December 30, 2006

American Thinker: How to Think About the War

American Thinker: How to Think About the War

Herb Meyer has it right. Unless and until we recognize that Radical Islam wants Western Civilization dead, defeated or destroyed, we are pussyfooting around the issue. We must agree that accommodation is not an option. Radical Islam must be defeated.

The problem is that unlike in WW II and the Cold War, the key leaders are not easily identified. There are many of them and more growing up into the fight every day. Decapitation is difficult. The people in the areas that are being radicalized must ultimately reject Radical Islam. The question is do they, will they? How do you persuade people who think that suicide bombers are glorious martyrs with 70 virgins awaiting them are wrong when Islam can be so easily subverted to promote that?

December 29, 2006

AT&T adds concessions to win OK for BellSouth deal - MarketWatch

AT&T adds concessions to win OK for BellSouth deal - MarketWatch:

While ATT & BellSouth have been aggressive in deploying DSL broadband, this is a major milestone among the other concessions that AT&T is making to satisfy the Democrats on the FCC.

The stock price movement today suggests the market believes the deal will be approved today. (Update: The deal is done as reported here.)

Some argue that this deal creates a company that is too big. Arguably, telecommunications in the U.S. will be an oligopoly, having moved from monopoly 25 years ago through a technological upheaval and the explosion of wireless services. Reliable network infrastructure requires deep pockets to build, maintain and infuse new technology. This cannot be done at scale by a myriad of small companies.

The good news is that the overwhelming majority of our domestic networks are owned by U.S. companies.

"AT&T-BellSouth would also offer broadband Internet access to 100% of residential-living units in the company's in-region territory by the end of 2007, using a mix of wireline and wireless technology."

December 28, 2006

Wind Energy is Fraught with Dilemmas

This NY Times piece fairly evaluates the problems associated with wind power on a national level. The fundamental problem with wind energy is the wind is not reliable and is not generally available when energy demand is greatest.

"Engineers have cut the price of electricity derived from wind by about 80 percent in the last 20 years, setting up this renewable technology for a major share of the electricity market.

But for all its promise, wind also generates a big problem: because it is unpredictable and often fails to blow when electricity is most needed, wind is not reliable enough to assure supplies for an electric grid that must be prepared to deliver power to everybody who wants it--even when it is in greatest demand."

Most people do not realize, I'm reasonable sure, that energy cannot be stored effectively or efficiently except as potential energy, e.g., water behind hydro dams that can released to generate electricity when needed.

Wind only becomes economically viable if a carbon tax is imposed on fossil fuels like coal, yet cannot in the foreseeable future realistically compete with nuclear as a source of electricity.

Vermont's windmill debate will continue, I'm afraid, chewing up valuable human energy when we really need to focus on continuation of our electricity contact with HydroQuebec and extending the operation of Vermont Yankee for as long as safely possible. Together, they produce two thirds of Vermont's electricity.

Good news in the Burlington Free Press today. The Vermont Public Service Board effectively prevented the removal of the Peterson Dam, voiding an agreement between Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS), the Vermont Natural Resources Council and the Vermont Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The PSB refused to allow CVPS to recover from ratepayers the difference in cost for replacement electricity and other costs (“As for Peterson Station, if the PSB approves the deal we signed, and all other approvals are received andconditions of the agreement are met, we would remove the dam in 2025,” Young said. Under the agreement, the PSB must approve recovery from ratepayers of costs of a decommissioning fund, payments to Milton, the dam’s removal, an environmental enhancement fund, and replacement power.“The FERC decision leaves one primary question for the PSB: Are the costs of Peterson Station’s removal, when weighed against any environmental benefits, ultimately good for the state?” CVPS spokesman Steve Costello said. [2005 statement from CVPS]).

The dam produces enough power for 3,000 homes at 2 cents per kilowatt-hour, very inexpensive energy, indeed. This was a tough decision in such an enviro-focused state, but the correct one as we look down the barrel of much higher future energy costs.

The hydro complex on the lower Lamoille River produces about 16 MW of electricity. Compared to the 6 MW proposed (since rejected) for East Haven Wind Farm and the 30 MW proposed for Sheffield wind, one can easily see the wisdom of keeping the Peterson Dam.

December 27, 2006

Bumping in Schools - New York Times

Bumping in Schools - New York Times

The Times is treading on dangerous union ground in rightfully promoting better focus on teachers and their performance, transfers, training and other factors. The union would argue that as a union member, a teacher is a teacher is a teacher as to rights and benefits. Management and leadership must assert their right to do the best they can for students, not teachers, when dealing with teachers.

Why would any rational person think otherwise?

December 26, 2006

Christmas Eve Children's Choir Williston

Grace & Katie singing in Christmas Eve service at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Williston, VT.

December 24, 2006

Ethiopian Warplanes Attack Somalia - New York Times

Ethiopian Warplanes Attack Somalia - New York Times

One more war created by the motives and goals of Radical Islamists, this time in Somalia. Wake up world! Recocognize that we in the West and non-Islamists everywhere are in a long, long war with RITs and RATs.

Ethiopia attacked while the West's attention is focused on Christmas.

