September 30, 2007

Town Watched Wallet, but Maybe Too Well - New York Times

Fiscal Fun in a Vermont Town!

What a great story!

Only in Vermont do people want to turn a silk purse into a sow's ear. For Fair Haven taxpayers to complain about a town surplus of a million dollars, apparently created by sound fiscal discipline, is hilarious. If I get this right, past and current taxpayers are upset because future taxpayers will get a break as this surplus is spent on the town budget. Frugality is derided...this must be the American way... because consumers routinely overspend their personal resources, they find their town's frugality troubling. What a laugh!

Every Vermont town should be so lucky. Fair Haven had better watch out because maybe the State of Vermont will find a way to get their hands on some of this surplus.

Sudden Surplus Arises as Threat to Ethanol Boom - New York Times

The Rule of Law in Play: The Law of Supply and Demand

Ethanol as a substitute/complement for gasoline is running afoul of the law of supply and demand. Too much ethanol, too many distilleries under construction and a distribution bottleneck. This will work itself out in time, but I wonder if anyone will have the courage to tally the total cost to the taxpayers who are subsidizing this fandango?

In an earlier post I compared ethanol as a fuel with wind power as a source of electricity suggesting that neither are free of problems and are only a drop in the bucket compared to our total energy needs. In the long run, electricity is our best bet for energy and transportation generated from nuclear plants.

The radioactive waste issue can be solved. France is doing it. To change the attitudes in the U.S. about nuclear will require an overhaul of our federal, state and local thinking. Nothing will succeed better than energy price increases, which are coming as surely as death and taxes, to change the public view of nukes.

September 29, 2007

The Entitlements People - New York Times

Fiscal and Leadership Crises - Allies in "Mardi Gras" Thinking

David Brooks nails it. Newt Gingrich tries to add visibility to it with his American Solutions initiative, but current national leadership does nothing about the fiscal crisis facing this country. How long will we pretend that the train is still on the rails when the federal government spends without restraint on entitlements (even the word for this loaded with expectations that all this spending is necessary and right)?

"In the different reality, everybody plays by Mardi Gras rules. The norms are different, masks are worn and certain unpleasant facts fall away. Presidential candidates vow to offset the cost of health care plans through “cost savings” measures, and everybody pretends those savings are actually real. Republicans promise tax cuts and people pretend those pledges are not absurd. Democrats vow to pay for their grand spending plans by raising taxes on the rich, even though each one percent increase in the top tax rate only produces $6 billion in revenue. The Mardi Gras norms are built on a fiction — that the current budgetary path is sustainable — and once you enter that fiction, then all sorts of other fictions become necessary and trickery piles upon trickery until all the standards of behavior are turned upside down."

Altered iPhones Freeze Up - New York Times

The iBrick

Funderburg states my sentiments. Apple may have botched the pricing of what appears to be a wonderful new product, but caveat emptor is always appropriate. I have no sympathy for hackers or people who screwed up their phones by installing the hack. Apple should not be blamed for the poor decisions of an iPhone owner, yet the chorus is rising for lawsuits against Apple.

Hacking the iPhone for use on other networks is really dumb despite the growing frustration with the cell industry's 'walled garden' business model in the U.S.

"J. Noah Funderburg, an assistant dean at the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa and a longtime Mac user, had little sympathy for iPhone hot-rodders. “Anyone who hacks must know that they are taking certain risks,” Mr. Funderburg said. ”If they aren’t willing to assume the risks upfront — like a brick iPhone — then maybe they should not hack the device. “We have a free marketplace,” he said. “Buy a product, including using it on the terms accompanying the purchase, or don’t buy it. And learn to live with not always getting everything you want.”"

September 28, 2007

Life at the Bottom - Worldview that Makes an Underclass

Theodore Dalrymple believes that poverty as demonstrated in the 'underclass' is caused in great part by the world view and policies of uninformed liberal thinking and actions. He ably describes poverty in spiritual, emotional, rational and financial terms as seen through the lens of his profession. As a doctor who has worked for many years in hospitals serving the underclass and in prisons in a large English city and, earlier in life, in Africa, he describes what he has observed in a series of essays comprising this book.

Many readers will not agree with his conclusions because they (erroneously) believe that having too little money is the root cause of poverty. Dalrymple thinks that the modern liberal thinking is the root cause of the mess that poor people experience. He makes a strong case against the common belief that lack of money is the root cause of poverty.

