Thoughts On A Sunday

Here it is, the last day of 2006. It's come too soon. As Deb reminded me the other day, doesn't it seem that Halloween was just a couple of weeks ago? Time flies by so quickly.

So here is the last Thoughts On A Sunday for 2006 as well. I'll try to make it a halfway decent one to close out the year.

Then again, maybe not.


We actually had some snow yesterday. While the Weather Guys™ said we'd receive a dusting to one inch of snow, we got closer to two inches. I'm not complaining. Really. At least with this amount of snow I didn't have to fire up the trusty Official Weekend Pundit Snowblower in order to clear away what we did get.

With this being an El NiƱo year, one of the more prominent local Weather Guys™ said that we can expect to more than make up for the warmer than normal November and December during January and February. He also said we'll make up for the dearth of snow last winter.

Some of us can't wait!


I don't know if you've noticed it or not, but there are a lot of weight loss program/health club ads running on TV. It must be the post-holiday “I gotta lose weight!” blitz. People have got to take off the weight they've been putting on since Thanksgiving.

So far we've seen multiple ads for Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Curves for Women, Bally, Slim Fast, Nutrisystem, the South Beach diet, and quite a few ads for local health clubs. They push started the day after Christmas and the volume has been building the closer we get to New Year's.


The New England Patriots played the last game of the regular season against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. The wet weather didn't help things much for either team, making it difficult for the quarterbacks of both teams to control the ball during passes.

The Pats won this one, 40-23, dashing any hope the Titans had of getting a Wild Card slot.

Now it's off to the playoffs


Bruce of mAss Backwards is making the transition from the Massachusetts way of doing things to the New Hampshire way with little trouble.


And so ends another year of news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where New Year's revelers are ready to party, the State Police are ready to take care of the more inebriated amongst them, and where we will stay right where we are and enjoy the festivities on TV.


Masterful Guitarist

It was while watching ABC's 20/20 last night that they showed a little bit of this clip. I will let the video speak for itself...though I have to say that this guy's playing is awesome!

ABC tracked down this anonymous guitarist in New Zealand, a fellow from South Korea. He has no interest in a recording contract or becoming a professional musician. He just wants to practice on his guitar and finish his studies at college.


New York Times Ad Blitz

The New York Times is trying to repair its reputation with PR, running TV ads that tout the “integrity of their reporting.”

Funny, I thought that what's been getting them in trouble in the first place.

The ad campaign has been running since just after Christmas. I've seen it maybe a half dozen times and it becomes more amusing every time I see it.


Housing Market Blues

Yet further evidence that the housing market in New Hampshire is now in a slump appears in today's Union Leader (Manchester,NH). In a report by Gary Rayno (sorry, no link available...yet), it appears that home selling prices have declined 7 percent as compared to last year.

Statistics from the Northern New England Real Estate Network show the number of home sales down about 11 percent from a year ago, but up about 3 percent from October.

The average selling price has decreased 3 percent in the last month to $291,712 and has dropped 7 percent from a year ago when it was $314,077. Housing is also on the market longer, taking an average of 111 days to sell compared to 85 days a year ago.

This article differs from others I've linked in other posts, particularly when it comes to the average length of time a home is on the market. I've seen figures ranging from 182 days now compared to 134 days a year ago. Both of those figures are highest I've seen reported. Regardless, it is now a buyer's market.

The total volume of sales is down almost 20 percent from a year ago.


[Kathy] Corey Fox [president of the New Hampshire Association of Realtors] said today's market is a good opportunity for buyers with interest rates still good. A home is still a good investment, she said, it's just not appreciating as fast as it did several years ago.

Some homeowners have pulled their houses off the market because they can't get what they want for their homes. In some cases they need to get their asking price otherwise they'll be upside down on their mortgages, meaning they'll owe more on their mortgage than the house is worth.

“It's a market that's correcting itself” said Corey Fox, “We were spoiled in 2004 and 2005 with double digit increases, but that's abnormal.”

It didn't help that housing prices increased at many times that of wage increases over the same period, which placed many homes out of the reach of potential homeowners. That hasn't helped the housing market, but it's possible that with the demand falling off and prices coming down that the market will rebound. Those locked out of buying a house in the past may now find it possible to afford a home.

There are a few exceptions in this slow market, however.