A Thought for Christmas Eve

Thought for the day...
"A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men
from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise
free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement,
and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.
This is the sum of good government."
Thomas Jefferson

December 23, 2006

Dairy Cows are Bad for the Atmosphere

Now that Senator Shumlin, incoming Senate President, has proclaimed global warming/climate change as one of the top items on his legislative agenda, he'll have conflicting goals if he also wants to save Vermont's dairy industry. Perhaps he has a plan for fart-free cows.

Or perhaps it's bovine belches he wants to manage (Perhaps farts affect climate change less than belches.). Anyway, here's a device patented earlier this year to do just that. Requirements for this apparatus cannot be far away in regulation-happy Vermont. One more expense added to the beleaguered dairy farmer. Or, as I think about it, this will have to be a federal requirement so that one state will not have an unfair advantage over another in milk pricing.

Excerpt from James Dwinell's Political Report (12/22/06):

"The United Nations has recently published "Livestock's Long Shadow," a
scientific treatise on "human induced greenhouse gas emissions." The media's
man-self-hating-man reporter did not call this study to our attention.
According to the report,
livestock accounts for "nine percent of all human induced carbon dioxide
emissions, thirty-five to forty percent of all methane emissions, sixty-five
percent of all nitrous oxide emissions, and fully sixty-six percent of all
ammonia emissions."
These gases help
trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing mightily to global warming. The report
concludes that
"cattle-rearing generates more global warming
greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2 equivalent, than

To be fair, cow farts and belches are only part of the problem. It seems that deforestation and poor management of pastures and grazing land also contributes to the problem by reducing the vegetation available to reduce CO2 via photosynthesis.

More on the earth's carbon cycle can be found here. Man's influence, if any, is less than 5%, based on the table included at the KSU site.

And the New York Times has weighed in with an editorial but little helpful advice.

December 22, 2006

Court Overturns Limits on Political Ads, Part of the Campaign Finance Law - New York Times

Court Overturns Limits on Political Ads, Part of the Campaign Finance Law - New York Times

This decision is good news for Americans against part of a law (McCain-Feingold) that is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment. Political speech is required to be the freest kind in order to allow democracy to work. Restricting money in political or policy advertising, whether such ads include candidates names or not, restricts that freedom and is against the best interests of the electorate. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will agree.

December 20, 2006

Mideast Rules to Live By - New York Times

Mideast Rules to Live By - New York Times

Thomas Friedman seems discouraged, as well he ought, by the intractable Middle East. Yet he offers some wisdom to those who have real responsibility and accountability to deal with the sorry state of affairs that have afflicted the region for decades.

The Muslims cannot agree among themselves for a rational solution to their pain and the West has not the patience to deal with the chaos, terror, despotism, corruption and vengeance that is the fabric of the culture. How can diplomacy ever be expected to work when dealing with tribal irrationality inflamed by those who prefer death to life.

December 18, 2006

Swift Raids - New York Times

Swift Raids - New York Times

And the solution you would recommend to this illegal immigration system, as you call it is......What? I reread the piece and found no answer. Whining and moaning provide no help, except to fill space on your editorial page, NY Times. If you think you know the answer, please speak up!

December 17, 2006

Time magazine's "Person of the Year" is You | Top News |

Time magazine's "Person of the Year" is You | Top News |

Good choice by Time Magazine becuase it's true that conventional media is dying a death of small cuts as people across the earth now have the means to write and photograph and report, a domain held by an elite few for decades. Nevertheless, I'm concerned about the future ability of media organizations to fund the expensive task of news gathering and reporting worldwide. We do need professionals who are paid for their work.

Perhaps a new business model will be created to support news gathering.

Vermont and U.S. Electricity Sources

Discussions of energy use and conservation in Vermont would be greatly enhanced if the Burlington Free Press and other media frequently published a sidebar of information about energy use in the U.S. along side the same data for Vermont. These facts would frame the discussion and debate on some real information which would add perspective for readers and writers. Accurate information may be tough to obtain for Vermont, but probably is available to the researchers at the media. The first two tables are courtesy of The Energy Advocate , a publication based in Pueblo West, Colorado. The third is from the 2005 Vermont DPs Electricity Plan. Even more helpful would be data on the average cost per kilowatt-hour for each source. Without this basic information, rants often take over rational thinking.

United States Electrical Energy By Source

Natural Gas 17.8%
Wind, solar, wood, geothermal, etc.

To help frame the debate about wind generated electricity in Vermont, the following information would be useful:

U.S. Renewable Electricity by Source (2004)


"Vermont Own Load Electric Energy Supply (2002)" [from 2005 Vt DPS Electric Plan]

Demand Side Management**
Hydro Quebec
Hydro Vermont
Wind, solar, wood, biomass, etc. 4.6%

* I assume 'System' means power purchased when needed for peak demands from the national power grid suppliers.

**Energy demand management is often referred to also as demand side management (DSM). Energy demand management usually implies actions that influence the quantity of energy consumed by users. It can also include actions targeting reduction of peak demand during periods when energy supply systems are constrained. Peak demand management does not necessarily decrease total energy consumption but could be expected to reduce the need for investments in networks and/or power plants.

In order to build a comparable table for Vermont Renewable Electricity by Source, the 4.6% for wind, solar, wood, and other biomass need further delineation. In any event, they cannot be looked to for any serious portion of Vermont's electric supply, certainly not at low cost.

