May 03, 2018

A Good Use of One-Time Funds

Vermont Governor Phil Scott has proposed using one-time funds from various sources to fill a $58 million gap in the state education budget. Normally using one-time funds to paper over a problem in a spending program which has grown beyond affordability is a bad idea. However, Scott’s proposal is to trade the one-time money infusion for changes which will not only make such bailouts unnecessary in the future but will also both improve the quality of education and reduce its cost. Sound too good to be true? The devil’s in the details and the details depend on the legislature as well as the governor. This effort could easily fail but that’s no reason not to try.

The elephant on the school bus is too many schools for too few students. There has been a severe decline in the number of school age children in the state; but the number of schools, especially elementary schools, has stayed the same. Because education has gotten more complex and because schools are required to deal with more and more social issues, the minimum staff required in even the smallest school has gone up. Put these two trends together and it is no surprise that Vermont has the highest staff to student ratio in the country (4.25 to 1) and the third highest spending per pupil.

If we had the best schools in the country, that might be an acceptable cost. But we don’t. It is impossible for very small schools to provide the type of education which is needed today. A small school can’t have enough teachers to provide excellent education in the basics which all children need let alone a broad curriculum beyond the basics. A small school can’t have different tracks in different disciplines so that students can progress as fast as they’re capable of progressing while getting the help they need in subjects which are tough for them. A small school can’t have diversity.

So why do we keep all our small schools? Partly because the VEA (teachers’ union) doesn’t want to lose the jobs that would go away with school consolidation; partly because a local school is more convenient for children and parents than one further away; and partly because of the Vermont tradition of “local control”, which is now a myth as far as education is concerned. Local control is only meaningful when people are voting on whether to spend their own money. Put another way, if you are a property taxpayer in a “rich” town and have a high enough income to be required to pay educational taxes, is it local control when people in another town vote to spend your tax dollars to keep their tiny school open?

What we don’t have is parental control (except in those towns which support school choice through tuitioning). There is no escape from a local public school which is too small to do a good job except moving or private school. What we don’t have is a high-quality education for all Vermonters despite all the money we’re spending.

Even though the cost of education goes up each year while the number of students declines, the needed school consolidation can never happen fast enough to solve the current year’s budget problem. Therefor the hard choices which school consolidation requires get put off each year.

Governor Scott’s proposed uses of one-time funds coupled with a multi-year mandatory increase in the staff to student ratio is a way to use this year’s budget to start a process which can assure both lower cost and better schools. This approach will only work if there are real teeth in the legislation which “solves” this year’s problem with short term funding and solves the problem for future years with rapid school consolidation. Getting such legislation may be impossible but is a worthy – a necessary – goal.  

April 30, 2018

Trump is a Symptom; The “Resistance” Should Act on Causes

David Brooks wrote in The New York Times:

“Over the past year, those of us in the anti-Trump camp have churned out billions of words critiquing the president. The point of this work is to expose the harm President Trump is doing, weaken his support and prevent him from doing worse. And by that standard, the anti-Trump movement is a failure…”

The “resistance” is ignoring the problems in our country, which led so many of us to vote for obnoxious Trump. Many of these are the same problems which led Democrats to vote for socialist Bernie Sanders in the primaries. Eight years earlier many of the same people who voted for Sanders and Trump gave the Democratic nomination and the presidency to the extremely inexperienced Barack Obama because he represented “change”. Twice the country rejected Hillary Clinton (and John McCain and Mitch Romney) because they are all part of the establishment which is the cause of many of our problems.

Personally, I have little to complain about; America has been good to me and good for me. But I’ve come to realize that “the system” is corrupt in a very bipartisan way. The deck is stacked for certain people, so success for others is harder and harder to come by. No wonder people are angry and afraid.

