Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Medicine: There Should be an App for That.

The problem with health care is the total disconnect between the service or procedure and the consumer.  With a family of eight, although everyone is apparently healthy overall, our bills tell a different story.

We have various run-ins with doctors all year.  One "minor" day surgery procedure -- which entailed a total of two hours in and out, a snip here, a stitch there, a bit of anesthesia -- cost us a cool ten thousand dollars.  Yes, that's right.  It makes me yearn for the old days (not really) when we could have just gone in and done the snipping and stitching ourselves.  But seriously, before the procedure, being the optimists that we are (or were), we figured this procedure would cost maybe two thousand dollars.  Seemed like a good imaginary price.  But of course, we found out later, we were wrong.  Totally wrong.  We did call before the procedure to find out how much it would all cost, and we were told that it would take two to three weeks to get us an estimate.  (That should have been the tip-off).

Then there was the thirty-minute MRI that cost us five thousand dollars.  Ten years ago, the exact same procedure using the exact same machine (I recognized it) had cost five hundred dollars.  When we called afterwards to find out why the procedure had increased ten times in price in ten years, we got not even an attempt to explain the huge difference in price.

Now today I have another "minor" procedure to attend to.  So, being the savvy consumer that I am, I called to inquire about price.  I was shuffled off by phone to the appropriate department, and when I reached the person (thankful she was actually there), she told me that it would take her three days to work up an "estimate".  I asked her whether this wasn't a pretty run-of-the-mill typical procedure, and shouldn't they have an "estimate" already?  (I would think that after three days they could actually give me a cool, hard price, after all that time and work).  Not the least bit amused, she explained that she would have to refer the question to various appropriate departments, and then repeated her answer that it would take them three days to work up that estimate.  Clearly, I wasn't getting anywhere.  I tried again -- well, shouldn't someone have some ballpark idea?  No, becoming tired of me and my apparent lack of understanding, she repeated the same answer.  (I might have detected a sigh too).  Then she added that most people who are concerned about price call well in advance.

As I hung up, resigned to my fate, I couldn't help but think, shouldn't we all be concerned about price?  Is there any other arena of life in which we are not concerned about price?  I mean, I worry about the price of diapers, ice cream, dinner out, dance lessons, soccer cleats, Christmas.  We have a budget for these things.  Most people do have budgets, I think.  Or at least they have a defined income within which they must live.  I can't think of any other industry in which people, including those who work in their field, are totally in the dark about price.

Even if he doesn't know exactly how much is owed, perhaps, at least a person knows what his monthly house payment is or what his car payment is, if he has one.  We are concerned about big prices and little prices.  I was just out Christmas shopping and my shopping buddy decided to wait to buy some gifts until she could be sure she could get the best possible price.

Now, I just read, there's an app that can tell you, right at the store, whether you're getting the best deal on that giant set of paper towels, or whether you should drive next door to save a couple dollars -- maybe even five.  It can tell you whether you're getting the best deal on the Pharaoh Lego set for your darling cutie-pie.

Just recently a friend face-booked all of us on her great grocery deals at Shaw's -- with pictures and everything!  Just imagine if every week we went into the grocery store, loaded up on groceries for the week, and then on checking out, were told that the store would work on it and send us a bill in the next week or so.  Imagine buying a house and signing all those papers (there's an endless amount of paperwork at the doctor's office too), all with no idea how much the whole thing is going to cost.  Even attorneys have hourly rates and specific document fees or flat-rate fees, of which they inform their clients before they begin representation.

So, as I head off into the great hazy unknown for my minor procedure, be concerned for me, and wish me good luck--on the price.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Obamacare nightmare

This is yet another example of why government run health care will be a nightmare.  The government picks on small corporations who don't have the wherewithall to fight Washington, and big corporate firms  hire lobbyists to make sweetheart deals with the government.  The result:  big government/big corporate monopolies which  mean less freedom, higher costs, and government/private company corruption. 

(From the Opinion Journal Newletter --of the Wall Street Journal)

The Obama administration promised that the Affordable Care Act would protect the public from "unreasonable" premium increases, and now our guardians at Health and Human Services are finally bringing one of those scofflaws to heel. Perhaps the first HHS target would be, say, WellPoint, the giant for-profit corporation that was President Obama's bĂȘte noire during the health-care debate?
Nope. HHS has smaller fish to fry. In the first federal rate review case, announced yesterday, the department is targeting . . . Everence Insurance Co., which is run by the Mennonite Church and covers 4,846 people in rural Pennsylvania. The carrier is raising its small-business rates there by 11.58% on average next year, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that her agency's enforcement action "sends a message to insurers around the country that the days of unchecked and unfair doubt-digit rate increases are over."
It won't, and they aren't. For the past three years Everence's claims have exceeded its premiums, meaning the company has been operating at a loss. Its technical "underwriting gain/loss" measure for this book of business is currently minus-41%, so for every dollar of revenue it receives it spends $1.41. This company is not exactly the paragon of corporate greed that the likes of Ms. Sebelius so often invoke.
HHS's vague rule of thumb is that any premium increase over 10% is probably "unreasonable," though not unless the agency says it is. Currently HHS doesn't have the regulatory powers to revoke such increases, but the program is a prelude to such price controls on private insurance. Ms. Sebelius and HHS are keeping a registry of offenders who will then be handicapped when selling their products once the rest of ObamaCare comes on line in 2014.
What the Everence case study really shows is that the main factor driving premiums is the underlying cost of medical care, not insurer profits or malfeasance. As for that supposed scourge, why couldn't HHS find a more unsympathetic villain for one of its signature programs than a small Mennonite health plan that no one has ever heard of and is hanging on for dear life?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

One reason why a 9% national sales tax is a good idea

Many conservatives have questioned the portion of Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan that calls for a 9% sales tax.  To be sure, there is a danger that a new type of tax can be subject to abuse.  But as Cain says, his proposed tax system is so simple that the people can monitor when Congress decides to raise taxes.  Now because there are so many hidden taxes and tax loopholes, we cannot discern when are taxes are being raised.

But here is why I think a 9% sales tax is a good idea:  As an attorney who has represented thousands of people over the last 32 years,  I know that there are many people who do not report all of their income.  There is a vast underground economy in this country, if my experience is any guide.  The practice is so common that the courts do not even comment on it when the issue is brought up at trial.  

I am sympathetic with people who are loathe to pay taxes, but for those who do not report income, there are others--namely wage earners--who have to take up that slack by paying higher taxes.  It is not fair to those who do report all of their income, or who are forced to report all of their income because they are W-2 employees. 

