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Deepak Chopra: Is the Fate of Democracy in Sarah Palin’s Hands?

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

A recent review of Sarah Palin’s bestselling book, Going Rogue, ends by declaring that she is the worst nightmare come true for democrats with a small d. This is both a startling and an obvious claim. It’s obvious in that Palin is a rabble-rouser. Without shame or apology she targets the crazy right, fueling their resentment and anger with outright lies. “Death panels” are only the most colorful example. She is willing to bait the mob with any fear about America’s future, from financial collapse to terrorist devastation.

Palin’s image as an abortion-hating, meat-eating, gun-toting hockey mom is a flimsy contrivance. But if she seems like a prime example of political piffle, Palin’s rise is also startling, because her followers truly bond with her in a visceral way that is rare for any politician. In February Palin will give the keynote speech to a national convention of the tea-bag movement. At that moment we will learn something about political passions and the future of democracy — something we wish wasn’t there.

In his year-end roundup, New York Times columnist David Brooks said that he has always looked to passionate outsiders as omens for the future. John Birchers in the Sixties, feminists in the Seventies, and religious fundamentalists in the Eighties are examples of embattled outsiders who gained center stage through their passionate commitment. Brooks sees that same passion among the tea-baggers, with their blinkered obsession over socialism, taxes, and big government. It’s a potent, toxic mix. Ronald Reagan wasn’t telling the truth when he said that government is the problem, not the solution, but with that slogan he launched a reactionary crusade. Today, thousands of Americans feel more compelled than ever to join that crusade.

Once any political movement wins, it becomes self-justifying. Reaganism was on the whole very harmful to America and at its heart hypocritical, since Reagan presided over an enormous jump in the size of government and a tripling of the deficit. But since the reactionary right was able to seize the reins of democracy, it automatically felt justified. As a result, a generation of Americans has grown up disgusted with government while at the same time buying into a range of bigoted and prejudicial beliefs that make good government impossible. When you will do anything to block healthcare reform, immigration reform, subsidized spending for a crippled economy, and increased revenues to care for an aging population, government isn’t the problem: you are.

People don’t like to feel that they are the problem. Therefore, many flock to a myth-maker like Palin. Her hokey frontier ethic is completely divorced from reality. Few poor people can shoot a moose outside our back window or would want to. They need food stamps and other kinds of compassionate help. Palin touts free enterprise and hates federal programs. But Alaska takes more federal dollars per capita than any other state, and a third of its jobs are government jobs.

What we’re seeing is an old tactic in new bottles. The right wing thrived by distracting voters from reality. The average person’s life isn’t remotely affected by school prayer, flag-burning, late-term abortion, or gay marriage. But if you get enough voters aroused by these issues, the party in power can subsidize the rich with vast tax cuts and look aside as real incomes for the middle-class fail to rise. All the benefits of corruption, from freewheeling lobbyists and influence peddling to Wall Street chicanery and subprime lending, go to the haves and hurt the have nots.

Palin has turned up the volume but pursues the same tactic. Her situation is one that’s easy to identify with if you are hurting. She holds together a family and fiercely defends it in the face of a teenage pregnancy and a Down’s syndrome baby. It’s also easy to identify with her knee-jerk reaction against taxes, federal bureaucracy, and unwanted intrusions from Washington.

But if you go one layer deeper, Palin’s kind of mobocracy would lead to the following:
— reluctant assistance for victims of disasters like Katrina
— a burgeoning underclass cut adrift from government aid
— an out-of-control medical system at the mercy of insurance companies and ever-rising costs
— the vicious criminalization of illegal immigrants
— a belligerent military stance around the world
— an atmosphere of permanent fear-mongering
— the driving out of tolerant, educated people from the political system
— a chaotic attack on all government programs
— a huge mismatch between income and spending by the government

This list would represent fear-mongering on my part except for the fact that all these things occurred during the Bush years. Democracy suffered a huge setback with the long reign of right-wing ideology. All that Sarah Plain offers is an amped-up version fueled by more blatant appeals to mindless fear and rage. Will she succeed? It’s an open question. The American public has barely emerged from the fog of illusion; Palin’s success or failure will tell us a lot about whether the same fog, only thicker, is about to return.

