June 28, 2010

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Gun Rights - WSJ.com

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Gun Rights - WSJ.com

Guns don't kill people. People do.

"...Monday's ruling elevates the Second Amendment right to bear arms to the status of a fundamental right that states can't abridge.

"It is clear that the Framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty," wrote Justice Alito in his majority opinion..."

Broadband to Be Available for More Commercial Use - NYTimes.com

Nearly doubling the spectrum available for commercial wireless broadband during the next 10 years is good news indeed. Presumably the more efficient use of all spectrum is a companion goal.

As these announcements are made about the expansion of broadband, I think of George Gilder’s predictions more than a decade ago about the coming massive shift in how services are carried. Gilder predicted a massive migration of services carried on wire (telephony) to wireless and services carried on the air (broadcast television) to wireline (fiber optics and cable).


Broadband to Be Available for More Commercial Use - NYTimes.com

June 27, 2010

Sewer gang among 500 arrested at G-20 summit - World news - Americas - msnbc.com

Sewer gang among 500 arrested at G-20 summit - World news - Americas - msnbc.com

Saul Alinsky would be proud!

"What we saw yesterday ... is a bunch of thugs that pretend to have a difference of opinion with policies and instead choose violence in order to express those so-called differences of opinion," Dimitri Soudas, spokesman for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told a news conference.

The roving band of protesters torched four police cruisers and shattered shop windows with baseball bats and hammers for blocks, including at police headquarters, then shed some of their black clothes, revealing other garments, and continued their rampage.

At G-20 Summit Talks, Obama Lacks Strong Hand on Stimulus - NYTimes.com

At G-20 Summit Talks, Obama Lacks Strong Hand on Stimulus - NYTimes.com

The upshot of this G-20 meeting seems to be disagreement by the participants on the issue of stimulus spending vs. deficit reduction.

All seem to agree that economic growth is the goal in order for countries to prosper, but their dilemma is process and timing.

I'm persuaded that underlying all of the talk is a very real crisis of confidence by the people on 'Main Street.' They are deeply affected by the Great Recession and the lingering fear that it could even be a double dip recession.

Meanwhile, sovereign debt continues to pile up and deficits must be reduced to protect the integrity of many countries' bond ratings.

In the U.S. the mighty promises of TeamObama that the $787 billion stimulus spending would create or save 3.6 million U.S. jobs is a distant, unrealized projection. Below from the WSJ in February 2009:
"...Overall, the stimulus plan would create or save about 3.6 million jobs by the end of 2010, according to projections last month by Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein, economists in the Obama administration, based on early versions of the plan. They say a stimulus bill would mean an unemployment rate of 7% in 2010, versus 8.8% otherwise. The estimate doesn't detail how many jobs are saved, as opposed to created..."

The original stimulus jobs saved/created projection is here. These days we hear next to nothing on the present status of jobs created/saved despite the lofty pronouncements about tracking and transparency. TeamObama's stimulus spending has not fulfilled it's promise

I'm disappointed that the media has allowed this failure to fade into the background. A WSJ editorial on Friday concludes:

"What the world has now reached instead is a Keynesian dead end. We are told to let Congress continue to spend and borrow until the precise moment when Mr. Summers and Mark Zandi and the other architects of our current policy say it is time to raise taxes to reduce the huge deficits and debt that their spending has produced. Meanwhile, individuals and businesses are supposed to be unaffected by the prospect of future tax increases, higher interest rates, and more government control over nearly every area of the economy. Even the CEOs of the Business Roundtable now see the damage this is doing.

A better economic policy will have to await a new Congress, which we hope at a minimum can prevent punishing tax increases. But for now the good news is that voters and markets are telling politicians to stop doing what hasn't worked."

June 25, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist - General McChrystal and the Culture of Exposure - NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist (David Brooks)- General McChrystal and the Culture of Exposure - NYTimes.com:

David Brooks' take on the sacking of Gen. McChrystal and the media culture of exposure. The underbelly of public and military service has become the target for media. Do Americans win or lose as a result?

Public servants should understand the salacious nature of today'smedia and not get caught in the trap. We can blame the media if we choose to for the sacking of Gen. McChrystal, but smart people ought to know better than vent to reporters, on or off the record.

