Explaining Southern California's economy

DeBord Report on 'America Now with Andy Dean,' April 13 edition


Listen in above to my weekly business and economy segment on "America Now with Andy Dean." Last Friday — Friday the 13th, no less! — Andy and I wrangled over some his favorite topics and a few of mine. Talking about the extra days that taxpayers will have to file this year yielded some lively banter about Mitt Romney and a set-up to talk about the Buffett Rule and capital gains. 

A bit later, Andy was able to vent about public-sector pensions and unions, while I was able to make the point that...he's a got a point, and that we're going to have to develop new ways to administer these benefits, given that big pension funds, like Calpers in California, aren't going to be able to meet the 7-8 percent targets for returns on investments.

We even got to spend some time discussing Google's stock split, which is either moderately evil or sort of desperate, depending on your point of view. And by the way, I agree with Andy that YouTube's lack of "conservative" channels in a new roll-out is a problem (Google owns YouTube). Conservatives provide great entertainment and it's a miss for YouTube to fail to include them, if that's YouTube's intention.


The quick take on Google's stock split

Google Stock Photo

Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images

The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Google just announced first-quarter earnings, and they were solid, beating expectations and quickly reversing a negative trend from last quarter, when Google missed expectations. But what's more important is an announcement that, like Apple, Google is planning to return some of its rather large cash hoard to investors. And what's interesting is how Google intends to do it.

[UPDATE: A commenter, "Finance Gourmet," points out that this isn't a return of cash to shareholders, but the creation of a new class of non-voting stock distributed as a dividend. Correct! I thought Google was going to underwrite these shares out of cash, but on that front I was...confused! by the Drummond note. In fact, this whole thing is really more about retaining voting control of the company than it is about dealing with the cash issue. However, it is a reward or sorts for shareholders.]


Google Goggles are for New York City hipsters

A ukelele? Seriously? 

Well, Google has produced a teaser video for the Google Goggles that broke cover a little while back. It stars some dude living in New York who wears his Google Goggles as he meanders through his hipster New York day, culminating a sunset serenade with the aforementioned ukelele, by video chat, with a dudette who I'm just going to assume isn't his sister.

These things are for real, by the way. Google co-founder Sergey Brin was spotted wearing a pair. Apparently, he was doing Google-y with them on.

In fact, as silly as the Google Googles initially seem (or as creepy, depending on your point of view), wearable consumer electronics are probably going to be the Next Big Thing. The video makes the case in a quietly convincing manner, by deploying various Google technologies through an always-on wearable device that narrows the physical gap between user and online interface.


In Silicon Valley, nice guys aren't for real

Paul Sakuma/AP

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg poses at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Feb. 5, 2007. This was long before he became a modern-day robber baron.

At Breakingviews, Rob Cox lays into our presumptions about the virtues of Silicon Valley startup founders like Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Pincus, and (by implication) Steve Jobs. Here's a salient paragraph:

Though Silicon Valley’s newest billionaires may anoint themselves the saints of American capitalism, they’re beginning to resemble something else entirely: robber barons. Behind the hoodies and flip-flops lurk businesspeople as rapacious as the black-suited and top-hatted industrialists of the late 19th century. Like their predecessors in railroads, steel, banking, and oil a century ago, Silicon Valley’s new entrepreneurs are harnessing technology to make the world more efficient. But along the way, that process is bringing great economic and labor dislocation, as well as an unequal share of the spoils. Just last week, the Justice Department warned Apple that it planned to sue the company along with several U.S. publishers for colluding to raise the price of electronic books - monopolistic behavior that would have made John Rockefeller proud. 


Smartphones: Can they catch on in the developing world?

Jerome Favre/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A member of the media examines the Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy Nexus smartphone, running Google Inc.'s Ice Cream Sandwich Android operating, system in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011. Samsung will begin selling the first mobile phone run on Google's new operating system next month, counting on facial-recognition security to help challenge Apple Inc.'s iPhone.

At Slate, Matt Yglesias rolls out a chart that shows the astonishing adoption rates of both Apple's iOS and Google's Android. So yes, both mobile operating systems have done more than caught on — they've taken over the world.

The developed world, that is. And this is where I think Yglesias overreaches:

In terms of adoption rates, iOS blew the previous entrants out of the water and now Android is setting a new even more amazing record-breaking pace. This is going to be an especially important development in relatively poor countries while mobile connectivity is generally better than wireline, so the availability of relatively cheap relatively powerful mobile devices is a total gamechanger. 

He's making the healthy assumption that these operating systems are going to be adopted in the developing world. iOS runs on only Apple devices — and Apple devices are very expensive, even by developed-world standards.