Deepak Chopra on Intent.com
For more information go to deepakchopra.com

More on Sarah Palin


Fact-Checking the Sunday Talk Show Circuit?

January 5th, 2010 admin No comments

A couple of wild and crazy ideas for holding politicians and pundits accountable for the crap they peddle on the Sunday talk show circuit:

NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen tweeted an idea about improving the Sunday morning talk shows. He says the programs, rather than letting politicians get away with distortions, should offer an online fact check each week of exaggerations and lies. For the guests, says Rosen, the format beckons them to evade, deny, elide, demagogue and confuse, but then they pay for it later if they give into temptation and make that choice. I happen to think that makes a lot of sense toward holding officials accountable.

Or:

Naked assertions from politicians are the stuff of these shows. Why can’t some of them be checked in real time? Surely it’s possible to have a small army of fact-checkers at the ready during the broadcasts of these shows. Network news divisions already employ reporters and researchers (all of whom are likely passively watching their network’s program anyway) who can be deployed to assist the overall journalistic enterprise. Moreover, I’m reliably informed that technology now allows for people to send “instant messages” to one another. Why not use it? Why not open up these lines of communication between the backroom and the moderator, and bring the full force of a news gathering organization to bear as the cameras roll live?

Personally, I prefer the second option — call these people out in real time.

But I won’t hold my breath for either option to be implemented. After all, if today’s television “journalists” didn’t allow their guests to spew their garbage on Sunday, what would they have to breathlessly report on for the rest of the week?


Categories: Politics Tags: , ,

Woman to Hef: I Gave You the Best Years …

January 1st, 2010 admin No comments

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In a lawsuit that arguably defies the very fabric of Playboy, a woman who was fired by Playboy Enterprises claims Hugh Hefner prefers younger women.Jennifer Lewis, a former Guest Relations Coordinator for the Playboy Mansion, claims she was fired …

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Steven Cohen: A Real Public Advocate for New York City

December 26th, 2009 admin No comments

During the recent New York City Mayoral campaign, Mayor Michael Bloomberg advocated eliminating the City’s Public Advocate Office. Speaking to the Staten Island Advance on October 11, 2009, Bloomberg observed that: “You should get rid of the public advocate. It’s a total waste of everybody’s money. Nobody needs another gadfly and we have an aggressive enough press.” The Mayor is about to initiate a new Charter Revision Commission to look at the government’s structure and eliminating this office will probably be on the Commission’s agenda.

While I agree that the current version of the Public Advocate’s office is a waste of money, I actually think we need to head in the other direction and create a stronger Public Advocate and Ombudsperson office for New York City. The Mayor is wrong when he says that the press is aggressive enough. The media may annoy him, and they may appear to be aggressive, but they largely focus on high profile scandals that attract attention and advertisers. They don’t do much reporting on the operations of city government. As newsrooms lose their investigative staff capacity, this will only get worse, and the city government will continue to lack a meaningful check on its actions.

New York City is the largest local government in the United States with a budget of over $60 billion and more than 280,000 employees. The local level is where government does the heavy lifting of delivering essential services. The complexity of managing such a huge enterprise requires a strong, executive centered government structure, and under the current city charter, that is what New York’s got. The Mayor of New York City is the second most powerful government official in the United States- and that is a very good thing. The problem is that we may have too much of a good thing. We need a strong executive with the power to ensure that the place functions, but we also need an independent voice to evaluate and critique government’s actions. The current Public Advocate’s office has too few resources to play this role. Its budget ranges between $2 and $3 million a year and according to its web site it has a staff of around 30.

I would like to see a revised city charter that strengthens the office of Public Advocate. We should try to create an organization with the resources to monitor and evaluate all the functions of city government. We could start by having the Independent Budget Office report to the Public Advocate. That office has gradually developed a reputation for sound, professional policy and management analysis and is about the same size (31 staff) as the Public Advocate’s office. The Independent Budget Office’s chief problem is that its work is easy to ignore because it is too independent and is disconnected from politics. It will never be the equivalent of the federal government’s Congressional Budget Office or its Government Accountability Office because it has no real role in the city’s political process. Give newly elected Public Advocate Bill de Blasio a real analytic arm and the Mayor and his Commissioners would know they were being watched.