Examples:

Exhibit Number One: The outrageous bank bailout (TARP) at the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of Obama’s. It was Congress’ last major bipartisan act. In normal times the rich get richer; in recessions and depressions the rich get poorer faster, perhaps because they have more to lose. The economic cycle does a much better job of wealth redistribution than politicians. But not last time: the bankers’ gains, ill-gotten or not, were protected; workers lost. Certain unions like the United Auto Workers  (as much a part of the establishment as CitiBank) got bailed out by the “Stimulus Package”. The rest of the country hasn’t really recovered until now.

Exhibit Number Two: The political clout of the National Education Association (teacher’s union) has enabled it to prioritize job salvation for its members over an effective education system. It’s not wrong for a union to try to protect its members; it’s wrong for politicians to conspire with the union to the massive detriment of education for Americans.

Exhibit Number Three: Pensions. In both the public and private sector, employer executives and union executives have conspired to promise workers retirement benefits which will be impossible to deliver but for which the bill won’t come due until the co-conspirators have gone on to their own golf courses. We will bail out some of the private sector workers; there simply isn’t and won’t be enough money to keep the promises made to public sector workers.

Some smaller examples: The perpetual mandates and subsidies for corny ethanol for the good scientific reason that Iowa has the first primary in the nation. The tax loophole for hedge fund managers that neither Republican nor Democratic administrations can ever get around to closing. Government-by-grant: I get you a grant through legislation or influence and you give me a campaign contribution, often in the opposite order. The Export-Import bank whose purpose is to subsidize a few large corporations like GE and Boeing.

Although neither Trump nor Sanders agree that these are all problems, each of them has targeted more of this list than Hillary Clinton did or does. As long as outrages like these continue and as long as Americans are denied the opportunity for an excellent education, a fair shake at upwards mobility, and protection from corporate and union monopolies, people will be – and should be – angry.

As long as Americans are angry and feeling helpless, they will vote for those who seem to feel their pain and share their disdain for the establishment. Fear is a perfect opening for demagogues of both the left and the right. Choices made by fearful people will lead to an erosion of civil liberties. Neither Trump nor Sanders caused the problems which scare people; both know how to harness resentment; neither hesitates to fan the flames of division in their own interest. But they do hear what their supporters are saying.

Those who focus on blind resistance are missing the point that Trump is a symptom, not a cause. If we want to be effective in preventing the rise of demagogues, we must address the problems which give rise to them.

Brooks concludes:

“The main reason Trump won the presidency is that tens of millions of Americans rightly feel that their local economies are under attack, their communities are dissolving and their religious liberties are under threat. Trump understood the problems of large parts of America better than anyone else. He has been able to strengthen his grip on power over the past year because he has governed as he campaigned.

“Until somebody comes up with a better defense strategy, Trump and Trumpism will dominate. Voters are willing to put up with a lot of nonsense for a president they think is basically on their side.

“Just after the election, Luigi Zingales wrote a Times op-ed on how not to fight Trump, based on the Italian experience fighting Silvio Berlusconi. Don’t focus on personality or the man, Zingales advised. That will just make Trump the people’s hero against the Washington caste. Focus instead on the social problems that gave rise to Trumpism.

“That is the advice we anti-Trumpers still need to learn.”

Anti-Sanders people need to learn the same lesson. Think a socialist president is unthinkable? That’s what we thought about Trump when he announced his candidacy.

See also:

Election Analysis: It Was TARP that Boiled the Tea

Confessions of a Stimulator

April 09, 2018

Don’t Give Up Your Contacts

When you give an app or social network access to your contacts, you are giving it access to your friends. You owe it to your friends to protect their privacy as best you can and hopefully they’ll do the same for you. Yes, there are some apps like email, messaging, and voice or video calling which have a legitimate need for contact information. Most don’t and they shouldn’t have access to it.

Yesterday was an all time personal high for unwarranted attempts to get at my contacts. I not only refused them all, I also returned a ring.com security system to Costco because, as soon as I downloaded the Android app needed to use it, the app refused to finish setup until I gave both it and Google Play Service access to both my microphone (maybe justified) and my contacts (not gonna happen). More below on the particularly dangerous Google Play Service.

