February 28, 2009

Talking Business - Desperately Protecting A.I.G.’s House of Cards - NYTimes.com

Talking Business - Desperately Protecting A.I.G.’s House of Cards - NYTimes.com:

If the facts of this A.I.G. story are true, we should all be outraged!

An excerpt (emphasis added):

"..Donn Vickrey, who runs the independent research firm Gradient Analytics, predicts that A.I.G. is going to cost taxpayers at least $100 billion more before it finally stabilizes, by which time the company will almost surely have been broken into pieces, with the government owning large chunks of it. A quarter of a trillion dollars, if it comes to that, is an astounding amount of money to hand over to one company to prevent it from going bust. Yet the government feels it has no choice: because of A.I.G.’s dubious business practices during the housing bubble it pretty much has the world’s financial system by the throat.

If we let A.I.G. fail, said Seamus P. McMahon, a banking expert at Booz & Company, other institutions, including pension funds and American and European banks “will face their own capital and liquidity crisis, and we could have a domino effect.” A bailout of A.I.G. is really a bailout of its trading partners — which essentially constitutes the entire Western banking system..."



Testimony before the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee on February 25, 2009

Many quotable passages are contained in Professor Happer's testimony, but I'll only insert one below and suggest you read all of it (9 pages) for yourself.

I have long been bothered by the fanatical rantings by people like McKibben (not a scientist, but a self-proclaimed activist) scholar-in-residence in environmental studies at Middlebury College, Hansen, a physicist at NASA, and Gore, a fear mongering politician without scientific credentials.

What most disturbs me recently is the claim that carbon dioxide is a pollutant. It is certainly not a pollutant; it is an essential gaseous compound that supports life. Those who claim it as a pollutant are wrong. Happer speaks to this in his testimony. Too much oxygen or too much nitrogen have negative effects on humanity; if carbon dioxide is a pollutant, so are the other gases. Thus the argument for CO2 as a pollutant is bogus and nonsense, created by those who would regulate its generation into the atmosphere.

In closing, let me say again that we should provide adequate support to the many brilliant scientists, some at my own institution of Princeton University, who are trying to better understand the earth's climate, now, in the past, and what it may be in the future.

I regret that the climate-change issue has become confused with serious problems like secure energy supplies, protecting our environment, and figuring out where future generations will get energy supplies after we have burned all the fossil fuel we can find.

We should not confuse these laudable goals with hysterics about carbon footprints. For example, when weighing pluses and minuses of the continued or increased use of coal, the negative issue should not be increased atmospheric CO2, which is probably good for mankind.

We should focus on real issues like damage to the land and waterways by strip mining, inadequate remediation, hazards to miners, the release of real pollutants and poisons like mercury, other heavy metals, organic carcinogens, etc.

Life is about making decisions and decisions are about trade-offs. The Congress can choose to promote investment in technology that addresses real problems and scientific research that will let us cope with real problems more efficiently.

Or they can act on unreasonable fears and suppress energy use, economic growth and the benefits that come from the creation of national wealth.

Dr. William Happer is the director of the Happer Lab of Atomic Physics at Princeton University.

February 27, 2009

Op-Ed Columnist - Climate of Change - NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist - Climate of Change - NYTimes.com

Paul Kugman really loves the Obama budget if you read the full article. It's just so refreshing for him to have his left-leaning buddies in power and ready to spend untold billions to change the face of the American economy...for the better? Doubtful!

Furthermore, the Obama budget only tells us about the next 10 years. That’s an improvement on Bush-era budgets, which looked only 5 years ahead. But America’s really big fiscal problems lurk over that budget horizon: sooner or later we’re going to have to come to grips with the forces driving up long-run spending — above all, the ever-rising cost of health care.

And even if fundamental health care reform brings costs under control, I at least find it hard to see how the federal government can meet its long-term obligations without some tax increases on the middle class. Whatever politicians may say now, there’s probably a value-added tax in our future.

But I don’t blame Mr. Obama for leaving some big questions unanswered in this budget. There’s only so much long-run thinking the political system can handle in the midst of a severe crisis; he has probably taken on all he can, for now. And this budget looks very, very good.

I think I'm going to sick!

Now the WSJ opines somewhat differently, far more factually, perhaps:

"In that sense, the budget is payback. As expected, taxes will rise for singles earning $200,000 and couples earning $250,000, beginning in 2011 -- for a total windfall of $656 billion over 10 years. Income tax hikes would raise $339 billion alone. Limits on personal exemptions and itemized deductions would bring in another $180 billion. Higher capital gains rates would bring in $118 billion. The estate tax, scheduled to be repealed next year, would instead be preserved, with the value of estates over $3.5 million -- $7 million for couples -- taxed at 45%.

[Budget Salve]

Businesses would be hit, too. The budget envisions reaping $210 billion over the next decade by limiting the ability of U.S.-based multinational companies to shield overseas profits from taxation. Another $24 billion would come from hedge fund and private equity managers, whose income would be taxed at income tax rates, not capital gains rates. Oil and gas companies would be hit particularly hard, with the repeal of multiple tax credits and deductions.

The federal government would take over most student lending. Managed care companies would lose their subsidies for offering Medicare plans. Farmers with operating incomes over $500,000 would see their farm subsidies phased out. And cotton storage would no longer be financed by the federal government.

February 25, 2009

Designing the Kindle 2 | Beyond Binary - CNET News

Designing the Kindle 2 | Beyond Binary - CNET News:

Smart, large distribution newspapers will find ways to artificially limit traditional printing and widespread distribution. Bankruptcy may be a driver. (Interesting question: Would the Constitution prevent a government bailout of the 'press?' ). The transition will be very hard, because it's well nigh impossible to suddenly stop printing and suddenly turn on electronic distribution for reading devices and websites; huge barriers exist.

The business model is difficult and the cultural barriers enormous, too, but the end game is clear...to me at least. The time will come sooner rather than later when news organizations will not print papers for distribution. Instead, our subscription will include only electronic delivery, whether downloaded to a device or read online at websites as millions do today.

It would seem that businesses like Reuters stand to gain immensely from this shift to reading devices because they may have the option of bypassing the traditional newspaper business.

"Newspapers and blogs are also important, though Freed wouldn't say whether he bought into the notion that some newspapers would be wise to stop home delivery and instead pass out Kindles to subscribers.

'I'll leave it to others to figure out what the economic model will be for newspapers,' he said. 'Our newspaper customers have been happy working with us. It's a new source of revenue for them.'

Amazon, he said, would certainly be happy to talk to newspapers interested in trying something more radical. 'We'd certainly be open to working with any newspapers.'"

The Audacity of Hope

Our President has been criticized in recent days for being too gloomy about the future and not inspiring hope and generally improving our morale. Well, last night he tried to lift our spirits and tap into the indomitable human character in America.

