A SWOT Analysis On America

I spent 15 years in the States and left in 2006, precisely because I saw the horrifying decline of this great nation. Don’t you think, though, that before a turnaround plan you need to do a SWOT analysis? Here’s a quick stab at it:

Bar none, the most diligent, hard-working, dedicated, disciplined and focused people in the world. I’ve lived on three continents and know what I am talking about.

1. Decay of rationalism. Right there is your biggest problem. The War on Science; the ascend of bullshit artists and religious nutjobs; the contempt for reality, facts, numbers, data that has pervaded the business, financial and political elites.
2.  Very poor lifestyle energy-efficiency, especially in transportation
3.  Unsustainable military spending and engagements
4. Proliferation of a "heads I win, tails someone else loses" model in the economy and finance, also known as "Privatization of profits, socialization of losses" (And yes, many venture capitalists can be blamed for that, too.)

Given the long traditions of rational pragmatism in America and the nation-wide consensus that things need to be changed, there is a real opportunity here for bold and rational changes. In that regard your country is extremely lucky that it will have as a President someone who is universally acknowledged as the "deepest thinker to ever get in the Oval Office". I know this may sound crazy after the past eight years, but being smart and thinking is actually NOT a bad thing.
(And yes, Clinton was also amazingly brilliant, however, he was not really a "thinker". He would rely on his intelligence to mostly wing it and go by feel, instead of through a formal analytical thought process)

Being too late to avoid a profound decline.

Finally, I am a bit ambivalent on the debt thing. Yes, I am worried that my children (all of them U.S. citizen) would have to pay it down, however, as pointed out, you would be crazy not to finance your country’s prosperity at such low financing costs (3-4%).

Originally posted as a comment by Krassen Dimitrov on A VC using Disqus.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Anon


  2. Zach

    Three cheers for Disqus’ new comment reblogging. Definitely would have missed this one but it was a great read. Claim your profile and point us to your blog, Krassen!

  3. Raj

    Most of my childhood friends, people with a long history of American ancestry, were hesitant to admit this terrible truth.I think it sometimes requires having an intelligent, but outside perspective such as that from Mr. Dimitrov, to really synthesize reality.

  4. RodKing

    The caption, “A SWOT Analysis on America,” certainly caught my attention and the posting is an interesting one. Krassen Dimitrov certainly provides a good framework for discussing America’s situation. I feel, however, that there may be a tendency to view the situation as ‘cut and dried.’ Among other reasons, I have decided to visually summarize Krassen’s contents using a Project Storyboard (I hope Krassen doesn’t mind; he is appropriately credited and Fred Wilson’s blog is referenced).To see a visual summary of a SWOT Analysis on the USA, please visit the following link:http://projectstoryboard.ni…A template for Visual SWOT Analysis is also included so that people can extend the SWOT Analysis on the USA from their own perspectives. Afterwards, we can construct a massive “wisdom of the crowd” SWOT-Storyboard that includes the perspective of every contributor both online and offline.Best,Rod King.http://search.galaxyit.com

    1. Alex R

      I came here to say this should be a wiki… I’m glad someone beat me to the punch!Personally, I think this SWOT is a little biased and simplistic, so I’d love to see what the “wisdom of the crowd” can come up with.

  5. Josh

    The war on science? This is funny. The only war on science is against the scientists who question global warming by humans and back it up with evidence.Religious nutjobs? I hope you are referring to radical islam, but I am guessing that you are deranged and thinking more about christians. Let me ask you, when was the last time a Christian sawed off someone’s head and videotaped it in the name of Allah? Yet somehow there is more disdain for Christianity than radical islam.The winner/loser mentality? Sorry, but this is one of American’s greatest strengths and should be preserved at all costs. If you want social protections there are other countries for you like Germany and France where unemployment is +10%. Income mobility in the US is far higher than any other country.You want a “deep thinker” in the Whitehouse? LOL. Too funny. And I disagree, I am sure Clinton had some DEEP thoughts in the White House.Being too late to avoid a decline? Sir, we have a thing called markets in free economies. They are far far more efficient than the controlled economies you hope for. The government caused this problem (forcing banks to loan to people who could not pay them back, stupid people taking the same loans). The government certainly is NOT the answer.Please take the Chicken Little attitude elsewhere.

    1. Sadness

      Next time contemplate the original post (semi-deep thinking with a some rationalism) before you blow a gasket and post a reply.War on science — The biggest one in my opinion is the fight against stem cell research. Can you imagine if we said we weren’t going to engage in “internet-based technologies”? Imagine how much innovation would proceed elsewhere. Same thing goes for stem cell research. Don’t think just because it’s inhibited here that it won’t happen elsewhere. The centers of innovation for the life sciences will shift overseas and we’ll be customers of the resulting technologies.Religious nutjobs — What does sawing off someone’s head have to do with this? See my earlier point about the war on science. Why is stem cell research inhibited in the U.S.? The religious nutjobs effects are closely coupled with the War on Rationalism and the War on Science.

    2. Cam MacRae

      “Religious nutjobs..” Brush up on your history – try the 20th century, or even just the 90s.”Winner/loser mentality…” Seems either you favor social protection only for irresponsible corporations and the rich who have mismanaged them, or your reading comprehension skills might benefit from access to a socialized education system.”Free market economy…” Indeed. But notice how the finance sectors of properly regulated market economies aren’t imploding. Perhaps more intriguing, federal finances are now absolutely dependent on large inflows of foreign capital – most notably from countries that have rebuffed the American style of laissez-faire capitalism.”Chicken little…” Historically, the combination of war and debt does not end well – it’s probably prudent to be a little alarmed.

