Monday, January 30, 2006


Post and discuss.


skids said...

Amy wanted to discuss various industry ideas so here's a reprint of mine to start up this thread and I'm sure she'll post in the other couple that dovetail with it.


Light Industry LEGOS
Submitted by anonymous in Massachusetts

A while back, a standard called TTL was developed and basic building blocks of computer logic, all working together with most of the nuances removed, were unleashed on America's garage tinkerers. A boom in small electronics firms resulted giving birth over time to the PC. Now almost everyone owns a PC or equivalent.

This was followed by aftershocks -- in hardware sales and maintenance after the multi-vendor standardization onto the IBM-PC platform, and several in software whenever any given operating system or development kit became dominantly popular.

This happened because the tools and materials were standardized, interoperable, mass produced, and cheap. These markets eventually became saturated, though, and the industry is welding shut the hood again. We need to feed our denizen tinkerers and create another boom.

One unsaturated market is robotics. A cheap, LEGO-like set of robotic building blocks, ZigBee/X10-ready for home automation integration, including a large array of sensors, motors, etc with the tricky parts pre-engineered, strong enough for light-industry tasks, needs to be unleashed on our hobbyists. Empower nascent American inventiveness.

Anonymous said...

We are all robots.
Mr Roboto.

j. Small said...

Here is an idea about 'Buy American' promotion and services. There were quite a few ideas along this line. Labeling, American only shelves in stores, and sales taxes reduced on American products, which could be combined.

I was inspired by sales tax idea, as mentioned, and the absolute unresponsiveness and lack of awareness of customers needs by some American companies I have done business with (GM is one in particular).
FeedbackToUS Co.s-HelpUsBuy US Made  11/28

Submitted by anonymous in Massachusetts

How can American companies get an idea as to why an American would buy a foreign made product as opposed to a American made product? Find buyers who are interested in helping our economy.

A website funded by large American companies (over a certain size) which allows consumers to easily find American made products. Small American companies would be allowed to list at lower or no cost. Companies are willing to spend money on market research. Appeal to American's willingness to support American. Companies would get feedback as to what people are looking for in a product and why they might prefer a foreign product-how they can respond. Companies would have to be vetted to participate. It would be important that the site not invade consumer's privacy with intrusive marketing, which people are fed up with and since it would be appealing to consumer's willingness to go to greater length to support American . Personal consumer info would have to be voluntary!

Combine with 'Sales Tax Credit for "Buy American"' idea. Thanks, SuzanneM for inspiration.

Richard Yarnell said...

[If there were a "science and technology" heading, I'd have posted there.]

"PURE RESEARCH; a revolving fund
Submitted by Richard Y. in Oregon

"Our history and our success has been tied closely to our willingness to innovate in science. Our greatest triumphs have stemmed from "basic" research which, at the time it was undertaken, had no assurance off success and no clear economic payoff. Much of that research was funded by the government.

"Now, much university research has is funded and co-opted by corporations seeking a solution. They control an academic resource and attach restrictions. Less research qualifies as "basic science" but rather has predetermined goals.

"Let's put the government (us) back in the picture by funding pure scientific research. Rather than give away the results, file patents in the people's name, license concepts, and collect royalties to fund future research. Among other things, there will be a demand for well trained scientists and technicians. If our future lies in innovation and intellectual property, insure we can produce it.

"Research projects should be driven by science rather than the market. Let ethicists and the market judge whether individual scientific advancements have application other than the advancement of knowledge."
It was pointed out by a reviewer that the Bayh/Dole bill provided for Federal support of research, to which I responded:

True enough, but the result has been to put industry in charge of what is being explored in University research programs. This, in my view, is destructive of one of our historically most productive relationships.

I don't recall who it was, but a wise man once said that if you try to anticipate the end result of research, the result of your effort will be diminished. The role of academic research is to explore the grand, theoretical questions. At that level, the effort is its own reward. Some projects will lead to practical applications and those should, in the end, benefit the research infrastructure through royalties paid by the industries that develop practical products from the patents. But the engineering should be done by industry: in that process, it is almost assured that new patents, even derivitive ones, will result.

I think Bayh/Dole had the best of intentions, it's just given industry too much control over what's occupying the time of Academic research facilities and has narrowed the focus, limiting it to the immediately practical.

The "originality" of this submission rests on the use of royalties or licensing fees to fund continuation of subsidized pure research. In some disturbing ways, publicly funded research suffers the same fate as our publicly owned natural resources - we, the public, don't get the true value out of them. They're given to industry at artifically low prices. I suppose that if we lived in a closed economy (restricted to our own borders) that wouldn't make any difference. However, since we live in a global economy, it's important that the public get its share out in the beginning. If industry doesn't want to be exposed to paying royalties on government research it uses, it can always operate its own research programs.

Judy B. said...

