January 31, 2007
Cate's idea is a good one...to reduce the number of school governance entities from 284 to 63. The proposal is appealing , but perhaps does not go far enough. How about one school district for each of Vermont's 14 counties, at least for those counties that have a mish-mash of districts, supervisory unions, etc? If a town or city has a school district that matches town/city boundaries, let them remain as a coherent entity unless they chose to join a county district.
As expected, some 'invested' attendees wanted to inject school funding issues (shift from property to income tax) into the discussion rather than discuss education costs, which is where the problem is. One person even suggested that a change in governance would not lead to cost reductions. Methinks he really meant that he does not want to see Vermont's education budget come under control.
This study, commissioned by the Vermont Business Roundtable, is worth spending some time exploring.
The simple fact is that Vermont's K-12 education spending is out of control and the costs must be reigned in before there's a taxpayer revolt. Governance simplifications and good leadership are essential elements to accomplishing this.
Where's the leadership for drastic change? Commissioner Cate has started the governance conversation but does not vigorously challenge the status quo and champion change. Who will?
Friedman makes a strong case for active secular diplomacy with Iran and his points are worthy of consideration, but he chooses to ignore the underlying cause of tension that is at the root of this mess (Of course he knows it, but chooses to leave it out of this column.). That is the Iranian religious fanatics are Shia and the Sunnis, in addition to running Saudi Arabia, are the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world, but a minority in Iraq and in Iran.
So, the Iranian Mullahs have no love for and deeply fear Sunni dominance because they have been kicked around by them for centuries. That is why they are so active in supporting the Iraqi Shia, particularly since they fought a nasty war with Saddam's Sunnis not too many years ago.
If Iran were run by secularist Persians rather than crazy Mullahs, Friedman's option is attractive. Perhaps it's true that the younger Iranians are likely to respond favorably to a U.S. approach, but one cannot expect a 'quiet revolution.'
If the secular Iranians were to rise up and threaten the Shia Mullah fanatics, would the U.S. support the uprising? If so how? Militarily? By doing what, invading Iran? Lobbing a few cruise missiles and drones in? Doubtful.
Remember that our response after the first Iraq war when the Shia rose up against Saddam was to do nothing to help them and they were brutally repressed with thousands killed. We have to remember that the border between Iran and Iraq means little compared to the wall between Shia and Sunni. The only common uniting factor between Shia and Sunni is hatred of Israel.
What I think we should do is covertly offer as much support to Iranian friends inside Iran as we can, meanwhile pressuring the crazy Mullahs in any way we can short of military action.
Americans generally don't understand the deep hostility between the Muslim religious factions nor do they want to, as long as the oil flows to produce our cheap gas.
The way to put the most pressure on the Middle East lunatics is to drive the price of oil to $20/barrel (Fat chance! Dream on, Dave!) for a couple of years and watch the Iranians and Chavez in Venezuela squirm. Of course, The Saudis would not be happy, but do we care very much? Only if they stop pumping.
This is a really cool feature for me since I've become a big user of Google Docs and Spreadsheets recently. It has almost all the features I would normally use in Microsoft Word and I have access wherever I happen to be with an Internet connection.
Google continues to link its myriad offerings in a way that is very compelling.
January 30, 2007
Wikipedia quickly enters the mainstream of typical 'old line' institutions. If some courts now use Wikipedia, can banks and insurance companies be far behind? even the CIA thinks Wikis are a good idea.
Not everyone agrees with me, but I'm convinced that the collective intelligence ( The Wisdom of Crowds) mode of content creation when accomplished at a certain scale, works as well as a selective group of experts. Anyone trusting any man-made content should be as cautious with it as with Wikipedia.
"A simple search of published court decisions shows that Wikipedia is frequently cited by judges around the country, involving serious issues and the bizarre — such as a 2005 tax case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals concerning the definition of “beverage” that involved hundreds of thousands of dollars, and, just this week, a case in Federal District Court in Florida that involved the term “booty music” as played during a wet T-shirt contest.
More than 100 judicial rulings have relied on Wikipedia, beginning in 2004, including 13 from circuit courts of appeal, one step below the Supreme Court. (The Supreme Court thus far has never cited Wikipedia.)
“Wikipedia is a terrific resource,” said Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago. “Partly because it so convenient, it often has been updated recently and is very accurate.” But, he added: “It wouldn’t be right to use it in a critical issue. If the safety of a product is at issue, you wouldn’t look it up in Wikipedia.”"
These 25 acres of greenhouses are in Madison, ME, not far from our previous home in Belgrade. I hope this venture is an economic success because it makes sense and capitalizes on the 'Buy Local/Eat Local' momentum. I hope I can try the tomatoes soon at Hannafords.
I grew up on a 'truck garden' farm, as they were called then, in Massachusetts which had four large greenhouses heated by steam generated by coal. The farm had apple orchards and raised all types of vegetables in season and tomatoes in the greenhouses for the Boston market.
I remember vividly the tomatoes were grown on bamboo canes held vertically by horizontal wires in raised beds of earth constructed of cypress (because the wood would not rot) boards. When picked, they were packaged in gray paperboard boxes that held about a dozen each. These boxes were packed in crates for shipping to Boston by truck. I remember being allowed to' help' build the wooden boxes with my uncle. I can still smell that damp, rough boxwood that came in heavy bundles.
My uncle, John, was the farm manager and we lived in a second story apartment (he lived downstairs) in a large house on the farm. The Metcalfe Farm long ago succumbed to the pressures of population and the land became house lots. I lived there until I was 12 years old.
