October 31, 2009

Amazing Grace!

A beautiful rendition of a marvelous hymn!


Weak Case for Jobs Created or Saved by Stimulus

TeamObama has an uphill battle to persuade people that stimulus spending is saving or creating jobs. This chart from the Heritage Foundation demonstrates that the claims and promises were optimistic, if not hollow.

In Vermont the initial claim touted by the senior and junior senators was for creating or saving ~8,000 jobs via stimulus spending in 2009 and 2010. Granted, keeping score accurately is nearly an impossible task, but using the Federal rules, the revised reported total to date is less than 1,600. I'm trying to find out the split between public sector and private sector jobs.

Portraying optimism at the time when the economy was plunging into deep recession is understandable, but to my knowledge, the 8,000 figure has never been revised. Certainly, as more stimulus money is spent, more jobs will be saved/created, but planned spending cannot possibly offset the loss of Vermont jobs during this recession.

But Vermont has deeper problems, even in 'good' times, because its reputation is not 'business-friendly' with high taxation, long-term government spending that has outstripped the state's tax capacity and little demonstrated willingness by Legislative leaders to seriously prioritize and take the needed actions to chart a different course. Until and unless they seriously cut back spending and encourage private sector job growth, Vermont's economic health will continue its 10 year decline.

October 27, 2009

U.S. Newspaper Circulation Falls More Than 10% - NYTimes.com

U.S. Newspaper Circulation Falls More Than 10% - NYTimes.com

It's a grim future for print media. It would be fascinating to correlate the home Internet penetration rates with the decline in subscriptions in the coverage areas of the non-national papers.

It's painfully clear that the traditional business model for daily print media is near the point of collapse. It's rate of decline is very similar to the loss of POTS landlines in the telecom industry.

I certainly don't have any magic bullets, but what the country cannot afford to lose is high quality news gathering and reporting. The media outlets need to find a business model that leverages the rapid development and deployment of electronic reading devices.

While print publications will have an audience that desires a tactile reading experience, that audience will die off and the reading (and advertising) experience of the future will be on portable devices. These must be very easy to use and have some built-in serendipity factors that emulates what print media offers as the eyes wander through the content.

Otherwise, the future is not healthy for traditional print newspapers and magazines.

October 26, 2009

Morning Bell: The Transparent Costs of Cap and Trade » The Foundry

Morning Bell: The Transparent Costs of Cap and Trade » The Foundry:

These excerpts from a study by the Heritage Foundation of the Waxman-Markey Cap & Trade bill, if they are at all rational, should give every American pause. If the United States were to see even half the economic impacts from this study, we would be in dire economic straits. Now if I could only find an answer to my question about the cost of implementing Waxman-Markey, not the economic impacts... which have been studied by many... we'd know something about the direct out-of-pocket costs and the contribution to the deficit.

Based on what I've learned so far, Waxman-Markey is a very bad bill economically for Americans and unlikely to have any effect on climate change. I hope our Vermont Senators will vote against it, but I doubt they will.

"On August 6th, the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis released a report detailing the economic costs of the Waxman-Markey. Since energy is the lifeblood of the American economy, 85 percent of which comes from CO2-emitting fossil fuels, the Waxman-Markey bill’s arbitrary and severe restrictions on the current energy supply and infrastructure will not only have direct impact on consumers’ budgets through higher electric bills and gasoline prices, but also cause unnecessary inefficiencies at virtually every stage of production. CDA estimates that Waxman-Markey legislation would cost the average family-of-four almost $3,000 per year, cause 2.5 million net job losses by 2035, and a produce a cumulative gross domestic product (GDP) loss of $9.4 trillion between 2012 and 2035."

And this:

"Waxman also asked if our model quantified any benefits of avoided climate change. Answer: It didn’t. Because according to estimates based on IPCC data, the Waxman-Markey bill would only impact global temperatures by .044 degrees C (about .09 degrees F) by 2050. There simply are no economic benefits from such a minuscule impact."

Perhaps some group will summarize a side-by-side analysis of the various studies on Waxman-Markey so we can see the range of impacts from various groups who have studied this.

October 23, 2009

AARP Supports Vt. Teachers in Pension Fight - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

AARP Supports Vt. Teachers in Pension Fight - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

A first rate example of why I refuse to join the AARP. With Vermont-NEA and the AARP linking arms, should we believe that our left-leaning Legislature will do anything to fix the problem (not the 'challenge' as Mr. Leddy describes it) of unfunded liabilities for pension and health care costs for teachers and state workers ? A prime reason legislative players need to be changed.