Many of the homes for sale in our immediate neighborhood are seasonal homes, meaning the sales demographics are different. Most of the owners of these properties are in no hurry to sell, willing to wait out the market slump. But seasonal/second homes are a small portion of the market and don't have as much influence on the sales figures in the broader market. Also, seasonal homes tend to buck market trends, with sales staying steady regardless of the state of the rest of the market, at least in this area.

No matter how one looks at it, the housing market is in a slump. It is one of those good news/bad news kind of economic news: it's bad for sellers, but good news for buyers.


A Breakthrough In Photovoltaics - Part II

Advances in solar power, specifically photovoltaic technology, come along in dribs and drabs. There are small increases in overall efficiency, with 25% being quite common today. There have been some experimental PV cells that have achieved much higher efficiencies, but the cost of producing them puts them out of the range for use in every day applications. But that may soon change.

As I wrote back in April, the use of nanotechnology might be able to boost efficiencies of photovoltaic cells up to 75%. But they are still in development and not likely to be commercially available any time soon.

But someone else has taken a different approach that has already improved efficiencies to 40%. (Registration required).

A team of engineers at solar cell manufacturer Spectrolab has produced a photovoltaic system with a record-breaking conversion efficiency of 40.7%.

The solar cell, made from gallium arsenide grown on germanium, is said to offer the highest efficiency of any type of solar photovoltaic device yet produced. For comparison, the efficiency of silicon solar cells -- which currently dominate the photovoltaic market -- is typically less than 20%.

The new result is the latest in a series of record-performance cells produced by Spectrolab over the past five years, and was made possible by an improvement in conversion efficiency within the company's metamorphic photovoltaic structures. The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has verified the milestone.

The technology doesn't use exotic manufacturing techniques. Instead, these PV cells could be made using existing facilities that already manufacture gallium arsenide semiconductors (photodetectors and low noise microwave transistors and integrated circuits).

If efficiencies and cost per watt can be brought in line, then solar generated electricity will become a more attractive alternative, allowing its use in more places.

Frankly, I wouldn't mind being able to disconnect myself from the grid yet still have plenty of power available when I need it. Even though there are a number of residential solar cell and wind generating solutions out there, they aren't where I want them to be, either efficiency- or cost-wise. These new PV cells are certainly a step in the right direction.


Thoughts On A Sunday

It was a very busy day for this part of the WP clan, with BeezleBub, Deb, and I spending a lot of time on the road attending various functions, most Christmas related. Before all of that I spent some time at the Weekend Pundit Labs, working on the ever present and necessary paperwork needed to see certain projects completed on time.

Thanks goodness today is a day of semi-rest...not that I really got all that much.


I saw a report about this website on the local TV news: a place to vent about bad drivers or to give kudos to good drivers. Rather than letting road rage get the better of you, you can rant about the bad drivers you've seen or had to deal with.

Call me old fashioned because I still prefer the old 'pop-three-rounds-into-their-trunk-to-get-their-attention' method.


Bruce at mAss Backwards is already packing up for his move from the People's Republic of Massachusetts to the Live Free Or Die state of New Hampshire, something he's been working on for quite some time.

Two days and counting.....


I've been an amateur radio operator for 30 years and I thought there was very little that would surprise or please me when it came to rules changes by the FCC. I was wrong.

The FCC has released it's Report & Order doing away with the Morse code requirement for licensing.

While I am definitely an old timer when it comes to one of my favorite hobbies, I've never been one of those “I-had-to-walk-school-through-waist-high-snow-uphill-both-ways-so-you-should-too” types.

The old argument was that having to pass a Morse code test kept the riff-raff out. Unfortunately the so-called riff-raff were just as capable of passing the code test as anyone else, so it was a specious argument.


The New England Patriots played the Huston Texans in Foxboro, beating them 40-7. It's quite a bit different from last week's drubbing by Miami. The last two Pats games will be on the road, against Jacksonville and Tennessee on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, respectively.


Another Democratic Presidential hopeful has pulled the plug on running in 2008.

Senator Evan Bayh (D – IN) announced he would not seek the nomination.


The controversy about the so-called “view tax” here in New Hampshire has risen to new heights, with more and more property owners being hit with large tax increases based upon the fact that their property happens to have a view of lakes or mountains and so on. Many of these properties are working farms, assessed at their development value rather than their current use value, i.e as agricultural land.