Here are the attempts to get access which I remember yesterday:

  1. The Android Amazon Alexa app which wouldn’t even let me see the shopping list I had dictated until I told it who my contacts are so I can use Alexa to call them. I don’t want to use Alexa for calling but there wasn’t even a “later” button. Got around it by quitting the app (also not easy to do) and restarting it.
  2. My Garmin vivoactive HR It wants to tell me about email, texts, and calls when I’m hiking. I told it to concentrate on getting my pulse right.
  3. Facebook on my PC (I don’t allow it on my phone). It told me for the zillionth time that I’d have more friends if I’d just upload my contacts. I’m not about to do that to my friends.
  4. LinkedIn on my PC told me I’d get a fabulous job offer soon if I’d only upload my contacts. No thanks; I’m retired. And I wouldn’t hire anyone who uploaded me to LinkedIn.
  5. And the ring.com app.

The ring.com app didn’t ask to use my contacts and microphone directly; it just told me that it couldn’t even set itself up unless I gave Google Play Services access to these things. What is Google Play Services? Google Play Services is a good technical idea gone astray (or rogue). It manages downloads from the Google Play Store and updates (fine); Google says “with Google Play Services, you can authenticate Google services, synchronize your contacts, access the latest user privacy settings, and use higher quality location-based services that use less energy.” What they don’t say directly on the download page is that apps like ring.com which use Google Play Services also apparently get access to what Google Play Services has access to. If I had previously allowed Google Play Services to access my contacts, then ring.com could have gotten access without asking me. Not good and not gonna happen

In continuing my search for security cameras, I’ve been sending a question to tech support at the camera company websites asking what permissions their apps require. So far I’ve gotten no answers but it is still the weekend. I’ve also downloaded some apps to see whether they want me to give permissions I don’t want to give. That’s a pain. App stores ought, as a matter of course, to list all the permissions an app will need if you download it. I’d like to see this information on packaging and online descriptions for all products with their own apps. I don’t want a home security system at the expense of my friends’ online security.

I’m not waiting for the government to manage my privacy for me; I’m not at all sure I want that. We can make online privacy better by being informed consumers and – above all – not compromising the security of our friends by broadcasting our contacts.

See CC’ing Will Get Your Friends Speared for how and why to protect your friends when sending email to a list;

Don’t Believe Caller ID for how exposing your contacts can help scammers effectively scam your friends;

Alexa: The End of a Great Relationship and Your Android Phone is Eavesdropping for my growing paranoia about the Internet of listening things.

April 06, 2018

Say No to Government Censorship - Always

Jeff Jarvis' (@jeffjarvis) twitter description reads: "#resist @BuzzMachine blogger and j-school prof; author of Public Parts, What Would Google Do?" He is almost always right on issues to do with journalism. But I'm afraid his antipathy to Donald Trump (to put it it mildly) may be influencing his judgment. We had the following twitter exchange (btw, I consider Jeff a friend and hope he still feels that way about me). The background is that the Sinclair Broadcast Group ran promos taped by the anchors at the many local TV stations they own which, among other things, complained about "the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country" [I've quoted the full text of the promo way below].

 

 

 

At this point NBC anchor Katy Tur joined the tweetstream.

 

Katy has not answered the questions in my tweet above but is entirely possible she never noticed it.

Below is the KOMO TV version of the script as quoted in the Seattle PI that the Sinclair anchors were "forced" to read in the promos (not in the news itself). I actually don't find it objectionable. There's some puffery but it is a promo. It's certainly true that there is plenty of "fake news", opinion masquerading as news, unchecked "facts" and plenty of sloppy reporting on both the left on the right and even in the middle. But in my PoV, the important point is that it would be terrible, now or in the future, to have the government award licenses based on politics or government opinion of whether a station is practicing true journalism.

"Hi, I'm(A) ____________, and I'm (B) _________________...

