December 31, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: Are We Stingy? Yes

These editorialists are out to lunch! They seem to live in a nether world of intellectualism that fails to understand how the world works. I have lost my interest in their editorial views with tripe like this. Next, they'll be claiming it was their poignant editorial that caused our government to increase the aid amount tenfold.

Why hasn't the Times mounted and organized an appeal for money for the relief work?

New York Post Online Edition: commentary

This columnist is correct. It drives me nuts when the media and the talking heads believe they must put everything, even this terrible tsunami tragedy, in a political context. Are ratings so important?

As for the U.N., they operate at about 3 on the 10 point efficiency scale. Those officials would do well to clam up and get on about their business. Clare Short , former U.N. International Development Secretary, apparently has seawater for brains.

Indonesia Needs Help, Death Toll Expected To Exceed 400,000 :: Bernama.com

Can a death toll of more than 400,000 in Indonesia alone be possible? Oh my God!

How Scientists and Victims Watched Helplessly

This NY Times piece is well worth reading!



Courtesy NY Times. Dramatic Tsunami Photo Posted by Hello


Here's an instructive link to the BBC:

How a massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggered sea surges and the deaths of thousands of people.< http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/2/hi/asia-pacific/4136289.stm >

The New York Times > Technology > Oracle Fires Top PeopleSoft Executives

I would expect nothing better of Larry Ellison. Takeover targets, beware!

December 30, 2004

The New York Times > Washington > Social Security Underestimates Future Life Spans, Critics Say

Here's a key element in the SS debate!

"Life expectancy at birth increased by 30 years in the last century, and many independent demographers, citing the promise of biomedical research and the experience of some other industrialized countries, predict significant increases in this century. The Social Security Administration foresees a much slower rise.

"Life expectancy will make a very big difference in the fiscal viability of Social Security, but the agency's projections of longevity appear too conservative," said Prof. Samuel H. Preston of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the world's leading demographers."


BBC NEWS | Middle East | Missile kills militants in Gaza

Good shot, Israel. Terrorists must be eradicated at every opportunity. This drone-fired missile is a new weapon in Israel's kit.

The New York Times > Business > U.S. Acts to Take Over Faltering Pilots' Pension Plan at United

One more sad chapter in a tragic downward spiral for United and its employees. We must keep in mind that some, but not all, of the woes that have come to the big airlines are caused by the terrorist attacks of 9/11. These large airlines have been inefficient since before the days of deregulation and the external influences, including effective competition, have slowly eroded their financial viability in the current environment.

The expenses of big airlines, especially employee expenses, are far too high for the environment in which they operate.

The New York Times > Technology > Internet Use Said to Cut Into TV Viewing and Socializing

Use of PCs and the Internet is still not easy enough. We should not have to spend this amount of time dealing with spam, viruses and fixing things. I spend at least this amount of time on maintenance. It should be easier. It's improving but not quickly enough

"The study, titled "What Do Americans Do on the Internet?" also found that junk e-mail and computer maintenance take up a significant amount of the time spent online each day.

Respondents reported spending 14 minutes daily dealing with computer problems. That would suggest that Internet users spend a total of 10 workdays each year dealing with such problems."

December 29, 2004

Fresh push to coordinate tsunami aid | csmonitor.com

If India wants to go it alone, why did they join a coalition today with the U.S., Japan and Australia?

BBC NEWS | Africa | UN suspends food aid for Darfur

Here's an example where the U.N. is helpless to act and it's humanitarian relief attempts are of negligible worth. I don't have a magic answer except that first and second world nations should stop selling arms to primitive tribal and ethnic groups. If they want to fight, let them do it with spears and stones. It's not possible to prevent people with deep seated rivalries from killing each other. Sad to say, but true, I think.

The U.N. does not even know what is happening and who is responsible. Talk about failed states and ineffective leadership!

" Truck theft

Security on the ground continues to deteriorate and the African Union troops sent to Darfur to protect the ceasefire monitors are having little impact on the fighting.
'We're talking about a major humanitarian delivery that was stopped,' the UN's Radhia Achouri in the capital Khartoum told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

The problems of Darfur cannot be solved through military means

The UN's Jan Pronk


Darfur observer frustration
'We have decided to not proceed until further notice, until the security situation is reassessed,' she said.
Both Darfur rebel groups - the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement - have denied responsibility for the attacks in Ghubaysh, she said.
The situation was confusing, she added, as reports suggest a new rebel movement is claiming responsibility for the attack on the main road to the towns of Nyala in south Darfur and El-Fashir in the north.
In another development, the UN is also concerned about the theft by rebels of 13 trucks carrying food aid over the past two weeks.
Ms Achouri said there were worrying reports that rebels were using the WFP lorries to launch their attacks"

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: The Year the Earth Fought Back

Are tectonic plate events thousands of miles apart related? Is there a cause and effect relationship among distant tectonic plate movements or volcanic activity?

A possibility too ominous to ignore, but how to prove it?

The New York Times > AP > National > Bush Announces 4-Nation Team to Coordinate Relief Efforts

Where's the EU? Where's Russia? Where's China? Where are the Muslim/Arab countries? Saudi Arabia? Indonesia is primarily Muslim? Where are the Muslims?? Seems very strange, other than the nations initially involved have resources, sympathy and the wherewithal to deliver the help.

