January 16, 2016

2016-01-11 Letter to Colchester Legislators

2016-01-11 Letter to Colchester Legislators - Google Docs:

January 2016
Senator DIck Mazza, Representative Jim Condon, Representative Joey Purvis, Representative Pat Brennan, Representative Maureen Dakin

Thank you for your service to Colchester and Vermont! Another tough legislative session looms and your task will be no easier this year.

Below are my views/priorities on the issues that deserve your focus and that of your leaders.

Please resist any impulse to waste time on minutiae, including expansive legalization of recreational marijuana. All other arguments aside, do not be cajoled into believing that you will have the opportunity to create a new revenue stream. Instead, you would enable a robust black market while creating yet another regulatory bureaucracy.

Control Overall State Spending
Recognize that Vermont has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Please adopt that mindset and resist the temptation to raise taxes and fees yet again to balance the budget. Focus on efficiency in state government and reduce services as necessary. The AHS budget in particular is out of control.
Resist the siren song of budgeting on the notion of a “moral economy” where Vermonters needs and wants are so conflated that runaway spending is sure to follow. Vermont’s government role is not to meet all the needs/wants of Vermonters.

Keep the Cap on Education Spending
While Act 46 and the details within it are controversial, the fundamental premise, capping statewide education spending at 2%, is absolutely correct. Retain that and work on the details if you must. Do not succumb to the argument that because health care or other costs may have risen, the cap should change. Hold the line on total spending.
Reduce the overly generous income sensitivity element of education funding so that taxpayers vote more rationally on school budgets.

Carefully Scrutinize the Administration’s All Payer Waiver Request
The Administration wisely abandoned its single payer ideology as unaffordable. Do not allow Vermont to create an alternative that would pull Medicare funding under state auspices. The Medicaid crisis was created by the Legislature as part of the Single Payer/VHC fiasco. Please do not aggravate Vermont’s demonstrated inability to manage health care by allowing the Administration/GMCB to tamper with Federal control Medicare funds. Instead, keep focused on constraining the costs of Vermont’s health care rather than fiddling with the payment stream..

Carbon Tax

Vermont’s  Regulatory, Population and Workforce Infrastructure Problem is Critical
Vermont’s workforce and demographic trends portend yet deeper trouble for our economy. The excessive time, energy and costs for doing business in Vermont are serious debilitating burdens on businesses. Because we lack common-sense regulation with swift decisions, capital investments are unnecessarily delayed in far too many instances. The regulatory and bureaucratic overburden at all levels of government is a major factor in the unsustainable costs of housing, business development and growth. A serious overhaul is long overdue and substantial improvements would send a potent signal that Vermont is open for business and job growth.


David Usher, 267 Biscayne Heights, Colchester VT 05446, 802 735-2233

cc: Colchester Sun
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January 12, 2015

Media Cowers in the Face of Radical Islam

We are both enthralled and dismayed with the radical Islamist terrorist attacks in France. The TV  talking heads do their best to help us understand today’s reality but meander in it. Will they promote the anti-Islamist meme or be cowed by fear of retaliation?

Good effort initially by most, but missing the long view. Radical Islam, perhaps co-opting the 1.6 billion mainstream adherents of Islam, intends to create the overthrow of the longstanding paradigm of nation states, democracy, and the rule of law divorced from religious ideology.

So far the media has chosen to refrain from ‘offending’ Islam probably out of fear for themselves and their employees. Has freedom of the press and speech been co-opted by Islamic crazies? If so, cowardice has trumped freedom and western civilization is threatened by their lack of courage. For sure, journalism is a risky business and those who practice it faithfully buy into those risks

Western civilization must understand that their worldview and way of life  is under attack by radical Islamists. The media and press must stand and speak against this threat if they believe in democracy and the underpinnings of Western civilization. Otherwise they fail us as an institution of demcracy.

August 31, 2014

The Mental Virtues

The Mental Virtues (David Brooks 08/29/14 NYT) Character and Thinking, the important elements; Is it possible to display and cultivate character if you are just an information age office jockey, alone with a memo or your computer?

Love of learning. Some people are just more ardently curious than others, either by cultivation or by nature.

Second, there is courage. The obvious form of intellectual courage is the willingness to hold unpopular views. But the subtler form is knowing how much risk to take in jumping to conclusions. (Intellectual courage is self-regulation, Roberts and Wood argue, knowing when to be daring and when to be cautious.)

Third, there is firmness. You don’t want to be a person who surrenders his beliefs at the slightest whiff of opposition. On the other hand, you don’t want to hold dogmatically to a belief against all evidence. The median point between flaccidity and rigidity is the virtue of firmness. Firmness is a quality of mental agility.

Fourth, there is humility, which is not letting your own desire for status get in the way of accuracy. The humble person fights against vanity and self-importance. He’s not writing those sentences people write to make themselves seem smart; he’s not thinking of himself much at all. The humble researcher doesn’t become arrogant toward his subject, assuming he has mastered it. Such a person is open to learning from anyone at any stage in life.

Fifth, there is autonomy. You don’t want to be a person who slavishly adopts whatever opinion your teacher or some author gives you. On the other hand, you don’t want to reject all guidance from people who know what they are talking about. Autonomy is the median of knowing when to bow to authority and when not to, when to follow a role model and when not to, when to adhere to tradition and when not to.