January 29, 2007
Try it you'll like it! Recipe is here.
Do you ever have a frequent memory block on the same word over a long period of time. Mine is sublimation. To help me remember it I thought I'd blog it.
Sublimation - The process by which solids are transformed directly to the vapor state without passing through the liquid phase.
Sublimation - The process by which solids are transformed directly to the vapor state without passing through the liquid phase.
Sublimation - The process by which solids are transformed directly to the vapor state without passing through the liquid phase.
I'll probably forget it again tomorrow!
Last night I finished reading the book An Innocent Man, John Grisham's most recent and first non-fiction book (Grisham is a former attorney). In it he traces the lives and wrongful conviction of two men for rape and murder of a woman in Ada, Oklahoma. He focuses most intently on Ron Williamson, a former minor league baseball player with a history of alcoholism, drug use and mental health problems who spent 11 years on death row until exonerated by DNA analysis.
The Innocence Project was involved in Williamson's case.
The book traces the frailties, biases and general incompetence of the criminal justice system in a small Oklahoma town and the courage and dedication of a Federal court judge, an Oklahoma judge and several attorneys who worked so hard to see justice done.
Grisham does a masterful job in simple narrative prose to produce a great book that should focus even more attention on getting things right in our criminal justice system.
January 28, 2007
Below are the opening sentences of this incredibly astute and common sense article. Undeniably one of the best I've ever read about what to eat and the links between the foods and other substances.
Michael Pollan, the author, slaughters all sacred cows including that most pervasive...nutritionism.
All I can say is: Read it! Read it! Read it!
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words. I’ll try to resist but will go ahead and add a couple more details to flesh out the advice. Like: A little meat won’t kill you, though it’s better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re much better off eating whole fresh foods than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to eat “food.”"
An interesting contrarian approach to saving and investing for retirement makes for popular reading, but seems more designed to sell one of the proponent's software products.
The analysis, necessarily limited to the individual's situation because of limits to the length of the column, ignores the larger issues that have broader implications, e.g., the inevitability that Social Security is destined to change, probably to reduced benefits, if it is to continue viably. Also ignored is the huge benefit to the economy when the combined private personal savings of millions of people are available for corporate investment. More private investment capital is better than less to sustain health.
While appealing, saving less is an invitation to higher risk for individuals and could result in increased consumer debt during the earning years.
As an aside...
I continue to favor privatizing part of Social Security because the part that's privatized is not part of the Government's spending and debt base, overall a good thing for our capitalist (relatively) free market economy [Read Ben Stein's insightful opinion piece! about capitalism]
We should always be wary of any program or strategy that increases reliance on the Government for the financial welfare of a very large proportion of its people, unless you believe that the Government's fundamental role is to redistribute income and transfer wealth among its citizens. (I don't, obviously.)
There's a great deal of truth here. Nevertheless, no one should underestimate Microsoft. They have the brainpower, cash, and leadership to emerge as a continued winner in the Web 2.0 and 3.0 race.
People speculate that the browser and online apps can replace the operating system (the network is the computer philosophy). Perhaps someday, but I predict MS will make barrels of money on the new Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007.
One must always be careful not to underestimate ferociously competitive people with tons of cash and brains. For example the leader, Steve Ballmer, the focus of this column. ("Mr. Ballmer took college graduate courses in math at nights with Mr. Kuss, participated in a summer National Science Foundation math program for advanced students and scored a perfect 800 on the math SAT exam. Mr. Kuss, now an actuary for an insurance company in Ohio, said Mr. Ballmer was fun to teach because “he just soaked it up.”
Yet Mr. Kuss recalled that what impressed him most was when Mr. Ballmer said his proudest achievement was shaving 20 seconds off his time running the quarter-mile. Even then, his time wasn’t good, and his main event in track was the shot put.
To his former teacher, Mr. Ballmer’s remark years ago speaks of persistence and character. “The things that he was good at and came easily to him, like math and science, he enjoyed,” Mr. Kuss observed. “But the things he had to struggle with were the things that gave him the most satisfaction.”")
"More homes and offices are getting wired with high-speed Internet connections, a market-altering shift that is buttressed by a stream of advances in data storage, computer-processing and software. This second generation of Internet technology animates advertising-supported Web services like search, and opens the door to the delivery of online alternatives to Microsoft’s popular desktop programs like e-mail, word processors and spreadsheets.
The consumer rollout this week of new models of Microsoft’s mainstay products, Windows and Office, is one that many industry analysts view as the last hurrah of the fading order of computing, dominated by the PC and ruled by Microsoft."
"...Others who have worked with Mr. Ballmer over the years have no doubts about his intelligence, persistence and underlying pragmatism. Even so, Microsoft, despite its deep pockets and immense resources — in fact, precisely because of those vast resources — has potentially much more to lose in the Internet age than other companies. “This is every bit as disruptive for Microsoft as it is for others,” said George F. Colony, the chief executive of Forrester Research, the technology consulting firm. “The dilemma for Microsoft is that it is a prisoner of its business model, and the fact that it is a gilt-lined prison makes it brutally hard to change.”
One of the evolutionary laws of business is that success breeds failure; the tactics and habits of earlier triumphs so often leave companies — even the biggest, most profitable and most admired companies — unable to adapt..."
January 27, 2007
Bill's views on Vermont government's economic development efforts...not complimentary, but reasonably accurate when viewed pragmatically over the long term.