Nevertheless, considering the amount of controversy surrounding wind as a source of intermittent electricity in Vermont, we'd all be well advised to pay considerably more attention to the primary sources of Vermont's energy, i.e., hydro (from Quebec) and nuclear from Entergy's Vermont Yankee plant. Continuation of these sources are Vermont's best hope for reliable supply for the next 20 years or so. To eliminate them will come at a very high price not only for electricity, but for the health of Vermont's economy.

If Vermont is serious about dramatically increasing its instate electric supply sources, the discussion should be about the practical limits of wind, solar, wood and biomass resources compared with the demand, conservation notwithstanding.

The Department of Public Service reports these data for 2003:

Vermont's Power Supply, 2003

The following table shows how Vermont's instate electric demand was served in 2003. The Department of Public Service Biennial Report and the Vermont Electric Plan both contain a wealth of additional information about Vermont's electric supply.

Power Source Percent of Total Demand Gigawatt Hours Consumed

Vermont Yankee 35.5% 2,131
Hydro Quebec 28.2% 1,694
Other Purchase 20.4% 1,226
Instate Hydro 9.2% 554
McNeil Generator 4.9% 297
New York Power Authority 1.2% 73
Instate Thermal .6% 34

TOTAL LOAD 100.0% 6,009

A good reference site for Vermont wind power sites, existing and proposed.

PressThink: Newspaper Chain Goes Creative Commons: GateHouse Media Rolls CC Over 96 Newspaper Sites

A very unusual development for a print media company to change from traditional copyright to a Creative Commons approach. Could it be the wave of the future? As traditional print media companies lose advertising revenue and readers along with their waning financial results , print media really must try different ways to bring readers/consumers/people into their fold.

Wall Street seems to approve.

"GateHouse, which went public in October, saw its stock rise 20 percent in the first day of trading: investors were clearly treating GateHouse like an internet stock, not a newspaper play. The run-up in price made GateHouse the most valuable newspaper company in America, leading Dow Jones, Scripps, The New York Times Company and far above cellar-dwellers Gannett and Tribune. GateHouse’s move towards open source, open licensing, and open conversations is the biggest experiment to date in whether a media company with open source ambitions can walk hand in hand with Wall Street. "

December 16, 2006

Food politics | Voting with your trolley |

Food politics | Voting with your trolley |

While, British in its perspective, this Economist piece raises some tough questions about the economics underlying the Fair Trade movement, organic benefits/drawbacks, as well as the 'buy local' food paradigm.

It's well worth the read for a different, if not facts-based, perspective. Given the absence of facts and reliance on anecdote, perhaps the article would be better on the editorial page of the Economist.

However, this is worth noting:

Yet even an apparently obvious claim ?that organic food is better for the environment than the conventionally farmed kind turns out to be controversial. There are many different definitions of the term '?organic'?, but it generally involves severe restrictions on the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers and a ban on genetically modified organisms. Peter Melchett of the Soil Association, Britain's leading organic lobby group, says that environmental concerns, rather than health benefits, are now cited by British consumers as their main justification for buying organic food. (There is no clear evidence that conventional food is harmful or that organic food is nutritionally superior.)

But not everyone agrees that organic farming is better for the environment. Perhaps the most eminent critic of organic farming is Norman Borlaug, the father of the 'green revolution', winner of the Nobel peace prize and an outspoken advocate of the use of synthetic fertilisers to increase crop yields. He claims the idea that organic farming is better for the environment is '?ridiculous' because organic farming produces lower yields and therefore requires more land under cultivation to produce the same amount of food. Thanks to synthetic fertilisers, Mr Borlaug points out, global cereal production tripled between 1950 and 2000, but the amount of land used increased by only 10%. Using traditional techniques such as crop rotation, compost and manure to supply the soil with nitrogen and other minerals would have required a tripling of the area under cultivation. The more intensively you farm, Mr Borlaug contends, the more room you have left for rainforest.

December 15, 2006

Wonderful News! Grandson Isaiah Accepted to Princeton

Hello Isaiah,

Your dad just told me that you were accepted at Princeton. What glorious news!! You've worked hard to get to this point and now exciting new doors will open for you. And there you were somewhere on the outer reaches of Ireland to learn the news. Hope you find a way to celebrate!

Nana and I would like to give you a present for this honor and achievement. How about a new laptop? We'll buy the one you want/need for Princeton whenever you want/need it, either now or closer to when you enter Princeton. Think about what you want, either PC or Mac, whichever will suit you best there.

Just let me know what you want and when.

I am very proud of you, Isaiah, because you have been diligent and worked hard at whatever you've tackled. God gifted you with intelligence and you are self-disciplined to use it wisely. Now you have the opportunity to enter a whole new realm of possibilities.



Important coda:

"Princeton also prides itself on ensuring economic diversity within our
student body. To do this, the University admits undergraduate students without
regard to their family financial circumstances and provides 100 percent of
determined need. Since the 2001-02 academic year, no Princeton aid student,
domestic or international, has been required to take out a loan to pay for his
or her education."

December 14, 2006

Study Questions Colonoscopy Effectiveness - New York Times

Study Questions Colonoscopy Effectiveness

Sad news about poor medical quality for a common, yet expensive procedure touted as so good that everyone over 50 should have one periodically. I must remember to ask my physician about his sucess rate in finding and removing polyps. As I recall, the whole procedure can be recorded on video. Perhaps that should be standard procedure and shared with patients, their Primary Care Physicians and insurers.

