December 28, 2002

Moral Clarity about Terrorism

Nicholas Kristof examines some current thinking around terrorism and how new tools and methods of warfare have outraged their targets and enemies. The central message from many academics is that this is not a 'black and white' issue with universal clarity. When is one person's description or a terrorist another's definition of a freedom fighter? When is a cause so important that any method of attack or tool of war is acceptable in the eyes of the perpetrator and sympathizers?. Though not mentioned, when is a guerilla a terrorist? When does unconventional warfare rise to the level of terrorism?

Labeling a person or group as terrorist rallies the victims of such acts and their culture, society and leadership to oppose terrorists. Hatred is kindled and widespread fear in the populace, a key objective of terrorists, is created.

President Bush uses the term 'moral clarity' to describe his and America's view of the terrorism we have experienced at the hands of the Arab perpetrators. Kristof summarizes the arguments of others who say that 'moral clarity ' is inappropriate rhetoric.

Is it fair to present the war on terrorism as a parable of good (us) versus evil (them)? Grenville Byford reflected the skeptics' view in a Foreign Affairs essay, arguing that moral clarity is more apparent than real and that "the sooner the rhetoric is retired the better." Highly nuanced intellectuals tend to poke three kinds of holes in moral clarity:

1. Terrorism is in the eyes of the beholder. President Reagan declared the African National Congress a terrorist group not long before its leader, Nelson Mandela, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Meanwhile he described Jonas Savimbi, who everybody else thought of as a terrorist, as Angola's Abraham Lincoln. Oops. And speaking of our national heroes, what about our radical forebears in the American Revolution who burned the homes of British loyalists? Were they terrorists?

2. Wiping out terrorists is sometimes unhelpful. Even if we could agree on what constitutes terrorism, it's often not obvious what we should do about it. Pakistan has done more than Iraq to support terrorism (in Kashmir), but instead of invading Pakistan, Mr. Bush has quite sensibly sent aid — for bolstering President Pervez Musharraf is the best hope for ending the violence. Circumstances vary, so sometimes we kill those engaged in terrorism, and sometimes we invite them for state visits.

3. In crude military terms, terrorism often works. New methods of killing people initially provoke outrage but eventually are often accepted. Henry V used longbows at Agincourt, outraging the French. British redcoats marching in neat columns were appalled by sneaky Yankees hiding behind trees. After Guernica, aerial bombing was condemned as barbaric, and in World War II the West condemned Germany's V-1 and V-2 missiles as terror weapons.

Using the definition of terrorism "The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons," I believe America is morally clear in our description and response to Al Queda and allied groups. Targeted bombings, airliners flown into buildings, ships blown up, and other such acts are immoral in a civilized world, just as the destruction of property by groups such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and Earth First! is a terrorst act. In a civilized world, there some activity and behavior is not merely illegal, it is off-limits.

The debate of right vs. wrong, morality vs immorality, legal vs, illegal will continue. Nevertheless, America must not muddle along in a debate that creates paralysis. President Bush is right to consistently define and describe terrorism with moral clarity and to take all actions necessary to thwart terrorists who would kill and destroy our people and our security. He is also correct to denounce and oppose the Palestinian suicide bombers and organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorists. Mr. Bush is careful, however, not to label Iraq and Saddam Hussein as terrorist, instead opting for different descriptors for the threat they pose, not to America or Americans directly, but to "the stability of the region" and to their "neighbors." If he had convincing evidence of direct links to Al Queda, I'm sure he would label Iraq differently. Perhaps such evidence does exist and it's a matter of when to release it.

December 26, 2002

Smoker to Accept $28 Million

This quoted article from the Burlington Free Press, December 26, 2002 displays the utter foolishness that pervades our judicial system. Attorneys who game the system in the name of justice are worse than leaches. Juries who award outrageous sums are no better. Sure, smoking causes death and disease, but that fact has been displayed on cigarette packages for decades. Here's the piece of foolishness:

Los Angeles (where else but California?) A woman with lung cancer will accept a reduced punitive damage judgment against cigarette maker Phillip Morris but will appeal a judge's decision to slash a jury's $28 billion award, her attorney said Tuesday. Superior Court Judge Warren L. Ettinger failed to properly state his reason for settling on the $28 million figure, said Michael Piuze, attorney for 64-year old Betty Bullock If Bullock did not accept the lower figure she would face a retrial of the punitive damages phase before Ettinger, Piuze said. There is no conflict in accepting the judgment and appealing the reduction, he said.

I am appalled at the absurdity of either award and the fact that the case goes on... !

December 25, 2002

Peace on Earth to Men of Good Will

While the Times editorializes the hope that is Christmas in the secular context and only partially quotes the familiar biblical promise in its context:
The purest expression of that seasonal hope has always been universal peace. The familiar phrase is "Peace on Earth" — so familiar, in fact, at this time of year that it seems like mere metaphor as you sing it while harking to herald angels. And perhaps that metaphorical quality, that sense of near-impossibility, is what we were meant to hear in the gospel when, in the words of the King James Version, the angels proclaimed, "Peace on earth, good will toward men."

The truth as stated in Lk 2:14 of the KJV is: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." The Times neglects "Glory to God" in favor of a secular spin perhaps to satisfy those for whom Christmas is a Holiday rather than a Holy Day. The New International Version of the bible translates Lk 2:14 this way: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

First, the Glory belongs to God and, second, peace is bestowed by God on men, perhaps only to those of good will. This peace that Christians live in (or not) is an internal peace born of salvation from the babe, the Christ , the only son of God who came to dwell among us. But his peace comes because He came to die for the sin of the world, personal and corporate, that we may have resurrection life.

The peace of the world, in the secular sense, is a hope, as the Times suggests, but true peace as bestowed by God is found only through the Savior whose birth we Christians celebrate at a season of the year that is linked with the solstice rituals of ancient paganism. In unbelief there is no peace. Acceptance of the Truth brings peace to one person at a time.

December 23, 2002

Racism and Rabble Rousing

The black 'promotion' organizations have decided to feast on the Republican Party after Trent Lott's demise as Senate Majority Leader. This blatant political attack by all the major black rights organizations and leaders will not serve them well because Americans are smarter than to believe the rhetoric of people like Jackson, Sharpton and Mfume. These self-aggrandizing 'leaders' are so blatantly racist themselves they are blinded to the fact that neither the Republican nor Democratic parties are racist. These black rabble rousers lack perspective and really desire to build their own power base and careers using any incident to promote themselves.

People should recall particularly the backgrounds of Sharpton (Tawana Brawley debacle) and Jackson (out-of-wedlock children, taking up th e cause of blatant violent rioters in Illinois, shaking down large corporations). These men are not to be trusted and do not speak for racial harmony. They shoul dbe confronted on their motives and actions.

December 18, 2002

Obituary for Common Sense

Our complex society is rapidly losing one of our most valuable throttles of human irrationality.

We mourn the passing of an old friend by the name of Common Sense. Common Sense lived a long life, but died in the United States from heart failure on the brink of the new millennium.

No one really knows how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He selflessly devoted his life to service in schools, hospitals, homes, and factories. He helped folks get jobs done without fanfare and foolishness.

For decades, petty rules, silly laws, and frivolous lawsuits held no
power over Common Sense. He was credited with cultivating such valued lessons as to know when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, and that life isn't always fair.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn), reliable parenting strategies (the adults are in charge, not the kids), and it's okay to come in second. A veteran of the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, and the Technological Revolution, Common Sense survived cultural and educational trends including body piercing, "whole" language, and "new math."

But his health declined when he became infected with the "If-it-only-helps-one-person-it's-worth-it" virus. In recent decades his waning strength proved no match for the ravages of well intentioned, but overbearing regulations. He watched in pain as good people became ruled by self-seeking lawyers.

His health rapidly deteriorated when schools endlessly implemented zero-tolerance policies. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate, a teen suspended for taking a swig of mouthwash after lunch and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student and reportedly worsening his condition. It declined even further when schools had to get parental consent to administer aspirin to a student, but could not inform the parent when a female student was pregnant or wanted an abortion.

Finally, Common Sense lost his will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband, churches became businesses, criminals received better treatment than victims, and federal judges stuck their noses into everything from the Boy Scouts to professional sports. Finally, when a woman too stupid to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot, was awarded a huge settlement, Common Sense threw in the towel.

