Sunday, August 18, 2013

Is Edward Snowden a Traitor?

I became furious listening to John McCain, Arizona Senator and President Obama. They called Edward Snowden a traitor who needs to return to the United States to face justice. During the same speech, they stated the National Security Agency needs more transparency. Isn’t that what Edward Snowden did? He forced the NSA to become transparent by revealing the NSA surveillance programs. Despite our leaders, some claim Edward is a hero or a whistleblower because he revealed the United States and British governments are spying on their citizens.

U.S. government encourages whistle blowers to expose a company’s wrongdoing and crimes. Whistleblowers can sue the companies in courts and win a portion of federal money the company used improperly. President Abraham Lincoln encouraged whistle blowing during the Civil War to crack down on companies violating military contracts. Nevertheless, I thought lying to Congress constituted a crime, perjury, and Edward Snowden revealed the NSA lied to Congress about its activities. Consequently, a whistleblower can rat out a company that violates rules and regulations, but a person becomes a traitor if the person reveals a government’s illegal activities.

A government imposes two sets of laws. First, government imposes its laws, rules, and regulations on society that everyone must follow. Then government fines, penalizes, or imprisons any violators. Second, government follows its own rules, exempting itself from the rules that it forces upon everyone else. Government does not write these rules down, so the leaders can change their laws and rules at will. Unfortunately, a broke government will take shortcuts.

Edward Snowden did not profit or made money from revealing the NSA’s secrets. He was a computer specialist who worked for the NSA and CIA. He became concerned over the U.S. and British governments spying on their citizens. He thought President Obama would shift course, and end President Bush’s wars and reestablish civil rights. Instead, President Obama has expanded the military programs. United States military continues fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 even though it killed Osama bin Laden and the top leaders of al-Qaeda. Subsequently, President Obama wants to intervene in Syria, Iran, and North Korea. U.S. military has stationed troops in the Philippines in 2013 to thwart China’s claim to the South China Sea. China claimed several rocks in the sea belong to China, granting the Chinese navy the right to patrol these rocks and protect its territory. Of course, these rocks stretch from the coast of Japan, along the Philippines’ coastline, and ends at Borneo. If China maintains control of these rocks, then China controls the whole South China Sea. U.S. government wants to thwart China. Being an economist, where in the hell does the United States government find money to finance these military operations across the world. We do not have the money!

Snowden’s father plans to challenge the criminal charges from the U.S. government. I wish him luck, but his dad is wasting his time. The U.S. government would hire a team of prosecutors and experts and spend millions of dollars to win the case at all costs. Even if Snowden’s father convinces a federal judge to dismiss the charges, Edward Snowden would experience the wrath of the U.S. federal government. The U.S. government does not play fairly. IRS would scrutinize his previous tax returns, searching for the tiniest mistakes. The State Department would study his passport application, ensuring Edward Snowden dotted every i and crossed every t. When the federal government wants to incarcerate someone, it will find a reason to do so. For example, the U.S. government accused George Norris of importing endangered orchids into the United States, but he never violated the law. Since the U.S. government would not apologize and spent millions investigating the case, the government agents scrutinized Norris’s import documents until the agents found enough paperwork mistakes to imprison him. Consequently, Edward Snowden has little chance of winning his fight against the U.S. federal government. U.S. federal government does not play fair.

Russia has granted Edward Snowden asylum to live in Russia for a year. U.S. political leaders are furious at Russia, and President Obama said the United States will “recalibrate” its relationship with Russia. Of course, President Obama would not launch the drones at Russia because Russia can fight back. The president saves the drones for countries that cannot fight back like Yemen and Pakistan. Since President Obama cannot punish Russia with the military, he will use international trade as a weapon. Now, two bullies can fight it out on the world’s schoolyard.

Why are people shocked the U.S. government spies on everyone? Many people suspected the U.S. government is spying on its citizens. Edward Snowden just provided the proof. As long as I can remember, the U.S. government was encroaching on liberties. After September 11, 2001, the encroachment accelerated while the federal, state, and county governments threw out the Bill of Rights. After the terroristic attacks on the United States in 2001, the Arizona State Police called anyone a terrorist who recited the Bill of Rights to law enforcement officers. The Bill of Rights, a fundamental document to the U.S. Constitution, restricts a government’s power. Thus, a terrorist recites the law to the police. I thought a terrorist creates chaos and disorder in a society by exploding bombs and murdering innocent people. I knew the federal, state, and local governments stopped enforcing the Bill of Rights long ago.

After September 11, 2001, President Bush and Congress passed laws that broadened the federal government’s powers. For example, the U.S. President can label any person a terrorist. Then the U.S. prosecutors can seize a person’s property and try him or her in a tribunal court with no jury trial, violating the Bill of Rights. Everyone thought President Obama would differ from his predecessors. Then he passed a law making it a felony for people to protest near Secret Service agents, even though President Obama had protested at Harvard University as a young man. That adage that parents tell their children– do as I say and not as I do. Unfortunately, leaders become more concerned about maintaining control than doing the right thing.

The U.S. government rules the world like an empire. Unfortunately, this story has happened already. The ancient Roman Empire dominated the world 2,000 years ago. The Roman Empire experienced four eerily similar trends to the United States. First, the emperors kept usurping power away from the local governments. The Roman government’s bureaucracies continued growing in size and scope. Third, the emperor financed a large army and navy. As a Roman colony or province broke away, the emperor sent its army to squash the rebellion. Finally, the emperors kept raising taxes over time to finance the expensive military and bureaucracies. Eventually, the emperor lost control as the Western Roman Empire collapsed around 500 AD. Many people were happy to see it go.