Last spring, a task force for the American College of Gastroenterology and the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy recommended that doctors
track their polyp-detection rate. On average, they should find precancerous polyps in at least 25 percent of men and 15 percent of women 50 and older.

But most have not adopted the recommendation.

The U.S. Will Sit This One Out

If I were a betting man, I'll give you odds that the U.S. will sit out this brewing war. Let the U.N. or the Arab league have a crack at keeping this one from becoming an Arab/Christian catastrophe. The article implies that Ethiopia quickly will wipe up the Somali Islamist forces if it comes to war, unless a massive influx of well-equipped Arab fighters arrive from elsewhere.

Perhaps the Saudis would like to fix this one.

Such wonderful folks, these Islamists:

"All the talk of slaughtering Ethiopian invaders and their American sponsors, though, seems to have brought out a harsher side of the Islamic administration. Nearly every day, rings of people gather on Mogadishu’s streets to watch lashings, and the crowds cheer as leather whips cut canals into flesh. One Islamic leader in a town north of Mogadishu recently issued an edict threatening that anyone who did not pray five times a day would be beheaded.

“It’s black and white,” said the leader, Hussein Barre Rage. “The Koran says people must pray.”

Golan Heights Annexed by Israel 25 Years Ago

On Dec. 14, 1981, Israel annexed the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967. The NY Times reporting at the the tme is here.

When visiting there in 1986, I saw the military significance as well as the importance of this land as a source of water for Israel (Sea of Galilee fed by it and, of course the Jordan River flowing from the Sea). In my opinion, Israel will never give up all of this land to Syria from whom it was twice captured when Syria attacked Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and again in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

No nation formally recognizes Israel's annexation of the Golan, and one of these days, expect Syria or the Hezbollah terrorists to attack the area again. Israel will never, IMHO, give it up willingly to its enemies (Syria) unless part of a peace accord that is trustworthy. Yet, how is it possible to negotiate with terrorists or their sponsors?

Will Mr. Baker and Mr. Hamilton of the Iraq Study Group please explain how negotiations are accomplished in a trustworthy way?

Thank You!

Thanks to Anheuser Busch for doing this commercial.

December 13, 2006

Saudis Say They Might Back Sunnis if U.S. Leaves Iraq - New York Times

Saudis Say They Might Back Sunnis if U.S. Leaves Iraq - New York Times

There are two stories here. The first should be required reading by all, particularly those who support a rapid American pullout from Iraq. Those politicians who support the radical Democrat strategy of 'get out now' should rethink their position in light of the realities of the Sunni-Shia divide in the Middle East.

Most Americans, including many politicians and the fringe radicals have no clue about the realities of the Mid-east and the Arabian peninsula. We probably cannot control the outcomes there, but at all costs we should insure that no nukes find their way to the warring factions or to the terrorists either from Iran's nuclear program or from Pakistan or North Korea. The crazies are apt to use them against their Muslim enemies as well as targeting Americans and Israel.

The second story is about the twisting intrigue and personal ambitions of various players on the Saudi foreign stage. The Times would have been better off to omit this from the main story so as not to detract from the larger story about Saudi Arabia's intent.

U.S. Raids 6 Meat Plants in ID Case - New York Times

U.S. Raids 6 Meat Plants in ID Case - New York Times

Seems a reasonable way for our enforcement people to crack down on illegal immigrants who have used stolen identity information to gain employment. Disruptive to the workplace to be sure, but how else can the enforcers get to a large number of illegals all at once?

This action will put other employers on notice that hiring illegals is not good business.

The hue and cry against this action will surface from many quarters. Nevertheless, it's the right thing to do.

December 12, 2006

Australia's Message to Muslims and Muslim Extremists

Australia's Message to Muslims and Muslim Extremists

This has been around for a while, apparently since 2005 following the London and/or Bali bombings. The full story is available from Snopes at the link above. The message is one that all Western Democracies should embrace and state without equivocation when dealing with Radical Islamic Fundamentalists who sponsor, finance, endorse, condone or sanction terror and the killing of innocents.

"Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to get out of Australia, as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks.

A day after a group of mainstream Muslim leaders pledged loyalty to Australia and her Queen at a special meeting with Prime Minister John Howard, he and his Ministers made it clear that extremists would face a crackdown.

Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to Howard, hinted that some radical clerics could be asked to leave the country if they did not accept that Australia was a secular state, and its laws were made by parliament. "If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you", he said on national television.

"I'd be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia: one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that is false. If you can't agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country, which practices it, perhaps, then, that's a better option", Costello said.

Asked whether he meant radical clerics would be forced to leave, he said those with dual citizenship could possibly be asked to move to the other country.

Education Minister Brendan Nelson later told reporters that Muslims who did not want to accept local values should "clear off. Basically people who don't want to be Australians, and who don't want to live by Australian values and understand them, well then, they can basically clear off", he said.

Separately, Howard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying he supported spy agencies monitoring the nation's mosques

Quote: "IMMIGRANTS, NOT AUSTRALIANS, MUST ADAPT. Take It Or Leave It. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians." "However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the 'politically correct' crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others. I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to Australia." "However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand." "This idea of Australia being a multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity.

