December 29, 2007

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Al-Qaeda in Iraq 'reduced by 75%'

While the road ahead in Iraq is long and arduous, the BBC reports that the 'surge' with General Petraeus' leadership has apparently reduced the level of violence and severely limited Al Qaeda's influence. Why isn't the American media reporting the same good news. Is it because they see this positive result as bad for the Democrats?

I expect little credit will be given to Bush for this turn of events, but the improvement, thanks to our military, cannot be denied. Now, the harder task is for the politicians and the State Department to move the Iraqis toward resolution of as many of their differences as possible.

"The BBC's Jo Floto in Baghdad says there are a number of other factors behind the security gains, such as a six-month ceasefire announced in August by the Mehdi Army militia of Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.

But perhaps most crucial, says our correspondent, has been the emergence of Sunni militias who once fought the Americans and the Iraqi government but are now fighting al-Qaeda.

In his year-end review for media, Gen Petraeus said US figures
showed the number of overall attacks had fallen by 60% since June."

The Futurist's Top 10 Predictions for 2008

These predictions obviously extend beyond 2008 and their overall tenor is pessimistic and problematic. My grandchildren will inherit a very different world than the one I grew up in.

1. The world will have a billion millionaires by 2025.

Is this good news or not? I would argue it is, but the socialists among us will say this represents more unequal wealth distribution.

2. Fashion will go wired as technologies and tastes converge to revolutionize the textile industry.

This is good news because more jobs will be created as
people buy this stuff.

3. The threat of another cold war with China, Russia, or both could replace terrorism as the chief foreign-policy concern of the United States.

Definitely bad news, but should we expect something
different as we have exported our manufacturing base, and lately our financial interests as Asian companies invest in many of America's largest banks and financial institutions to help bail them out of the sub-prime mortgage mess.

4. Counterfeiting of currency will proliferate, driving the move toward a cashless society.

Mixed news here. Criminals are alive and apparently
thriving. If we move more or our financial life online, the security must increase simultaneously.

5. The earth is on the verge of a significant extinction event.

Very bad news, indeed.

6. Water will be in the twenty-first century what oil was in the twentieth century.

More bad news, but big companies will make a lot of money on this....GE for one.

7. World population by 2050 may grow larger than previously expected, due in part to healthier, longer-living people.

Should we expect anything less as medical science and agriculture continue to enable peole to live longer. The strain on the world's resources is the bad news.

8. The number of Africans imperiled by floods will grow 70-fold by 2080.

More bad news for the basket case that is most of Africa.

9. Rising prices for natural resources could lead to a full-scale rush to develop the Arctic.

Mixed news here. On one hand, the expanding
population must have resources, particularly fossil fuels and minerals. On the other hand , more people and development in the cold, but warming, North will displease the environmentalists.

10. More decisions will be made by nonhuman entities.

Not good, but because technology has advanced to this state, robots and other macro and micro devices will pervade our lives.

December 28, 2007

A Possum in the Neighborhood

Early this morning an opossum paid a visit to our neighborhood. From the neighbor's yard across the stree, it crossed the road and our front yard and evenyually found its way underneath our right side neighbor's deck.

I had never seen one in Vermont before, but they are common now, although when the state was settled, there were none north of Pennsylvania, according to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.

Strange to see one, but our Airedales and the neighbor's dog and cat were unaware of it.

December 25, 2007

Not a Pretty Picture

The Economist writes a gloomy assessment for 2008. It's hard to fathom that rational, albeit greedy, people would loan these huge sums to others with shaky credit. If banking is regulated, should other financial enterprises and complex debt instruments also be bound by similar rules? I'd be the last to want a huge bureaucracy created to do this, but massive amounts of debt writedown, in the range of $200-300 billion by The Economist's and others' reckoning is way over the top.

Financiers and others seem to think little downside risk is possible in a growing global economy. Reality has proven them wrong. Is all this the result of the web-like interconnectedness of financing these days?

American banks Unhappy new year

China Grabs West’s Smoke-Spewing Factories - New York Times

The media thrives on beating up on America to be greener, but the real pollution mess has moved to China. The global economic effect of pollution control in China will be significantly higher prices for manufactured goods. If the West moves rapidly down the path of carbon control, how will the world influence China (and India) to reduce its emissions? Not much leverage when these countries are the world's manufacturing mecca.

My guess is that China and India are in a position to hold the world hostage to pay for cleanup in their countries in coming decades by simply increasing the price of goods they produce.

"This mass shift of polluting industries has blighted China’s economic rise. Double-digit growth rates have done less to improve people’s lives when the damages to the air, land, water and human health are considered, some economists say. Outmoded production equipment will have to be replaced or retrofitted at high cost if the country intends to reduce pollution.

China’s worsening environment has also upended the geopolitics of global warming. It produces and exports so many goods once made in the West that many wealthy countries can boast of declining carbon emissions, even while the world’s overall emissions are rising quickly.

The Ruhr Valley city of Dortmund, where ThyssenKrupp once made steel, still suffers from high unemployment because of the loss of jobs to lower-cost countries like China. But Germans can buy Chinese-made iPods, washing machines and cargo ships at prices that, because of lax pollution controls, do not reflect the toll on the environment. And the outsourcing of polluting industries has given them cleaner air and water."

December 24, 2007

Italy’s Man From God - New York Times

Kudos to Roger Cohen for this piece of investigative journalism which suggests (to me, at least) that the Clintons are once more involved with shady operations/operators, whether knowingly or not is another question. The fact that President Bill Clinton is a senior adviser to a Burkle enterprise that did a deal with Follieri's croup, all facilitated by a senior Bill Clinton aide smells bad. Big, big money involved here.

Following this saga as the Republicans make hay with it should be fascinating. Let's see if the media asks Hillary about her involvement. What Cohen's piece doesn't state is whether any of the people mentioned are donors to Hillary's campaign. Seems likely that they are because so much money is floating around these deals.

December 23, 2007

Graphical Presentation of Complex Data

I stumbled upon this video (others like it are available on YouTube or at the Gapminder site)and if you're interested in more of this Swede's amazing graphical analysis of statistical data about what's happening in the countries of the world, go to

Google has recently acquired the software and the programmers who created it. We should hope to see more from them on this creative way of 'organizing the world's information.'

December 22, 2007

Vermont Rejects Sale of Verizon Lines - New York Times

Not an unexpected decision, because the Public Service Board has a statutory interval to decide a case after it's filed, but the game's not over. Maine and NH regulators have yet to decide the case. As a practical matter, all three will agree to fundamentally the same terms and conditions except for some variations, e.g., in the area of service quality standards or technology deployment.

December 21, 2007

Vermont Tiger: Saying You'll Reduce CO2 Doesn't Make It So

A good bit of information is contained in the linked post about the Kyoto protocol and the failure of the signatories to meet the CO2 emission standards. The U.S. not signing on in 1998 under Clinton and that position continuing under Bush is a good thing. As I see it, the only outcome from Kyoto was a raising of awareness about climate change.

I become more convinced that the economics of CO2 emission reductions advocated by some who would 'save the planet' just plain don't work when compared to other uses of those resources in the next century.

December 20, 2007

Will Enough Men Stand By This Woman? -

I'll bet Mrs. Clinton does not appreciate this analysis by the Washington Post:

"But in several interviews with Democratic men across the country, the stated reasons for their aversion to Clinton seem more complicated, and in many cases, far more visceral than substantive.

