1/30/2009

One Step Closer To Socialized Medicine?

As George Will stated last week, it appears the Democrats will be trying to use the present economic crisis to create socialized medical care on the sly, all in the name trying to turn the economy around. Apparently George Will isn't the only one that's noticed this bit of sleight-of-hand deception by the ever more openly socialist Left within Congress.

Tom Daschle is still waiting to be confirmed as secretary of health and human services, not that he's in any rush. Democrats are already enacting his and Barack Obama's agenda of government-run health care -- entirely on the QT.

This was the real accomplishment of this week's House vote for the $819 billion "stimulus," and is the overriding theme of Congress's first month. With the nation occupied with the financial crisis, and with that crisis providing cover, Democrats have been passing provision after provision to nationalize health care.

It began one week after the swearing-in, when Nancy Pelosi whipped through a big expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The SCHIP bill was Democrats' first stab at stealth expansion, unveiled in 2007, though vetoed by George W. Bush.

Still, it's the "stimulus" that has proven the real gift horse -- a behemoth that has allowed Democrats to speed up the takeover of health care under cover of an economic crisis. They initially claimed, for instance, the "stimulus" would provide Medicaid money to states struggling to pay existing bills. What in fact it does is dramatically expand the number of Americans who qualify for Medicaid.

And once they control your health care, and recreate the same conditions that have destroyed health care in the UK and is doing so in Canada, they'll keep telling you it's for your own good. Of course the members of Congress won't have to deal with the problem directly because they'll have their own system outside that of the one the rest of us “little people” will be required to use.

All I can say is the members of Congress pushing for this should be forced to use the same system as everyone else. They are owed no special privilege. They should be forced to ride the coaches down the road to Hell they have created.

To reiterate a point that must be made again and again and again: Doing the same thing (like socializing medical care) over and over again, but expecting the results to be different this time is the definition of insanity. And the Left has proven they are insane.

They keep dragging up the same discredited and unworkable social policies as if they were new and expect they'll work this time. (Or they've chosen to forget the disasters perpetrated upon the public all in the name of their god, Socialism.)

Creating artificial shortages of medical care is no way to ensure good health. All it does is make sure everyone one gets poor health care, drives people out of the medical profession, and puts us back to the level of health care available over 100 years ago, i.e. not very good by modern standards.

Ayn Rand must be spinning in her grave.

1/29/2009

A New (Old) Way To Boost Fuel Economy?

If the claims of Oregon-based Vapor Fuel Technologies are true, they may have found a way to increase the fuel economy of the gas internal combustion engine by a third while maintaining its power output and lowering its tailpipe emissions.
Vapor Fuel Technologies (Beavercreek, Ore.) claims it accomplishes this by vaporizing fuel and mixing it with super-hot air, enabling modified electronic control circuitry to coax the same horsepower out of engines while burning less fuel and cutting emissions.
Being able to vaporize the fuel of a gasoline engine means the engine can extract more energy form the fuel than today's fuel injected engines. Even the best fuel injection engine doesn't burn the gas in its cylinders completely because the atomized fuel is still in droplet form (in a very fine mist), leaving the fuel in the center of the droplet only partially consumed. It exits the cylinder during the exhaust stroke before it can burn completely, wasting energy. The remaining fuel burns in the exhaust manifold, exhaust pipe, or in the catalytic converter.

By vaporizing the gasoline, complete combustion takes place within the cylinder, extracting more energy from the fuel and boosting power and economy.

If this works as advertised, the fuel economy of autos, trucks, and SUVs could be boosted without a major redesign of their engines. It would also greatly increase the economy of hybrid vehicles as well.

I've seen engines like this before, using the proverbial “100 mpg carburetor”, but the imprecise control and feedback mechanisms made them impractical and more often than not, very expensive. They also decreased the life of the engines they were used with, burning out valves and piston rings due to the much higher combustion temps the old systems caused and damaging pistons because of the tendency of these systems to suffer from detonation due to the lean fuel/air mixtures created by the systems.

If I recall correctly, Smokey Yunick tried out a number of these fuel vaporization schemes back in the 70's and 80's and every one worked...for a few hundred or thousand miles before the engines self-destructed.

Hopefully the system created by Vapor Fuel Technologies will fare better.

1/27/2009

The Stimulus Package Won't Stimulate Anything But The Defecit

Ever since the news of the first $700 billion for a bailout of financial institutions by the Bush Administration was made public, I felt a sense of foreboding, seeing it as nothing more than a way to stiff the taxpayers, suck billions out of the economy, and show little return for the money paid out. So far it appears that sense was right. Even though the full $700 billion has yet to be spent, I'm of the opinion it hasn't done a damn thing except help the bottom line of investment banks and insurance carriers that gambled on shaky securities and lost. It certainly hasn't helped businesses or the American public.

With an additional $355 billion 'stimulus' package being proposed by the new administration as a means to get the economy going again, one has to wonder how long this kind of thing will be perpetuated, all in the name of “saving the economy”. But as it is structured now, it will do little this year, providing only $26 billion under the House bill. How is this supposed to stimulate the economy?

Could it be the Democrats in Congress have other ideas for the balance of the money? Could it be this will give the liberals a chance to fund all the programs they haven't been able to ramrod through Congress in the past?

If they were really interested in stimulating the economy, there are better and less expensive ways to do it. One of the best ways is to cut taxes, now.
But the problem is that Mr. Obama wants [his tax cuts] to be temporary, which means taxpayers realize they will see no permanent increase in their after-tax incomes. Not being fools, Americans may either save or spend the money but they aren't likely to change their behavior in ways that will spur growth. For Exhibit A, consider the failure of last February's tax rebate stimulus, which was a bipartisan production of George W. Bush and Mr. Summers, who is now advising Mr. Obama.