As Australians, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle." "This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom" "We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society, Learn the language!"

"Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture." "We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us."

"If the Southern Cross offends you, or you don't like " A Fair Go", then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. By all means, keep your culture, but do not force it on others.

"This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, 'THE RIGHT TO LEAVE'."

"If you aren't happy here then LEAVE. We didn't force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted."

Wikipedia Founder Giving "It" Away For Free

Wikipedia Founder Giving "It" Away For Free

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said on Monday (12/11/06) his for-profit company, Wikia Inc., is ready to give away -- for free -- all the software, computing, storage and network access that Web site builders need to create community collaboration sites. The "It" is not Wikipedia, but the ability set up a Wiki on Wikia's servers. I have applied for an account today called Wooliedales. If/When I get the acount, it will be What to do with it remains to be determined.

Dairy Farming in Vermont

Dairy Farming in Vermont:

Much has been written about the "Perfect Storm" Vermont's dairy industry is weathering. The myriad factors that affect this stalwart Vermont legacy have been well documented by others. I claim no expertise in the dairy business, convoluted as it is by the patchwork of subsidies and complex supplier-processor-distributor-retailer-consumer dynamics.

However one basic factor struck me as critical in the industry as I traveled across the country during the April and May 2006. After driving through Wisconsin, Minnesota, and other dairy states I concluded that the land is fundamental to the success or failure of the dairy industry in any state (no big revelation here, but the reality was deeply impressed on me). The land is the basis for the crops required to feed dairy cattle cost effectively. Vermont simply cannot be competitive with the states which have broad expanses of flat, easily tillable, apparently rich, land. Because the scale of dairying is larger where the land is more easliy worked, efficiencies and profits are more far more likely than in Vermont.

I know I have understated the complexity of the industry and the markets that devive from milk, but my assessment for Vermont's dairy industry is bleak.

If I were a small dairy farmer in Vermont struggling to make ends meet, I would consider developing different, more profitable uses for my land. I know that's easier said than done and that dairying creates a host of other spinoff revenues for the state, e.g., tourism. However, some have done just that by moving to higher value products such as organic produce and specialty meats.

The temptation will grow to use more Vermont tax revenues to support dairying. That would be a serious mistake, except in those cases where survival of the farm is at risk. Tax revenue to assist farmers would be best used to transform this struggling industry by enabling a change to other agricultural uses for the land.

December 10, 2006

Religion for a Captive Audience, Paid For by Taxes - New York Times

Religion for a Captive Audience, Paid For by Taxes - New York Times:

Our country steadfastly and properly does not establish a state religion and certainly goes to great lengths to see that religions are free to operate and worship as they desire. ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.")

Yet we are presented with many circumstances that fall into the gray area where courts determine whether the Constitutional standard has been met or violated.

The controversy surrounding religious groups who operate successful programs in prisons comes to the fore frequently. Self-proclaimed watchdogs seek to keep public money away from religious groups who arguably do better work to help criminals change than do the corrections functions of government or strictly secular programming. This separation of church and state, as the watchdogs argue, is necessary to protect the taxpayers and to assure that the First Amendment principle is intact.

What is so disturbing to me is the constant attack against Christian, and perhaps other groups, who seek to provide a better alternative for personal change and growth for people who have violated the law and are incarcerated. But I ask myself : Would I support a Muslim, or Hindu, or Pagan, or Wiccan group who chose to commit their resources to the possibility of reform for people in prison? I struggle with the question from a secular point of view, but remain supportive of Christian programs in prison because I know that true change for an individual happens in their spiritual domain and that is the fundamental belief of the followers of Jesus.

Secular or anti-religious programming in any venue is simply not as effective in changing hearts and worldviews. But the watchdogs cannot stop at the reality that lives are changed via belief in Christ. They must preserve their view of the sanctity of the First Amendment.

Is compromise not possible if/when lives are changed?

"A government-financed religious education program at a county jail in Fort Worth was struck down by the Texas Supreme Court more than five years ago, and more lawsuits are pending. Corrections Corporation (of America) was among those sued last year by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is challenging a Christian residential program at a womenÂ?s prison in Grant, N.M. The foundation has also sued the federal Bureau of Prisons over its faith-based rehabilitation programs. And Americans United, the Iowa plaintiff, and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued a job-training program run by a religious group at the Bradford County Jail near Troy, Pa."

And the beat goes on!

Costs for K-12 Education in Vermont

A calendar is unnecessary to know the season in Vermont. It's time for the legislative session to begin when the talk turns to taxes and nothing inspires tax talk like education funding.

During the next four months we will be inundated or 'blizzarded' (depending on the pace of global warming, of course) by editorials, various talking heads, failed local school budgets, and of course, the rhetoric of legislators as they sprinkle their magic dust to fix the problem.

Now firmly in Democrat hands, the Legislature must choose among alternatives. They can do nothing and enable the spiraling costs of education to continue to eat away at Vermonters' dollars with today's complex income-sensitized property tax regime. Or they can choose to do nothing to control education spending and merely shift the funding away from property taxes toward income taxes. Another choice is to seriously consider controlling education costs as enrollments inexorably decline.

My guess is they will justify rearranging the funding for a system whose costs are spiraling out of control because this is easier than controlling or reducing costs. Their argument will be that cost (spending) decisions are local. The disconnect is the crux of the problem.