As the end neared, Common Sense drifted in and out of logic, but was kept informed of developments regarding questionable regulations such as those for low flow toilets, rocking chairs a multitude of children's toys, and stepladders.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by two stepbrothers: My Rights, and Ima Whiner.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

(author unknown)

December 7, 2002

The Future of the Arab World

Below are the opening paragraphs from a recent UN report, Arab Human Development Report 2002, a report which Thomas Friedman frequently refernecess and is included in his editorial today in the NY Times. I have great respect for Mr. Friedman and generally agree with his views on the Middle East dilemma. Nevertheless, I felt it necessary to at least engage this report for myself. I have read only the first paragraphs of the 180 pages.

I am dismayed that in these opening paragraphs, the report pounces on Israel's occupation of "Arab lands," neglecting to point out that the lands captured were the result of Arab wars to drive Israel into the sea. I am further bothered by the fact that the opening portion of this report fails to mention the spiritual underpinnings of the Arab dilemma and the Arab-Israeli-Christian morass. Perhaps the report later deals with this, but not to engage such a critical issue upfront suggests that a secular writer is not capable of understanding the true nature of the conflict in the Middle East.

My inital readings make me wary of Mr. Friedman's conclusions. My wariness is further sensitized to what the United Nations has to say... on almost anything. It's true that much of the Arab world is bacward and held in represssion by a belief and values system that refuses to accommodate the modern world. In an age of "mass destruction" and terrorists willing to make it happen, a critical, unbiased light shown on the problem is crucial.

From the Atlantic to the Gulf, people--women, men and children--are the real wealth and hope of Arab countries. Policies for development and growth in the Arab region must focus on freeing people from deprivation, in all its forms, and expanding their choices. Over the last five decades, remarkable progress has been achieved in advancing human development and reducing poverty. However, much still needs to be done to address the backlog of deprivation and imbalance.

Looking forward, much also needs to be done in order to empower the people of the Arab region to participate fully in the world of
the twenty-first century. Globalization and accelerating technological advances have opened doors to unprecedented opportunities, but they have also posed a new risk: that of being left behind as the rate of change accelerates, often outpacing state capacity.

Development is being reinvented by new markets (e.g., foreign exchange and capital markets, new tools (e.g., the Internet and cellular
phones, new actors (e.g., non-governmental organizations, the European Union and World Trade Organization) and new rules(e.g., multilateral agreements on trade, services and intellectual property).


Entering the new millennium, people in Arab countries face two intertwined sets of challenges to peace and to development. The first
set has been made ever more conspicuous and pressing after the tragic events of 11 September 2001. These are the challenges to
the pursuit of freedom from fear. Regional and external factors intersect in this realm of peace and security. The second set of challenges is equally important if not more critical. It encompasses challenges to the achievement of freedom from want. These are the challenges faced by people and governments, states and societies as they attempt to advance human development. These challenges are fundamental, not only for their instrumental significance to development and growth but also for their intrinsic value. Equity, knowledge and the freedom and human rights integral to good governance matter for their own sake as well as for their critical role as enablers of development. They are both means and ends. They are central to both the process and the state of human development. Some key aspects of both sets of challenges are highlighted below.


Israel’s illegal occupation of Arab lands is one of the most pervasive obstacles to security and progress in the region geographically (since it affects the entire region), temporally (extending over decades) and developmentally (impacting nearly all aspects of human development and human security, directly for millions and indirectly for others). The human cost extends beyond the considerable loss of lives and livelihoods of direct victims. If human development is the process of enlarging choices, if it implies that people must influence the processes that shape their lives, and if it means the full enjoyment of human rights, then nothing stifles that noble vision of
development more than subjecting a people to foreign occupation.
Firstly, for Palestinians, occupation and the policies that support it, stunt their ability to grow in every conceivable way. The confiscation of Palestinian land, constraining their access to their water and other natural resources, the imposition of obstacles to the free movement of people and goods, and structural impediments to employment and economic self-management all combine to thwart the emergence of a viable economy and a secure independent state. Moreover, the expansion of illegal settlements, the frequent use of excessive force against Palestinians and the denial of their most basic human rights further circumscribe their potential to build human development. The plight of Palestinian refugees living in other countries is a further manifestation of development disfigured by occupation.

Secondly, occupation casts a pall across the political and economic life of the entire region. Among neighbouring countries, some continue to suffer themselves from Israeli occupation of parts of their lands, subjecting those people directly affected to tremendous suffering, and imposing development challenges on the rest. In most Arab states, occupation dominates national policy priorities, creates large humanitarian challenges for those receiving refugees and motivates the diversion of public investment in human development towards military spending. By symbolizing a felt and constant external threat, occupation has damaging side effects: it provides both a cause and an excuse for distorting the development agenda, disrupting national priorities and retarding political development. At certain junctures it can serve to solidify the public against an outside aggressor and justify curbing dissent at a time when de mocratic transition requires greater pluralism in society and more public debate on national development policies. In all these ways, occupation freezes growth, prosperity and freedom in the Arab world.


Political upheavals, military conflicts, sanctions and embargoes have affected many economies of the region, causing declines in productivity and disrupting markets. Some countries struggling to recover from the ravages of war have emerged with substantial debts, limiting options for public expenditure. All affected countries have emerged with compounded socio-political problems that have retarded progressive moves towards liberalization and democratization. The direct impact of wars is registered in slowed growth, damaged infrastructure, social fragmentation and public-sector stagnation. Some countries have experienced hyperinflation, severe currency devaluations and curtailed foreign-currency earnings. Others have seen their standing in the international community collapse. Most affected countries have lost important human and capital resources critical for the renewal of stability and competitiveness.


There is a substantial lag between Arab countries and other regions in terms of participatory governance. The wave of democracy that transformed governance in most of Latin America and East Asia in the 1980s and Eastern Europe and much of Central Asia in the late 1980s and early 1990s has barely reached the Arab States. This freedom deficit undermines human development and is one of the most painful manifestations of lagging political development. While de jure acceptance of democracy and human rights is enshrined in constitutions, legal codes and government pronouncements, de facto implementation is often neglected and, in some cases, deliberately disregarded.

In most cases, the governance pattern is characterized by a powerful executive branch that exerts significant control over all other
branches of the state, being in some cases free from institutional checks and balances. Representative democracy is not always genuine and sometimes absent. Freedoms of expression and association are frequentlycurtailed. Obsolete norms of legitimacy prevail.


Gender inequality is the most pervasive manifestation of inequity of all kinds in any society because it typically affects half the population. There have been important quantitative improvements- There is a substantial lag between Arab countries and other regions in terms of participatory governance. Occupation freezes growth, prosperity and freedom in the Arab world...

December 5, 2002

Easy Public Access to Vermont Criminal Records

A proposal has been floated to provide easy, centralized access to all the criminal records in Vermont that are now available through VCIC.

Easy access will be a touchy issue and the Legislature will have difficulty dealing with it. Widespread sponsorship from the business community, with solid rationale about how they will use this information, will be important. Others, e.g., public defenders and various rights groups, will oppose 'easy' access in the name of privacy. We must, however, consider that a large percentage of the potential workforce is either incarcerated or in the custody of the Vermont Department of Corrections. At bottom, this is an economic development, workforce availability issue.

An example of how VCIC envisions this working will be helpful to all parties. Easy access today means via the Web.

The method of access from VCIC will be important and should be well thought out. If via the Web, what access controls will be in place, if any? What will be the approximate cost to access a record? How will the cost be determined? What forms of payment will be accepted? Will only paper copies be furnished? Electronic copies? Or both?

I believe Vermont's Public Records Statute specifies how costs for access to public records will be determined, at least in a paper world.

Will the present status, e.g., probation, parole, etc., of a person in the custody of Department of Corrections also be included in the 'record?' Or will that require a separate inquiry to Department of Corrections?

An example of the public furor that can arise when easy access is provided to public records that had been publicly available, but not easily so, can be found in Hamilton County, OH (Cincinnati). Controversy erupted a few months ago and this situation should be reviewed to know what can be expected.

Having said all this, perhaps one way to approach this from the business community is to assist a person/potential employee who admits to a criminal record obtain the record from VCIC to verify his/her statements on employment applications.

However, I expect many employers legitimately will want access to these public records without the person's knowledge.

This one will be dicey!

December 4, 2002

Bernie Bashes the FAHC Board

Representative Bernie Sanders, Vermont's perennial Socialist politician is at it again, attacking the governance structure of the Fletcher Allen Health Care. His rhetoric, pandering to the popular pool of emotion, is not helpful to pull the institution out of its crisis. FAHC is in a vulnerable position as Vermont's premier provider of health care in the region and Mr, Sanders smells blood and is on the attack. Unfortunately his solution is wrong.

FAHC needs intelligent, experienced leadership, both on its board and in its top management ranks, not consumer advocates, political operatives or elected least not until Vermont or the US chooses a Government managed single payer system.