He promised to fix nearly everything that needs fixing, all the BIG stuff like health care, energy independence, the banking system, credit woes, the home mortgage crisis, education reform, and on and on. He even promised to cut the deficit in half by 2012.

"In his first formal address to Congress, President Obama sought to ease Americans' growing anxiety about the global downturn and refocus attention on the country's historic sources of strength -- its ideas and innovative spirit.

"While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before," Mr. Obama said." (quote from WSJ)

Yet, the realist in me suggests that he cannot deliver on all this even with a Democrat Congress. Congress, whether in Republican or Democrat control, has shown itself incapable of spending discipline. They inspire no confidence in me, despite the President's mighty words and the fifty-odd rounds of applause.

The President said nothing about reducing the national debt, except as shrinking the annual deficit spending will keep the debt from growing as much as it otherwise would have. Meanwhile $ trillions in expenditures are facing us with war, defense and bailouts. And, 95% of people making under $200,000 won't see any tax increases; most will see a tax cut. Sorry, it doesn't add up.

Americans will continue to feast at the public trough via programs that continue to grow out of control....think Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security as we age.

This just in(2/25/09 5:00 pm before my comments below) from the WSJ: "Obama will propose $634 billion in tax increases on upper-income taxpayers and cuts to government health spending to fund health reform over 10 years, a senior administration official said Wednesday. The proposed tax change would limit the deductions available to people in the highest income tax brackets.

The spending cuts are aimed not just at raising money for the new program, which aims to get health coverage to all Americans, but also at curbing health-care spending overall. The cuts would affect a range of interests, including managed care companies, prescription drug manufacturers and hospitals."

We have only two fundamental options to shrink the out-of-control growth of health care costs: 1./squeezing efficiencies from the system (e.g., electronic health care records, reduce 'just-in-case' procedures and tests,' etc.); and 2./rationing care. People may be willing to deal with 1./, but not 2./, where the really big bucks are. In any event, the only certain result of controlling health care costs is reducing the number of people in that industry, recently one of the fastest growing employment sectors.

February 24, 2009

Need a Chuckle? Real Vermonters Will Luv This!!

I can't describe this piece well enough to do it justice. Ya gotta read it and live here to fully appreciate this. The comments are humorous, too.

You might understand why when you read the actual bill, S.89 (It's short - 2 pages). It reflects the best desires, I suppose, of the several Vermont senators who introduced it, but they send the worst possible signal to those seriously watching the economy of Vermont. For those who do not follow Vermont politics....we are not all Socialists desiring to 'do good' by fixing prices. Really, we aren't.

Well done by the parody creator/author!

Yet another voice is heard on S.89, what I will call the "senators' folly," applied to this bill sponsored by 16 of them. Thankfully, there is a long time responsible senator from my town, Colchester, who understands this foolishness and describes it aptly with this simple declaration:
"That's totally ridiculous. That is the dumbest idea I've ever heard."

Bravo, Dick!

Principles of Media Consumption - Dan Gillmor

Dan Gillmor is a long-time acquaintance, originally from Vermont and ertswhile reporter at the Detroit Free Press many years ago and then a principal technology journalist at the San Jose Mercury News during the gogo years in Silicon Valley.

He has gone on to a number of other ventures since then, mostly associated with media and journalism. He is an early adopter of all things techie and was one of the very early avid and really good bloggers. He has written a useful book,
We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People , about how and why blogging upsets the traditional journalism applecart.

I have excerpted the section below from Dan's much more comprehensive essay which can be found in full here. His solid advice about consuming media should be heeded.

"Principles of Media Consumption

Even those of us who are creating a variety of media are still–and always will be–more consumers than creators. For all of us in this category, the principles come mostly from common sense. Call them skepticism, judgment, understanding, and reporting. More specifically:

1. Be skeptical of absolutely everything. We can never take entirely for granted the absolute trustworthiness of what we read, see or hear from media of any kind. This is the case for information from traditional news organizations, blogs, online videos and every other form.

As noted previously, even the best journalists make factual mistakes, sometimes serious ones, and we don’t always see the corrections. When small errors are endemic, rational people learn to have a small element of doubt about every assertion not backed up by unassailable evidence.

More worrisome in some ways are errors of omission, where journalists fail to ask the hard but necessary questions of people in power. Stenography for the powers-that-be, and the unfortunate tendency of assigning apparently equal weight to opposing viewpoints when one is right and the other is wrong, are not adequate substitutes for actual journalism; you don’t need a quote from Hitler when you’re doing a story about the Holocaust. The reader/listener/viewer needs to keep an eye out for such behavior.

2. Although skepticism is essential, don’t be equally skeptical of everything. We all have an internal “trust meter” of sorts, largely based on education and experience. We need to bring to digital media the same kinds of parsing we learned in a less complex time when there were only a few primary sources of information.

We know, for example, that the tabloid newspaper next to the checkout stand at the supermarket is suspect. We have come to learn that the tabloid’s front-page headline about Barack Obama’s alien love child via a Martian mate is almost certainly false, despite the fact that the publication sells millions of copies each week. We know that popularity in the traditional media world is not a proxy for quality.

When we venture outside the market and pump some quarters into the vending machine that holds today’s New York Times, we have a different expectation. Although we know that not everything in the Times is true, we have good reason to trust it more often than not–considerably more.

Online, any website can look as professional as any other (another obviously flawed metric for quality). And any person in a conversation can sound as authentic or authoritative as any other. This creates obvious problems in the trust arena if people are too credulous.

Part of our development as human beings is the creation of what we might call an internal “BS meter”–a sense of understanding when we’re seeing or hearing nonsense and when we’re hearing the truth, or something that we have reason to trust. Let’s call it, then, a “trust meter” instead of a BS meter. Either way, I imagine it ranging, say, from +30 to –30. Using that scale, a news article in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal might start out in strongly positive territory, perhaps at +26 or +27 on the trust meter. (I can think of very few journalists who start at +30 on any topic.)

An anonymous comment on a random blog, by contrast, starts with negative credibility, say –26 or –27. Why on earth should we believe anything said by someone who’s unwilling to stand behind his or her own words? In most cases, the answer is that we should not. The random, anonymous commenter on a random blog should have to work hard just to achieve zero credibility, much less move into positive territory.

Conversely, someone who uses his or her real name, and is verifiably that person, earns positive credibility from the start, though not as much as someone who’s known to be an expert in a particular domain. A singular innovation at Amazon.com is the “Real Name” designation on reviews or books and other products; Amazon can verify because it has the user’s credit card information, a major advantage for that company (disclosure: I own some Amazon stock). Almost invariably, people who use their real names in these reviews are more credible than those who use pseudonyms.