They just don't like her, some say. They don't know what she stands for. They believe her word is no good, that she doesn't believe that she can be held accountable. They see her as intellectual snob who lets you know she's smarter. They say she sounds like everybody's ex-wife. They can't tell if she's the loyal, traditional wife who stayed with her husband for love after his humiliating extramarital affair -- or a canny politician who stayed because it was politically expedient. Even: Is she a Yankees or a Cubs fan?"

Faster Chips Are Leaving Programmers in Their Dust - New York Times

The notion of parallel computing and multi-core processors will gain tremendous traction in light of the chip energy/heat crisis that the hardware gurus have been frantically trying to solve. The effort can only be effective if code jockeys keeps up with the processor guys and gals at Intel and AMD. The nation's and the world's attention to energy and conservation of same will help propel this new era in computing. The future is Wow!

December 19, 2007

With Regrets, New Orleans Is Left Behind - New York Times

I know it's easy to say sitting here in Vermont, but New Orleans should plan for a smaller, different, safer city. Hoping for the return of the New Orleans that once was is a romantic dream. The suffering and fracturing of families and communities is a terrible tragedy. But does it make any sense to try to put Humpty Dumpty together again in a place that is at risk for more devastation, not to mention the rampant crime, corruption and demonstrated incompetence?

Leaving old New Orleans behind for a different, smaller city without corruption, with competent leadership and a clear vision for what the city should be is the direction they should take. A tragic hope for what was is a terrible waste of energy, besides the huge amount of money that would be required to make the city safe from future flooding.

The flood-prone ares should be made into parks or planted to vegetation to accommodate Nature and the floods that will come again, rather than trying to build levees around the 'bowl' waiting to be filled again with water

December 17, 2007

Google’s Chief on What’s Different - New York Times

Eric Schmidt is the very bright chief executive at Google ruminating on the question asked by Steve Lohr at the NY Times: What is really different now?

This short piece is worth reading for insight into Schmidt's thinking. Note particularly his reference to the social graph. We think we know what this means, but capturing the reality is obviously high on Google's list of priorities. Their new initiative, OpenSocial, portrays this belief which is intended to move far beyond Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Ning (and others)...and to make money with their advertising while doing so.

December 15, 2007

Bali Climate Talks - Global Warming - New York Times

How should I reconcile these two statements? They are both true, but the spin by the NY Times gives me indigestion. If the Times is reporting news and doing so with credibility, the statement that includes George W. Bush should also include William J. Clinton.

"The overall agreement, if completed by 2009, would also ensure continuity for parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which took effect in 2005 and is the only existing addendum to the original climate treaty. The Kyoto pact limits emissions by three dozen industrialized countries but has been rejected by the United States under President George W. Bush."

From Wikipedia:

On July 25, 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was finalized (although it had been fully negotiated, and a penultimate draft was finished), the U.S. Senate unanimously passed by a 95–0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98),[66][67] which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States". On November 12, 1998, Vice President Al Gore symbolically signed the protocol. Both Gore and Senator Joseph Lieberman indicated that the protocol would not be acted upon in the Senate until there was participation by the developing nations.[68] The Clinton Administration never submitted the protocol to the Senate for ratification. (my emphasis added)

December 14, 2007

The Keeling Curve

Click on the link to see the Keeling Curve, a measure of atmospheric CO2 concentrations measured at Mauna Loa in Hawaii since 1958.

December 12, 2007

Why I Oppose a Carbon Tax | Economics | The American Scene

Jim Manzi, software entrepreneur and former head of Lotus Development Corporation, makes a strong case against imposing a carbon tax. His basic argument is that such a draconian measure imposed on the developed world is not necessary or warranted now to hedge against extreme hysteria surrounding an unprovable and unlikely risk of catastrophe.

Instead, he argues that large government sponsored and funded R&D programs in the single $billions/year range could develop technologies to ameliorate emissions with little damage to the economies of the Western world compared to a carbon tax that would likely never go away.

December 10, 2007

If It’s Fresh and Local, Is It Always Greener? - New York Times

Nothing is as simple as it seems. The nuances of buying local vs. buying organic vs. buying food from afar in terms of one's carbon footprint is far more complex than it may seem. The efficiencies of scale have a profound effect on carbon generation. Read the article if you really want to digest the complexities of consumer food purchases.

If It’s Fresh and Local, Is It Always Greener? - New York Times

December 8, 2007

Energy Efficiency Charge on Vermont Electric Bills

My December monthly bill for electricity from Green Mountain Power shows the new Energy Efficiency Charge increasing 34.7% per kWh for residential customers. Well, it wasn't expressed that way. I had to do my own arithmetic. The letter accompanying the bill should have shown the percentage changes in these charges for the various customer classes, Residential, Commercial, Industrial, etc. Instead, the new charges and the present charges are shown in $/kWh ( Residential increasing from $0.00496 to $0.00668 per kWh).

No one relates to tenths of a cent per kWh. The letter would have been more relevant if it had stated why these rates were increased by such a large amount and when the decision was made to do so. (I presume by a recent order of the Vermont Public Service Board). An explanation for the magnitude of the increase should also have been included in the letter.

For what it's worth, I believe the participants in Efficiency Vermont who are the primary cost causers and beneficiaries of the program should fund the program through part of their electricity savings over a fixed term in addition to the monthly kWh surcharge. If the program operated in this manner, Efficiency Vermont could be funded primarily by the savings in electricity usage by those who most benefit and the surcharge on all customers could be reduced commensurately now that the program is up and running.

I expect the next legislative session in Vermont again will tackle the issue of expanding Efficiency Vermont beyond electricity to all forms of energy. In the last session the proposal passed but was vetoed by Governor Douglas and his veto was sustained in a special session in July 2007. The primary problem was the funding mechanism ( a tax on Entergy Corporation, owner of Vermont Yankee despite a previous deal the company had with the Legislature). Any proposal to expand Efficiency Vermont should include a funding protocol that includes substantial payment via the savings that accrue to the beneficiaries of the program. For example, if a customer saves 100 Kwh/month in electricity by using the services of EV, 20% (pick a number) of the savings should go to EV.

One could argue that the saver spent some money for property improvements in order to save that $50. That may be true, but if the payback on those expenses in reduced usage and a lower bill occurs in, say, 5 years, paying more into the EV fund might extend the customer's payback period a couple of years, but that's a reasonable trade-off. As it is now, the beneficiary pays EV little or nothing for the specific services received. Fairness suggests that they should...from the savings they receive by improving their energy efficiency.

The general education component of EV should be funded by all electricity users but the services provided to individual customers should be funded by that pool of customers that have implemented energy savings with building or equipment improvements.

December 5, 2007

Storing sun and wind power | Tech News on ZDNet

Research in this area that will lead to practical, cost-effective solutions would go a long way to enabling sun and wind as viable power sources. Until the reliability of these sources can be dramatically improved by some storage mechanism, sun and wind will remain be bit players on the energy stage.

PC World - A Primer on the FCC's 700MHz Auction

Here's a concise summary of the upcoming auction of the frequencies in the 700 MHz band, the spectrum now occupied by channels 52-69 in the UHF band for over-the-air TV.

This spectrum will fetch BIG $ as the major and minor players in the wireless game compete for the choice chunks in the areas they wish to serve.

For consumers this is a VERY big deal because this spectrum can be the underpinning for wireless broadband nearly anywhere. Using this spectrum will be the most feasible way for broadband to reach the more sparsely settled regions of Vermont and other rural areas.