I wouldn’t stop there. I would also move the Conflict of Interest Board and its 19 staff and nearly $2 million annual budget into the Public Advocate’s Office as well. An outside assessment of the ethical behavior of city employees would enhance the independence of those reviews, but more importantly would convince those employees that the Public Advocate’s office could not be ignored. A major problem with the current Public Advocate’s office is that it has no signficant charter-driven tasks. The Conflict of Interest Board has specific rules it must interpret and enforce, but having it report to the Mayor is itself a sort of conflict of interest.

These are just two examples of methods that could be used to strengthen this office without adding to the City’s overall budget. I’m sure that a well managed charter revision board staff could find other opportunities to build a more muscular Advocate’s Office if they were directed to do so.

I recognize, of course, that this proposal is not politically feasible. While Mayor Bloomberg is a tough and often unforgiving internal critic of agency performance, he prefers to keep his critique internal and private. While that works well with a self-financed Mayor with impressive command of operational and financial data, it will once again be proven disastrous when the city is run by non-billionaires who must raise their own campaign cash. It is hard for me to imagine that Mayor Bloomberg will reverse course and change his position from eliminating the office to strengthening it. It’s even harder for me to imagine that future Mayors or City Councils would support the creation of a powerful competitor.

Mayor Bloomberg is correct when he says the current office is relatively useless. The weak powers of the office and its lack of resources marginalized the first two Public Advocates. When Mark Green was Advocate, the office was characterized by PR antics and other devices designed to position him to run for Mayor (an office with real power). The outgoing Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum tried to accommodate the Mayor and find small issues that could be tackled without generating controversy. Given this meager track record, it’s easy to see why the office attracts such derision.

But an empowered Public Advocate’s Office could provide meaningful oversight of the City’s powerful Mayor’s Office and the government it manages. It would have real work to do and some of the resources needed to do it. One of the reasons for inadequate government performance is the absence of competition. One way to deal with that problem is to analyze and evaluate agency performance and then expose both the performance and analysis to public scrutiny. I think that a stronger Advocate could and should be assigned this critical role in the City’s government.

More on Michael Bloomberg


Categories: World Tags: , , , , ,

AL-05: Parker Griffith Can Lose

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

Could newly-minted turncoat Parker Griffith get teabagged to death? It’s looking like a real possibility. You’d think that if the NRCC could score a party switch (always a big deal), it would come with assurances that the primary field would be swept clear. And just a few years ago, when the Republicans were in the majority and promoting conservatism was equated with supporting Bush, I have no doubt that would have happened. (After all, no GOPers complained when Rodney Alexander changed parties.) But today, with wingnuts demanding absurd levels of purity, it’s a different ballgame:

Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks (R) said Tuesday afternoon that he won’t be clearing out of the GOP primary in Alabama’s 5th district to make way for Rep. Parker Griffith, who announced earlier in the day that he was switching parties and joining the Republican Conference.

Brooks also warned the Congressman that his party switching ways will not go over well with GOP primary voters, who make up the vast majority of the 48 percent of the 5th district electorate that voted against Griffith in the 2008 general election.

“That’s a tough jury to sell, particularly when you’ve voted with [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] 85 percent of the time,” Brooks said. “It’s unbelievably good fortune that Parker Griffith would jump into our pool and want to play. … He has just propelled us to favored candidate status.”

This just goes to show you: You can vote against the Democrats on every single big-ticket item – the stimulus, the Obama budget, cap-and-trade, healthcare, finacial regulatory reform, and even equal pay for women – and they’ll still find something to hit you on. In this case, Mo Brooks is smacking Griffith for his WaPo “Voting with Party” score. Nevermind that Griffith has one of the lowest scores on the list – trying to fight from a defensive crouch is almost always a recipe for failure. The GOP would surely have used this number against him had he stayed a Dem; it’s nice to see he’ll still get whaled on with it as a Republican. (And let that be a lesson to other conservadems who think they can hide behind lousy voting records.)