Pseudonyms are becoming an online staple, and they can have great value. But they need to have several characteristics, all pointing toward greater accountability. Content management systems have mechanisms designed to (a) require some light-touch registration, even if it’s merely having a working email address; and (b) prevent more than one person from using the same pseudonym on a given site. This isn’t as useful as a real name, but it does encourage somewhat better behavior, in part because it’s easier to police.

Ultimately, conveners of online conversations need to provide better tools for the people having the conversations. These would include moderation systems that help bring the best commentary to the surface, ways for readers to avoid the postings of people they found offensive, and community-driven methods of identifying and banning abusers.

For all this, anonymity is essential to preserve. It protects whistleblowers and others for whom speech can be unfairly dangerous. But when people don’t stand behind their words, a reader should always wonder why and make appropriate adjustments.

3. Go outside your personal comfort zone. The “echo chamber” effect–our tendency as human beings to seek information that we’re likely to agree with–is well known. To be well informed, we need to seek out and pay attention to sources of information that will offer new perspectives and challenge our own assumptions. This is easier than ever before, due to the enormous amount of news and analysis available on the Internet.

The easiest way to move outside your comfort zone is simply to range widely. If you’re an American, read Global Voices Online (I am an advisor), a project that aggregates blogging and other material from outside the North America. If you are a white American, stop by Black Planet and other sites offering news and community resources for and by African Americans. Follow links in blogs you normally read, especially when they take you to sources that disagree with the author.

Whatever your worldview, you can find educated, articulate people who see things differently based on the same general facts. Sometimes they’ll have new facts that will persuade you that they were right; more often, no doubt, you’ll hold to the view you started with–but you may have more nuance on the matter.

I engage in a semi-annual exercise that started more than a decade ago, when I was writing for the San Jose Mercury News, Silicon Valley’s daily newspaper. I kept a list in the back of a desk drawer, entitled, “Things I Believe”–a 10-point list of topics about which I’d come to previous conclusions. They weren’t moral or ethical in nature. Rather, they were issue-oriented, and about my job as a business and technology columnist.

Every six months or so, I’d go down the list and systematically attack every proposition, looking for flaws in what I’d previously taken for granted.

For example, one longstanding item on my list was this: “Microsoft is an abusive monopoly that threatens innovation, and government antitrust scrutiny is essential.” From 1994 until I left the San Jose Mercury News in 2005, I continued to believe this was true, though a shade less so by the end of that period than at the beginning and during the software company’s most brutal, predatory era. Conditions have changed. Given the rise of Google and other Web-based enterprises, I’m not as sure as I used to be.

Consider creating just such a list of “givens” that you will challenge on a regular basis. This is especially vital when it comes to political beliefs. My basic political grounding combines elements of liberal, conservative, and libertarian doctrine, and I vote according to a collection of issues, not by party. But I’m constantly reassessing.

Rush Limbaugh and other “conservatives” who believe in dictatorial government when it comes to security and personal liberty but have no patience for equal opportunities in life infuriate me. Yet I regularly read and listen to their arguments, and occasionally learn something useful.

Going outside your comfort zone has many benefits. One of the best is knowing that you can hold your own in a conversation with people who disagree with you. But the real value is being intellectually honest with yourself, through relentless curiosity and self-challenge. That’s what learning is all about. You can’t understand the world, or even a small part of it, if you don’t stretch your mind.

4. Ask more questions. This principle goes by many names: research, reporting, homework, and many others. The more personal or important you consider the topic at hand, the more essential it becomes to follow up on the media that cover the topic.

The Web has already sparked a revolution in commerce, as potential buyers of products and services discover relatively easy ways to learn more before the sale. No one with common sense buys a car today based solely on an advertisement. We research on the Web and in other media, and arm ourselves for the confrontation with the dealer.

This extends widely. We generally recognize the folly of making any major decision about our lives based on something we read, hear, or see. But do we also recognize why we need to be more active in digging deeply ourselves to get the right answers? We need to keep reporting– sometimes in major ways, but more often in small ones–to ensure that we make good choices.

Near the end of the Cold War, President Reagan frequently used an expression, “trust but verify,” in his dealings with the Soviet Union. He didn’t invent the saying, but it was appropriate for the times. It’s just as rational an approach when evaluating the media we use today.

5. Understand and learn media techniques. In a media-saturated society, we need to know how digital media work. For one thing, we are all becoming media creators to some degree. Moreover, solid communications techniques are going to be critically important skills for social and economic participation–and this is no longer solely the reading and writing of the past.

Every journalism student I’ve taught has been required to create and operate a blog, not because blogging is the summit of media creation but because it is an ideal entry point into media creation. It can combine text, images, video, and other formats, using a variety of “plug-in” tools, and it is by nature conversational. And it is a Web-native form, natively digital media that adapts over time. This is a start, but only a start. Over a lifetime, people will pick up many kinds of newer media forms, or adapt older ones.

Media-creation skills are becoming part of the development process for many children in the developed world, less so for children in the developing world. In America and other economically advanced nations, teenagers and even younger children are digital natives.

Younger and older audiences may be less familiar with other kinds of media techniques. Learning how to snap a photo with a mobile phone is useful. But it’s just as important to know what one might do with that picture, even more so to understand how that picture fits into a larger media ecosystem.

And it’s absolutely essential to understand the ways people use media to persuade and manipulate–how media creators push our logical and emotional buttons. Children and adults need to know marketers’ persuasion and manipulation techniques, in part to avoid undue influence, whether the marketers are selling products, opinions, or political candidates.

In the process we all need to have a clear understanding of how journalism works. The craft and business are evolving, but they exert enormous influence over the way people live. In one sense, journalists are an example of a second-order effect of the marketers’ trade, because sellers and persuaders use journalists to amplify messages. But journalists deserve (and themselves should wish for) greater scrutiny for its own sake–to improve journalism and public understanding. Hence my earlier push for more and better media criticism."

February 23, 2009

The Recent History of Bear Markets

What's to be said. We are in it...deeply! Comments welcome on when the trend line will turn from Bear to Bull.

Thanks to a friend for posting this where I could find it. Here's the link so you can view the chart full screen.

Whatever the Fed, Obama and the financial gurus are trying to do isn't working. The Dow was down another 250 points today! There is no confidence in the markets for the multi-billion dollar band-aids that are talked about, even if they are being applied.

Here's just one small tidbit of the depth of the problem today:
"Shares of General Electric Co. (GE) fell to their lowest level in 14 years Monday as investors were spooked by reports highlighting the potential for greater losses in its financial unit.

GE shares fell 6% to $8.82 Monday morning, following a price target cut by a Deutsche Bank analyst who said there's a growing risk that GE will have to cut its dividend to support its GE Capital financial unit.

The rapid buildup of unrealized losses in GE Capital's balance sheet may endanger GE Capital's profitability and its ability to pay its debt holders, Deutsche Bank analyst Nigel Coe said in a research note Monday.

