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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Entrepreneurs in Space - Thanks to NASA

NASA has made a wise and impressive move - by contracting with private space companies to supply the International Space Station (ISS).

Why? Because they will us;e smaller rockets and modules that can put supplies in space for much less cost than bigger NASA rockets. This will boost America's private space development, possibly paving the way to Space Hotels and tours around the moon for space tourists --both projects that are doable with existing technology.

In fact, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences use proven, existing technology which is put together in a unique, efficient manner.

This is the type of wise decision that will help America regain lost ground and open up new technology and high tech employment vital to our future.

Good move NASA! Keep it up! We need leadership like that at GM, the White House, etc.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Week That Spans Two Years

Last week of 2008 and first of 2009 starts tomorrow. We have a job scheduled for Friday, which is the second day of 2009, a fast start to the year already.

After a short vacation after a wild, busy year, I’m going to watch “Independence Day” movie in a few minutes and relax the last night of my all too brief holiday. I hope to sneak in more break time as things grow and unfold. I am going to try to strike a good balance between work and time offline.

But in January the Texas legislature opens and I have to lead a study on our building codes (energy and hurricanes) for the League of Women Voters and so it will be a full boat right off the bat.

I’m looking forward to it. Better Times Ahead...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lanai Lookout

Photo: My next car (necessary for getting around traffic-choked Houston in near future--costs less than a BMW and can land on a dime. Operating costs are more like a motorcycle than a helicopter)

It's a foggy Christmas on the Texas coast. Can't even see the lake less than 50 feet away. It reminds me of the day spent on a ship waiting for the sea fog to clear so we could dock at Galveston.

When I heard that Mr. Obama had spent time on Hawaii's coast with his Grandmother's ashes, I understood the reason for it.

I found Lanai Lookout on Google Earth, the place where President-Elect Obama spread the ashes of his Grandmother "Tutu" in Hawaii. It's too bad she died two days before the election and didn't get to see her part of history being made.

China has announced a policy that it will be an "innovative" country. Unless we do the same, our future technology leadership will be a thing of the past. China is sitting on $1.9 trillion in foreign reserves.

In contrast, we are sitting on an additional $8.5 trillion in debt - all generated in the past year. In less than 12 months we doubled the debt it took over 200 years to create. And most of the spending has done little good.

We need a new type of leadership to pull us off the rocks. I wish the new President the best of luck on this Christmas Day. I believe he will do the innovating we need and provide the global leadership that seemed to escape Mr. Bush. Obama has assembled pragmatic centrists, which is what this country needs --we have had enough of extremists on both ends of the political spectrum.

Tutu has joined Henri, a funny mutt dog much like Marley that passed away years ago and is still missed, along with his laid-back cat buddy, Louis XIV.

I think our job is to make this a better place in the time God gives us on it. Otherwise we have wasted our existence, which is a gift from God and a one-shot deal as far as we know it. If there was the Buddhist reincarnation it's unlikely we'd come back as the same person with the same perspective, so it is a one-time experience.

Eventually all of us will join Tutu and Henri, hopefully after having done much to improve lives of people on this planet.

A lot of people are worried about the recession -- I don't. I went through this during the Texas depression of the mid-80's when I went from flying Concordes to being laid off. I lost it all but I gained much self perspective from it. So will people going through this one.

We became too complacent, over consumed, over spent. I saw people on the cruise who probably weighed 300 lbs, much of it on high-fat foods. Both people and government failed to pay attention to fraud, incompetence and logic.

That is about to change. The process will make us better as a country and as a people. We need it to be leaders in the global 21st century.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Houston Needs Bayport cruise terminal

Photo: Jammed inside the Galveston Cruise terminal

I returned from my first cruise last Thursday - convinced that Galveston needs to update its cruise terminal or let the ships go to Houston's new Bayport cruise terminal.

Why? Because the Galveston facility is too small to handle the traffic - as you can see from the photo. When we returned Thursday we were six hours late due to fog - the folk waiting to board the ship had no where to park (our shipload had not yet cleared the parking lot) or to wait. Houston's new Bayport terminal is a much nicer facility.

So I spent my 50-something birthday drifting at sea, in the fog. Ummmmm. lol.

I would recommend Carnival clean up the Ecstasy's engine stack - it left a black smoke trail that spoiled the view of the crystal blue skies over the Gulf of Mexico. I have attached a short video showing the black smoke pouring from its stack at one point during the cruise.

Other than that, I'm ready for another cruise out of Houston!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In the Gulf (of Mexico) - Without Pirates

In the Gulf (of Mexico)

I am writing this from the Gulf of Mexico, in the middle of a 5 day budget cruise – it was one of those $250 a person deals. I have barely had a weekend off in months and had never been on a cruise, so it was the thing to do at that price.

It’s the Carnival “Ecstasy” and is one of the smallest, but nice enough for what I needed – time to sit and watch the world go by -- at 15 knots. Everything happens SLOW, which is actually nice. It’s what a vacation should be like.