I forever reject the idea that America is "The Great Satan." If America and its allies will spend billions on this disaster, let it never be said America is an enemy in the world.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Wave toll 'could exceed 100,000'

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Wave toll 'could exceed 100,000'

This is the most realistic estimate I've seen, but it may be low also. There's the chance this will be the worst disaster of all time...apart from Noah's flood.

NPR : Relief Agencies Concerned about Wasted Tsunami Aid

As I commented yesterday, this is the BIG issue, using aid effectively and getting it to the people who need it. Lacking transportation, communication, organization and widespread chaos in the area needing relief means that efficiency will be low. Nevertheless, the relief agencies must do the best they can and I'm sure they will.

I often think about where these experienced aid workers for the major relief groups come from. Will they be pulled from other areas of the world where they are already working? They obviously are not sitting around in some headquarters waiting for the next disaster.

The New York Times > Technology > Court Bars Regulation of Web Phone Service

The federal appeals court has made the right call. VoIP telecom whether provided by upstart companies like Vonage or by Verizon should be free of traditional state regulation. The monopoly days are far behind us.

Where do Vermont regulators stand on this issue?
+++++++++++++++
"The case is part of a larger debate about how telecommunications should be regulated in the digital age. As more communication takes place on the Internet, advocates of deregulating telecommunications are arguing that the new era demands a new set of rules.
But those in favor of continued regulation, including the state of New York and many other states, have argued that Internet calls are effectively the same as traditional telephone calls and deserve the same level of government oversight."

December 28, 2004

My Way News - Tsunami Update

And it only worsens. We live in a deangerous world whose mantle creaks,groans andmoves at it's pleasure and at our peril.

"In a further threat to the region, disease could kill as many people as those killed by the wall of water, a top World Health Organization (WHO) official said."

Navy SEALs Sue AP Over Alleged Abuse Photos

I'm pleased the Seals filed suit. The MSM apparently lifted the photos without permission and so doing compromised the identity of the Seals. The reporter and his/her superiors should be punished.

I'm on an MSM rant today, I guess, but here;s one more instance of apparent wrongdoing. I have little patience for this. This is not 'freedom of the press.'

It Seemed Like a Scene From the Bible (washingtonpost.com)

One account of a survivor of the tsunami in Sri Lanka...lucky to be alive and safe. I wonder how he posted this story?

Toll From Tsunami Rises to More Than 51,000 (washingtonpost.com)

I think the final toll may be closer to 100,000. The early reports at 6,000 were obviously wrong given the power of the earthquake and the tsunami. Why the MSM accepted and reported them signals they really don't have a handle on this one. I wonder if anyone does at this early stage? Doubtful.

The New York Times > Washington > Powell Bristles at Suggestions U.S. Is Stingy With Wave Aid

The MSM and the UN making asses of themselves...again. Powell is right to be indignant. Aid without disciplined, organized relief workers on site is only half useful. The important thing in a disaster is to get aid where it can be used quickly. This seems a horribly daunting task given the remoteness and lack of transportation/communications in many devastated areas.

The New York Times > Technology > The Internet: Blogs Provide Raw Details From Scene of the Disaster

A decent article about the usefulness of blogging when the urgency or timeliness of information is important. Also some sage words from Xeni Jardin, one of the four co-editors of the site BoingBoing.net about the reality of blogging and the roles of bloggers and the MSM (Mainstream Media).

December 27, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Sunday News Quiz

It's true that we need to set national priorities and they don't all require new money. We need to redirect priorities within the existing budget. For starters, how about reducing the billions in pork projects favored by Congressional gluttons to persuade voters to keep electing them?

The New York Times > Technology > Just How Old Can He Go?

If Ray, a genius by all accounts, is serious and correct, that means he will support population limits so only some of us will live forever. Wonder what the criteria are for the chosen few?

"'I am serious about it,' said Mr. Kurzweil, a wiry man with few lines on his face for a 56-year-old. 'I think death is a tragedy. I think aging is a tragedy. And going beyond our limitations is what our species is all about.'
The study of human biology, he said, is increasingly intersecting with his main field of expertise - computing. Mr. Kurzweil points to the advances in medicine and genetics as leading toward a view of biology as a kind of computation."

December 26, 2004

The New York Times > International > Asia Pacific > Most Powerful Quake in 40 Years Triggers Death and Destruction

The reports listing the number dead are pure guesses. The Times does well to keep the number of dead vague. How can anyone know the extent of death at this early stage in the disaster? At the rate which new numbers have been reported today, the toll could be in the tens of thousands. A terrible tragedy.

"Over a million people have been affected by the destruction, officials said, with people fleeing their homes for higher ground, fearing aftershocks that could send more waves to strike the islands and beaches. The death toll could rise considerably as information comes in from remote islands and beach resorts, and the fate of those missing, including the hundreds of fishermen at sea, becomes apparent."

Ny Times Quote - The Medicaid Dilemma

Pandering with poemics.

"I certainly understand the need to balance the federal budget, but people need to remember that to balance the federal budget off the backs of the poorest people in the country is simply unacceptable. You don't pull feeding tubes from people. You don't pull the wheelchair out from under the child with muscular dystrophy."GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE, of Arkansas, on a bipartisan lobbying effort by governors to stave off federal cuts in Medicaid allotments.