FAHC's 'parent' organizations must select the best and the brightest people who will work hard to become an activist borad, rather than what appears to be a passive posture from the previous board.

There is no question that Fletcher Allen's board was asleep at the switch with respect to Mr. Boettcher's failings and obfuscation of the facts concerning the Renaissance Project. Nevertheless, the best way out of this morass is the creation of a board that is dedicated, willing to work hard, ask the relevant questions and hold management accountable for not only results, but due process.

The other principal requirement is top management that knows their stuff, can be trusted (and tested in that trust by the relevant questions by the board and the regulators.

The primary goal, which Mr. Sanders ignores in his editorial, is to preserve the quality of health care for the institution that consumes 1/3 of the health care dollars and provides a similar proportion of excellent health care to all who seek it. That's what we must preserve.

December 2, 2002

Theory Meets Reality

On the horns of a dilemma...

I think the tide will turn toward the baby Bells. The FCC and Congress are unlikely to trust the marketplace to tiny, poorly run or other local/regional providers who are in or teeter on the edge of bankruptcy

November 30, 2002

Jeffords Muddles in the Middle

Mr Jeffords points up serious issues the country faces, but I fear his solutions will cost multiple tens of billions, dollars the US does not have. Though I note this opinion piece fails to mention health care, perhaps you favor a single payer system, Jim???

But I worry that the list of issues that dominated the election season was woefully incomplete. As we respond daily to the latest threats of terror highlighted by the administration, I believe other issues that bear directly on the security of our homeland are being dangerously obscured.
Our slumping economy, our threatened environment, our underfunded schools, our corporate scandals — these are not issues that you will hear discussed by the White House, but they are being talked about by people who don't have the power to define the nation's agenda.

Since the election, my decision to leave the Republican Party last year has been subject to new scrutiny. The attention on my personal decision, while understandable, is misplaced. If the Republicans read the recent election results as a rejection of moderation and a mandate to steamroll opposition from within the party, they will be making a grave mistake.

The attention is not at all misplaced, Mr. Jeffords. You made a decision to join the Democrats to sponsor an agenda different than Mr. Bush's. By joining the Democrats you succeeded in accomplishing next to nothing in the last session of Congress. In your desire to oppose the Bush administration, you have made your bed in the Democrat's tent. Though you may lament until the cows come home, your decision is irrevocable. You are as independent as is Mr. Daschle! You may as well join the Democratic party, but that would upset many Vermont Republicans who voted for you. Most Vermont Republicans would send you off to The Dems with a flourish. Rest assured they would not vote for you again. But if you join the Democratic Party, you may not be able to collaborate with Mr. Sanders to become the leaders of Vermont's new Independent Party.

Bias, Bias Everywhere

Paul Krugman's lament in the Times focuses on the TV news media and ignores the print media, as though bias has only a video home. By omitting examples in the print trade, he backhandedly suggests that print media 's bias is non-existent.

Krugman quotes his hero, Al..."This week Al Gore said the obvious. "The media is kind of weird these days on politics," he told The New York Observer, "and there are some major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party." Krugman continues... "The reaction from most journalists in the "liberal media" was embarrassed silence. I don't quite understand why, but there are some things that you're not supposed to say, precisely because they're so clearly true. Cable television has greatly expanded the range of available entertainment, but has had far less broadening effect on news coverage. There are now five major sources of TV news, rather than three, but this increase is arguably more than offset by other trends. For one thing, the influence of print news has continued its long decline; for another, all five sources of TV news are now divisions of large conglomerates - you get your news from AOLTimeWarnerGeneralElectricDisneyWestinghouseNewsCorp.

Krugman concludes... "Do the conflicts of interest of our highly concentrated media constitute a threat to democracy? I've reported; you decide."

Let's not forget that bias is merely opinion, albeit institutional opinion that may improperly sway people. Bias is prevalent in all media and the targets of bias, Republicans and Democrats alike, should continually point out when it is blatant. Bias has always existed, but thoughtful readers and viewers should recognize and filter it when evaluating news and commentary. Unfortunately, our time pressed, channel surfing, page flipping, viewing and reading habits seldom foster a discriminating and thoughtful approach to the news...wherever we find it.

November 25, 2002

Maine and Vermont Share Many Concerns

During a brief visit to Maine this weekend I noted that the Kennebec Journal in Waterville reports the same concerns in Maine as highlighted in our recent Vermont election. They are: health care costs, economic development and too-high taxes. The New York Times today also points to the fiscal problems facing most state legislatures. We have a tough two years ahead to balance our respective state budgets.

Maine is toying with an Indian casino in Sanford and perhaps a second in northern Maine. Thankfully, we have no federally recognized Vermont Indian tribes, otherwise they'd be wanting a casino in Vermont. Let's not go down that road here, Mr. Douglas. Governor Dean, to his credit, opposed Vermont casino gambling and Powerball. I hope you, sir, follow suit.

November 17, 2002

Hold The Bridge

Nancy Remson's article (BFP 11/4) illuminates the irrational decision to build an outrageously expensive bicycle and foot bridge across the Winooski River between Burlington and Colchester. Thankfully, Representatives Schiavone, Obuchowski and Helm are paying close attention to the cost overruns resulting from changes required during the permit approval process. Mr. Bowler, quoted by Ms. Remsen, is correct. "It would be wrong to be putting this kind of money into a bike bridge." I encourage the Legislature to deny funding for this project.

A $3.2 million bridge whose costs have doubled during the design process to obtain permits and to protect beetles and plants is a bad investment. This is a clear example of how project costs escalate because of permit requirements

Only 10 minutes from my home, I have used Delta Park for many years for walks and relaxation and find the seasonal ferry transporting cyclers between towns an adequate solution. Living along the bike route in Colchester, I am satisfied with the present arrangement utilizing a seasonal ferry.

The bridge project is untimely and far too expensive.

November 13, 2002

Senate Democrats Playing 'Nice'

Today's news in the New York Times suggests the Democrats are a party of pure politics, not principal (I could probably say that about Republicans, too, though I don't sense the same blatant show of it from them). If the Senate Judiciary Committee 'suddenly' believes that two nominees previously held from confirmation are now well qualified and deserve appointment after the mid term elections, why not before? The name of the game is 'power.' Why should I be surprised?

Suddenly, again after the election, a compromise has been found in the contentious elements of the homeland security bill. Again, power rules over principle. I must suffer from too much idealism.

Republicans said today that they recognized the agreement to vote less as a gesture of good will than as an appeal to Senator Hatch to be kind as he allocates committee and staff resources.

In addition, approving the two nominees could give the Democrats greater credibility in opposing other Bush nominees later.

November 11, 2002

The Greed Machine

Yes. All this is true. However 'we', the investors, share some blame, too. After all, capitalism enshrined in the equities markets, though much better than any other system designed so far, is built on both information and greed. Not only the greed of the money amangers and corporate crooks, but our own greed as investors/speculators. Bad (untruthful or unshared) information + greed = the results we've seen from these high-flying crooks.

Sorry to say that a few ethics courses in business schools may only be salve, rather than radical surgery for our best and brightest...the 'me' generation.
By Bill Mann (TMF Otter)
November 6, 2002

"Several months ago, we opined that investors would gain some confidence in the U.S. stock market when they began to see the masterminds of the big corporate scams doing perp walks.

Well, we were wrong. In the last few weeks, Andrew Fastow, the Enron CFO whiz kid who engineered the myriad off-balance-sheet rat holes to hide
company debt, was arrested. A few days earlier, two former top Tyco (NYSE: TYC) executives, Mark Swartz and Dennis Kozlowski, were charged with theft of some $400 million. Tyco responded by suing to recover a severance
package of $45 million paid to Swartz. He is fighting, saying that he negotiated the severance in good faith. To which I say, "Good faith?! How dare you?"

I haven't lost directly from the big corporate scandals, though I didn't get rid of Qwest (NYSE: Q) when I first had doubts about the veracity of its top brass. But these scandals have hurt all of us; they've jolted our confidence in the U.S. markets. And mostly, they let us know just how little some people in power care about the "good faith" investors put in them."

War is Fought by People, Not Machines

On this Veterans Day, instituted after the WW I armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we should remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Today's high-tech weaponry may lull people into thinking antiseptic warfare is here to stay, but war is a nasty business and should be a last resort when politics and diplomacy fail. The evil in this world must be confronted continually and war remains the ultimate stage for confronting it.