New York Times

February 5, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor
Nebraska's Nostalgia Trap

ON average, Nebraska's economy is doing just fine. But a man whose head is in the oven and whose feet are in the freezer takes no comfort in knowing that his average body temperature is perfectly normal. In the same vein, a casual glance at a graph of Nebraska's population growth shows slow, steady increases, going all the way back to 1900, and conceals the fact that 74 of Nebraska's 93 counties are in extremis, with lower populations today than they had in 1920.

Over a third of the state's 1.7 million residents live in greater Omaha, which is booming by many measures, including population growth. According to Ernie Goss, an economist at Creighton University here, Omaha is growing faster than Des Moines, Kansas City and St. Louis.

What about the rest of Nebraska? Well, it's big: over 77,000 square miles (about 10 percent bigger than the six New England states combined) and 450 miles wide, roughly the distance from Boston to the District of Columbia. Most of the economic growth occurs along the thoroughfares that form what local economists call "the fishhook": Highway 275 from Omaha to Norfolk being the hook, and Interstate 80 from Omaha to Colorado being the stem.

Outside of Omaha and the fishhook, large parts of Nebraska are arguably in trouble. The dismal statistic that trends lower, year after year, for many of these struggling counties, is population.

Farms double in size with a regularity that rivals the seasons, while, almost in tandem, the number of farming families falls by half. The costs for schools, roads and police and fire departments remain relatively constant, but the bodies paying taxes, buying goods and developing land keep disappearing. County officials call it rural flight, brain drain or even mass migration, but despite the alarums, nobody has found a way to stop the excursions.

States like Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin have tried to fight the trend by restricting the corporate consolidation of farms: Keep the farmers on their land by stopping vast corporations from buying 10 farms and consolidating them into one, which is basically what keeps happening.

In 1982, Nebraska went even farther and embedded a ban on corporations owning and operating farms — Initiative 300 — in its Constitution. Last December, a federal judge in Omaha ruled that the ban violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act (because the ban also requires that the person owning most of the farmland also supply most of the daily labor). Some Nebraskans hope the ruling will be overturned, but that seems unlikely.

Opponents of these laws, which purport to protect family farmers, view them as economic nostalgia — like trying to protect the local paper by banning Internet news sites and mandating that the newspaper be delivered by a towheaded kid on a bicycle. If rank protectionism is not the solution, then what is?

Doug German, executive director of Legal Aid of Nebraska, who lives in the central part of the state, just off the fishhook, in Eustis (pop. 425), and provides legal services to the casualties of the state's poorer counties, agrees that rural Nebraska is at a "tipping point." The antidote to its economic depopulation, he believes, does not lie in bringing Intel or Toyota factories to the heartland, but in Nebraskans resolutely blooming where they are planted and developing micro industries capable of flourishing anywhere, with the help of computer and Internet technologies.

I hope Mr. German is right, but I wonder what kind of micro industry will save the likes of Arthur County (half the size of Rhode Island), where the population peaked at 1,412 in 1920, was 442 in 2000, and 402 in 2004? In these parts, during election season, the signs along the road say "Vote for Helen, County Assessor," because there's only one Helen, and she's running unopposed.

Instead of micro industries, a cynical futurist might see mega-farms, owned by global corporations, and farmed by armies of robot combines, controlled by global positioning satellite technology from offices in Omaha.

Richard Dooling is a screenwriter and the author, most recently, of "Bet Your Life."

Judy B. said...

Alaska, energy firms agree on pipeline

By MarketWatch
Last Update: 11:47 PM ET Feb 21, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- .Alaska has reached a tentative agreement with three of the world's largest energy companies to build a new pipeline to transport natural gas from the North Slope to the lower 48 states, Gov, Frank Murkowski's office said Tuesday.
The agreement with the North Slope's major oil and natural gas operators was announced Tuesday by Murkowski, who brokered the deal.
When the pipeline is completed, no earlier than 2012, it could transport 4.5 billion cubic feet per day from the North Slope primarily to Chicago for distribution throughout the United States, The Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition. See Wall Street Journal story (subscription required)
The agreement hinges on a massive engineering project - building a 52-inch-diameter pipeline from several hundred miles above the Arctic Circle to the U.S. heartland - and the Alaska Legislature accepting both the deal and Murkowski's proposed changes in the state's oil production tax structure.
The pipeline was estimated in 2001 to cost at least $20 billion, but steel prices have risen dramatically since then, and no steel company currently makes a 52-inch pipe, The Journal said.
BP, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips have storing natural gas extracted from oil wells while they've waited for a pipeline and financial terms acceptable to the oil giants.
An Alaskan state agency filed an antitrust suit against BP and Exxon last year, claiming the companies were conspiring to withhold gas from U.S. markets by not building a pipeline.
The federal government has estimated there may be 100 trillion cubic feet of gas, equal to U.S. demand for five years, in North Slope fields, The Journal said.
Murkowski's office reported on the state's Web site that the governor's proposed tax system would be based on a percentage of the net profit, or revenues minus capital and operating expenditures. Under the system, the producers will pay a 20% tax rate and receive a 20% tradable tax credit, Murkowski's office said.
Tax revenues would be lower when initial large capital investments are made and, consequently, higher as the production increases, according to the governor's office.