January 25, 2007
15 Reasons to Upgrade.
Also, a simple matrix comparing the features in the various version of Vista is here. I'm leaning toward Vista Home Premium.
Here's a comparison matrix for Office 2007. I think I'll go with Office Professional.
January 24, 2007
"Many scientists still believe that a statin combined with a drug that raises HDL would mark a significant advance in the treatment of heart disease. But for patients now at high risk of heart attack or stroke, the news is better than it sounds. An effective HDL booster already exists.It is niacin, the ordinary B vitamin."
Let's hear it for Niacin! My drug store is frequently out of the kind that I use. This particular brand produces no flushing and has helped boost my HDL.
January 21, 2007
A"must read" for all Vermonters and those who wish they were. Mark Liebovich nails the real Bernie in this story, definitely not a 'puff' piece. I wonder if Bernie and his supporters will appreciate the rather intense focus on his quirkiness and the Socialist umbrella he carries. Bernie likes to be out of step with capitalist America. The question is: can he thrive in the Senate?
Vermonters may appreciate the real Bernie, but I expect the Senate will not.
"Socialism brings Sanders instant novelty in Washington and, in many circles, instant dismissal as a freak. But Sanders’s outcast status in Washington probably owes as much to his jackhammer style as to any stubborn ideology. It is a town filled with student body president types — and Sanders, for his part, finished a distant third when he ran to be president of his class at James Madison High School in Brooklyn.
Few would describe Sanders’s personality as “winning” in the classic politician’s sense. He appears to burn a disproportionate number of calories smiling and making eye contact. “Bernie is not going to win a lot of ‘whom would you rather live on a desert island with’ contests,” says Garrison Nelson, a professor of political science at the University of Vermont. No matter. Sanders’s agitating style in Washington also constitutes a basic facet of anticharm, antipolitician appeal at home.
“I’m not afraid of being called a troublemaker,” Sanders says, something he’s been called many times, in many different ways, many of them unprintable. “But you have to be smart. And being smart means not creating needless enemies for yourself.”"
"...Sanders’s popularity in Vermont brings up the obvious questions: to what degree is he a quaint totem of the state, like the hermit thrush (the state bird), and could a Socialist be elected to the Senate anywhere else?
In recent years, Vermont has joined — perhaps surpassed — states like Massachusetts and New York in the top tier of liberal outposts. Several distinctions nurture the state’s credentials: It was the first place to legalize civil unions for same-sex partners; it is the home of Phish, the countercultural rock-folk band and contemporary analog to the Grateful Dead and of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (and its peacenik-themed flavors); and it is host to cultural quirks and ordinances like not allowing billboards, being the last state to get a Wal-Mart."
"...Sanders calls himself as a “democratic Socialist.” When I asked him what this meant, as a practical matter, in capitalist America circa 2007, he did what he often does: he donned his rhetorical Viking’s helmet and waxed lovingly about the Socialist governments of Scandinavia. He mentioned that Scandinavian countries have nearly wiped out poverty in children — as opposed to the United States, where 18 to 20 percent of kids live in poverty. The Finnish government provides free day care to all children; Norwegian workers get 42 weeks of maternity leave at full pay.
But would Americans ever accept the kinds of taxes that finance the Scandinavian welfare state? And would Sanders himself trade in the United States government for the Finnish one? He is curiously, frustratingly non-responsive to questions like this. “I think there is a great deal we can learn from Scandinavia,” he said after a long pause. And then he returns to railing about economic justice and the rising gap between rich and poor, things he speaks of with a sense of outrage that always seems freshly summoned.
"...As a general rule, Sanders is much more convincing at proffering outrage than solutions. He can do this in Vermont, in part, because he is an entrenched political brand — “Bernie” — and voters will forgive a little blowhardedness (if not demagoguery) from someone they basically agree with and who has grown utterly familiar to their landscape, like cows. Sanders can also pull this off because, as he did in the mayor’s office, he has buttressed his bomb-throwing with rock-solid attention to the pothole matters of dental clinics, veterans’ benefits, farm subsidies, the kind of things an attentive politician operating in a tiny state (with a population of just 620,000) can fashion a formidable political base from.""...He was also gifted at drawing attention to his issues and (just as important) to himself. He was the first congressman to lead a bus trip to Canada to help seniors buy cheaper prescription drugs."
This piece is a nice reference of Websites and advice for keeping junk out of your snail mail and email in boxes. Also included are the phone numbers, addresses and websites to get off calling and mailing lists.
The border area of Pakistan and Afghanistan is obviously a porous Taliban/terrorist nest. What's needed is a 20-30 mile zone inside Pakistan where Coalition forces can pursue, bomb and eliminate those radicals and jihadists who would destroy the progress made.
The Pakistani intelligence agencies are part of the problem not the solution.
"President Musharraf has acknowledged that some retired Pakistani intelligence officials may still be involved in supporting their former protégés in the Taliban.
Hamid Gul, the former director general of Pakistani intelligence, remains a public and unapologetic supporter of the Taliban, visiting madrasas and speaking in support of jihad at graduation ceremonies.
Afghan intelligence officials recently produced a captured insurgent who said Mr. Gul facilitated his training and logistics through an office in the Pakistani town of Nowshera, in the North-West Frontier Province, west of the capital, Islamabad.
NATO and American officials in Afghanistan say there is also evidence of support from current midlevel Pakistani intelligence officials. Just how far up that support reaches remains in dispute."
David Brooks' assessment of the Democrat led Congress is easily summed up: More show than substance so far.