When we left Houston Saturday it was blustery and cold. It was beyond windy in front of the ship. The wind breaks on the deck are a necessity. We finally cruised into warmer air the second day out.
It took two days just to get to Cozumel, leaving Galveston about 4 pm Saturday and getting into Cozumel about 10 am Monday – slowed by “strong wind and current” according to the shipboard announcement. I had been to Playa del Carmen and Cancun before but had missed Cozumel in my many trips to Mexico in the last 30 years. We were one of three cruise ships at two different docks. The Carnival “Glory” was in the next berth. It looked impressive with its balcony suites –a lot more than our ship. If I do this again I want a balcony suite! It is a small balcony on the side of the ship connected to your room. They look very comfortable.

It’s an amazing mix of people onboard – all colors sizes and shapes, mostly people from Texas taking a break with family. Lots of kids, teenagers and assorted families. The vendors at the end of the dock in Coz were not too assertive and if you wanted you could rent a bike or a car to look around.

Progresso is the next stop. I discovered in Cozumel that my Verizon 8830 Blackberry World Phone does work – I was able to even check my bank account on the Internet while standing in the shopping square. Lunch was one Margarita too many. Fortunately it was a short pier walk back to the ship.

People have had a lot of stories about cruises that had gone bad due to storms, etc. But ours has been smooth. The crew hails from 53 countries.

I had never heard of Progresso, Mexico until this voyage. Will check it out today. I can either send it using my Blackberry phone as the Internet connector or via the ship wireless. The ship’s wireless is pricey - $20 for thirty minutes of Internet time.

More from the Gulf (the one without pirates) later…

Thursday, December 11, 2008

SNOW in Seabrook!

Photo: Snow on Lakewood Yacht Club dock. From Hurricane IKE to SNOW in Seabrook, and it is only early December. AMAZING.

And now the sky is blue and the white stuff has disappeared. It's a "blue moon" for us to get snow. It is really odd to get it after a big hit by IKE. A guy at Rotary this morning told me that he still had a hole in the side of his house from IKE, covered with duct tape! He said he realizes now that the siding should have been higher on the priority list.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Monday Sunrise

Photo: Sunrise Dec 8 - nice Monday treat.

I spent Sunday FLAT, recharging the batteries, watching the History Channel all day. The sky was a pretty blue but the wind had a bite to it, so it was easy to stay out of it. I couldn't even get the energy to look at the computer.

It worked. Feeling energized again.

I have been listening on satellite radio and cable the last few days on the auto situation. I drive a GM vehicle and have bought their cars nearly every time (except for the Mercedes 420 I once had). But I have to say they have grossly mismanaged the company by failing to innovate and become more fuel efficient -- while Ford is in pretty good shape.

The CEO of GM needs to go --along with seven layers of management. They need a kick in the butt to innovate so the demand for taxpayer money means oversight they never had before. Keep the Ford guys. They only wanted a line of credit - a totally reasonable request. It is the shrinking credit lines that is killing business. The same banks getting taxpayer money are arbitrarily cutting lines of credit on people who have had them for years, unnecessarily making a bad situation worse. This is nuts.

Let Chrysler go the way of the dodo bird - it was clear that their own wealthy owners won't put a dime in, so why should taxpayers? The testimony was that they can't make it as a stand alone company. No one will miss them.

In the meantime, the administration keeps forgetting to focus on the root problem - the ordinary homeowners and the foreclosures from adjustable rate mortgages and default credit swaps that played a key role in starting the global meltdown. Without cutting foreclosures, things will get worse instead of better, regardless of all the other hat tricks devised to save the day.

I like the Obama plan to spend money on real projects - repairing bridges, building and updating schools, advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency. These investments will result in tangible things that will exist after the money is spent (e.g., bridges repaired before they fall into the Mississippi) -- unlike the $700 billion that went to banks and stayed there, doing nothing except allowing even healthy banks to buy other healthy banks with taxpayer money.

We went into a war without a game plan of what to do when Saddam was gone. The $700 billion is being handled in the same way - make it up as you go.

Money intended to help homeowners has gone instead to banks, AIG, Citicorp --anyone big except Detroit (and Lehman Brothers), despite the massive employment and confidence blows that would result.

We can't afford more incompetence and waste of our resources on schemes that fail to address the root problem and benefit only a few at the top. If taxpayers help GM, their CEO needs to bailout without a golden parachute. Someone with a brain needs to take over.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

On a Clear Day...

This morning's photo - black clouds form an illusion of mountains behind the Kemah bridge. For a while, the tops of the clouds formed a wave pattern, which dissipated as the sun rose.

I saw this news clip from the Ft. Bend Herald. It sounds like Ft. Bend has become some kind of "Peyton Place."

WOW. Meanwhile here in quiet Seabrook, we are having a Rotary pancake event this not-as-cold-and-windy morning. If you want sex and intrigue, you will have to hang around Ft. Bend's courthouse. (See 'Peyton Place' above).

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gray and Cold

It's gray and cold today in Seabrook. Yesterday the winds were relentless, but it was mostly clear. Today it's overcast and the wind cuts through you when moving around outdoors.

Reports of more possible attacks in India means trouble ahead. Groups who want to sabotage and create conflict are on the rise. That concern will occupy most of the President's time in the next four years, regardless of any prior agenda. Security will eventually trump economics as a concern, especially if there is another attack in the U.S.