The New York Times > Business > Your Money > Techno Files: At I.B.M., That Google Thing Is So Yesterday

With such rapid advances in technology, I find it difficult to continue stating, "The Internet changes everything," but "we are still very much in the infancy of the Internet and what it means for humanity."

I feel so privileged to live in such an exciting time. My 94-year old mother has lived from a time when in grade school the teacher would let out class to watch an airplane fly overhead. The events and achievements in one lifetime are beyond amazing!

The New York Times > Business > Your Money > Economic View: Building a Nation of Savers

I'm disturbed by what appears to an 'American truth' in this article. It seems that most people take the path of less complexity, beneficial of not, even when it comes to their own financial well-being. That is, by default they'll accept whatever is placed before them when it comes to savings and some of the 'free' money that comes with employer-matched 401(k) plans.

Americans live in the moment, financially, no matter the longer term consequences. There are so many things that compete for our time that we choose the path of least resistance, from the perspective of time and complexity, even when when such a course is not in our best rational interest.

Recently, our Vermont Socialist Congressman blamed the banks for the average Vermonter's $17,000 credit card debt. It's the banks' fault, according to Bernie Sanders, that people charge excessively to their credit cards. This ridiculous opinion spawned letters to the editor of the Burlington Free Press bemoaning the lack of personal responsibility. Sanders always panders to victimization. This opinion below is of the same thinking.

"You know you'd be happier tomorrow not to put the extra purchase on the credit card, but you don't have a way to prevent yourself from charging it," said James M. Poterba, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "These findings suggest that there's a lot of psychology here that economists might not fully understand."

None of this bodes well for our future. Have we become so economically healthy that our financial discipline has evaporated?

December 25, 2004

The New York Times > National > Voting Problems in Ohio Spur Call for Overhaul

A self-inflicted error by a college professor with expectations that somehow the system should correct his personal error and find a way to elect John Kerry! Really. Oh woe is me?

Give me a break!!!

"'It seems like such a confused system,' said Mr. Shambora, a John Kerry supporter who blames himself for the mistake. 'Maybe if enough people's votes had counted, the election might have turned out differently.'"

December 23, 2004

Hampton Union Local News: Boy in a Santa suit asked to quit dance

The absurdities that school officials either find themselves in OR that they choose to instigate because of their personal beliefs. This is nuts and should be confronted wherever it rears its ugly head. Political correctness is a syndrome that has moved beyond any rational bounds.

I'm waiting for the first time that someone springs it on me.

d-

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Worth a Thousand Words

A grim assessment of Iraq by Friedman while he takes a swipe at Rumsfeld. Frustration does not lead to a solution and sad to say Friedman's remedies are from an ivory tower perspective, it seems to me.

December 21, 2004

The New York Times > AP > Technology > Broadband Use Surpasses Dial - Up in U.S.

The Internet particularly with fast, always on, access changes everything, but we're not quite sure how.


"Surveys from the Pew Internet and American Life Project find that 69 percent of broadband users go online on a typical day, compared with 51 percent for dial-up. Broadband users who went online averaged 107 minutes surfing the Web, checking e-mail and otherwise engaged, 21 minutes longer than dial-up users."

"The United States trailed 12 of the 15 top economies, including Canada, in broadband penetration, according to a September report from U.N. International Telecommunication Union analyzing 2003 data.

South Korea topped the list at more than double the U.S. rate."

The Pain of War

This brings back memories of a similar incident I was involved with in Can Tho, Viet-Nam in 1967 when a Viet Cong rocket attack blasted into the barracks while I was paying my soldiers.

(Photo from The New York Times.)


So Much Pain! Posted by Hello


The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: The Electronic Library

A sensible rendering of opinion by the Times about Google's book digitization project announced last week. The Internet changes everything.

Conservative students sue over academic freedom - Courttv.com - Top News

The debate rages in academia and it's about time that a liberal education does NOT mean an indoctrination into liberalism's values and politics.

"Many teachers insist personal politics don't affect teaching. But in a recent survey of students at 50 top schools by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a group that has argued there is too little intellectual diversity on campuses, 49 percent reported at least some professors frequently commented on politics in class even if it was outside the subject matter.

Thirty-one percent said they felt there were some courses in which they needed to agree with a professor's political or social views to get a good grade."


This is not good news. The most telling fact is that Harvard and the California college system faculty and employees gave more $ to Kerry's campaign than any other employer in the country. A politically balanced higher education community would have shown different results.


France Joke Making the Rounds

Elevated Terror Alert In France:

AP and UPI reported that the French Government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "run" to "hide." The only two higher levels in France are "surrender" and "collaborate." The rise in the terror alert level was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed one of France's white flag factories, thus totally disabling their military

Top News Article | Reuters.com

Since the Iran nuclear issue seems to be in the hands of the Brits, Germans and French to resolve, they'd better find a way to prevent weapons and missile development. If they don't, the time will come when Israel will take action to destroy Iran's capacity.

The Iranian leadership cannot be trusted. They say one thing and do the opposite.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Make No Mistake

An insightful piece by David Brooks. Once again, it appears that most recent liberal thinking about what it would take to move towards peace in Israel was flawed. (In any event, France's view of the world is usually flawed.)