However, the ethics reform measures, if signed into law, should have some encouraging results.
I think it's good news that New Orleans' population may be permanently cut in half. Why would people want to return to the morass of inept leadership, a permanently poor underclass with little hope for their future, a terribly high crime rate and other assorted ills.
The arguments for the demise of the unique Big Easy culture ring hollow when people have little hope of a secure financial future and good education for their children.
To be very blunt, the post-Katrina diaspora of people to other parts of the country is probably the best thing that could have happened. The New Orleans economy will adjust to be a smaller city.
And, with half the people remaining, the risk of death in the next hurricane is halved.
Perhaps the people of New Orleans will soon wise up and dump their incompetent mayor Ray Nagin.
What is the President trying to do here politically? It seems he's trying to gain favor with the self-employed and others who buy health insurance on their own. This plan, as described here, doesn't seem to help with coverage for the poor who are uninsured. I think employer benefits should remain non taxed.
January 20, 2007
Memorial in Yerevan, Armenia Recognizing the Armenian Genocide
(Photo courtesy Wikipedia)
History leaves no doubt that Muslim Turks and Kurds massacred Christian Armenians by the tens of thousands in genocide in the period before and during WWI. It's clear by their actions that Ottoman Turks meant to eliminate Christian Armenia. Please read about the Armenian Genocide and draw your own conclusions.
The Turks' version of the hundreds of thousands of deaths is incorrect and Turkey's entrance to the EU should be heavily scrutinized. In fact, my belief is they should formally admit and apologize for the atrocities committed before entry is granted to the EU.
Update 1/23/07: Here's the NY Times coverage of Mr. Dink's funeral
January 19, 2007
A rational perspective by Cooper in this piece. He is concerned that the quality of group created outputs such as Wikipedia and other efforts, for example, the group publishing without keen editorial oversight, of a a magazine may migrate toward mediocrity rather than high quality.
He may be right, but I think the key is the relative permanence of the information content, e.g., an encyclopedia vs a daily of weekly news magazine. I think Wkipedia will tend toward higher quality over time because people have the time to get it right and make it better.
Visual acuity is expressed as a fraction. The top number refers to the distance you stand from the chart. This is usually 20 feet. The bottom number indicates the distance at which a person with normal eyesight could correctly read the line with the smallest letters. Normal vision is considered 20/20. If your vision is 20/40, the line you correctly read at 20 feet could be read by a person with normal vision at 40 feet.
Of course, just because 20/20 vision is normal doesn't mean it's perfect. A small percentage of the population is blessed with vision better than 20/20, and just recently researchers unveiled corrective lens that offered vision closer to 20/10.
And for a smile.... A photo shop got a reprint order for a picture of a man milking a cow. The man sat behind the cow, and all that was visible were his feet. A scrawled note read, "This is my only photo of my grandfather. Please remove the cow so I can see what Grandpa looked like."
January 18, 2007
Relevant Windows Vista info from Walt Mossberg. I plan to upgrade my PC later this year after the initial launch of Vista to consumers on January 30. I don't know yet whether to go with the Premium or Ultimate edition.
So 2007 will be a big spending year for me because I also want to get the home server when it arrives later in the year.
January 17, 2007
A dire prediction! The mess in Iraq will have deep repercussions in the Mideast. Because the Sunnis hate the Shia and consider them not much higher on the totem pole than infidels, the conflict could erupt threatening the West's oil supplies. My guess is that the Shia will step up pressure on Israel, the enemy that Sunni and Shia alike love to hate.
The Iraqis, so consumed with killing and bloodshed, can't seem to kill convicted criminals properly. What a fiasco!
"“The reality of the current situation is that we are approaching an open Sunni-Shiite conflict in the region,” said Emad Gad, a specialist in international relations at the government-financed Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “And Egypt will also be a part of it as a part of the Sunni axis. No one will be able to avoid or escape it.”"
...In December, a top religious leader close to the Saudi royal family, Abdul Rahman al-Barak, said that Shiites, whom he called rejectionists, were worse than Jews or Christians.
“By and large, rejectionists are the most evil sect of the nation and they have all the ingredients of the infidels,” he wrote."
Supplements and other natural products seem to deliver no measurable benefit in five studies in 2002. Without any required FDA supervised testing for efficacy, how is one to know if these countless bottles on the shelves really do any good beyond the economic benefit to the producers and sellers?
"Drugs marketed in the United States go through a rigorous F.D.A. approval process to prove that they are effective for a particular indication, with the potential risks balanced against the benefits. While the approval process has come under attack in recent years as unduly favorable to drug companies, it remains among the toughest in the world.
There is no comparable requirement for supplements. Even so, hundreds of millions of tax dollars have been spent since the early 1990s on hundreds of studies to test the possible benefits of supplements. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, established by Congress in 1991 to “investigate and validate unconventional medical practices,” has a 2007 budget of more than $120 million.
Since April 2002, five large randomized trials financed by the center have found no significant benefit for St. John’s wort against major depression, echinacea against the common cold, saw palmetto for enlarged prostate, the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis, or black cohosh and other herbs for the hot flashes associated with menopause."
January 16, 2007
Well, Verizon finally found a buyer for its Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine operations. I knew it was bound to happen. Since FairPoint has promised more investment and additional hiring, that should make approval easier for the state regulators who must approve the sale.
My guess is Verizon is pleased to be free of these high cost areas for several reasons, not the least of which is reducing the number of regulatory agencies to deal with.