"The reticent ethos had its flaws. But the exposure ethos, with its relentless emphasis on destroying privacy and exposing impurities, has chased good people from public life, undermined public faith in institutions and elevated the trivial over the important.

Another scalp is on the wall. Government officials will erect even higher walls between themselves and the outside world. The honest and freewheeling will continue to flee public life, and the cautious and calculating will remain.

The culture of exposure has triumphed, with results for all to see."

June 24, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist - What’s Second Prize? - NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist (Friedman)- What’s Second Prize? - NYTimes.com

Thomas Friedman seems to be in Joe Biden's camp in opposing the Afghan 'surge.' This opinion piece can't be pleasing to TeamObama. Perhaps the recent announcement of "$trillions in natural resources" will change the equation for NATO and the West.

Democracy in Afghanistan seems an oxymoron, given its warlord history. This will be a long, brutal fight. Will TeamObama and Congress have the staying power for it? Perhpas, in the long run, Pakistan is the larger terrorist threat, although the borders between the two countries may as well not exist.

Afghanistan is not Iraq which had a high literacy rate and a reasonably strong secular society. It certainly wasn't a democracy

June 23, 2010

Lake George Bike Ride

While son, Karl and a friend, Samantha, along with their eight kids were at the Great Escape amusement park, Carol and I went for a bike ride on a beautiful bike path adjoining the Lake George RV Park, where we're staying.

This beautiful trail follows the route of an old colonial path, corduroy toll road, electric trolley route, old road and now is a bike path. On this comfortably sunny day, we had a splendid ride on a 12 foot wide paved trail with mown grass shoulders. The trail is nearly level so the ride along a meandering brook in the cool forest shade was wonderful!

Of historical note, this very place was the site of a major battles on September 8, 1755 between the British Colonialists and the French with their respective Abenaki, Iroquois and Mohawk allies. The trail has historic markers briefly explaining those September battles known as the Battle of Lake George, a bloody month indeed.

I realize I know little to nothing of the pre-Revolutionary battles between the British and the French for eastern North America, part of the broader conflict known as the Seven Years War.
While researching some of this, it struck me that only two decades later American Colonials were fighting the British and Loyalists again, with French assistance. So the British in North America must have been somewhat war-weary which may have made our revolutionary struggle a bit 'easier.'

It also struck me that last year when we visited Fort Louisbourg in Nova Scotia, that the Seven Years War raged there too with the fort changing hands on more than one occasion with the resulting forced exodus of the Acadians to other parts of North America, including Louisiana.

It seems we in the U.S. have been at war ever since the settling of the country...a trait shared by most of mankind, it seems. Power and ideologies are forever violently clashing. That is the nature of Man.

The President Chose the Correct Course

As I blogged yesterday, any President cannot let stand the remarks made by a general [McChrystal in this instance] and his top aides as reported in Rolling Stone magazine. Whatever a magazine's sentiment, anti or pro war/policy in Afghanistan, personal derogatory remarks published and not rebutted as false cannot be allowed to stand by a Commander-in-Chief.

The response to this episode should be professional by people in active or retired military status whether they agree with TeamObama's politics or not. We cannot allow the bedrock Constitutional principle of civilian control of our military erode regardless of our political leanings.

The President acted properly and his statement is correct:

"I don’t make this decision based on any difference in policy with Gen. McChrystal, as we are in full agreement about our strategy. Nor do I make this decision out of any sense of personal insult. The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general, it undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of ourdemocratic system and it erodes the trust that is necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan."

June 22, 2010

U.K. Unveils Emergency Budget - The Source - WSJ

U.K. Unveils Emergency Budget - The Source - WSJ

If enacted, Britain will demonstrate they are serious about constraining their deficits and debt. Will the U.S. have the same resolve?

An argument seems to be prevalent in the U.S. that continued deficit spending is necessary to support a glum economy. This continued mortgaging of our future to overseas lenders is public policy I do not support.

It's past time for some austerity in the U.S. Citizens and government alike need to demonstrate more fiscal discipline.

McChrystal Apologizes for Remarks in Magazine - NYTimes.com

McChrystal Apologizes for Remarks in Magazine - NYTimes.com

Assuming real fire is causing this smoke in the Rolling Stone story, the aesthetic General McChrystal soon will be relieved from his command of the Afghan effort.