    3. gobeen


  6. Lloyd Fassett

    I think our biggest strength isn’t working hard, it’s a willingness to take risk on innovators. Ironically, the promised future and ‘lack of proof’ in our projections is also what got us into a mortgage crisis.Still, innovation will continue to chip away at the cost of producing things and offering services from our shores. Those seeds will continue to find places to grow here more so than other places because of the culture, beliefs and hopes the springs eternal here.

  7. Steven Kane

    We have nothing to fear but fear itself.Sorry, I do not discount for one second the severity and urgency and magnitude of the problems facing us now… but c’mon — these observations could have been written at virtually any moment of our history. We definitely all have to poull together and restart and embrace new fresh thinking and leadership and direction…. but when have we NOT been in that situation?Jeez, do we have collective (and individuial) short memories. And jeez 9and at the risk of being compared to Phil Gramm) do we have a Cassandra complex. Why is pessisimism given such a premium in the marketplace of ideas?Gosh, if we think today’s times are risky and scary, how would w ehave felt marching with Martin Luther King? How would we have felt after Pearl Harbor? Or after the Maginot Line fell in a day? Or how would contemporary people been able to take even one day of the Dust Bowl days? How about the panic of 1907? Of course, our troubles today are completely worse and more intractable than, say the first two years of the Civil War, when the union had lost every single battle and the brightest minds of the north were declaring the war unwinnable and Lincoln an idiot and slevary a permanent institution?Hey, all you Chicken Littles , take an hour today and read some decent account of what the souls lived thru at Valley Forge… and then at Trenton. Imagine yourself picking thru the rubble of the San Francisco earthquake/fire. Or burying loved ones during the influenza pandemic of 1918 (which killed somewhere between 20 and 40 million people, the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history.)When asked what ws his most important job in WWII, Dwight D. Eisenhower responded, “To smile.” Try one on today – there is tons of empirical evidence that you can improve your outlook and mood – -and that of those around you — simply by smilingJeez!

    1. scott crawford

      Thanks Steve. Smiling through.

    2. Brian

      Agreed.Michael Crichton sums it up nicely:”When I began to research these old fears to find out what had been said in the past, I discovered several important things. The first is that there’s nothing more sobering than a 30-year-old newspaper. You can’t figure out what the headlines mean, you don’t know who the people are. Theodore Green, John Sparkman, George Reedy, Jack Watson. Who were they? You thumb through page after page of vanished concerns, issues that apparently were important at the time and now don’t matter at all. It’s amazing how many pressing concerns are literally of the moment. They won’t matter in six months, and certainly not in six years, and if they won’t matter then, are they really worth our attention now?But as David Brinkley once said, the one function TV news performs very well is that when there is no news, we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were.”http://www.independent.org/…

  8. JayR

    “Privatization of profits, socialization of losses” – great line.Not sure I agree about the value of a “deep thinker” – wasn’t that what Carter was? I’d rather have a smart cheerleader than a deep thinker.

  9. Sadness

    Great SWOT. “Decay of rationalism” sums up a lot of the problems.Two issues (I guess “threats”) that I would add1) Violation of public trust — While my lifetime only spans 1975-present, I’ve always felt an unspoken convenant between our leaders and the public. The Bush administration has breached this trust with repeated incompetence — the Iraq war, the Katrina handling debacle, the subprime crisis/lax regulations, the politicization of all corners of government, etc. Trust is a powerful thing; look at countries where there’s tremendous cynicism between the people and government. Inefficiency is just one outcome of the lack of trust.2) Destruction of rights, civil liberties — Wiretapping, committing torture, holding people without reason and not giving them a trial, etc.

    1. evgen

      Your youth reveals the fact that you did not live through Nixon, Vietnam, etc. Are we really so bad at teaching our youth a bit of history? Or is this just a subject you slept through?It was all a bit before my time, but even I am not so ignorant of my country’s history (both the good and the bad) as to think the current situation is somehow exceptional or something that will not correct itself over the next decade or so.Plus ca change, plus c’est le meme chose…

      1. Sadness

        Did you sleep through rhetoric class or, back when you were in school, was it simply not known that rude personal attacks don’t strengthen your position?

      2. Kevin Elliott

        I’m not quite sure what point you were trying to make against “Sadness” other than he/she is young. What’s the point of that?Quit trying to weaken the fact that today’s environment is destructive. Just because madness occurred in our history does not soften today’s digressive path. America is not a favored country in the world, we’ve lost our morals and values while trying to proclaim we have them by invading another country in an unjust holy war with no plan to withdraw, and we’re imploding from economic crisis, of which the world is watching closely.Even if this does get fixed in the next decade or so, you need to learn to be a little more collaborative, and stop attacking people on forums who have concern for the civil livelihood of his brothers and sisters in the USA.-Kevin

        1. bernardlunn

          Thank you for saying “we’ve lost our morals and values”. This is true for all of us, not just the poster boys of greed that parade before the media at a time like this. The subprime crisis, which is core here, was started by everybody being “economical with the truth” staring with the home buyer. We won’t get anything useful out of this if we try to find the blame only in others.

  10. vishalsood

    Great post!Fred, would you consider an opportunity in terms of intent now? Everyone knows there is a potential problem facing them and so they are more inclined than ever to solve it. Hydbrid cars are one such example arising out of intent to solve oil crisis. I am sure some good will eventually come out of all this mess.