To be genuinely stimulating, tax cuts need to be immediate, permanent and on the "margin," meaning that they apply to the next dollar of income that an individual or business earns. This was the principle behind the Kennedy tax cuts of 1964, as well as the Reagan tax cuts of 1981, which finally took full effect on January 1, 1983.
As the article linked also states, if they aren't willing to cut income taxes permanently, then they should slash corporate taxes, which are already some of the highest in the world.

Either way, the stimulus plan is a con game. It won't work any better than the last one. It will only cost us more, fuel hidden pork barrel spending, and do next to nothing to actually restart the economy.

The new stimulus package is a bad idea and should die a much deserved death.

1/26/2009

Obama The Ungracious

It's one thing to be a gracious loser. It's another thing to be a gracious winner.

John McCain has shown he is gracious even though he lost. Former President George W. Bush has also been gracious even as he departed the White House. Unfortunately President Obama has proven he is anything but.
President Obama ran his campaign on “change” and he declares now at every turn just how changey he is — on torture, the economy, the Middle East, ethics, etc.

Forget for a moment whether there is anything to the high-minded talk. That’s his theme and ticket to wielding political power.

The unfortunate result of this is that he is now given to jab continually at his predecessor. Some might attribute this to the failure to realize “the campaign is over” but it is perhaps better understood as milking his change meme for all its worth. He is changing from the Bush era, he repeats ad nauseum. The result, nevertheless, is a decided lack of graciousness toward his predecessor.
It appears he has little else in his repertoire. He even dissed his predecessor in his inaugural speech, something that just isn't done. His jibes and slights have only proven to me that I am wasting my time giving the new President a chance to prove himself. He already has.

He's proven to me that he is a putz of the first order. And it only took him a week in office to show me he is not the one that should be sitting in the Oval Office. He has shown me he is an arrogant, shallow SOB that we will be saddled with for the next four years.

I had despaired about the GOP, wondering if they would be able to lift themselves out of their malaise. Now it has become obvious to me that President Obama will help the Republican Party rise from the ashes like a phoenix, ready to stop this creation of the Chicago political machine, and to rein in Obama's profligate spending and social engineering of a type not seen since the fascist FDR administration.

Some have called Obama a savior. He is, but not in a way many of his supporters expected. He will be the savior of the Republican Party.

1/25/2009

Thoughts On A Sunday

The arctic chill has returned to New Hampshire, with morning temps here at The Manse well below zero. Below zero lows are expected for the next few days. Does Al Gore want to tell me again about global warming?

Speaking of freezing temperatures, the indoor supply of firewood for the Official Weekend Pundit Woodstove has dwindled, meaning that BeezleBub and I will soon be uncovering our outdoor stash of firewood and moving some of it in to the garage. The old saying about firewood is inaccurate. It does not warm you twice – once will cutting and splitting it and once when you burn it. Instead it warms you three or four times – once when cutting and splitting it, once when you stack it the first time, once when you move it and stack it again, and finally when you burn it.

The WP Mom-In-Law made the trip home to the southwestern part of the state after a three-and-a-half day visit. Unlike many movie/TV/book stereotypes, she's a peach. I think we'll keep her.

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How many times have we heard about the Law of Unintended Consequences? Too many to count. But that doesn't stop me from posting about another one.

It appears a law passed in response to deal with lead found in toys made in China back in 2007 will be forcing the closure of small shops catering to customers seeking homemade children's clothing. It isn't that the homemade goods have lead in them that's causing the problem. It's the testing mandated by the law that is killing the businesses and the homecrafters supplying them. Each type of item made or sold for children under the age of 12 must be tested by a third party, which can cost $350 per item or more. Small businesses like the shops or the homecrafters can't afford to spend that kind of money to prove that the items they sell or make does not contain above the allowable amount of lead. Somehow I doubt things like wool sweaters, clothing of woven cloth, or rag dolls made by homecrafters will contain any lead. But the law has no exceptions.

How is it a law that intended to protect children is also wiping out honest and responsible small business owners? Simple. It was the need to “Do Something!” that caused the lawmakers to do a poor job of writing the legislation and creating a situation that is crippling small businesses at a time when we need them more than ever.

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I have just started re-reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. I had forgotten how dark a picture it paints about the economic conditions existing in the novel. I guess I can forgive myself for that considering it's been 35 years since I read it last. But it acts as a cautionary tale about how the government and political correctness can destroy an economy all in the name of “fairness”. Isn't that what we're seeing now? After all, the liberal Democrats in Congress want to make sure the economy is fair, at least as they define it. But then we've known for a long time that their idea of “fair” is equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity.

Maybe that's why I've been drawn back to it after all this time.

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Keeping in mind Atlas Shrugged, I believe Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) is probably the most dangerous man in the country.

Known for using his power as a battleaxe against people he doesn't like (particularly Republicans and businessmen), as the new chairman of the House committee on Energy and Commerce we can count on him to use the committee to force industry to invest in energy efficiency in a manner he sees fit rather than letting industry do it as their funds allow and their management and stockholders decide.

He isn't known as the meanest man in Congress for nothing.

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Apparently I'm not the only one that's been pondering this: Obama = Carter?

There are too many parallels to Jimmy Carter's policies in regards to those being put forth by President Obama. While the economic problems we're facing today are nothing as compared to the ones Carter was facing when he took office in 1977, the are just as daunting. Unfortunately if Obama follows the same course as Carter, the economy will not recover any time soon and he could end up being a one-term president like Carter.

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Speaking of Jimmy Carter, there's something I have to get off my chest.

Many of the Dems decrying George W. Bush as the worst president ever either chose to ignore Jimmy Carter's dismal record or weren't alive when he was President.

Carter had one problem that is a major failing of anyone sitting in the Oval Office - he was a detail man rather than a big picture kind of guy. A president has to be a big picture kind of guy. He can't waste his time with detail. That's what his staff is for, to handle the details. Carter couldn't see the big picture, which is why he failed as president. He managed to accomplish little, failed to act when the US Embassy in Iran was overrun by the Revolutionary Guard (an act or war), kept a tight control over the economy and energy policies which strangled its recovery, and basically did just about everything wrong.