FairPoint may not be able to tap into the federal Universal Service Fund so as to benefit from the subsidies available to high cost areas. I'm sure the regulators will push for that, if possible, with the hope of reducing basic rates. It's possible that the rules may well change for FairPoint, a publicly traded company.
A detailed description of the sale of the territories is here on Fairpoint's website.
Here's another report of the sale from CNET (news.com)
Painful as this problem is to all connected with the individuals involved, in business this would be called a market shift. Dismantling a huge mental health hospitalization system during my lifetime meant that people who demonstrate deviant behavior threatening themselves and/or others have been incarcerated in a different institution.
Enormous implications flow from this shift within our society, not the least of which is the number of people who are homeless. Apparently these have not been counted by the author.
"According to a study released by the Justice Department in September, 56 percent of jail inmates in state prisons and 64 percent of inmates across the country reported mental health problems within the past year. Though troubling, none of this should come as a surprise. Over the past 40 years, the United States dismantled a colossal mental health complex and rebuilt, bed by bed,? an enormous prison. During the 20th century we exhibited a schizophrenic relationship to deviance. After more than 50 years of stability, federal and state prison populations skyrocketed from under 200,000 persons in 1970 to more than 1.3 million in 2002. That year, our imprisonment rate rose above 600 inmates per 100,000 adults. With the inclusion of an additional 700,000 inmates in jail, we now incarcerate more than two million people resulting in the highest incarceration number and rate in the world, five times that of Britain and 12 times that of Japan. What few people realize, though, is that in the 1940s and '?50s we institutionalized people at even higher rates,? only it was in mental hospitals and asylums. Simply put, when the data on state and county mental hospitalization rates are combined with the data on prison rates for 1928 through 2000, the imprisonment revolution of the late 20th century barely reaches the level we experienced at mid-century. Our current culture of control is by no means new."
January 15, 2007
Oreck, the high profile vacuum maker, has decided to move to Tennessee from the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Katrina. Extraordinarily high insurance rates and a difficult employment market were factors in its decision to move a manufacturing plant inland.
In some respects this is a good thing. If, over the long haul, the risks and costs to a business for its location near the ocean are too great, moving inland is the prudent action.
Perhaps this is one tiny indicator that people are seeing the vulnerability of living/working in unsafe coastal areas, particularly in an era of global warming which some say will create more ferocious ocean storms and rising sea levels. As one would expect, the economic signal is the best to propel action.
January 14, 2007
I have long maintained, even before the advent of the Internet, that 'local' ultimately will be a BIG factor in the online explosion. Even in the world of gargantuan portals and mega- social networking sites built by online giants, people do want to know what's happening locally, however they might define that. Some will contribute to this local potpourri. Look at the popularity of Craigs List as an example.
Nevertheless, the critical factor is time and how much of their online time will people devote to 'local' among the myriad alternatives remains to be seen.
In any event, all this alternative 'local' grist is a growing threat to old line local newspapers. They are trying to redefine themselves by encouraging reader participation such as commenting on local articles and establishing blogs by their writers hoping to capture online time by customers on their newspaper site. The Burlington Free Press is but one example.
January 13, 2007
If you fight a war, then it's appropriate to interdict and destroy, if necessary, the arms and intelligence suppliers to you enemy. Iran is no friend of the U.S. and its actions in Iraq show it to be just such an enemy. The policy to interdict and stop Iranian support within Iraq is appropriate, just as it would be if any other country were doing this.
I think Bush's thrust toward Iran is meant to send the lod and clear message to the Shia majority in Iraq, that they shoud not rely on Iranian support to oppress the Sunnis. We have to remember that Saddam and his Sunni henchmen fought a war with Iran before the first Gulf war. This in essence was a Sunni-Shia conflict.
The Democrats are on very thin ice if they attempt to change Bush's policy in this regard.
Thinking ahead to 2008, I wonder what policy Democrat hopefuls for President will espouse. Hillary has been careful generally support the war and not be a high profile vocal opponent in league with the fringe left. Kerry opposes, so he's made himself known. The others have a position, like Biden, that chooses to ignore the long term consequences of withdrawal.
Update in this piece from the NY Times January 14, 2006.
"In the view of American officials, Iran is engaged in a policy of “managed chaos” in Iraq. Its presumed goal, both policymakers and intelligence officials say, is to raise the cost to the United States for its intervention in Iraq, in hopes of teaching Washington a painful lesson about the perils of engaging in regime change.
Toward this end, American officials charge, Iran has provided components, including explosives and infrared triggering devices, for sophisticated roadside bombs that are designed to penetrate armor. They have also provided training for several thousand Shiite militia fighters, mostly in Iran. Officials say the training is carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security."
January 12, 2007
It's a long piece, but worth the time.
Remember, Vermont is not the norm.
January 10, 2007
Here you have it. Symbolism trumps substance for politicians. If Congress is serious about withdrawing from Iraq, they'd best take back their Constitutional authority to wage war.
( [credits to WikiPedia] "Sometimes referred to as the War Powers Clause, the United States Constitution, Article One, Section 8, Clause 11, vests in the Congress the exclusive power to declare war.
Five wars have been declared in American history: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. Some historians argue that the legal doctrines and legislation passed during the operations against Pancho Villa constitute a sixth declaration of war."
"Democratic leaders said Tuesday that they intended to hold symbolic votes in the House and Senate on President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Baghdad, forcing Republicans to take a stand on the proposal and seeking to isolate the president politically over his handling of the war"
A solar energy company owner today in the Free Press publishes a self-serving piece that talks about what great things he and his colleagues are doing and suggesting that more tax relief or credits can bring even more nenefits (mostly to his industry, I surmise) to Vermonters.