While anti-war protestors and anti-globalization foes rally in Florence, Italy, I fail to understand the alternative they may offer. Perhaps it's the media coverage or the violence and destruction of property exhibited by these groups during other rallies in Genoa and Seattle that persuades me they have no better answer to the problem of evil.

May God rest the souls of the American warriors who have paid the ultimate price in man's inhumanity toward man.

November 10, 2002

Vermont Jobs and Permit Process Reform

Now that Mr. Douglas has been elected Governor, he and Lt. Governor Dubie have some might big expectations to meet. I think many Vermonters believe that Mr. Douglas and Mr. Dubie can actually create jobs. Short of increasing government payrolls or massive public works projects, government does not create jobs, businesses and entrepreneurs do.

Government can encourage job creation by the policies, procedures and regulation (or lack thereof) implemented, particularly via tax credits and other methods to ease the burden that businesses would otherwise face. Examples are the greasing of the skids for Husky Manufacturing to locate in Milton and the VEPC tax credits and VEDA guaranteed and low interest rate financing made available to many small businesses. All these incentives can help create or retain jobs, but we should not expect miracles.

Permit process reform is another area during the campaign that all the candidates promised to implement. This is a crying need in Vermont, not just for environmental permits, but any permits needed to do business here, should be based on a predictable and speedy process. The last thing a business needs is uncertainty while expending substantial sums on lawyers and experts to meet permit requirements.

An excellent and needed amendment to the permit process is to prevent those who would game the legal system and the permit hearing and approval process to slow down or obfuscate the development the disagree with. There are legitimate concerns raised by proposed developments, but only those persons or businesses affected by them should be party to the process.

The Conservation Law Foundation in particular should be restrained from throwing up roadblocks to legitimate projects as they did recently in Bennington when a new school was planned. These tactics of delay and obfuscation drive up the cost of doing business in Vermont and should be sharply curtailed.

November 6, 2002

Senator Jeffords Retirement

With the GOP regaining control of the US Senate, Senator Jeffords' retirement plans must be taking center spot in his mind today. Or he is working feverishly to persuade other Republican senators to switch, too. Perhaps he'll return to Vermont when his Senate term is up to run for Governor.

November 4, 2002

Who Pays the US Income Taxes?

"The top 1% of tax filers paid 37.42% of all personal federal income taxes in 2000, and the top 50% paid 96.09% of all such taxes, according to the Internal Revenue Service." This according to Albert Crenshaw of The Washington Post as reported in the Burlington Free Press on November 3, 2002.

As we listen to the perpetual rants of Mr. Sanders and others about the recent tax cuts (whose effects are not included in the IRS data), we should always keep in mind who pays the taxes that may be reduced. The bombastic ravings of many would suggest that the rich are receiving the Bush tax cuts. True enough, but these political opportunists, such as Mr. Sanders, never state the facts about who pays the taxes. This is disingenuous and only half the truth stated for political and ideological reasons to further an agenda of income redistribution.

November 2, 2002

Democracy or Republic?

In many ways we have confounded the framers' beliefs when they debated and framed the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. We have moved moved far from the original intent of government which was to be always by the consent of the governed. With many issues, particularly the push by some for universal health care, we heap upon government tasks they are ill equipped to perform well. We continue to push every conceivable 'do it for me' service under the umbrella of the Constitution's preamble to 'promote the general welfare.', so much so that we threaten to bankrupt government or raise income or property taxes so high as to be burdensome on the diminishing few who pay them.

Thoughts to ponder as this election season is upon us...

"A contemporary of our Founders, Scottish jurist and historian Sir Alexander Fraser Tytler, wrote 'A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that time on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.'"

The concept of self-government presupposes several things, most notably the ability of citizens to think for themselves, and their willingness to do so. The Founders of this nation knew that government always tends to expand its power at the expense of individual rights, and they understood that individuals would often act from personal motives at the expense of the national good. They also believed that individual motivations, even when massed together in what they called "factions", could be counteracted by other individuals and other factions, and that when the will of the whole population was expressed it would represent a balance that would tend toward the best interests of the nation as a whole. This also presupposed that people would be reasonably well informed about the issues of the day. For this, the Founders depended on a free and independent press. But despite what most people think today, our Founders did not establish a democracy in which the majority was the ultimate arbiter of what is in the best interests of the nation. The Founders distrusted democracies, because down that road lay tyranny.

In Federalist # 10 James Madison wrote, " ...democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have even been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."

November 1, 2002

Who's Running the Show?

Catherine Crier in "The Case Against Lawyers" doesn't cite that example as she makes her main point: that we the people have ceded power to a corps of lawyers and bureaucrats who are not only smothering us in silly regulations, but are also seizing huge profits for themselves, corrupting the political system and generally undermining freedom and the sense of responsibility. But Ms. Crier, the television newscaster who is currently host of "Catherine Crier Live" on Court TV, doesn't lack for illustrations. Her book is a kind of lament from within the commonsensical heart of the American spirit.

Though panned in this review by the NY Times, we are fast becoming a society whose culture and processes are ruled more by lawyers, judges and bureaucrats than by us as individuals. Getting something done is no longer easily accomplished for fear of laws, rules, regulations, restrictions, pesky neighbors, etc., even in Vermont. Everyone is a victim of something or encouraged to be one by a lawyer willing to take the case. This bodes badly for freedom, independence and personal responsibility.

That such a book has risen to the stature to be reviewed by The Times, is telling.

Euripides Says...

"A man's most valuable trait is a judicious sense of what not to believe."

October 19, 2002

Democrats Spin Vermont's Constitution

Peter Shumlin, candidate for Lt. Governor and vocal spokesman for the Democrats, continues his attempts to persuade voters and the people of Vermont that the Legislature should rubber stamp the candidate who receives the most votes in the election should none receive a majority (greater than 50%). Further, he states that if he finishes second or third in the race, he will not serve even if selected by the Legislature. That choice is his privilege.

However, for Mr. Shumlin to suggest that Mr. Dubie's and Mr. Pollina's character is faulty because they have not taken the same pledge is absurd. These men have every right to agree or not to serve if the Legislature must choose among the top three vote getters. Recently, Governor Dean also joined the Democratic chorus suggesting that all Legislators should agree in advance to vote an open ballot. Others argue the Legislative ballot must be secret based on law and precedent. I believe the Vermont constitution allows the Legislature to control the voting method.
Because the Democrats fear the Legislature will be in Republican hands, they are using these shenanigans to raise a fairness argument to influence Legislators before the election. Under Vermont's Constitution the Legislature will most likely select the Governor and Lieutenant Governor because no candidate is likely to receive a majority of the popular vote. Only because the Legislature may be in Republican hands, is the Democratic chorus singing this tune. If the Democrats were likely to be in the majority, they'd be silent.

Here's the constitutional provision.

The Vermont Constitution § 47. Election of Governor, Lieutenant-Governor and Treasurer

"The voters of each town shall, on the day of election for choosing Representatives to attend the General Assembly, bring in their votes for Governor, with the name fairly written, to the Constable, who shall seal them up, and write on them, Votes for Governor, and deliver them to the Representatives chosen to attend the General Assembly; and at the opening of the General Assembly, there shall be a committee appointed out of the Senate and House of Representatives, who, after being duly sworn to the faithful discharge of their trust, shall proceed to receive, sort, and count the votes for Governor, and declare the person who has the major part of the votes, to be Governor for the two years ensuing. The Lieutenant-Governor and the Treasurer shall be chosen in the manner above directed.

The votes for Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, and Treasurer, of the State, shall be sorted and counted, and the result declared, by a committee appointed by the Senate and House of Representatives.

If, at any time, there shall be no election, of Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, or Treasurer, of the State, the Senate and House of Representatives shall by a joint ballot, elect to fill the office, not filled as aforesaid, one of the three candidates for such office (if there be so many) for whom the greatest number of votes shall have been returned."

The Legislature should choose the man best qualified to serve as is their constitutional duty. Mr. Shumlin should endorse the prescribed constitutional method or work to change it if he disagrees.

October 18, 2002

North Korea's Big Bang

One more example of the failed diplomacy of the Clinton years. Here is a medieval country unable to feed its people. Another rogue state that must be dealt with puts a strain on the Bush people to work this one at the same time as Iraq. Will the third partner in the 'axis of evil,' Iran be next?
USA TODAY reports...
This is a government that in the 1980s blew up most of the South Korean Cabinet on a visit to Burma and was suspected in the bombing of a South Korean airliner. An estimated 2 million North Koreans died in the 1990s in a famine that was the result of failed economic policies, natural disasters and the leadership's unwillingness to seek foreign aid before it was too late. The regime's main source of hard currency has been the sale of ballistic missiles to unstable countries such as Pakistan and Iran.