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Is the expansion of SCHIP by Congress to cover a large portion of the American people merely a ploy to create a socialized medical care system on the sly?

Absolutely.
Grace-Marie Turner, a student of health care policies, says this SCHIP expansion is sensible -- if your goal is quickly to get as many people on public coverage as possible, and to have children grow up thinking that it is normal for them to get their health insurance from the government. That is the goal.
That's all we need. As I commented to a co-worker sometime last week, why would we want to recreate a health care system we already know doesn't work and does nothing but prevent actual health care from being delivered, creates artificial shortages, and discourages people from going into medicine as a career? Both Canada and the UK have already crippled their health care systems, so why should we do the same?

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I am sick to death of hearing the present recession is the worst one we've seen since the Great Depression.

IT...IS...NOT.

The recession in the early-mid 1970's was far worse, with unemployment rates of up to 14% in many states, taxes at state and federal level going through the roof, businesses going bust or moving out of high tax states at an alarming rate, inflation running rampant, and mortgage interest rates above well 10%. This was a time when the steel industry took major hits, with large numbers of steel mills closing across the nation. The auto industry also took a hit, with sales falling and the products they made not much better than nicely painted junk.

During part of that time I was living in the People's Republic of Massachusetts (I didn't have a choice because I was still a minor at the time), and I remember the fear and anxiety everyone felt as job losses mounted, energy prices spiked, and money became increasingly in short supply.

While the present recession may be painful, it isn't as bad as many in the media are making it to be. But then the media has always had a short memory.

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The Cape Wind project is in the news again, as it appears it will finally receive the OK from the federal government to move ahead with construction.

What has always amused me about this project is the objections and protests coming from self-important pseudo-environmentalists, decrying the “destruction of Native American burial grounds.” \

I didn't know the tribes on the Cape and islands buried their dead at sea. I guess I must have missed that lesson during my American history classes at school.

One of the biggest opponents to the Cape Wind project has been the biggest pseudo-environmentalists of all time, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA). His real objection appears to be that he might actually see the wind turbines from the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport on the Cape. I guess he believes such views are only for the little people.

A real class act, Ted.

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Why is it Obama appears to be afraid of Rush Limbaugh? Could it be Rush is 'speaking truth to power', in this case the Democrats entrenched in Congress and the White House?

We already know Speaker of the House Pelosi is working hard to make sure the Republican minority in the House will be silenced by changing the House rules, making debate and dissent difficult, if not impossible. We also know President Obama dislikes dissent as well, particularly when it comes to his ideas about how things should be done. If Rush is silenced, then the Democrats know they'll have an open field and will be able to do what they have worked so hard to do for so long – create a socialist utopia in the US.

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the temps will be below zero tonight, the lake's ice is getting thicker, and where the Rotary Winnipesaukee Ice Fishing Derby will soon be taking place.

1/24/2009

The CINC Can't Be Bothered

What does it say about our new Commander-In-Chief when he can't be bothered to attend the American Legion's Salute To The Heroes Inaugural Ball, given to honor recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor?

Every President since Eisenhower has attended the ball. Until now.

I guess that shows us how committed he is to our veterans and those presently serving.

1/23/2009

A Socialist America?

Two sets of quotes bring home the dangerous path the United States appears to be traveling as both Congress and President Obama steer a socialist course for our nation. The days of taking responsibility for one's self will soon be passé and government will take over that responsibility, and do it poorly.

With a trillion dollars of President Obama's spending in mind, we must take these quotes to heart.
Margaret Thatcher:

"The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money"

Winston Churchill:

"Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery."

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else."
It is the path to misery under the guise of 'helping' that the Left now holding power in Congress and the White House have in store for us. Mind you, their intentions are good. But as we all know, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

No socialist state has ever survived without spreading misery and economic hardship upon its people all in the name of “justice”, whether it be social or economic justice. The more radical socialist states no longer exist because they bankrupted themselves, both economically and morally, becoming something hateful and terrifying to behold.

Not that we are headed to such a state of affairs, but I have little doubt we will suffer the effects of this latest attempt to create a Socialist America for at least a full generation, if not two. Like the Reagan years started us out of the nightmare that was the LBJ Welfare State, so too will we need to suffer some of the same economic and social disasters foisted upon us by the deluded Leftist elite no in power.

All the social programs created during the LBJ years did such harm to the American people, and minorities in general, that it took until the 1990's for many of the Reagan, Bush (41), and Clinton policies to cancel out the horrid effects of Johnson's Great Society. Now it looks like we'll have to do it again after Congress and Obama take us back to the days of the Great Depression. Of course they'll tell us it's for our own good. And they'll borrow trillions of dollars from overseas to make it happen, all while draining our pocketbooks and causing all kinds of havoc with the economy.

Why is it the Left can never learn from history? Are they genetically or ideologically incapable of understanding these two basic concepts?
“Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” - George Santayana

and

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting the results to be different this time.” - Unknown
It appears to me the Left is guilty of both.

1/21/2009

Affordable Housing

Thomas Sowell takes a stroll down memory lane, remembering how it used to be in regards to “affordable” housing as compared to today.
Sometimes some semblance of rationality is given to the phrase "affordable housing" by comparing the cost of housing to the income of those who live in it. That was certainly what I did when I rented my first room. That's not rocket science, then or now.

The difference is that today there is some arbitrary percentage of one's income that sets the limit to what the government will consider to be affordable housing. It used to be 25 percent but it might be 30 percent or some other proportion.

But, whatever the percentage, it is no longer the individual's responsibility to choose housing that fits within that limit. It is somehow the taxpayers' job to make up the difference, when someone chooses housing whose cost exceeds that magic number.
Buying a home that one can afford without the need for government intervention in the form of subsidies or Congressional pressure on lenders to give loans that aren't likely to be repaid seems to have become passé. Using real cash money as a down payment had also fallen by the wayside. Somehow 100% financing, meaning no down payment, became the norm for so many that few questioned the concept in the not so recent past. Now it seems ludicrously risky for any lender to give those kind of terms, seeing what the outcome of such an arrangement has been.