But don’t worry – Griffith’s new Republican buddies have plenty more ammo:

But just five years ago, Griffith donated $1,500 to the presidential campaign of liberal icon Howard Dean — with one donation coming when Dean’s campaign was already faltering in February 2004.

(Griffith also gave $1,000 to Sen. Harry Reid [D-Nev.] in December 2003 — something his conservative detractors will be sure to point out.)

Howard Dean! LOL! Who knew that me and Grif had so much in common? I was a big Dean supporter back then, too! But I think that even I knew it was time to jump ship by February (hell, his campaign folded in the middle of that month). You can bet that if a guy pretending to be a Southern-fried conservative was at one point a Dean backer, he’s said and done a lot of other libruhl shit over the course of his career. Like this:

A Dem source noted that while all of his back-and-forth with GOPers was going on, Griffith actually took the time to attend the 12/9 DCCC holiday party, an event that featured Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That doesn’t exactly paint the picture of a man wavering in his party commitments.

You can bet that isn’t the only time Grif has hobnobbed with Pelosi. But wait – there’s more! Plenty more. I think Griffith’s primary opponents could run this old ad – courtesy of the NRCC, circa 2008 – without changing a single word:

I know you didn’t think I was done yet. Our compadres at the Club for Growth is happy to Scozzafava good ol’ Grif, too:

Griffith’s voting record is far from conservative, too. Granted, he voted against the Big 4 – Obama’s first budget, the Stimulus, Cap and Trade, and ObamaCare.  However, his vote on the budget is slightly deceptive since he originally voted for 9 of the 12 spending bills that make up the budget.  And he voted against all the Stimulus amendments that would reduce its size.

But just a quick perusal of 2009 shows that he voted  YES on the 2009 pork-filled Omnibus; YES on Cash for Clunkers, NO on waiving the harmful Davis-Bacon provision, and had a pathetic 0% score on the 2009 RePORK Card.

This party switch signals Griffith’s nervousness, but it doesn’t signal that his incumbency is safe.

Zing! I think it’s very possible that it will be easier for Brooks to beat Griffith in a primary rather than a general. The DCCC is squeezing Grif to get back their money (something they did successfully with Rodney Alexander), so that’ll hurt him on the financial front. What’s more, he’s got a bit of a “damned-if-he-do, damned-if-he-don’t” situation on his hands: If the NRCC decides to openly support Griffith, it would almost certainly provide major fodder to the teabaggers – Charlie Crist 2.0. On the flipside, if they don’t back him (very possible, since they have to care more about blue seats than red ones), well, then, he loses out on major institutional backing. Not a good problem to have.

It’s important to remember that to remain a member in good standing of the conservative movement, it isn’t enough just to vote a certain way. You have to evidence a very particular tribal belonging – you need to hate the right people, be ignorant of the right facts, be fearful of the right bogeymen, and be arrogant about the whole enterprise. If you somehow fail this tribal litmus test, it doesn’t matter how right-wing you are – that’s how, for example, a wildly conservative guy like former Rep. Chris Cannon could lose a primary to another wildly conservative maniac.

And Parker Griffith is no Chris Cannon. Good luck, li’l buddy.


Categories: Politics Tags: , , , , , ,

Rudy Giuliani 2010: Ex-Mayor Announces That He Won’t Run For Office

December 22nd, 2009 admin No comments

NEW YORK — Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, viewed by many New York Republicans as a savior for the struggling party, said Tuesday he wouldn’t run for political office in 2010, choosing to concentrate on his lucrative law and consulting businesses.

Giuliani, whose most recent foray into politics ended with a stinging loss to John McCain in the race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, told WABC-TV Tuesday that he will not commit to another high-profile run for office.

“None of it has to do with not wanting to do it. I would have loved to have run for either governor or the Senate,” Giuliani told the New York City television station outside his Manhattan home. “It’s a great honor. I love public service. It just happens to be that right now both of these enterprises that I’m in, Bracewell & Giuliani and Giuliani Partners, are at a critical point. And I really want to devote myself to it.”