October 17, 2002

Moats Misses the Mark

"Commentator David Moats reflects on self defense and the point at which the use of deadly force can be justified."
David Moats' thoughtful commentary connects the reader/listener with the notion of self defense in the sense or law enforcement and extends it to our nation's recently promulgated policy of justified preemptive strikes in the war on terrorism. He focuses on Saddam and Iraq as the specific threat to the US and others. However, his analogy is overly simplistic.

Certainly Saddam is a threat, but the real threat is the terrible weaponry that he may place in the hands of others who are capable of doing the dirty work. We saw the enormous remediation effort, the fear and deaths associated with the anthrax attack. Imagine the deaths and suffering if the WTC and Pentagon attacks were accompanied by a simultaneous smallpox bioterrorism attack.

In today's news we learn that North Korea has admitted secretly devloping nuclear weapons. Clearly, rogue states must not be allowed to continue these efforts. Diplomacy should be the first option for prevention, but these villianous leaders of nations and terrorists must be on notice that the US will, with good cause and accurate intelligence, strike first. Our announced willingness to preemptively destroy weapons threatening thousands or millions of deaths is the only sensible policy for our nation in this era.

Just as the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction in the Cold War was nuts on its face, we made it work when the weapons were in the hands of two nations. That has changed. Now that WMD may be in many untrustworthy hands, preemption is essential. When to exercise the policy is the point where I agree with Mr. Moats. Thankfully the Bush administration and our Congress recently asserted their best judgement on this matter. Mr. Moats appears to disagree without quite saying so.

We should never take destructive military actions hastily, but Mr. Moats' analogy of a man with a knife or a policeman preventing crime only in immediate self defense minimizes the complexity of the present world and the risks to our nation. Evil people bent on wanton destruction of life must be on notice that we will act against their threat.

Our nation's preemption policy is correct for these perilous times and the Bush administration is acting wisely to use it, if necessary.

October 14, 2002

Follow the (Oil) Money

From the Economist we have the reason France and Russia oppose a tough stance with Saddam. If they agree to an invasion they believe their oil contracts are at risk should 'regime change' be in the offing. Could be, but dealing with the devil has its downside as well as upside.

"...Mr Hussein is also dangling drilling and service contracts. A few months ago, a Turkish firm cut a deal to drill in the north of Iraq. More recently, a team from Tatneft, an oil contractor from the Russian republic of Tatarstan, arrived to drill the first of what may be over 70 wells. That deal, believed to be the biggest for several years, is part of a much broader relationship that Mr Hussein has cultivated with Russian firms. Some industry insiders reckon that Zarubezhneft, the Russian firm for which Tatneft is working, may have secured oil concessions worth up to $90 billion.

The big prize is control of the country's oil reserves. UN sanctions forbid foreigners from investing in the oilfields. But that has not stopped firms rushing to sign contracts in the hope of exploiting fields when sanctions are lifted. Mr Hussein has long been handing out concessions to big firms from politically important countries. France's Total, for example, holds rights to potentially huge reserves in the country. The national oil companies of China and India (not hitherto regarded as oil powerhouses) have also been given slices of the pie. Even Royal Dutch/Shell has signed a deal with Mr Hussein....)

October 8, 2002

Smallpox Threat

[10/8/2002 5:33:01 PM | Dave Usher]
If Iraq has smallpox stocks, the world is not safe. Why would the US spend the money to quickly create enough smallpox vaccine for every American, if we didn't have a very good intelligence that smallpox could be made availalble to terrorists, probably by Iraq? Why have we not prepared large amounts of other vaccines for other diseases that present a terrorist threat? This possibility/liklihood may explain Bush's urgency for action against Iraq.

October 7, 2002

No Peace in Israel and Palestine

The depth of animosity and the splintered Palestinian factions offer little hope for peace. Pessimism mounts in me that any solution can be found to this conflict. The best hope for the present is to contain it.

Gun battles left at least two people dead in Gaza City after about 20 armed militants posing as Palestinian policemen ambushed and killed a senior security official.
The killing of riot police chief Rajah Abu Lehiya took place on Monday morning as the Gaza Strip was in uproar following a major Israeli incursion into the Palestinian-controlled town of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

Palestinian police statement

Colonel Abu Lehiya's life was known to have been under threat since his forces broke up a pro-Osama bin Laden rally in Gaza a year ago, killing at least two supporters of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

October 6, 2002

Friedman Rallies The Dems

Ah, well said, Mr. Friedman. But the reality here is the Democrats have no credible national leadership the American people will believe. I'd have to think hard to name one Democratic statesman... Jimmy Carter, perhaps. Today's "D" leadership are all politicians... spin, spin, spin.

Freep Home Run # 2

Today, the Burlington Free Press editorializes...

Is the Vermont-National Education Association a subsidiary of the Democratic Party, or is the Democratic Party a handmaiden for the Vermont- National Education Association? That question is raised by the teachers union's endorsement of candidates running from Chittenden County for the Vermont Legislature in the November elections. Of 43 House and Senate seats, the Vermont-NEA recommended 39 Democrats and four Progressives. Not one Republican was on the list; not a single GOP candidate is considered a "friend of education" by the Vermont-NEA.

While they have every right to endorse who they choose, here's unionism at its worst! Way to go, Freep!! You've called the NEA to task on this absurd, blatant partisanship, giving credence to the term 'tax and spend liberals". This is way 'over the top.' The VT-NEA clearly demonstrates the union is not a friend of education, not interested in reform, especially school choice. We can no longer afford the NEA as we cannot afford the tax burden of Act 60 and the dramatic rise in spending since its enactment. Because the surpluses have morphed to deficits, we can't afford Act 60 in its present form.

Let's see how the new nurses' union at FAHC behaves. How is it possible for them to advocate for reduced health care costs. Will they eventually endorse candidates who support cost reduction??

BFP Editorial Hits Home RunToday

Three cheers for the Freep editorial board today. Taking the position, backed by research, that the self esteem movement is "psychobabble," the writers have hit the mark. The shallow values ensconced within the self-esteem movement do not a successful, happy, contented person make. A few years ago Bill Bennet authored a small book titled The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories. Here, the values are identified that really matter in a healthy society and in the life of an individual . Among them are self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, friendship, work, courage, perseverance, honesty, loyalty and faith. Clear positions are refreshing in Freep editorials that have moved toward the middle-of-the road on important issues. The editors speaking out about the myths and untruths of contemporary thinking is long overdue. More, please!
File the self-esteem movement under the category of debunked psychobabble. The tendency in recent years to blame everything from poor academic performance to violent crime on low self-worth has been convincingly refuted by recent research.

Part of the problem is that American society often promotes a false definition of self- worth. Rather than identify themselves through such old-fashioned concepts as virtue, character and religious faith, many Americans base their self-image on their physical attractiveness, career status or financial wealth. Since those factors are notoriously fleeting, the loss of external standards of self-esteem often contributes to depression and other psychological complaints.

October 5, 2002

Talk, talk, talk Update

The Burlington Free Press reports that E. Ready paid the personal part of her outrageous cell phone bill in May 2002 AFTER Mr. Dessureau's inquiry. Now, do you suppose she delayed 15 months to reimburse her personal calls because her credit cards had maxed out again? This woman is a disgrace to the office. Let's take action to unelect her soon.

October 4, 2002

Talk, talk, talk

Can you believe this? Vermont's State Auditor blames a bad cell phone plan for her outrageous (I like that word. Learned it from listening to Mr. Sanders rail against most anything he disagreed with all these years.) calling habits ($500/month over 16 months). I wonder whan she paid for the personal calls, before or after Mr. Dessureau’s inquiry surfaced our Auditor's behavior? The 'crime' of this is she'll likely be re-elected. Oh Vermont, when will we wake up?

Ready said, "My problem was that we were on a bad cell phone plan and I did not know it until Mr. Dessureau’s requests. I should have seen the bill but I didn't. Our usage was $8,395, $2,298 of which were personal calls for which I reimbursed the state."

Insanity Reigns

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Philip Morris Cos., the No. 1 cigarette maker, was ordered Friday to pay a record $28 billion to a 64-year-old woman with lung cancer who blamed her tobacco addiction on the company's failure to warn her of the risks of smoking.

The train is off the tracks and the conductors, i.e.,the jury, are all nuts in this case. How can it be possible in anyone's wildest imagination that any damage award could be $28B in an individual tobacco case? What industry is next? Guns, automobiles, food. People who do stupid things don't deserve damages for the consequences of their actions. Hot coffee at McDonald's, anyone?

