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The Morning Grumpy – 11/15/12

15 Nov

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.


1. Pittsburgh is figuring it out, can we learn from their example?

A task force is calling for millions of dollars in improvements, including new bike lanes, facade renovations and better street lights and trees, as part of a three-year plan to enhance the retail climate Downtown.

The Downtown Retail Task Force, convened by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, also is proposing strategies to attract and retain retailers as well as a marketing campaign to tout the city and its center core.

The demand for space — retail, office and multi-family — has never approached the levels that we’re seeing today.

It’s safe to say that given all the changes we’ve experienced over the last decade, Downtown has never been better

Pittsburgh focused on getting people into downtown offices and apartments before worrying about regional retail destinations. The city made significant investments into infrastructure, simplified the zoning code, and offered incentives to developers to rehabilitate older buildings. It helps that the Pittsburgh preservation groups buy buildings and put skin in the game, but it’s not necessary that they do. The changes in Pittsburgh have been dramatic and it comes down to having a Mayor who leads and a strategic plan. Buffalo lacks both, but we can change that, right?

2. Winning election strategies, brought to you by science and smart people.

Less well known is that the Obama campaign also had a panel of unpaid academic advisers. The group — which calls itself the “consortium of behavioral scientists,” or COBS — provided ideas on how to counter false rumors, like one that President Obama is a Muslim. It suggested how to characterize the Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, in advertisements. It also delivered research-based advice on how to mobilize voters.

“In the way it used research, this was a campaign like no other,” said Todd Rogers, a psychologist at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a former director of the Analyst Institute. “It’s a big change for a culture that historically has relied on consultants, experts and gurulike intuition.”

History will look back on the Obama campaign strategies as a turning point in modern elections. A full embrace of technology, automation, data warehousing and analytics, and a preference for academic and science over gut feelings…all of it added up to the most well-organized campaign machine in American political history.

3. The Chariman and CEO of Golman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, offered an olive branch to President Obama in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Essentially, Mr. Blankfein asks the President to do his best FDR impression and right the American ship.

The challenges that America faces are not those of World War II. But meeting today’s challenges will demand a similar dedication to cooperation—and not just between political parties. A spirit of compromise and reconciliation would do wonders for the economy if government and business resolved together to address the following priorities:

Remove the risk of a double-dip recession and give the economy a stimulative jolt

There is more than a trillion dollars of cash that is sitting on the balance sheets of U.S. nonfinancial companies. With certainty about tax rates, companies will increase their capital expenditures (currently at anemic levels), contributing to a virtuous cycle of jobs and growth.

We are all ready to roll up our sleeves and work with the Obama administration and Congress to help fulfill America’s enduring promise.

Yup, we’re officially through the looking glass.

4. The next big thing? $20 computer tablets from India.

In the developing world, and especially in India, a country where one billion people have a monthly income less than $200, every rupee matters. Aakash means “blue sky” in Hindi, and that’s a fair description of Datawind’s goals for the tablet. Ultimately, says Tuli, the government would like to distribute one to each of India’s 220 million students. India has 900 million cell phone subscriptions, but in a country where smartphones are rare, 95% of Indians have no computing device.

The tablet has a processor as powerful as the first iPad and twice as much RAM memory. It uses Google’s Android operating system, which now runs on three out of four smartphones and four out of 10 tablets shipped worldwide. Its LCD touchscreen displays full-screen video without hiccups, it browses the web, and it even holds up when playing videogames. If you’re a student with no other computing device, attaching a keyboard to it transforms it into a serviceable replacement for a traditional PC.

Every Indian university student and child armed with a fully functional tablet computer? What’s our next move in the U.S.? We are in a competition with every nation and every other education system on the planet. Did you know that U.S. students recently finished 25th in math and 17th in science in the ranking of 31 countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  We need to get our asses in gear.

5. Gerrymandering, Americans didn’t intend to elect a Republican majority to the House of Representatives. Thanks to GOP-engineered redistricting, they did.

Americans woke up on November 7 having elected a Democratic president, expanded the Democratic majority in the Senate, and preserved the Republican majority in the House.

That’s not what they voted for, though. Most Americans voted for Democratic representation in the House. The votes are still being counted, but as of now it looks as if Democrats have a slight edge in the popular vote for House seats, 49 percent-48.2 percent, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. Still, as the Post‘s Aaron Blake notes, the 233-195 seat majority the GOP will likely end up with represents the GOP’s “second-biggest House majority in 60 years and their third-biggest since the Great Depression.”

So how did Republicans keep their House majority despite more Americans voting for the other party—something that has only happened three times in the last hundred years, according to political analyst Richard Winger? Because they drew the lines.

Why is redistricting still a partisan process controlled at the state level? Perhaps it’s time for that to change.

Fact Of The Day: Breyer’s has cheapened up on the ingredients they use so much that it is no longer “Ice Cream”. They have to call it “Frozen Dairy Dessert”.

Quote Of The Day: “I have approximate answers and possible beliefs in different degrees of certainty about different things…” – Richard Feynman

Springsteen Of The Day: “Savin’ Up” – A Clarence Clemons solo classic.  Give the video a moment as Bruce walks the band through how to play this incredible song.

Song Of The Day: “Oliver’s Army” – Elvis Costello

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