The argument goes that if this arbitrary extra valuation continues that many of New Hampshire's values and a way of life will go with it. Only wealthy out-of-staters will be able to afford such homes and properties and many properties that have been in the same hands for generations will be sold off because the owners will no longer be able to afford the onerous and ever less affordable tax increases.


I can safely say that the boating season is truly over, now.

BeezleBub and I performed the last of the pre-storage maintenance on the Official Weekend Pundit Lake Winnipesaukee Runabout, aka The Boat, erected the storage frame and pulled the storage cover over The Boat and secured it in place.

Other than a few minor tasks to be taken care of, The Boat is put away for the winter.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where temperatures are still 20 degrees above normal, El Nino will eventually turn on the deep freeze and dump loads of snow, and where preparations for Christmas continue apace.


A Reminder For Republicans

While pondering the situation that Republicans now find themselves, my lovely wife came across something that reminded me about what it was that Republicans used to believe. Specifically, I'm talking about Reagan Republicans, a critter not often seen these days.

I used to be a Republican, but the focus of the party changed in ways I found disturbing and, in some cases, distasteful. Too many Reagan ideas and ideals have fallen by the wayside, to the detriment of us all. I have no idea if the Republican party can find its focus again, become more pragmatic and less ideologically rigid (one of the failings of Neo-cons).

As a reminder, here are a few Reagan words of wit and wisdom, something with which the Republicans should be reacquainted.

“Here's my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose.”

That's one that has been proven with time. After all, the Soviet Union no longer exists. We won. They lost. It's a philosophy that we should keep in mind as we deal with the jihadis/harahabis and all of the other terrorist groups and nations that support them.

“The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.”

All one needs to do is look how well things went after Katrina to see that this is still true.

“The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant. It's just that they know so much that isn't so.”

I could make this quote the subject of an entire post all by itself.

I cannot count the times I have gotten into something I am reluctant to call a 'discussion' with leftists whose entire argument is the recitation of the same old slogans and half-truths that have been discredited over the decades. It's almost like a form of insanity. They keep mouthing the same platitudes over and over again as if by doing so they can make them come true.

One of the biggest offenders these days has to be John Kerry, followed closely by Al Gore. I've come across so many others at the local level that it has ceased to surprise. What passes for critical thinking these days would have been looked upon as crackpot thinking even 30 years ago.

“Of the four wars of my lifetime none came about because the US was too strong.”

See the quote just before this one. How it is people have come to believe that by weakening ourselves our enemies will leave us alone eludes me. It is so against human nature. By showing weakness in the face of aggression, an individual or a nation only invites even more aggression. If you meet aggression with strength, showing you are more than willing to go toe-to-toe with an enemy, they will back down. It is the nature of bullies to do so. This is something the Left has chosen to ignore and that too many Republicans have forgotten.

“The taxpayer: That's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination.”

No explanation needed here. But it is something that Republicans need to be reminded about. The loony Left doesn't care, despite their assurances to the contrary. They want to roll back the tax breaks for the rich, the 'rich' meaning anyone with a job. It never ceases to amaze me how out of touch they can be with the concept of diminishing returns in regards to taxes, something learned by any student taking Economics 101. But the Republican Congress and its profligate spending over the past 6 years hasn't helped things either. Some progress has been made with pork barrel spending having come under scrutiny, but it is only a start. Members of Congress, regardless of political party, must remember that every dollar spent comes from the pockets of their constituents, dollars that many of those same constituents need far more than Congress does.

So endeth the lesson.


Iranian Insanity?

Kim Priestap has commented upon and quoted/linked a number of articles about the Holocaust deniers conference and Iranian president Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be wiped from the map.

It's easy for someone like Ahmadinejad to say that. It's another to actually pull it off.

Can Iran and its proxies/allies pull something like that off? Maybe, but only if they are willing to risk being wiped off the map in return. After all, Israel has nuclear weapons and has (unofficially) made it known they won't go down alone if it looks like Israel will be destroyed. Iran might win, but it would be a Pyrrhic victory, suffering far more destruction that Israel. It wouldn't be a surprise of Israel also took out Syria and a few other hostile Arab nations, too, should it ever come to that.


New York City - The New Nanny State?

It's bad enough when Michael Bloomberg has been reaching out to mayors in other cities around the US to embrace the oh so successful gun bans that New York has used to drastically reduce violent crime (not!). Now he's making sure that New Yorkers won't eat anything that's bad for them.