A 9% sales tax is a simple way to require those who live on unreported income to pay some federal tax. 

Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress tried to fix this problem by forcing business owners to file 1099's on most purchases, resulting in a bookkeeping and paperwork nightmare.  Public outcry forced the government to rescind that requirement.  Similarly, more IRS auditing of individual taxpayers might force more reporting of cash income, but that would require far more IRS agents and more intrusion into our lives.  And an IRS audit is expensive for both the government and individual.

So, while a national sales tax may be distasteful to many, it accomplishes one goal in a simple, non-intrusive way:  it  taxes people who do not report all of their income, without any cumbersome or intrusive mechanisms to force people to report their unreported income. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Civility revisited

  President Obama gave an eloquent speech in Tucson on January 12, 2011 after the shooting of Representatiave Gabrielle Giffords.  In it he said   "How can we honor the fallen? How can we be true to their memory?  ....[we can remember]  we are all Americans, and that we can question each other's ideas without questioning each other's love of country" 

Earlier in 2010, when the Tea Party Movement began, Democrats called for civility on the House Floor when false reports about Tea Partiers calling Representatives racial slurs surfaced.

The Establishment Media reported endlessly about the "lack of civility"  here here here here and here which they concluded caused the Tucson tragedy.  One pundit even called for a National Civility Month, and USA Today reported that a National Civility Institute was being established by President Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush.  Never mind that the Tucson tragedy was perpetrated by a mentally ill assailant who had no political motive.  These articles linked the conservative Tea Party to the lack of civil discourse in this country.

How times have changed in so short a period.  First, a mere month after the Tucson tragedy, there were the decidedly uncivil  union protests in Wisconsin and elsewhere across the country.  The Establishment Media and the President were silent on the the lack of civility by union protestors. Indeed, while Obama remained mostly silent about the protests, his Secretary of Labor enthusiastically endorsed the union's methods.

Then came the Occupy movement.   Unlike the Tea Party Movement, the Occupy Movement has been characterized by physical attacks on the elderly , arson, sexual assaults anti semitism; vandalism,  zombie like shouting down speakers.    

Civility went out of fashion a mere few weeks after the Tucson tragedy, according the Establishment Media and President Obama.  A Google search of the word "Tucson tragedy civility"  reveals hundreds of stories about the need for civility in politics in the wake of the Tucson shootings.  A Google search "Occupy movement civility" reveals not one Establishment Media story linking the Occupy Movement with the need for civility in public discourse. Not one.  And of course, our eloquent President has been silent on the need for civility by the Occupy protestors.

Last night, Presidential candidates Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich provided the answer to the call for civil discourse in politics. In an historic Lincoln Douglas style debate on entitlements,  the two candidates delved into the issues of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security entitlements, and how to save those programs for our children and grandchildren.  There were no "gotcha" moments, no personal attacks; only cordial discourse on the problems we face and solutions to those problems. If you did not see the debate,  I urge you to go to C-Span to watch it.   If we truly want civility in politics, Cain and Gringrich have demonstrated how it can work. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Bank Bailout Big Lie

On October 24, 2011, Occupy Oakland protestors stormed a Chase Bank, vandalizing the bank, terrifying customers and chanting "Banks got bailed out. We got sold out."  They then tried to storm a Wells Fargo Bank but the bank locked its doors.  From the Occupiers to the Main Stream Media, the myth that banks got bailed out continues.  Even Bill O'Reilly in the so-called No Spin Zone repeated the myth last night while reporting on the Occupy Oakland  raid on the banks. 

Here are the facts:  TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) was instituted in October 2008 to promote stability in the financial markets.  Under the program, the federal government essentially lent money to the nation's banks through various types of transacations.  The banks were required to repay the funds at the usurious rate of 15%.

TARP was also used in 2008 to bail out the insurance giant American International Group (AIG), and later during the Obama administration to bail out General Motors and Chrysler.

The Congressional Budget Office issued a report on TARP in March 2011.  The results?  The financial institutions (banks) who were lent funds from the Treasury repaid those funds with interest so that taxpayers have earned 9 billion dollars  from the banks who took TARP money.  The CBO report states:

"To provide support for financial institutions, the federal government disbursed $313 billion, most of which has already been repaid, and is projected to provide an additional $2 billion (see Table 2). CBO estimates a net gain to the government of $9 billion from those transactions."

Of course, TARP overall has lost taxpayer money, but not from banks.  The cost to taxpayers on the AIG subsidy is 14 billion, and the GM and Chrysler bailout cost is another 14 billion, according to the CBO.   But the Occupiers won't storm GM or Chrysler because those TARP funds were used to bail out the United Auto Workers.  Unions are financial supporters of the Occupy movement, so the protestors won't turn on their benefactors.  Banks, on the other hand, are easy targets because they are seen by the public as the bad guys.  The problem is that banks are essential to build a thriving economy, and demonizing banks will hurt our economic recovery.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Jobs Speech the President Won't Make

The headline two years and eight months into the Obama presidency and a week before his “jobs” speech was “zero job growth in August, unemployment stuck at 9.1%”.  Unemployment is actually 2.0% higher than it was when he took office.  Policies favoring certain segments of society, and policies that promote politically correct economic activity have been the hallmark of this administration.  Unfortunately, the result is sluggish, or no, growth, a persistent high and unacceptable unemployment rate, and an unsustainable level of debt. I hope that President Obama will recognize that he needs to change course dramatically if we are to get our economy moving.  Here are some of the things the President should propose in his speech to stimulate our economy and create jobs.

The Affordable Care Act is complicated and extremely costly for tax payers and employers, and the uncertainty associated with its implementation over the next several years is creating anxiety throughout our economy as employers try to guess how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will impact them.  Congress should repeal this legislation and adjust existing laws to allow health insurance companies the freedom to compete across state lines.  In order to address the problem of uninsured Americans Congress should a program of incentives and subsidies to directly attack this problem.

Our energy policy has focused on developing alternative sources of energy through tax incentives, and higher rates for consumers and businesses, while impeding the development of fossil fuel sources here in the U.S.  Alternative energy sources cannot be developed fast enough to get our economy moving. Congress should work to support development of domestic resources including coal, natural gas, and oil, with a focus on lowering the cost of energy for businesses and consumers.  This will reduce dependence on foreign oil and allow us to compete more effectively in the world economy.

The Environmental Protection Agency has promulgated many new regulations over the past few years designed to protect us from global warming and keep our air and water clean.  Unfortunately, the regulations, while well-intentioned, are hurting our economy and our competitiveness worldwide.  The President should ask for a delay in the imposition of any new regulation until its full impact on the economy can be weighed.