TeamObama or any President cannot tolerate this public display of 'attitude' from a top commander in the field. General McChrystal has crossed a line. Whether he's right or wrong makes no difference, a President cannot tolerate and a sage general should never make such remarks.

Nevertheless, with these attitudes out in the open, TeamObama's Afghan policies will gather yet more detractors. In any event, my guess is the military was already not in the TeamObama camp. None of this bodes well for him and his policies

I wonder what Secretary of Defense Gates will say and do? He cannot support McChrystal and remain Secretary.
Update 6/22/10
Gates' initial statement:
"I read with concern the profile piece on Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the upcoming edition of “Rolling Stone” magazine. I believe that Gen. McChrystal made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment in this case. We are fighting a war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies, who directly threaten the United States, Afghanistan, and our friends and allies around the world. Going forward, we must pursue this mission with a unity of purpose. Our troops and coalition partners are making extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our security, and our singular focus must be on supporting them and succeeding in Afghanistan without such distractions. Gen. McChrystal has apologized to me and is similarly reaching out to others named in this article to apologize to them as well. I have recalled Gen. McChrystal to Washington to discuss this in person."

June 20, 2010

Cost of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Keeps Rising - NYTimes.com

Cost of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Keeps Rising - NYTimes.com

Thank you, Congress. Kudos to Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank in particular for pressuring banks and mortgage companies over the years to make loans to people for homes they could not afford.

Thanks also to greedy Wall street creative loan packagers who crafted mortgage derivatives that few could understand and for insurance companies who played in this game of building a house of cards that continues to cause so much grief for so many people.

Special thanks to those people who gamed the system and made irresponsible purchases incurring debt they should have known they could not pay.

Together, you have sponsored a massive debt for United States taxpayers, enabled China to become increasing influential in our future and burdened our children and grandchildren with a dismal, debt-filled, high tax future.

The America Dream has been sideswiped by all of you.

The Economy Cannot Support U.S. Government Spending.

Hansen's weekly analysis of the economy is glum indeed. Our Congress recently has shown no discipline to manage the enormous debt and increasing deficits. Hansen's is one more thoughtful basis why we need a different Congress. Spendthrift governance deserves a November change. The question remains whether Americans have the will to vote for it. The anti-incumbency movement is encouraging particularly with increasing sentiment against the massive debt and spending.

Look at Hansen's first graph which shows that entitlement spending alone practically equals the expected annual revenue. We simply have lived beyond our means, yet there are many in Congress who would increase taxes rather than reduce spending, which is always difficult but now essential. Those should not be re-elected.

June 18, 2010

FCC takes next step in Internet regulation - MarketWatch

FCC takes next step in Internet regulation - MarketWatch

Net neutrality will be the big fight of the next decade. The federal government will argue that all traffic regardless of priority, deleterious effects on the internet backbone or critical facilities should be transported with equal priority across all networks. This has a comforting populist appeal to it and many interests, including Google and Microsoft will back it.

Network managers charged with insuring that internet systems capacity is always adequate everywhere may find that costs will increase because additional investment in capacity may be forced on them arbitrarily to meet some FCC defined traffic standard. Meanwhile the massive users of these networks such as Google, Microsoft and other companies stimulating heavy traffic will support any rules that increase capacity because they don't have to foot the bill for it beyond their access.

Consumers will generally care less about this becuse it's nearly impossible for average users to know if their traffic is properly managed or network-neutral. They are interested in 'fast' if they are paying for broadband and expect to get what they pay for. The fly in this ointment is typically the 'last mile' connection to the internet. Last-mile access can vary in quality and capacity depending on a host of physical, technical and geographical factors.

June 17, 2010

Many Will Make Money From the Gulf Disaster

With adversity there is always opportunity in a reasonably free global marketplace for energy and related services.

While you might not want to own BP stock or Transocean shares right now, this fellow offers some advice for investors about companies and sectors that may well benefit from the Gulf mess and the reasons why.

Wind Power Graphic

More than you probably ever wanter to know...facts about wind power, but in one graphic.

One important fact to keep in mind: The NAMEPLATE rating is not the output that can be expected from a wind turbine. The NAMEPLATE rating must be multiplied by a capacity factor (typically 20% - 35% for wind turbines/farms) to account for the time that the wind is too weak or too strong to generate electricity or when the turbine is out of service for maintenance. So, the output over time of a wind turbine with a NAMEPLATE capacity of 4 megawatts is likely to be 0.8 to 1.4 megawatts.

We would be better served if the popular media were clear about this when they report the true capacity of a wind farm. Instead, they resort to statements such as 'the wind farm will generate enough electricity to power 5,000 homes.' We are left wondering if they used NAMEPLATE rating or the far more realistic NAMEPLATE x capacity factor in their reporting. The difference is huge.

June 14, 2010

Mineral Wealth Estimate Excites Afghan Officials - NYTimes.com

Mineral Wealth Estimate Excites Afghan Officials - NYTimes.com:

Here's a game-changer! If mineral assets in Afghanistan are worth a trillion or more dollars, economic opportunity may soon trump radical Islam as the driving force determining the future of the country.

Wouldn't the radical Islamic fundamentalists love to get their hands on this wealth to fund their jihad against the West! The stakes in the Aghan war just rose dramatically!

"According to the report, which was described Monday in The New York Times, Afghanistan has at least $1 trillion in mineral deposits that have yet to be unearthed. It is a potential income source so vast that if it were tapped and the wealth handled in a way to benefit the whole population, the country could be transformed. It would also turn Afghanistan into a mining center.

That would, however, require a substantial change in the country’s circumstances, since many of the reserves were found in politically unstable areas, said Mr. Omar, the Mines Ministry spokesman.

“Mining is not like a shop that you can open and immediately take advantage of,” he said, adding that it would most likely take five to 10 years before the country could begin to use those reserves."
The full Times story is here.

A Fascinating Interview with the Rabbi Who Confronted Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas was an anachronism who should have disappeared as 'dean' of the White House press corps long ago. Her presence after she had outlived her usefulness is a black mark on the media establishment.

June 13, 2010

NY Times Urges Obama "to Lead"

The NY Times editorialists are clearly displeased with TeamObama's leadership and in this opinion piece offer advice to improve his handling of affairs to match their liberal view of the world. They exhort the President "to lead." The reality is he is an incompetent, inexperienced leader whose belief system and policies are not good in keeping with what Americans want and need.

The Times believes:
  • "...that without more spending the economy could remain weak for a very long time."
  • "Americans need to know that Mr. Obama, whose coolness can seem like detachment, is engaged."
  • "...the contemplative nature that was so appealing in a candidate can seem indecisive in a president."
  • "It took too long for Mr. Obama to say that the Coast Guard and not BP was in charge of operations in the gulf and it’s still not clear that is true."
  • "He should not have hesitated to suspend the expanded oil drilling program and he should have moved a lot faster to begin political and criminal investigations of the spill."
The editorial concludes:
"He should not have hesitated to suspend the expanded oil drilling program and he should have moved a lot faster to begin political and criminal investigations of the spill."
It's very clear that the Times is not pleased with TeamObama's recent performance. Yet, the actions supported by the Times are not in the best interests of the country because they will not improve the confidence of the people or the economy.

The Times believes that TeamObama can fix what's wrong in the U.S. The reality is that many of these policies, e.g. ObamaCare, excessive deficit spending and unsustainable debt are not supported by the majority of Americans and continue to create an increasing unhealthy dependency on government. Hopefully, the complexion of Congress will change in November's elections.

This scolding by the Times, his stalwart ally, is certainly not something TeamObama wants to hear, but is meant to prod him to shape up. They are obviously worried about both the mid-term and the 2012 elections. Competency matters and after 18 months in office TeamObama and the Democrat Congress come up short of the hype and expectations.

BP Oil Spill Analysis

The Gulf oil debacle provides not much to smile about, but this amusing video clip could only be done by Brits!

June 11, 2010

The future of AT&T: Of atrophying flesh and phones | The Economist

The future of AT&T: Of atrophying flesh and phones | The Economist:

Verizon will not fare much better. They will be earlier in the game than ATT with a 4G network, but the inertia of 3G will restrain customers from the new network unless they can deliver blockbuster devices and comparable prices to 3G. Maybe they'll have a fire sale on 3G to encourage deployment of all sorts of monitoring/measuring devices. As I understand it, initially new 4G phones will use 3G for voice and 4G for data.
"Hence the persistent speculation that AT&T’s boss, Randall Stephenson, may launch a bid for DirecTV, an American satellite broadcaster, to give his firm yet another means of entry to people’s homes. AT&T may also be tempted to buy a bigger foothold in fast-growing emerging markets. This week it denied rumours that it was in talks to buy a minority stake in India’s Reliance Communications. Finding the right partners abroad will be devilishly hard. But given the flesh-eaters stalking the American market, Mr Stephenson must be making plenty of calls."

Op-Ed Columnist - Prune and Grow - NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist - Prune and Grow - NYTimes.com:
David Brooks take on the increasing deficits and crushing debt that have followed government stimulus spending is a sanity check on what most politicians would have us believe...that the stimulus spending was a success for job creation/saving.

It's clear to most rational people that the U.S. (and most other Western countries) have created unsustainable deficits and debt thereby creating/preserving public sector jobs but comparatively fewer in the private sector. It's also true that these debts have not all been created during the present long-lived recession.

Public sector spending has outstripped the capacity of the economy to support it while the promised 2-3 million jobs "created or saved" failed to materialize. This spending splurge gratifies many liberals who favor the welfare state while irking conservatives thereby stirring the political pot.

That pot is likely to boil over in November as voters continue to display their distrust of incumbents, particularly those who have been in Washington long enough to be responsible for the out-of-control spending. Incumbents who have supported high spending should be very concerned about voter backlash.

Hopefully, TeamObama will not push another round of stimulus spending that we cannot afford. It's time to reduce spending and deficits as some research shows it to aid economic recovery.

Alberto Alesina of Harvard has surveyed the history of debt reduction. He’s found that, in many cases, large and decisive deficit reduction policies were followed by increases in growth, not recessions. Countries that reduced debt viewed the future with more confidence. The political leaders who ordered the painful cuts were often returned to office. As Alesina put it in a recent paper, “in several episodes, spending cuts adopted to reduce deficits have been associated with economic expansions rather than recessions.”

This was true in Europe and the U.S. in the 1990s, and in many other cases before. In a separate study, Italian economists Francesco Giavazzi and Marco Pagano looked at the way Ireland and Denmark sharply cut debt in the 1980s. Once again, lower deficits led to higher growth.

Brooks notes that to assist tax-paying middle class jobs:
"During the period of consolidation, in other words, the government will have to spend less, but target better. That will require enormous dexterity and intelligence from a political system that has recently shown neither."

June 10, 2010

Vermont's Lone Congressman on Fox News

Vermont Congressman Welch's call for BP, (a worldwide company based in Great Britain) to eliminate stock dividends and stop advertising (assuming only in the U.S.) meets strong resistance from Neil Cavuto at Fox News.

Is this a typical political ploy by the politician, Welch, to attract attention or does he really believe that the U.S. Congress should be in control of decisions that are legitimately made by a worldwide company's board of directors?

Watch the video and see if you believe that Welch's arguments are economically or legally valid. Cavuto may be baiting Welch, but Welch's arguments seem feeble.

June 6, 2010

Thanks to Vermont's Stern Center

From Blanche Podhasjski, President of the Stern Center for Language and Learning in Williston, Vermont in the 2010 Newsletter:

"...Think of the impact on our global economy when you can't read and dropout of school - business and industry lose $730 billion each year in lost wages and taxes. Health literacy has also become a huge concern: not being able to read prescriptions or Medicaid forms has significant consequences. Dropouts are more than eight times as likely to be in prison where 70% of inmates are at the lowest levels of literacy. It is remarkable that, in 2010, 80 million American adults are functionally illiterate. Borad Member Reid Lyon nailed when he said that reading failure is not just an education problem: it is a social, health and economic problem.

We feel privileged to work with educators and school leaders trying to reach those most vulnerable. When 58% of children enter kindergarten not ready to read, we know we have to start early. We have known for years that 75% of children not reading in third grade cocntinue to have difficulties in ninth grade..."

The statistics are grim for the continuing level of illiteracy in our country and the lives of people who cannot read are often crippled, not to mention the costs to society.

Thankfully, the research-based clinical help and programs they provide to learners of all ages and teachers have changed the lives of many people of all ages in Vermont and beyond.

June 1, 2010

Undercover Census Fraud Investigation - New Jersey

The culture of government...spend taxpayers' and debtor dollars freely. Mangers and supervisors don't seem to care. Where's the discipline? Where's the outrage?