(B) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces.

(A) But we're concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.

(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories... stories that just aren't true, without checking facts first.

 

(A) Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control 'exactly what people think'...This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.

(B) At KOMO it's our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand Truth is neither politically 'left nor right.' Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.

(A) But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to KOMOnews.com and clicking on CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We will respond back to you.

(B) We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual... We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.

(A) Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback"

April 03, 2018

Very Bad Web Page – Kill Your Browser!

If you see the web page below on your computer, do not click anywhere on it! It will also talk to you and say your computer is infected. Do NOT call the 855 number given! Do not believe that it comes from Microsoft! You won’t be able to close the window. It is trying to infect you with a virus.  Immediately use control-alt-delete to bring up Task Manager and kill your browser.

Badpage

Do the same thing if you see this dialog:


Baddialog

Mary got there by clicking PayPal in a Google search results page in what was apparently a hacked PayPal ad on Google. I tried in both Chrome and Firefox and was also misrouted to this malignant site. However, the same ad still shows up on Google Search and now leads to PayPal as it should.

Hopefully there’ll be some explanation from Google as to how this could happen. However I cannot be sure that this was not a hijack of a DNS server somewhere in the lookup path. I also don’t know that PayPal ads are particularly targeted. It could have been whatever ad Google served first would have misdirected to the evil site. Be careful!

If you are with law enforcement, the web address displayed still responds. That may be a lead.

UPDATE: The malignant page is hosted on Amazon's AWS according to a lookup of its IP address. I've notified the abuse email address at Amazon.

April 02, 2018

What Should Tower Over the Square?

THE SQUARE and the TOWER: Networks and Power, from the FREEMASONS to FACEBOOK by Niall Ferguson brilliantly explodes the myth that if we just had a big and open enough network, the world would be a wonderful place. If you haven’t read the book, you may want to read my post last week about it before reading this post (The Square and the Tower and Cambridge Analytica). The gist is that revolution without subsequent order looks more like what happened in France than what happened in America during the late 18th century. The “square” of the tile is any one of a number of horizontal networks to which we all belong; the “tower” is the hierarchical structure (city, state, corporation) which goiverns the square.

Ferguson believes that internet-enabled disruption is at the tipping point of causing a world catastrophe if someone doesn’t establish control over the huge networks like Facebook and Google.

“…can a networked world have order? As we have seen, some say that it can. In the light of historical experience, I very much doubt it…

“Globalization is in crisis. Populism is on the march. Authoritarian states are ascendant. Technology meanwhile marches inexorably ahead, threatening to render most human beings redundant or immortal or both…

“…technology has enormously empowered networks of all kinds relative to traditional hierarchical power structure…”

Ferguson deliberately uses the word “networks” to mean three things: physical networks over which data flows, social networks, and networked groups like ISIS who have mastered the use of the first two types of networks. Controlling ISIS requires controlling the networks which enable it. Apparently he also believes that control over these networks should and will thwart the rise of populism (Trump and Brexit, for example) and other threats to hierarchical order.

Of course management of these networks actually is hierarchical, as Ferguson points out: “Despite their appearance as great levelers, social networks are … ‘inherently unfair and exclusionary’. He attributes this to “the tendency for well-connected hubs to get even better connected”.

“…there are now two kinds of people in the world: those who own and run the networks, and those who merely use them. The commercial masters of cyberspace may still pay lip service to a flat world of netizens, but in practice companies such as Google are hierarchically organized, even if their ‘org.charts’ are quite different from that of General Motors in Alfred Sloan’s day.”

Are Google and Facebook management the hierarchical structures (towers) which should manage the unruly internet square? Not according to Ferguson:

“One can argue for and against censorship of odious content. One can marvel that companies and government agencies would spend money on online advertising so indiscriminately that their carefully crafted slogans end up on jihadist websites. However, arguing that Google and Facebook should do the censoring is not just an abdication of responsibility; it is evidence of unusual naivety. As if these two companies were not already mighty enough, European politicians apparently want to give them the power to limit their citizens’ free expression.”