We aren't there yet. The road has been long and bloody and more bloodshed will undoubtedly occur, but the facts as Brooks lays them out in this fine article cannot be denied. The Bush and Sharon policies have been correct. You can NEVER negotiate with terrorists.

Now that terrorist Arafat is dead and many of the Hamas terrorists are dead, there is a chance for a decent peace.

Having visited Israel in the mid-eighties, I realized how fragile the country was. Traveling in the Golan Heights, it was so obvious that Israel must retain that land for its defense from Syria and the terrorists in the Bekaa Valley to the east. I'll believe that Israel believes peace is at hand when they give up part or all of The Golan.

December 20, 2004

Just Leave Christmas Alone (washingtonpost.com)

Krauthammer has it right. Well said!

"To insist that the overwhelming majority of this country stifle its religious impulses in public so that minorities can feel 'comfortable' not only understandably enrages the majority but commits two sins. The first is profound ungenerosity toward a majority of fellow citizens who have shown such generosity of spirit toward minority religions.
The second is the sin of incomprehension -- a failure to appreciate the uniqueness of the communal American religious experience. Unlike, for example, the famously tolerant Ottoman Empire or the generally tolerant Europe of today, the United States does not merely allow minority religions to exist at its sufferance. It celebrates and welcomes and honors them."

The New York Times > Technology > On the Open Internet, a Web of Dark Alleys

The Internet changes everything and particularly makes a wonderfully secure medium for terrorist to communicate, secure because in a world of packets and diverse paths, monitoring or intercepts becomes a daunting intelligence task. I hope the NSA has all the resources it needs to work on this BIG problem.

"Even if the government is able to shore up its networks against attack - one of many goals set forth by the intelligence reform bill passed last week - the ability of terrorists and other dark elements to engage in covert communications online remains a daunting security problem, and one that may prove impossible to solve."

TIME Person of the Year: Blogs Have Their Day

The Internet changes everything. The timing is all that's in question. Goodbye Mr. Rather. How the mainstream media responds to the effect of blogs remains to seen. Will MSM attempt to co-opt the best bloggers as Time speculates? Doubtful this will succeed. There are too many bloggers and thousands added daily for that scenario.

"Where will they go from here? It's hard to imagine that bloggers will be content to remain media gadflies, sniping at the giants from below. In fact, it's entirely possible that they will ultimately be assimilated into the mainstream media they now openly despise. They'll start accepting advertising (Power Line already does), they'll go on Leno, they'll lose their outsider cred and their aura of driven-snow purity. The best bloggers will be hired away by the hated MSM, bought off with Op-Ed columns and cable talk shows. And if bloggers do become Big Business, they will lose their free pass and become subject to the same scrutiny that 60 Minutes is under. After all, it's not as if Power Line never makes a mistake. It's just that right now, because Scott Johnson isn't as famous as Dan Rather, the expectations and the stakes aren't very high. That will change."

December 19, 2004

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | CIA adds to gloom over Iraq

This is really the crux of the situation in Iraq, it seems to me:

"Anthony Cordesman sums up: 'The odds of lasting US success in Iraq are now at best even, and may well be worse.
'US success is heavily dependent on two variables which the US can influence but not control. The first is the emergence of a government that Iraqis see as legitimate and which can effectively govern. The second is the ability to create Iraqi military and security forces that can largely replace US and other coalition forces no later than 2006'."

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iraqi bombers target Shia cities

Can religious/civil war be avoided? I'm reminded of the iron fisted control over Yugoslavia and the carnage when Tito's reign ended.

This will be a sorry situation that may require intervention and mediation by other Muslims...but who?

The New York Times > Business > Your Money > Who's Afraid of China?

Dell, a college dropout, has the acumen to hire good people and set the bar for efficiency very high. They do what they do very well, relying on others in the industry to do the R&D necessary to keep their products current. I would like to know the average factory worker's wage and how they compensate their 'master builders' and whether or not they have a union. My guess is they don't

December 18, 2004

The New York Times > Books > Questions and Praise for Google Web Library

Google and the others who are digitizing all or parts of various major library collections at no cost to the libraries are performing an enormous public service, whether there are ads associated with the online search or not. Now the librarians of the world need to think through their best value added for consumers and researchers of information.

libraries shouldn't and won't disappear, but now its time for the major world libraries to give their particular expertise to the online reality.

From the article:

"Many university leaders realize that for most people, information does not exist unless it is online, said Paul Courant, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan.

He said many universities wanted to digitize their holdings and wondered about collaborating on buying books to avoid redundancy in an increasingly digital world. Google's plan answered their needs, he said."

It's the publishers of print material that have most to lose here. But they will sort through this, too, either continuing to make a profit with different products/services or go out of business.

There's little question that Google and other software companies are having an enormous impact on libraries.

I'm surprised that James Billington of the Librarian of Congress was not tapped for a comment.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: The Great Powers of Europe, Redefined

An enlightening and thoughtful perspective on the European Union and how it is perceived, at least by the author. However, one must remember that it's America's generosity after WW II and it's military and technological prowess that has provided the ability for the EU to grow and prosper. Some EU countries have chosen to diminish that reality.