These quotes from today's Burlington Free Press Point/Counterpoint: Financing Vermont's School Systems demonstrate the chasm to be crossed.

From the "Revolt and Repeal" group:

"Apologists for this system continue to argue that it merely needs a few "adjustments." This assertion ignores an inconvenient fact -- for a decade the system has been almost continuously 'adjusted' until it is now so complicated that virtually no one understands it. Meanwhile Vermonters are being driven out of their homes, off their land and out of the state -- all thanks to a system which has also severed the connection between local school budgets and local taxes.

Clearly, something is wrong.

Consider these findings, gleaned from data in an October 2006 report from the state Education Department:

Between 2003 and 2006, the number of public school students declined by 3,342;

Over that same period, the number of employees in Vermont's educational system increased by 2,172;

Administrative support staff increased 88 percent.

So, for every 1.5 students we lost through declining enrollment, we added one additional employee, many of them administrative, to the payroll."

From the Chair and Co-chair of the House Ways and Means Committee:

"First, all Vermont children deserve an equal educational opportunity.

Second, Vermonters should pay their school taxes based on their ability to pay.

Third, there must be incentives to deliver high quality education in a cost-effective way.

Using these principles as a guide, we will look for ways to contain the costs of public education without compromising quality or jeopardizing small schools that are so important to our rural communities. We will continue the hard work of addressing health care and energy costs, two of the key drivers of school budgets. But fundamental questions such as our governance structure, increasing numbers of children with special needs, and the ever increasing expectations our communities have of our schools must also be part of any serious discussion of school costs."

One could argue, I suppose, that the legislators' opinion is the voice of reason while the first is a radical knee-jerk reaction to a looming crisis.

My take on our education dilemma is that first and foremost we have a spending (cost) problem. How can we possibly justify adding employees to a system that continues to lose students? That makes no sense. Of course, I understand that these hiring decisions are mostly 'local' and were perfectly justified by those hiring them. And I know well the arguments of health care spending, growing special education demand, rising energy costs, etc. All the arguments individually can be supported by their proponents, but the result on a Statewide basis is unacceptable and, left unchecked, will create an unsustainable tax burden for Vermonters, regardless of the type of tax.

We must fix the cost problem before rearranging the funding sources. Governor Douglas agrees. I encourage the Legislature to act likewise, otherwise they will bite off more than they can chew.

December 9, 2006

Will Iraq Study Group’s Plan Work on the Battlefield? - New York Times

Will Iraq Study Group’s Plan Work on the Battlefield? - New York Times:

There are few good answers in Iraq, but the report issued by the Study Group appears to fall short in its military recommendations.

Several 'Talking Heads' express strong disagreement with the report saying it is a recipe for defeat.

I have not read it, but my take on the Iraq situation is quite simple. We simply do not have the power to change the culture of violence and revenge that lives in the hearts of the Iraqis. I said at the time of the invasion that the legacy of hatred between Sunni and Shia would be the most difficult problem to be faced.

While the criminal element is active in Iraq, as it always is in an area of instability, the ideological and tribal splits are at the root of this terrible quagmire.

"The military recommendations issued yesterday by the Iraq Study Group are based more on hope than history and run counter to assessments made by some of its own military advisers."

December 8, 2006

Vermont Heading Off the Rails, Unless...

The Ethan Allen Institute (John McLaughry and his team) have published a sobering report on the likely road ahead fueled by the inexorable forces of demographics and Vermont's proclivity for spending. He is correct.

Vermont simply cannot sustain its appetites for spending, yet few in the state seem willing to make the difficult policy choices that will enable our kids to pay for the lifestyle and desires so frequently expressed by our politicians. Below is the executive summary. Well worth reading, and contemplating the consequences.

Executive Summary

Despite high property taxes and many unmet social needs, these are, for our state, very good times. But a long-range analysis of projected demographic trends and their economic implications suggests that Vermont may be steadily headingoff the rails.

Vermont's population is getting older. Soon Vermont will become the nation's oldest state. More of its young people are seeking opportunity elsewhere. The proportion of active wealth producers is declining. But Vermont's high level of public service spending, especially on public education and human services, is requiring ever-greater tax revenues. There is little reason to believe that over the next 25 years Vermont's taxpayers will be willing and able to pay enough to support the state's spending habits.

By 2030, even if Vermonters are willing to devote an all time high of 18% of their adjusted gross incomes to state and local taxes, more than two thirds of all tax dollars collected will be needed just to pay for public education. Almost all of the remaining tax dollars will be required to fund human service programs. And that assumes there will be no new spending programs, like universal preschools or universal taxpayer-financed health care.

The good news is that this problem is not beyond our control. We can slow the growth of spending for both public K-12 education and human services. We can also create a much more favorable climate for investment, entrepreneurial opportunity, and economic growth. That will increase incomes, enlarge the revenue base, and reduce the rising tax burden. Increasing tax rates in an attempt to increase government revenues is not a viable option. That would propel Vermont from fifth place to first place in state and local tax burden. Such a tax burden would doom the state's efforts to stimulate wealth producing economic growth.

Keeping Vermont on the rails will require transforming Vermont into a state more attractive for productive young Vermonters to stay and work in, and for productive workers from outside the state to migrate into. This will require changing the state's tax and regulatory policies. It will require improving its educational and work force quality, strengthening its institutions of post-secondary education, and expanding its telecommunications system. It will also require maintaining the high quality of the state's health care system and protecting its environmental amenities.