Dalrymple believes that 'values neutrality,' and multi-culturalism, among other beliefs and ideologies espoused by liberal academics and policy makers, have created a kind of nihilism in people. He posits this thinking has resulted in the general debasement of culture. This replacement of more positive values such as education, family, hard work, sacrifice, deferred gratification, etc., in the culture, he believes, is the prime cause of poverty in all its forms. It produces bad choices and actions by people and fosters their continued poverty.

Worth a read for those who care about culture, and the gradual erosion of positive values.

September 24, 2007

Corn Ethanol: Biofuel or Biofraud? - Wheels - Autos - New York Times Blog

Corn Ethanol: Biofuel or Biofraud? - Wheels - Autos - New York Times Blog

If this analysis is correct, and I believe it is, ethanol from corn is a far bigger boondoggle for auto fuel than wind is for energy. If we were truly serious about increasing our energy supply, decreasing dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gases, we would build nuclear plants and fortify the transmission grid to dramatically increase the supply of electricity. At the same time we would move boldly to electric cars that would be plugged in to the grid for recharging.

The technology for all of this is reasonably well established. Why dither about wind and solar when nuclear can do the job far more efficiently?

I'm really frustrated by the nibbling at the edges of our energy problem rather than confronting it head on. Too many oxen will be gored in the process, I'm afraid.

September 23, 2007

Rising Seas Likely to Flood U.S. History - New York Times

Rising Seas Likely to Flood U.S. History - New York Times

If these projections are correct, we'd better spend our billions to protect vital infrastructure, encourage people at risk to move inland and make shore front properties at risk so costly to own, that people will choose to move their businesses/residences. Frittering away money to 'prevent' climate change seems a far lower priority than dealing with the inevitable, assuming it is inevitable.

Realistically, though, Americans are unable to act resolutely unless a crisis is imminent. Asking our government to curtail spending and establishing a 'Flood Fund for the Future' by taxing those whose properties are at risk is equally improbable, I suppose.

September 22, 2007

Government Beneficiaries

Creeping Socialism

The chart at this link shows that more and more Americans are dependent on Government for their livelihood as the years pass. For Government Beneficiaries, the data apparently includes government workers, contractors, recipients of government benefits and their dependents. I wonder if I'm counted because I receive Medicare benefits?

Argue with the data if you will, but I think it's obvious that America is heading to a socialistic state. Many factors drive this including the growth in government spending, the export of America's manufacturing base, and the 'you owe me/take care of my needs and wants' mentality that inexorably increases year after year as people become more dependent on government. This quote rings truer every time I read it:

"The mania for giving the Government power to meddle with the private affairs of cities or citizens is likely to cause endless trouble, through the rivaly of schools and creeds that are anxious to obtain official recognition, and there is great danger that our people will lose our independence of thought and action which is the cause of much of our greatness, and sink into the helplessness of the Frenchman or German who expects his government to feed him when hungry, clothe him when naked, to prescribe when his child may be born and when he may die, and, in time, to regulate every act of humanity from the cradle to the tomb, including the manner in which he may seek future admission to paradise." (Emphasis added)

-Mark Twain

» Long-term storm clouds brewing over AT&T, Verizon Wireless | Between the Lines |

The wireless carriers' walled garden business model is under serious long-term threat from 'open access' spectrum auctions by the FCC. It's no wonder that Verizon has appealed the proposed rules for the 700 MHz auction in 2009.

Stock prices do not seem to be affected, though.

September 20, 2007

The French Revolution - New York Times

The French Revolution - New York Times

Cohen's piece exposes the hypocrisy that is/was France and shows that President Nicolas Sarkozy is a leader largely unencumbered with the barnacles of French Socialism and haughty attitudes. I have not been a fan of France or French attitudes since DeGaulle kicked out American military bases in 1966 when he withdrew from NATO. I was in the Army in Germany at the time and we received a huge influx of supplies to store.

Perhaps Sarkozy has a chance to get the country back on track as a useful ally in Western civilization rather than mired in the patronizing muck of their own pride and wrong-headed Socialism. Perhaps more Frenchmen will be come productive workers rather than expecting government handouts.

I might even consider buying French wine again, despite its inflated reputation.

Prominent Lawyer to Be Indicted - New York Times

This is very good news. These 'class action lawsuit' attorneys were apparently fraudulently rounding up and paying off people to act as plaintiffs in these frivolous lawsuits. They collected/extorted huge settlements from corporations which they sued and sucked money illegally out of our legal system. I'm disappointed only that its taken so long for our justice system to snag them.

Lawyers/shysters like these are the worst of their trade and should be dealt with harshly if/when proven guilty.