Is Edward Snowden a traitor or hero? He destroyed his life to leak the NSA’s surveillance program, and the U.S. government will hunt him down for the rest of his life. Only a hero risks his life for doing the right thing.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Something is Wrong with Microsoft

Microsoft has evolved into a monopoly that dominates software for the PC laptops and desktops. It derives its monopoly power from three sources: Operating system, office suite, and a technology standard. An operating system allows the user to use and manipulate the computer using icons and graphics. Microsoft’s estimated market share for operating systems comprised 93% of desktops and laptops in July 2013, dominated by Windows 7 and Windows XP. Computer users can install a free operating system, Linux, but Linux consistently has a 1% market share or less and remains the realm of computer specialists and geeks. Then Microsoft dominates the Office Software market. People use office software to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and design layouts. Microsoft’s office software dominated 92% of the market in 2013 even though Apache offers Open Office for free. Finally, Microsoft sets the technology standard. As people create and share their work with others, which computer files do they send? Most people have no trouble using Microsoft’s formats for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Would you risk sending your resume to an employer using an Open Office format?

Microsoft has developed into a monopoly. A monopoly does not have any competitors although Microsoft has competitors that offer free software while Microsoft charges hundreds of dollars for its operating system and office software. Monopolies can earn long-run profits. Forbes listed Microsoft’s founder, Bill Gates, as the world’s richest person until the 2008 Financial Crisis. Now, he consistently ranks second. Monopolies become plagued with several problems. First, a monopoly becomes bureaucratic and stops listening to its consumers. Second, monopolies adapt new technology slowly, and they treat their customers poorly. I have heard Microsoft does have good customer service in the United States.

Microsoft grew rapidly, and users loved Windows XP. Then Microsoft introduced Vista in 2006. Operating system hogged resources, was slow with long boot and shut down times. Moreover, Vista would not work on computers with certain hardware while some software crashed frequently; even Microsoft’s Office XP had glitches. I remember my Word or Excel program would crash several times in a row before it would work. Some functions never worked correctly such as the search function. Microsoft stuck many people with this crappy operating system. After I had bought a new laptop with Vista, I tried to return to Windows XP, but I was missing several critical drivers. Computer manufacturers never go backwards in designing drivers.

Microsoft realized its mistake and released Windows 7. However, most people may not realize Windows 7 is a fixed Vista. Vista turned into a catastrophe; Microsoft had to rename its operating system, moving away from the Vista name. Windows 7 used Aero introducing a sharp, refined look to the operating system with translucent windows and bars. Microsoft introduced the gadgets, the eye candy, to the right of the screen. (I noticed several features of Windows 7 resembled Apple’s OS). Finally, the operating system worked properly. Microsoft fixed its mistake. It would be nice if Microsoft let people stuck with Vista to update to Windows 7 for free.

A monopoly becomes out of touch with its customers. Microsoft forgot its mistakes and unleashed Windows 8 upon the world. Operating system moves backwards! Microsoft removed the start menu from the operating system. Users do not think about the start menu until Microsoft has eliminated it. Without a start menu, the desktop feels alien and useless because everything revolves around the start menu. I became lost, trying to navigate around the operating system. Then Windows 8 turned off Aero, so Windows 8 loses its sharp, refined features, such as transparency and gadgets.

Microsoft has forgotten its customers, or who uses their software. Users must toggle to a separate screen to access their programs. This screen resembles an ugly version of Android. Why copy Android? Microsoft wants to enter the tablet market, and Android has evolved into the premier operating system for tablets and smartphones. These devices use simple processors, where people can view pictures, read e-books and documents, watch videos, and play simple games. On the other hand, a person needs a full-fledged operating system to play games with heavy graphics, write and create documents, process image, etc. Simple processors cannot handle the complex tasks that a desktop or laptop provides.

Microsoft became out of touch with its consumers. First, Microsoft should never restrict consumers’ choices. As a user turns on the laptop or desktop for the first time, let the user choose if they want the traditional desktop with the start menu or the new Android-like menu screen. Windows 8 is better suited for tablets than desktops, even though Microsoft forces tablet software onto customers who use desktops and laptops. Second, Microsoft partially caved into the consumers. It released Windows 8.1 that places a start button on the lower left corner of the desktop that leads to the ugly Android-like screen. Microsoft refuses to return the traditional start menu. Third, Microsoft should improve the operating system if it wants people to use it. Fourth, Microsoft should never impose something new on users without testing its products on test groups. Microsoft has launched two duds upon the world: Vista and Windows 8.

People are leery of Microsoft as they avoid Microsoft products whenever they can. Perhaps Microsoft burned too many consumers with Vista and Windows 8. Managers at Microsoft see the declining PC sales while sales for tablets and smartphones show strong growth. Microsoft released the Surface tablet to compete with the Android tablets and Apple Ipads, but consumers are not buying Microsoft’s tablets. Then Microsoft released Windows Phone 8 for smartphones that three manufacturers use. Nokia offers a whole line of Lumia smartphones. Huawei sells one model while Samsung offers two models. Nevertheless, Microsoft’s sales remain weak. Investors have caught on, and Microsoft’s stock plunged 10% during one trading day in July 2013.

Microsoft embodies a monopoly that became out of touch with its markets and its consumers. Company has failed to introduce new products, and it pushes an operating system that people do not want. In my case, Vista forced me to look at the competitors. Since 2009, I always install a version of Linux on my system next to Windows. I tried Windows 8, but I will return to Windows 7 and wait for Windows 9.