People are crying for broadband and this is the most likely way for them to get it, along with the cellular broadband that shares the higher frequency ranges with cell voice service, such as Verizon's BroadbandAccess service.

Speculation abounds about Google's plans for wireless service since they announced their intent to bid in January's FCC auction. My guess is they will partner with a carrier that understands the deployment and operation of a customer network. (Verizon??). Perhaps someone on the Vermont Telecommunications Authority has good friends at Google and will persuade them to think kindly of Vermont as they bid!

For sale is 62 MHz of spectrum in the 700MHz band. In late 2005, after a decade of debate, Congress passed a law requiring U.S. TV stations to move to all-digital broadcasts and abandon analog spectrum between channels 52 and 69.
The deadline for TV stations to end broadcasts in the 700MHz band is February 2009.

The spectrum is broken up into
five blocks. The C block, a 22MHz of spectrum that has the open-access rules, is broken up into 12 regional licenses across the U.S. A bidder can win one or more of those regional licenses.

The A block is 12MHz, broken up into 176 smaller regions called economic areas, as is the 6MHz E block. The 12MHz B block is broken up into 734 local areas called cellular market areas. Again, bidders can win multiple regional or local licenses.

Finally, 10MHz of spectrum in the D block, paired with about 10MHz set aside for public safety, is a nationwide license.

Congress has budgeted the auctions to raise at least $10 billion, but many observers expect them to cost much more. The FCC set the reserve price for the C block of spectrum at $4.6 billion.

December 3, 2007

Vermont Court System Has $1Million Shortfall

As I'm writing this, I'm listening to Vermont Public Radio's Vermont Edition interviewing Chief Justice Paul Reiber and the Courts Administrator, Lee Susskind (sp?), about a $1million shortfall, about 3% of its annual expenditures. Lee Susskind says they need $1.6 million more in FY08.

As I listen to it, I hear mostly whining and prattle intended to appeal to the Legislature and the Governor for additional funding. To her credit, the interviewer is asking tough questions and getting somewhat pablum answers, but the whole interview seems designed as a lobbying effort by the courts. I wonder if VPR will offer the same opportunity to other agencies of state government?

It seems quite clear and simple to me. If the budget is not sufficient, then the court system must continue to tighten their belts like any other element of government. They have 16 vacant positions that need to be filled. If the Legislature determines that the courts need additional funding, they should find it within existing budget requests. We cannot simply add more funding for every agency and function of government beyond inlationary pressures.

Reiber is so circumspect about answering questions that he comes off as non-responsive. For example when asked if he has suggestions about how to streamline the Vermont system to perhaps save money, he says it's not his responsibility to do this. This is nonsense. He certainly has the prerogative to make recommendations for legislative action. Refusing to reveal them publicly gives the impression that he is evasive.

Yet, a call just now from the dean of the Vermont Law School, which almost seemed planted, about the notion of 'business courts' was answered by Chief Justice Reiber essentially saying he is making a recommendation to that effect and went on to describe it. I find the Chief Justice's performance inconsistent.

Vermont Court System Has $1Million Shortfall

As I'm writing this, I'm listening to Vermont Public Radio's Vermont Edition interviewing Chief Justice Paul Reiber and the Courts Administrator, Lee Susskin, about a $1million shortfall, about 3% of its annual expenditures. Susskin says they need $1.6 million more in FY08.

As I listen to it, I hear mostly whining and prattle intended to appeal to the Legislature and the Governor for additional funding. To her credit, Jane Lindholm, the interviewer is asking tough questions and getting somewhat pablum answers, but the whole interview seems designed as a lobbying effort by the courts. I wonder if VPR will offer the same opportunity to other agencies of state government?

It seems quite clear and simple to me. If the budget is not sufficient, then the court system must continue to tighten their belts like any other element of government. They have 16 vacant positions that need to be filled. If the Legislature determines that the courts need additional funding, they should find it within existing budget requests. We cannot simply add more funding for every agency and function of government beyond inflationary pressures.

Reiber is so circumspect about answering questions that he comes off as non-responsive. For example when asked if he has suggestions about how to streamline the Vermont system to perhaps save money, he says it's not his responsibility to do this. This is nonsense. He certainly has the prerogative to make recommendations for legislative action. Refusing to reveal them publicly gives the impression that he is evasive.

Yet, a call just now from the dean of the Vermont Law School, which almost seemed planted, about the notion of 'business courts' was answered by Chief Justice Reiber essentially saying he is making a recommendation to that effect and went on to describe it. I find the Chief Justice's performance inconsistent.

December 2, 2007

Tech.view | Xohm's law |

This recent piece in The Economist about WiMAX suggests that it may be the next big thing in wireless technology, at least its proponents, including Intel, Motorola and a few others, think so. Sprint has been a big proponent and actually has announced deployment plans for next year following pilots this year in Chicago and Washington of Xohm. Clearwire is another company that has some spectrum devoted to WiMax.

But the CEO of Sprint has been canned for poor results in the traditional cellular business following its recent merger with Nextel and the deal with Clearwire has been neutered.

I think the jury is out on WiMAX as a contender with the 4G plans of the cellular carriers, none of which in the U.S. have yet endorsed the technology. With Verizon's selection of LTE (long Term Evolution) I think WiMAX's future in this country is cloudy at best.

December 1, 2007

Senator Sanders Misses the Wireless Boat

Vermont's Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders is questioning Verizon's offer to buy Unicel, Vermont's second largest cell service provider after Verizon, and asking the FCC to impose some strict conditions on the sale. The Senator and his allies fail to see the potential benefits of a dominant provider (or two) in Vermont deploying their best 4G technology in the state in a few years. This technology could provide broadband access throughout the state. Perhaps Vermont could be a beta state for this technology.

Or, perhaps Vermont could encourage wireless providers to use some of the 700 MHz spectrum to be auctioned in January 2008 to provide broadband access to the whole state. See, the real issue here is that Vermont is a tough market to serve because it's small, dispersed, and slow to approve tower siting for full coverage given our tough topography. Perhaps there are some clever incentives that could lure providers. If not, some subsidies may be the only alternative. Pounding on the providers is not the answer

The Senator is also suggesting that the cell phone business become regulated at the state level. But that's what Socialism is, a government-controlled economy where companies do the bidding of those in power in government. The marketplace is the best option for a fast-paced technology based company. A regulated monopoly is a distant second choice.

Verizon Choses LTE for 4G

Here is PC World's take on Verizon's announcement this week that it's 4th generation wireless technology will be LTE (Long Term Evolution), akin to the GSM family of technologies in use in a large portion of the world. Surely this decision by Verizon Wireless was influenced by the benefits of the technology itself, but also because its minority (49%) partner, Vodaphone (the world's largest wireless company), also has selected LTE. In a few years the common technology will facilitate broadband roaming worldwide for Verizon's customers.

This LTE decision along with Verizon's announcement that it will open it's present network to other conforming devices and applications that may run on those devices is a positive strategic run-up to the January FCC auction of the 700MHz spectrum. Will Google decide to work with Verizon to build a network if they are successful in obtaining frequencies in this auction?

Google has tremendous talent and expertise in software and certainly a well-honed network of data centers, but really no customer service infrastructure nor 'last-mile' experience to service customers. A partnership between Verizon, Vodaphone and Google would be a powerful combination of talent, networking infrastructure and data servers for a robust worldwide 4G network.