My wife and I were fortunate, having the means to make a substantial down payment on our present house. We didn't get a palatial home even though we could have easily gotten a place that cost $100K or more above what we paid. But we couldn't have really afforded the payments even though we qualified for a mortgage worth twice as much as the value of our house. (That's another story illustrative of the financing insanity that prevailed during the housing market bubble.) We can make the payments on our mortgage because we didn't make the mistake so many others did. And our payments, not including taxes and insurance, total about 27% of our disposable income.

We bought a house we actually could afford, just like folks in the 'olden days'.

Like Thomas Sowell has done throughout his adult life, we bought affordable housing. If we end up buying another home in the future, it too will be affordable. It will likely be smaller than the one we have now, but so what? It will meet our needs and, in the end, be affordable. No mansion. No 4000 square foot monstrosity. No polished granite countertops with stainless steel appliances and Italian marble flooring. Just a nice place we can call home that won't bust our budget.

If more people had done it the old fashioned way, the housing bubble and concomitant financial collapse would never have occurred.

1/20/2009

Reaching An Undesirable Crossroads

You know either government has grown too big or the number of manufacturing and construction jobs have shrunk when the number of those working for the government is greater than the number of people actually making things for a living.

That's never a good sign.

1/19/2009

Princeton Scientist Adds His Voice To AGW Skeptics

Isn't it interesting that yet another scientist has decided to speak out against the proponents of Anthropogenic Global Warming, saying he “believes the community of climate change scientists has become a veritable 'religious cult,' noting that nobody understands or questions any of the science.”
Physics professor William Happer GS ’64 has some tough words for scientists who believe that carbon dioxide is causing global warming.

...Happer, the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics [at Princeton], said in an interview, “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Every time you exhale, you exhale air that has 4 percent carbon dioxide. To say that that’s a pollutant just boggles my mind. What used to be science has turned into a cult.”

Happer served as director of the Office of Energy Research in the U.S. Department of Energy under President George H.W. Bush and was subsequently fired by Vice President Al Gore, reportedly for his refusal to support Gore’s views on climate change. He asked last month to be added to a list of global warming dissenters in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee report. The list includes more than 650 experts who challenge the belief that human activity is contributing to global warming
This guy isn't just some hack blowing off steam. He is someone with an understanding of scientific method, wants proof of what is claimed, and is finding the AGW faithful sorely lacking in credibility And when it comes to climate he knows a lot more than Al Gore and a majority of the so-called “scientists” who signed off on the UN IPCC report.
In a statement sent to the Senate as part of his request, Happer explained his reasoning for challenging the climate change movement, citing his research and scientific knowledge.

“I have spent a long research career studying physics that is closely related to the greenhouse effect, for example, absorption and emission of visible and infrared radiation, and fluid flow,” he said in the statement. “Based on my experience, I am convinced that the current alarm over carbon dioxide is mistaken.”
Of course there are plenty trying to discredit Happer, falling back on the IPCC report as if it is gospel. One of those is one of the authors of the report, trying to paint Happer as a know-nothing.
Geosciences professor Michael Oppenheimer, the lead author of the fourth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — whose members, along with Gore, received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize — said in an interview that Happer’s claims are “simply not true.”

Oppenheimer, director of the Wilson School’s Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy, stressed that the preponderance of evidence and majority of expert opinion points to a strong anthropogenic influence on rising global temperatures, noting that he advises Happer to read the IPCC’s report and publish a scientific report detailing his objections to its findings.
But there are some major problems with that report, including the claim that a “ majority of expert opinion points to a strong anthropogenic influence on rising global temperatures.” That 'majority' comprised less than 100 scientists, many of whom have no background in climate science or related fields. Some of those have since retracted their support for the report, adding their voices to the over 650 scientists expressing their skepticism about AGW.

Despite claims by AGW proponents, the science is not settled, if for no other reason the models AGW proponents are using are so inaccurate as to be totally useless.
[Happer] noted in an interview that in the past decade, despite what he called “alarmist” claims, there has not only not been warming, there has in fact been global cooling. He added that climate change scientists are unable to use models to either predict the future or accurately model past events.

“There was a baseball sage who said prediction is hard, especially of the future, but the implication was that you could look at the past and at least second-guess the past,” Happer explained. “They can’t even do that.”
Things are starting to look bleak for the Goristas looking to have us spend hundreds of billions to trillions of dollars to fix a problem that may not even exist. Talk about a scam!

Before we commit our resources to battle something that may be nothing more than a well crafted illusion, shouldn't we make sure we know what really needs to be done, even if it's nothing at all?

1/18/2009

Thoughts On A Sunday

It's a day inside here at the Weekend Pundit Manse, with snow coming down at a pace that should give us between 8 and 10 inches by the time it ends later today.

BeezleBub and I have taken the path of least resistance when it comes to removing the snow from the driveway, waiting until later tonight to fire up the Official Weekend Pundit Snowblower. The last thing I want to do is get up at 5AM to clear the driveway. Neither does BeezleBub, particularly since he does not have school tomorrow, it being Martin Luther King Day.

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Will Obama's appointment of Carol Browner as the so-called energy 'czar' come back to haunt him? Or will her environmental/socialist beliefs come to destroy the electrical utility industry in the US?

I'm betting on both.

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Circuit City's bankruptcy and closure is no surprise to me. I knew they were heading for trouble a couple of years ago when they laid off their most experienced and knowledgeable sales and technical staff and replaced them with new (and inexperienced) staff as a cost cutting measure. You don't save a company by getting rid of the very people you'll need to survive.

