

The baby boomers were historically fortunate: they missed the Great Depression and World War II, and though they grew up with the hideous ambient hum of potential nuclear Armageddon, until they reached middle age, the only great national trauma was the one the ‘60s and Vietnam ח in which they were the self-regarding stars. The so-called millennials, on the other hand, have come of age during a period defined by the digital revolution, 9/11, financial bubbles bursting, a possible depression and the election possibly their election ח of an African-American President: the makings, frankly, of a healthier, more useful generational creation myth than assassinations, antiwar protests and countercultural bacchanalia (which, by the way, enabled the risk-taking, party-hearty, quasi-utopian paradigm of the past quarter-century). In other words, the kids are all right. (Read stories from people who lived through the Great Depression.)

Whether or not Congress passes some kind of carbon-taxing scheme that ushers in a true alternative-energy era, “sustainability” is going to be shaping individual and public-policy decisions. And I don’t just mean eating locally grown foods, driving more fuel-efficient cars and using weird lightbulbs. Annual increases of 10% and 15% in real estate prices were not sustainable; endlessly lowering taxes and expanding government isn’t sustainable; Medicare and the war on drugs as currently constituted are not sustainable. Sustainability in this sense is as much old-fashioned green-eyeshade Republicanism as it is newfangled kumbaya-ish green talk, and achieving it will require partisans on both sides to face facts and make unpleasant choices.

Yes, we must start spending again, and we will. But we’ve all known people who, having survived the 1930s, never lost their Depression habits of frugality. And so it will be again. We don’t need to turn ourselves into tedious, zero-body-fat, zero-carbon-footprint ascetics, but even after the economy recovers, deciding to forgo that third car or fifth TV or imperial master bathroom or marginally cooler laptop will come more naturally.

The housing industry is comatose, yet even that has a silver lining. We have a moment to pause and reflect before we begin building again. When big-time real estate development resumes, we can move beyond the incoherent, anything-goes paradigm of the postwar era and produce more places to live along the lines of the towns and cities everyone instinctively loves, communities designed to become true communities. “The days where we’re just building sprawl forever,” Obama said in February in South Florida, “those days are over. I think that Republicans, Democrats everybody recognizes that that’s not a smart way to design communities.”

Although certain self-parodying epiphenomena of the Age of Profligacy ח so long, Paris Hilton!  are about to disappear, fun will endure. Hollywood is doing fantastic box-office business, thanks to insanely unserious movies like Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Madea Goes to Jail. The Colbert Report has been a special haven of sanity amid the sky-is-falling hysteria. And again, history is encouraging in this regard: Saturday Night Live and modern comedy were born during the malaise-y ‘70s, just as wit and humor ח the New Yorker, the Marx Brothers, screwball comedy flourished in the ‘30s. I’m even hopeful that the meltdown and resulting reset might jar the culture in deeper ways. For three decades, too much of art and design and entertainment has seemed caught in a cul-de-sac, almost compulsively reviving styles and remixing the greatest hits of the past. (Think: post-Modern architecture, pop music based on sampling, ‘60s-style shift dresses, pseudo-midcentury home dשcor.) Since we’re now finished with a 25- or 30-year-long era in both politics and economics, maybe a new cultural epoch will emerge as well. Maybe more of the next big things will be actually, thrillingly new.

Second Verse, Same as the First

Sixty-eight years ago, a founder of this magazine, Henry Luce, published an essay in LIFE celebrating a national history that had “teemed with manifold projects and magnificent purposes ... It is in this spirit that all of us are called, each to his own measure of capacity, and each in the widest horizon of his vision, to create the first great American Century.” And so we did. The question now is how far we can extend our heyday of manifold projects and magnificent purposes. Golden ages and empires do come to an end.