The world's fight against terrorism, primarily radical Islam in origin, must be a high priority for the US and the EU. The EU and the US have many strong connections and it will be well for both to expand on those. We certainly want the EU countries as friends. In all of this what will become of NATO? Will the EU join in policing the world?

And what of the EU's relationship with China. Their economy will be affected severely should China's economic growth collapse. This article is worth considering, particularly this quote:

"Even trickier could be the Chinese relationship with the European Union, another big market for exports. Powerful European labor unions could force limits on Chinese exports, much as they forced tighter restrictions on Japanese automobile exports in the 1980's and 1990's.
"I'm quite gloomy about Europe - the big industrial countries like Germany, Italy and France," said Frank-J├╝rgen Richter, the president of Horasis, a consulting company in Geneva. "How do you keep growth in these countries if everything is moving to China?"

The New York Times > National > A.C.L.U.'s Search for Data on Donors Stirs Privacy Fears

That the ACLU would do this is astounding! Heads will roll and donors/members of the ACLU may be upset enough that the organization may enter a downward spiral, if not to oblivion, then to a position of disrespect.

The right wing will have a field day with this one! I'm pleased to see that the NY Times has published the story rather than sit on it.

December 17, 2004

Nobel laureate rings energy alarm bell | Tech News on ZDNet

The world energy supply/demand is one of the greatest threats to humankind that I can think of, absent nuclear war. Logic would say that nuclear for energy rather than war should be our answer to future energy shortages. Alas, at least in this country, that seems a remote possibility, absent some energy crisis. Other countries may be more open to it, e.g., France and Japan. China may have to embrace nuclear if they continue to grow at the present rate.

Solar makes sense, but we are so far from that reality.

PCWorld.com - Microsoft Fixes 'Critical' XP Firewall Issue

How many times before Microsoft gets the fix right the first time? While the net is a complex animal with many interactions, the world's biggest PC software provider should be able to do better.

NPR : Many States Outspending Education on Medicaid

This is the crisis that won't go away and the only way to prevent this train wreck is to contain costs and/or benefit eligibility. If states are free to expand Medicaid coverage by supplementing Federal funds with state tax revenues and choose to do so, as Vermont has done, then the state must be accountable for fixing the escalating costs.

December 15, 2004

The New York Times > International > Letter From Europe: A Continent Watching Anxiously Over the Melting Pot

Assimilation is not possible when the religion is fundamentally different. In the U.S., by and large, the immigration was from Europe or at least from Christian/Catholics countries, which made assimilation easier. This is not so in Europe and the author fails to make that point strongly. The Muslims will not likely to assimilate because with their high birth rate there are so many of them they don't have to.

Serious problems are ahead for Europe, given the extraordinary Muslim immigration.

Yahoo! News - Plant to Make Clean Power from Turkey Droppings

Wonderful that turkey dung will be used to produce electricity. Now, if they would only tell us the cost of this power compared to other sources... Why is it that the economics of alternative energy is often omitted?

December 14, 2004

Yahoo! News - Report: Verizon Gets Backing on Sprint Bid

Technologically, the deal makes sense because both Verizon and Sprint use CDMA technology. Does it make business sense? Depends on many factors, not the least of which is the amount of overlap and where that overlap exists. OTH, the additional frequencies may be the sweet spot of the deal. Wonder if it would be a friendly or hostile deal?

The New York Times > Technology > Google Is Adding Major Libraries to Its Database

The printed treasures of history available free on the Internet. We have only just begun this electronic journey. What a wonderful way for the big successful software companies to contribute to access to the world's printed knowledge! Thanks!

December 13, 2004

Fool.com: Investments to Avoid [Commentary] December 13, 2004

I don't agree with the premise that the big Bells are on their way 'down.' While the pressure from VoIP newcomers is real and will continue, keep in mind that landline POTS business is only part of their revenue portfolio. Wireless and broadband access are growing businesses for them (Remember that VoIP is only viable over broadband and the cable companies and the Bells are providing that.)

While it's possible the Bell dividends may suffer, they are deep-pocket players in ALL aspects of the telecom revolution and I expect their stock to hold up.

? The horizontal economy | blogs.zdnet.com | Service-Oriented IT | ZDNet.com

An interesting outlook on the future of business integration where tight electronic links enabled by web services will create a true 'horizontal economy'

OTH, in their current form web services may overwhelm today's internet infrastructure because of the sheer volume of near real-time transactions required for full integration. Seems we'll need a more robust internet. Of course researchers are already devising the next generation.

We are so much in the internet's infancy, it's hard to see what it'll become. As they say, "You ain't seen nuttin' yet!"

Clever Maxim for "The Good Life"

This is not for the health conscious or the medical community, but cleverly wordsmithed nevertheless!

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

December 12, 2004

The New York Times > Technology > Important Rules for Phone Market Face F.C.C. Vote

This is nonsense. The future of phone competition is in the VoIP domain and the rules that the commissioners are arguing about don't amount to a hill of beans 5 years hence. When will the FCC Democrats get over it?

"Officials said on Friday afternoon that the Democratic members of the commission, Jonathan S. Adelstein and Michael J. Copps, have expressed grave reservations about Mr. Powell's proposal. They said the Democratic commissioners have complained to Mr. Powell that the proposed changes would be devastating for phone competition, would lead to significant price increases and would harm small businesses that rely on the services of the rivals to the Bell companies."