September 27, 2002

I Love It!!!

Capitalism Fights Back!! on the streets of Washington today.

Tobacco Legal Fees

Good news!! Trial lawyers denied excessive fees in tobaco suit. I wonder if they've spent the money? Will they have to sell their trophy homes and cars?

Will Israel Take Them Out?

A very serious situation that has the potential to inflame the Middle East. Israel cannot allow these weapons to be used against it. Will they strike Hezbollah pre-emptively? Since the US has declared Hezbollah a terrorist group, would we strike pre-emptively according to our new doctrine. Sticky wicket here.
"We are sitting on a powder keg," Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, the officer in charge of Israel's Northern Command, said in an interview at his command post here. "It is a very sensitive and problematic situation. This entire area can go up in flames in no time or it can be very quiet," he said."

Western and Israeli security officials say most of Hezbollah's rockets have been provided by Iran, one of Israel's staunchest enemies. The officials said that thousands of rockets were flown to the Syrian capital of Damascus and driven by truck to southern Lebanon. Israeli security officials said that Syria has now begun to send rockets of its own.

Vermont's Permit Process

The gubernatorial debates continue to include the issue of the environment and the economy. More directly, how do the permit process and environmental standards affect business growth, retention, costs and perception? This is a wonderful discussion because the issues will spotlight the candidates’ positions. Are they consistent with their past positions? Have they flip-flopped? A candidate should not be allowed to get away with warm, smarmy platitudes in describing what they would or wouldn’t do. Reform the permit process they say. How, why, what changes? With what results? At what costs? They must be willing to commit to answers

Real jobs have been lost because business decision-makers find a less costly, predictable system and 'get it done' attitude in other states. A bold proposal by the Environmental Board to limit the intervention of “Materially Assisting Parties” in Act 250 proceedings during the election season will send the CLF and others into a tizzy. Good move, Marcy!! That's a relevant part of the debate that candidates should take a position on.

Here is a random example in a recently published rule change description that sends permit applicants into a tizzy…and this is one of 25 ‘lawyerly’ changes in the batch!

“Rule 42(A), (B), and (C). In accordance with the statutory authority provided in Act 40 for an automatic stay of a permit upon a petition of an appellant, Rule 42 is being amended to provide for a clear process for the automatic stay to be implemented while the merits of an interim or permanent stay request are being contemplated by the district commission or the Board, as appropriate.”

Snarled process = delays = more cost = frustrated applicants = “see ya later, Vermont.” Top-to-bottom reworking of the permit process, all permits...not only environmental, is urgently needed.

September 20, 2002

Friends and Colleagues at Waitsfield Gala

Visited the "100% DSL celebration" at Waitsfield/Champlain Valley Telecom today and was pleased to see Mike Reed, Hubie Norton and others form the NYNEX days along with Michael H. Dworkin, Peter Blum from the PSB and others from THE DPS. A scrumptious lunch, good conversation and wonderful hosts. Nice to see Eleanor Haskin looking fit and all the folks on the VTAC board.

Had opportunity to discuss politics/health care with two folks running for VT Senate from Washington County, one a Progressive favoring a single payer system for VT and another, a Democrat, wanting to do 'something' about health care, but admitted not having an answer. There will be no easy solution to the dilemma around the cost of health care until and unless much stronger personal accountability is demanded from each of us. Tiny co-payments are a start in that direction, but do not incorporate the painful rationing that ultimately will be needed to control costs. Sad to say, I believe rationing will be required. We must be very cautious with this reality so that we don't go down the terribly slippery slope of denying care arbitrarily or sponsoring assisted suicide, particularly with the elderly who consume so many health care dollars.

America's Policy of Preemptive Action

"And, as a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed. We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. So we must be prepared to defeat our enemies' plans, using the best intelligence and proceeding with deliberation. History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action."

Amen! I will watch carefully how Mr. Sanders, Mr. Leahy and Mr. Jeffords vote on the Iraq resolution that emerges from Congress. I predict all three will vote against it, thus undermining the President's policy and demonstrating their true colors in foreign policy.

Germany's Slur

Schroeder wrote to Bush, saying: "I want to let you know how much I regret the fact that alleged comments by the German justice minister have given an impression that has offended you.''

If this is an apology for the scandalous remark made by his minister, Herta Daeubler- Gmelin, comparing Hitler's tactics with Bush's Mr. Schroeder deserves to lose his cliffhanger election. He is less a friend than an opportunist.

Latest Auditor's Report Mostly Mush

Although the recently released VT State Auditor's report concerning the Department of Environmental Conservation is not worth the 3/8" wad of paper require for printing, one recommendation has particular merit. It is the creation of an internet portal for one-stop permit application, review, payment and management. Conspicuous by its absence in the report is the need for a bottoms-up review of the permit process itself!! The report states there are 56 different types of permits issued by the DEC, excluding permits that may be required by other State agencies.

However, reengineering the permit sytem must go far deeper that 'portalizing' the present burdensome process and procedures. The candidates for governor all call for 'permit reform,' but only Hogan calls for a total review of the permit process, particularly the process associated with Act 250. Vermont cannot afford the costly burden to business and its citizens of an unpredictable, paper-based permit system. Overhauling it, then creating a user-friendly portal for all permit activity, not just DEC's is more sensible.

September 18, 2002

Profiling after 9/11

Profiling people by age, race, ethnicity and sex is a perfectly legitimate law enforcement and investigative activity. If male Muslims between the ages of, say, 20 and 40 are the terrorists that that have caused the damage and destruction of property in this country and abroad and the murder of innocent people, police would be stupid not to watch people who fit this profile. Of course profiling can be overdone, but I want the people responsible for protecting me and our citizenry to use every technique at their disposal.

There is no room for 'Political Correctness' in this debate. If profiling is abused, correct the abusers, otherwise continue the use of profiling to combat terrorism, crime and attempts to undermine our way of life. Statements like this are nonsense: "The disgraceful terror attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was a colossal tragedy for Americans. If Muslims are profiled solely because they are Muslim this will only add to the tragedy.

September 17, 2002

Despots Reasoning

"Zambia has also expressed doubt about the safety of genetically modified emergency foods, but has agreed to send scientists to the United States to verify whether it is safe for human consumption." "Several governments have expressed concern that Zambia warned Friday it may refuse a $50 million loan to purchase U.S. corn, while in May Zimbabwe rejected a 10,000 ton corn donation. Now the regime is threatening to let millions starve, rather than send real food."

More than 17 million people facing starvation in Africa and countries such as Zambia and Zimbabwe fiddle around to decide if the food Americans eat daily is safe for their starving millions. These people are nuts! Are these the same leaders who deny that HIV causes AIDS via unprotected sex? Is there any hope for these African countries? Sad.

Mandela Misses Mark

Nelson Mandela in Newsweek casts the US as a bungler of it's foreign policy. While Mr. Mandela has earned a great deal of credit for his role in eliminating apartheid in South Africa, he misses the mark as a world class statesman. While America may have incomplete understanding of the Arab world, we understand terrorist actions. Mandela is wrong. Perhaps because of the evils of apartheid, he advocated actions that some would call terrorist.

Sorry, Nelson, you're on the wrong side of this debate. Meanwhile, your county is ravished by AIDS. Is that the West's fault too?

VPR Switchboard Palaver

I think tonight's (9/17/02) VPR Switchboard program was a waste of a perfectly good hour, as Click and Clack would say. Gram (AP), Schmaler (VT Press Bureau) and Dillon (VPR) squandered an opportunity to constructively discuss and comment on the issues facing VT in the November elections and the candidates' positions on them. Their discussion on the Constitutional provision requiring the Legislature to elect statewide officers when candidates fail to achieve an electoral majority was useless. If they think VT should change the Constitution, why not say so? What are the positions of all the statewide candidates on this point? Do the candidates favor changing the Constitution? Rather, it appears the panelists think the Constitutional provision is an 'historical artifact.' Would the candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State change it?

Perhaps the journalists selected for the panel were 'second string.' I found their observations of little value and the show, in toto, worthless.

To allow the last caller to use the show as a stage to promote a single payer health system for VT and to advertise a rally in Montpelier AND for a panelist to make supportive comments is journalism at its worst.

Switchboard is usually far better than this!