His announcement has implications on two big races – the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand and Democratic Gov. David Paterson’s big for another term.

The former mayor spoke before he was set to endorse fellow Republican Rick Lazio in the governor’s race. Giuliani scheduled an afternoon news conference to discuss his support for Lazio, who was trounced by Hillary Rodham Clinton for Senate in 2000.

Giuliani, who withdrew from the 2000 Senate race against Clinton for health and personal reasons, says Republicans still have plenty of potential candidates to take on Gillibrand. They include ex-Gov. George Pataki and U.S. Rep. Pete King.

Paterson appointed Gillibrand earlier this year to take over for Clinton after the former first lady became secretary of state. The 2010 election will decide who would serve out the balance of the term, through 2012.

Potential Republican candidates for Senate had been looking for word on Giuliani’s plans before proceeding with theirs. But Lee Miringoff of the Marist College poll notes time is growing short to raise money and a candidate’s statewide stature.

“This is the time to make your intentions known, regardless of the nuance of what Rudy may or may not say about it,” Miringoff said.

Miringoff said Republicans hoping to win any office in a state dominated by Democratic voters need to establish name recognition and raise millions of dollars during what could potentially be a big year for Republicans.

The off-year elections in November toppled many Democrats and polls show flagging support for President Barack Obama and many other Democrats. Paterson is seeking election and his polls are rising, but from low levels. Also, Democrats control state government, but hard fiscal times such as these often hurt incumbents.

“It might look like a good Republican year, despite this being a very blue state,” Miringoff said. “But they have to field a strong team and they aren’t there yet.”

Besides Lazio, Erie County Executive Chris Collins, a Republican former businessman and proven fundraiser, also is exploring a bid for governor.

Guy Molinari, former Staten Island borough president, former congressman and a leader in GOP politics statewide, said before the announcement that he would be disappointed if Giuliani decided against running.

“We are in critical times right now and we need him badly, but he has to make a personal decision,” Molinari said.

Molinari, however, also said he was disappointed by Giuliani’s decision to endorse Lazio now, when other candidates, including Collins, would be stronger.

King, a Long Island Republican, said he thought Giuliani was the GOP’s strongest candidate against Paterson.

“He had 100 percent name recognition and he’s a leader at a time when people are really questioning Democrats,” King said. “Rudy would be best.”

Giuliani’s consulting business, Giuliani Partners, is flourishing. This month it landed a contract with Rio de Janeiro to help make the city safer before it is the site of the 2016 Olympics. The mayor credited by many for turning around New York City toured a violence-plagued slum in Rio.

___

Gormley reported from Albany, N.Y.

More on Rudy Giuliani


World’s worst endangered animal smuggling kingpin

December 21st, 2009 admin No comments


Marilyn sez, “Bryan Christy writes in the Jan issue of National Geographic about a notorious animal smuggler. It took the undercover unit of the US Fish & Wildlife Service five years to track down Anson Wong, the world’s most wanted smuggler of endangered species. But he got out of prison in 47 months, during which time his wife kept the business going full force. And when Wong got out of prison he set his sights on a ‘new wildlife venture, a zoo that promises to be his most audacious enterprise yet’ — smuggling tigers. Christy tells the story of how the Fish & Wildlife Special Ops team set up a sting operation to capture Wong, who boasted of having horns of Sumatran and Javanese rhinoceroses, both forbidden Appendix I animals. He talked openly about getting shahtoosh, the ‘king of wool,’ from the Tibetan antelope. He had access to extraordinary birds, including the Rothschild’s mynah, whose wild population was estimated to number fewer than 150. He bragged about his Spix’s macaws, a bird now believed to be extinct in the wild, claiming he’d recently sold three. The black market rate for a Spix’s macaw was $100,000. His expanding list of astonishing illegal rarities included panda skins and snow leopard pelts.”