September 19, 2007

Times to Stop Charging for Parts of Its Web Site - New York Times

"Information wants to be free."

-Stewart Brand 1984

I did not intend to renew my TimesSelect subscription anyway, primarily because I disagree with so much of the Times' editorial content. In recent years they have become a house organ for liberal Democrats and, IMHO, have suffered from that stance. They may think they provide "all the news that's fit to print," but with an editorial slant that is not good for America.

The shakeup in the news business continues and we will see many more changes ahead, particularly as the Times continues to decline financially.

September 14, 2007

Bin laden's September Videotape

If you've never read the rantings of Bin Laden (I hadn't), he will tell you that the Democrats have failed to stop the war in Iraq because they have been corrupted by large corporations. He opines that capitalism is the root of all evil and democracy is just a way for big corporations to exploit people and globalism is the present phase of that which is ruining the world via global warming. Funny, though, he never mentions China or India and their thriving capitalism.

Where was Bin Laden when the Marxists were spouting and spreading their 'workers of the world unite' and Communist ideology? They could have used him.

If there be any doubt in your mind that this man is dead set to eliminate us unless we reject democracy and capitalism and turn to Islam, read his speech. The translation is a bit rough in spots, but you won't have any problem getting his drift.

American Thinker: Iraq as Qaeda Bait

I have long maintained that this theory of Iraq as "Qaeda bait" is valid. Radical Islamists flock like flies to an opportunity to fight jihad against Americans. There are only two places for them to do it, Iraq and Afghanistan, between which Iran is squeezed. Should push come to shove, we have the capacity to hit Iran hard or surgically as the case may be if they get too close to a nuke.

Please Democrats and, tell me what your strategy is in this region of the world. How would you fight the terror war and kill jihadists? Or would you 'negotiate' with them? I have yet to hear a Democrat alternative.

Mobile phones | From iPhone to gPhone? |

This Economist piece is right on target, I think. Google will play in the wireless space now that it has a mighty armada of free (so far) and useful software applications. It's recent purchase of key companies in this space confirms their intent for me. Google's advertising prowess may enable it to offer a free or very low cost software platform for use in the upcoming wireless 'explosion.' Google is too smart a company to sit on the sidelines during the upcoming spectrum auction and miss the next wave of wireless broadband.

This week Verizon sued the FCC over it's proposed auction rules that allow 'any device' to be used on portions of the spectrum to be offered. The battle is on! Verizon would not do this if they believed Google was no threat.

The next two years will be a fascinating era for wireless broadband in America.

September 13, 2007

Municipal Wi-Fi | Reality bites |

Here's a lesson that apparently must be learned with each new grand idea, this time with municipal WiFi. The lesson: there is no free lunch. Successful complex operations and services require investment, expertise and costs. There is always a price to be paid and, lest anyone forget, willing customers must pay, or taxpayers must pay. For those advocates who sponsor 'free' services, please remember that someone will pay or the services will not be provided.

Several U.S. cities and company partners are learning this the hard way with the Muni WiFi craze of the past few years.

September 12, 2007

What’s Good for Children - New York Times

What? How can this be? This is a NY Times editorial I fully agree with! Were the regular writers asleep at the switch? Has the Times found difficulty in hiring smart reporters which caused them to write this?

Nearly universally in Vermont I find that educators decry the NCLB act. The main argument they make is they are 'forced' to teach to a test. I agree that teaching to a test is not good pedagogy, but if students do not have a curriculum and teachers who can motivate children to learn, how else will we know the schools and teachers that need improvement?

Washington or Vermont should do nothing to lessen accountability for those entrusted to teach our children.

Now, if we only had a No Parent Left Behind regimen that holds parents accountable for their children's learning. We cannot point solely to the schools for solutions.

September 11, 2007

Utility Will Use Batteries to Store Wind Power - New York Times

Costly, but creative thinking. Storage is essential to make wind a viable contributor to base load power demands. This battery technology is a start, particularly for peak demand contribution to the grid.

However, the wind seldom blows much at night, except in a storm, at least in this neck of the woods.

"American Electric Power’s batteries will be used to smooth the power delivery from wind turbines. They can charge at night, when the wind is strong but prices are low, and give the electricity back the next afternoon, when there is hardly any wind but power prices are many times higher, company officials said. That strategy would reduce the amount of power generated from inefficient peak-demand units."

High-Speed Video Store in the Living Room - New York Times

Goodbye to the video stores. They'll be gone in 10 years, maybe five.

Reshaping the Architecture of Memory - New York Times

The world's knowledge in a shirt-pocket device connected to your brain via unobtrusive behind-the-ear implants should make for a fascinating future!