This is as it ought to be:

"In the last year, the Bell companies have slowly made significant strides in winning their case - aided by a sympathetic federal appeals court here and by regulators who have long been critical of the requirements that the Bells, in effect, have to subsidize their rivals. The prevailing expectation is that the requirements are ultimately doomed. The only fight is over the time of transition."

To the extent that the Bells have been subsidizing their competitors under rules promulgated by the FCC, the courts have found that is wrong and illegal. Seems to me everyone except the competitors and the large shareowners would agree.

"Both the Bells and their supporters on the issue, most notably Mr. Powell, have maintained that local phone markets are growing increasingly competitive and that there is no longer a need for the incumbent carriers to subsidize their rivals."

The Canada Drug Import Reality

Many politicians are hopping on the bandwagon to nowhere. There' no way Canada can supply the drugs America demands. There will soon come a time of reckoning.

"It is difficult for me to conceive of how a small country like Canada could meet the prescription drug needs of approximately 280 million Americans without putting our own supply at serious risk. Canada cannot be the drugstore of the United States."UJJAL DOSANJH, Canada's health minister.

December 10, 2004

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Muslim Scholars Increasingly Debate Unholy War

This is a healthy trend if 'rational Islam' is willing to mount an effort to reinterpret the Koran and other texts to counter 'radical Islam's' hijacking their scriptures.

Christians and Jews should do all they can to encourage it.

December 9, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: The Suicide Supply Chain

Friedman is right about the need to get intelligence right on the ground. The moving around of the higher echelon boxes won't get that done unless the effects are felt quickly in the field. Perhaps there's a classified part of the law that was just passed that will do this? I hope so

The New York Times > AP > National > Bush Rules Out Payroll Tax Hike for Social Security

Oops...I don't think the Times really means what it says in the 'graph below!!

"Social Security today collects more in taxes than it pays out in benefits. The extra money is used to buy Treasury bonds from the government. The government then spends the money as part of its general revenue. The system will start paying out more in taxes than it collects in benefits in 2018."

December 8, 2004

My Way News - America Giving $ to PLO

"The Palestinian Authority is facing a severe financial crisis due to falling tax revenues during four years of violence which has paralyzed the Palestinian economy. Administration officials said the crisis was diverting attention away from needed reforms.
'The upcoming Palestinian elections have made a functioning Palestinian Authority more important than ever,' the
senior Bush administration official said. 'The United States has a national security interest in helping to end the ongoing violence and terror in the Middle East and to make progress toward the president's June 24, 2002, vision of peace.'"

Not big $, but the fact that the Palestinians are financially bankrupt speaks volumes about their bankruptcy in many aspects. Peace is what they need, but not what they want. at least the $ have some restrictions on them. What a terrible mess Arafat has made of a movement that could be successful if they abandoned terrorism.

My Way News - Fans and Pacers Charged in Brawl

Throw the book at 'em! What a sad state of affairs. Given the sad state of affairs of professional sports and the big bucks involved, this behavior cannot be condoned. Of course, the players union is appealing. What a wonderful statement they could make if they refused to appeal...but a union couldn't bring itself to that, let alone a union representing multi-millionaires!

Times Online - World Yushchenko Poisoned?

The world is a dangerous place. Whenever I read about the fragile reality leaders of countries endure, when I recall that American Presidents and other leaders have been killed in office, I thank God that people are willing to be leaders and what a difficult job the security services have in protecting them.

December 7, 2004

AARP's Position on Social Security Reform

My comments to AARP garnered this response for their opposition to Social Security personalization.

My comments are interspersed in bold ( I am not an AARP member, and don't intend to be if they continue to oppose S. S. reform.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Thank you for contacting your AARP headquarters about proposals to divert Social Security payroll taxes to private accounts. It is always a pleasure to respond to a member (I'm not a member). These proposals are sometimes called Social Security "privatization," (This is a language manipulation effort to instill fear into people. What's wrong with converting payroll taxes to private investments. The money that the employee pays is his/hers before it becomes a FICA tax.) which means that parts of the current public program are moved to private management. (That's a good thing.) Like you, AARP is concerned that Americans reach retirement with adequate income.

Ideally, our retirement security should be supported by four pillars: Social Security, pensions and savings, earnings, and health insurance. (I agree, but more in savings via investments will, over the long term, produce a larger nest egg for income generation or spending down in retirement.) But for too many individuals, some of those pillars are weak and unsteady. The largest portion of retirement income for all but the highest income bracket is, and will continue to be, Social Security. (I disagree. This may be true now, but not necessarily so in the future, unless reform is thwarted.). The portion supplied by Social Security increases as people age. (This should also be true if part of the FICA tax is invested in personal accounts. That way the person would own the money, not the government.) That is why AARP is committed to maintaining the Social Security base as a lifetime, guaranteed, inflation-protected retirement income. In addition, we are committed to preserving Social Security's disability and survivors' insurance essential protections relied upon by so many families. (This is a good benefit that can be incorporated into a reform.)