I stopped by the Circuit City down in the state capitol a few months after they pulled that stunt. I wasn't in that store more than a few minutes before I knew for sure the powers-that-be had made a major mistake. After talking to a number of the sales associates it became readily apparent I knew more about the products they sold than they did.

It proved to me they were doomed.

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Reuel Gerecht corrects Jeffery Goldberg, telling him it is possible to turn hardcore Islamic jihadists to moderates by one proven method: defeat them.

History shows again and again defeating a committed enemy is the only way turn them around. It is particularly true of Islamic history.

(H/T Instapundit)

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The mania running through the media about the upcoming inauguration of Barack obama has become quite annoying, almost as annoying as all those DTV transition ads that have been running ad nauseum since just after the elections last November.

Probably one of the most annoying talking heads to me has got to be ABC's Bill Weir. When it comes to Obama he practically orgasms every time he says his name. There have been plenty of times I've seen Weir let slip his intense dislike of conservatives and moderates, and his outright hatred of George W. Bush.

This weekend's Good Morning America showed Weir acting as if Tuesday's inauguration is a coronation. Weir was in his glory, basking in the light of The One.

What a putz.

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At least the New Hampshire GOP is making a move to turn things around for the Republican Party in the state.

Former New Hampshire governor and former Bush (41) Chief of Staff John H. Sununu was elected to head the New Hampshire Republican Party.

After suffering the loss of two House seats and a Senate seat in Congress to Democrats, and an apparent stranglehold on the governor's office by Democrat John Lynch, Sununu “came out of political retirement” to help rejuvenate New Hampshire Republicans.

Sununu, father of former US Senator John E. Sununu, served three terms as governor back in the 1980's.

Maybe this can be the start of a turnaround for the GOP in general. After all, New Hampshire is “First in the Nation” when it comes to national politics.

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In light of these harsh economic times and monstrous federal budget deficit, how can anyone justify spending $160 million on Barack Obama's inauguration?

Here in New Hampshire, Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, decided the inauguration for his third term should be sedate, going so far to cancel the traditional Inauguration Ball because it didn't seem right to spend the funds when the state has a $100 million deficit to deal with.

Maybe the Democrats in Washington could take a lesson from John Lynch in this regard.

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One last thing to amuse you:

All the things cause by global warming.



Who'd a thunk it?

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the snow is falling, the temps are dropping, and the ice fishing is good.

1/17/2009

Small Town Democracy In Action

It's that time of year again in New Hampshire, where budgets for towns, their schools, as well as the counties and state are being debated, gone over with a fine tooth comb by selectmen, school boards, budget committees, and legislators, and debated some more.

Next month town and school district meetings will start throughout the state, where the voters will once again have the opportunity to decide what their respective towns and schools will spend over the upcoming fiscal year.

In these hard economic times many towns are holding the line on spending, practicing austerity in order to lessen the tax burden on taxpayers, knowing many of them are having a tough time making ends meet.

While New Hampshire hasn't seen nearly as much economic disruption as other parts of the country, we're still seeing some. The only saving grace has been the fall of gas and heating fuel prices well below the prices paid last year. But still people are struggling.

One of the biggest issues in our small town is whether or not to spend the money necessary to renovate and expand our police station. While it is tempting to put it off another year or two, the department has been suffering with cramped quarters and insufficient storage space for over ten years now, and it's only going to get worse.

Does it make sense to commit to that kind of spending given the economic conditions? On the plus side is the lower cost of materials, lower construction costs (contractors are hurting for work with the collapse of the real estate market), and bond interest rates being quite low. The cost of the project may never be lower. On the negative side is the addition to the property tax rate to pay for the project. If the economy gets substantially worse it could hurt the taxpayers. (At least the town won't see the additional taxes to pay the bond until the fiscal year following this upcoming one.)

Our town is not the only one facing this dilemma. Plenty of others have to make similar decisions, putting off much needed work to roads and municipal buildings, cutting services and jobs in order to keep spending increases as low as possible, assuming they don't decrease it below their present budget.

All of this will be hotly debated at town and school meetings, with some going along with the austere budget proposals in order to keep spending in check and others fighting against budget cuts (or level spending) because they believe it will hurt their towns.

Part of the problem with some in the second group is they have a difficult time telling the difference between nice-to-haves and need-to-haves. When times get tough they have real problems cutting back or eliminating the nice-to-haves. It can make for heated discussions, side debates, and on occasion, hurt feelings. But in the end, the voters will decide what will be spent, what won't, and that will be that.

That's just the way it should be.

1/15/2009

Heroes Without A Doubt

After viewing the video and hearing the reports of the U.S. Airways jet having to ditch in the Hudson River after what appears to be twin engine failures, I have one thing to say to the captain and first officer of that aircraft:

Job Well Done!

Having been a pilot I can say from experience they did a marvelous job bringing their crippled aircraft down to a safe, though unconventional landing. Any landing the passengers and crew can walk away from is a good one. (Or maybe I should say “swim away from”, under the circumstances.)

Having had a few close calls myself, I can only guess that while the emergency was ongoing the only thought the flight crew in the cockpit had was to get their bird down safely. Nothing else mattered. But once down and their passengers and crew members were safely away, the reality of what they had just done kicked in. Then and only then would their emotions come into play. And I'll bet the first one was of stunned relief.

They have every right to feel that way.

1/14/2009

The EFCA Is A Bad Deal For Workers

It seems the Democrats will waste little time after President Elect Obama's inauguration to put forward legislation that will allow unions to more easily push their into businesses that neither require nor deserve unions.

The EFCA, the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as “Card Check”, will effectively do away with secret ballots that will allow employees to exercise their rights to express their desire to form a union or not. While the labor unions claim businesses use the secret ballot as a means to intimidate their workers into voting against the union, card check makes it far easier for unions to intimidate employees to 'vote' for a union whether the really want one or not. Their contention that businesses have had their way when it comes to union votes is belied by the fact that over 60% of labor attempts to organize have been successful.