While no one knows exactly how large the illegal wildlife trade is, this much is certain: It’s extraordinarily lucrative. Profit margins are the kind drug kingpins would kill for. Smugglers evade detection by hiding illegal wildlife in legal shipments, they bribe wildlife and customs officials, and they alter trade documents. Few are ever caught, and penalties are usually no more severe than a parking ticket. Wildlife trafficking may very well be the world’s most profitable form of illegal trade, bar none.

Asia’s Wildlife Trade

(Thanks, Marilyn!)


Categories: World Tags: , , ,

EtherPad Gets A Makeover And Becomes Even More Of A Threat To Google Docs (Invites)

July 24th, 2009 admin No comments

AppJet’s EtherPad, the real-time Google Docs-like wiki tool we wrote about last fall, has been upgraded to be prettier, more user-friendly and far more collaborative than before. EtherPad was the brainchild of former Googlers (who founded online programming tool and Y Combinator funded AppJet) who wanted a real-time, yet group oriented way to collaborate on notes and documents. Thus, EtherPad was born. We have 100 free beta invites to the premium version of EtherPad here.

When we first reviewed EtherPad, we found the web-based rival to Google Docs to be sore on the eyes but incredibly useful. What made EtherPad unique from the start was the ability to have multiple people making edits and writing in a document in real-time. You simply create a document, send the link around, and anyone can join. Each user’s edits are highlighted in a different color (with a key featured on the side with which color belongs to each user). Changes are made in absolute real time, something even Google hasn’t been able to do (Google docs update every fifteen seconds). Users can also chat in the sidebar and save versions of documents forever.

Now, EtherPad has launched a new, redesigned version with more tools and functionality that may just give Google Docs a run for its money. First, EtherPad completely redesigned the entire UI to look softer and simpler. The interface is much less stark and easier on the eyes. EtherPad also lets you import and export Word, PDF, Plain Text and HTML documents. Appjet made writing a document in EtherPad more like writing out notes in Word or Google Docs, adding rich text formatting, including bold, underline, italics and strikethrough commands to the wiki. And organization of notes within a document became a little better with the ability to add bullet points.

Additionally, EtherPad now has a monetization strategy. You can use the service for free, but you cannot make your documents secure via a password. The EtherPad Professional Edition is securely hosted in the cloud, free for up to 3 users; $8 per user per month above 3 users. The Private Network Edition for Enterprises is $99 per seat as a one-time fee for life, but your documents will be kept behind a firewall.

AppJet’s co-founder Aaron Iba says that 300,000 synchronous pads have been created on EtherPad and it is being used by a vast variety of companies and organizations. For example, students at Stanford Law School use EtherPad to collaborate on note-taking during class. And tech companies are using the product to interview engineers remotely while still being able to test the ability to write code for an application at the same time.

AppJet recently closed an angel round of funding of about $250,000 led by Mitch Kapor, who was joined by Chris Yeh, and others. The startup has also received seed funding from Y Combinator and the FriendFeed founders.

After seeing a demo of the new and improved EtherPad, it seems clear that the fledgling product has the potential to rival Google Docs and other popular collaborative wikis on a pure feature basis. EtherPad is planning to add several more features to the mix in the near future including spell check, the ability to import images and video conferencing.

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Windows 7 Passes The Test, Is Ready For Manufacturing

July 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

Microsoft’s newest version of its operating system, Windows 7, is finally in the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) stage, so the OS will soon be preloaded on new PCs. Though not officially released yet, Windows 7 is expected to be a hit. For instance, after just eight hours on Amazon UK, Windows 7 pre-orders outpaced the total number of pre-orders for Vista over a period of 17 weeks.

According to Microsoft, Windows 7, which offers seven different versions of the OS, has undergone significant testing, quality assurance and validation required to get to the RTM stage. Independent software and hardware vendors will be able to download Windows 7 RTM as early as August 6th. Microsoft will be rolling out Windows 7 to other partners in mid to late August. Enterprise customers and developers will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in English starting on August 7, with additional language functionality for Windows 7 released shortly after.