People need to protect their weakest link - a lot of people were injured in Mumbai by flying glass, which our film would have avoided. People were forced to lie in broken glass from the bullets. Imagine how awful that would be.

I am still not convinced General Motors will truly reform itself - their lack of vision because they were protected and not forced to innovate versus the Japanese is what put them in the hole. It wasn't the financial meltdown; they had already melted down by insisting on building gas hogs instead of developing hybrid technology like the Japanese did. They didn't even try to make a hybrid SUV until it was in the bottom of the 9th inning.

This time auto executives were forced to ride to Washington instead of taking their private jets. That does not equal innovation or future success. New management is needed; people with ideas for making more efficient cars of the future instead of the past.

Change is needed across the spectrum, not just in Washington. We need new leadership in our financial institutions, banking system, auto industry, etc. We need pragmatic solutions and oversight instead of gimmicks like unsupervised default credit swaps.

It's been reported that the Bush administration was warned about the funny mortgage business as early as 2005, yet choose to do nothing about it. The whole world is now paying the price for that omission of responsibility.

We'll dig ourselves out of this mess, which matches the color of the skies and lake today, but it comes at a huge cost.

Part of the change needed will be people getting prepared for future events by protecting where they work and live. They need to protect the weakest link, the windows, because their will always be a next event, whether it is another hurricane or explosion.

While none of us can stop a future event from happening, the one thing that people do control is their defense. Don't get caught in the next one without protection. Our film provided protection for people during Hurricane IKE.

A customer told me about a couple who were in a Houston penthouse in one high rise when the winds blew in their windows. When they tried to open the door to escape into the building's hallway, the winds were so strong that they could NOT open the door! Imagine being caught in a high rise buildings (or home on the ground) with the glass flying and winds racing at 100 mph plus so that you can't even open a door to escape the glass shrapnel, winds and rain. Our film would have prevented that by keeping the windows from blowing in...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Potential of Nuclear Attack in 5 years - New Dawn, New Strategy Needed

President-Elect Obama has released a statement that there will be a "new dawn" in foreign policy. It will take a new dawn to solve the huge global issues facing us today. The bipartisan commission believes that a nuclear terrorist attack is possible within the next five (5) years.

He and Secretary of State-designate Clinton desire to engage the world, including places like Iran. We need to engage on a multiple level, not just with force of arms. It's the only way it will work.

I saw Former Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin on "Morning Joe" this morning. If you can, watch the clip - it's brilliant. He clearly and concisely summed up the situation and strategy needed for success.

As he said, Pakistan is the key to resolving the pending crisis between two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan. Pakistan's government probably didn't know that this group was going to do what they did, but someone in Pakistan did and the government hasn't been controlling these groups that live on the Pakistan side of the Kashmir area.

Mr. Rubin confirmed what I had thought, and blogged, earlier - that the Mumbai terrorist attack sprang from the Kashmir issue. But he goes on to point out that Al Qaeda are also hanging out in the same remote Pakistan-India-Kashmir-Afghanistan area. There could be alliances and weapon trading going on between these different groups.

With Pakistan's nuclear technology, we really need the Pakistani government cleaning out these groups of rogue elements who use Pakistan's remote lands as a pirate's lair and a safe haven where they can plot attacks against places like Mumbai, killing Indians (Hindu and Muslim), Jews, 22 foreigners and 6 Americans. They will need help from us to do it. Pakistan's new democracy is very fragile. They will need to work with India, which has a long history of democracy, too.

Until the Pakistan government, which is weak, takes serious action to eliminate this Pakistan-based terrorist safe haven, potential threats to our own security will continue to increase -- as more attacks are planned there.

Our "new dawn" will take an American strategic REGIONAL diplomatic/military approach working with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan's governments on these border terrorist sanctuaries. We can't do it with armies alone. Success will require funding the building schools and roads and create jobs in these areas to eliminate the isolation and ignorance that makes these safe havens for international criminals possible.

Why? The report mentioned above is that there is a potential of a nuclear terror attack on the U.S. in the next five (5) years. If it comes, it will come from a plot hatched in this Pakistan 'no man's land' unless changes are made with our help.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Photo: December 1 morning. Seabrook, TX

December 1st is a good reminder that the year is wrapping up and it will be 2009 before much else gets accomplished.

After months of work without a break, I spent Sunday afternoon flat on the sofa, watching an old Star Wars movie on a new TV I bought to help kick-start the economy (and to stop having to deal with a black rectangle that kept popping on the screen of the not-so-old TV, blocking half the screen).

Now I don't have to squint to see the thing! Go forth and spend some money America. Save some too.

But we need to get normal spending -- and loans -- going again for the sun to break through the economy.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why Attack Bombay? What's next?

According to a thought-provoking Indian writer, the attack on Mumbai/Bombay had a message - stay away. To conservative religious types, Mumbai represents 'sin city' in a conservative part of the world.

But the problem is bigger than that - religious hate is spreading beyond "the usual suspects." In 1993, it was Hindus who were killing anyone in Bombay who was a Muslim. This Thanksgiving '08 attack was the first-ever against Jews in India.

