VMG Blog Pages

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The 5 Most Ridiculous Bill O'Reilly Moments

This NSFW video is really funny, but has some naughty words....

The 5 Most Ridiculous Bill O'Reilly Moments

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is it time for Vermont to Privatize Rest Areas?

The Douglas Administration will permanently close three interstate rest areas that were temporarily closed earlier this month.

The facilities in Highgate and Hartford and the southbound rest area in Sharon will either be torn down or sold. We should emphasize it's the southbound Sharon rest area-- not the northbound which is a memorial to Vietnam Vets.

The Randolph rest area will close later this month but will re-open next year. And in July the state plans to reduce the hours of operation at the state's 17 other rest areas.

This plan is expected to save the state $1.5 million a year."

Here we go with another round of Rest Area roulette. Whenever the budget gets tight the first thing the politicians go to cut are the rest areas. When times get better they are then the first ones to lament the disadvantage we are put at when we don't have rest areas to direct travellers to local attractions. There seems to be no consistentcy on this issue and it appears to transcend party lines. When you think it couldn't get any more bizarre, we spend enough on the Veterans Rest Area to renovate the rest of the existing rest areas.

I would like to put forth the notion that the state has had enough chances to screw this simple task up. We live in a state with a tourism driven economy and we can't seem to all get on the same page to point travellers in the right direction. When you visit other states, it's easy to see how we've missed the boat. I think that we could partner with the private sector or simply put it out to bid and get far better results at a better cost to the businesses and taxpayers of the state. Closing more rest areas simply isn't a good return on our already stretched dollar.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Google Gets Power!

Every year, Google Inc. invites a group of global A-listers to its own Davos-style conference to think big thoughts. The event, called Zeitgeist, tends to be as pretentious as its name—captains of industry, finance, and government chattering onstage in front of about 400 of Google’s friends and customers about the fate of the internet and the world.

The 2008 version bordered on the surreal. The stock market was tanking, the bond market had flatlined, and the price of gold was surging to its biggest one-day jump in nearly a decade, an indication that investors everywhere thought the global economy was going to hell.

Yet here was Eric Schmidt, Google’s chairman and CEO, on a sparse stage at the company’s Mountain View, California, headquarters, in a green-energy love-in with his counterpart at General Electric Co., Jeff Immelt. The pair bathed in the glow of each other’s affirmation, convinced that the two companies, working together, can save the planet.


While my mind is racing about the cost savings and green impact that would result from a smart power grid, there’s one sore spot that keeps resurfacing. I think its the Republican in me that keeps wincing. Here’s the rub….

According to our deeply ingrained capitalist ideals, any time the government becomes involved in dictating what businesses should do, we come one step closer to socialism. Yet when a company succeeds too much we call it a monopoly and step in and break it up or we regulate it into a very small profit margin. I’m all for leveling the playing field when a company becomes so dominant it stifles competition, but when we create a monopoly, or break one up, we stifle innovation. It becomes impossible to change the status quo. For, example, our electrical distribution system is still running on systems developed 50 to 75 years ago. Thomas Edison would at first be proud of his accomplishments, but then horrified at the lack of progress and innovation since his original discovery.

Once this monster has been created, it is very difficult to institute any kind of meaningful change. Since the profits are low and closely regulated, there aren’t really the deep pockets one might expect to fund massive reconstruction of the grid or to spur innovation. The only other alternative is to turn to the private sector. The problem is that you can’t lure the private sector to invest somewhere that has intense regulation and built in low profit margins. This is what makes this Google/GE partnership so interesting. GE has the technology and Google appears to have the cash and the gumption to get this project started.

So far, so good. The other piece of this puzzle is the government. The Obama administration has so far said all the right things about energy policy, but this is not an issue that will take care of itself in 4 or even 8 years. The government needs to be in this transition for years to come. As we decease our dependency on fossil fuels and continue to move towards electric vehicles, we need to start now to ensure that the grid is able to handle the new demand efficiently and more importantly profitably. This is going to require a huge change in the way the bureaucrats in Washington regulate, as well as a huge change in the way utilities implement new policies. Both of these mechanisms are ill-suited to foster any kind of real change because they are bogged down in a sea of red tape. If every step of the way is going to have to be studied in-depth by the utilities and the government. The technology will be old by the time we’re done the permitting processes. A serious change from the top down is required. The Obama administration can step in and streamline the process if they can get support in Congress. The question is will they be able to do enough to make investing from the private sector attractive or should the grid simply become another inefficient government agency? I can hear the cries of Socialism already….

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Mark Cuban Stimulus Plan - Open Source Funding

If you have an business idea you've been kicking around for a while, now might be the time to give it the float test. Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, would like to hear your business idea. If it passes his muster, he will provide the start up capital you need.

While there are a few caveats, there is also a lack of the restraints usually required to obtain venture capital. Cuban thinks that he can leverage some of his wealth to stimulate the economy. If he funds start ups that create jobs (one of the requirements)they will put meaningful investment, that has tangible results, into motion. The theory is that these start ups will also spur innovation and free up lending by creating new business that traditional investors will want to back.

It all sounds a little too good to be true, but it is an opportunity that you may never have again. Nothing is free, but the terms that Cuban demands aren't unreasonable. Some folks, as you see by posts on his blog, are very leery of posting their ideas on public place. This is an opportunity for some people, but many are too stuck in the traditional way of thinking to realize what they are being offered.

You can read more and decide for yourself here...

The Mark Cuban Stimulus Plan - Open Source Funding

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Michael Phelps Caught On Video Doing Bong Hits?

Olympic great Michael Phelps has acknowledged "regrettable" behavior and "bad judgment" after a photo in a British newspaper showed him smoking marijuana.

In a statement released to The Associated Press, the swimmer who won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Games conceded the authenticity of the exclusive video published Sunday by the blog Blogging Vermont Style.

Phelps acknowledges photo showing Olympic swimming star smoking pot - ESPN
While this isn't really "shocking" news, it does go to show how badly we are losing the war on drugs. It also highlights the ridiculousness of marijuana prohibition. Come on now, you wouldn't see people freaking out if there was a picture of him totally shit-faced at a night club with a table full of empty drinks. I know the first thing that comes to mind is..."Well that's legal". While that may be factually correct, the social reality just doesn't pan out. Alcohol related arrests and prosecutions make up a huge percentage of the law enforcement expenditures in this country. The medical cost associated with health care for alcohol related problems is likely second only to the cost of tobacco related care. Yet, there's another legal product. Are you seeing the pattern here? Is there any sane reason for marijuana prohibition if a large percentage of the population is already using it? Obviously, by the Phelps saga, it shows that use is rampant in all sectors of the population. Also consider the tax revenue that could be generated. Look at how the industrial sector could benefit from hemp related products. Talk about going green....