First they want your guns. Then it was banning smoking. Now they want your transfat-bearing foods, too.

Will the madness never end? I've heard of the Nanny State, but who'd figure that it would be New York City? Where's the outrage? Where's the “Screw you, buddy!” that only New Yorkers can pull off so well?


Thoughts On A Sunday

The first taste of winter is quickly melting away, with temperatures in the mid to upper 40's, plenty of sunshine, and the possibility of rain later in the week. At least it's cold enough at night for the ski areas in New Hampshire to make snow. A number of them have already opened for the season, though a little bit later than some had planned.

Despite this late start into winter weather, I have a feeling that we'll see a lot more snow this winter as compared to last. At least I hope so.


The New England Patriots played the Miami Dolphins down in Miami. One of our favorite waitresses from the Paugus Diner accompanied members of the local Elks club to the game. As she told the WP Parents “Look for a woman in pink among 156 'horny' men. That'll be me!”

But it sucks that the Patriots didn't bring their 'A' game to Miami. Hell, they didn't even bring their 'B' game. They were shut out for the first time in four seasons by a Miami that isn't all that good this year.

You better believe that Bill Belichick will be giving them one hell of a talking to after the game. It also didn't help that they may have lost yet another offense player in Ben Watson due to injury.

The Patriots can't seem to get a break this season.


The next cycle of the political silly season is already in full swing, with an ever growing number of Presidential wannabes visiting New Hampshire for an ever increasing number of events. As I mentioned in an earlier post today, Senator Barak Obama of Illinois was here to speak to Granite State Democrats in Manchester and Portsmouth. Senator Evan Bayh has also been here, as has Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. Hillary Clinton has visited yet, but I believe that will only be a matter of time.

The number of Republican hopefuls visiting New Hampshire hasn't quite equaled that of the Democrats, but they've still been making the trek. George Pataki, Mitt Romney (who also has a summer place on Lake Winnipesaukee), Rudi Giuliani, and Senator John McCain have all made visits over the past month to support the state Republican party and to 'press the flesh' with possible future supporters.

The New Hampshire Primary is still just over a year away but already the candidate field is starting to fill.

It's going to be interesting around here for the next year or so. It looks like it will soon be time to resurrect the ever more obscure Paugus Diner Poll©.


It was while Deb was preparing her wonderful lasagna for tonight's repast with Submarine Tim, his boss, Dawn, and their two boys that the subject of kitchens, and particularly stoves, came to mind.

I have always liked gas stoves, particularly their fine and instant heat control. Deb prefers the glass topped electric stoves, particularly for the ease of clean up after cooking. It was with the subject of gas stoves in my thoughts that I came across an article about stoves in the local Sunday paper. The article talks about how many kitchens today have stoves that are too much for the intended use. Some folks look more at the aesthetics rather than how it is they actually will use it.

It's the norm for top-shelf kitchens to feature the biggest and baddest of mega-BTU (British thermal unit) behemoths. Often the stoves are commercial-grade gas models with enough combustion to prepare presidential banquets. But it's like igniting a blast furnace to brown a grilled-cheese sandwich.

How many of you out there have watched ABC's Extreme Makeover – Home Edition? How many times have we seen the kitchens in these new homes include top of the line commercial grade gas stoves? Far too many. People remodeling their kitchens also make the same mistake – too much stove.

It also doesn't help that gas stoves are less efficient than electric or induction stoves.


If you think that you'll never have enough storage on your computer, think again. 3-D optical storage will allow unheard of data densities, the equivalent of storing 500 movies on a single disk.

Not bad.

(H/T Dean's World)


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where winter is trying to make its way here, firewood stacks are large, and where every (relatively) warm day is seen as one less day we have to run the furnace.

Housing Market Now Belongs To Buyers

If there was any doubt that the housing market has cooled considerably, one of the latest reports from the AP shows that it has changed from a seller's to a buyer's market, particularly here in New England.

Hardest hit in New Hampshire were condo sales, down 19 percent as compared to a year ago. In general prices for residential properties have declined between 1% and 3% compared to this time last year.

Surprisingly, contracts for residential construction were up almost 17% in southern New Hampshire as compared to last year. It is the sale of existing homes that appears to have taken the biggest hit. In any case, what was once a hot seller's market has flipped over to a buyers market, helping potential homeowners wield more control over how far their housing dollars will go.