Finally, there is generosity. This virtue starts with the willingness to share knowledge and give others credit. But it also means hearing others as they would like to be heard, looking for what each person has to teach and not looking to triumphantly pounce upon their errors.

The mind is embedded in human nature, and very often thinking well means pushing against the grain of our nature — against vanity, against laziness, against the desire for certainty, against the desire to avoid painful truths. Good thinking isn’t just adopting the right technique. It’s a moral enterprise and requires good character, the ability to go against our lesser impulses for the sake of our higher ones.
(Shared from Google Keep)

March 22, 2014

Our Comrade the Electron


Our Comrade the Electron by MACIEJ CEGLOWSKI

"We put so much care into making the Internet resilient from technical failures, but make no effort to make it resilient to political failure. We treat freedom and the rule of law like inexhaustible natural resources, rather than the fragile and precious treasures that they are.
And now, of course, it's time to make the Internet of Things, where we will connect everything to everything else, and build cool apps on top, and nothing can possibly go wrong."

Highly recommend you read this very poignant essay. Predicting how society, culture and governments will respond to technological change is nearly impossible.

March 18, 2014

Study Questions Fat and Heart Disease Link - NYTimes.com

Study Questions Fat and Heart Disease Link - NYTimes.com: "Many of us have long been told that saturated fat, the type found in meat, butter and cheese, causes heart disease. But a large and exhaustive new analysis by a team of international scientists found no evidence that eating saturated fat increased heart attacks and other cardiac events."

So, another long-standing medical axiom seems to have bitten the dust.

I have always maintained that reasonably healthy people who eat a balanced diet will remain reasonably healthy. Given the diversity in the genetic makeup of our bodies, a one-rule-fits-all formulaic approach can only be relevant to average people. Of course, none of us is 'average.' We are all unique.

I believe we will eventually learn what foods are best for each of us based on our genome. We are getting closer to that goal as research gallops ahead.

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March 12, 2014

Interview with Founder of 23andMe Genetics Testing Company

This interview with Anne Wojicicki, the founder of the direct-to-consumer genetics testing company 23andMe provides her view of the potential of genetic testing for citizens.

My genetic information is in their database and I have been fascinated with the outputs provided.

I hope the FDA soon approves what they are doing as it relates to medical information so that the updates relevant to my DNA will continue.

An interesting dialogue about the FDA controversy is available here at Ycombinator.

January 18, 2014

The future of jobs: The onrushing wave | The Economist

The future of jobs: The onrushing wave | The Economist:

We are in for a long , difficult economic and societal dilemma as spelled out in this piece. The political expression of it is the growing gap between the rich and the poor and the hollowing out of the middle class that politicians bloviate about without offering any real solutions. Perhaps they fail to understand or believe the underlying problem, opting instead to try and legislate job growth..

I'm reading this book, The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies,  referenced in the Economist story, which provides deep insight about the disruption of the traditional economic expectations.

"In a forthcoming book Thomas Piketty, an economist at the Paris School of Economics, argues along similar lines that America may be pioneering a hyper-unequal economic model in which a top 1% of capital-owners and “supermanagers” grab a growing share of national income and accumulate an increasing concentration of national wealth. The rise of the middle-class—a 20th-century innovation—was a hugely important political and social development across the world. The squeezing out of that class could generate a more antagonistic, unstable and potentially dangerous politics.
The potential for dramatic change is clear. A future of widespread technological unemployment is harder for many to accept. Every great period of innovation has produced its share of labour-market doomsayers, but technological progress has never previously failed to generate new employment opportunities."
I believe it's different this time because of the blinding pace of technological change and the ability to explore new models of productivity, work and service, nearly all of which reduce the human labor content in many previously 'safe' occupations.

Our institutions are more deeply entrenched and harder to change. Poorly educated people do not stand a chance for their insufficient skills to command a good-paying job in this new economy. With more generous government benefits, the incentive to work disappears from most folks.

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January 6, 2014

Reality and Politics Clash

Government dependency is a corrosive force that undermines democracy. TeamObama's thrust to transform America creates a collision course toward the destruction of democracy. How is it that so many people fail to see this?

When people accept the government as their source of basic sustenance, the spark of personal responsibility is slowly extinguished. Following that is a loss of a person's verve to better his/her condition. When government largess supplants individual initiative, the country is on the road to its demise as an example of freedom and liberty.

This should be the core debate in the elections ahead.

Radical Islam vs the West

I have concluded that the West has lost control of the Middle East and those parts of the world, North Africa and other places, that are beset with Radical Islam played out in the Sunni-Shia-anti-Infidel conflict. The West is both unable and unwilling to confront this menace and it will only end with a MAJOR conflict.

Israel will act on any real threat to its existence and no amount of Kerry diplomacy will thwart the players driven by Islamist religious differences. This situation can only end in the Biblical Armageddon. Many prophecies foretell this conflict.

We may delay it, but the threat cannot be eliminated. War will inevitably happen and, IMHO, it will be nuclear.

December 31, 2013

TeamObama's Big Question

President Obama's big question:

Does he recover by trying to work with Republicans in Congress or by confronting them heading into next year's midterm elections?"

Credit WSJ 12/31/13
I'm guessing he will confront and aggressively enter campaign mode.