The National Labor Relations Board under the guise of looking out for the best interests of workers has become particularly aggressive in inserting itself into private sector business when it feels that unions have somehow been left out.  The recent lawsuit brought by the NLRB against Boeing to prevent Boeing from opening a plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, is an example.  The result is that the NLRB action will at best delay the opening of the plant with 2,000 workers, or, at worst, force Boeing overseas.   Obama should insist that the NLRB withdraw this suit and refrain from employing the type of union bias evidenced in this case.  Jobs are more important to Americans that union membership and representation.

The Justice Department recently announced that it is suing 17 major banks in the U.S. for their role in the mortgage debacle of 2007 and 2008. First of all, there is much blame to go around for that crisis.  Singling out the banks while ignoring the Congressional actions that contributed to the problem along with the enabling involvement of quasi government agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is simply wrong.  Moreover, we need these banks to help get the economy going again.  That will be hard for them to accomplish that if they must operate under the cloud of litigation initiated by our own government.  The Justice Department should drop these suits and focus on ensuring that our regulatory agencies provide better oversight so that the kind of lapses that contributed to the mortgage crisis are identified sooner.  

Finally, Congress acted too quickly in attempting to prevent another financial crisis by passing the Dodd-Frank Bill without weighing its impact on the economy.   The bill is extremely complicated in itself and it will require thousands of pages of new regulations to implement it.  The banks are experiencing uncertainty and huge expenses in trying to anticipate and implement the regulations.  The result is not only that banks are adopting a defensive posture when it comes to investment and job creation, but the new costs are being passed on to consumers and businesses reducing purchasing power and capacity to invest. This bill should be repealed.   
Jobs are created by business people hiring workers. Business people hire workers when they have confidence in their future ability to earn profits.  Businesses respond negatively to uncertainty, overregulation, higher costs and higher taxes.  If President Obama were to announce these steps outlined here, he would unleash the American economy and we would see the kind of employment growth that he has claimed to want since he first took office.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hat Tip to Vermont's Silent Cal

Powerlineblog today quoted Pres. Calvin Coolidge, one of the most underrated presidents in U.S. history.  Since Pres. Coolidge came from Vermont, Bayley Hazen Blog will use the legal right of  adverse possession to post the link.  As the Powerlineblog post notes in quoting Vermont's Cal Coolidge, our current President certainly could use Silent Cal's wisdom:

“It is a great advantage to a President, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man.  When a man begins to feel that he is the only one who can lead in this republic, he is guilty of treason to the spirit of our institutions.”
“A President cannot, with success, constantly appeal to the country.  After a time he will get no response.”
Here is Powerline's post on President Coolidge 

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Dangers of Corporatism

Solyandra is (or was) a company that made solar panels.  As such, it was a darling of the Obama administration's "green energy" initiatives.  However, after receiving $535 million dollars in taxpayer funded loan guarantees as a part of the Obama stimulus, and after a visit from the President,  it  filed for bankruptcy, laying off over 1000 workers--which of course wiped out its loan obligation, leaving Uncle Sam as guarantor holding the bag.  The Los Angeles Times, no right wing rag,  cogently editorializes about the dangers of corporatism:  the government playing favorites with certain private industries or companies.  Here is the money quote:  

The Times answers the first with a yes, saying that risky energy ventures need government backing.  But the second question calls into question the first:  if the government picks corporate winners and losers,  politics, no matter which party is in power, will  inevitably come into play.  Ethanol subsidies are a prime example. Costing taxpayers $6 Billion dollars a year in subsidies, and increasing food costs world wide, subsidies for ethanol have been touted as promoting green energy produced in the United States, mostly by Republicans who want to reward their electoral base in the Midwest.  Democrats like Rep. Welch want to cut the subsidy while advocating subsidies for Democratic favorites like solar power and high speed rail. Powerful lobbyists for these  industries are ensconced permanently in Washington D.C.  The losers?  as usual, the taxpayers.  But other losers are small businesses who are struggling without grants or subsidies because, while they are providing a service or product to the public,  are not on the government's favorites list either because they are not part of the latest fad in Washington, or they cannot afford to employ lobbyists to grab some of Washington's largess. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wendy Wilton's Scary Health Care Statistics--and What you can do

Wendy Wilton, Rutland City Treasurer, has calculated on her own--without any taxpayer funded grants--the cost to taxpayers of Green Mountain Care.  Green Mountain Care, as you may know, is the name of the government health care program that is supposed to fund all uninsured Vermonters' health care.  The legislature passed Green Mountain Care last session, but postponed until after the 2012 election publication of  any analysis of the cost of this monstrosity.  Wendy Wilton, using the figures readily available to our legislators, was able to come up with an estimate of the cost shortly after the legislature adjourned in May, 2011.  Hmmm...wonder why the legislature is  not able  to complete their analysis until more than 18 months after Wendy was able to perform that feat?  Is it possible that the timing is related to the 2012 election?  We report. You decide.  Wendy's analysis should make every Vermont taxpayer ill.  She calculates that, conservatively speaking, even with a 14.5% payroll tax to fund Green Mountain Care  and even assuming that IBM and other self insurers will pay the 14.5% payroll tax, in addition to providing health insurance for their employees (not likely allowed under the Federal   ERISA preemption statute), there will be a first year shortfall of   over $123 million dollars  If Vermont's self insurers do not pay the payroll tax--the more likely scenario because of ERISA preemption-- then the shortfall is $477 million  in the first year alone.

Vermonters have a right to know, before they elect the next legislature,  how much Green Mountain Care is going to cost.  Here is what you can do:  Sign the petition asking the legislature to make public the cost of Green Mountain Care by September 2012.  Better yet, print the petition and get your friends and neighbors to sign. Every Vermonter of every political stripe will want to know this information in order to make an informed choice in November 2012.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mr. Buffett, Stop Coddling Congress

Mr. Warren Buffett wrote a column for the New York Times today in which he argues that he and others in his situation should pay more taxes. There are several problems with his argument:

1. He argues that he and others don't have to pay FICA "taxes". Yes, there is an income cap on FICA contributions, however, FICA was not called a "tax" until recently. FICA is the amount that you pay for your own social security retirement. At one time, it went into a trust fund or a "lock box" as Al Gore called it, payable only for social security benefits. There was a cap, because the wealthy were thought to have enough money when they retired so they would not need to contribute additional money to Social Security for their own retirement. Social Security was never meant to be a welfare program. Furthermore, companies, including those owned or invested in by Mr. Buffett match each employee's FICA contribution, yet, unlike the employee, they do not get benefits in the future for that contribution. So what happened to the trust fund or lock box? Congress has long since spent it and replaced the funds with IOUs to future generations. Its the spending that is the problem.