It appears that the fishing trawler hijacked by the terrorists who swept over Mumbai was taken in Karachi, Pakistan. I have been to Karachi, a hot-humid seaport on Pakistan's southern coast.

So, another nuclear India/nuclear Pakistan conflict may be heading our way.

The solution will take a coordinated effort to tamp down the intolerance and hate between religious extremists in each group, including resolving the Kashmir issue along with the other unresolved conflicts such as the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Unresolved border issues between both Pakistan and India and Pakistan and Afghanistan would help lower the temperature between two nuclear powers.

India is a growing power along with China. Both will play critical roles in America's future. Much is at risk and much needs to be done.

The 'sin' was not Mumbai's. It was the intolerant minds that attacked it.

Latest news: the Chairman of the Tata Group who owns the Taj Mahal ownership says that they had been warned about the possible attack. Yet there was no increased security or preparations by the hotel. Guests were not informed of the attack even after it started. Guests were also hit by flying glass - something that also needs to be addressed by hotels and office buildings everywhere.

The Indian government has responsibility too. The fact that it took the Indian army and commandos several days to stop ten people will have to be investigated as well.

The bottom line will be reducing the religious extremism spreading across the globe. It only makes the world more dangerous for all of us.

The President-Elect will need to focus on this. The solutions are EDUCATION and JOBS. Taliban who threw acid on girls walking to school were paid to do it - they need to be educated to treat women equally. But to make it work we also need to create jobs so they have something for a future other than crime or terrorist hit-jobs. Until we make roads, schools and job-creation as much a part of our policy as a military presence, we won't succeed.

Afghanistan does not have roads or an infrastructure. It is the front line on the global 'War on Terror.'

We won't win unless and until we address the root problems --uneducated, isolated people with no jobs and no future.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Crazy World

As I write, there are over 100,000 people -- Americans, foreigners, etc.-- stranded in Thailand because protesters have shut down the airport at Bangkok. Terrorists in India have blown away lives, both Indian and foreign.

It is a crazy world.

I was once trapped in Bangkok when I ran out of money on a trip during the 80's economic bust (which happened a LONG time ago). I have been a guest of both the Taj Mahal and Oberoi. So it is amazing for me to see this insanity sweep over the world. Terrorism is hitting in new places.

I once flew to Bangkok from Jakarta, Indonesia right after a 'coup de tat.' When i arrived, it was quiet and peaceful. A newsman had been shot to death, but the streets were normal. That was Thailand in the mid-80's. Today may not be much different.

Even in the U.S. things are nuts. Over Thanksgiving, two men (idiots) in a toy store pulled out guns and shot each other to death after an argument. It is another example of nutsy behavior. Shot for WHAT? A toy in a TOY store? How crazy is that?

And how crazy that people at a Wal Mart would stampede to death an employee in their rush to get the 'deal of the day' on "Black Friday." No one even stopped to help. How nuts is that? Is it worth someone dying over a deal on a TV?

I was at a Wal mart in Seabrook at 5:30 on "Black Friday" - and promptly left after finding the parking lot full and people already lined up 30 deep at the cash registers. I left, and resisted the impulse to grab a 32" HDTV that people were wheeling out in their stuffed shopping carts in the dark. LOL.

Kidnappings and shootings by drug cartels on the Texas-Mexican border are also getting more crazy, frequent and worse. They behead people like Al Qaeda. Thank god the two groups have nothing in common and no desire to work together (let's hope).

It is a crazy world. We need some strategic, smart leadership to deal with these crazy issues in the days ahead. Thank God we have some coming January 20th...

Even then it will be tough. And who knows what other crazy thing will pop up. Who would have guessed that India would be a target, or Americans and Brits sought out in a place like Bombay (vs. Baghdad).

I find most Americans totally unconscious about the reason for these events and their potential impact on our future. We have a LONG way to go to get through this.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Attack on Democratic India - Reform Needed on Cells

The attack in India prompted me to look up an old journal entry of a prior trip I made to India:

"...It was about 2 a.m. as I leaned back exhausted on the back seat of the dusty Premier, racing down the dark streets of Bombay. As the car hit 60 to 80 kilometers per hour on the airport run from the Taj Mahal hotel in Back Bay --that's when it caught my eye--something bright and clean in a sea of dark rotting walls that make up Bombay's center city. We flashed by, hell-bent on our mission as I leaned wearily against the window of the taxi watching the faded, chipped and jammed tenement buildings whizzing by. The black Bombay air whipped my hair and was sucking itself into my nostrils. Rolling up the window only made the thick air hotter, so I let the wind blow, comfortable in the knowledge that I could leave what these people would wake up to tomorrow. I had to get out of India.

Driving through Bombay that night, what I saw should have warned me. It was something out of the ordinary. Bolted to the side of a building was an immaculate white plastic sign, which looked out of place as the taxi zigzagged wildly through Bombay's fetid night air. In the dim light the bold, red letters proclaimed:


Below it, a crisp blue line:


Did I really see that?"