  11. Carl Rahn Griffith

    that is a very simplistic SWOT – not concise – simplistic.a SWOT is supposed to be objective and illuminate.in my opinion, this is neither.

    1. Kevin Elliott

      I’m not sure that Fred was trying to build a thorough and detailed SWOT. In fact, it was probably just intended to resemble a SWOT analysis, and was mostly a title gimmick. What was your point in illustrating that this wasn’t a thorough SWOT?-Kevin

      1. fredwilson

        It wasn’t my SWOT, it was a comment on my blog that I reblogged because Iliked it

  12. MassMan

    In addition to America’s fantastic pool of human capital and favorable demographics, you consider other factors that make America inherently strong: 1) The US is blessed with an Incredible Geography and Abundant Natural Resources 2) The US Dollar is the Reserve Currency of the World 3) The US is the World’s Largest Economy 4) The US Dominates Most World Organizations 5) The US Military can project power almost anywhere it choosesThis financial crisis will eventually pass.Massman

    1. JLM

      You hit that nail square, MassMan.America’s best days are ahead of it because we will fashion the future even when we get dusted a bit. We are capable of learning from our mistakes and the mistakes which have created this crisis are obvious, stupid, venal and small. They are all correctable.It should be S w O t cause we are stronger than an acre of garlic. Let’s stop feeling sorry for ourselves and get back to work.

      1. Guest

        Do you sincerely consider today’s climate as “dusted a bit” ? That is shocking.-Kevin

        1. JLM

          You must have a low threshold for shock.Let’s put this into perspective. Nobody with a brain in American finance has ever thought Wall Street was NOT rigged. Nobody with a brain would make a 110% loan to a borrower with questionable credit. Nobody with a brain would leverage their capital 40:1. The mistakes are all obvious. The solutions will all become obvious as well. The application of the solutions will cause a bit of pain. No pain, no gain.The stock markets worldwide have gone down a bit but guess what — America is still the most attractive retail market in the world, the most vibrant economy, the safest geographical investment climate and the richest country in the world.The American GDP was $14T in ’07 and the problem is just a stinkin $700B. It’s all gonna be OK.There are no bodies in the street and there are no tanks in the street. We have not been attacked by terrorists in 7.5 years and we are going to win in both Iraq and Afghanistan.America has been using the wrong fork for shellfish and has been eating dessert first. Now the markets have corrected their bad manners.Do you remember the S & L crisis and the RTC? That problem was $200B in ’90 dollars. Move it forward and what do you get — about $700B.It’s gonna work itself out and it’s gonna be OK.

  13. Roger Toennis

    The problem with America is no one listens and no one gives anyone NEW a chance to make an impact.Instead, people in positions of public influence, including really smart folks like Fred Wilson, Thomas Friedman, Seth Godin, seem to have chosen to have the attention span of gnats trying to keep up with the pace of change of “What’s Hot?!”on the internet instead of caring about solving really hard societal problems.They all seem to flit from topic to topic talk, talk, talking via frantic blog, blog blogging but they never are stopping and really listening to anyone except the insulated, non-expansive apparatchik(In-club) they have chosen as the people they will listen to.In the past an American could rise to make an impact in society easily on the content and depth of their ideas and willingness to follow through. People in positions of influence would listen to and consider deeply an idea, and for the willingness of the person to follow through, before dismissing it and them out of hand. People would test someone’s zeal to follow through on an idea by at least giving that person a few contacts and a reference to someone they know in their network in a position of influence that might sponsor the budding activist.Most idea’s are not truly new. But that is no reason to squelch people’s fire for change before giving them some small chance to “keep moving forward”. What really counts in life is “follow through”. But “Follow through” seems to bore people now. Unless you are already part of the “Ideas Ruling Class” (VCs, Bloggers, Columnists, Popular Book Authors) you are dismissed out of hand even if you have what it takes to follow through on an idea but just need a jump start.In fact “willingness to follow through” I think scares the “Ruling Idea Elite” Bourgeoisie. You’d think VC’s would like follow-through. I think the recent evidence, with 100s of millions of $ wasted by VCs on stupid non-problem-solving ideas, shows the contrary is the case. (Notice the difference between an idea that solves a real problem facing society and thereby directly of indirectly generates new efficiencies in the economy or society (Google, Ebay, etc.) and a stupid/vapid ideas that solves no existing problem but may generate wealth for a VC. (Take your pick of these. ))Perhaps it’s that the “Ideas Ruling Class(IRC)” is deeply afraid of competition for a voice/place of prominence in the ivory ‘ideas pulpits’ they’ve constructed for themselves. Why share the limelight? It’s such an ego stroke for the IRC that it’s easy to dismiss all ideas and all people, except those from inside the IRC.Societies collapse when people who claim to be progressive and adaptive thinkers secretly start squelching the efforts of the “ideas proletariat” to champion ideas from the grassroots level.The thing that fuels all this is the selfish “I Got Mine” attitude that only a spare few people in power are willing to reject. The “I Got Mine” attitude, running unchecked with a healthy dose of denial of reality, is what collapses societies. Read Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse: Why Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” for great summary of the stages of societies as the progress towards collapse.I think the American society is now well on the way to that choice and I fear for my 2 sons that the choice will be failure.Roger Toennis

    1. fredwilson

      I’ll accept the criticism but if you think all I do is blog, blog, blog you are wrongLook at Etsy or Meetup for examples of how web services can lead to societal change

    2. JLM

      Actually, I don’t think the venture capital business is responsible for solving the world’s problems. Not that they couldn’t but the IRR is a bit low to catch their interest. LOL

      1. fredwilson

        Bloomberg left the business world and took a much lower paying job and isdoing great at it

        1. JLM

          Actually Bloomberg took the business world (and his equity) with him and I attribute much of his success to his pragmatic business approach At some level of wealth (and it’s not too damn high) one begins to be paid in a different currency. I can honestly say that I have owned a few businesses which I would have paid for the privilege to own. They rewarded me with a different currency and it took me a while to understand that fact.