September 16, 2002

State Websites Should be Toll Free

The states continue to enhance their websites, but some have begun charging for access to certain types of information. While budgets are tight in many states, the idea of charging for information to help support the cost of developing and maintaining those sites gives me pause. On one hand, the model of charging for access to public infomation has precedent in the paper world. People usually paid for copies of requested documents because pubic employees, often in addition to their normal jobs, made those copies using state copiers and supplies. On the other hand, the cost burden is shifted to the users because the web enables self-service.
I believe the state government web public information model should not charge for information access. Initial costs of the state website should be a budgeted item. Ongoing maintenance, whether in-house or outsourced, should be funded by savings in those departments which can reduce costs by enabling citizen self-service transactions. Fee-for-service is a restrictive model for public information. Maximizing free access to information and transactions with state government will best serve a state's citizens.

September 14, 2002

Goodbye Mr. Arafat

Mr. Arafat has come to the end of his rope and future days should verify the Israeli declaration of his irrelevancy a few months ago. That's good news because the Palestinians with their dozens of factions and splinter groups will have an opportunity to select a new leader who may be capable to lead the Palestinians to a life worth living. The other good news is the suicide bombings have been prevented for a month or more.

A faint glimmer of optimism has appeared from two years of violence sanctioned, if not sponsored by Arafat. I believe much of the reduced violence recently stems from the growing likelihood that a war in Iraq can only increase the risk for the Palestinians. That possibility notwithstanding, the Israelis have been relentless in their determination to root out the Palestinian terrorists and militants. By taking this strong and concerted action, their "zero" tolerance for terror is clear and backed up by force,

September 11, 2002

Friedman at St. Michael's College

Thomas Friedman's presentation yesterday at St. Michael's College at the Vermont Global Symposium "The Global Economy and U.S. Foreign Policy after September 11." was riveting and I concur with most of it. His analysis is mostly correct, but I think he fails to grasp the full power of the spiritual dimension underlying radical Islam's passion against Judaism and Christianity as represented by Israel and America.

He is right on the mark in saying that autocratic, non-consensus political states are responsible for the grinding poverty and lack of hope for so much of the Islamic world. The mix of Islamic fundamentalism and radical elements spawned in the cauldron of poverty, and the persistent catalyst of political and economic repression produces a deadly brew.

He is also correct that globalization cannot be stopped and perhaps not even managed well. The rapid spread of ideas and culture via electronic communications, particularly the interactive Internet, along with global commerce is where the real power resides...and no one is in control, therefore the best ideas may win in the secular sense, but the deep spiritual conflict between good and evil will condition the the process and outcome. Do we believe that God has a plan for this world or not? Do we think we are in full control of our destiny??

Sue Robinson in the BFP todayquotes an American radical: "This guy preaches killing and violence as a way of solving the world's problems," said Steve Ekberg of the Burlington Anti-War Coalition, an anti-globalization and pacifist organization. Another student is quoted: "Isn't everyone entitled to their ideas?" St. Michael College senior Becky Bean asked. "I suppose there is a line at which ideals can cross between O.K. and not O.K. Osama crossed it. I guess I just wouldn't have said it quite like that.". Wake up, Becky!!

When, oh when, will the political correctness syndrome end. I applaud Friedman for his bluntness. He obviously has no truck with the garbage of political correctness . He used the right approach with this audience, blunt, forceful backed by analysis from his exhaustive travel and discussions with people in the Islamic world. While still opinions, he's done his homework. Students and the rest of us need to hear things clearly...without the fog of PC.

Where are Robinson's quotes from people who agree with Friedman's analysis? C'mon Freep, you can do better than this!

September 5, 2002

When is Public Info too Public?

The debate over public records and easy access to them on the net will rage for years.

Let's see if I have this right. A record is a public record because Americans have agreed in the past that our public interest is best served when certain information is available (but not too available, it seems) to the public. A free society thrives best when more, rather than less, information can be widely known. This policy serves an open, free society. Information repressed is the stuff of totalitarianism. Until recently, the media, lawyers, private investigators, law enforcement and others, including bad guys, have been the miners of information. Because the net is the best tool for allowing anyone access to public information, not only those with special interests, some say Whoa, we can't have just anyone viewing this public information because...pick any of dozens of reasons. I say why not? The legal term of art "practical obscurity" is crumbling as well it should. Easy access, that's the ticket. I say Hooray! for Jim Cissell, the clerk of courts for Hamilton County, Ohio. "It was the natural progression of technology" to place public records on the Web, he said.

"Information wants to be free," the mantra of the digerati since the birth of the net, is about to be put to the test by the common wo(man). Democracy will survive the challenge but the debate will be intense. Let 'er rip!

September 4, 2002

Required Reading

Thomas Friedman describes the lessons that teachers and professors should be delivering as school reopens a year after 9/11. He asks the key questions and delivers the correct answers using the words of others who have written on the subjects. If I had kids in college or grade school, I'd ask to see the lesson plans their teachers were using. If they taught other than these principles and facts, I'd do all I could to assure the teacher's re-education. Fundamental truths require continued reinforcement so American children are equipped to carry the torch of freedom.

August 31, 2002

A Peaceful Future?

The NYT reports that divergent views of subjects under discussion at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development require this level of security... "The convention center, which has been declared U.N. territory for the duration of the summit, is ringed with concrete and steel barriers. Some 8,000 security personnel have been deployed around the venue since the conference started Monday, backed by dogs, metal detectors and armored carriers."
Davos, Seattle, Genoa...It seems violence or its threat is the only response for those who hold passionate views on the future of the planet. Or is this the only way to attract attention? We cannot deny that Man is a violent critter!

Lesson Plans for 9/11

What to teach kids in school on the anniversary of September 11 creates controversy. The New York Times casts the opposing views in conservative and lberal terms. The debate becomes ideological. For me, and I believe most Americans, it's quite simple:
*Enemies of America killed 3,000 Americans and other innocent people.
*This act of war was pre-meditated and accomplished in secret, not unlike the attack on Pearl Harbor 60 years ago.
*America must protect itself. A good offense is the best defense.
*President Bush's policy to wage war on terrorism is correct.
*The notion that somehow America is at fault for this terrorism is nonsense.
*Evil ideas and false beliefs spawned destruction at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
*Police, firemen and rescue workers involved in the tragedy are heroes.

These are the lessons that must be taught to our kids about 9/11.

August 27, 2002

Elephants are Awake!

The elephants are not only awake but on the move. We are in danger of being trampled by the desires of copyright owners, service providers and consumers of the content protected by copyrights. The elephants in this controversy are hauling all their ammunition to the front. We have Hollywood, the Congress, consumer advocates, and now the service providers all tromping in the digital jungle. The stakes are high and rising. Hollywood wants to sustain profits. Consumers want content at the lowest possible cost; free is the lowest possible cost. Telcos want liability protection, as do ISPs. The hardware elephants don't want to be told how to design their stuff and Congress thinks it can solve the problem legislatively. Meanwhile, the jungle snares all these elephants in that colossal internet theft ring. Can 50 million consumers be cheats??

Where will it end. For many years the mantra has been "Information wants to be free." Music, videos, software... all strain to be free attracted by the magnet of users who believe if I can get it for free, why should I pay?

Seems everybody's rights are in conflict. How to resolve? No easy answers to this one, buster! The dilemma is how to enforce the legitimate monetary rights of artists and content owners when the definition of 'fair use' continues to expand upon the skills and beliefs of those who believe piracy is today's expression of 'fair use.' Seems the underlying driver here is a moral dilemma. Piracy is 'justified' when the little guy/gal feels it's OK to steal from the big elephant because that elephant is an SOB anyway. Lost in all of this is how the creator of the content is protected and reimbursed for his/her labors.

Seems to me that theft made easier in a digital age is still theft, no matter the size or motivations of the elephants.

Tromp. Tromp. Methinks the Hollywood elephant will change eating habits (business model) soon.

Con Hogan Has it Right

Con Hogan, Independent candidate for Governor, understands how issues are connected, unlike his opponents who sometimes play to the hot buttons and emotionalism of specific issues for affected constituencies. His is the right answer for the two toughest, long-term policy issues facing Vermont right now. We must get these right. To play the environment against the economic vitality of Vermont is a mistake. Both must be addressed together and solutions will be difficult. Costs for some environmental issues will be high, e.g., water quality assurance, but the consequences for inaction are also high. The only viable approach to a continued healthy environment for tiny Vermont is a healthy economy to produce both profitable businesses and a tax base that enables solutions.

"Business vitality in an environment second to none

The mutually beneficial relationship between a healthy economy and a
healthy environment has yet to be realized in this state.

For some time now we have viewed business platforms and environmental platforms
as competitors that divide our focus, energy and resources. In fact, the
opposite can be true. The stronger our business climate, the stronger our
economic vitality, and the more resources we have to produce a Vermont
environment second to none.