November 29, 2007

A New Global and Local Telecom Service

If Skype was disruptive to telcos, then Cubic Telecom is their nightmare (and good for you) by ZDNet's David Berlind

-- "A few weeks prior to my scheduled departure for Dublin, Ireland where I ran the most recent Mashup Camp, I started handing out the phone numbers of my hotel and traveling companions to people who might want to reach me while I was over there. For cell phone usage, I’m a Verizon Wireless customer [...]"

David has spent a great deal of time testing and describing the Cubic Telecom model from a customer's viewpoint and come away with the conclusion that it's going to be a winner because it's so disruptive to current business models. It saves the consumer money, particularly the roaming international user. I will check further into this for use on our trip to Italy and Prague in 2008.

Unlocking the Benefits of Garlic - Well - Tara Parker-Pope - Health - New York Times Blog

Unlocking the Benefits of Garlic - Well - Tara Parker-Pope - Health - New York Times Blog:

I love garlic and use quite a bit of it in my cooking! This writing suggests that between five and a dozen cloves daily seems to have salubrious health benefits. That's more than I use, but could go for more. This tidbit caught my eye:

"Many home chefs mistakenly cook garlic immediately after crushing or chopping it, added Dr. Kraus. To maximize the health benefits, you should crush the garlic at room temperature and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. That triggers an enzyme reaction that boosts the healthy compounds in garlic."
I wonder if the pre-cut garlic in jars has the same effect?

Eat more garlic!

Paging the Lesser of 8 Evils - New York Times

Paging the Lesser of 8 Evils - New York Times

The column by Collins, obviously a Democrat, is clever but off-putting. Her motive is to portray the whole lot of Republican candidates and their campaigns as 'bad news.'

I watched most of the Republican debate last night. I thought the format was bizarre. The flashy backdrops and surreal staging turned me off. The YouTube questions format was OK, but I don't know if the candidates were exposed to the specific questions in advance or not.

Ron Paul is an embarrassment. Romney was unconvincing. Duncan was merely taking up space. McCain was, well...McCain. Thompson was bland, but credible. Giuliani seemed self absorbed as mayor of New York, although he surely does have an impressive record there. I think the standout was Huckabee by a mile is his ability to connect with people via his rational and clear responses. He seemed to be working from the question, not from a mental script like the others.

November 27, 2007

Verizon Opens Up Network to Outside Devices - New York Times

Bravo for Verizon! This is very big shift in the walled garden model that wireless carriers have operated under heretofore. I have been seriously considering upgrading my cell phone, now more than three years old, but I can wait a little longer for the opportunity to have a decent Google email experience with an open cell phone on a very good network.

I wonder if this gutsy move by Verizon will be followed by Sprint and AT&T? I expect so. Perhaps this is only the first move that will enable Google to be a player in partnership with Verizon in the upcoming 700 MHz frequency auction. Now, I wonder what this means for the close relationship Verizon has had with Microsoft.

Here's a relevant quote from an Information Week story:
"This is a transformation point in the 20-year history of mass market wireless devices -- one which we believe will set the table for the next level of innovation and growth," said Lowell McAdam, Verizon Wireless' president and chief executive officer, in a statement.

Once the change goes into effect, Verizon Wireless will have two categories of customers: full-service customers -- those that purchase devices and services from Verizon Wireless and receive technical support, and bring-your-own customers -- those that will bring their own devices to the carrier's network without full service."
The NY Times story (11/28/07) is here.

An interesting quote:

“It’s very common and popular in the press to view Google and Verizon at each other’s throats," Mr. McAdam said. “We have far more in common with Google in meeting demands of consumers than in conflict.”

No matter the motivation, many expect the result to be good for consumers. “This is only going to drive innovation for consumers, which is a good thing," said Cyriac Roeding, who is in charge of mobile content efforts at CBS.

If Verizon’s effort is successful, then content creators, software developers and device makers, who have chafed under the control of the wireless companies, will need to show what they can do. At a telecommunications conference in San Francisco, those groups were outwardly hostile toward the carriers, complaining that they were too controlling.

Now, Mr. Entner said, “the ball is in the court of the device manufacturers and software developers.”

“They have to put up or shut up.”

Saul Hansell at the Times has interesting comments.

More here at

Tiffany and eBay in Fight Over Fakes - New York Times

Tiffany and eBay in Fight Over Fakes - New York Times

Tiffany should lose this battle. eBay is nothing more than a marketplace, a community of buyers and sellers. Any open marketplace has good and bad merchandise and both honest and dishonest sellers. The fact that Tiffany or any other 'brand' knock-offs are offered for sale is the way the world works.

A rational court will reject Tiffany's claims. If they want to get at the producers of knock-offs, they will have to follow the same path as the music industry by suing pirates, as slow and difficult as that may be. As for those who unknowingly buy bogus merchandise, caveat emptor is as good now as ever.

November 25, 2007

The High Cost of Health Care - New York Times

This Times editorial spells out the issues that drive the costs of health care, without beating the drum for single-payer universal insurance coverage as many people do. It is the costs that drive our problems and unless some political leaders step up with a target of reducing costs, not merely controlling them, and a plan to do so, we will make little progress.

Too many people are in the health care profession and related businesses and far too much inefficiency plagues the system in the U.S. Tough as it will be to swallow, a system that rations testing and care, rather than spends exorbitant sums to prolong life will be the only one that can control costs, but I'll be dead before any politician has the courage to sponsor it.

While the editorial identifies the primary cost drivers, the writers offer no recommendations of consequence to fix things. I am a firm believer that consumers of health care must always pay something for it. Without that incentive broadly applied, no progress on cost control is possible.

November 24, 2007

Garmin Nuvi 670 Selected User Comments from

Amazon Comments on Garmin Nuvi 670

"I frequently travel, state to state and occasionally international - I find when I get into a rental car, in an unfamiliar city, my portable navigation system is my best friend. It certainly doesn't hurt to do some "personal due diligence" prior to any trip - map out your locations, google & research addresses - and program them in prior to your trip (if they're not already listed in POI's) I would never plan my entire trip based solely on POI's programmed into my navigational system."
"I purchased the Nuvi 670 for use in both US and Europe, and just returned from a 2 week trip driving in Germany, Austria and Italy. The 670 worked as advertised - just turn it on and it found the satellites and our location and was ready to navigate. I used the included suction cup mount, wedged into a dash tray. No problem with satellite connection. Internal speaker was excellent. Maps were very detailed. The 670 found every small road we used, even the winding one lane paths in small towns. Pronunciation of street names was comical, but adequate, especially when coupled with the clear text line at the top of the screen that gave the name of approaching cross streets and the turn instructions in the lower right corner. We could not have navigated in some places without the Nuvi, as the street maps we purchased were not as detailed and were impossible to follow quickly enough. This is a superb product."
"Was looking for a GPS navigator, and decided to buy the 670 since we were planning a trip to Italy. Whether walking around the cities/towns or driving in the countryside of Tuscany, the Nuvi 670 delivered what I needed. I can't begin to imagine how many times we would've been lost had we not had the Nuvi.
"If you are driving around in the country, I would recommend you disable the navigator's use of Unpaved Roads. In my case, it used them a lot more frequently than I would've expected.

You'll also find that some places out in the country ( i.e. restaurants, hotels, etc.) don't know or publish their street address, especially the street number. But, it's pretty easy to take an educated guess, which usually gets you very close to the intended destination.