3. Mr. Buffett's funds would be better spent in creating jobs in the private sector. Jobs in the private sector mean more people paying taxes. More people paying taxes mean more revenue to the government. More taxpayers are created when the economy is growing. When this has happened in the past, the government did not use the extra revenue to pay down the debt. They spent the money. More revenue has always meant more spending, it has never been used to pay down our debt. Its the spending that is the problem.

4. There is nothing in the world stopping Mr. Buffet or President Obama, or others from contributing to paying down the national debt. In fact there is even a website for this.
Personally, I think it is more effective to invest in the private sector to create jobs, rather than sending it to the bottomless pit of government inefficiency.
It is the spending that is the problem.
5.  When the government receives more revenue, its only reaction to date is to spend it.  That is why people in the Tea Party and others have called for a balanced budget amendment.  Mr. Obama says we shouldn't need an amendment to do our jobs - that is true, however, history has shown that the government has never used more revenue to pay down debt.  Until the spending is controlled whether by a balanced budget amendment or otherwise, an increase in revenue is only going to be spent.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What the President Could Have Said


In 2004, at the Democratic National Convention, Senator Barack Obama gave what Dana Perino, President Bush’s press secretary, recently called a “barn burner” of a speech.  She was right, because, like many great speeches, it spoke to the mood of the country.  Its message was what the country wanted and needed to hear.  Sen. Obama said:  “There are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers, who embrace the politics of anything goes.  Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”
   When the President came into office in 2009, he had an enormous store of goodwill; and the country’s need to hear the 2004 message had not diminished; indeed it had increased.   Our country’s desire for unity and good feeling was certainly a substantial factor in the reason Obama was elected.   Yet the President has never followed that effective rhetoric in his 2004 speech or taken advantage of that goodwill.  So, the country is more divided than ever. 

 Here are some things that the President could have said in the spirit of the 2004 which would have made his Presidency more effective and would be the basis today for an agreement with Republicans on our debt crisis.

When the President signed the executive order to close down Guantanamo Bay, he could have said:

“I am closing this facility because I believe deeply that its presence has hurt our war on terror and our American ideals.  I recognize, however, that President Bush and the Congress, both Republican and Democrats, in a time when we had just been viciously attacked and we were blind as to what our enemies had in store, sincerely believed that Guantanamo was a necessary  part of our war on terror.”

When pundits and the media started calling Tea Partiers “racist”, instead of remaining silent, the President could have said:

“I deplore anyone calling Americans who oppose my policies racist and I call on everyone to stop the name calling.  Racism is too repellent to be thrown around so cavalierly.  People who call themselves members of the Tea Party are part of our vibrant democratic tradition of dissent.  While I  thoroughly disagree with their ideas, I applaud their American spirit, and look forward to joining the debate with them and others on the direction our country should take.”

In speaking about who is to blame for the recession, instead of repeatedly talking aboutwhat he “inherited”, he could have said:

“I refuse to lay blame for our economic situation on anyone.  We have too much work to do together to waste time on the past.  And since we are all human, there is probably enough blame to go around for everyone, including me as a member of the U.S. Senate  So, lets roll up our sleeves, and look to the future, which, since this is America, is a bright one if we work together to solve our common problems.”

When Osama Bin Laden was killed, instead of taking sole personal credit, the President could have said:

“This operation was the result of a decade of hard work by men and women in both administrations.  The work was started by President Bush, and I commend him for the work his administration had done to help us reach this point. President Bush and his administration deserve as much credit as my administration for this achievement.” 

Last January, after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords,  the President gave an eloquent speech asking Americans to tone down their rhetoric.  During the debate on raising the debt ceiling, however, the pundits used violent rhetoric against the Republicans and the Tea Party saying they “put a gun to [the] heads” of Congress and engaged in “extortion”, and called them “terrorists”.  The President could have said: 

“We just had a robust debate on the deficit spending and the debt ceiling.  The debate was robust because we have different views as to how solve our fiscal problems.  But that is the essence of democracy.  I am glad we have had the debate because we have difficult problems to solve, and we need to have everyone involved in solving our problems.  I celebrate our vibrant democracy where different voices can be heard and issues discussed in a serious way.  Debate is good for us.  And the result of the debate was an agreement that, while not perfect, is the result of hard work by this Administration and by the Congress.  I commend our Congressional leaders for their hard work and their passion.  I look forward to more debates with Congress, and to working together with them to solve problems.”

And when S & P downgraded our credit rating, the President could have said:

“This happened on my watch.  I take full responsibility for it.  As President Truman’s famous sign said, “The Buck Stops Here”.  Our policies of the last 2 ½ years have not yet been successful in keeping the country on a sound fiscal path.  And because I am the person responsible  for the situation we are in,  I pledge to work together with Republicans and Democrats to fix this problem.  While I still disagree with the Republican’s approach, there is much that we can agree on.  And I applaud the Tea Party for being the first to sound the alarm about our debt.  I still disagree with their solutions, but they did bring the debt issue to the country’s attention.  I call the Congress to come back to Washington from their vacation a week early, and I pledge, instead of taking my planned vacation, to work on concrete proposals for the Congress to consider when it comes back.”

If the President had said these things—taken personal responsibility, giving credit where due to opponents, talking to his own side rather than just his opponents about their rhetoric, and acknowledging the good faith of all political points of view,  we would be able to focus on our problems and solve them despite our differences.  Instead, the President’s silence at his allies’ name calling, his blaming President Bush and not taking responsibility, and his scolding opponents while calling them to compromise have made this country more divided than ever.  The President’s lost opportunity to unite the country is truly a sad state of affairs, given the great promise of the President’s 2004 speech.    

Friday, August 5, 2011

Leading from Behind…Obama’s economic policies put world economy at risk.