It is all connected. We can no longer think about one program or another as
being the key to our future. We have to understand more fully how these economic
and environmental issues interact. We need a new way of thinking, which starts
with coming together around the common purpose of a vibrant economy in an
environment second to none."

August 24, 2002

Vermont's Political Season (ings)

Mr. Shumlin's editorial confirms his traditional confrontational style. "I am saving you from the greedy pharmaceutical companies. Look to me (Vote for me?), I'll help save you." The price of drugs is not best controlled by Mr. Shumlin's warlike diatribe. The cost of healthcare is a spiraling concern. Societally we don't have an answer because indvidually we are without restraint. We want all of it at an 'affordable' price. Problem: we can't afford to have it all. Technology will continue to produce wonderful devices and drugs that outstrip our ability to pay for all these wonders of modern medicine unless we exert disciplines and restraint on how much health care we individually consume...easier said than done. Unfortunately, war with the providers, evidenced by Mr. Shumlin's rantings, is not the right approach.

I note he also voted in the minority (7-2) yesterday when the Joint Fiscal Committee wrestled to the ground the $39 Million budget shortfall . Spend, Mr. and spend. Too bad Vermont can't afford your agenda.

August 23, 2002

Telecom in Vermont... musings

Telecom...big subject with huge implications for economic development and citizen expectations. Inherent structural difficulties abound because of the relatively small Vermont market with scattered population centers and low density. Perception of Vermont telecom by visitors, particularly tourists seeking recreation, second homes, etc., is important. Some of these folks may be decision-makers who really like the place, but wonder about the telecom and other infrastructure to support them, should they contemplate moving or opening a business here.

We Vermonters struggle incessantly with this tension... to display VT as a quiet, laid-back, bucolic, wonderful place to 'be' (Please bring your $ and spend them here) and to offer the latest in telecom technologies to spur targeted types of business growth.

Today's hot telecom focus is broadband (for another day) and wireless.

Here's what savvy politicians should do. Candidates for statewide office and incumbents articulate this public policy: Vermont must have reliable, statewide digital cellular/mobile service by PICK YOUR NEAR TERM DATE...2004, 2005, 200? Many impediments (is 'challenges' more PC?) exist, but without a shared vision and clearly articulated policy, no coherent action plan can be developed. There are myriad details underneath such a declaration..., regulatory, environmental, vendor willingness, etc., but I think the right state leader could obtain buy-in from all parties to make it happen. Which candidate will step up to the plate?

Of course, an alternative is to leave this totally to the marketplace under the conditions providers now experience. Risky, given the pain of permitting, with no assurance that we'll have ubiquitous digital cell service any time soon. Unless providers have a predictable, cost-effective process for siting necessary antennas and equipment, why should they invest here if their options for limited capital are better elsewhere? Investment location choice is a marketplace reality! With the will to do so, Vermont can remove impediments and attract that investment here.

Some good news... "On August 14, 2002 the Environmental Board approved the Act 250 Application Package for Communications Facilities. The application package was approved after extensive input from telecommunications providers, the general public, state agencies, and other interested persons. The application package will provide for a more comprehensive and consistent review of telecommunications facilities under Act 250, including new towers and co-locations on existing structures." The not-so-good-news...the application consists of 23 pages, and it would appear that a complete application could require scores more pages. I wonder how much time and cost is consumed, on average to site a cell tower?? Wonder how that compares with VT, NH, NY, and other places... A savvy Vermont politician should find out.

Meanwhile, visitors to many parts of our fair state can't use their cell phones. Should we do a visitor exit survey to find out what they think?
[disclaimer: author is Board VP of Vermont Telecom Advancement Center]

August 22, 2002

Telecom in Vermont... musings

Here's a big subject with huge implications for economic development and citizen expectations. Inherent structural difficulties abound because of the relatively small Vermont market with scattered population centers and low density. Perception of Vermont telecom by visitors, particularly tourists seeking recreation, second homes, etc., is important. Some of these folks may be decision-makers who really like the place, but wonder about the telecom and other infrastructure to support them, should they contemplate moving or opening a business here.

We Vermonters struggle incessantly with this tension... to display VT as a quiet, laid-back, bucolic, wonderful place to 'be' (Please bring your $ and spend them here) and also to offer the latest in telecom technologies to spur targeted types of business growth.

Today's hot telecom focus is broadband (for another day) and wireless.


Here's what savvy politicians should do. Candidates for statewide office and incumbents articulate this public policy: Vermont must have reliable, statewide digital cellular/mobile service by PICK YOUR NEAR TERM DATE...2004, 2005, 200? Many impediments (is 'challenges' more PC?) exist, but without a vision and clearly articulated policy, no coherent action plan can be developed. There are myriad details underneath this statement, regulatory, environmental. But I think buy-in from all parties could be garnered to make it happen.

Of course, an alternative is to leave this totally to the marketplace under the conditions providers now experience. Risky, given the pain of permitting, with no assurance that the task will be completed. However, unless providers have a predictable, cost-effective process for siting necessary antennas and equipment, why should they invest here if their options for limited capital are better elsewhere? Investment location choice is a marketplace reality! With the will to do so, Vermont can remove impediments and attract that investment here.

Some good news... "On August 14, 2002 the Environmental Board approved the Act 250 Application Package for Communications Facilities. The application package was approved after extensive input from telecommunications providers, the general public, state agencies, and other interested persons. The application package will provide for a more comprehensive and consistent review of telecommunications facilities under Act 250, including new towers and co-locations on existing structures." The not-so-good-news...the application consists of 23 pages, and it would appear that a complete application could require scores more pages. I wonder how much time and cost is consumed, on average to site a cell tower?? Wonder how that compares with VT, NH, NY, and other places... A savvy Vermont politician would find out.

Meanwhile, visitors to many parts of our fair state can't use their cell phones. Should we do a visitor exit survey to find out what they think?

[disclaimer: author is VP of Vermont Telecom Advancement Center]

August 21, 2002

Thanks, Verizon

The Vermont Youth Orchestra culminated 10 days of learning, practice, rehearsal and I suspect much good fun with a wonderful concert on Saturday, August 17. These kids and their teachers and leaders performed masterfully. Thanks for all the hard work and thanks, Verizon, for sponsoring a part of this experience! My grandsons really benefit from the VYO.

Water, water everywhere...

Vermont is extraordinarily fortunate to have a generally abundant supply of fresh drinking water, yet debates rage about the preservation of our streams, rivers and lakes. The availability, cleanliness and control and of water supplies for drinking and recreation is high on our list of issues and the subject of great debate. It seems the French have a long term strategy to be in the water business big time. Vivendi (yes, the same outfit we know as an entertainment conglomerate!) is a major owner of water supply systems worldwide. Here is a public/private ownership debate that can only intensify in the years ahead.
Here's an excerpt:
Other activists worry there is a flaw in the logic of privatization: If companies make money by delivering water, won't their incentive be to sell as much as they can rather than to conserve a scarce resource?

But William Cosgrove, a Canadian consultant who helped draft the World Water Vision paper for an environment summit last year in the Hague, Netherlands, insists that most people, company executives included, believe water is a basic right. "This is controversial simply because it's not understood," he said. "As long as it is accepted that governments set up regulatory frameworks and define objectives, they can make the best use of water they have."

"Executives at Suez and Vivendi agree. Jean-Luc Trancart, a Suez spokesman with long experience in French water management, argues that private companies fill a vital need. "I always tell activists if they really want to hurt us, they should make the public sector work better," he said."

I certainly don't want water supply systems owned by Vermont governments, except in unusual cases. Who owns water anyway? Is it like oil that we can own if we find and extract it? If I fill a tank truck with water from a public source, do I 'own' the water? Water ownership is debate that will surface at some point. According to the PSB, we have at least 45 Vermont water companies. Do they 'own' the water they move through their pipes?

I'm thirsty.

August 20, 2002

Our Next Governor
A vision for Vermont's future should be the lynchpin of the gubernatorial campaigns. Each viable candidate, Douglas, Hogan and Racine, should be asked by voters and the media for a clear statement of their vision for the next 10 years. Building on that vision, they must be able to articulate sustainable policies to reach that vision. Sustainable is the operative word here. Since Vermont has less than 700,000 people, their policies must be consistent with taxes that Vermonters can afford. Today I think we Vermonters have goumet cravings for what government can do but with a fast-food budget, as the present $39 Million shortfall proves.

It begins...

A view of the world from my many perspectives, some around today's events, some rooted in deep beliefs, some shaped by the technologic realities of today's and tomorrow's world. We'll see where this leads. Lord, provide the impetus for frequent posts!