I wrote the above after a trip sometime around 1980. Yesterday's attacks in India are still ongoing as I write this. I have a strange connection to this incident because as a young attorney for Dresser Industries, and later as an entrepreneur, I stayed at both the Taj Mahal and Oberoi in what was then Bombay, now "Mumbai."

This attack is probably related more to Kashmir then Al Qaeda, but it is the same result -- and maybe worse since it took only a few people with AK-47's to kill dozens and lock down a city of 19 million people. It should be a warning that events half way around the world do impact us - whether we are tourists or people traveling there on business. It shows the need to be prepared.

We aren't prepared in a critical area. The same problem that arose in disasters from Hurricane IKE in Texas to the Mumbai/Bombay attacks. In each case, cell phone voice service was lost as the number of people using the cellular network skyrocketed due to the event.

I was told that the cell companies MUST cut voice service during an event like IKE or 9/11 because they don't have the capacity to handle all the people who have subsribed - that's why all you can do is email or text from your phone in the middle of winds blowing your windows out or terrorists blowing up your hotel. The same thing was reported in New Orleans during Katrina.

This is a potential hazard that needs to be addressed by Congress with all cell phone companies. For days we had no voice service after IKE, only email or text. Residents in Bombay were cut off in the middle of the attack from calling on their cell phones to find relatives caught in the streets, hotels, train station during attacks across the city, making things worse. That shutdown would also impact American tourists and business people using cell phones on their visit to India.

We need to require U.S. cellular companies to provide increased bandwidth so we do not lose the ability to make voice calls in times of crisis when communications are even more vital. This is a major Homeland Security issue. Imagine what would happen if the Bombay/Mumbai attack occurred in New York, LA, Chicago, etc.? Cell phone service would be impaired nationally, as it was on our 9/11.

The lack of cell call availability in an emergency makes getting help for those who are trapped or hurt extradordinarily more difficult and dangerous. It's critical to make this change to our communications strategy
before the next disaster occurs -- in a world society that is dependent on 24/7 mobile communications.

The additional cost is an issue that the cellular companies and Congress must resolve.

We need to learn from these episodes and make improvements in this basic Homeland Security infrastructure so that we don't lose our ability to communicate with each other during the next event -- because there will always be a next event.

IKE and the Bombay attacks have exposed a global weakness in our communications systems.
This attack is another confirmation that our counter terrorism efforts must be global to be effective. An attack anywhere puts all of us at risk, from citizens to tourists. We need to make this change ASAP.

My condolences to those who lost friends or relatives in India's 9/11.

The situation will take awhile to find out who and want we are dealing with in this attack. Standby...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Centrist Team - Homeland Security During Transition

Good morning Houston. From Seabrook looking to the Kemah bridge. Sunrise the day before Thankgiving.

The stock market improvement appears to be another sign that the President-Elect is making the right moves. Obama is selecting a smart, pragmatic, centrist group.

This is a refreshing change from the extreme ideologues that have been running things. They seemed as if they were stamped in a clone factory. It is also good to know that we aren't replacing right wing nut cases with left wing nut cases. America needs some solid, common sense Centrists making decisions on facts instead of fantasy right now.

That is the group the President-Elect has been selecting. It's a good sign for better days ahead.

In the middle of the worst financial disaster in over seven decades, it is best for America to have a calm, cool, thinking President instead of a panicked leadership throwing 'Hail Mary' passes and talking fear. We need talk of optimism just as Reagan did in the 80's after the 70's bust. We need cooperative action on a world scale not more talk of war. The President-Elect may even be able to work constructively with Russia and China, since their support will be needed to stabilize the world economy and address climate change.

Obama's statements and appointments have been the one thing that has put a plunging stock market back into the green. Confidence is the missing ingredient.

Confidence in leadership that people feel will take appropriate action to make the market work again.

I think the American public has given up hope of the current administration doing anything more to fix this train wreck other than coordinating a hand-off and getting out of the way.

Everyone knows it will be the next President who will have to put out the fires and rebuild at this point. The ship of state has hit the reef and the new Captain and crew are stuck with repairing the damage.

Never before has the two month transition window looked so long. Much could happen during a transition, good and bad. On TV I just saw a report of a threat on a New York subway over the holidays.

There are significant Homeland Security risks during this transition beyond the financial cliffhanger. The combination of Afghanistan, Taliban, Al Qaida and Pakistan's nukes --all in two-countries sharing a border that resembles old Tucson (with NATO now playing Sheriff Wyatt Earp) are Exhibit "A." Exhibit "B" is Iran and North Korea.

The threats are known. But a Presidential transition also creates unique opportunities. I will giving a speech on "Homeland Security Threats and Opportunities" during the Presidential transition on Dec. 9 for NSTA.

Breaking News: I wrote the above BEFORE the following news broke today.