"Mr. Parkin’s new approach, referred to as “racetrack memory,” could outpace both solid-state flash memory chips as well as computer hard disks, making it a technology that could transform not only the storage business but the entire computing industry..."

"If the racetrack idea can be made commercial, he will have done what has so far proved impossible — to take microelectronics completely into the third dimension and thus explode the two-dimensional limits of Moore’s Law, the 1965 observation by Gordon E. Moore, a co-founder of Intel, that decrees that the number of transistors on a silicon chip doubles roughly every 18 months."

Empty Heads & Blind Eyes at the NY Times

Given this editorial and the many that preceded it, I have come to believe that The NY Times editorialists are nothing more than mouthpieces for's ad in the New York Times was disgraceful and shows's true colors).

If the Democrat leadership agrees with these left-wing loonies, they deserve to be painted with the same brush. If they don't, they should say so.

I wish that we could bring our military home tomorrow, too, but without a rational plan for the Middle East, that would be strategic folly endangering our national security. If/When (if ever) the "get out now" crowd presents realistic strategic policy alternatives, I'm willing to listen to them.

This assessment by General Petraeus is not what the loonies want to hear.

"The situation in Iraq remains complex, difficult,
and sometimes downright frustrating. I also believe that it is possible to achieve our objectives in Iraq over time, although doing so will be neither quick nor easy."

September 10, 2007

Nice Web 2.0 Applications List and Author's Choices

A compendium and author's selection of Web 2.0 apps in 20+ categories. Worth a look if you're interested in this phenomenon.

His full Web 2.0 database is here.

Sea change |

Sea change |

A fascinating review of the technology changes and cost savings that are underway in the North Sea oil and gas fields. While today's pop culture of energy is focused on conservation and climate change from energy usage, we should be thankful that we have bright people hard at work in 'big oil' keeping the oil and gas flowing and doing all they can to control the costs of doing it.

This work is essential to keep our Western economies humming.

September 9, 2007

As One Bubble Collapses, Is Another Taking Shape?

As One Bubble Collapses, Is Another Taking Shape?
Published: September 9, 2007
"The Treasury secretary needs to safeguard against a flow of foreign government capital that, poorly regulated, could impair our national security."

I don't know who Teresa Tritch is, could be a nom de plume for all I know, but the message sent should be heeded. I believe America faces great risk if the flow of foreign capital into the U.S. purchasing hard assets is not dealt with (regulated, managed, overseen...use whatever verb form you want).

September 4, 2007

VPR Commentary: Death & Taxes by Bill Schubart

From VPR Public NewsRoom (Commentary)

I agree with Bill's assessment that Vermont needs enlightened taxation and that some traditional services are best provided by government. However, as he points out, enlightened taxation should be by design, rather than by default merely to raise revenue to meet Vermont's constitutional requirement for a balanced budget. If we had strategic policy making and a rational tax code to encourage behavior that supported that strategy, then maybe we could justify the 'highest tax burden in the nation.' If our tax code is biased in favor of higher income taxpayers ( This may be true at the federal level, but I don't agree it's true in Vermont because of the heavy property tax effect), then we should address Vermont's tax code).

The reason people so object to taxes, particularly in our state, is because we don't trust that government spends wisely. When we grow our government and spending in a fashion that consumes more dollars than citizens believe warranted, of course they will object. But the only practical way citizens can object to high taxes is to vote big spenders out. They haven't done that yet because voters tend to align themselves with special interest groups, especially those advocating social services, who are very effective in swaying the Legislature to spend for this or that special need.

Vermont certainly has decided to grow government faster than our sister New England states. Consider this:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2001-2005, Vermont, at 4.5%, had by far the highest growth in state and local government 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! And we wonder why Vermonters complain about their tax burden!

September 3, 2007

With a New Speech, Clinton Lays Out Goals as President - New York Times

Mrs Clinton establishes goals that are 'apple pie and ice cream.' Where is the goal to protect the security of the country from the radical Islamic threat? Or is that merely a detail that fits in goal four?

"In laying out her four goals, Mrs. Clinton did not announce any major new policy initiatives, though she did say she would unveil her universal health insurance plan in two weeks.

The four goals were largely thematic: "restore America's standing in the world," "rebuild America's middle class and the economy to support it," "reform our government" and "reclaim the future for our children."

On the last goal, Mrs. Clinton turned more personal, saying she wanted her presidency to be a means of helping parents raise their children. "I want to be able to say to you as your president, 'Our children are well,' " she said."