Thoughts on Burlington Telecom Crisis

Burlington Telecom

I believe that Burlington Telecom’s current financial situation is a concern for the City of Burlington’s economic health.  The city already has so much on it’s plate, I don’t think that it needs the extra burden of trying to keep a risky upstart afloat in an extremely competitive industry such as telecommunications.
 
As the telecommunications industry seems to be an ever-changing one with many players crossing into each other’s markets (increasing competition from other phone, traditional cable, satellite tv, wireless phone, and even internet companies).  How can a small local firm be expected to continue making the huge investments needed to keep up and why is it necessary to the city’s future?
 
There are two options I can see that would be fair to everyone involved…
 
1. Burlington Telecom should repay the loan back to the city of Burlington.  Burlington Telecom could then issue bonds to the public market and then use the money to both pay of the loan and continue their work.  Then, Burlington Telecom could be spun off to become a completely private entity… perhaps even allow the current users of Burlington Telecom to take stakes in it to possibly become a COOP like City Market.
 
2. Alternatively, if Burlington Telecom must stay as part of the city government, they should meet their obligations as they agreed to.  They should repay the loan, seek financing outside the city government and continue to build out within Burlington first. If they succeed there, then they could be given permission to expand their services beyond Burlington.  If Burlington taxpayers or city employees/elected officials time are going to be used for the benefit of Burlington Telecom, then ALL residents of Burlington that are paying taxes to the benefit of BT should have access to BT’s services before residents of other towns do.  It’s only fair.
 
Either solution should require the risk to be shifted from the city government to outside private interests and most likely should involve an increase in the service rates that customers pay to allow Burlington Telecom to have some chance of being sustainable.

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Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy by Lawrence Reed

Lawrence Reed

Last week the Ethan Allen Institute put on presentation at Sheraton featuring guest speaker Lawrence Reed.  He had some very good things to say about how to put Vermont (or any state or the federal government) back on the right track.  The main part of of speech was about seven principles that if followed by everyone involved in crafting policy in government would help improve our economy and way of life as we would be a much freer and more industrious people.  Here they are below…
 
Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy
 
PRINCIPLE #1: Free people are not equal, and equal people are not free.
 
PRINCIPLE #2: What belongs to you, you tend to take care of; what belongs to no one or everyone tends to fall into disrepair.
 
PRINCIPLE #3: Sound policy requires that we consider long-run effects and all people, not simply short-run effects and a few people.
 
PRINCIPLE #4: If you encourage something, you get more of it; if you discourage something, you get less of it.
 
PRINCIPLE #5: Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own.
 
PRINCIPLE #6: Government has nothing to give anybody except what it first takes from somebody, and a government that’s big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you’ve got.
 
PRINCIPLE #7: Liberty makes all the difference in the world.
 
Click here for more descriptive comments by Lawrence Reed regarding: Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy

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Presidential Internet Kill Switch

Yesterday, EWeek published an article about a Presidential Internet Kill Switch, that would provide the power to the President of the United States to shut down the Internet whenever the President felt there is threat to strategic national interests. This provision was included in the original Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (S. 773) and was introduced by Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. They drafted this legislation in response to post-9/11 complaints that the neither the private sector nor government was doing enough to protect the nation’s critical cyber-infrastructure.

This seems like a lot of power for any one entity to have. The ability to shut down the whole Internet in one place. This is the first I’ve heard of it and it should be a bit unsettling to people that it can be done. The article doesn’t explain how it would be done, but I imagine it may have something to do with ICANN since they have control over how website domains are operated. If they were to shut down their database, I suppose then no web sites would operate or if all major ISPs were to shut down their internet access with a call from the President that would work for here in the states at least. It would be interesting to know exactly how they would do it.

However, it would seem that during the time of a national emergency, this would be the time that you want the Internet running at full capability so that the citizens can communicate effectively and determine what steps they should take in response to the national emergency. Of course a major benefit of having this power as President is that you would be able to hide and/or prevent information from getting public too fast. Of course this ability would make an excellent target for a terrorist to be able to hijack and activate. I think this kind of power available all in one place could be quite dangerous for these reasons. It seems that from the comments on this article most internet professionals do feel quite uneasy about this as well.

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Some Thoughts on Healthcare/ Health Insurance

There has been much discussion regarding Obama’s Health Insurance proposal lately.  I find most of it disturbing in that it seems to be a big power grab by the government instead of a solution.  To name a few problems…

  1. Forcing people to have an insurance policy even though they may be able to self-insure – or pay a 2.5% tax/penalty.

  2. Forcing companies into having health insurance plans – or pay a 8% payroll tax/penalty.

  3. Loss of freedom to choose what is in your plan or potentially your doctor.

  4. Loss of ability to get discounts for a healthy lifestyle.

I don’t believe this plan will do a whole lot to fix the root problem, which is the costs of healthcare.  The high costs of health insurance are a symptom of the root problem, not the actual problem.

Some things that could be done to help the problem…

  1. Reduce rules on the healthcare and insurance industry.  The federal and state governments could relax their policies regarding the medical industry.  Open up markets for all insurance companies to actively compete (this is a big issue here in Vermont, where we have very few health insurance providers, 2 that I can think of). Make it easier for people to practice medicine and for people to seek care from who they want.  Make the heavy licensing of medical practioners and hospitals optional in order to operate.