“History doesn’t repeat itself,” Mark Twain is supposed to have said, “but it rhymes.” Does America in 2009 rhyme with the Britain of 1909? Back then, the British were finishing a proud century as the most important nation on earth economically, politically, militarily, culturally. But the U.S. was coming on fast, having already overtaken the Brits economically. Between the beginning of World War I and the end of World War II, as America turned into the unequivocal global leader, Britain became an admirable also-ran, radically diminished as a global player. If the 21st century rhymed, China would be the new us feverish with individual and national drive, manufacturer to the world, growing like crazy, bigger and much more populous than the reigning superpower. And our next half-century would, according to the analogy, unfold like Britain’s in the first half of the 20th century, requiring a downsizing of our national ambitions and self-conception.

In fact, we surely will have to adjust the ways we think of ourselves. Still an exceptional country, absolutely, but not a magical one exempt from the laws of economic and geopolitical gravity. A nation with plenty of mojo left, sure, but in our 3rd century, informed by the wisdom of middle age a little more than the pedal-to-the-metal madness of youth.

The same goes for our individual senses of lifestyle entitlement. During the perma-’80s, way too many of us were operating, consciously or not, with a dreamy gold-rush vision of getting rich the day after tomorrow and then cruising along as members of an impossibly large leisure class. (That was always the yuppie dream: an aristocratic life achieved meritocratically.) Now that our age of self-enchantment has ended, however, each of us, gobsmacked and reality-checked by the new circumstances, is recalibrating expectations for the timing and scale of our particular version of the Good Life. Which, of course, fuels the ferocious anger at the Wall Street rich even now getting richer with subsidized eight-figure bonuses.

However, if most of our hypothetical individual futures don’t look quite so lavish, as a nation we have two not-so-secret weapons that, managed correctly and given a little luck, could allow us to remain at the top of the heap for a long time to come: technological innovation and immigration.

For our past two centuries, a key to national prosperity and power was the extraordinary physical scale of our land, our population, our natural resources. CHINA has similar advantages today, and partly because we have already been there and done that, paving the way, it has been able to develop in fast motion, cramming 100 years of development into 30. But I’m reminded of Philip Johnson’s apt, bitchy description of Frank Lloyd Wright during the forward looking 1930s “as the greatest architect of the 19th century.” Twenty-first century China is the greatest country of the 20th century. Muscular industrialism gets you only so far. Further increases in productivity and prosperity require ingenuity and enterprise applied at the micro scale digital devices and networked systems, biotechnology, subatomic nanotechnology. As China and other developing countries finally achieve the industrial plenty that we enjoyed 50 years ago, the U.S. can stay ahead once again by pioneering the NEXT-GENERATION TECHNOLIGIES that the increasingly industrialized world will require. (Read: WILL CHINA’S STOCK MARKET REBOUND BEFORE THE S&P?)

And no other nation assimilates IMMIGRANTS as successfully as the U.S. The sooner we can agree on a coherent NATIONAL POLICY TO ENCOURAGE as many as possible of the world’s smartest and most ambitious people to become Americans, the better our chances of forestalling national decline. The waves of exotic foreigners who arrived in the 19th and early 20th centuries were unsettling, but previous generations got over it, luckily, since those newcomers were instrumental in forging the American Century.

The next new America that hatches will not be some bizarro world opposite of everything that came just before. History proceeds dialectically. The New Deal era ended, but its basic social and economic underpinnings have endured. Notwithstanding the backlash against the 1960s, the changes born of that decade’s sharp left turn ח civil rights, feminism, gay rights, environmentalism, sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll became part of the American way of life. In the same way, even as we now rediscover the need for sensible regulation and systemic fairness, the fundamentally good lessons of the Reagan age - entrepreneurialism mostly unbound, proud Americanism will endure. The babies will not be thrown out with the bathwater.

We are in a state of shock. In a matter of months, half the value of the stock market and more than half of Wall Street’s corporate pillars have disappeared, along with several million jobs. Venerable corporate enterprises are teetering. But as we gasp in terror at our half glass of water, we really can and must come to see it as half full as well as half empty. Now that we’re accustomed to the unthinkable suddenly becoming not just thinkable but actual, we ought to be able to think the unthinkable on the upside, as America plots its reconstruction and reinvention.