President Obama refuses to stray from his commitment to seek economic growth by expanding government in the Keynesian tradition choosing to disregard the overwhelming evidence that his policies have failed.  The stimulus, Obamacare, crushing regulation, policies that inhibit our ability to seek low cost energy, and soaring debt have combined to undermine our economy keeping unemployment at historically high levels and snuffing out growth.  We are following the same policies that have already led to economic crises in Greece and Spain where unemployment is now over 20%.  In years past, the strength of the U.S. economy provided support for the rest of the world.  Leading from behind has not worked in Libya and it is certainly risky strategy for our economy. 

by Charlie Bucknam

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Vermont's environmental left turns on a "renewable energy" project

This morning Vermont Public Radio reported on the Lowell Mountain wind project.  The developer,  Green Mountain Power, wants to move the permitting process along faster because it needs to build the four hundred foot towers before federal subsidies run out at the end of 2012.  Surprise!  Wind power is not feasible without massive taxpayer subsidies.  But Vermont officials have made it clear they are not going to move quickly.  For years, Vermont's environmental community  has pushed "renewable energy" like wind and solar.  Now that a large wind farm is being developed, Vermont Natural Resources Council, all too predictably, has "concerns" about the environmental impact of the project.  The leftist environmental community does not really want green energy like nuclear and wind power.  It wants us all to reduce energy use---a goal that if achieved would result in massive regulation of "everything we our personal and private lives", as Governor Shumlin has proclaimed.   So, with the assistance of the State's bureaucracy, VNRC is going to slow down the process.  GMP is no longer the environmental darling developing a politically correct project;  it will be forced to go through the process like other supplicants to Vermont's environmental bureaucracy.  The VPR story also revealed the Agency of Natural Resource's attitude towards development it does not favor:  "Don't rush us. We don't care about the economics of your project.  We will go at our own pace, with no regard for your needs."  ANR  bureaucrats, who receive their paychecks every other week without fail, reveal their disdain for those who risk their capital to build developments that would create private sector jobs.  Environmental concerns can be resolved by a bureaucracy which helps applicants meet environmental permit requirements.  Not Vermont's ANR.  Their  imperious attitude towards applicants has been a feature of the agency for decades.  The pace of permitting is slow because the bureaucracy  is slow.  Other states have figured out how to process environmental permits that meet environmental concerns far faster than Vermont.  In New Hampshire, major projects are permitted in 30 days, and New Hampshire is hardly an environmental wasteland. In Vermont, the same project would take years.   So GMP has learned that its favored project is no longer favored, and like other developers, it will likely lose massive amounts of money trying to chase a Vermont environmental permit before it loses its shirt when wind power is no longer subsidized.   It may be amusing to watch environmentalists betray a renewable energy project after pushing the renewable energy agenda for years, but the not so amusing fact is that Vermont  taxpayers and ratepayers will ultimately pay for this debacle.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What a Chief Executive can do in six months

This from the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal  wouldn't it be great if we could have a Governor like this in Vermont? 

"When Ohio Gov. John Kasich took office in January, the state faced a $7.7 billion budget deficit. Last month, he signed into law a $55.8 billion budget that cut income taxes and property taxes and eliminated the death tax.
In a meeting with Journal editors last week, the Republican governor described this and other reforms that he has completed in his first six months in office. Ohio has lifted the cap on the number of charter schools that can be opened in the state. It has privatized five prisons and fundamentally changed its criminal sentencing practices so that those guilty of minor offences can now serve their time in community facilities. Someone "who didn't pay child support isn't put in a cell next to a murderer," said Mr. Kasich. This transition stresses rehabilitation for the criminals and cuts costs for the taxpayers.
Then new governor has also simplified the state's warren of regulations. For example, he has made the process of acquiring an Environment Protection Agency permit more efficient, and the number of pending permits has decreased by 75% since December 2010. He has also streamlined agencies such as the state Department of Taxation, which has cut its backlog of tax disputes to 6,900 from 17,500 cases in three months."

NPR's predictable leftward bias

Every morning,the predictability of NPR stories is dreadfully boring.  This morning, NPR's story on Republican's  "so-called"  "cut cap and balance" was to say it had "deeper cuts than Paul Ryan's budget", and then quoted Presidential press secretary who said it was "duck, dodge and dismantle".  No quote from the Republican sponsors. No mention of the fact that the Democrats, unlike the Republicans, have dodged their responsibilities by utterly failing to pass a budget; and, unlike Republicans, have utterly failed to introduce a debt ceiling bill;  no mention of the fact that the President has dodged his responsibilities by utterly failing to provide specifics in his debt ceiling talks. The other day, NPR reported that Republicans "claimed" the President walked out of the debt ceiling talks, but that Democrats "said" it did not happen--when in fact it did.  So NPR listeners are left with the idea, promoted by the President, and predictably babbled by NPR, that Republicans' positions are not legitimate or reasonable;  that the President is being the reasonable grownup,  when the opposite is true.

Then it had a story about a family who couldn't afford $25.00 in birth control, and as a result, had a baby--what a horrible result!--and therefore taxpayers should be funding birth control.  Those of us who work with people below the poverty level every day know that they can afford $25.00 a month for birth control.  But never mind. NPR continues its campaign to let us all know about all the terrible things that will happen when the government cuts spending. 

Then it had a story about how HIV retroviral drugs have increased the life expectancy of Ugandans.  It mentioned that the drugs became widely available in 2004, but never mentioned it was President Bush whose Pepfar program made possible for those drugs to be available to Ugandans.  Of course not. 


Monday, July 18, 2011

Dodd-Frank's Unintended Africa

The Dodd-Frank bill is hurting our own economy in the name of "better oversight" of our financial services industry, but even I wouldn't have expected that it is also hurting the poorest among Africa's population.  According to today's Wall Street Journal, Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank bill requires that anyone purchasing tin, tantalum, and tungsten in the Congo or neighboring countries must certify that the purchase is not supporting African atrocities.  If they cannot do so, companies must include the statement in their annual reports that their products "may be funding African atrocities".  The result is that sales of these materials in Africa has dropped 70% putting small time miners and an untold number of other Africans out of work while the atricities continue unabated.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Yes Vermont Yankee: Lowell Mountain Wind Turbine Facility in Vermont: A Guest Post by Willem Post

Yes Vermont Yankee: Lowell Mountain Wind Turbine Facility in Vermont: A Guest Post by Willem Post

Sheffield Monsters

I was driving back to the office from Orleans Superior Court the other day, and as I was driving out of Barton up the long hill toward Wheelock and Sheffield,  I drew in my breath, startled.  Ahead of me, where the Sheffield hills were usually a summer green wilderness, monsters had appeared.  They looked like they were lumbering over the hills dwarfing by ten times the spruces, cedars and white pine,  their half a football field long arms ready to swoop up the cars traveling south up Sheffield Heights.   The Sheffield wind towers, over 400 feet tall, gave me the creeps.