Contrary to some popular notions, Social Security is not "broke." In 2003, the Social Security Trust Fund ran a surplus of about $153 billion in fiscal year 2003. That surplus was added to Social Security's accumulated reserves which currently total about $1.53trillion (Good information. I didn't know the amount. But is it sacrosanct?). Without any change to current law, Social Security has sufficient assets to pay full benefits until the year 2042 and to continue paying at about 70% of scheduled benefits after that, long into the future. (However, not a reason to delay action to change the system now to make it realistically produce what young wage earners should expect in these times. We are not coming out of a depression as was the case when S.S. began.)

There are long-term challenges to meet. AARP believes that Social Security's long-term financing should be strengthened sooner rather than later. (Good!) Changes will be smaller, and people affected by the changes will have more time to plan if steps are taken sooner rather later. However, it is crucial that we enact the right kind of reform. Future generations must be able to count on the same rock-solid guarantee of benefits that present retirees enjoy. Today, the monthly checks cannot be jeopardized by financial misfortune, eroded by inflation, nor depleted by a long life. (People are better served when they are empowered to manage their own lives and futures, to the extent they are capable, thus becoming less reliant on Government and less likely to look to it for their well-being.)

After careful study, AARP strongly opposes proposals to change Social Security by diverting any part of payroll tax revenues into private accounts. (An indefensible position compared to alternatives available.) Diverting a portion of Social Security funds would move Social Security away from a social insurance program to one composed, at least partially, of individual investment accounts that are funded with a percentage of current payroll taxes. (This is exactly as it should be.) Such "carve-out" accounts could expose many individuals to unnecessary risk, particularly low-wage workers who are much less likely to have other sources of retirement income. Carve-out accounts would also make Social Security's long-term problems much worse, sooner. Social Security is not an investment program. (Part of it should be. That's what the reform philosophy is all about.) It is designed to provide a guaranteed base of income under a 'progressive' benefit formula. (A progressive system is one in which lower-income workers benefit relatively more per dollar than the highest-income earners.) (It's a form of income transfer with the feds as mediators) While generally thought of as a retirement income program, Social Security payments also support the families of retired, deceased, and disabled workers. In fact, about 5 million children are supported, at least in part, by Social Security benefits. (No reason this should change drastically.)

AARP continues to stress the immediate value of Social Security to both younger and retired workers. Although younger workers may not be aware of the fundamental benefits Social Security provides, their payroll taxes give them and their families the protection of life insurance and guaranteed disability benefits, as well as retirement.

There is also a fairness issue. Because most current payroll tax dollars are paid out immediately to retirees, the transition to a private accounts system would be very expensive. Today 's younger workers would carry the transition burden. They would, in effect, have to pay twice - once toward their own future benefits and again for those currently receiving benefits. Most private account plans would require the government to borrow $1-2 trillion over the next 10 years, burdening all citizens with high interest costs and squeezing other vital public programs. In addition, the administrative price tag for millions of small private accounts would be much greater than the efficient 1% of revenue that administration of Social Security costs today. (Yes, there is a cost of transition, but that's better than doing nothing and waiting until benefits must be reduced or the retirement age increased. With private accounts, the money accumulated is not under government management.)

I hope this outline of AARP's position is helpful. Again, thank you for getting in touch with us. If there are any matters National Office staff can assist you with in the future, please don't hesitate to ask.

(I am not persuaded by any of AARP's arguments.)

June,
Member Service

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Inventing a Crisis

While Krugman makes some good points in the article, he's basically wrong in his fundamental outlook. Personal accounts make a lot of sense for the long term of Social Security. The basic benefits of personal accounts are twofold: better growth in the invested capital; true ownership of a personal account...witness the success of IRAs, Roths and 401(k)s.

I think Krugman and Dowd have a paranoia...note Krugman's comment (emphasis added).

For Social Security is a government program that works, a demonstration that a modest amount of taxing and spending can make people's lives better and more secure. And that's why the right wants to destroy it.

December 6, 2004

HUMAN EVENTS ONLINE :: NAACP Head Mfume Didn't Retire, He Was Booted Out by Armstrong Williams

If this account is true, it's Bond who should leave the NAACP and Mfume should stay.

Boston.com / News / World / Returning Fallujans will face clampdown

Ammar Ahmed, wise up and realize that the insurgency will not succeed. These are terrorists under another name.

The New York Times > Washington > McCain Calls for Tougher Testing Policy

Keeping drugs out of professional sports and the Olympics is a losing battle. The drugs keeping getting harder to detect and the business/competitive nature of the individuals involved when millions are paid in salaries or promotional opportunities. Intensive testing and harsh penalties may help, but will not eliminate the problem. There's too much money in play.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Jingle Bell Schlock

Maureen Dowd needs help. She's teetering on the edge. She's stewing in her own vitriol.

The New York Times > Business > Business Special > Telecom: 8-Year-Old Basic Law May Be Outdated Already

Not surprising that the hodge-podge of law and subsequent regulatory rules and legal challenges brings us to the point that some think new law is required. The reality is that technology, companies to exploit it with new services will always be out ahead of any detailed legal and regulatory framework.

I favor Congress doing as little as necessary to protect the public good while letting the marketplace run with the technology. The real issues remain how to minimize or eliminate the cross subsidies in the industry while assuring that any that remain are fair to incumbents and newcomers alike. This is not an easy task given the monopoly legacy of the telecom business.