Andersen is a novelist of (Heyday, Turn of the Century), the host of the public-radio program Studio 360 and a former columnist for Time.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 03/29/09 •
Section Revelations
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Write A Recession Effective Resume

By Robin Ryan, Career Coach
Job Seeker Weekly
March 16, 2009

If you’ve been laid off recently, or maybe still employed with a company that is looking to cut costs, protect yourself by creating a resume that will stand out amongst others in your position.

Usually there is a flood of feelings that come with losing your job. Shock. Denial. Anger. Betrayal. Fear. Guilt. Sometimes even relief. It’s traumatic. Your sense of self-worth, and for many, your entire identity has been attacked.

Losing your job is one of the more stressful events that life can bring. Everyone hates those feelings of rejection, but coping properly will do a great deal to get you back to work faster.

Mark was a project manager with a large wireless company. Last month he got laid off and sought me out to help him turn around his life. He made over $100K and wanted to land a good job but wasn’t sure how to start. Janet was part of a larger corporate layoff. After thirteen years with the same company, she knew she needed help to get another high-paying position. But, job search techniques have changed. Both clients learned that to succeed in today’s changing job market, they had to distinguish themselves from other applicants. That means terrific self-marketing.

To increase your opportunities to move ahead try implementing these similar success strategies:

Writea top notch resume. Employers want to see specific results and accomplishments. General, boring job descriptions are ineffective; it’s noting specific results that gets employers’ attention. Define how you have saved time, increased productivity, cut costs and added to the bottom line. Make sure your resume screams, “I’m a get-the-job-done kind of person.” Use the actions = results formula, hitting only your major accomplishments and noting the experience you have that is necessary to do the job. Action verbs like directed, created, implemented are powerful so start each sentence with one.

Network online and offline! 63% of all jobs last year were found through contacts according to the Department of Labor. Others can pass on leads and introductions, even forward your resume on to a hiring manager, to insure you get a look. Join and attend professional meetings, making an effort to meet two people to add to your network. If you have a favorite company you wish to get into, search your network and theirs to find someone inside to help you.

Hit the interview running. Start the interview in the best possible way: when the interviewer asks the, ‘Tell me about yourself’ question, forget an autobiography. Use the 60 Second Sell. This technique has you analyze the job duties the employer wants accomplished, then select your top five selling points—your strongest abilities, experience and skills—that demonstrate that you can do the job. Link these five points together in a few sentences and you have created a “verbal business card” that is the most effective way to begin and to close the interview.

Keep the momentum going. During the interview, keep it going with well-prepared answers to questions and practice before you ever face the interviewer. Pre-determine some specific examples of your past performance for any situational questions that come up.

Be professional and dress up! Too casual is unprofessional, but this is a mistake many people are making. You need to “look” like a role-model of the company who would fit in nicely with the image the company wants to portray. A big smile on your face is your most important asset; use it often.

Robin Ryan has appeared on Oprah and Dr. Phil and is considered America’s top career coach. Robin has a busy career counseling practice providing individual career coaching, resume writing services, interview preparation, salary negotiations, and outplacement, to clients nationwide.

Secret interview technique guaranteed to land jobs

Diligent job seekers spend hours creating resumes & cover letters, searching through job postings, reviewing classifieds and networking—all in order to get an interview. Yet most of them don’t know what to do when they get one! When the job market was booming it took an average of 3 interviews to get 1 job offer. Now it takes 17. The key is have a great interview, where the interviewer actually pictures you doing the job.

If you want to be that person, there’s a little known secret you can put together for your next interview that literally forces the interviewer to picture you filling the position, and to visualize actually hiring you—asap. Using this method guarantees you’ll stand out from the crowd and shoot straight to the top of the “must hire” list.

Posted by Elvis on 03/29/09 •
Section Dealing with Layoff
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