Behind the War Between White House and Fox - NYTimes.com

Behind the War Between White House and Fox - NYTimes.com

While some Fox News commentators may in fact be anti-Obama and conservative, the White House will not win this battle agains Fox. Suggesting without any proof that Fox News is not a credible news gathering and reporting organization will not carry the day.

Rutenberg of the Times reports this story quite well. After all, the Times could not let this one pass as it did the Acorn story and the Van Jones story. Both of those are newsworthy, but the liberal Times chose not to cover them while they were 'hot.' Could it be that because they were not 'administration-friendly,' they did not cover them?

The Times, without a doubt, has a liberal slant in its editorials and its opinion journalists. Fox News commentators regularly point that out and I think most Americans believe it to be true, whether they be liberals or not.

Verizon CEO slams Net neutrality | Signal Strength - CNET News

Verizon CEO slams Net neutrality | Signal Strength - CNET News

A fascinating dance the tech giants do! A few days ear;ier Verizon Wireless got in bed with Google with a partnership that includes using Google's Android operating system in a new line of cell devices. Now, Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon pounces on the FCC's proposal for net neutrality principles, which are avidly supported by Google and others.

Well, I suppose it's all about the money and the business models.

Net neutrality's downside is well-expressed by Ivan:

"Seidenberg pointed to telemedicine as an example of how strict rules could hamper innovation. He said that companies like Verizon need to be able to prioritize packets that are transmitting medical monitoring data--over such items like e-mail or spam--to make sure they get through the network quickly. But if rules are in place that prohibit carriers from prioritizing traffic, he said, then such medical services cannot be offered."

October 22, 2009

The Burlington Telecom Fiasco

Just a quick comment on this morning's Mark Johnson show which featured Jonathan Leopold, Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Burlington, discussing the Burlington Telecom financial mess.

[First, my bias: Capital intensive competitive services for general public consumption should be provided by the private sector, not by taxpayer funded entities, like cities and towns]

In the discussion this morning, Mr. Leopold made several references to how the City of Burlington routinely advances funds to the Burlington Electric Department (BED) and the Burlington School Department from the city's pooled cash funds. By making the comparison with the city's actions in loaning funds to BED, a regulated monopoly and a department of the city, to BT, an investor-funded standalone entity that is under construction in a lease-purchase deal with private bankers, is nothing more than obfuscation precisely because BT is not a city entity like BED. Mark missed this point in his questioning of Mr. Leopold.

BT customers are not captive like those of BED. They have choices for phone, TV and Internet access. Unlike BED, no 'captive' revenue stream exists for BT because they are in a competitive business. To put Burlington taxpayers on the hook for BT's operational and financial failures when the city does not, in fact, fully own the assets is wrong and those responsible should be held to account.

The question becomes what to do with this mess. The huge investment to place fiber optic facilities in the 'last mile' by an entity without deep financial resources was not a wise municipal decision, IMHO. I have been opposed to it from the beginning as a municipal venture. We have seen failures of municipal WiFi all around the country, but BT is extraordinarily capital intensive and the build out to serve all of Burlington apparently will require several millions more.

When Verizon and AT&T deploy their wireless 4G technology in a couple of years, BT will be in even worse shape as more and more customers move to mobile broadband which will provide essentially the same services as BT. The city will soon find that a serious mistake was made by believing they can or should compete with the private telecom sector.

Here's a very well done recounting of the latest BT events. However, I find the site overall is generally biased toward municipal systems and against the private sector broadband providers. There are tinges of it in the BT reporting, but overall its a very good summary of recent events.

October 19, 2009

VermontStatePriority.pdf (application/pdf Object)

VermontStatePriority.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Here is Tom Evslin's letter to the NTIA with recommendations for various proposals for use of federal stimulus funds (ARRA dollars) to expand or promote utilization of broadband in Vermont.

Many $ Millions will be required to deliver on Vermont's goal to serve all customers via broadband and cell service by the end of 2010.

Even if/when broadband is delivered to all Vermonters, the big question is what will be the uptake. I think that will be in the range of 80%, based on nothing more than my experience which shows that the world is an 80/20 place and most large scale activities and service involving people, at least in the early maturity stage, typically show 80% takers. I think this applies to broadband because the devices, knowledge and interest for people to take advantage of a broadband connection are not universal, even if the broadband access were provided.

It would be a few years after broadband were provided before the uptake exceeded 80%.

October 18, 2009

Acorn’s Woes Strain Its Ties to Democrats - NYTimes.com

Acorn’s Woes Strain Its Ties to Democrats - NYTimes.com

Finally, the NY Times has done an investigative report on Acorn. What to make of it?

