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.