The media dutifully follows along with feel-good articles and editorials like this one in today's Burlington Free Press. (I have reprinted it here because the Free Press chooses not to keep all their columns online for long term linking.)
Global warming takes center stage
Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 The hearings on global warming that begin today in the Legislature are a necessary step in establishing policies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont.
Only by studying the science can lawmakers hope to make sense of such a complex issue, understand the causes and effects of greenhouse gases and weigh the impact of proposals to reduce emissions.
Gov. Jim Douglas, Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin and Speaker of the House Gaye Symington agree that this is a priority for the state. For Shumlin, doing something about climate change is job 1.
Now that fighting global warming is on everyone's agenda, the trick will be to come up with a policy that everyone can live with. We're not looking for a feel-good resolution, but concrete proposals with practical steps that will help reduce emissions.
There are no easy solutions. The state has limited ability to generate its own power to feed the grid. Vermonters, both in and out of government, are looking at alternatives, such as small-scale hydropower dams, increased use of solar energy in homes or wind.
The most difficult task will be to find ways to alter everyday habits that contribute to global warming.
Driving, which accounts for about 25 percent of greenhouse emissions in the Northeast, will be the biggest challenge. Consider this: In 2004, Vermonters drove 12,461 vehicle-miles per capita -- roughly how many miles we drove per person -- the fifth-highest state in the nation, behind Mississippi, Oklahoma, Alabama and Georgia. At the same time, Vermont had about 7.9 billion total vehicle miles traveled, fourth-lowest behind District of Columbia, Alaska and North Dakota. To put it simply, we don't drive much as a state, but each of us puts on a lot of miles.
How much we drive will affect everything from where we choose to live, how and where we work, to after-school soccer practices.
None of it will be easy. It comes down to how much are we willing to pay -- in taxes, higher fuel costs, changes to our lifestyles or in convenience -- to reduce emissions? Vermont emits less greenhouse gases than any other state, and any reduction in emissions the state achieves will be negligible in the global scheme of things. The big polluters are beyond our borders, and the only people who can enact real change are those in Washington -- Congress and the president.
If Vermont gets it right, maybe our small state can lead the national conversation toward a real solution."
These actions and this sort of editorializing display the arrogance of thinking that man can change the climate. It assumes that man is responsible for global warming, a premise that I do not accept. Moreover the crowd mentality that many Vermonters have fallen prey to threatens to result in more government spending that Vermont can ill afford, all for the sake of 'feeling good' and not wanting to be left out. In fact, suggesting that Vermont will exert leadership in a cause that is very likely not controllable is the height of arrogance.
Meanwhile, the auto industry is promising wondrous electric cars that will plug into the grid for recharging while at the same time we struggle to build power generating facilities and a reliable transmission network.
Perhaps the best answer is windmills on every mountain top and a shedule that dictates that Vermonters who own one in 2015 can plug in their electric cars only when the wind blows
January 9, 2007
The excerpt below is the real reason that the Pelosi Democrats want the bill. They want to find a way to make a political statement and polish their credentials for the 2008 election. I hope clear and sane heads will prevail in Congress so as not to waste even more money that Congress usually does.
At least this Times article surfaces some sanity associated with the Pelosi foolishness.
"The push for 100 percent screening of all ship cargo containers first became a top priority for Democrats last year after the Bush administration proposed allowing a Dubai company to assume management of a half-dozen United States ship terminal operations. Democrats said then that they recognized the idea was compelling not only to increase security, but also as a political pitch as they tried to buttress their credentials as a party that takes domestic security seriously."
January 8, 2007
Read the details. This is very big news that Gates mentioned in his CES keynote. I have been waiting for something like this for years. If it's as simple to manage and robust when released, as described here, it will be a big winner for MS and will take a large bite out of the online storage market that has recently grown. Having the equivalent of an office network and file server system at home with automatic backup of all PCs connected to it is a dream apparently soon to become a reality.
HP will sell one early in the game, apparently in 2nd half 2007. Here's what HP says about pricing at CES : "Pricing for the MediaSmart server has not been finalized, but it will cost more than HP's $599 MediaVault product when it arrives in the third quarter, Miner said. The MediaSmart server will come with Advanced Micro Devices' 1.8GHz Sempron processor and four hard drive bays, although HP has not determined exactly how much capacity will be available.
I'll buy one in a minute if the price is between $600-$1000.
I wonder if Apple or Cisco (LinkSys) or Dell has something similar up their sleeves?
January 7, 2007
Obviously this zombie threat is deadly serious. Think of what terrorists could do if they commandeered millions of PCs for nefarious purposes.
I wish the article described how a user could identify if bot software lives on his/her machine.
I notice a significant slowdown of my PC from time to time when using IE7, not so with Firefox. I wonder...?
What will Windows Vista do to protect against this threat?
"Computer security experts warn that botnet programs are evolving faster than security firms can respond and have now come to represent a fundamental threat to the viability of the commercial Internet. The problem is being compounded, they say, because many Internet service providers are either ignoring or minimizing the problem.
"?It'?s a huge scientific, policy, and ultimately social crisis, and no one is taking any responsibility for addressing it,"
said K. C. Claffy , a veteran Internet researcher at the San Diego Supercomputer Center.
The $6 billion computer security industry offers a growing array of products and services that are targeted at network operators, corporations and individual computer users. Yet the industry has a poor track record so far in combating the plague, according to computer security researchers.