I have stayed at the Hotel Oberoi and Taj Mahal in India, which were attacked today by a terrorist group "Deccan Mujaheddin" - both are 5 Star hotels. Hostages are reported to be held and the targets were American and British. Over 80 killed. It's ongoing. My topic has happened even sooner than I expected...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

For Success President Obama will Need a GLOBAL Strategy Beyond Middle East

The last two Presidents entered the White House without a GLOBAL STRATEGY (the Clinton’s didn’t expect to win in ’92 according to the lady I talked to at their campaign HQ two days after the election; Mr. Bush had a domestic focus). We’ll need one this time to fix what has become a global financial meltdown.
Financial madness seems to have been a potion put into the water worldwide -- from the hedge funds of Wall Street promoting buying cropland (and citing their “debt-to-pig” ratios in the brochures) to pyramid schemes in Colombia that crashed the economy and cost ordinary people their life savings. The British were not only buying bad subprime paper from the U.S. but their own banks began offering 125% loans to buy a house (to buy some furniture for it, and a new car)! The financial virus became a pandemic.

The madness was global. So is the fix.

For the past seven years since 9/11 America’s focus has been on the Middle East, a vital place no question, while ignoring what is happening in the rest of the world that affects our economic and personal security and stability. The President needs to provide his administration and Americans with the “big picture” of how we can develop solutions to these issues on a cooperative, international level.

To succeed will take a GLOBAL response. Business does not succeed without a business plan. Pilots don’t just climb in the cockpit and take off without a plan of where they are going and how to get there. You can get by with it in a Cessna economy but not a Boeing 777 economy. We need to have an American policy that thinks ahead about issues impacting America’s future from climate change to restoring financial stability and security to the global marketplace. All the world stock markets are inter-acting during this crisis. Like the Exxon Valdes, the ship has suffered major damage on the reef. It falls to the next Captain and crew to put it back in safer waters and repair the damage.

China holds $1.9 trillion in foreign reserves, derived mostly from making stuff we buy at places like WalMart, yet it is not donating to the IMF. China’s carbon emissions are about to surpass the U.S. if they have not already. President Obama should bring them into the picture to contribute a share of their reserves. They need to change from being merely a producer nation but also a consumer nation—to buy more of the world’s products instead of just making them. The President should invite Chinese involvement, both in astronauts and money, in the international space station. Then we would not be dependent on just the Russian Soyuz when the Shuttle is sent to the Museums in 2010.

The President must address Mexico’s out-of-control “Al Capone-style with beheadings” drug gang killings on our border that is coming into the U.S. from Texas to major cities nationwide. Texas deputy sheriffs have been caught in places like Georgia with $1 million in cash in their cars. Mr. Chavez Marxism must be diluted by a bonding of American and South American interests to develop more green energy, more trade and the new jobs that come from more trade. Brazil is a model of energy independence, but even it could not escape a planetary meltdown.

The strange things happening in nuclear North Korea since Kim Jung Il is just that (ill or dying) – we face a change in leadership in a country that doesn’t have a system to change leadership. We need China and Russia’s support to make sure North Korea doesn’t become more dangerous in this transition it is going through -- and try to minimize the danger from whoever does assume power.

We need a strategy for Africa beyond AIDS to encourage economic growth. Gangs control the ports of Africa, young men with guns who discourage and hinder economic development that has fueled the “blood diamond” trade. No government has been in control of Somalia for 18 years, leading to modern day piracy of oil supertankers (heading to Europe and America) which nets millions for gangs to buy more weapons and high speed, 21st century pirate vessels, etc. Somalia sits where the supertankers will always have to pass by. Failing to deal with it on a global level has lead to more chaos, not less. Simple water wells would free millions of African women from a daily grind. Small solar panels can run UV lights to clean their water and provide a connection to the outside world.

If President Obama is going to succeed, it will be because his administration has a plan to grapple with a world-wide financial meltdown. This is no mere national problem. The solutions require worldwide cooperation. We have to think globally to succeed. We have to develop the first-ever 21st century international financial system

Finally, the slowdown has cut jobs worldwide. We need to find ways to make new jobs by creating new technologies and industries, like building and installing solar panels and windmills in villages from Argentina to Zambia. I have seen new “mini-windmills” that have been developed for use on building rooftops. They would work on a house or top of an office tower, generating free power for the building. Solar panels are built into glass panels in Japan. I’ve seen solar panels that are rolled out in sheets of plastic. We need a renewable energy goal that is an energy version of the moon shot.

For technology, we need a commitment to make it to Mars. Getting there would generate new levels of technology and require global resources and manpower that could create a new generation of jobs. Scientists believe the same forces creating global warming on Earth could generate an atmosphere on Mars – a backup planet if we need it.

All countries are undergoing vital changes that need to be addressed intelligently by the next President for our own good. Failure to address these issues from a “big picture” perspective will not bode well for Americans or anyone anywhere.

From now on, each American President will need a GLOBAL strategy. It’s the only way to spot hidden reefs and incoming storms that threaten the ship of state and develop safe harbors around the world.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Seabrook Homeless Still Waiting on FEMA help - Adopt a Platoon

Update on IKE:

I discovered today that there are over 200 families in Seabrook whose homes were destroyed by IKE who are still waiting on FEMA help. Two months later there are no FEMA trailers available for these people. Instead, as winter moves in, they are living in tents on their property and showering under a tarp in houses with holes in the walls so big you don’t need a door to walk inside. President Obama will have to reform a broken system that can let people sleep in tents for months when FEMA has unused trailers are sitting nearby in parking lots and paperwork is more important than distributing assistance.