But big labor isn't interested in facts. They are looking for one thing and one thing only: power. Never mind that they really don't have the best interests of their members in mind. As long as they can dictate to business how they will do business, they can control the economy. And if you're interested how that would work all, all one needs to do is look to Europe to see how the labor unions have slowed sections of the economies, with work rules and layoff policies so draconian that most business are reluctant to hire new laborers because they know they won't be able to lay them off if the economy cools. (This is a poor example, but the only one that comes immediately to mind.) I've seen how this can happen, having been a union member for 20 years. And the union I belonged to was tame as compared to the one the Big Three automakers have to deal with – the UAW. The work rules I and my fellow members had to deal with were a drag on production, where entire production lines would sit idle because someone with the proper job description wasn't around to move a pallet or throw a switch or open a door. It was stupid. The only reason the company I worked for survived this was because they were not a commercial operation but a defense contractor. Had they been a commercial manufacturer they would have gone out of business a couple of decades ago if they had to function under the work rules we were saddled with.

As much as Big Labor says workers need unions more than ever, they are wrong. Much of what the unions were created to do and protect has been codified in law, making them far less necessary than in the past. They have become moot in many industries. In fact, there are very few areas where these days where unions are needed.

Should the “Card Check” law pass and be signed by President Obama, I have no doubt there will be legal challenges based upon the violation of certain constitutional rights, both of employees and employers.

1/13/2009

Gettin' Outta Dodge

Is anyone surprised that California is seeing a net outmigration, meaning more people (and businesses) are leaving the Golden State than are arriving? Certainly I'm not.

Considering how hard many in California have worked to turn it into a Nanny State, it wasn't a question of if it would happen rather than when. With the flagging economy, ever higher costs of state services, expanding state services and mandates, and an inability to be able to discriminate between need-to-haves and nice-to-haves, California's state budget woes could not have any other effect. It's not like the State Assembly can jack up the already high taxes and fees. All it would do is cause an already bad economy to become worse, making an unemployment rate of 8.4% higher.

California isn't the only state that's seeing a net outmigration.

New York, Michigan, and Massachusetts have seen the number of people leaving those respective states greater than the number entering. All three of them have high tax burdens on their residents and businesses, between income, sales, and property taxes. None of them, including California, seemed to recognize that their tax policies and business climate could lead to the flight of people and businesses to states with lower taxes and a more friendly business atmosphere.

New Jersey is another state that is doing its utmost to drive people and businesses to more friendly states. It's ironic that while the Garden State has seen quite a bit of job growth over the past few years, most of those jobs were with the state government. In other words, businesses weren't hiring because they weren't expanding, meaning New Jersey saw far less revenue than the employment statistics implied.

My own home state of New Hampshire has been fortunate in that we're seeing more people moving in rather than moving out. But that will change if the state legislature lays a whole host of new taxes and fees in order to balance the state budget. A few legislators have suggested adding a broadbased tax, like an income or sales tax, as if that would solve the problem. They've been reminded that states with those taxes already in place are in financial trouble, too. It's not a state revenue problem. It's a state spending problem.

Unless California, New York, Michigan, Massachusetts, and a host of other states can't get their budgets under control, do away with anti-business laws and regulations, and lessen the tax burden on their residents and businesses, they will feel this recession more deeply and for longer than those states holding the line on their spending, taxation, and regulations. As the saying goes, if you want less of something, tax it. California and the others are proof of that axiom.

1/11/2009

Thoughts On A Sunday

Two events have reinforced that we are indeed in the depths of a traditional New England winter.

First, Ice In has been declared on Lake Winnipesaukee, meaning the entire lake is frozen over. And as if to thumb its nose at the idea of global warming, Ice In was declared on the lake earlier than usual.

Second, we're continuing the cycle of snow every three or four days, with snowfall with each storm totaling between 3 and 7 inches. Much of it has also been very dry, fluffy snow, making it easy to move with shovel or snowblower. We had about 5 inches of new snow fall overnight, with a little more coming late Tuesday. We're also heading into the deep freeze, with nighttime temps expected to be below zero by early Friday morning with highs in the single digits.

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Via Maggie's Farm: Are we heading into another Ice Age? If so, we must remember the average Ice Age lasts about 100,000 years, far longer than the warm periods between them (approximately 12,000 years). So maybe global warming is not such a bad thing after all. But don't tell that to Al Gore.

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As mentioned over at Moonbattery: Does the present series of financial 'crises' remind you of something?

Here's a hint: Ayn Rand.

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Some folks never seem to grasp the concepts of coefficient of friction and inertia, particularly when it comes to driving in winter conditions. Failing to understand these linked concepts can cause major problems on roads and highways. Some folks found out the hard way earlier this morning here in New Hampshire, leading to chain reaction pileup on Interstate 93 involving 59 cars, three buses, and two tractor-trailers.

Fortunately no one was seriously injured.

You have to figure some numbnuts heading north from Massachusetts was in a hurry to get the ski slopes, was going way too fast for the road conditions (10” of snow had fallen overnight and the highways were still being cleared and treated), wasn't paying attention, lost control, and triggered the chain reaction behind them.

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We accompanied the WP Parents for a night out to one of our favorite restaurants, , to celebrate both the WP Mom's and Deb's birthdays (Mom's was today and Deb's is on Thursday).

Being a Sunday evening, the restaurant wasn't crowded. In fact, it was quiet. Not that it was unexpected because the ski crowd had already headed home, leaving our favorite place to eat to us locals. We had the attention of the waitstaff since there were only six or seven sets of customers in a place that can usually handle 50 or more. (Yes, we gave our waitress a generous tip.)

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And that's the news from (frozen) Lake Winnipesaukee, where ice fishing bob houses have started appearing, foolhardy fisherman have lost their trucks through the still too-thin ice, and scuba divers and tow truck operators are being kept busy.