Those steps would make Vermont more attractive to existing businesses and to new firms that base their enterprise on highly educated, skilled, high-salaried workers. A conscious decision to implement such policies will take vision and political courage. It will mean creating a much more favorable climate for investment, entrepreneurial opportunity, and economic growth, and resisting the political temptation to pick and subsidize favored enterprises. It will mean putting limits on the state government's role as the provider of tax-funded benefits to an increasing proportion of the state's population.

But if Vermont's government and economy are to stay on the rails for our children's generation, there seems to be no other viable choice. We do not have decades to get this right.

The Bull Moose Speaks

"We should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people." --Theodore Roosevelt 1907

(quote from the Dwinell Political Report 12/08/06)

December 6, 2006

Katie in The Nutcracker Ballet

My youngest granddaughter, Katie (Karl & Laura's daughter) will be in the Nutcracker ballet performance on Saturday, December 9, 2006 in Burlington. Her picture is worth a thousand blog words! / World / International economy - Richest 2% hold half the world’s assets / World / International economy - Richest 2% hold half the world’s assets

Do you feel guilty? Wait, someone will soon propose a way to 'fix' this! Let's assume for a moment the world's wealth were evenly held by every person. In a relatively short time, the redistribution would begin and before you know it, we'd be back where we are now. So is the nature of man.

December 5, 2006

Offering Video, Israel Answers Critics on War - New York Times

Offering Video, Israel Answers Critics on War - New York Times:

The Times correctly publishes the truth in this piece. Why does the world want to believe that Israel purposely targetd civilians while fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon early this year?

Many people want to make the argument with me that Israel is an aggressor because the land they occupy belongs to the Palestinians. The Palestinians may claim all the land in that region, but Israel has valid historical claims, too. And let's not forget that 'the world' decided in the middle of the last century to provide a permanent home for the Jews in Palestine.

Let's also not forget that laterIsrael was attcked twice and repulsed those attacks. They did the only rational thing at the time, kept some of the land (West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza) to provide a buffer against those that might desire to attack again, particularly as the technology changed and allowed less conventional warfare.

In the meantime, we have Israel, a nation that has grown and prospered since the 1940s compared to a a group of Palestinians who have remained mired in instability, poverty and hate under the terrorist Arafat and other terror groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and several more fanatics whose only proclaimed mission is the destruction of Israel. Conversely, Israel has never sought the destruction of the Palestinian people.

However, the political aguments fail to recognize the spiritual battle that underlies this sorry situation. Read your Bible.
"The report says that there were many such examples, (rockets and mortars hidden and fired from civilian areas) and that Hezbollah has been preparing for such an engagement for years, embedding its fighters and their weapons in the Shiite villages of southern Lebanon. When Hezbollah fired its rockets from those areas, Israel faced a choice of attacking, and possibly causing civilian casualties, or refraining from shooting because of the risk, the report said.

Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese Army general, said of the Israeli allegations, “Of course there are hidden invisible tunnels, bunkers of missile launchers, bunkers of explosive charges amongst civilians.”

He added: “You cannot separate the southern society from Hezbollah, because Hezbollah is the society and the society is Hezbollah. Hezbollah is holding this society together through its political, military and economic services. It is providing the welfare for the south.”

Asked whether Hezbollah should be seen as responsible for the deaths of Lebanese civilians in the war, he replied: “Of course Hezbollah is responsible. But these people are ready to sacrifice their lives for Hezbollah. If you tell them, ‘Your relative died,’ they will tell you ‘No, he was a martyr.’ The party’s military preparations from 2000 till 2006 took place in their areas. They were of course done with complete secrecy, but in accordance with the civilians.”"

December 4, 2006

Segway inventor scoots to bigger matters | Newsmakers | CNET

Segway inventor scoots to bigger matters | Newsmakers | CNET

If you want a common sense view of science and technology, read Kamen's interview. I agree with his take on the culture and how people, especially young people, view science and technology to day.

Kamen may be quirky, but no one can deny that he is a bright and thoughtful contributor to mankind's betterment. The water purification and energy generation projects have enormous potential. Why is it that "Big Science" doesn't contribute at the same level as the lone inventor and his team?

December 3, 2006

Open-Source Spying - New York Times

Open-Source Spying - New York Times

Yet to read the full piece, but the first page is fascinating. Can't wait to read the rest!

Well now, that I have read it, I believe the proponents of classified wikis in the intelligence community have it right. I also believe that it will be an uphill battle in the short term for them to succeed. Over time I believe the 'young turks' of intelligence will increase in numbers and the institution will rapidly reach a tipping point where this form of collaborative analysis will succeed.

My bias is that wikis work, particularly in a closed environment where authorship and editing is not anonymous. The best wikis come with accountability and responsibility from the participants. Here's a link to an abstract of the proposal in 2005 by Andrus.

Yes, this is a fascinating story and I'm pleased as punch that our intelligence agencies are blogging and have made a Wiki tool (Intellipedia) work:

"...Fingar and Wertheimer are now testing whether a wiki could indeed help analysts do their job. In the fall of 2005, they joined forces with C.I.A. wiki experts to build a prototype of something called Intellipedia, a wiki that any intelligence employee with classified clearance could read and contribute to. To kick-start the content, C.I.A. analysts seeded it with hundreds of articles from nonclassified documents like the C.I.A. World Fact Book. In April, they sent out e-mail to other analysts inviting them to contribute, and sat back to see what happened."