  2. Make the FDA approval process optional.  Here in the US, we get access to new drugs or medical devices many years after others in the rest of world due to the lengthy bureaucratic process of FDA approval, which can take 10 years to get.  Also, the process is so expensive that only the largest companies can afford to participate and only ideas that are very complicated or are expected to have a high retail cost are submitted for approval.  Why couldn’t the government make the FDA approval optional and allow other firms to offer their own approval or seal and compete with the FDA.  This would allow much cheaper forms of healthcare to be available.

  3. Promote the benefits of healthy eating and proper exercise.  There is strong evidence that most of our health issues are due to bad diets, not enough exercise as well as improper dental hygiene.  I have been guilty of this myself and it wasn’t until I lost my health insurance that I began to be concerned about these issues.  Since I’ve lost my health insurance, I have done the following…

    1. Lost about 66 pounds.
       
    2. Fixed 18 teeth and began brushing up to 3 times a day and flossing everyday.

    3. Modified diet dramatically, currently making the main focus on vegetables, fruits, almonds and whole wheat grains.

    4. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day (on average).

    5. Reduced risky behaviors – such as less risky bike riding and wearing seat belts more regularly. 

In doing so, I believe I have improved my health dramatically by making these changes which I probably wouldn’t have done if not for the loss of my cheap health insurance.  Perhaps that’s part of the problem… if so many people are getting cheap or free health insurance from the government or their employers, what incentive is there to be concerned about your health if you know everything can be fixed for a low cost or nothing in some cases?  Wouldn’t it make sense to at least allow discounts for good healthy habits or for scoring well on health tests?  Or perhaps allowing them to charge extra for risky behaviors/jobs, such as downhill skiing or logging?

I realize this can be a very emotional and scary issue for most people.  Everyone wants good quality care for as little as impossible.  No one like to pay for insurance if they are not sure they will need it.  At this time, I am currently trying to get on a health insurance plan that is affordable to my wife and I, which can be quite difficult here in Vermont where the choices are so very limited.

The idea or mystic of a very comprehensive healthcare/health insurance program that covers everyone for little cost sounds very attractive, but the reality is that the government running such a program will be very risky and I believe would end up being at least as expensive as our current system and will be far more intrusive.  If the government is running the program, what would stop them from placing far more limits on our activities to keep costs down… they probably won’t do that right away, but think 10 or 20 years down the road, when they’ve reached their taxation or premium limitations.  Look at anything else the government runs, it’s only a matter of time before the programs go under-funded and need to increase rates or tax rates just to keep up with payments.  At this point, the government will be forced to put limits on our behavior, which is already beginning with smoking and trans fat bans.  Why wouldn’t this increase with the government taking over healthcare/health insurance?  My wife and I are now living a much better lifestyle where we don’t eat much unhealthy food or engage in drinking or smoking or other behaviors considered unhealthy, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for the government to force our lifestyle on others and I certainly would like to be able to get the occasional fatty burger and fries from when I want to.

So, I firmly believe that a government takeover of the healthcare industry will not signifantly reduce the costs in the long run, if at all, will limit our choices and most likely result a huge loss of personal freedoms.

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ASR Interviews Neil Randall, Former Libertarian-Republican Vermont Representative

ASR (American Socialism for the Rich) recently interviewed Neil Randall, Libertarian-Republican, Vermont former Representative ’98-’02. 

During the interview they covered topics such as GM Bailout, Vermont Budget Passes, Libertarianism and the party in Vermont, Dairy Industry/Government, Campaign Finance Reform (Act 64), education, Ron Paul and more.

Watch the whole interview below…

Neil Randall on ASR from Matthew Cropp on Vimeo.

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Upcoming Event: WHAT IS HAPPENING TO AMERICA NOW?

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO AMERICA NOW?

Come to a meeting that WILL change your Life and HELP TO restore liberty
Admission is free – all are welcome

Time/Place:
FRIDAY – MAY 1, 2009 7:30-10:00pm
UVM – Fleming 101 – 61 Colchester Avenue, Burlington 05405
FREE PARKING – VOTEY LOT NEAR TO FLEMING MUSEUM

Tell your friends and associates

More Information:
www.WeThePeopleFoundation.org
www.GiveMeLiberty.org

CURRENT ISSUES:

LEARN about YOUR Constitution and the way our Founding Fathers meant it to be;

– Now, constitutional violations escalating over many years – OUR Republic is in grave danger;
– The true causes of our National distress;
– The fate of our Nation now rests with You… The People!

Find out VERMONT’s Role in the coming Continental Congress 2009

In the Spirit of our Founding Fathers and the Continental Congress of 1774, this national assembly will bring delegates from each state representing The People to discuss the future of our Nation and how we can restore Constitutional Obedience in America, before it is too late.