I found about this today at a Seabrook Rotary meeting, when the club presented food coupons to the Seabrook Intermediate School. The school’s vice principal said she walked the streets after IKE and was struck by the devastation and the conditions people were living in. She took the lead in getting assistance to these people hit with the full force of IKE’s tidal surge on Galveston Bay. The FEMA people came and did paperwork\ then left! They didn’t deliver trailers; the only action FEMA has taken is paperwork.

The city people told me that they thought that the FEMA people they met were well-intentioned but that the bureaucratic process was unbelievably awful and frustrating. It needs fixing. If it weren’t for the leadership of the school vice principal of Seabrook Intermediate School, who discovered that children were the best way to find out which families needed what, these Seabrook residents would be in an even more desperate situation.

The only help people got today was from local grocery stores, including Kroger, who donated $25 food-only coupons. Our Rotary also donated and presented the coupons to the school to give to needy families. The vice principal also said that they had received a donation from a ladies group in West Columbia, Canada, which sent quilts! That must be a first – Americans receiving international assistance. I appreciate it, as well as the people from other states who also donated items to the school for distribution.

FEMA has failed again. Like General Motors, it is too much bureaucracy and slowness. It needs to be reformed in 2009.

Finally, here is something that could make a huge difference and won’t cost you much but a little time.

My Seabrook Rotary adopted a platoon in Iraq. The commander told our contact that he noticed 11 people in a platoon who had never received a package. So our Rotary group agreed to adopt the platoon and put together 11 boxes for those 11 soldiers. Last night people came with little things like tool kits, socks, DVD’s (I donated a science fiction movie figuring a little escape wouldn’t be a bad thing), some treats, etc. As a result, soldiers who normally never get any mail will get a package from America this Christmas.

I encourage you to do the same: find someone who has a husband, wife, brother, sister or relative in Afghanistan and Iraq and adopt their platoon. Send packages to the ones who don’t get packages from family here. Our packages even included a signed holiday card from whoever adopted a box. Why not?

We need to get out of our self absorption despite the financial mess. What is our 401k value versus the potential losses by these young soldiers -- who face bullets or IED’s instead of a disappointing stock portfolio? We may be losing money; they are losing lives and time with their families.

We have great challenges ahead in 2009 but it wouldn’t cost much for those of us here on the safe home-front to show our appreciation to our soldiers, many who are serving multiple tours in difficult circumstances. They didn’t start these wars and deserve a thank you from us.

Mail it now so it will get there by the holidays. Thanks.

Pass it on.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Global tech - Global Everything

Yesterday I saw more of the future --at a conference at the Texas medical center's Institute for Molecular Biology. It was sponsored by the Brits and Greater Houston Partnership.

It was a fascinating 'Green' day-long conference in which I saw the next generation of renewable energy that will really make a difference on a personal level --windmills for houses and buildings, window film that doubles as a solar power panel, and other new 21st century technology that we need as our power needs continue to increase and we strive for more efficient, independent energy production.

These "mini-windmills" will be part of the new technology that fuels our next generation of products and jobs that will be providing "on site" power in cities and remote locations both. These small windmills would go on the edge of a building's roof, where wind speeds are highest.

These mini-windmills eliminate the need for expensive transmission systems from remote locations - although we will also need an "interstate electric transmission superhighway" as well.

The big windmills that need the transmission lines would vibrate themselves to pieces if placed too close together or on a building. So the small ones fill an important void in the market.

I also saw the next generation of solar panels that roll out on a roof...Britain is going green big time. So is the rest of Europe. We need to include China and India.

I also saw the coming of window film that is also a solar panel! It generates electricity. (Japan is using glass facades as solar panels.)

When they combine solar panel film with our security window film it would provide glazing that is the best of all worlds - providing clarity of glass, protected from breach by film that also provides power to the building!

On the financial mess, I also got an international perspective from another member of the conference. A British man at the conference told me how their banks were apparently on the same strange Kool Aid that our drunks on Wall Street were -The UK's Northern Rock Bank (which went under) was offering 125% loans before the crash! Sure, buy the house, fill it with furniture, toss in a new car to boot!

So the financial insanity was also global.

Watching the "Today" show shot from three locations around the world (Belize, Australia and Africa) documenting the climate changes going on was a reminder that the entire world is in this together. It will take a united, global effort to fix it -- along with our financial system.

It will be technology like I saw yesterday that will drive our future growth and economic progress...I am lucky to be a part of it.

The other cool thing I recently discovered as a valuable information tool is....satellite radio!

A friend recommended I use it but I had not activated the one that came with my new van a few months ago. But as I drove around I realized how little local radio has to offer - just some screaming people on talk radio, which is the last thing I'm interested in. Waiting for the 5 pm radio news was not much of an option. Listening to music all day was not informative either. I needed something totally different.

I found it with satellite radio and its 170 channels. It is a whole new world. It offers so much more than the idiot talk stations on normal radio (I just don't find bathroom humor and stupid jokes funny). The great thing is that you can find almost anything to match your interest on XM Radio, from music to intelligent talk radio (like POTUS 130, BBC News, NPR International, CNN, Fox, C-Span, etc.). You can get current traffic conditions in every major city, from Houston to DC.