Finally, I could bicker about the pronunciation of the Italian street and town names, but that really wasn't a big deal at all."
"Just took this to Italy. It was just great for driving. Option for selecting "truck" versus a car keeps you off the smallest streets, a plus if you are not used to and do not care to drive the small windy roads in the mountains or within cities. You can also insert a waypoint to avoid or bypass certain areas. Very up to date. Only a few new intersections or roads were not mapped. In the "pedestrian" mode, you can use it to wander a city, after marking your parking place. One problem is the slight ambiguity of which way to start, when walking. A north arrow would be good. Also, the battery will run out if used continually for a few hours of walking, so be careful. Be sure to have the 12 volt charger for the car. Other than those two issues, it was absolutely great."

"We used the 670 in Italy about a month ago. Reception was fine, except in a few walled towns where the inside streets were almost completely surrounded by high stone buildings. It is important to spell the destination city correctly according to the local usage, i.e. Venezia instead of Venice. The unit was especially helpful in the numerous roundabouts. The turns we missed were all our own fault--we turned too soon, usually. Count down the meters to be sure. Also, we did not need to use the windshield mount (it didn't stick very well). Since there were two of us, the "navigator" had the 670 in his/her lap, and it worked fine."

7 Police Beheaded in Afghanistan -

Here's one of thousands of examples of why the radical Islamic terrorists must be eliminated. I'm not naive enough to believe we can kill all that would do these terrible killings, but every terrorist killed is one that will not do it. Some would argue that we in the West, particularly in the U.S., are somehow responsible for the actions of radical Islamists. That is pure unadulterated bullshit and those who believe it are stupid, deceived or sympathizers.

"During Friday's attack, the militants ambushed police checkpoints set up to keep the Taliban fighters away from the town and beheaded the policemen, said Mullah Mohammad Nabi, a purported Taliban commander in the area."

7 Police Beheaded in Afghanistan -

Taking Science on Faith - New York Times

In this column by Paul Davies, he argues that science and religion are equally faith-based. Scientists have no explanation why the laws of our universe are what they are and immutable. They can only discover and explain them. He argues that other universes, if they exist could have different laws and the meta-laws that govern existence can only be accepted by faith.

Most scientists have difficulty believing in a Supreme Being that created and set all things in order, yet their reasoning and discovery invariably come up against 'the beginning.' It is irrational for them to say they have not faith when beginnings and 'meta-laws cannot be explained.

Kudos to Davies for writing this cogent piece and to the Times for publishing it.

Taking Science on Faith - New York Times

Icy Rescue as Seas Claim a Cruise Ship - New York Times

Good reporting by the Times for a ship sinking in a remote area of the world. Carol and I have talked about an Antarctic cruise sometime in the future. These things happen, I suppose, so the possibility must be part of our thinking.

The reports suggest that the evacuation was orderly and well managed. The passengers are all safe and the weather was cooperating with sunny calm seas as the Explorer was abandoned to its icy grave. Fortunately, other ships were nearby to pick up the passengers and give aid.

Hopefully we will read more soon to determine how the ship struck a berg.

Icy Rescue as Seas Claim a Cruise Ship - New York Times

November 23, 2007

Butcher’s Method Takes Carving Off the Table - New York Times

This link contains absolutely the best advice and method for carving a turkey. I trialed it yesterday at the family Thanksgiving dinner and it works like a charm. Carving in the kitchen using the tools shown (a small knife and your hands) without worrying about juices running on your precious linen tablecloth is the only way.

Note the use of the smallish, curved knife, almost a boning knife, as opposed to the long straight knife that is part of the traditional carving set. This is so much more efficient and friendly to remove the meat from the bones.

November 21, 2007

Scientists Bypass Need for Embryo to Get Stem Cells - New York Times

This is important news for diagnosis and possibly treatment of disease. Removing the ethical concerns associated with embryonic stem cells will mean that research can now delve deeply into what may be possible for humankind via stem cell therapies. It seems some bugs remain to be worked out, but the sense of optimism is strong that the technique will be further refined.
"Researchers and ethicists not involved in the findings say the work, conducted by independent teams from Japan and Wisconsin, should reshape the stem cell field. At some time in the near future, they said, today’s debate over whether it is morally acceptable to create and destroy human embryos to obtain stem cells should be moot.

“Everyone was waiting for this day to come,” said the Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center. “You should have a solution here that will address the moral objections that have been percolating for years,” he added."

BBC NEWS | Europe | French trains 'hit by sabotage'

Sarkozy is right to see his reforms through to the end, even in the face of sabotage, which is typical of strikes against 'big' companies and especially utilities. Socialism is a system that should be avoided wherever possible. France's present leadership sees a way to France's better future, but it will not come easily after so many decades of a paternalistic socialist regime that creates lower and middle class 'wards of the state.'

Below is the 'Special' pensions system that Sarkozy vows to change, and none too soon.


Benefits 1.6m workers, including 1.1m retirees

Applies in 16 sectors, of which rail and utilities employees make up 360,000 people

Account for 6% of total state pension payments

Shortfall costs state 5bn euros (£3.5bn; $6.9bn) a year

Some workers can retire on full pensions aged 50

Awarded to Paris Opera House workers in 1698 by Louis XIV

BBC NEWS | Europe | French trains 'hit by sabotage'

November 20, 2007

Another Failed African State Rages with Violence and Refugees

NPR : Familiar Scenes of Violence Arise in Mogadishu

As is typical of the media, they obviously have sought out some who blame the U.S. for the turmoil in Somalia. This point of view is nonsense. While the United States has had involvement and was disgraced in Mogadishu (Blackhawk Down) when a half-assed military operation to protect civilians went awry, our country is not the cause of Somalia's problems. To suggest otherwise is foolish prattle intended to damage the current administration.

Somalia, like so many African countries, is in chaos because of ignorance, ethnic and tribal rivalries, corruption and lack of any unifying force to create harmony and economic stability.

I refuse to accept the claim that the United States is somehow to blame for the failed regimes and societies in Africa. That's nonsensical rhetoric, mostly from the Left. We should provide humanitarian assistance when and where we can, but should not accept responsibility for the conditions that caused such tragic outcomes.

Sanity Reigns in a Convert from Radical Environmentalism

Co-Founder of Greenpeace Envisions a Nuclear Future

Perhaps, slowly, rationality will rule when it comes to the sources of our electricity. However, I fear there's a move afoot in Vermont to build public opposition to renewal of Vermont Yankee's operating license in 2012. Fair media coverage of the issue should always point out and discuss the alternatives for VT if Yankee goes offline. If they don't, the coverage is unbalanced.

November 19, 2007

Forty Acres and a Gap in Wealth - New York Times

This column by Louis Gates at Harvard is worth a read because it taps into a truth that may underpin the terrible divide among poor blacks and the rest of American society.

"The telltale fact is that the biggest gap in black prosperity isn’t in income, but in wealth. According to a study by the economist Edward N. Wolff, the median net worth of non-Hispanic black households in 2004 was only $11,800 — less than 10 percent that of non-Hispanic white households, $118,300. Perhaps a bold and innovative approach to the problem of black poverty — one floated during the Civil War but never fully put into practice — would be to look at ways to turn tenants into homeowners. Sadly, in the wake of the subprime mortgage debacle, an enormous number of houses are being repossessed. But for the black poor, real progress may come only once they have an ownership stake in American society.

People who own property feel a sense of ownership in their future and their society. They study, save, work, strive and vote. And people trapped in a culture of tenancy do not."

Forty Acres and a Gap in Wealth - New York Times

November 17, 2007

Vermont Does Not Need More Taxes

Frank Mazur says it all. The costs of government are too high.