Investors continued to show a strong level of fear over GE Capital's ability to meet its debt obligations Monday morning

We are coming to understand what the term "full faith and credit of the United States Government" really means. Not much, when it comes to investor confidence and the ability to change the direction of the economy.

I think it's down further from here. Nothing the Feds are doing is working. Who will be the first to call this a Depression and what will be their criteria? We are on a Depression trend line. Now for the real news: the U.S. is on a downward spiral absent recession and there is no politician willing to admit it, let alone do anything about it. It's called 'entitlements.'

I even despise the name and always have because as humans we have no 'entitlements', certainly none that can be forever guaranteed by government!
The Kingdom of Heaven is our only entitlement and that only by faith.

February 22, 2009

Obama Expands Missile Strikes Inside Pakistan - NYTimes.com

Obama Expands Missile Strikes Inside Pakistan - NYTimes.com:

President Obama sees the need to continue the polices of the Bush Administration in fighting terrorists in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. His foolishness about closing Guantanamo to satisfy his liberal constituency without a plan to deal with the prisoners smacks of political opportunism, rather than sound policy.

Meanwhile, saying little publicly, Obama, Clinton and Holbrooke seem to be working their private channels to step up the killing of terrorist leadership via drones. But wait, don't their liberal backers believe that killing terrorists merely creates more terrorists?

The time will come when American forces, in addition to Special Operations, will be placed on the ground in force in this part of Pakistan to go after the leaders that they don't kill with drones. Some Army Special Ops troops are there now as advisers to Pakistani troops. Obviously, the Pakistanis are unwilling or unable to do it on their own.

A friend of mine likens the actions in the 'tribal areas' of Pakistan as 'another Vietnam.' That implies we will be mired for years, then ultimately give up trying to win. I hope not.

"...While the administration has not publicly criticized the Pakistanis, several American officials said in interviews in recent days that they believe appeasing the militants would only weaken Pakistan’s civilian government. Mr. Holbrooke said in the interview that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and others would make clear in private, and in detail, why they were so concerned about what was happening in Swat, the need to send more Pakistani forces to the west, and why the deteriorating situation in the tribal areas added to instability in Afghanistan and threats to American forces.

Past efforts to cut deals with the insurgents failed, and many administration officials believe that they ultimately weakened the Pakistani government.

But Obama administration officials face the same intractable problems that the Bush administration did in trying to prod Pakistan toward a different course. Pakistan still deploys the overwhelming majority of its troops along the Indian border, not the border with Afghanistan, and its intelligence agencies maintain shadowy links to the Taliban even as they take American funds to fight them...

...American Special Operations troops based in Afghanistan have also carried out a number of operations into Pakistan’s tribal areas since early September, when a commando raid that killed a number of militants was publicly condemned by Pakistani officials. According to a senior American military official, the commando missions since September have been primarily to gather intelligence."

February 20, 2009

Verizon expects 4G launch next year | 3GSM blog - CNET Reviews

Verizon expects 4G launch next year | 3GSM blog - CNET Reviews:

We hope Vermont will be fully blanketed with Verizon's 4G LTE, but my guess is that will be closer to 2015 than 2010, perhaps a couple of years earlier in the Burlington area market.

"'We are modeling the roll-out after our EV-DO deployment. So we expect to get to about the same level in the first year of deploying LTE that we got with EV-DO, which is about 25 or 30 markets. That is probably a reasonable estimate,' he said, referring to the Long Term Evolution network.

Verizon will continue to build out the 4G wireless network and expects to blanket the continental U.S. and Hawaii with the new wireless network by 2015.

The network will use 700MHz wireless spectrum that Verizon acquired in the Federal Communications Commission's auction last year. The company announced in 2007 that it planned to use a technology call Long Term Evolution to build its next-generation wireless networks.

Several GSM operators around the world have also announced plans to use LTE, which means that Verizon 4G wireless subscribers will eventually be able to roam globally."

February 19, 2009

Op-Ed Columnist - Our Greatest National Shame - NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist - Our Greatest National Shame - NYTimes.com

Read This Read This Read This Read This.... Read Kristof's column ... if you are interested in the quality and relevance of public education.

Kristof argues that the evidence is overwhelming that public education is broken. Maybe it can be fixed, but not without a change in governance, teacher quality and breaking the union stranglehold on the system. (He fails to mention the stranglehold!)

Obama's stimulus tosses $ billions toward public education. But will his Education Secretary Arne Duncan stimulate real reform? Who will hold his feet to the fire? If he has not shown significant progress toward substantive reform within a couple of years, he should be fired.

But wait, education is a local and state issue, many say. The problem must lie there. Our state, Vermont, has shown no progress in changing the cost, governance and quality of education. While students here perform somewhat better than the national averages, they should. We do not have the poverty, racial and ethnic tensions prevalent in many other places. In addition, we do have the smallest student/teacher ratio and class sizes in the nation.

We should be able to deliver the same quality at far less cost. The Governor has proposed a recessionary freeze on education spending, but the EduLobby and the Legislature seem inclined to continue exorbitant spending even in this recession. That's foolishness.

February 18, 2009

Obama's Energy Promises

I receive a newsletter called the The Energy Advocate whose author has little tolerance for most of the claims made for alternative/renewable energy sources and all that Obama and his minions have promised, particularly on the campaign trail. The facts usually prove troubling to politicians.

This is an example of a claim and the facts behind it that I couldn't pass up, so I'll pass it on.

TEA quotes an Obama promise: "...double the amount of energy that comes from renewable sources during my first term."

TEA analysis:
"This may sound may sound like an intention to bring common sense to Washington. But what does it mean? Almost all of our renewable energy - a total of 7% of our energy - comes from biomass and hydropower. Wind and solar together produce only 6% of that 7%, less than 1/2% of what we use.

If Obama's plan is to double the wind and solar, we would still be getting less than 1% of our energy from them, and all at very high cost. If his plan is to double the 7%, how might he accomplish it? Go find some undiscovered big rivers? Send more people out with chainsaws? In any case, the dubious doubling will come by executive fiat, not by market forces."

TEA also quotes Obama and provides his assessment:

The plan "to require that 25% of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived form clean, sustainable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal by 2025" is both delusional and coercive. Presently, the U.S. uses 444 GigaWatts of electrical power (averaged around the clock all year). Twenty five percent of that is 111 GigaWatts. Since it takes about 300 square miles (770 sq. km) for wind to produce a year round average of 1 GigaWatt, Obama is talking about 33,000 square miles cluttered up with industrial wind turbines. (We exclude both solar and geothermal from this discussion.) That's about 6 times the land area of Connecticut, or one third the land area of Colorado. Again, inflicting the expense and the blight on the landscape will come by executive fiat.