What I take away from this is that TeamObama is much too close to Acorn and they wish they weren't. It's obvious that Acorn is fundamentally a poitical organization allied with the Democatic Party.

Hopefully there'll be some more serious digging into the intrigue and alliances that make this group suspect. In any event, I don't want my tax dollars headed their way. Too many shenanigans to suit me.

Secretary Donovan may be in trouble, too. I suspect he's hoping his will all blow over before it ensnares him.

October 17, 2009

Senator Sanders Response to My Cap & Trade Question

I asked our junior Vermont Senator a simple question (one which the Congressional Budget Office may have had the answer because part of their job is to evaluate the costs of various legislation): What is the estimated cost to implement S. 2414, Waxman-Markey's American Clean Energy and Security Act?

I did not ask about the impact that this bill would have on America's economy driven by the increase in the cost of energy or inquire about climate change or jobs. He did not answer the question nor explain why he would not or could not.

Instead, as I have found often, our politicians cannot or choose not to answer direct questions. They prefer to shmooze their constituents with their view of the wonderful benefits they believe will come from legislation they support and highlight their role in creating it.

I'm tired of worthless, self-serving communications from politicians to their constituents

Dear Mr. Usher:

Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns with S. 2414, Waxman-Markey's American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). I consider climate change to be one of the most important issues facing our world and I appreciate the opportunity to respond on this very critical issue.

As you may know, the Senate has released the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act - a comprehensive climate bill. Though this bill is similar to ACES Act, there are some significant differences that address some of your economic concerns. I personally have worked to ensure that this legislation address the United States' goal to decrease its' contribution to climate change while promoting green economy growth. This Act provides long-term funding for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants to help Vermonters use less energy and save on their electric bills.

To create jobs, the Senate climate bill also provides funding specifically for the Green Jobs Act, which I co-authored. In order to keep these jobs within the United States, I successfully
pushed to decrease the number of international offsets to ensure that emission reduction and sustainable energy projects are completed in the
U.S. instead of overseas. Please know that I am committed to an "energy revolution" that invests in a clean energy future. This revolution
will score a triple win: green jobs and manufacturing, saving money for consumers, and a better economy and environment.
Expansion of the green jobs sector has the capacity to rejuvenate the ailing manufacturing sector in this country, creating millions of long-term jobs that will occur at every level of education and for every skill set. Indeed, studies have shown that solar and wind power creates more jobs per megawatt of installed energy capacity than their fossil fuel counterparts. As chair of the Green Jobs Subcommittee in the Senate, I am helping to lead the way towards the creation of a whole new generation of well paying jobs in the large areas of sustainable energy and energy efficiency. To read more about the development of green jobs, please visit http://sanders.senate.gov//legislation/issue/?id=1DBAA3BB-1788-4E83-8984-14A72B3A5B02.

Regarding your concerns with oil prices, this bill includes carbon market assurance principles calling for strong aggregate position limits and margin requirements that prevents Wall Street from excess speculation on oil prices. Not related to climate legislation, I address high oil prices and the petroleum industry's excessive profits. I testified at a hearing of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and told Chairman Gary Gensler that "the bottom line is that we have got to make sure that Americans are no longer ripped off at the gas pump by some of the same Wall Street gamblers responsible for the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression." To read more of my statement at this hearing, please visit http://sanders.senate.gov/files/cftc-ststement.pdf.

I have also introduced legislation that would require the CFTC to exercise emergency powers
to limit speculation. This bill would direct the CFTC to stop sudden or unreasonable fluctuations
or unwarranted changes in prices. It would subject bank holding companies engaged in energy futures trading to strict limits, and require hedge funds trading in energy markets to register with the CFTC and make them subject to strict speculation limits.

Please know that as the Environment and Public Works Committee - on which I sit - addresses the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, I will keep your concerns in mind. To read more about my approach to climate change, please visit http://sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/news/?id=16e8f2cd-4920-4d46-b2ff-e775c6504ff5.

Again, thank you for contacting me about this important issue. Feel free to contact me again in the future about this or any other subject of interest to you, or for up-to-date information on what my office is working on please visit http://www.sanders.senate.gov.

While there, I invite you to sign up for my e-newsletter, the Bernie Buzz, at http://sanders.senate.gov/buzz/.

Please be aware that due to security screening procedures, postal mail to my office experiences
delays that will lengthen the time it takes me to get back to you. The fastest way to contact my
office is by calling 1-800-339-9834.



United States Senator

October 13, 2009

BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | What happened to global warming?

BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | What happened to global warming?

Oops! The modelers seem to have gotten it wrong.

The End of the Email Era - WSJ.com

The End of the Email Era - WSJ.com

Unless filtering gets a whole lot better and easier ( a global filtering capacity that affects all services would be nice), the new social media tend to be wasters, not savers, of time in my experience. I'm anxious to try Google Wave which seems to have a lot of potential if the adoption rate is high once generally released. To benefit from its full potential, users communicating must all be using Wave.

The adoption rate will likely be slow among mainstream and low-end users. I try mightily to get people to use Google Docs for collaborative editing, which I love and have been using since before Google bought Writely, but most folks are so wedded to email with attachments that it's a very tough sell. They seem to find the learning curve too steep. I do more than 80% of my word processing and also a lot of spreadsheet work in Docs.

October 10, 2009

Gas Extraction Method Could Greatly Increase Global Supplies - NYTimes.com

Gas Extraction Method Could Greatly Increase Global Supplies - NYTimes.com

This technological breakthrough is a really big deal because of its potential to extend the world's natural gas supplies by 100s of years.

Will it put a huge dent in the construction of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tankers and port facilities or increase the demand for transporting all this new found gas to places in the world without a pipeline infrastructure?

A big question is whether this plentiful gas will begin to replace coal as a source of electricity in the next couple of decades. The story is a bit unclear whether environmentalists favor or oppose this inevitable natural gas expansion. However I have read elsewhere that the new shale fracturing technique requires enormous amounts of water, often in short supply in many places. This factor may slow down the NG permitting, drilling and extraction.

On a personal level I have decided to convert from fuel oil to a high efficiency system using natural gas for home heating. The Federal tax credits are substantial for the conversion and Vermont Gas also provides a significant financial incentive for switching,

While I dislike abandoning my loyal and faithful local fuel oil dealer, I believe the economics and less volatile price swings will work in my favor and also increase the value of my house. The new boiler will be installed next week.

October 9, 2009

Gingrich on Terrorism

President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize

When I heard this today my first question was: For what? Certainly the Nobel people who make the award have a right to select whomever they choose. But what has this man accomplished? What has he actually done beyond making speeches that qualifies him for this prestigious award?

Or is the award not prestigious at all? Perhaps it's purely political. I will now search out the text of the rationale for the award to our newly elected President. However, my initial reaction is hopeful that the Nobel prizes in other fields are more richly deserved by the recipients than this one.

The following is the text of the official announcement that US President Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize:

"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples.

The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics.

Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play.

Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.

The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations.

Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting.

Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future.

His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman.

The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges"."

This Nobel spokesman is peppered with questions
<> as he defends the award. It's obvious from the nature of these questions that many journalists believe the award was very unusual, if not ill-advised.

The Wall Street Journal has this to say:

"The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to President Obama yesterday was greeted with astonishment as much as any other emotion, even among many of his admirers. Our own reaction is bemusement at the Norwegian decision to offer what amounts to the world's first futures prize in diplomacy, with the Nobel Committee anticipating the heroic concessions that it believes Mr. Obama will make to secure treaties that will produce a new era of global serenity.

Maybe he really is The One."

The New York Times Leads its editorial with:

"President Obama responded to the news of his Nobel Peace Prize the right way. He said he was humbled, acknowledged that the efforts for which he was honored are only beginning and pledged to see them through, not on his own but in concert with other nations. There cannot have been unbridled joy in the White House early Friday. Mr. Obama’s aides had to expect a barrage of churlish reaction, and they got it. The left denounced the Nobel committee for giving the prize to a wartime president. The right proclaimed that Mr. Obama sold out the United States by engaging in diplomacy."

In my opinion, it's a travesty and he should have refused to accept it to demonstrate that he may have a streak of humility rather than be consumed with narcissism. If his vision of hope for change has substance, the Nobel peace prize could well have been awarded in the years ahead.

October 6, 2009

As Job Loss Rises, Obama Aides Act to Fix Safety Net - NYTimes.com

As Job Loss Rises, Obama Aides Act to Fix Safety Net - NYTimes.com:

Politicians of all stripes pour on the spending when they are threatened with removal from office. The ideas apparently being tossed around byTeamObama would add $100 Billion in spending next year, raising the deficit even higher.

While I have little admiration for most politicians, those who truly serve the best interests of our country are few and far between. Most want to retain their power at all costs. Is it time to revitalize the idea of term limits? We have far too many professional politicians and precious few statesmen.

"With economists forecasting that unemployment could hit 10 percent before job growth returns, perhaps in mid-2010, Democrats face month after month of bad news on the jobs front in a midterm election year, when a president’s party typically loses Congressional seats. Charlie Cook, a longtime nonpartisan election analyst, said last week that he was raising the odds of Democrats losing their House majority to about 50-50."