More taxes not the answer
by Frank Mazur

Democrats are advocating tax increases to pay for education and transportation. They also advocate an expansion of state bureaucracy and the preservation of costly mandates. They have picked up the support of Anthony Pollina who wants to make our tax system "fairer." But fair to them means increased government spending at the expense of the minority whose cumulative vote is insignificant.

Vermont's progressive tax structure is devastating. Thirty-six percent of tax filers, those who earn less than $20,000, pay only 1 percent of our income tax. The top 16 percent of tax filers earning more than $76,000 a year pay 70 percent of our income tax. Hurting the people who are already carrying the main tax burden is confusing fairness with stupidity.

Gov. Douglas' affordability agenda's focus is to reduce tax burdens. Opponents want to preserve or raise spending levels and services. Legislative priorities will determine Vermont's destiny.

Compared to the other 50 states Vermont's state and local tax burden is No.1; top rate for income tax, No. 3; education spending, top corporate income tax rate and property taxes, No. 4; electric rates No. 8, and fuel and Department of Motor Vehicles fees per capita No. 14. Not included are hidden taxes that increase health insurance premiums about 35 percent. Democrats are inciting class warfare in health care as they did in promoting equity education funding.

House Speaker Gaye Symington's and Pollina's leadership may unite their comrades, but it won't create the change needed to insure prosperity our parents enjoyed years ago. Oppressive taxation drives away investors and entrepreneurs. Others will vote with their feet to a friendlier tax climate.

Chávez’s Vision Shares Wealth and Centers Power - New York Times

Chavez is a wily leader. He proposes changes in the Venezuelan constitution that would give him the possibility of becoming president-for-life, among other things. All this seems to be happening in a popular vote. He is able to do this because of the high price of oil and the revenues that flow from the vast reserves in and around lake Maracaibo. The NY Times Magazine piece describes in detail the rape of the Venezuelan oil company to pay for Chavez's 'buying' of the people without the needed investment to keep the oil flowing.

Unfortunately, with friends like Iran and the need for oil in China and India, he may likely have the markets for oil and refined products (Iran imports gasoline; Venezuela owns Citgo), but without the continued investment in the oil infrastructure, Chavez and his cronies may soon find that the oil revenues cannot sustain the economy and social giveaways that he promises. Nevertheless, Venezuela is the fourth largest supplier of imported petroleum to the United States.

What would be our response if the spigot from our fourth largest supplier were closed?

I fear we have some painful times ahead in the next two decades with Venezuela.

“There is a perverse subversion of our existing Constitution under way,” said Gen. Raúl Isaías Baduel, a retired defense minister and former confidant of Mr. Chávez who broke with him in a stunning defection this month to the political opposition. “This is not a reform,” General Baduel said in an interview here this week. “I categorize it as a coup d’état.”

Chávez loyalists already control the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, almost every state government, the entire federal bureaucracy and newly nationalized companies in the telephone, electricity and oil industries. Soon they could control even more.

But this is an upheaval that would be carried out with the approval of the voters. While opinion polls in Venezuela are often tainted by partisanship, they suggest that the referendum could be Mr. Chávez’s closest electoral test since his presidency began in 1999, but one he may well win.

Total Imports of Petroleum[all products, not only crude oil] (Top 15 Countries)
(Thousand Barrels per Day)
Sep-07 Aug-07 YTD 2007 Sep-06 Jan - Sep 2006
CANADA 2,467 2,510 2,430 2,340 2,330
SAUDI ARABIA 1,560 1,499 1,462 1,564 1,465
MEXICO 1,429 1,474 1,563 1,569 1,763
VENEZUELA 1,325 1,330 1,353 1,386 1,458
NIGERIA 1,181 1,208 1,085 1,078 1,138
ALGERIA 701 827 732 796 660
IRAQ 603 520 494 655 572
ANGOLA 591 412 544 678 526
VIRGIN ISLANDS 381 320 332 396 324
RUSSIA 348 416 409 537 385
ECUADOR 239 240 205 326 280
BRAZIL 232 280 218 191 194
COLOMBIA 186 175 148 185 178
UNITED KINGDOM 185 174 289 239 290
KUWAIT 163 139 191 227 172

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Nov. 14, 2007

Chávez’s Vision Shares Wealth and Centers Power - New York Times

November 16, 2007

Global Warming - Books - New York Times

I have just ordered Lomborg's book. According to Revkin, normally an alarmist environmental writer at the NYTimes, the extremist on climate change are coming closer to some middle position on how to spend limited resources to deal with climate change.


In this same centrist camp sits Bjorn Lomborg. A Danish statistician, Mr. Lomborg has made a career out of challenging the scariest scenarios of environmentalists and argues for a practical calculus weighing problems like poverty, disease and climate against one another to determine how to invest limited resources.

His first book, “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” put him on Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in 2004 and made him a star among conservative politicians and editorial boards.

In his short new book, “Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming,” Mr. Lomborg reprises his earlier argument with a tighter focus. He tries to puncture more of what he says are environmental myths, like the imminent demise of polar bears. (Most bear biologists have never said the species is doomed but do see populations shrinking significantly in a melting Arctic.)

Like almost everyone these days, Mr. Lomborg says rich countries should spend far more on basic energy research.

Global Warming - Books - New York Times

November 14, 2007

Spitzer Drops His Driver’s License Plan - New York Times

Governor Spitzer has conceded that his drivers license plan for illegal aliens/immigrants is going nowhere, despite the endorsement of the NY Times and other liberal groups. The good news is that he wisely scuttled the plan. The other good news is that while the proposal was on the table, Americans had a good look at what the Democrats believe about illegals and, in particular, what Mrs. Clinton had to say as she scurried around the issue.

The bad news is that this Congress and this President cannot accept the will of the people when it comes to solving the problem of illegal aliens. Is it any wonder that their approval ratings are dismal?

My earlier views on this license for illegals issue are here:

November 13, 2007

6 Palestinians Killed in Gaza at Fatah Rally - New York Times

I find it ironic that celebrating the death of a Palestinian leader (a terrorist, make no mistake about that) who had received the Nobel peace prize leads to several deaths and dozens of injuries as his followers (Fatah) were attacked by other terrorists (Hamas). I find it so strange that apologists, like Jimmy Carter and others, for the Palestinians are blind to the strife that is caused by the Palestinian factions...who often blame Israel or America for the sad state of affairs in this troubled land. That's nonsense.

The Palestinians choose to actively oppose Israel and refuse to make peace. Israel has built a wall to defend itself successfully against the suicide bombers so rampant in Israeli cities a few years ago. Israel will not be pushed into the sea and the Palestinians will be better served by leaders willing to get on with the task of building for themselves a viable nation-state.

Awarding the peace prize to Arafat in 1994 is a sad commentary on the judgment of those making that decision. Giving the same prize to Al Gore (and the thousands involved in the UN effort to report on climate change) in 2007 represents the same foolishness. A 'peace' prize should be awarded to those who dedicate themselves to making peace where there is strife in this world. Neither Arafat nor Gore have done that.

November 12, 2007

It’s Time to Act Like Grown-Ups - New York Times

Everyone should pay attention to the salubrious advice of Ben Stein. Here is a fellow that nearly everyone should like.

Why are Republicans in Congress targeting Google? Two reasons | The Iconoclast - politics, law, and technology - CNET

Google is/are Democrats. I find it fascinating that the political ideology of large corporations aligns so monolithically with a political party. Certainly, there are 'Republican' corporations also. Or do they align with a political party based on the political winds most favorable to their companies? I think the Googlers are died i the wool Democrats/Liberals.