Worse yet, these "renewable energy" ogres are  so inefficient that they  must be subsidized heavily by the taxpayers and ratepayers.  Wind farms cannot generate electricity at a profit on their own; so the long suffering taxpayers must cough up money for this latest political fad  Why?  Because it is politically popular to be in favor of "renewable energy", and wind energy not so incidentally helps politicians'  lobbyist friends to get some easy money from Uncle Sam and the State of Vermont instead of doing the hard work of making a profit by providing a product or service at a competitive price that the public wants and needs.  Its a win-win for politicians and a lose-lose for taxpayers and ratepayers.

Recently  VPR broadcast one of its nearly daily press releases from our Congressional delegation  touting their support for eliminating ethanol subsidies.  Ethanol used to be the latest "renewable energy" fad; and Senator Leahy, who recently bragged about eliminating tax subsidies for ethanol voted for those same subsidies  in years past.  VPR of course, did not note that hypocrisy.  Ethanol has been subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of  six billion dollars a year; with the demand for ethanol raising prices for corn up 17% in 2011 alone.

Vermont's ACT 250, which is supposed to regulate development, fails when politically powerful interests support projects like wind power.  In Hardwick, the building of a cell tower 180 feet tall has been blocked for a decade under the pretense that it violates Criterion 8 of the Act which requires the project not to "have an undue adverse effect on the scenic or natural beauty of the area ...[or] aesthetics..."  Vermont courts have interpreted that requirement to mean that the project should be "in harmony with its surroundings".

Monster wind towers on Sheffield Heights are not in harmony with their surroundings.  But never mind. Powerful politicians and powerful lobbyists trump taxpayers, rate payers,  and small town residents every time.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Civic versus Moral Responsibilities

On Sunday our pastor, Brian Foreman, gave a message on our duties to help other people. Jesus taught that each of us has a personal responsibility to help people in need. That responsibility is distinct and completely apart from the government. Paying taxes so the government and therefore other taxpaying people can do the caring for us does not cut it. Brian made an excellent explanation of the distinction between civic and moral or Christian duties towards others. Here's the link to his message:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The narcisissm of our Commander in Chief

President Obama repeatedly refers in his speeches to himself and his family.  It has become quite tiresome.  Here is a comparison of two speeches by two very different Presidents concerning the capture of high value targets.  It neatly demonstrates Pres. Obama's narcissism and President Bush's graciousness: * Hat tip to George Coppenrath for sending this in an email

George W. Bush speech after capture of Saddam Hussein:
The success of yesterday's mission is a tribute to our men and women now serving in Iraq .
The operation was based on the superb work of intelligence analysts who found the dictator's footprints in a vast country. The operation was carried out with skill and precision by a brave fighting force. Our servicemen and women and our coalition allies have faced many
dangers in the hunt for members of the fallen regime, and in their effort to bring hope and freedom to the Iraqi people. Their work continues, and so do the risks. Today, on behalf of the nation, I thank the members of our Armed Forces and I congratulate them.

Barack  Obama speech, Sunday, May 1, 2011:
And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as I continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.
Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by my intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information
about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that I had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan

VPR: Bernie Sander's taxpayer funded radio station

VPR is at it it is nearly every day.  Today, they had a "story" about Sanders support for "raising revenue"--a Democrat talking point for raising taxes dutifully parroted by VPR.  Sanders stated we needed to have "shared sacrifice" --another talking point for raising taxes on the "rich",  who pay far more than their fair share of taxes than other segments of the population.  Sanders of course was not talking about the 49% of Americans who pay no income tax at all--and VPR would never ever question Sanders' hypocrisy on that issue.   Instead it also quoted a "professor",  who of course praised Sanders.  And of course there is absolutely no opposing view broadcast by VPR.  Sanders bashed Republicans, but VPR would never ever ask any Republican to rebut Sanders.  VPR does not even consider asking Pat McDonald,  Vermont Republican Chair, for comment.  When Sanders wants to promote himself, all he needs to do is call up VPR.   Taxpayers should not be funding this station.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How Did We Get Here?

Proponents of theistic evolution such as Francis Collins would have us believe that biblical Christianity and Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection are compatible. They are not. Evolutionary theory says that we are here by accident. It is at odds with the biblical teaching that people are God’s special creation, set apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. It’s no wonder that evolution’s primary advocates, such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, are the most outspoken atheists of our time. But which view is correct? I find the idea that God created each species individually more plausible because there are too many questions for which evolution does not provide a satisfactory answer. Here are the main problems I see with the theory of evolution.

1. Information. Each species has a massive amount of information encoded in its DNA that distinguishes it from others. Evolutionary theory tells us that an unguided, random process has built up this vast store of information over time, but we do not observe random processes that produce information in any other field. In Carl Sagan’s book Contact, scientists looked for patterns in radio signals from outer space as an indication of intelligent extra-terrestrial life. When they found a signal repeating a list of prime numbers, they interpreted it as proof that there was an intelligence producing the sequence. DNA is almost infinitely more complex than a sequence of prime numbers, and yet some scientists believe that it comes from a random process. The idea that God wrote the code for each species seems much more reasonable to me.

2. Probability. For atheistic evolutionists, the big problem is how life appeared in the first place. Among these is Francis Crick, who discovered DNA along with Watson. He believes in what he calls “directed panspermia,” which is a theory that the first single-cell organism arrived on earth from somewhere else. That’s just passing the buck. The idea that God created the first cell and evolution took over from there would be more probable, but still too improbable for me to believe. Fred Hoyle, the mathematician and cosmologist, said the probability that evolution produced the variety of life we see was similar to a tornado passing through a junk yard and producing a fully-functional 747. I could almost accept it for organisms with asexual reproduction. Gradual changes over long periods of time could possibly produce great changes. But the probability seems far too remote for organisms with sexual reproduction. Evolution would have to produce two specimens of the same new species at the same time, in the same geographic location, and for the opposite genders. (This is true because the ability to reproduce is one of the key things that separates one species from another; if the evolved organism could still reproduce with the old species, it would not be a new species.) You have to wonder how many times natural selection would have to produce a horse from whatever came before it until you would get one male and one female horse at the same time in the same place. Thousands of times? Millions of times? Again, the biblical explanation that God created each species seems much more plausible.

3. Irreducible complexity. Scientists have discovered molecular machines inside cells that are irreducibly complex, meaning that they consist of parts that serve no purpose outside of the machine of which they are a part. The molecular biologist Michael Behe has written extensively about the bacterial flagellum as an example. It is similar to an outboard motor, and it consists of many parts that serve no other purpose. Evolutionary theory cannot explain how natural selection could produce a molecular machine like this through a gradual, undirected process.