  14. DeepThought

    What a odd analysis. The only strength we have is that we work hard? I would argue we’ve got more than that (see MassMan above for a good list.) Would also argue that the Chinese likely have us beat there.Agree that religious nut jobs in high office are scary, but you’ve got to remember that America was founded by religious nut jobs; has always been a fact of life here and likely always will be. And if you drive through most, if not all, of the states between New York and California they don’t actually call them “nut jobs” – they call them brothers, sisters, the local police chief, and small business owner.Finally I assume you’re talking about Obama when you say we *will* have a deep thinker in office. Many of us are hoping and preying that you’re right, but it ain’t a done deal yet. Almost half the country is still planning to vote for McCain.

    1. Guest

      great comment.I don’t mean to diminish the human capital in China, because it is indeed great, but still like America’s better. It’s the difference between dedication to work (USA) and sense of duty (China); self-discipline (USA) vs. obedience (China); focus on the goal (USA) vs. focus on the effort (China)That’s, frankly, a generalization and a personal opinion, but that’s how I feelOn the issue of religiousness you have more insight than the former prime minister of Britain…

  15. JLM

    A deep thinker in the White House? LOLLet me tell you a real world story about deep thinking and intelligence and what we are really missing in this country just now.Many year ago in the mid-70s, I was assigned to the 82nd Abn Div, arguably the Army’s most elite and best unit. Sorry to all you 101st guys, but that’s what I think. LOLI served under a brilliant Battalion Commander and was the Opns Officer (S3). He was a very well read guy and had graduated at the top of his class at West Point and had an advanced degree from Princeton. He was one hell of a soldier. I went to Virginia Military Institute and had just recently graduated from the Army’s Command and General Staff College. I loved soldiering.At his direction, I had planned a battalion airborne assault into a drop zone, followed by a movement to contact, followed by an immediate transition into an attack against a fortified position. Pretty straightforward mission for paratroopers. The entire exercise would cover 25 miles in fairly easy terrain. Just another walk in the park.In that battalion we had three maneuver companies all commanded by Captains who had seen action in Viet Nam and who were Regulars and Rangers. One was commanded by a West Pointer who had graduated first in his class. One was commanded by a VMI guy who had also graduated first in his class. The other was commanded by an ROTC grad of Texas A & M of no academic note who had played football. Can you imagine the rivalry among these officers based upon the schools they had attended?The attack plan called for one company to move out of the drop zone as fast as possible to make contact with any enemy between the drop zone and the objective, followed by another company to be held in maneuver reserve and the last company to clean up the drop zone and to be the actual reserve for the attack.We were going to attack with two companies forward and a single company in reserve, so the maneuver reserve company had to move up pretty quickly once we started to move out of the drop zone.I forgot to tell you this all happened at night and in radio silence.Let me cut to the chase — the first two companies got scattered a bit and took a long time to get assembled while the Aggie (that’s what you call Texas A & M guys) company assembled quickly and was ready to move out immediately. The battalion commander reordered the attack plan to lead with this company and they hit the road.The other companies struggled alll night long to get to the objective but they finally made it. Meanwhile, the Aggie Captain had reconned the attack site and had planned out the assault and had his men in position to attack right at dawn. Oh, yeah, he had built a sand table and drawn a map of the objective and had sent runners back to guide the other companies into their positions.I really didn’t have too much to do once the drop took place so I watched each of the company commanders operate their companies. I had already been a company commander twice so I knew the drill a bit more. These Captains were all in their first commands. They were very, very good soldiers but they were simply inexperienced at such operations. This is why the Army trains like this to gain experience. Sweat in peace = less blood in war.The rocket scientists from West Point and VMI both became flustered when their plans did not work perfectly. The Aggie simply adjusted to the new situation and improvised. Later I debriefed each of them. I told the WP and VMI guys their individual plans were way too complicated and they had failed to plan for the simple things — like efficiently rolling up the sticks (a group of paratroopers who jump from the same plane) and moving out in a timely manner. The Aggie simply approached it like a football play and ensured everybody knew their individual jobs rather than having a grand plan. He drew maps and made sand tables and made every one of his platoon leaders brief back to the plan to him. He moved out from the drop zone on time even though he was still missing a couple of soldiers. He stuck to the basics.The battalion commander was the best practitioner of profanity I had ever served under. He called all of the company commanders together and shared his thought with them. To paraphrase: “I don’t care how GD smart you are on the drop zone, I care how smart you are on the GD LD!” The LD is the line of departure, the line an attacking unit crosses to initiate the attack.What did the Aggie possess that the other Captains did not?LEADERSHIPAs it turns out all of these Captains became very, very accomplished company commanders (the WP guy ended up as a 3-star) and that battalion was one of the best in the Army but it was because the smart guys became good LEADERS and garnered the experience necessary to lead effectively.What do we need in America today?EXPERIENCE coupled with LEADERSHIP — we need intelligence on the LD not on the drop zone

    1. aarondelcohen

      What a great post JLM. How do you apply this analysis to the election?

      1. JLM

        Well, I guess we elect McCain. Obama sure doesn’t have the character toprovide any real leadership. The guy is plenty smart and articulate buthe is not to be trusted. He is all about a political spoils systemwhich will result in everything being, well — spoiled!