'?This is a little bit like airlines advertising how infrequently they crash into mountains,'? said Mr. Dagon, the Georgia Tech researcher.
The malicious software is continually being refined by 'black hat' programmers to defeat software that detects the malicious programs by tracking digital fingerprints.
Some botnet-installed programs have been identified that exploit features of the Windows operating system, like the ability to recognize recently viewed documents. Botnet authors assume that any personal document that a computer owner has used recently will also be of interest to a data thief, Mr. Dagon said."
January 6, 2007
All earmarks should have the name of the sponsor(s) and the beneficiaries included in spending bills with full public disclosure. The whole earmark business is fraught with problems, not the least of which is the huge costs that continue to increase the annual deficits and debt.
"Lawmakers already race to take credit for earmarked projects for their districts. But it has often been impossible for outsiders to learn who sponsored earmarks no one took credit for, and unclaimed earmarks were often the ones that played a role in corruption scandals. The new rules will require disclosure of all earmarks in a bill, as well as their sponsors, their purpose and their costs. The rules will also prohibit party leaders from trading earmarks for members’ votes."
The question of cloning is a thorny mixture of morality, science, economics, politics and ethics. While it seems obvious that cloned meat would be safe to eat, with this decision by the FDA we move further down the road to accepting cloning in a ho-hum way.
The debate about human cloning will continue to surface and is far from settled. I oppose it because it denies the uniqueness of each human being which is a characteristic of immense value in the eyes of God and man.
However, my guess is that humans have already been cloned and we just don't know about it. The debate has yet to rage, but when it comes it will be intense.
January 5, 2007
Governor Douglas has painted Vermont's telecom future in bold strokes and created a short horizon to get it done. I applaud his initiative and those behind the scenes who sponsored it, but the devil is in the details and we'll need to see the legislation that will implement the vision. Universal coverage is what we need and this initiative may go a long way toward building it. And I agree that wireless is the way to go for those portions of the state that are not and likely would never be reached by wireline broadband.
The next big question, if/after the permitting process becomes rational (a big task in itself!), towers are up, sytems deployed and people have some choices of carriers and ISPs, is the cost of operations in such low density areas. If carriers are willing to build out their wireless services with no service pricing differentials, that will be very good news.
I'm anxious to see the reactions and responses from the service providers. I presume (hope) they have been involved to some extent in the process leading to this announcement and are generally agreeable.
The initial reaction of an engineer from Verizon Wireless indicates he may have had no prior knowledge of the announcement:
"No state has complete cell coverage, said Richard Enright, director of engineering for Verizon Wireless in New England. "Maine's talked about it. They haven't figured out how to do that."(Excerpt from Burlington Free Press front page story 1/5/07)
Parts of Vermont pose a challenge to providers because of its sparse population and mountains, which makes the infrastructure more expensive, he said, though Verizon expects significant new coverage in southern Vermont this year.
Enright said expecting complete coverage by 2010 could be overly ambitious. "I wouldn't expect any state in the U.S. to be covered by 2010."
The Free Press was lukewarm to the initiative in their editorial today.
"Wireless technology makes sense for Vermont, where extending landlines to sparsely populated areas can be costly and time consuming.(Excerpt from Burlington Free Press editorial - Jan 5, 2007)
Douglas proposes the state back $40 million in bonds to leverage $200 million in private investment to build the network. He also proposes changing development control laws to make it easier to put up cell towers.
Building cell towers has been a divisive issue. Because of the state's mountainous terrain, many towers will have to be on the high ground for maximum coverage. Are Vermonters ready to see towers go up on the same ridgelines that they nixed for wind turbines?
There is also the question of choosing the technology and the provider. The nation's wireless network is still a mish-mash of standards ruled by competing telecommunications giants. A cell phone from one provider won't work on another's network. That goes for wireless broadband, too."
Not to throw a wet blanket on the proposal, but keep in mind there is a contingent of folks in Vermont who would prefer that growth and economic expansion were not enabled. How else to explain Vermont's Byzantine permitting process for development in general. I fear Jim Douglas' proposal to change the permit process is in for some tough sledding with that contingent and from the NIMBYs generally.