4. Lack of evidence. Darwin predicted that archaeologists would uncover transitional forms in the fossil record. These were supposed to fill in the gaps between the species we observe today, but we haven’t found them. The fossil record does not show the gradual transitions that Darwin predicted. Furthermore, no one has ever observed the birth of a new species. Scientists can produce a new generation of fruit flies every few weeks, and they study their mutations, but after thousands of generations in labs, they only produce more fruit flies, never a new species. If our ancestors were a different species a few tens of thousands of years ago (roughly a thousand generations), why shouldn't we see a new species emerge from fruit flies breeding in labs?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Are you Ready to Lose your Liberty?

“ The deluge began, seven weeks after Easter….sheets of rain spread in waves over the sodden countryside, dripping from eaves, flowing in endless rivulets down muddy country lanes.  Freshly plowed fields turned into shallow lakes…floods swept away entire villages, drowning hundreds at a time… Throughout nearly all of May, July and August the rains did not cease…”   A description of early 21st century weather?   Hardly.  It is a description of 14th century Europe at the beginning of the Little Ice Age (1300-1850) when the weather, according to chroniclers and forensic evidence, turned violent and deadly.  In the summer of 1315 the torrential rains and cold weather prevented thousands of hectares of cereal crops from ripening, and the fall wheat and rye crops failed utterly.  The wet soggy weather triggered the Great Famine which visited the continent for the next six years.    Other weather disasters followed.    In 1362, 25,000 people perished  in  what was called “The Great Drowning of Men” when a storm surge inundated northern European shores.  More than 100,000 people were said to have died in the same area in the great storms of 1421 and 1446.  The sea swept into northern Netherlands in the 14th century, inundating the rich farmland and forming the vast inland sea called the Zuider Zee.  Cold, crop failures, catastrophic storms and violent and unpredictable weather during the Little Ice Age spawned wars, plague and famine.  Conversely, the 300 year long Medieval Warm Period preceding the Little Ice Age was a period of placid weather, increased crop yields and population growth.
Last week in the Caledonian Record, Deb Markowitz, Vermont’s Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, wrote an op ed piece with a chilling title;  “The Climate Cabinet is Ready, are You?”   She began her piece with an equally chilling quote from our governor, Peter Shumlin who stated:  "I remain baffled as to how anyone -- Democrat, Republican, Progressive -- can look at the evidence that's before our eyes, look at the scientific data and not have [climate change] be the top priority of everything that we do, not only in government, but in our own personal and private lives."
There it is hidden in plain sight:  the archetypal scare tactics of those who seek to control the citizenry:  Hysterical predictions about the future coupled with a not so subtle warning to anyone who dares to question the wisdom of the ruler, along with the final denouement:  the citizens must be regulated in “everything we do” to protect us from the predicted disaster.
Rulers used to warn of invasion or pestilence to justify imposition of martial law, onerous taxes or far-reaching restrictions on people’s freedom.  Now climate change alarmism is the perfect substitute:  it is a prediction of future events which of course cannot be measured in the present;  it is backed up by “scientists” who earn their living on predicting global warming; and it requires uber regulation of the populace.   And as the actual evidence from the historical record demonstrates, even if there is global warming, there is absolutely no credible scientific evidence to support the alarmist predictions of climate disaster. 
Markowitz follows the global doomsayer’s playbook.   She cites  her  daughter’s loss of a school day because of flooding as evidence that global warming will cause weather disasters in the future.      If that is the case, then what does the June-perfect weather we have had since early June mean?     The silliness of Markwitz’ anecdote conceals a far more serious problem for Vermonters:  our rulers are willing to use anything, no matter how insubstantial or irrelevant, to justify massive restrictions on our liberty.

Markowitz’ government plan  to prevent these alleged disasters is, of course, couched in anodyne and vague terms.  She cannot be honest about what will be required of us in order to meet her goals.   For example, she claims that “experts from colleges and universities” are  “willing partners”  with the government  to help us minions make “right choices and investments”  She says that the new climate change government cabinet’s goal is “develop and implement a climate adaptation plan for the state  

Her only hint as to what will come for Vermonters is her claim that must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% below what they were 21 years ago.    She doesn’t say how, but others have.  The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund state that in order to obtain that goal, we must reduce our present 95% reliance on petroleum to fuel our transportation to 20%.  That would dramatically change how rural Vermonters live.  If this “goal” becomes a government edict, then we will all be forced to cluster together so we can ride the ghost buses of the RCT and  forget about taking the kids on a car trip to see Grandma.    Sound far fetched?  Environmentalists in rural Texas  are already calling for “urban infill to promote density rather than suburban sprawl, which in turn supports greater use of public transit and reduced car trip miles.”
Reduction in car trip miles will not be sufficient to meet Markowitz’s goal.  The Earth Advantage Institute notes that household greenhouse gas emissions must also be curbed in order to achieve the reductions set forth by Markowitz. .  It recommends a 50% reduction in house sizes and greater use of multifamily units.

And Al Gore, the Nobel Prize winning global warming guru, suggested this week that we need to reduce the number of children we have in order to reduce global warming.

None of this can be achieved by voluntary means.  The inevitable result will first be incessant government propaganda, and when that doesn’t work, government control of, as our Governor says, “everything we do …in our own personal and private lives”.  

The despots of history would be jealous.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Uh Oh Global Cooling may in the offing--will the Establishment promote greenhouse gases? NOT!

Here is a report from the National Solar Observatory indicating that we may be in for a Little Ice Age.  Anyone who has read about the Little Ice Age knows it was a terrible period of severe cold, erratic weather, massive crop failures and the Plague.  So, if the earth cools as a result of lower sun spot activity, will the Establishment promote  greater use of green house gases to counter the cooling?  Don't bet on it.  The risks the Establishment wants to shield us from  always mean more regulation and less freedom for us minions.  If there was a danger that could be alleviated by allowing us more individual choice, then the Establishment would pooh pooh the danger's significance. 

Hooray for Global Warming!

The BBC reported this morning that a rainy summer ruins Bordeaux wine, and that because of "climate change", Bordeaux summers have been sunny since 1992, resulting in good Bordeaux wines for the last 19 years.

This comports with the reports about the Medieval Warm Period, when crops flourished, and societies prospered.

Yeah for Global Warming!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Obama's Squandered Inheritance

President Obama uses every opportunity to blame the economy he "inherited" from the Bush administration for his failure to effectively deal with the serious problems facing our economy today.  The fact is that the economy  has deteriorated by a number of key measures since Obama took office is a direct result of his administration's poor policy decisions.