    2. fredwilson

      Watching Obama and McCain execute their campaign strategies tells me I’drather be under Obama’s command than McCain’s. Obama has been executing thesame strategy calmly and brilliantly for over a year now and its workingbetter and better all the time. McCain has been as volatile as the stockmarket and that’s not inspiring.I did not serve in the military like you did JLM but I grew up an Army bratand am the son of a retired Army General so I know a bit a about the service

      1. JLM

        I fear that campaigning is not the same as governing and does not test any of the theories of governing that a candidate espouses. Hitler, after all, was elected overwhelmingly as Chancellor of Germany but his governance left a bit to be desired. He was an awesome campaigner but a bit hollow on the character issues?I don’t think any fair person could find fault with Obama’s campaigning skills after all that is the majority of his recent experience. I find fault with his policies. I find him to be a poseur of the worst kind.Kind of like the guy with the perfect business plan who has never run a company or made a product. Can you trust him to get the job done? Why even take the chance?

        1. fredwilson

          Because the other choice is way worseJohn McCain is more of the same, the same bad policies on foreign policy (interventionist), fiscal (tax cuts for the rich leading to huge budget deficits), social (mandating what women can and can’t do with their bodies), health care (do nothing but continue the status quo), and so on and so on.But we won’t agree on this one. We both get to vote, as will the rest of America.

          1. JLM

            I am bored and dreading swimming today so I will respond in a slightly — but still gentlemanly — provocative manner. It is always good when ideas wrestle because the winning idea is strengthened by the tussle.I fear that our foreign policy is going to have to be “interventionist” by the nature of the global threat. We are starting to drill down and really find out who our friends (a damn short list) and enemies (longer list but not a new list) are in the world. This journey of discovery reveals that we have both direct enemies and those who harbor our enemies. There are some complicated relationships and situations out there just now. [E.g, Pakistan would probably welcome us invading southern Pakistan to get rid of the Taliban. They don’t even mind us killing OBL in NE Afghanistan but they don’t want us to rile up the tribes in the NW even by hot pursuit across the border.] We have to engage the bad guys in their zip codes rather than ours. Do we always have to invade them — of course not.If we are prepared to explain to Moms what their sons died for in Darfur, then we will be spending a whole lot of time trying to look over the horizon and that means an interventionist foreign policy.The Chinese are not going to go to war with the US over Polar ice cap or in the Pacific blue water but they will go to war with Taiwan even knowing that we are obligated to defend Taiwan. I am not certain I want to defend Taiwan against the dying throes of the Chinese despots. The existing regime which is slowly losing control of the country as it reverts to its capitalistic roots along the coast has one more really bad trick up its sleeve. I fear it is Taiwan.We have to be very, very careful what we allow ourselves to get into. I cannot imagine anything worse than allowing Georgia to join NATO. While I think Russia is more than a bit out of line, we cannot take on the Russkis in Georgia and we should not be signing treaties willy nilly. Article 5 of the NATO Agreement is an unequivocal promise to GO TO WAR if any member nation is attacked. I am certain I do not want to go to war over Georgia.Absent the potential for a theater nuclear exchange, the Russians are not a particularly formidable military force. Contrary to what they were selling, the Iraqis had their best equipment and it was not very good — optical sights v infrared. Tanks battles where we were 95% on target at 3500 yards and they were 65% at 1500 yards. It’s just a numbers game after that. I will be amazed if the Russian ships which are coming to the Caribbean and Venezuela get back home under their own power. They only have one aircraft carrier in their entire fleet. Remember the Russians did not fight a naval battle in WWII and they have a pre-WWII mindset.In any event, the Russians in Venezuela merit watching in a very aggressive manner. This is fundamentally a violation of the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. [Do you think Charlie Gibson knows that one? LOL]It’s worth noting that the last time the Russians thought we had a green President, we had to deal with them in Cuba. That was a dicey situation.Tax cuts for the rich do not create deficits. The tax burden in America is ridiculously high and is in excess of our direct competitive trading partners. That’s a silly policy. Who said that? John Kennedy!Deficits are created by letting the Congress approve a budget which exceeds revenue. We have gotten into a very bad habit of totalling up the “how much do we want to spend” column before we total up the “how much do we have” column. Eisenhower balanced 8 consecutive budgets and built the American nuclear arsenal and started the interstate highway system. If Michael Dell never paid taxes it would be fine with me as he has created a zillion jobs.In addition, there is something very small in a country which is the home team for the American Dream which tries to make someone the bad guy when they get there by hard work.Now, having said that, it really is time to have a US operating budget and a separate capital budget and decide how much of GDP we can have on the credit card at one time. When one has “good” credit, it is not bad to actually use it. So, I am not a purist but I sure would like folks to balance the budget from time to time. Unless, of course, Eisenhower was simply smarter than the current crop of politicians?In life we are all stewards of what has been entrusted to us and there is nothing as dear as life itself. The argument that abortion is about a womans body is bogus. It is about the life that is growing within a womans body. The life that she has uniquely been granted stewardship over.Her real moment of choice was when she dropped her panties. Everything after is called “consequences”. The legal arguments supporting the discovery of a “right of privacy” in the US Constitution are right up there with the Loch Ness monster. They are simply illusionary.It is time to deal with healthcare. I have provided healthcare insurance for my employees for a quarter century. Never even enters my mind not to do it. I just signed the authorization to renew the policy yesterday (2.8% increase for a premium plan with Humana). I added vision coverage this year at the request of the employees. I pay approximately 70% and the employees pay 30%. Everybody has skin in the game.I make the CFO take competitive bids and let the employee committee make the final recommendation. I usually pick up most of the increase as a quasi profit sharing plan. Been doing it for years. Bottom line — we don’t need government to figure this out for us.Note I am fully in favor of healthcare coverage, I just suggest it be by policy rather than mandate initially.Gotta go swim.