1/08/2009

How Soon They Forget, If They Ever Knew

I find it interesting that two different groups have somehow managed to forget history, either through selective amnesia or outright ignorance.

The first group is Congress. A number of members who are responsible for the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debacles have conveniently forgotten that they are the ones responsible for those failures, and not George W. Bush. But don't try to tell them that.

Mythmaking is in full swing as the Bush administration prepares to leave town. Among the more prominent is the assertion that the housing meltdown resulted from unbridled capitalism under a president opposed to all regulation.

Like most myths, this is entertaining but fictional. In reality, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were among the principal culprits of the housing crisis, and Mr. Bush wanted to rein them in before things got out of hand.

Fannie and Freddie are "government-sponsored enterprises" (GSEs), chartered by Congress. As such, they had an implicit promise of taxpayer backing and could borrow money at rates well below competitors.

Because of this, the Bush administration warned in the budget it issued in April 2001 that Fannie and Freddie were too large and overleveraged. Their failure "could cause strong repercussions in financial markets, affecting federally insured entities and economic activity" well beyond housing.

But Congresscritters like Barney Frank (D-MA) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) fought tooth and nail against such oversight, saying both entities were fiscally sound and needed no such regulation or restructuring. They were wrong.

And now that the Bush administration's predictions have come true, it's somehow all President Bush's fault. Both Frank and Dodd denied either one of them had spoken out against any attempt to rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac...that is, until video of them doing just that surfaced. Now they try to act as if their actions and words never happened. Unfortunately for them no one is buying it.

The second group would like to repeat one of the bad mistakes of the past, one that helped usher in the Great Depression. For some reason the steel companies have decided it might be a good idea to force some kind of “Buy American” clause into any stimulus or bailout legislation, forcing American customers to pay higher prices for steel by curtailing imports of less expensive foreign steel.

There's a few problems with that idea: it will cost American jobs and possibly ignite a trade war that will only deepen the economic problems we and the rest of the world is facing. And in case the proponents of such an idea have forgotten, something like that has been tried before. It was called the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. It failed miserably by causing international trade to slow to a trickle and drove American unemployment rates through the roof. Yet these morons want to do it again.

Some folks just never learn.

1/07/2009

When Is Al Gore Going To Shut Up?

With the latest news on global cooling, we may wish to go back to the days when everyone was worried about, or even looking forward to, global warming.

A few news items:

Sea ice in the arctic is now at the same level as it was back in 1979.

Spokane, Washington has had over six and a half feet of snow over the last three weeks. Normal snowfall over the same period is usually 16 inches.

The Earth's climate is still cooling, as it has since 1998.

Does anyone want to tell Al Gore to STFU about global warming?

1/06/2009

To Sleep...Or Not

I usually don't go into posting really person stories on this blog, but every so often I will. Not that what I'm about to reveal is shocking, illuminating, or even interesting. It just is.

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As my three or four readers may have noticed, there was no inciteful post yesterday. There was no post, inciteful or otherwise, period.

It wasn't that I neglected doing so, or forgot, of had nothing to write about. Instead, I had to be elsewhere at the time I usually sit down in front of the Official Weekend Pundit Computer. In this case, I was in a sleep lab associated with one of the local hospitals.

As my dear wife Deb can tell you, I snore. I snore alot. Along with that comes sleep apnea, a problem I've had over the past four or five years. On more than one occasion my snoring has relegated me to sleeping on the couch because it was so loud it kept Deb awake...even when she was wearing ear plugs.

Yes, it's that bad.

Finally, I made a trip to the ENT doc, and he saw I did have a problem. Hence the sleep study at the sleep lab.

The first time was to see if I did indeed have sleep apnea, which it turns out I have in spades.

The second time was to try out a CPAP machine (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), to select the proper mask and determine the proper machine settings.

The first session wasn't great, being in a strange room, with air too warm and too dry while having a bunch of electrodes attached to by head and legs.

The second session was worse. With the changes in masks and machine settings, while being wired up again, I got very little actual sleep. It...Was...Not...Fun. I ended up taking the day off from work to catch up on my sleep, apnea and all.

The technician assigned to me explained that even if one of those CPAP machines helps, it could take a couple of months to get used to it. A couple of months. Great. But I'm willing to do it, if for no other reason that to make sure Deb gets a full night's sleep without the need for me to sleep elsewhere.

1/04/2009

Thoughts On A Sunday

The up and down weather continues here in New Hampshire, with warmer weather moving in to replace the cold weather, to in turn be replaced by colder weather and snow/ice/freezing rain. It seems to be the pattern this winter.

The warmer weather does allow the road surfaces to melt, leaving bare pavement before the next round of snow.

At least New Hampshire isn't supposed to be pounded with snow as badly as it was last winter, at least according to the Farmer's Almanac. Instead, southern New England is supposed to receive the lion's share of the snow this time around.

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You know Senate Democrats are in trouble when Democratic Underground is slamming them for being racists. It also appears those same Senate Democrats don't understand the Constitution when it comes to seating Senators.

Harry Reid's actions to prevent the seating of Roland Burris, selected by embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to fill out the term of President-Elect Barack Obama, is unconstitutional on the face of it. There's no provision for doing so unless Burris does not meet the constitutional requirements to be a senator, and Burris does without a doubt.

But we know from experience that many Democrats like Reid don't let little things like the US Constitution get in their way when they run the show. After all, laws and the Constitution are for the “little people.”

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It's no surprise to me more Americans are saying “no” to building casinos in their states.

The push to allow limited gambling in the form of slot machines and video gambling here in New Hampshire is being sold as a way to fill in part of a $200 million+ budget deficit created by the legislature. So far the taxpayers aren't buying it, knowing the problems that come along with gambling establishments can outweigh the benefits.

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One of my favorite refugees from the People's Republic of Massachusetts – Meninostan reviews some crime statistics, comparing the entire state of New Hampshire (population 1.32 million) to the city of Boston (population 600,000).

New Hampshire had 20 homicides last year. A couple were justifiable, i.e. self-defense. Two homicides were committed with guns.

Boston, on the other hand, had 60 homicides in 2008, of which 46 (77%) were committed with guns.

The big difference between the two? New Hampshire allows law abiding citizens to own and carry guns. Boston only allows criminals to carry guns, leaving the average citizen unable to defend themselves.

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I have no disagreement with Branford Marsalis on his assessment of students he instructs these days:

What I've learned from my students is that students today are completely full of sh*t.

That is what I've learned from my students. Much like the generation before them, the only thing they are really interested in is you telling them how right they are and how good they are.

Far too many have come to believe they are entitled to good grades, good jobs, and good lives with little effort on their part. How many of them are traumatized when they find out life doesn't actually work that way?

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As much as we hear about the financial trials and tribulations of American families from the media, it isn't as real as when you hear it from someone you know. In this case a family member speaks about tightening the belt, looking at cutting expenses, and paying down debt. He also talks about the nervousness he feels about his job, knowing no one's job is really safe in times like this.

Even though the industry in which I work tends to be less affected by drops in the consumer side of the economy, it isn't immune. Deb and I have been working to cut down our debt and have been succeeding, for the most part. At least we don't have car payments to worry about. There's just the mortgage, a couple of credit cards (with low credit limits, thank goodness), and a business loan (yes, we are small business owners).

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Our state legislature opens the first session of the 2009/2010 Legislature this coming week, and they will have a lot of work to do, trimming the state budget to eliminate the existing $200 million deficit. At least our governor has shown some backbone, telling the members of the New Hampshire House and Senate that raising taxes and fees will not be tolerated. All we can do is hope he'll stick by his guns and veto any spending or tax increases.

One thing that helps: New Hampshire Republicans picked up a number of seats in the House during the November elections, shrinking the Democratic majority.

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the kids return to school tomorrow, the legislature will soon be in session, and where I have to go back to work tomorrow, too.

1/03/2009

The Media Makes Things Worse

Does this really surprise anyone?

Poll: 77% of Americans Blame the media for making the economic crisis worse.

How many times in the past have we seen media coverage make a marginally bad situation worse by hyping it to death? Quite a few, in my memory.

Does anyone remember Senator Chuck Schumer's declaration last year that West Coast bank Indy Mac was in trouble and was likely to fail? If the media hadn't played this up as they did, Indy Mac would likely have survived. But because the media gave it a full court press, customers of Indy Mac panicked and withdrew $1.8 billion (that's billion with a 'b') in cash, leaving the bank with little or no liquidity. The bank failed. Chuck Schumer and the media created a bank run that destroyed an otherwise healthy bank. If the media had been more responsible, Chuck's words would never have made it into the papers or on the air, the bank run would never have happened, and Indy Mac would have been just fine.

Of course the media always plays the old “The people have a right to know” card, even if that 'knowledge' is harmful, misleading, or even worse, false. They use it as a shield to deflect accusations that they themselves are the guilty party. The people may have a right to know, but who says they have to know right now? It seems that over the last couple of decades or so the media's need to be the first to break a story has replaced the need to be accurate, to check their facts, and not to report hearsay or second/third hand information as gospel.

Some of that push to be first may be blamed upon the advent of electronic news gathering, making breaking stories available instantly. The time available for fact checking and background has shrunk to almost nothing, meaning far too many reports are aired or put onto news websites before all the facts are available. This has lead to an increasing incidents of erroneous reporting.

But to get back to the main subject, it appears the media revels in the impending doom of economic downturns, massive job losses, and hardships brought to American families. Panic sells, and the media is very good at selling panic. Economic problems are the easiest to sell since they can affect everyone, rich and poor.

For the past two or three years they media has been trying to sell a recession, even though until recently there wasn't one, nor were there signs of one. But they kept making the claim, and eventually people started believing them. And once that happened, and the people started acting as if there was indeed a recession by cutting back on expenditures, lo and behold, a recession arrived. Why? Because people started cutting back on expenditures, which dropped sales, which in turn caused a cut back in orders from manufacturers, which in turn led to layoffs, which caused more people to cut back on expenditures. It was self-fulfilling prophecy made by the media.

Some may claim it was the meltdown of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that led us to this point, but they were but one more symptom of the problem, not necessarily the problem itself. The media was also one of those in the cheering section for those supporting more loans to low-income families wanting to buy their own homes. But when those families started defaulting on the loans because they really couldn't afford them, the media acted surprised.

Is it any wonder most Americans don't trust the media and blame them for the economic problems we now face?

1/01/2009

New Year's Resolutions

2008 is gone and 2009 has arrived. Thank goodness.

With the arrival of the new year, it's time once again to make my resolutions. Here's but a few of them.

Gain back the readers this blog had before the major meltdown of the old site. While Weekend Pundit had nowhere the readership of blogs like Instapundit, it did have about 1000 hits a day. Since the meltdown back in May 2008 readership is only a few dozen a day. The former readers haven't found the new site.

Get back to fightin' weight. I'm ashamed to admit I tip the scales at 245 pounds. Four years ago I was at 195. The change since then? Marriage. Deb is a great cook, but she goes heavy on the pasta and sauces, something that always packs the weight on my frame. It's time to get away from the carbs!

Spend more time out on the lake this summer. Our family didn't get nearly as much time on the lake this past summer, partly due to the weather and partly to our schedules.

Stain the decks and stairs of The Manse...again. The rather wet weather late last spring and through the summer last year made it impossible to get it all done. All I need is three weekends without rain.

Take more photos. 'Nuff said.

Write posts much more betterer.

Cut down on my dark chocolate consumption. Yeah. Right. Like that's gonna happen.

Pay closer attention to the legacy media, particularly the big city media. We shouldn't let 'em slide on anything. They've gotten away with it for far too long.

I could continue, but the post would be a few thousand lines long. I can't in good conscience expose what few readers I have left to such drivel.