"There is no doubt that a safe and reliable system of roads and bridges is essential for today's economy, but the critical infrastructure for the future of Vermont will not much look like a car, a culvert or a bend in the road. It will look like this. In my hand there is wireless mobility, complete access and clear connections. In my hand is fairness and equity for all of Vermont. In my hand is both freedom and unity. In three years, this phone will be capable of downloading email, images and video at speeds faster than most home broadband today. It will allow Vermonters to work from anywhere, anytime, unimpeded by spotty coverage, bad connections and the constant aggravation of dropped calls. We've made great strides in improving cellular coverage along main corridors, but large areas of Vermont still have no signal. Although in the last three years we've helped over 45,000 more homes and offices get access to broadband Internet so nearly 90 percent of Vermont homes have access the remaining 10 percent will take many more years to reach by traditional means. While we take incremental steps to build a hard-wired network, the wireless world moves ahead. Homes that do not have broadband available are becoming increasingly difficult to sell. Entrepreneurs looking to start a new business will barely consider breaking ground in a community without good cellular coverage. Broadband Internet and wireless cellular are no longer mere conveniences afforded to urbanites or the well-heeled; they are a fundamental part of modern life for all Vermonters, as essential as electricity and good roads. This is the technological foundation of the Vermont Way Forward. Thanks to the work we've done, Vermont is well positioned to leap over existing technology and support both broadband and cellular communications for the entire state. Wireless communications and broadband Internet access are near the point of convergence, meaning the technologies that support each will be the same. More specifically, modern telecommunications will be based on Internet Protocol, or IP, a digital language that can support voice calls like cell phones and standard telephones as well as Internet communications such as email and web pages. Building on these technological advances, I propose that by 2010, Vermont be the nation's first true "e-state" -- the first state to provide universal cellular and broadband coverage everywhere and anywhere within its borders. When you turn on your laptop, you're connected. When you hit the send button on your cell phone, the call goes through. There would be no more endless downloads, no more hopeless hellos, and no more "can you hear me now." This goal is within our grasp if we move quickly and decisively during this legislative session.To facilitate the creation of our "e-state," I propose a Vermont Telecommunications Authority that will partner with private enterprise to build a next generation infrastructure that supports universal broadband and cellular coverage. The state will back $40 million of bonding by the Authority, which will leverage more than $200 million in private investment. The Authority will serve as a bridge between public sector efforts and private sector investments and will seek to complement not replace the role of service providers and infrastructure developers. Unlike building more roads or bigger buildings to support growth, the commercial infrastructure of tomorrow will be almost invisible, but for a handful of towers and antennas. To support the work of the Authority, we need to reduce the time it takes to build a truly modern infrastructure. I will be proposing a series of responsible modifications to Vermont's permitting laws that will balance our environmental values with the need to move rapidly. Those measures will include using state-owned structures and rights-of-way to speed required construction. The benefits of an "e-state" are evident to current and prospective employers. It represents meaningful connections within Vermont and with the vast world outside. Whether it means a construction worker can receive a business call at a remote job site, a bed and breakfast can offer guests wireless cellular and broadband, a feed store can order new inventory online or a small mail-order business can cut calling costs, our "e-state" strategy establishes the platform for success across all sectors of the economy. The advantages of a state-of-the-art telecommunications platform extend well beyond the economic value of the Vermont Way Forward. A true "e-state" enhances our public safety network, extends the reach of health care, and improves the education of young Vermonters. Ever-present cellular coverage will give residents and visitors an extra measure of protection and provide a communications network where police officers of one town can talk to firefighters of another. The emergence of telemedicine, made possible by our universal broadband network, will offer dramatically enhanced monitoring services to chronically ill patients and the elderly. Vermonters with chronic conditions will be able to transmit information instantly to their doctors, who can respond to anomalies or alarming trends. Vermont is fast becoming a leader in health care innovation, led by Catamount Health and the Blueprint for Health. While our best-in-the-nation broadband network can never replace the compassionate touch of our health care providers, it will make available to them the most modern tools to improve quality and reduce costs. The education of our children is the single most important and lasting impact of our "e-state" initiative. Affordable broadband services provide every child with access to the educational resources of the best schools and libraries throughout the world, as well as offering continuing education opportunities for lifelong learners."
David Pogue reviews several PC backup options.
January 4, 2007
This is one of the most sensible medical stories I've come across, and by two authors in Vermont associated with the VA Hospital in White River Junction. Well worth the time to read it and consider the implications for each of us personally and for health care in general. It concludes:
"The epidemic of diagnoses has many causes. More diagnoses mean more money for
drug manufacturers, hospitals, physicians and disease advocacy groups.
Researchers, and even the disease-based organization of the National
Institutes of Health, secure their stature (and financing) by promoting the
detection of “their” disease. Medico-legal concerns also drive the epidemic.
While failing to make a diagnosis can result in lawsuits, there are no
corresponding penalties for overdiagnosis. Thus, the path of least resistance
for clinicians is to diagnose liberally — even when we wonder if doing so really
helps our patients.
As more of us are being told we are sick, fewer of us are being told we are well. People need to think hard about the benefits and risks of increased diagnosis: the fundamental question they face is whether or not to become a patient. And doctors need to remember the value of reassuring people that they are not sick. Perhaps someone should start monitoring a new health metric: the proportion of the population not requiring medical care. And the
National Institutes of Health could propose a new goal for medical researchers:
reduce the need for medical services, not increase it."
I hope the industry will seriously consider the implications of this trend to over-diagnose. I should think insurance companies would lead the charge.
This NY Times story suggests research strongly indicates that the amount of education one has is an important determinant for health and living longer. But, so many other factors play into the equation that certainty is elusive. The chicken-egg factor comes into play frequently. The factors of race, genes, social connections and lifestyle play heavily into the mix.
"There are some important findings: Health and nutrition early in life, even prenatally, can affect health in middle and old age and can affect how long people live.
For the most part, genes have little effect on life spans. Controlling heart disease risk factors, like smoking, cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes, pays off in a more vigorous old age and a longer life. And it seems increasingly likely that education plays a major role in health and life spans."
January 2, 2007
Wi-Fi Is Hitting the Road in Cars From Avis, but Technical and Legal Bumps Lie Ahead - New York Times
An interesting development. Mobile use of cellular broadband from Verizon was very satisfactory for us when we traveled cross country for 2 months in our RV. Now with a WiFi hotspot in a vehicle, more than one person can use the broadband connection.
In an RV park without WiFi (Many advertise they have it, but it does not always work), perhaps I could resell it to other RVers!!
January 1, 2007
Hussein is dead. Good riddance. Now we have this story that suggests 'American officials' were not pleased with the swiftness of the hanging. Lawyers at work, more than likely.