          2. fredwilson

            enjoy your swim JLMi’ve not many on the ‘net that i disagree with more and also enjoy debating with more

  16. Claude

    At least you were brave enough to leave when you did. Now stay the fuck out. Thanks.

    1. fredwilson

      Please leave out the nastinessI reblogged his comment so I found it valuable

      1. Ed

        Yes, there was a more thoughtful way to express your opinion Claude,and though I’m over simplifying, the original post does smack ofthe girl who rushes the door at Filene’s Wedding Gown sale, grabs a beauty,sees on the news that night the wreckage left behind, and despite participatingin taking far more than giving, has the self absorbed gall to say”place sucks, what a dump, glad I’m not going back there”.

        1. Guest

          Yep, Krassen Dimitrov wrecked America, it’s on the news:))Seriously, though, I have understanding for the argument. Please, accept my thoughts as observations rather than judgements.

  17. Guest

    Thanks for putting this upfront and for the comments. A few brief responses:Steve Kane: Fear is not the root of the problems here. It is a symptom that manifests rather late, and I agree that it is undesirable and must be treated for what it is. However, the root causes must be addressed.MassMan: American dominance in the world is not so much a Strength; it is more of an intrinsic feature that is both a strength and a weakness (or neither). Switzerland has always been detached and has always done well. By being dominant you gain something, and you lose something, too.Also, the natural resources are relative. US is not resource-pure, but I wouldn’t list resources as a particular strength, as is the case with other countries: Australia, Canada, Brazil, Russia, The Arab Peninsula. In any case relying on natural resources to get out of this morass is a lost cause.JLM: an interesting but irrelevant anecdote. “Thinkers” are not omnipotent deities, so there are probably countless anecdotes like yours. What fails a thinker is two things: “overthinking” a simple situation or trying to think “on empty”, without the data (or “solving underdetemined problem”). Today’s world is both complex and flooded with easily accessible data: it needs a “thinker” to lead it. Fortunately, the younger generation intuitively understands what kind of world we live in and is ready to back a true thinker as the leader of the free world by a 2:1 margin.’experience” and “leadership” are platitudes. Experience is nothing but pattern recognition: matching a current situation to something that one has already been through. Obviously it works in situations where you have stable recurring patterns, but there are much more advanced heuristics that one can employ rather than relying on that.Leadership is meaningless. Bill Clinton presided over the golden era of America and created more jobs than the Bush I, Bush II and Reagen administrations COMBINED. Yet he was a weak character, far divorced by what many consider “strong leader”. Smart policies matter much more than some undefined “leadership”.Thanks again!

    1. Guest

      Back after a cup of coffee, and this last response does not read very well. I’ll try something different.Suppose you need a house painted. Case A: You have an experienced painter; he has done this many times, knows how to work his crew, knows where the potential problems are. He sets up his team, gives them specific instructions, watches them carefully and gets the job done.Case B: You have a recent Ph.D. graduate who has never painted a house and doesn’t want to spent money on a professional crew. He buys a DIY book from Home Depot and reads it carefully. Calls a few of his friends from college to help, thinks the job through, makes a sketch or something, goes by the book. Do you think they can do it? Well many of my friends did exactly that with their first houses.The reciprocal is completely out of the question, though. An “experienced” painter would never be able to lead a software development project, to design a clinical study for a new drug, to analyze the data from the study, etc. etc.Now, here are my questions: which one is Obama and which one is McCain? And what do the problems facing the next president look more like?So no, folks, don’t fall for these “experience” and “leadership” platitudes. McCain’s experience has no bearing whatsoever on his ability to lead the free world forward. We need a smart person who knows how to think properly. JLM’s example is just the typical Republican spin of glorifying ignorance and ridiculing intellect.

      1. JLM

        LOL, so when will Obama be coming to paint my house?On a more serious note, I must admit that with enough consultation and assistance from his Columbia and Harvard brethren (and a quick trip to Home Depot), I think Obama could probably do an adequate job of painting my house! Plus because he’s tall, he could reach into the the corners of the eaves.Unfortunately, we are a Nation with two wars and an economy on life support just now so some real world experience and leadership ability might actually come in handy.You misinterpret what I say if you think I ridicule intellect. Even in a house painter, I would prefer and respect a smart house painter. It is only Obama’s policies and stands on the issues with which I disagree. I disagree with his judgments only. I think his sense of raising taxes on capital gains is the equivalent of bleeding a patient with leeches. A discredited medical procedure only.I do find him on a personal basis to be a bit of a fakir and a poseur but I am really only interested in his ability to govern and lead.I doubt that much of what Obama or McCain proposes has even a remote chance of being enacted given the magnitude of the funding necessary to salvage the economy. That sucking sound? That was the prospect of any tax cuts going down the drain! Sad but true. Talk about glorifying ignorance, eh?

        1. Guest

          JLMThanks. Disagreeing on issues is what this democracy is all about and I completely respect your disagreement with Obama’s policy proposals. What scares me most is this right-wing propaganda that somehow Obama being “professorial”, “intellectual” etc. is something that Americans have to be scared of and they are better off with the guy who graduated fifth from the bottom in his class and crashed five planes during his training, just because he has “experience” and “leadership”.Cheers!