Check it out. Another big plus - on a road trip you never have to worry about losing a signal when you are on the road to Dallas, San Antonio, etc. like you do with conventional radio.

Big changes ahead...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Photo: This morning's sunrise over Clear Lake.

Fresh winds blowing this morning, our first real taste of cool air and fall.

Yesterday I was at Brady's Landing and heard Michael Berry talking about the election. He said a couple interesting things to calm nerves. It was his opinion that President-Elect Obama is NOT a socialist and that he thought he would be smart enough to govern as a centrist to avoid the Clinton backlash that happened in 1994 after going too far too fast.

But I found his explanation of the results lacking in fact and objective analysis. He blamed the loss on "Republicans who stayed home" -- despite the fact that turnout was at historic highs for both sides.

Second, he said the business is a cycle and we just happened to have an election during a "down" cycle. He didn't say it was a financial meltdown caused by Wall Street getting drunk that we haven't seen since the 1930's - a lot more than an ordinary business cycle.

As a result the folks in that room got a nice (Michael is a nice guy) but one-sided view of what happened. Not addressed was that our bad paper has given the rest of the world that bought it an equal dose of man-made financial disaster that has put Europe's biggest economy in recession and makes everything worse worldwide.

I finished yesterday at the UH Cullen Auditorium listening to Rick Steve's (PBS) talk about Iran, Amsterdam coffee shops that sell Marijuana instead of coffee and the need for Americans to travel overseas and broaden their view of the world. His comments on how the Iranians treated him were insightful and fascinating. The Iranian people were very friendly to him even after they discovered he was American. Watch for it on PBS - it should be a must-see program with Iran's nuclear ambitions still a big deal.

Steves also mentioned that Europe is on a $500 billion infrastructure upgrade - building high speed "bullet trains" etc. everywhere. That means that China is spending $500 billion on infrastructure, Europe is spending $500 billion on infrastructure so both will have 21st Century stuff, the Middle East is doing the same with their Petrodollar wealth, while we borrow $700 billion to buy stock in banks and our highways and bridges are falling apart.

Since China has $2 trillion in savings made from selling us stuff to buy at WalMart we should insist they spend part of their $500 billion buying U.S. pollution control technology to clean their thick brown air.

We should tap the Mideast billions for road upgrades in the U.S.-- roads that run on their oil.

Finally, we need to invest $500 billion in our own infrastructure starting in 2009 - which would create jobs and give us the modern transportation and high tech systems we will need to stay competitive in the global economy. We need to save the 1 in 10 jobs connected to the auto industry while still requiring them to gut 7 levels of management at GM and invest in R&D and fuel efficient vehicles instead of coddling them as we have done for the past 30 years.

If we are going to stay in the game, we need a change folks!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Managing in the 24/7 World

The office today is mobile.

In a tight economy combined with financial concerns it becomes more important to manage efficiently and stay on top of things. This is what I do to make that happen.

I have a Blackberry World Edition 8330 phone that allows me to have a mini laptop 24/7 for email, phone calls and checking the calendar. It syncs to the laptop and vice versa so I am always up-to-date. it also lets me make calls anywhere on the planet. Yet it is still a local call for anyone calling me 24/7.

I also use the Blackberry as my connection with the laptop when a wireless is no where in sight. I discovered on a road trip how disconnected it can be to have a laptop and no Internet. I was totally cut off - unable to send or receive a document.

I fixed it so that now my phone connects the laptop to the Internet when I am remote. It still works as a phone at the same time.

Believe me, things change fast. In the old days I once missed an important radio appointment during a campaign because I forgot to write down a date after getting a call in the car. Now I don't miss anything I can put on the calendar.

My GPS is my new best friend - I go no where without my TomTom. It doesn't require a subscription and is simple. It has been a life and major time saver -- there is nothing worse than missing an exit in Houston. LOL. Don't leave home without it.

Got to run. Service and networking is No. 1, 2 and 3 priorities...Better days ahead.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Showing the World

The photo of President Bush and President-Elect Obama sitting together in the oval office is historic and special.

It shows the world that special American role model of peaceful transition between opposing political camps. Others should strive to copy it in places like Zimbabwe, China and Russia.

In the meantime now the auto makers want a bailout - GM with 7 layers of excessive management and refusal to build high mileage cars, and Ford, whose highly paid executives have cut R&D to zero, insuring failure. If they get money it should be required they cut the bureaucracy and invest in hybrid, high mileage cars to compete.

Otherwise it will be a failure and more wasted money. Detroit's management has become fossilized and narrow. They try to build 30 different cars that look the same - the Japanese use a fraction of platforms and are more efficient. Detroit's global competitors are making profits by using their brains and building high mileage cars right here in the U.S. I've seen the giant Japanese factory in Mississippi.

Detroit has to change to survive and, eventually, thrive. Our financial institutions also need to be reformed.

Now we see reports that the Fed is refusing to release the names of the recipients of $2 trillion of taxpayer money. Where is American transparency here? A major overhaul across the board appears necessary.

These are amazing times.