For the plebes/consumers, Windows 7 will be in retail stores and shipping on new PCs starting October 22nd, which we already knew. After receiving an overwhelming response from beta testers, Microsoft is also offering a “family pack” for Windows 7 that will allow installation on up to 3 PCs. The company has also officially released the new version of Expression 3, the set of tools Microsoft offers for developers to build applications off of Silverlight.

Of course, the official RTM release of Windows 7 comes at a time when Microsoft’s stranglehold of the operating system is being challenged by the recent announcement of Google’s Chrome OS. Google is scheduled to release the open source code for Chrome OS later this year, which perhaps could conveniently fall around the October launch of Windows 7. The first Chrome OS PCs won’t launch until next year. While Google says the Chrome OS is targeted towards netbooks at the moment, there is definite potential for Google’s OS to expand to the other types of PCs, giving Microsoft something to mull over.

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Cautiously Optimistic: CrunchBase Q2 Report Shows Upticks In VC Funding and Exits

July 22nd, 2009 admin No comments

q2_2009_badge1

Is the worst behind us? The broad worldwide recession hit the venture capital and startup communities hard last year. Memories of the NASDAQ meltdown and venture capital “nuclear winter” earlier this decade sent everyone into a tizzy as they feared a repeat performance—venture dollars froze and hundreds of thousands of tech workers were laid off.

But it appears that the worst is over for now. Or at least, the broad indicators suggest that venture and entrepreneurial activity has stabilized and may in some cases be trending up. In Q2 2009 we tracked via CrunchBase a total of 400 estimated new startups founded, $6.4 billion in new venture capital financings and $15.8 billion in merger and acquisition activity. (Download the full report here for $195) And we only tracked 20,000 new layoffs, just 10% of the 200,000 we saw let go in Q1 2009.

Of course this could just be the calm in the eye of the storm, with significant additional turbulence up ahead. Venture capital returns continue to flatline—there are simply too many venture firms investing too much money, and the IPO market for startups remains effectively shuttered. We either need a path towards liquidity for startups or a much smaller venture capital market.

But the Q2 CrunchBase numbers make us cautiously optimistic.

For one thing, we estimate a rebound in the number of start-ups being founded (always a good sign). There were already 191 companies in CrunchBase founded in Q2 2009 (at the time we did our final data run) . We expect that number to reach more than 400 as a result of a normal lag in self-reporting.

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Venture investments are also coming back. They increased 19% from $5.4 billion in Q1 to $6.4 billion in Q2 2009. This compares to $5.3 billion in Q2 deals counted by Dow Jones VentureSource and only $3.7 billion by Thomson Reuters in the MoneyTree Report which came out last night. (Each report is based on its own set of data and different methodologies). Although the trend is up from last quarter, our Q2 2009 data is 24% lower than Q2 2008.

The number of deals we tracked in the quarter was 516, a bit lower than the 560 in Q1, but the average deal size went up. Also, we saw a greater appetite for early stage investing, with the money going into Series A investments increasing 83 percent to $900 million. Series B investments still dominated with 104 deals totaling $1 billion. The average deal size was $12.4 million, with the median deal size at $5.5 million.

fund_val

The M&A action is also starting to pick up. CrunchBase counted 214 exits totaling $15.8 billion for Q2 2009. Aggregate M&A volume is 50% higher than the Q1 total of $10.3 billion, though still down 40% from $25.8 billion a year ago. About half of that total, however, comes from a single transaction: Oracle’s $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems (announced during the quarter, but still pending). Other large M&A deals included Glaxo SmithKline buying Stiefel for $3.8 billion, Intel acquiring Wind River for $884 million, OpenText snatching Vignette for $310 million and Intuit buying PayCycle for $175 million.

aqs_val

The full 35-page second-quarter report (including 29 interactive exhibits in excel and 33 PDF graphics) is available for $195 as a download here. This quarter, we added all our raw data and tables into excel files so readers can easily cut-and-paste charts into their own reports and slice-and-dice the data for their own use. We’ve also included a number of graphics that readers can use for third party publishing, linking is appreciated. Of course, you’re also welcome to grab the data free of charge through our CrunchBase open API.

See the report table of contents and a list of exhibits here.

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