          1. JLM

            The characterization of Obama as either “professorial” or “intellectual’ is not how I would describe him at all. I taught civil engineering for a year at West Point and enjoyed it thoroughly. I think most folks like teachers. I do.I spent a delightful 2-hour lunch with Obama when his candidacy was a fledling endeavor. [I owned a big catering company and did huge numbers of fundraisers. I had the chance to meet and dine w/ Bradley, Kerry, Dean, Obama, Hill, Bill, Alberto, etc. The candidates always eat before the event so they can speak and shmooze with the donors. I used to bring them very nice food (everybody else was eating chicken) and keep them company as they ate. I actually know next to nothing about catering, this was an investment of mine.]I only shared this with you because my observations were made in an unguarded moment without all of the window dressing of a political campaign.I think that Obama is a “street smart” kind of guy. In his books, he portrays an earthy knowledge of a bit of the underbelly of life which I frankly find quite appealing. He is very, very clever like a “punter” who knows that that horse’s cough means he will not be able to sprint up that last hill at Cheltenham. He is a very focused and ambitous man who sincerely sees the world with a bit of class warfare coloring his view — given his background, why not?His delivery of the message is better than the message itself. And, he is a cautious but deliberate risk taker. I also think he is unafraid of failure on a personal level. He is a product of a deliberate and certainly corrupt effort to fashion a resume and career from the Chicago political engine. Of course, that is all he had to work with. The associations with Ayres, Rezko, Wright — not even noteworthy in that environment and perhaps that is why he took so long to deal with them effectively.The cleverness of his personality shows up in his Illinois voting record — present but not really engaged. And, in his teaching at Chicago Law School. His students found him to be very, very engaging but his work was always just an adjunct to his political plans. He is not a scholar.The street wisdom shows up in the manner in which he wrested his State Senate seat from his opponents. He did it primarily through litigation. His “ground game” is right out of the ACORN playbook. He has no problem with ACORN registering and extracting votes from folks who might otherwise not participate in our democracy.He is exactly what his life story says — a clever street smart ambitous articulate fellow sent to Occidental, Columbia and Harvard where he acquired a degree of polish and connections which enables him to operate on a very, very high level. Intellectual? No. Clever — hell yes!His most valuable characteristic is that he is immensely LUCKY! I don’t suggest he has not deserved nor made his own luck but he is damn lucky. Fitzgerald, Keyes, Hillary, Bush, McCain — way lucky in his opponents.McCain does worry me a bit. Having been to a military school myself, I understand fully the intensely competitive environment and it is a legitimate concern as to what his performance at Annapolis really means. For McCain it was the family business and he was not as concerned about his Annapolis record (his Dad a 4-star Admiral was also pretty close to being the “goat”) because he knew the business. He knew he would do well once he got to the Fleet. Kind of like Ted Kennedy not worrying about whether he might be successful in politics, eh?The military is the fiercest meritocracy on the planet. A Bridagier General is the top 0.001% of his year group and some of his competitors were combat losses. McCain always knew he would do well in the Navy, he was born to it. He is unafraid of things which would paralyze others because he learned them at the kitchen table.I am a pilot (a very cautious and risk averse pilot — old pilots, bold pilots, no old bold pilots) and it does worry me that McCain was a bit of a hot shot as a pilot. However, that is the skill set required to go downtown when the downtown was Hanoi. The Navy pilots are the very best in the world bar none. Does his record with planes suggest he might have been a bit reckless? You bet.It might be useful to know that when you destroy (other than in combat) a plane or other expensive piece of equipment, there is a board of inquiry and the matter is looked into very closely. McCain had three non-combat aircraft losses and he was cleared all three times.Among pilots, there would be a begrudging acknowledgement that McCain was able to put the planes down in safe locations and extricate himself. This is the “good crash” test of flying. He gets very high marks for that.McCain’s experience as a POW is a marking experience which is beyond most folks threshold level of horror to understand. Survival is the only useful level of measurement. Surviving that horror puts a kind of iron in a man’s soul and psyche that cannot be bent by normal challenges of every day life. Once upon a time, we used to joke — what are they going to do, make us 2nd Lts and send us to Viet Nam?In the end, I so disagree with Obama on the issues and am so concerned by his lack of governing experience that I find myself defaulting to McCain. It is a simple binary decision.

        2. Christian Cadeo

          JLM,As much as I don’t agree with your assessment, I am glad to read it as it is grounded in some smart and rational thinking.

          1. fredwilson

            JLM has joined the list of super smart people I don’t agree with but respect. Its a long list