I agree with that! So who should be doing the regulation? It’s a critical question if you’ve been convinced by Ferguson as I have that some regulation is necessary. Remember that the networks to be regulated are richer and more powerful than most countries (and better managed). Ferguson says:

“The alternative is that another pentarchy of great powers recognizes their common interest in resisting the spread of jihadism, criminality and cyber-vandalism, to say nothing of climate change. [nb. The original pentarchy was Austria, Britain, France, Prussia, and Russia who more or less kept the peace in Europe for a century before WWI.]  In the wake of the 2017 WannaCry episode, even the Russian government must understand that no state can hope to rule Cyberia for long… Conveniently, the architects of the post-1945 order created the institutional basis for such a new pentarchy in the form of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, an institution that retains the all-important ingredient of legitimacy. Whether or not these five great powers can make common cause once again, as their predecessors did in the nineteenth century, is the great geopolitical question of our time.”

I think I know the answer to this “great geopolitical question”: NO! The UN is a haplessly corrupt institution; the Security Council a perfect study in dysfunction. Giving the UN the power to limit our citizens’ free expression is an even worse idea than leaving this to Google and Facebook.

If we don’t want to trust the owners of the networks to be the exclusive regulators of themselves; if we don’t think the UN can do the job (hard not to laugh at this suggestion); if we think some regulation is required – from whom should it come? Comments welcome and this will be a subject of a post soon.

March 30, 2018

The Economist Is Right; It Would be a Mistake to Take His Advice

In a New York Times op ed Donald J. Boudreaux, who is is a professor of economics and a senior fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, repeats the economic truisms that free trade is a more than zero sum game (total gains are more than total losses) and that trade wars are less than zero sum game. For good measure he points out that the total number of US jobs is higher than ever and that trade-related job losses are a relatively small part of the churn in the job market, which is also caused by technical innovation and changing tastes.

“Fears of losing jobs to trade are inconsistent with our larger embrace of innovation and competition. More ominously, given that trade-induced job losses are a tiny portion of all job losses, such fears are wildly overblown — so much so that they now have America and the world on the brink of a potentially calamitous trade war.”

His implicit argument is for unilateral economic disarmament; that has been and would be a mistake. It doesn’t take much understanding of game theory to understand why.

Although there is mutual advantage to be gained from free trade between two countries, there is even more advantage to be gained by either country if it cheats. If a country can tap our market at will and we are restricted in what we can sell to them, that country gains an advantage. In the case of China, as an example, our companies can’t tap their local markets without sharing technology. That technology then can end up in the hands of Chinese competitors. That’s cheating.

Question: How do you stop cheating?

Answer: With a credible threat of retaliatory tariffs.

Question: What if they don’t believe you?

Answer: Impose the tariff.

Question: But both sides will be hurt. How does that help?

Answer: May lead to negotiations and back to a fair deal. May discourage future cheating. May not work in this instance.  Alternative is the unacceptable one of allowing the cheating.

This isn’t nearly as scary as the mutually assured destruction that kept (keeps?) the US and Russia from using their nuclear weapons against each other. The principle is the same: your opponent has to believe you’re willing to take a step which harms you as well as the opponent or the opponent will cheat. Renouncing the threat of tariffs (or force) is like putting up a sign saying this house has no burglar alarm and the occupants are unarmed.

The US currently has a huge advantage in trade gamesmanship: we’re the world’s biggest market and we’re self-sufficient in most essentials (rare earths are an important exception). Almost every trading partner would lose more than us from a mutual cutoff of trade. Doesn’t mean we should be a bully. Does mean there’s no sense in being a patsy.

Recent stories are that China has responded to Trump’s tariff saber-rattling by entering negotiations. I hope that’s right and the negotiations succeed. Fair trade is a more than zero sum game. Also hope Trump means what he says – that he’ll accept free trade if it’s fair trade.