The 25% plan also assumes that that quantity of stochastically varying [Editor's note: A stochastic process is one whose behavior is non-deterministic in that a system's subsequent state is determined both by the process's predictable actions and by a random element] electricity could actually be integrated into the power grid, even though 10% is enough to make the life of a dispatcher worse than that of an air traffic controller."

Obama Speech on Mortgage Assistance for Homeowners

After watching Obama's speech to day describing the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan for assisting people having trouble paying their mortgages, I was positively impressed. I think it was one of the best speeches he has delivered. He had command of the facts on a complicated subject and delivered it 'Presidentially.'

I know he has teleprompters, nevertheless he was persuasive in his no-nonsense delivery laying out the facts and standards and convincing that this is the right thing to be doing at this time. I don't think Bush could have done this nearly as well.

Whether the plan is any good is a different question.

Stimulus bill includes $7.2 billion for broadband | Politics and Law - CNET News

Stimulus bill includes $7.2 billion for broadband | Politics and Law - CNET News

Let the scramble begin!

In Vermont I would guess that the ValleyNet fiber project folks are celebrating because surely some of this broadband money will flow their way for a project that might have otherwise been difficult to fund.

I would think that the Vermont Telecommunications Authority plans and mission will surely benefit. With the specific emphasis on rural area funding within the Department of Agriculture, Vermont should benefit there, too.

Those projects that are ready to go will receive the biggest benefit, obviously.

The story does not describe how the funds will be allocated by state, but I would think that our senior senator Leahy will be able to tip the bucket toward Vermont.

February 17, 2009

Well - Vitamin Pills - A False Hope? - NYTimes.com

Well - Vitamin Pills - A False Hope? - NYTimes.com:

I have long maintained that a balanced diet for generally healthy people is more than sufficient to provide essential nutrients for the body. Some supplements may be useful for specific problems, e.g., niacin for ' bad' cholesterol, but generally they are unnecessary for general health maintenance. This view seems to be supported by large and well-conducted trials.

The supplements business, including vitamins and minerals, is BIG business with lots of money spent advertising these nostrums, but I doubt they have any practical health effect, as recent studies appear to be revealing.

"“...I’m puzzled why the public in general ignores the results of well-done trials,” said Dr. Eric Klein, national study coordinator for the prostate cancer trial and chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute. “The public’s belief in the benefits of vitamins and nutrients is not supported by the available scientific data.” [emphasis added]

Everyone needs vitamins, which are essential nutrients that the body can’t produce on its own. Inadequate vitamin C leads to scurvy, for instance, and a lack of vitamin D can cause rickets.

But a balanced diet typically provides an adequate level of these nutrients, and today many popular foods are fortified with extra vitamins and minerals. As a result, diseases caused by nutrient deficiency are rare in the United States..."

Pakistan Makes a Taliban Truce, Creating a Haven - NYTimes.com

Pakistan Makes a Taliban Truce, Creating a Haven - NYTimes.com:

This is a BIG deal and Holbrooke, know to be outspoken, says essentially nothing! Mrs. Clinton, will you speak up? President Obama, is this OK with you? I am flabbergasted that the Obama Administration is saying nothing meaningful while the Taliban is given control of a large area of the country.

"...Speaking in India on the last leg of his trip to Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, the Obama administration’s special envoy to the region, Richard C. Holbrooke, did not address the truce directly but said the turmoil in Swat served as a reminder that the United States, Pakistan and India faced an “enemy which poses direct threats to our leadership, our capitals, and our people.”

Pakistani legal experts and other analysts warned that the decision by the authorities would embolden militants in other parts of the country.

“This means you have surrendered to a handful of extremists,” said Athar Minallah, a leader of a lawyers’ movement that has campaigned for an independent judiciary. “The state is under attack; instead of dealing with them as aggressors, the government has abdicated.”

Shuja Nawaz, the author of “Crossed Swords,” a book on the Pakistani military, said that with the accord, “the government is ceding a great deal of space” to the militants..."

February 16, 2009

Burris Offers Defense of Evolving Account - NYTimes.com

Burris Offers Defense of Evolving Account - NYTimes.com:

Will Mr. Burris be trapped in the slimy swamp of corruption which seems to be the hallmark of Chicago and Illinois politics. If the facts are as described by the NY Times, this is disgraceful. Does Burris believe that we're all stupid (see emphasis below)? If he's not corrupt, he is certainly inept and incompetent.

Senate Democrats, including leader Harry Reid, would seem to have considerable egg on their faces after saying the Senate would not seat Burris, then agreeing to it (Could this have been a ploy to insure another Democrat vote on the controversial stimulus bill?).

Will Obama or Immanuel remain unstained by all this? They are both products of Chicago/Illinois politics, after all. Will the media make a concerted effort to find all the facts behind this Burris mess?

"...In documents first made public over the weekend, Mr. Burris disclosed that he had conversations with Mr. Blagojevich’s brother, Robert Blagojevich, and with several other Blagojevich advisers, including his chief of staff, in the weeks and months before he was appointed to the Senate. In the three calls, which took place in October and then after Mr. Obama was elected president in November, Robert Blagojevich sought Mr. Burris’s fund-raising help for his brother, who was then governor — help that Mr. Burris says he refused to provide.

Mr. Burris made the disclosures in a sworn affidavit he sent to a Democratic state lawmaker on Feb. 5 to “supplement” testimony he had provided to the State House impeachment committee on Jan. 8. At that point, Senate leaders in Washington were still considering whether they should seat Mr. Burris.

At the January hearing, Mr. Burris was asked whether he had talked to those in Mr. Blagojevich’s inner circle, including Robert Blagojevich, before he was picked about his desire to get the Senate seat. Mr. Burris told the House committee then that he had and cited one conversation from months earlier with Lon Monk, a former Blagojevich chief of staff.

On Sunday, Mr. Burris said his omissions before the House committee of the conversations with Mr. Blagojevich’s brother, with Mr. Blagojevich’s chief of staff at the time and with two close advisers to the former governor were unintentional [emphasis added]. The panel’s questions, he said, had moved on to other matters before he had a chance to describe all of his conversations with Mr. Blagojevich’s allies..."

Venezuelans Approve Chavez's Bid to Scrap Term Limits - WSJ.com

Venezuelans Approve Chavez's Bid to Scrap Term Limits - WSJ.com

Does the term 'socialist dictatorship' include a means to solve this problem...

"...Economists at several investment banks are predicting that the oil-price declines will force Mr. Chavez to raise taxes and devalue the "strong bolivar" -- a currency Mr. Chavez introduced as part of a bid to boost confidence. Both of the measures will hurt his mainly poor constituents more than the middle and upper classes that fill the ranks of the opposition.