The gas price at the time of Obama's inauguration was $1.87 per gallon. Today, the average price nationally is $3.75 per gallon, a completely predictable result given his restrictions on exploration and drilling.

Unemployment stood at 7.2% when Obama took office.  It stands at 9.1% today.  The uncertainty created by the implications of Obamacare and the lack of an energy policy focused on lowering costs and his constant promises to raise taxes have caused a prudent business community to restrict hiring.

Housing prices have eroded an additional 20% nationwide since Obama took office representing an enormous loss of wealth among consumers helping to explain the persistently weak consumer sentiment.  The new financial regulations incorporated in the Dodd-Frank legislation fail to address the sources of the housing crisis...the government sponsored enterprises (GSE's) known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The new regulations only serve to increase costs of doing business for financial institutions, costs that will be passed on to us consumers.

Obama "inherited" a national debt of  just over $10 trillion which has soared to over $14 trillion thanks to the cost of his failed "stimulus" program, and the failure of his administration to address the serious fiscal problems facing government.  This enormous debt overhanging our economy is contributing to the economic malaise reflected in the grim statistics associated with the Obama economy.

The dollar has lost 7% of its value in the world currency markets in the past year as the rest of the world takes notice of the precarious fiscal situation facing our government.

Obama is being disingenuous when he blames his inheritance from the Bush administration for the failure of his administration to succeed in addressing today's economic problems.  Even with all of the problems created by the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008, the economy was, by many measures, stronger when Obama took office than it is today.  Obama's policies have made a bad situation worse.  He has squandered his inheritance.  


A dinner offer

In light of the revelation that Sarah Palin  received many email death threats , I am wondering if President Obama,  the Democrats who called for civility after the Gabrielle Giffords shooting ,  or the media who blamed conservatives for the Gifford violence will renew their call for civility, or condemn the violent threats against Palin?  

I will treat any reader to dinner who can send me any evidence of any Democrat  or member of the mainstream media who condemns the violent threats against Sarah Palin and renews calls for political civility. 

I have no doubt I will not have to spend my money.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kindle and the Classics

History is littered with unintended consequences, most of which we would be better off without. But occasionally we see a positive consequence that no one intended. In the 1980s ships from Asia introduced the zebra mussel into the Great Lakes. Everyone worried that they would foul the cooling water intakes on marine engines, but to my knowledge that was never a real problem. Instead, they had the unintended consequnce of cleaning the water. Each year the water in Lake Erie where I grew up was noticeably cleaner and therefore more enjoyable for swimming.

I predict that Amazon Kindle will produce a positive but presumably unintended consequence. For decades academics have downplayed the value of classical Western literature. In school we were subject to a diet of multiculturalism. Instead of Frankenstein or Crime and Punishment, we read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

The Kindle changes the game, though. Most of the classics are available for free because they are no longer protected by copyright. Anyone with a Kindle can choose one of the classics, download it and begin reading it in a matter of minutes. The low price and infinite supply should increase demand for these books, and people everywhere will benefit from reading excellent literature that they otherwise would not have read.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

VPR Scandal

Rep. Peter Welch's  radio press secretary, VPR's Bob Kinzel, broadcast another  Peter Welch press release this morning.  The press release featured Welch expressing  counterfeit "outrage" about Rep Weiner's behavior with Kinzel making supportive comments.   Then Welch said that despite Weiner's disgusting behavior and his repeated lies, Welch concluded that Weiner shouldn't resign.  More supportive murmurs by  Bob Kinzel.  The trouble is Bob Kinzel is supposed to be a VPR "reporter" paid by Vermont and U.S. taxpayers.   This is a scandal at VPR.   VPR broadcasts radio press releases from elected officials who support taxpayer funding for public radio.

The Fourth Estate is supposed to scrutinize our elected officials.  This watchdog role  a vital part of democracy.  But if government funded media use its taxpayer funded resources to provide free press releases for elected officials, with no scrutiny,  then the fourth estate has become a corrupt arm of the government.   That is exactly what has happened at VPR.

 I have never taken a journalism course, but here are some suggestions for questions Mr. Kinzel might have asked Rep. Welch if he wants to be a real journalist rather than a mouthpiece for Rep. Welch:

  1. Why an ethics investigation?  We already have all the information about what Weiner did. 
  2. Isn't it a waste of taxpayer's money to have an ethics investigation?  How much will an ethics investigation cost the taxpayers?  
  3.  An ethic investigation is confidential until the committee makes its findings public. Rep. Charles Rangel's ethics investigation lasted almost 735 days with his censure occurring five months later after the 2010 November elections.  Isn't a call for an ethics investigation just an opportunity to take this scandal off the front page until after the next Congressional election? 
  4. Republican Rep Chris Lee  resigned hours after it was revealed he posted a shirtless picture of himself online because John Boehner demanded he do so.  Democrats gained another Representative in a special election for Lee's seat because Republicans would not tolerate such behavior. Rep. Weiner sent an obscene picture of his naked body to several young women, and lied about it for a week.  Why don't Democrats demand resignation by this obviously worse behavior?  
  5. Isn't your "outrage" hypocritical?  Isn't it cynical for you to come on the air and express outrage at Weiner's behavior, yet not call for any consequences for his behavior? 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

President Obama's inheritance

President Obama is fond of telling us that he "inherited" a terrible economy  even after 2 1/2 years in office.  The supine media have dutifully parroted Obama's "I inherited"... mantra.

George W. Bush never said he "inherited" anything, not even the Clinton recession, the dot com bubble burst, or an intelligence community in shatters.  He manned up and took responsibility for anything that happened on his watch.

Was Obama faced with such terrible circumstances that we should continue to give him a pass in the third year of his Presidency?  Hardly.

Obama actually  inherited an average recession, and since he has been in office, has made it much worse than any other post war recession.

Obama inherited $1.87 a gallon gasoline on the day he took office, thanks to George W. Bush opening up drilling in July 2008.  Now gasoline prices are $3.84 a gallon.  Funny how Pres. Obama never talks about this inheritance.

Obama inherited $10 trillion in debt; he increased our debt in 2 1/2 years another four trillion and counting. 

Obama inherited a superb military and intelligence community, thanks to the efforts of  President George W. Bush.  Because of the efforts of Pres. Bush,  we had the capability to finally kill Osama Bin Laden.  Yet, the President failed to mention President Bush when announcing Bin Laden' death,  patting himself on the back instead.   Funny how this inheritance gets overlooked by our Commander in Chief.