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ASR Interviews Rob Roper of the Vermont GOP

Below is an interview with Rob Roper, the Chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, on American Socialism for the Rich. In the interview, the following issues are discussed: The Vermont GOP and how it functions in Vermont, the economy (Federal and Vermont), bailouts, stimulus package and our Vermont will use it’s share, inflation, Instant Runoff voting in Vermont and Gay Marriage in Vermont.

In the interview Rob makes some good points on a variety of issues. One in particular that I see is how the state is getting very difficult for those that are in the middle. Individuals that either qualify for many of Vermont’s social programs or are very wealthy are fine, but if you are middle class, you will find getting by quite difficult.

It seems that the taxation and regulation has made so many products and services so expensive in Vermont compared to other states. The government has taken care of the problem for people making under $10,000 with it’s lavish social programs and the costs don’t seem bother many of the wealthy, but what about the people making between $15,000 and $25,000.

I think a lot of people in Vermont are in this range but continue to vote for the same people over and over again. I imagine they must feel the pain, but why do they think things will get better by voting for the same people? I know many people don’t vote… one could imagine how things could really change if more did vote or take the time understand what the people they voted for are doing. My guess is that most don’t have time… probably too busy working.

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AIG Bonuses Outrage… Who to blame?

AIG

It has been recently reported that AIG has paid a significant amount of the bailout money received from the US government as bonuses to executives and trading partners.

Obama and his administration seem surprised about this and many in the media have been angered by AIG for paying the money. I believe that AIG has an obligation to uphold the contracts as long as it’s a going concern. If AIG was to go into bankruptcy then the contracts could be voided.

The US government shouldn’t have bailed them out in the first place and let them go into bankruptcy where at that point the government could have chosen to salvage the assets then without any threat of being sued over the contracts or even better other insurance agencies could have purchased the assets through bankruptcy procedings.

Again, a contract is a contract that must be upheld as long as both parties are alive. Even if AIG was purchased by another firm, the purchasing firm would need to honor the contracts as when you buy business you are not only buying the assets but the liabilities as well. I imagine this is why no one wants to buy companies like GM because they have more liabilities than assets… essentially someone would need to be paid to take GM off their hands, a very bad situation to be in.

A local example of this problem with contracts here in Burlington… when Clavelle was in office city employees were promised a certain return on their retirement funds at the peak of the market in 2000 as if it was never going to slow down or pull back. The problem is these were contracts and the city still has to honor them as bad as they may be. The schools have the same problems with their teacher’s salarly/benefits contracts.

Who is to blame? With the AIG situation, the company should be allowed to setup whatever pay/bonus structure they wish. However, they should also face the consequences when it doesn’t work out. The market was already punishing them for their mistakes and rewarding other firms that made better decisions.

However, the government got in the way and decided to reward AIG for their mistakes instead. The government, when deciding to purchase a 80% stake in AIG, should have analyzed the assets and liabilities of which they should have been made aware of this problem with the bonus contracts. If they bother to look, that was there fault and they should face the scrutiny of the tax payers. If they knew about them and were ok with it then they are an accomplice in this whole deal of wasting taxpayer money. Which is it complicity or stupidity?

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Vermont Legislative Pay: Is it too low or too high?

Yesterday, I heard some discussion on the Charlie and Ernie show regarding legislative pay. It seems that many people are under the impression that the pay is low and that it shouldn’t be cut like other state employees that are making more than $60,000/year. The argument is that legislative pay is only $625.36/week or $11,256 for 18 weeks or $7.93/hour.

However, you need to factor in the allowances. They get reimbursed for their gas and then they get allowances for meals and rooms, which I believe they keep even if they don’t use for those purposes.

I don’t think many people in the private sector get reimbursed for commuting costs. I don’t know anyone that does.

Just the food and room allowances alone are an extra $735/week, if they are in session 5 days a week, not even including the gas reimbursements.

So, if you combined the pay plus allowances that would be $1,360.36/week or $70,738.72/year, with allowances for commuting at $38,220 alone. Do you know anyone who gets an extra $38,220/year just for traveling back and forth to work within the state?  Someone living in Montpelier or nearby definately doesn’t need travel allowances.

So if the legislature is in session for 18 weeks, this puts the actual legislative pay at about $24,486.48. This is for only 18 weeks of work… not bad at all, sounds like very good compensation to me if these figures are correct, what do you think?

Please note, the numbers I used for these calculations were pulled from the AP article: Vt. House votes down legislative pay cut

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Digsby Review IM’s, email and social networking in one App!

For the last couple days I’ve been trying a different instant messager called Digsby. So far, I’m quite impressed. For years now I’ve been using Trillian to consolidate all my different IM accounts into one messager such as Yahoo IM, AIM, ICQ, etc. and Trillian has worked quite well for this.

However, Digsby goes a step further and includes most emails (which Trillian does too), but also popular social networking tools such as Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and LinkedIn.

You can even manage your email and social networking accounts within Digsby.

Digsby also saves a copy of all your chats if you like right on your computer for easy archiving.

Oh, and you can embed the Digsby Widget on your web site to allow visitors to chat directly with you from your site. You can also customize the widget to fit the look of your web site as you can see to the right.

If you have a bunch of IM, social networking, and email accounts, you should give Digsby a try. Download Digsby.

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