The mantra should be: "Keep your subsidies and taxes off my wireless and internet, please!"

December 5, 2004

According to James Dwinell

Vermont unemployment rate is the lowest in the country. Just gotta work just to pay the taxes. According to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, Vermont is third in property taxes as compared to income, fifth in workman’s compensation, and eighth overall in taxes.

http://www.masstaxpayers.org/research_publications.html

December 4, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Lift a Pint for Coalitions

The question is: Were any Democrats with Graham in the Irish pub? The S.S. reform effort will be all uphill, I'm afraid, yet it must be tackled.

The New York Times > Business > Supreme Court to Hear Case on Cable as Internet Carrier

The resolution of the confusion is a good move by the Supreme Court. However, the article fails to mention that the FCC recently ruled that telcos do not have to share new local fiber optics installations with competitors/other providers. That's a key factor in this debate.

The really BIG issue is whether the paradigm of 'information services' vs. 'telecommunications services' really serves the public interest in an Internet age. I think it is rapidly becoming irrelevant.

Fox Calls For Court Review of Standards (washingtonpost.com)

The quote below from the Washington Post's article is the crux of the dilemma. Given the technological changes and the fact that, in aggregate, more people watch cable TV than on-air broadcasting. The present FCC authority can be viewed as unfair. The reality is that free (to consumers) on-air TV broadcasting is dying a certain death because of the rise of alternative technologies. In the long term, the TV broadcast frequencies may be far more valuable for interactive communications given the explosion of wireless, always-on services and devices.

The indecency conundrum will be a very difficult one to resolve and will require Congressional, not only judicial action, because indecency is a 'moral values' political issue and the people will want to be heard. Stay tuned.

"The FCC's rules cover over-the-air television and radio broadcasts but not programming that is transmitted via cable or satellite networks, based on the notion that the broadcasts depend on the public airwaves while customers chose to subscribe to cable or satellite services. The same is true of radio: Pay satellite radio networks XM and Sirius are exempt from federal decency standards that their free, over-the-air AM and FM rivals must obey."

December 3, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: Retiring in Chile

Chile provides an example with 20 years of positive experience converting to personal accounts from a system similar to the U.S. Social Security system. The transition will not be easy, but this is the direction we must head because we cannot afford the dilemma ahead of us.

If I were in my 20's or 30's, I'd do everything I could to be out of S.S. as it's now structured. A pay-as-you-go defined benefit plan can be the victim of demographics as is now projected, even with a strong economy. Pesonal accounts provide a healthy ownership mentality rather than a 'you owe me because I've paid my S.S. taxes' mindset. Our 401(k) experience has been positive and can serve as a model for personal accounts replacing S.S. Getting over the transition hump is the tough part.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: Retiring in Chile

Chile provides an example with 20 years of positive experience converting to personal accounts from a system similar to the U.S. Social Security system. The transition will not be easy, but this is the direction we must head because we cannot afford the dilemma ahead of us.

If I were in my 20's or 30's, I'd do everything I could to be out of S.S. as it's now structured. A pay-as-you-go defined benefit plan can be the victim of demographics as is now projected, even with a strong economy. Pesonal accounts provide a healthy ownership mentality rather than a 'you owe me because I've paid my S.S. taxes' mindset. Our 401(k) experience has been positive and can serve as a model for personal accounts replacing S.S. Getting over the transition hump is the tough part.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: Don't Expect the Government to Be a V-Chip

Well stated.

December 2, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: The 9/11 Bubble

I agree we need a hell of a lot more fiscal discipline in Congress and the White House which includes less reliance on tax dollars for future Social Security, health care, and reckless spending, whether on defense or domestic programs. This also means that the pork barrel must shrink and that senior Congressmen must restrain the impulse to spend unnecessarily back home with federal dollars to help insure their longevity. For sanity's sake, the federal budget and deficits must be linked to the near term Gross Domestic Product.

Yahoo! News - Heatwave Study May Fuel Global Warming Lawsuits

Aha, here come the lawyers smelling $ to the 'global warming' legal party. This is insane. Spending enormous amounts of energy and resources to pursue and defend lawsuits based on a possibility, global warming, which may or not be caused by man and cannot be proven is nuts.

Army to deploy robots that shoot | Tech News on ZDNet

Does this mean the volunteer army of tomorrow will only be computer geeks? Will today's Xbox and PlayStation gang be tomorrow's real warriors? Whither the 'grunt?'

Some of this is happening now!

OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan

Required reading is Peggy Noonan's incisive commentary on Dan Rather's career (she worked for him for a time) and the demise of the broadcast media monopoly. She allows that Rather was good at what he did, but the institutionalized media bias at CBS infected Rather because it is so pervasive leading to the forged documents episode that did in Rather. Her final and fair paragraph is:

"People are complicated, careers are complicated, motives are complicated. Dan Rather did some great work on stories that demanded physical courage. He loved the news, and often made it look like the most noble of enterprises. He had guts and fortitude. Those stories he covered that touched on politics were unfortunately and consistently marred by liberal political bias, and in this he was like too many in his profession. But this is changing. The old hegemony has given way. The old dominance is over. Good thing. Great thing. Onward."

Noonan is a good balance to the onery and vitriolic Dowd over at the NY Times.