"By this fall, more than 3,600 members of the intelligence services had contributed a total of 28,000 pages. Chris Rasmussen, a 31-year-old Â?knowledge managementÂ? engineer at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, spends part of every day writing or editing pages. Rasmussen is part of the younger generation in the intelligence establishment that is completely comfortable online; he regularly logs into a sprawling, 50-person chat room with other Intellipedians, and he alsblogsgs about his daily work for all other spies to read. He told me the usefulness of Intellipedia proved itself just a couple of months ago, when a small two-seater plane crashed into a Manhattan building. An analyst created a page within 20 minutes, and over the next two hours it was edited 80 times by employees of nine different spy agencies, as news trickled out. Together, they rapidly concluded the crash was not a terrorist act. Â?In the intelligence community, there are so many Â?Stay off the grassÂ? signs,Â? Rasmussen said. Â?But here, youÂ?re free to do what you want, and it works.Â?"

"Yet Intellipedia also courts the many dangers of wikis Â? including the possibility of error. WhatÂ?s to stop analysts from posting assertions that turn out to be false? Fingar admits this will undoubtedly happen. But if there are enough people looking at an entry, he says, there will always be someone to catch any grave mistakes. Rasmussen notes that though there is often strong disagreement and debate on Intellipedia, it has not yet succumbed to the sort of vandalism that often plagues Wikipedia pages, including the posting of outright lies. This is partly because, unlike with Wikipedia, Intellipedia contributors are not anonymous. Whatever an analyst writes on Intellipedia can be traced to him. Â?If you demonstrate youÂ?ve got something to contribute, hey, the expectation is youÂ?re a valued member,Â? Fingar said. Â?You demonstrate youÂ?re an idiot, that becomes known, too.Â?

"For something like Intellipedtrafficsh, which trafficks in genuinely serious intelligence, hard decisions had to be made about what risks were acceptable. Fingar says that deeply sensitive intel would never be allowed onto Intellipedia Â? particularly if it was operational information about a mission, like a planned raid on a terrorist compound. Indeed, MeyerroseÂ?s office is building three completely separate versions of Intellipedia for each of the three levels of secrecy: Top Secret, Secret and Unclassified. Each will be placed on a data network configured so that only people with the correct level of clearance can see them Â? and these networks are tightly controlled, so sensitive information typed into the Top Secret Intellipedia cannot accidentally leak into the Unclassified one."

"...A spy blogosphere, even carefully secured against intruders, might be fundamentally incompatible with the goal of keeping secrets. And the converse is also true: blogs and wikis are unlikely to thrive in an environment where people are guarded about sharing information. Social software doesnÂ?t work if people arenÂ?t social.

Virtually all proponents of improved spy sharing are aware of this friction, and they have few answers. Meyerrose has already strained at boundaries that make other spies deeply uneasy. During the summer, he set up a completely open chat board on the Internet and invited anyone interested to participate in a two-week-long discussion of how to improve the spy agenciesÂ? policies for acquiring new technology."

Then, of course, there's the culture to be considered. The culture of an organization is the critical factor, in my opinion, determining whether a different way of doing things can succeed or the pace at which change happens. 'Better' is not exclusively a rational choice, but an emotional and cultural one.

Burial Insurance, at $2 Per Week, Survives Skeptics - New York Times

Burial Insurance, at $2 Per Week, Survives Skeptics - New York Times

My mother, who grew up poor, had a policy like this and when she died in October 2006 at 96, the proceeds were enough to just cover her funeral expenses. This story portrays a reality that shows what America is like on a personal level.

George, The Timber Framer

George is a friend from Connecticut who had a successful heart transplant at Yale after living on a Jarvik mechanical heart for several months. I first met him at his home when he had the Jarvik device. I saw him again a month ago and he looks in fine shape. This post to his blog seems to confirm that he is healthy beyond expectations.

George is a miracle walking... and running and swimming. He hiked Mount Washington last summer. God is a wonder worker.

December 1, 2006

Idea of Rapid Withdrawal From Iraq Seems to Fade - New York Times

Idea of Rapid Withdrawal From Iraq Seems to Fade - New York Times

Let me see if I have this right. Prior to the mid-term election, the Democrats generally called for a timetable to withdraw from Iraq, the sooner the better. The voters decided they liked the Democrats' message better than the President's and most Republicans and voted them into Congress.

Now that they're soon to assume power, they seem to be backing off the rapid withdrawal message in favor of reality.

If the Democrats have said one thing and are now supportive of something different, then they must have been wrong then or wrong now. If they were wrong then, they must have been pandering to the voters.

Perhaps these situations continually replayed by politicians is why I abhor the game so much.

It's really all about power isn't it? Principle, statesmanship and the good of the country take second place for most politicians behind that overwhelming quest for power. Sad.

Will real leaders please stand up?

I prefer this sort of straight talk: "I know there´s a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there´s going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq. This business about a graceful exit just simply has no realism to it whatsoever. We´re going to stay in Iraq to get the job done as long as the government wants us there." President Bush