Out there somewhere must be a conservative Libertarian company, more like me !

"...Republicans know that Google is run by Democrats. It's true.

Chief Executive Eric Schmidt has written checks for $163,000 to Democratic campaign committees. Google board member John Doerr has given more than $507,000 to Democratic committees (and that's not even counting individual politicians). Google board member Ram Shriram gave to only one presidential candidate this year: Barack Obama. Google board member Shirley Tilghman gave money only to Democratic causes, including Emily's List. And so on.

An article I wrote earlier this year looked at contributions to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney. Only one Googler (and one in Chicago, at that) gave money to either of the Republican candidates.

Google's policy staff reflects this partisan split. Andrew McLaughlin, Google's director of global public policy and government affairs, was once a House Democratic aide. So was Johanna Shelton, a Google policy counsel. Google's Washington spokesman was Sen. Joe Lieberman's press secretary. Alan Davidson, Google's senior policy counsel, worked in the White House Office of Policy Development in the Clinton administration. John Burchett, Google's state policy counsel, was chief of staff to Jennifer Granholm, the Democratic governor of Michigan. (The lone exception i"

November 11, 2007

Clinton Gets an Instant Chance to Wield a New Weapon - New York Times

Bravo for a woman (the waitress)with some common sense in this silly campaign season. The article itself demonstrates the silliness of some of the press coverage, this piece in the Times as a prime example.

"“You people are really nuts,” she told a reporter during a phone interview. “There’s kids dying in the war, the price of oil right now — there’s better things in this world to be thinking about than who served Hillary Clinton at Maid-Rite and who got a tip and who didn’t get a tip.”"

November 10, 2007

Facebook Everywhere - Bits - Technology - New York Times Blog

Google's OpenSocial announcement is a direct response to Facebook's ad network strategy. Google will do anything to prevent erosion of their advertising revenue. While I don't think Facebook's advertising plan will be nearly as successful as Google might think, Google will thwart that possibility in the marketplace, in any way they can. Here's another take on the OpenSocial announcement from Wired.

One other point...just how big is the online advertising revenue pie? Certainly, the pool is expanding as print revenue shrinks in favor of online ads, but there is a limit. I'm sure these online advertisers have researched the data, but I haven't come across it yet. The pool of advertising dollars is not unlimited.

At first blush, I find the Facebook model somewhat intrusive, so I probably will opt out of allowing my Facebook data to be used in the fashion shown in bold below.

"Two Facebook executives said yesterday that Facebook is indeed planning an ad network. They didn’t give details, and said the timing depends on how the first phase of the Social Ad system works.Presumably, Facebook could offer two
different sorts of ads.

First, it could simply use its data about what users put
on their profiles as part of a network that serves ads on other sites. Facebook claims that users have an incentive to tell the truth in their profiles because they are used mainly to communicate with their friends, not strangers. And so
that data about age, location, education, work and interests can be quite reliable for advertisers.

Even more interesting, perhaps, Facebook may be able to
append the implicit endorsement of friends to ads on this network. Imaging checking out the forecast on, and you see a banner with a picture of your buddy Joe, saying Joe just bought a Canon digital camera from
next to an ad for the latest Canon model. If someone else went to the same site, they might see an ad featuring a product recently endorsed by one of his or her friends."

November 8, 2007

Blacks must drop victimhood and reclaim dignity |

Another sensible exhortation by Bill Cosby and his friend at Harvard for blacks to move beyond the victim and 'trash' culture so many of them inhabit. He's not popular among many blacks with his stance, but I have not seen any realistic alternative from the naysayers.

Join Vermont's Tax Revolt

I have invested a half hour on Tom Licata's website, He has done an impressive amount of research to lay out the huge dilemma Vermont faces in paying for what we predict we need. Everyone interested in their future in Vermont should read this section. Here he lays out the future trauma by citing a multitude of funding shortfalls recently reported in the media and from other studies and reports.

However, his proposal for a tax revolt seems to me an emotional response to today's and tomorrow's pain. The only realistic answer to reduce taxes is to control and reduce spending.
He's right that leadership and lawmakers must 1.) understand the nature of the problem, and 2.) exert the fiscal discipline needed by making very hard choices to constrain costs, rather than raising revenue.

His citing of job data is particularly telling and I had uncovered similar data in some of my research.

His data is here:

Some of the most troubling data I've uncovered show Vermont lost 11,000 private sector jobs between 2000 and 2006: 10,000 of those from Manufacturing and about 1000 in the Information field. In its place, 20,000 jobs were added for a net job gain of 9,000.

Of the 20,000 jobs added - and it's this number that is disturbing - over half or 13,000, were either from Government employment (4,000) or from the Education & Health Services field (9,000). Of this 9,000, over half are in the employment of "social assistance".

In essence, we've replaced high paying private sector jobs with relatively low paying public assistance and government jobs. Private sector job growth has almost been non-existent; all this according to "The State of Working Vermont 2007", prepared by the Public Assets Institute.

Mine is shown below:

From 2001-2005, Vermont, at 4.5%, had by far the highest growth in government (state and local) jobs among the six New England states. In fact, three states substantially reduced the number of government jobs while we had double the growth rate in Maine and triple that in New Hampshire! These jobs are funded by our taxes and we wonder why Vermonters complain about the high cost of government!

The only realistic approach to exerting some control over our government spending is for elected officials to become very serious about no new spending. If they won't, then a new crop of quality people must be convinced to run for office who have a realistic outlook on the future financial crisis facing Vermont.

To be candid, I'm not optimistic that we can bend the trend without a crisis. Americans seem predisposed to status quo unless a problem is right in their face. On the other hand, a tax revolt could be a contrived crisis, I suppose.

November 7, 2007

Federal Bureau of Investigation - Major Executive Speeches

Federal Bureau of Investigation - Major Executive Speeches

A speech delivered by the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, about cyber terrorism and espionage that's worth reading. This is a tough battle given the plethora of bright people on the enemies' side and the vast sandbox available to play in.

November 6, 2007

Oil Reserves Grow With Technology and Price

This NY Times piece is good news for the economy and bad news for the global warming alarmists.

BlockquoteWithin the last decade, technology advances have made it possible to unlock more oil from old fields, and, at the same time, higher oil prices have made it economical for companies to go after reserves that are harder to reach. With plenty of oil still left in familiar locations, forecasts that the world’s reserves are drying out have given way to predictions that more oil can be found than ever before.

In a wide-ranging study published in 2000, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that ultimately recoverable resources of conventional oil totaled about 3.3 trillion barrels, of which a third has already been produced. More recently, Cambridge Energy Research Associates, an energy consultant, estimated that the total base of recoverable oil was 4.8 trillion barrels. That higher estimate — which Cambridge Energy says is likely to grow — reflects how new technology can tap into more resources."

Microsoft unwraps Windows Live desktop suite | Tech news blog - CNET

Technorati Tags: ,

This is a test blog posting from the new Windows Live Suite toolbar. I like the new Writer window and

Microsoft unwraps Windows Live desktop suite Tech news blog - CNET

Explaining OpenSocial to your Executives

Here's a succinct and cogent explanation of Google's OpenSocial initiative and what it means for people in the "Web 2.0" space.

November 3, 2007

Declarations -

Peggy Noonan Nails Hillary's Reality

Most certainly Peggy Noonan is a partisan operative. That said, I think she has seen the real Mrs. Clinton, a liberal with quadruple-speak as her language. But people who will listen openly for 5 minutes will see it if they are not blinded by their ideology. Kudos to Tim Russert for asking the hard questions in the Philadelphia Democrat candidates debate.