    2. JLM

      Recent experience appears to value “thinkers” not so much, eh? Wall Street has been able for years to buy as much talent and brainpower as the best business and law schools can offer up and yet when it came apart at the seams, it was a simple failure of confidence which cracked the foundation. A lack of confidence in the leadership. A lack of confidence in the products that Wall Street had designed. An old fashioned run on the bank. Nonetheless, there was no shortage of thinking going on but there was a huge void in experience and principled business ethics. It was a failure of leadership at both the regulatory level and in the auction house.Today the world is moving so fast that nobody really has 20 years of experience any more. More appropriately — one year of experience twenty times. The patterns of experience are not so evident or obvious any more. Therefore the truly useful patterns of experience are, like chaos theory, based upon the set of conditions that exist before the random walk actually leaves the station. All experience does is to remind one to check the fuel tank before taking off and to remember to set up the problem for a real solution.The thinking necessary to explore all of the alternative solutions can literally be outsourced. The world is full of bright folks who can identify problems and propose solutions. Many of whom cannot chew gum and walk at the same time.Even in politics, it requires someone who has the moxie to manage the team as it lurches toward a solution, articulate the solution, sell it to his own team and ultimately sell it to the public. Obama did just that when he figured out how to beat Hillary Clinton. He found a fellow who had run campaigns, particulary campaigns with black candidates, and tasked him to fashion a strategy necessary to win. David Axelrod did just that.Bill Clinton would be not even a footnote in history but for a very short fellow with very big ears and a crew cut. H Ross Perot took 18% in the first election and 8% in the second election thereby providing Bill Clinton with a job by default. The “best retail politician of his generation” was not a bit more than the product of a pin hole in a condom. He was a surprise President by any assessment.Clinton presided over the low hanging fruit left behind by RWR and his third term, GHWB. The Republican Congress had more than a little to do with this. He sopped up the last drop of Reagan’s leadership and managed not to screw it up. He spent his time worrying about gays in the military and left the American economic ship on its same azimuth. He was rewarded with continuing prosperity and restrained spending thanks to the Republican Congress. The ironic thing is that had Newt Gingrich not shut down the government, he and Monica might never have met and Clinton’s visage might even now be being carved on Mt Rushmore. LOL

      1. JRS

        So wrong: “Fortunately, the younger generation intuitively understands what kind of world we live in and is ready to back a true thinker as the leader of the free world by a 2:1 margin.” – K. Dimitrov.Rather than showing any intuitive insight, the younger generation is predictably gravitating toward the abstraction of “change” and the most masterfully branded political candidate since JFK, and perhaps in US history. The naïve appeal of redistributionist economic policies to those who have yet to feel the true burden of taxes and who are too young to remember the debilitating effect that high taxes and overly redistributionist policies had in the 1970s is, sadly, no surprise.And so right: “Clinton presided over the low hanging fruit left behind by RWR and his third term, GHWB. The Republican Congress had more than a little to do with this. He sopped up the last drop of Reagan’s leadership and managed not to screw it up.” – JLW.The prosperity over which Clinton presided was the direct product of the seeds of economic growth sown decades earlier by Reagan in the form of lower taxes and smaller government. The positive effects of those policies cascaded for years to come and Clinton was smart — and moderate — enough to avoid screwing it up. The damage a truly liberal redistributionist president — paired with a Democratic congress — will do to our economy could last for a generation in the form of slower economic growth, higher unemployment, and reduced global competitiveness

  18. ChaaiChaai

    Another issue with America is that the lack of knowledge on global scale.People don’t know what is the news in other states, forget about other countries.All they watch is Weather channel if it rains tomorrow and this weekend or if the freeway to my work is free or not and the local sports.

  19. jackson

    Bill Maher has a running gag on his show where each week they showcase a country you might want to move to should McCain win the election. I wonder what the emigration stats are over the past eight years.

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that now. Obama is closing the dealwith the voters now. I can feel it.

      1. JLM

        I am nothing if not honest. I do not favor Obama but I must agree with you that the election is looking over to me just now. Even in my pessimism I must remember that 3 weeks is an eternity in politics. The only unfathomable seems to be the potential for a racial backlash a la the Bradley Effect.I think he has won a GQ election — long style and short substance. But a win is a win.McCain does not seem to be a candidate that can find a good camera angle (short, bad skin, too white, thin white hair, a bit crippled) and Obama is quite an extraordinarily telegenic presence. He wins on appearance, cool, voice and youth. Romney was my guy but he never really got the traction he needed because of McCain’s experience running a nationwide campaign and his perceived strength in foreign affairs. I think Romney would have given Obama a better run in front of the camera.A good friend of mine who is a retired NBA all star made the observation that Obama looks and moves like a basketball player and my friend thinks that is the least threatening black visage in America. I told him he was prejudiced and he agreed. Interesting observation, Obama is a good looking guy.This is shaping up to be a generational change election like the succession between Eisenhower and Kennedy. While Kennedy defeated Nixon in front of a very unforgiving camera, the more striking observation is that a 5-star General handed over the Presidency to a Lt (jg). Talk about generational change. Bush, unfortunately, is no Eisenhower.I am beginning to work on my tax minimization strategy. I am planning a flight from ordinary income to “financing proceeds” and “deferred comp” as a way to minimize my future tax bite. I suspect rates will stay low for a pretty long time and that will be a boost. In any event, I am planning to make Obama work pretty hard to get another dollar of taxes from me. I only need to hang on for a few years until rates come back down.I truly fear the combination of Obama and a Democratic Congress (which is still in doubt but more likely given the coattails impact) as I would fear any party having complete control over the entire apparatus of government. I worry what mischief an unchecked Dodd, Frank, Clinton and Schumer could create. We shall see.The Republicans have nobody to blame but themselves. They spent like drunken sailors and they failed to stomp out corruption within their own ranks. They failed to follow their own avowed principles.

        1. fredwilson

          i worry about anyone or any party having absolute power. it corrupts.

  20. hamburglar

    One thing that I think was missed in the Strength section is that the US is the best place in the world to prosper from your innovation (that could be part of what drives the hard working thing). That lends itself to an opportunity: loosen restrictions on smart people from around the world coming here to participate in out economy. If we open up the visa allocation to make it possible for anyone who can make a reasonable case that they will help the economy, America will stay on the forefront of innovation for the foreseable future. Otherwise, there’s a risk of turning innovative people away and creating competition instead of adding to our lead in innovation.