 For what should've happened long ago, see Customer Call - A Prehistory.

March 27, 2018

The Square and the Tower and Cambridge Analytica

Niall Ferguson’s book, THE SQUARE and the TOWER: Networks and Power, from the FREEMASONS to FACEBOOK, was published before Facebook’s Cambridge Analytical debacle; but Ferguson clearly predicted the dangers posed by cyber-oligarchies. From the book:

“‘I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place,’ said Evan Williams, one of the co-founders of Twitter in May 2017. ‘I was wrong about that.’ The lesson of history is that trusting in networks to run the world is a recipe for anarchy…. Some today are tempted to give at least ‘two cheers for anarchism’. Those who lived through the wars of the 1790s and 1800s learned an important lesson that we would do well to re-learn: unless one wishes to reap one revolutionary whirlwind after another, it is better to impose some kind of hierarchical order on the world and to give it some legitimacy.”

Ouch! I thought the same thing as Evan Williams. Mary and I saw how technology aided a revolution against a corrupt regime (The Fax Will Make Them Free). I believed in the Arab Spring before it morphed to the horrors of Syria. I loved Alexa before I became afraid to have her listening to us (Alexa – Cover Your Ears). I lobbied for an internet free of regulation and believed that much more good than harm would come from this open network. I knew old oligarchies would be toppled; I was right about that; but I didn’t understand how quickly new – and dangerous – oligarchies would become dominant.

Ferguson points out that most revolutions turn out badly. The American Revolution is an exception. The French Revolution with its subsequent waves of vicious bloodletting and rotating ideologies with a final transition to tyranny is more the rule. But the American Revolution didn’t topple the local hierarchies and leave the mob in control of the streets; it was a revolution in large part by the local hierarchies against remote authority.

Rapid dissemination of knowledge is no panacea. Ferguson compares the invention of the printing press to the invention of the internet (acknowledging, of course, how much faster internet penetration has been than near-universal literacy was).  the success of Luther’s Reformation’s required faster and freer dissemination of ideas than from pulpit to parishioner; Guttenberg’s invention and plummeting book prices provided that. “While some slaughtered, others studied,” Ferguson writes. The Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution were positive consequences although not the intent of the Reformation. Increased religious strife once the church hierarchy lost control had devasting consequences for many. Finally, Ferguson says, civil authorities substituted for the church authority and re-imposed religious uniformity on a nation-by-nation basis. His lesson: you need to have vertical hierarchies even after – or especially after – a revolution topples an old hierarchy.

The title of the book is based on the tension between horizontal networks like the internet or a town square and vertical networks like most companies and governments. In Sienna there is a tower next to the square; Ferguson says the tower is exactly as high as the square is wide to deliberately symbolize a healthy balance between horizontal and vertical authority. Sienna, for a long period, was very well-governed by a term-limited council (vertical) drawn from the dominant mercantile class (an exclusive but horizontal network).

The internet revolution has been successfully disruptive. In theory the internet is horizontal, but it has led to the dominance of a few new vertical hierarchies richer and more powerful than most countries. Will they regulate themselves? If they regulate their content, do they become the most dangerous censors the world has ever known? If they don’t regulate their content, do they become a lawless zone that reaches into every home and business? Who controls how they use what they know about us? That knowledge is what pays for the “free” service they provide us.  Should governments regulate “the internet”? Can they? Do we trust governments or will they make a regulated internet their tool for regulating us? That’s happening now in China according to Ferguson.

The Square and the Tower is a powerful if frightening picture of the dangers and choices we face. I’ll write next about Ferguson’s answers to some of these questions. Unfortunately, I think he does a better job of asking than answering. But we have a better chance of finding answers once the right questions have been asked – and once our illusions about the automatic benefits of horizontal networks are shattered.

March 22, 2018

Oil Prices Are Going Down: The Wickenburg Indicator

Only a fool would predict commodity prices, so I’ll do that. I’ve been to Wickenburg and I know oil prices are headed down

Wickenburg’s in Arizona, a little more than an hour northwest of Phoenix. It’s on the Hassayampa River. Most of the time you can drive on the river bed, but the cottonwood still flourishes on the banks because the river runs under the sand. Wickenburg was a mining town: gold, copper, and a few other metals.

WickenburgRight now Wickenburg is full of horse trailers and the cowboys who own them. These aren’t just any cowboys; they specialize in steer roping. The headers rope the horns and the footers rope the hindfeet. Winners get buckles and saddles. Although there are a few professional ropers in Wickenburg, a large percentage of these “cowboys” actually make their living in the Bakkan oil fields far to the north. They frack; they sell sand for fracking; they sell water for fracking; they produce the oil that’s driving OPEC and Russia crazy and that has helped spur the American economy.

For the last couple of years American abundance drove world oil prices down. The frackers fracked less wells and roped more steers. OPEC and Russia blinked and cut back their own production. The price of oil almost doubled. The horse trailers turned north early this year; the frackers are going home to get back to work. Sorry Putin: you can steal Crimea; you can steal a Russian election; you can hack at America’s politics; but you can’t set the price of oil. That’s done in Wickenburg.

If you’re not convinced yet, let me tell you about the gold mine guy. We met him on the road and asked directions; he invited us to see his goldmine. Bought it a couple of years ago because oil prices were low and gold prices high. He’s selling it and going back to North Dakota to frack some more. Don’t know if that means gold prices are going up but do know that oil prices are going down.

March 03, 2018

Proposed Alternative Town Meeting Resolution on Climate Change

Thursday I posted my reasons for objecting to the 350VT resolution proposed for Stowe and other town meetings. Far below is my proposed substitute resolution. Immediately below is a summary of the changes I am proposing.

I changed the whereas clauses to make them more science-based.

The call to ban new fossil fuel infrastructure including gas pipelines is removed since substitution of natural gas for coal and oil is the reason why the US is the leader among developing countries in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The biggest change is to urge the state to make GHG reduction the goal for which renewables are just one means rather than making renewables themselves the goal regardless of efficacy or cost. The target date is changed from 2050 to 2030 so we can actually measure what we are doing.

There is a list which I'm sure is not complete of alternatives for reducing GHGs which should be weighed against each other as means to reach the goal of GHG emissions.

Although I largely agree with the strategies recommended to the Town for reducing local GHG emissions, I've added some alternatives 350VT didn't consider.

PROPOSED SUBSTITUTE FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY ADVISORY RESOLUTION

Advisory Resolution on Climate Change

Whereas atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, have been rising due in a large degree to human activities;

Whereas the earth has been warming for about 20,000 years since the last glacial epoch;

Whereas the combination of these two factors raises the probability of rapid and disruptive climate change worldwide;

Whereas it is prudent to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses in the most cost-effective ways available while realizing that climate will continue to change and mitigation of climate change effects may also be necessary;

And whereas the use of renewables alone for such reduction is neither environmentally nor fiscally responsible;

Now, therefore, let it be resolved;

  1. That the Town urges the State of Vermont to:
    1. Target a specific goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont by 2030 using the most effective means available;
    2. Consider all alternatives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions including but not limited to renewables, conservation, increased access to hydropower, and substitution of natural gas for coal, oil, and propane;
    3. Ensure that the transition to lower emissions of greenhouses gasses considers impact on all residents.
  1. That the town will do its part the goal of lower emissions by committing to efforts such as:
    1. Reducing transportation emissions by enhancing public transportation and bike lanes, increasing opportunities for usage of electric, hybrid, and natural gas vehicles, and providing commuter parking area;
    2. Weatherizing town buildings and schools where applicable;
    3. Identifying sites for both solar photovoltaic and solar hot water panels including town and school building rooftops;
    4. Supporting initiatives for the reduction of personal energy consumption.

 

 

 

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