Devaluation would exacerbate the nation's soaring inflation rate, already the fastest in the Americas at around 35%. Venezuela imports most of the food and other goods that it consumes. Devaluation would make these goods far more expensive in local currency terms."

...without an unpleasant clampdown on the citizens of Venezuela? A self-inflated demagogue presiding over a collapsing economy may be in for a rough ride!

February 15, 2009

Do We Need a New Internet? - NYTimes.com

Do We Need a New Internet? - NYTimes.com


For the primary reason that a user on a network should not have the right to remain anonymous. I have argued that point for years, even before regulators when Caller ID was a big issue in terms of privacy and anonymity.

There may be a slew of technical improvements that a 'new' Internet would produce, but the one element that it should not permit is user anonymity. A person should have no inherent right to be anonymous on the Internet for the purpose of evil deeds, certainly. If that continues, the bad guys have too many ways to hide.

"...For all those efforts, though, the real limits to computer security may lie in human nature.

The Internet’s current design virtually guarantees anonymity to its users. (As a New Yorker cartoon noted some years ago, “On the Internet, nobody knows that you’re a dog.”) But that anonymity is now the most vexing challenge for law enforcement. An Internet attacker can route a connection through many countries to hide his location, which may be from an account in an Internet cafe purchased with a stolen credit card.

“As soon as you start dealing with the public Internet, the whole notion of trust becomes a quagmire,” said Stefan Savage, an expert on computer security at the University of California, San Diego.

A more secure network is one that would almost certainly offer less anonymity and privacy. That is likely to be the great tradeoff for the designers of the next Internet. One idea, for example, would be to require the equivalent of drivers’ licenses to permit someone to connect to a public computer network. But that runs against the deeply held libertarian ethos of the Internet."

Proving identity is likely to remain remarkably difficult in a world where it is trivial to take over someone’s computer from half a world away and operate it as your own. As long as that remains true, building a completely trustable system will remain virtually impossible.

Here's another take on it, that basically blames humans for not doing their part to protect privacy and insure security on today's Internet.

February 14, 2009

Obama to Shift Focus to Budget Deficit - WSJ.com

Obama to Shift Focus to Budget Deficit - WSJ.com:

We have heard all this before, No? Everyone will applaud and bow nicely to reducing the crushing deficits and the mounting debt....until a plan emerges that drastically changes our standard of living and then the wailing will begin. Remember that The Comptroller General resigned out of frustration because no one would pay attention....before the trillion dollar + deficits.

"You can't touch my entitlement!" "Someone else should pay the price [pick your reason].

Nevertheless, Obama's willingness to initiate the discussion again is encouraging. Notice no mention at this time of those third rail topics Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare!

"Along those lines, White House budget director Peter R. Orszag has committed to instituting tougher budget-discipline rules -- once the economy turns around. Those include a mandate that any 'nonemergency' spending increases be offset by equal spending cuts or tax increases."

That's easy...everything suddenly becomes emergency spending!

How the Crash Will Reshape America

This Atlantic piece is well worth reading as this recession and the events leading up to it will likely change the America we have known in a dramatic way.

(more discussion later)

"...But different eras favor different places, along with the industries and lifestyles those places embody. Band-Aids and bailouts cannot change that. Neither auto-company rescue packages nor policies designed to artificially prop up housing prices will position the country for renewed growth, at least not of the sustainable variety. We need to let demand for the key products and lifestyles of the old order fall, and begin building a new economy, based on a new geography.

What will this geography look like? It will likely be sparser in the Midwest and also, ultimately, in those parts of the Southeast that are dependent on manufacturing. Its suburbs will be thinner and its houses, perhaps, smaller. Some of its southwestern cities will grow less quickly. Its great mega-regions will rise farther upward and extend farther outward. It will feature a lower rate of homeownership, and a more mobile population of renters. In short, it will be a more concentrated geography, one that allows more people to mix more freely and interact more efficiently in a discrete number of dense, innovative mega-regions and creative cities. Serendipitously, it will be a landscape suited to a world in which petroleum is no longer cheap by any measure. But most of all, it will be a landscape that can accommodate and accelerate invention, innovation, and creation—the activities in which the U.S. still holds a big competitive advantage..."

If the analysis and predictions are accurate, my burning question is how can Vermont position itself to benefit from the shift in all the factors suggested in Richard Florida's writing. Can we? what must we do?

A couple of years ago we had a push by some for stimulating and expanding Vermont's 'creative economy. Should that continue? Are we part of the mega-city region of New York? Should we consider ourselves a 'haven,' a place of respite and relaxation for those inside Montreal-Boston-New York?

We succeeded in becoming a haven for captive insurance companies. If we are a haven for recreation and 'quality of life,' why not become a have for capital and other resources? Or are we just too small to be able to leverage anything meaningful on our own?

Are we better off joining forces regionally with upstate NY, eastern NH, or southern Quebec on certain matters? I think this makes more sense. The trick is finding areas of mutual interest? Recreation? Energy? Education? Health care?

How can we best position ourselves to emerge economically healthy from this recession. We are unlikely to go as deeply into it as other areas of the country, but we may well lag coming out of it as we have in the past.

February 13, 2009

Peggy Noonan Gets It

Peggy Noonan gets it!

This excerpt is from her column
(full access to her column may require subscription to WSJ online) in today's (2/13/09) WSJ. We need leaders, heroes and givers, not politicians and self-indulgent takers.

"....Politicians keep saying, "People have to begin to understand we're in bad shape," and "People should realize it's a crisis." I think they know, Sherlock. Do you? Our political leaders are like a doctor who rushes to the scene of a terrible crash, bends over a hemorrhaging woman and says, "This is serious, lady, you can't take it lightly." She looks up at him: "Help me, do something, I'm bleeding out!" The doctor, to the local TV cameras: "I hope she knows she's in trouble."

There's a sense that everyone's digging in. President Obama has dug in on this stimulus bill: Pass it or see catastrophe. Republicans are dug in: Pass it and see catastrophe. The digging in is a way of showing certitude, and they're showing certitude because they're lost.

We hire politicians to know what to do about empty stores, job loss, and "Retail Space Available." But they don't, and more than ever we know they don't.

And there's something else, not only in Manhattan but throughout the country. A major reason people are blue about the future is not the stores, not the Treasury secretary, not everyone digging in. It is those things, but it's more than that, and deeper.

It's Sully and Suleman, the pilot and "Octomom," the two great stories that are twinned with the era. Sully, the airline captain who saved 155 lives by landing that plane just right—level wings, nose up, tail down, plant that baby, get everyone out, get them counted, and then, at night, wonder what you could have done better. You know the reaction of the people of our country to Chesley B. Sullenberger III: They shake their heads, and tears come to their eyes. He is cool, modest, competent, tough in the good way. He's the only one who doesn't applaud Sully. He was just doing his job.