The Feminine Critique - New York Times

Why do I get the sense that this is more about providing full employment for academics and researchers than anything else. Do we really expect to change a man into a woman or vice versa? Humans are divided mostly according to gender and act according to millenia of conditioning. Right or wrong, that's the way life is. Our system of laws can guarantee equal opportunity, but not equal realities.

Google to unveil 'Android' phone software | Webware : Cool Web apps for everyone

Google to unveil 'Android' phone software Webware : Cool Web apps for everyone

Tom Krazit has written one of the most thoughtful pieces on the impending Google announcement about it's thrust into the mobile device software.

Here, I think, is the most important possibility that could evolve from Google's play:

"Google's stated open-source approach, or open net approach to life, is antithetical to the way cellular carriers look at the world," said Tim Hanlon, an executive vice president at Denuo, a consulting arm of advertising agency Publicis Groupe. Carriers are "loath to separate device from service. They're loath to let third-party applications play on their proprietary network."

If Google succeeds in opening up the industry it will be the biggest thing the search company has done in the last couple of years, said Stephen Arnold, author of The Google Legacy and a new book, Google Version 2.0: The Calculating Predator. "The phone companies "don't understand the business Google is in, and now they're talking to them!"

Nevertheless, Microsoft will certainly not sit still and let the device manufacturers and software developers migrate en masse to Google.

I think one very important Google thrust behind everything they're doing recently is to capture the attention and energy of software developers while at the same time capturing mind-share of consumers with all their free, and excellent apps and tools. Their OpenSocial and Google Gears initiatives are current examples.

Here is another quote from a NY Times column by John Markoff.
“Instead of making money on software, you have someone who is saying they’re trying to make their money on services,” said Michael Kleeman, a technology strategist at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology at the University of California at San Diego. “The interesting question is whether the carriers will authorize the Google hand-sets on their networks.”

The battle will rage when/if Google makes its announcement on Monday, 11/4/07.

Feel the Love - New York Times

Feel the Love - New York Times

David Brooks is hilarious in this column. I wonder if he wrote this himself because he's usually so serious. But given the debate among the Democrats in Philadelphia last week, they deserve this roasting by Brooks. These early and far too long campaigns have turned into a farce. I hope in 2012 the candidates for President have the good sense to campaign for a much shorter time.

I suppose in 2008 the reason for this interminable foolishness is the open office.

November 1, 2007

Prices at the Pump

As petroleum trades near $95.00/barrel and the price of gasoline at the pump moves toward $4.00/gallon, it must be nearly time for politicians to rumble about investigating the oil companies.

This ritual would seem overdue since the Congress has accomplished little in the past several months and making noise about the price of gas would divert attention from their sad record of accomplishment since last year's election.

October 29, 2007

Reimagining the Automobile Industry by Selling the Electricity - New York Times

Ah, yes, the nirvana of plug-in electric cars! Marvelous idea, but one critical factor is missing in this story: How will all the electricity be generated for this vision, which essentially substitutes electricity for petroleum? What would be the total demand and from what sources?

Without addressing this requirement, the scheme is a little like Will Rogers' WWII plan to destroy all the German submarines by heating up the ocean and boiling them. When asked how to do that, he essentially replied "I'm a strategy guy, implementation is for others."

I support this electric vehicle idea, but the only realistic way for it to come to pass is additional large scale generation of electricity, probably nuclear, and upgrading the grid to handle it. Or you can decide to charge your car only when the wind blows or the sun shines and plan your travel accordingly.

October 28, 2007

What Part of ‘Illegal’ Don’t You Understand? - New York Times

Mr. Downes' rant about the word illegal as it applies to those living in this country illegally is an absurdity. Illegal aliens is a perfectly correct description of those who are in this country and have broken our laws to be here. I suppose its helpful to be exposed to all the views about this immense problem. But most Americans , Mr. Downes excluded, seem to understand the reality that we have not enforced our immigration laws nor secured our borders. Shame on us, but the 'illegals' are still illegal.

There is much debate about the problem and what to do about it, but there should be little about the descriptive adjective applied to those who have not followed our rules.

I can sympathize with the plight we and the millions of illegals face, and I understand all the arguments about amnesty, economic impacts, justice, fairness, etc., ad nauseam.

Mr. Downes would have us believe there is something sinister and nasty about the word. It does not 'pollute the debate' as he alleges. Words have meaning and illegal aliens is a proper use of the language.

Mr. Downes suggests no better descriptor or a solution to the problem. His rant is foolish and silly.

Vermont's Electricity Future

The Colchester Sun and the Essex Reporter published my views (below...without photos) about electrical energy on October 25, 2007.

Recently I attended a workshop in South Burlington, one of a series conducted by the Department of Public Service to obtain public input, about Vermont's electricity future. As we approach the expiration of contracts early in the next decade for most of our base-load power, examination of Vermont's choices for sources of electricity will help inform the electric companies and policy makers. However, when the public has its say and new contracts are negotiated, expect to pay more, perhaps considerably more, for your electricity if ideology replaces common sense.

Unless Vermonters agree to recognize that we have limited choices to meet our base-load demand for electricity, we will pay more than necessary and risk our economy. The clamor for green energy, energy independence and renewable energy sources has been deafening. Also high on the public's list of issues is climate change and efficient use of electricity. However, we must see clearly through the trees of this tangled forest and realize that our near-term choices for the bulk of our electricity are realistically limited. We should not waste effort on frivolous hopes for marginal electricity sources that cannot sustain our future demand.

Because two thirds of our extremely reliable supply for many years must be renewed or replaced within 3-5 years, the only rational choices to meet our needs for 24/7 electricity, assuming we (specifically our Legislature) have the wisdom not to oppose them as a matter of policy, continue to be nuclear and large scale hydro from Canada. It's unrealistic to think that wind, solar, small hydro, wood, cows or any other Vermont-based source of electricity can add significantly to our supply. For the moment, these are merely 'feel-good', but unrealistic choices; helpful, perhaps in 2050, but inconsequential in 2015.

If folks are ideologically disposed to obtain their power only from those specific electricity sources, e.g., Vermont renewables, they should pay the higher price for their choice and not burden the general body of consumers with higher costs. CVPS does it now for cow-power. We must take great care not to substitute ideological, but impractical thinking for a rational, common sense approach to choosing our base-load electricity. These minuscule sources of power in Vermont, with the possible exception of wood-fired generators, simply cannot meet any significant part of our future base-load demand, certainly not in the near future. Therefore, our short term decisions should be based primarily on the least-cost power from the most reliable sources.

We should also test our demand forecasts for accuracy. Very important factors in that demand will be the efficiency achieved through conservation, the need for considerably more electricity if/as we move to plug-in electric vehicles to substitute electricity from the grid for petroleum. We should heavily weight the high side of the possible demand rather than the low side as we move deeper into electronic-intensive lifestyles and work environments. Determining the future bill for our electricity should be based on a number of demand/source scenarios and presented to the public and policy makers to identify clearly how much more they would pay.

Let's not impair the reliability of the sources or delivery of our electricity. Vermont has had a beneficial and rational electricity policy for many years, one that is already greener and less expensive than in other New England states. Let's not torpedo it with specious arguments about climate change or believe that wind, solar, more local hydro or biomass choices can provide any more than a tiny fraction of the electricity that we will need. To do so would jeopardize our economic health.

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant