January 30, 2011

Gov. Shumlin Looking to Get Off the Hook?

This excerpt from TrueNorth Reports daily newsletter (01/28/11) reporting on Gov Shumlin's press conference earlier this week is very likely correct. Entergy won't walk away from its investment in Vermont Yankee without exhausting all its potential remedies.

I believe Entergy's chances are better than even that the Federal courts will side with them, but this case, if filed, will likely wind up at the Supreme Court. How much money Vermont will squander defending such a lawsuit is anybody's guess. Attorney General Sorrell, what's your budget for this?
"...The bad news is that Shumlin appears totally un-moveable from his insistence that Vermont Yankee be closed in 2012, despite being deemed safe for operation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This, despite red flags raised this week by IBM that Vermont's largest private employer could be "outta here" if electric rates rise to un uncompetitive levels. Speculation in the State House is that Shumlin's looking for a federal lawsuit by Entergy denying the legislature the authority to close the plant to get him off the hook without overtly breaking his campaign promises...."

January 27, 2011

The Minimalist Chooses 25 of His Favorites - NYTimes.com

Saving this list of 25 recipes for future reference. I enjoy Mark Bittman's recipes immensely. Will try several of these. One is for variations of Pasta from the Pantry which he obtained from Arthur Schwartz. These are fast pasta recipes with simple ingredients. And I love pasta!

Arthur, who we had an opportunity to meet and visit with on a warm Vermont afternoon last summer, has frequently visited in Campania and has written several books on Neapolitan cooking.

It really is a small world, as we have stayed at the same agriturismo where Schwartz is friends with the owner and learned much of his Campania cooking skills.

January 25, 2011

Gov. Shumlin's budget address - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

The screaming and gnashing of teeth by those advocates affected by Governor Shumlin's $83 million budget reductions cannot be far behind his budget speech today.

"The top contributors to the $83 million in reductions are the following:

A $23 million ongoing reduction from the General Fund transfer to the Education Fund. This reduction, which I announced last month, will require continued spending restraint by our hardworking school boards and local communities to hold back property tax increases.

The $19 million in one-time federal funding that I am releasing this year will give our local communities additional time to make further spending reductions, but they must be made.

$12 million in government labor, private contract, health insurance, and retirement savings.

$7.2 million in savings throughout the corrections system.

$5 million from folding the Catamount Health program into the Vermont Health Access program, otherwise known as VHAP, to create one single health care pool for Vermont.

$4.6 million in reduced funding for our regional mental health agencies."

Vermont Tiger: We Cut Spending Already ... Didn't We?

Well worth a read for anyone following the budget crunch in Vermont state government.

Mr. Pelham's writing has appeared in many places recently. I have excerpted the essential elements. How can we trust our Legislature when its leaders tell us they have cut spending when if fact they have not as Mr. Pelham reports? And he reports from a position of authority in the previous Administration.

by Tom Pelham (Tom Pelham was the Commissioner of Finance for Howard Dean and Tax Commissioner and Deputy Secretary of Administration for Jim Douglas)
"It’s common knowledge that state budgets have been cut during the current recession, including deep cuts in human services. But is it true? Let's look at the record ... and this chart.

The truth is that the total state budget grew robustly during this recession. From fiscal 2008 through fiscal 2011 the state budget increased by $658.9 million, or 4.62% per year while the Agency of Human Services budget increased by $336.3 million or 6.53% per year. Much of this increase was fueled by ARRA funds which supplanted recession depleted general funds. General funds are broad based state taxes including income, sales, meals and rooms, and corporate. ARRA funds are temporary federal stimulus dollars granted to states to soften the recession, but will end after fiscal 2011.

Yet legislators, news reporters, editors, advocates, and bloggers routinely reference state budget cuts as fact. In a January 15 article, the Burlington Free Press quotes Martha Heath, House Appropriations Chair, as saying “Because this is our third or fourth year in a row making budget cuts, it just gets more and more difficult to find a way to cut the budget that won’t be painful to people….”. Whether to cut the budget or raise taxes is certainly debatable, but providing the public with factual reference points as to whether the budget has already been cut is fundamental to an informed debate. In this regard, the media has failed the public..."

January 17, 2011

Bastardi’s Wager - National Review Online

Worth a read..the views of a climate change realist, IMHO.

Have others put their 10-year temperature forecast on the line for scrutiny? Fixating on one aspect, CO2, of an enormously complex system, the world's climate, seems, well, a bit unscientific.
And, of course, there are the politics and government funding of the debate that influence the position of various scientists. They are, after all, merely human and subject to all the pushes and shoves that assault the rest of us.

United in Horror - NYTimes.com

United in Horror - NYTimes.com:

Ross Douthat's thoughtful writing on January 9, 2011 is a beacon of reason in the sour fog of rhetoric by so many political operatives and journalists following the tragic shooting in Tuscon on January 8.

"When our politicians and media loudmouths act like fools and zealots, they should be held responsible for being fools and zealots. They shouldn’t be held responsible for the darkness that always waits to swallow up the unstable and the lost.

We should remember, too, that there are places where mainstream political movements really are responsible for violence against their rivals. (Last week’s assassination of a Pakistani politician who dared to defend a Christian is a stark reminder of what that sort of world can look like.) Not so in America: From the Republican leadership to the Tea Party grass roots, all of Gabrielle Giffords’s political opponents were united in horror at the weekend’s events. There is no faction in American politics that actually wants its opponents dead.

That may seem like a small blessing, amid so much tragedy and loss. But it is a blessing worth remembering nonetheless."

January 16, 2011

Pawlenty Argues Against Raising Debt Ceiling - WSJ.com

The battle lines for the spending debate are drawn around raising the national debt limit. This IS a debate well worth having. Congress simply cannot continue to spend the country into oblivion.

"'You cannot defy the laws of gravity, and this issue of Obama's approach versus the austerity approach is a very important debate,' Mr. Pawlenty said in the Journal interview. 'President Obama is just wrong.'

Mr. Pawlenty also challenged Mr. Obama to explain why as a senator he opposed and voted against a debt-ceiling increase under President George W. Bush but now says that such a stand by Republicans is reckless.

In 2006, then-Sen. Obama said on the Senate floor: 'The fact that we're here today to debate raising America's debt is a sign of leadership failure. Leadership means the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit.'

His positions then and now are 'wildly inconsistent and reflect hypocrisy,' said Mr. Pawlenty."

Captured: America in Color from 1939-1943 | Plog — World news photography, Photos — The Denver Post

Here are some incredibly insightful pictures from the 1930s and 1940s. They are worth a look!

January 14, 2011

All Talk and No Action on U.S. Deficit/Debt Reduction

Where is the action on the Deficit Reduction Commission's recommendations? Ever since Tucson, and even before, the Commission's report has fallen off the media radar screen.

This letter from my Congressman is just so much rhetoric. Where's the action? What are your proposals, Congressman?

"Thank you for contacting me about federal spending and the importance of fiscal responsibility. Getting America's fiscal house in order is one of my top priorities in the new Congress.

As you may know, when President Obama took office, the federal deficit was $1.3 trillion. Since then, the deficit has significantly increased due in large part to the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which appropriated nearly $800 billion in emergency spending to stimulate the ailing economy and avert an economic disaster not seen since the Great Depression.

It is clear that the level of federal spending and debt has now reached a crisis stage and that Congress and the President must act to bring it under control. The report released by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is a critical step in focusing national attention on the deficit and recognizing that all aspects of government spending must be carefully examined. While I believe everything must be on the table – from defense spending, to entitlement spending, to tax loopholes, to line item appropriations – these cuts must not disproportionately affect seniors or low and middle income Americans."

From a Wall Street Journal story:
"Two leading credit rating agencies on Thursday cautioned the U.S. on its credit rating, expressing concern over a deteriorating fiscal situation that they say needs correction.Moody's Investors Service said in a report Thursday that the U.S. will need to reverse an upward trajectory in the debt ratios to support its triple-A rating."We have become increasingly clear about the fact that if there are not offsetting measures to reverse the deterioration in negative fundamentals in the U.S., the likelihood of a negative outlook over the next two years will increase," said Sarah Carlson, senior analyst at Moody's.View Full Imageusrating0113Bloomberg NewsA Wall Street sign stands outside the New York Stock Exchange. S&P and Moody's warned the U.S. about its credit rating and urged the government to do more to arrest a deteriorating fiscal situation.
"The view of markets is that the U.S. will continue to benefit from the exorbitant privilege linked to the U.S. dollar" to fund its deficits, Carol Sirou, head of S&P France, said at a Paris conference Thursday. "But that may change. We can't rule out changing the outlook" on the U.S. sovereign debt rating in the future, she warned. She added the jobless nature of the U.S. recovery was one of the biggest threats to the U.S. economy. "No triple-A rating is forever," she said.Standard & Poor's Corp. on Thursday also didn't rule out changing the outlook for its U.S. sovereign-debt rating because of the recent deterioration of the country's fiscal situation. The U.S. currently has a triple-A rating with a stable outlook at both agencies.