This is why people are so moved: We're still making Sullys. We're still making those mythic Americans, those steely-eyed rocket men. Like Alan Shepard in the Mercury rocket: "Come on and light this candle."

But Sully, 58, Air Force Academy '73, was shaped and formed by the old America, and educated in an ethos in which a certain style of manhood—of personhood—was held high.

What we fear we're making more of these days is Nadya Suleman. The dizzy, selfish, self-dramatizing 33-year-old mother who had six small children and then a week ago eight more because, well, she always wanted a big family. "Suley" doubletalks with the best of them, she doubletalks with profound ease. She is like Blago without the charm. She had needs and took proactive steps to meet them, and those who don't approve are limited, which must be sad for them. She leaves anchorwomen slack-jawed: How do you rough up a woman who's still lactating? She seems aware of their predicament.

Any great nation would worry at closed-up shops and a professional governing class that doesn't have a clue what to do. But a great nation that fears, deep down, that it may be becoming more Suley than Sully—that nation will enter a true depression."
[emphasis added]

February 12, 2009

Gregg Withdraws as Commerce Secretary Nominee - The Caucus Blog - NYTimes.com

Gregg Withdraws as Commerce Secretary Nominee

It seems we have significant turmoil at work in the Obama administration. The myriad false starts in cabinet appointments signal that amateurs are involved in the personnel selection and vetting process. Where are the grownups? Is this 'change we can believe in?'

None of this mess can be blamed on W. Obama owns it.

Perhaps the REAL issue that caused Gregg to withdraw is Obama's proposal to run the 2010 Census from the White House rather than the Commerce Department. This analysis from the Wall Street Journal sheds some light on what appears to be an unprecendented power garb. It is well known that politicians of all stripes have attempted to manipulate census data for their own electoral advantage.

Bank asset-value mystery keeps U.S. stocks falling - MarketWatch

Bank asset-value mystery keeps U.S. stocks falling - MarketWatch

Neither Wall Street nor main street are confident that the Obama administration has a plan to change the spiral into ever deeper recession. These are very tough times and the biggest factor at work is lack of confidence that the government has the where-with-all to ameliorate the pain.

I sense a general feeling that leaders at the national and state level do not really know what to do because they have not been down this road before.

For an interesting theory on the nature of the reality that we may be experiencing, read this view of the world.

An excerpt:

"We enter 2009 and the Presidency of Barack Obama with citizens pessimistic about the future of our country. The public has lost faith in government, financial institutions, and religious institutions. Distrust of politicians, bankers, CEO’s, financial advisors, and moral leadership is well founded. The popular culture of over hyping public figures and then tearing them down has led to everyone and everything being discredited. The personal and public choices that will be required in the next few years will be harsh. Moral courage and leadership is what is needed. As I watch the likes of Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity work their rhetorical magic, it is clear that we have a major deficit in wisdom, courage and leadership. Instead of analyzing how we got here and how we want the country to be in ten years, when this crisis has past, we are focused only on specific right wing or left wing agendas and how to position ourselves for the next election cycle. The short sightedness of our current leadership will lead to the next more dangerous phase of this crisis."

February 10, 2009

Google crashes the smart-grid party | Green Tech - CNET News

Google crashes the smart-grid party | Green Tech - CNET News

Wait until the paranoid privacy wonks get their heads around this. The smart grid/meter will enable Google (do no evil) to remotely monitor every electrical meter. Will the next step be control of the flow of electrons through that meter into a home or business above and beyond the control of the customer?

Think about the implications. People who don't/can't pay their bills would get electricity only during certain hours. If a household used more than the 'acceptable' amount, they would pay exorbitant prices for those extra KWH used at peak times. Of course, this is possible now as an option in some places, but what if it becomes mandatory to 'save the planet?"

This will be a fun debate!

Leadership Lacking in Vermont State Government

Yesterday, Feb. 9, at the Legislative breakfast sponsored by the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, three business panelists, Win Smith, president of Sugarbush Resort; Bill Schubart, writer/commentator and former CEO of Resolution, Inc.; and Al Gobeille, owner of the Shanty on the Shore discussed 'Fueling the Vermont Economy including a discussion of Vermont's strengths and weaknesses.

Many topics were discussed, but three critical issues were raised by the panelists that they believe require concerted action by the Governor and the Legislature. Without extensive elaboration in this post (we have commented on them to one degree or another in earlier News posts), these structural issues that must be dealt with are:

The spiraling costs and inefficient governance of public education

A strategic reworking of the Vermont tax code for economic growth

Reinvention of state government to be smaller, less costly and more efficient

I wholehearted agree that these are front-burner strategic and critical issues (among others) that have severely constrained and will continue to hinder Vermont's economic growth producing costs that cannot be supported by the tax base...even absent a recession. Unless and until these structural issues are remedied, Vermont's economy will perform far below its potential.

These are BIG tasks requiring political will and leadership to do the right thing by making the hard decisions. Frankly speaking, we see little evidence of either in Montpelier. Coincidentally, today's Burlington Free Press editorial comes down very hard on this lack of leadership and ideas:

"What we are learning about our government is that it can cut and tax, but it is
largely deficient of any creative means to retool government.

The people who take over the helm of state government do so because they want the jobs and say they are up to the challenges. Too often of late, Vermonters have reason to believe that our elected leaders aren't up to any challenge.

The news on the economy keeps getting worse. State revenues are lower than the already pessimistic forecast issued just weeks earlier. Even Vermont's largest employers are laying off workers as the nation shed 600,000 jobs just in January. And all our elected representatives can do is cut and run, or tax and run [emphasis added].

We are long past the time for small-minded bickering over solutions
that tries to nibble away at the budget problem. Vermont needs big ideas and
bold steps that moves us forward
. [emphasis added]

This is the job you were elected to do. Do your job."

Bravo for the strong words from the Free Press, but we are left wondering whether our leaders are up to the task. We see three possibilities:

1./ they are not equipped to do the job and are overwhelmed by its enormity;
2./they are held hostage by their partisan ideology, political beliefs or special interests and refuse to act for fear of offending their voter base; or
3./ do not understand or accept the problem exists or believe they will be saved from tough actions by a shower of federal stimulus dollars.

Whatever the cause for their paralysis, we see it as a failure of Legislative and Executive leadership to avoid tackling the tough, structural issues facing our state. We deserve better.

February 8, 2009

Slipstream - Prop 8 Donor Web Site Shows Disclosure Law Is 2-Edged Sword - NYTimes.com

Slipstream - Prop 8 Donor Web Site Shows Disclosure Law Is 2-Edged Sword - NYTimes.com

This is a story about the fascinating conflict centered around the Proposition 8 victory against gay marriage in California and its aftermath. Opponents of the the initiative have used technology in a clever way to extract their idea of revenge on financial contributors to the winning side.

Two comments:

1./ I have long believed there should be no right to anonymity on the web. We have no legally based right to anonymity as far as I can tell. It seems the creators of the Google Maps enhanced website that identifies the donors and locations of Proposition 8 supporters was created for the sole purpose of making it easy to 'target' financial supporters. The story suggests no effort by supporters on the other side of the question to do the same. The website creators should have no more right, morally, to anonymity than do the financial contributors in support of the Proposition.

2./ The New York Times bias is once more revealed by their photo selected to accompany the story. They should have used no photo or a smaller one of demonstrations by both sides in the dispute.

February 7, 2009

E-Books Take Center Stage - PC World

E-Books Take Center Stage - PC World

I find reading whole books on my cell phone a non-starter.

The form factor is simply too small. This PC World story is useful but missing discussion of this soon-to-be-product, from Plastic Logic. If it works as envisioned and is priced right, it and other devices will be the distribution media of choice for what are now books, newsprint and glossy magazines.

Some will miss the familiar paper medium, but it will disappear quickly once these products hit the market at the proper price point and distribution deals with content providers are in place. I have yet to find a convincing argument that it won't happen.

General Says His Iraq Envoy Job Was Rescinded - NYTimes.com

General Says His Iraq Envoy Job Was Rescinded - NYTimes.com:

What a shameful way to treat a general who was told that he all but had the job as ambassador to Iraq. We are not told who made the decision, but if Hillary and Joe accepted him, it must have been the President or one of his top aides who changed the decision. It smacks of Rahm Immanuel, who we are told by the media, is a foul-mouthed and difficult person. Or was it Obama himself?
"General Zinni said he met for more than an hour with Mrs. Clinton, discussing a wide range of Iraq issues with her; James B. Steinberg, one of her two appointed deputy secretaries; and William J. Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs.
“She thanked me for taking this, and we went over what needed to be done,” General Zinni said. “She turned to Steinberg and Burns and said: ‘Let’s get the paperwork moving. We’ve got to move on this.’ ”
The next day, General Zinni said, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called to thank him for taking the job.

But that was the last word on Iraq that General Zinni said he heard from the administration.

The call he was told to expect from Mr. Burns never came, General Zinni said, and when he called each day to check on his status, he said, Mr. Burns sounded increasingly vague.

With decisions to make on withdrawing from corporate boards and recruiting aides, General Zinni said he called General Jones on Monday.

General Jones broke the news: “It’s going to be Chris Hill,” General Zinni said he was told."

“As a sorry offer to placate me, they offered ambassador to Saudi,” he said in a separate e-mail message, referring to Saudi Arabia. “I told them to stick it where the sun don’t shine.”

February 6, 2009

Stimulus Resurrects Plan to Hire Local Police Officers - NYTimes.com

Stimulus Resurrects Plan to Hire Local Police Officers - NYTimes.com

Missing from this story is the reality that any police hired with stimulus $ which presumably don't go on forever must be paid eventually with local tax revenues. Seems foolish to train and add people temporarily that a city/town may not need or be able to afford when the stimulus $ dry up.

Mike Schirling police chief in Burlington was quoted in the story but his quote did not carry an endorsement of a proposal for temporary funding.

Michael E. Schirling, the police chief in Burlington, Vt., a city of 40,000, said in an interview that while he expected crime to rise because of the troubled economy, it had not done so yet. But Chief Schirling said that “the wave of economic troubles surely has the potential to drive not only crime but the stresses that drive people to alcohol and drug abuse, and that increases the volume of calls to law enforcement agencies.”

February 3, 2009

The Talking Heads Will Love This!

Update: 1:16 pm 2/3/09.

If the President
means what he says about ethics, this had to happen.

from The Wall Street Journal

Feb. 3, 2009

Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination to be secretary of Health and Human Services. President Obama said Tuesday he accepted the withdrawal "with sadness and regret." Mr. Daschle had failed to pay more than $100,000 in taxes in a timely fashion, and his relationship with EduCap is under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service.

Not paying taxes must be the 'in' thing for the Obama crowd. This would be hilarious if it weren't so sad. The proposed 'performance' czar is delivering a really riveting performance.

Perhaps the tax code is far too complex for them to follow or they hire lousy tax accountants. No wonder there's a call from Democrats to tax the rich even more...many of the wealthy Democrats don't pay all their taxes. This bodes ill for Daschle

But it gets worse! Check out this story at Time Magazine!!!!!

"...She [Killefer] took a hiatus from her work at McKinsey from 1997 to 2000 to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration, where she led a major modernization of the Internal Revenue Service. Clinton later appointed her to the IRS Oversight Board.

• Despite her extensive knowledge of the system, she ran afoul of the IRS in 2005 when it placed a $946 tax lien on her home, accusing her of failing to pay unemployment compensation tax for her household employees. Killefer was cleared shortly thereafter.

I don't remember a fiasco like this for Bush nominees.

from The Wall Street Journal

Feb. 3, 2009

Nancy Killefer, nominated by President Obama to be the federal government's first chief performance officer, is withdrawing from the post, the White House said. An administration official confirmed that she is withdrawing over a tax problem. "On the heels of Geithner and Daschle, she just didn't want to go through with it," the official said.


David Brooks on the New Ruling Class

David is wonderfully funny in this satirical view of the new ruling class and their cohorts in Washington. Read it and chuckle or LOL if you like!

..."For those who don’t know, Ward Three is a section of Northwest Washington, D.C., where many Democratic staffers, regulators, journalists, lawyers, Obama aides and senior civil servants live. Thanks to recent and coming bailouts and interventions, the people in Ward Three run the banks and many major industries. Through this power, they get to insert themselves into the intricacies of upscale life, influencing when private jets can be flown, when friends can lend each other their limousines and at what golf resorts corporate learning retreats can be held.

The good news for rich people is that people in this neighborhood are very nice and cerebral. On any given Saturday, half the people in Ward Three are arranging panel discussions for the other half to participate in. They live in modest homes with recently renovated kitchens and Nordic Track machines crammed into the kids’ play areas downstairs (for some reason, people in Ward Three are only interested in toning the muscles in the lower halves of their bodies)...."

Editorial - The Travails of Tom Daschle - NYTimes.com

Editorial - The Travails of Tom Daschle - NYTimes.com:

Bravo to the Times for calling this one right.

Daschle embodies the sleazy side of Washington's revolving door like so many others before him. Making the kind of money he did for influence peddling in an industry he will be intimately involved with stretches credibility. Daschle should withdraw his name and/or Obama should disinvite him.

"Mr. Daschle is another in a long line of politicians who move cozily between government and industry. We don’t know that his industry ties would influence his judgments on health issues, but they could potentially throw a cloud over health care reform. Mr. Daschle could clear the atmosphere by withdrawing his name."