As I've mentioned in the past, many homes for sale in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire have been price reduced in an effort to sell them. Some of those homes have been on the market for well over six months. The only part of the market that has not seen such reductions has been vacation properties. Quite often the owners of such homes can afford to wait out the real estate slump.

One downside to the fall off in homes sales has been the revenue the state collects in real estate transfer fees. One report pegs the shortfall in New Hampshire at 13 percent as compared to last year and 21 percent below the state's budget projections.

The rest of New England has also taken a beating in the housing market, though Connecticut and Vermont are expected to see housing prices rise above the national average through 2010. Massachusetts housing prices are expected to fall 1.8%. The demand for construction permits throughout New England are also expected to fall off over the next 4 years, despite the spike in demand seen in southern New Hampshire.

If you've been waiting to buy a home but were scared off by the ever increasing prices then, now may be the time you've been waiting for. Buyers are now in control of the housing market and that's always good for those looking for a bargain.

Obama Visits New Hampshire

Senator Barak Obama (D – IL) makes his first visit to New Hampshire today. While he has not said that he will run for the Democratic nomination for President, he's certainly making moves as if he is a contender.

The popular freshman Senator will be speaking in Manchester today to the state's Democrats.

Should Obama decide to run, it is expected to weaken Senator Hillary Clinton's (D- NY) bid for the White House. Though neither Obama or Clinton have said they will run in the 2008 race, many political insiders say the chances are better than even that one or both will declare soon.

In this blogger's opinion, Obama's chances for the 2008 nomination may not be as strong as many think, particularly with the front-loaded primary/caucus schedule. Unless he can raise a large amount of funds for a campaign, he will be at a distinct disadvantage compared to Hillary Clinton due to her large campaign fund. The front-loaded schedule gives any underfunded candidate a huge disadvantage because retail face-to-face campaigning will be impossible due to the tight schedule. Such campaigning has always helped candidates that may have been at a financial disadvantage, giving them more face recognition and a chance to let the voters know where they stand on the issues of the day. With campaigning being reduced to sound bites and ad blitzes, the candidate with the most money will be the one the voters will hear from. The other candidates will be drowned out, even if they have a better message and better ideas.


Mow The Grass For Energy

In the past I have been a skeptic when it comes to some of the alternative energy schemes, but developments have erased some of that skepticism over time.

One of the more promising alternative fuels has been ethanol, which can be produced through a number of means. Brazil uses its abundant supply of sugar cane and has weaned itself entirely of foreign oil. I believe it's time that the US does likewise.

While the US has been moving towards the use of more and more ethanol, I believe we've taken a wrong turn when it comes to the types of plants being used to produce it. It's been mostly corn and soybeans that have been processed into ethanol, both crops which are also used as food. Both also require a considerable amount of energy to grow and process. But there's a lot of money to be made growing corn and soybeans for energy, a lot of government money, meaning our money. Uncle Sam subsidizes a lot of the biomass fuel business, something that in the long run will cause the biomass business down the wrong road. Instead, farmers wishing to cash in on the ethanol bandwagon should be growing switchgrass and other related prairie grasses.

The advantages of switchgrass are numerous, including much higher yields of ethanol in terms of gallons per acre, lower growing costs (no need to plant seed or fertilize year after year), and lower processing costs.

Grass can be turned into a liquid fuel or burned in a power plant to make electricity. But it's an expensive process. Corn is the biofuel of choice instead. But ecologist David Tilman at the University of Minnesota says he's found a way to make prairie grasses more attractive than corn.

"We actually get more energy from an acre of land growing prairie grasses [and] mixtures of prairie grasses and converting them into ethanol or into synthetic gas and diesel than you would by growing corn and soybeans and converting them into ethanol or biodiesel," he says.

Tilman's team grew plots mixing 16 types of prairie grasses, including lupine, turkey foot, blazing star, and prairie clover. The plots with the most varieties produced the most biomass and produced more potential energy than corn and soybeans.

Like all plants, grasses capture and use carbon dioxide from the air. When a plant or a plant-fuel is burned, the CO2 goes back into the air. That's not good if you're worried about climate change.

But Tilman's prairie grasses bury much of that CO2 in the soil and in their deep, permanent roots. So a good deal of the CO2 stays in the ground after the harvest.

So here we have a type of grass that sequesters carbon dioxide, cycles the CO2 in and out of the atmosphere, grows naturally without the need for annual tilling the soil or planting seed, needs no fertilizer or pesticides, and can yield more ethanol per acre than either corn or soy.

These guys may be on to something.


Not A Suicide Pact

How many times have we heard, in one form or another, that the U.S. Constitution is not a suicide pact? Now let us add the voice of Newt Gingrich, explaining why the First Amendment is not a license to commit murder, acts of terror, or treason.

The fact is not all speech is permitted under the Constitution. The 1st Amendment does not protect lewd and libelous speech, and it should not -- and cannot in 2006 -- be used as a shield for murderers.

Former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy put it best: "With an enemy committed to terrorism, the advocacy of terrorism -- the threats, the words -- are not mere dogma, or even calls to 'action.' They are themselves weapons -- weapons of incitement and intimidation, often as effective in achieving their ends as would be firearms and explosives brandished openly."

We need a serious dialogue -- not knee-jerk hysteria -- about the 1st Amendment, what it protects and what it should not protect.

It's about time that those believing that the First Amendment allows all kinds of speech wake up, study a little history and law, and figure out that not all speech is protected speech. There are plenty of laws on the books that have passed constitutional muster, such as those that make it illegal to incite a riot through one's actions or one's speech. Folks out there must realize that one's words can have consequences and that the First Amendment doesn't absolve them from being held accountable for them.


WalMart Blows A Big One

While I am a fan of WalMart, I find I must take issue with the retail giant in one area – online shopping.

While the missus and I have both used WalMart.com to purchase a number of items over the past few months, it looks like the company dropped the ball when it came to Black Friday and Cyber Saturday. WalMart's IT folks grossly underestimated the load caused by online shoppers. This, after a major upgrade of their systems. I'm not the only one that noticed. Information Week's Rob Preston had these words about WalMart's stumble.

You could forgive Average Joe Retailer for abiding by that industry-standard practice. But Wal-Mart--by virtue of its size, profile, and reputation for IT excellence--must far exceed industry standards. While the sites of Macy's, Zappos, and Foot Locker also performed poorly during the post-Thanksgiving rush, they aren't in Wal-Mart's league.

Wal-Mart made a name for itself by using information technology not only to run a more efficient operation, but also to anticipate customer buying patterns and demand. Yet with its vast business intelligence gathering, and after promoting the Walmart.com relaunch and various product specials to the hilt, it had no way of knowing that customers would trample its Web infrastructure? It's one thing to run out of T.M.X. Elmo or Tap Dancing Mumble; it's another to hang a "closed for business" sign on a critical sales channel on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, especially when your overall sales already were on pace to be disappointingly flat for the month.

Wal-Mart's Black Friday debacle smacks of the rampant site outages and slowdowns circa 2000. Remember how eBay, Victoria's Secret, Ellis Island, and scores of other sites folded under a crush of unanticipated traffic?

C'mon, guys! It's time to get it right. This isn't something that a business with the kind of money that WalMart has to have its web portal fold like a cheap suitcase in the rain. If they can't get it squared away soon then it will be time to fire some people and get someone in there that can get one of the greatest retailing opportunities up and running like it should be.


Thoughts On A Sunday

BeezleBub and I met up with Submarine Tim today and headed down to the WP In-Laws to pick up a load of firewood. We used Tim's restored 1952 GMC M-135 deuce-and-a-half (in Navy Seabee colors) to move the wood between the In-Laws' place and The Manse in one trip.

BeezleBub was in heaven, using his video camera to shoot our experience with the deuce-and-a-half, affectionately named Clifford. He likes big machinery, as does his grandfather.

We made it back to the Manse by 6PM, but it was too dark to do more than park the deuce-and-a-half and take Submarine Tim back home to his missus.


It looks like our bit of unseasonably warm weather has run its course. After the heavy rains on Friday night the temps have dropped over 20 degrees from the 60's we experienced last week. The Weather Guys™ have forecast much colder and windier conditions starting Monday, with a touch of snow to the south.

It looks like we timed our trip for firewood just right.


With the turn in the weather, thoughts have turned towards the upcoming Christmas holiday. Goodness knows it's been on BeezleBub's mind. Starting on Friday he pulled out the Christmas decorations and started setting up his snowy village, our manger scene, the artificial Christmas tree, and all of the lights and decorations that go with it.

I don't know about you, but it seems a little early to me.

As I recall, when we were growing up we never started decorating until a week before Christmas. But then again, artificial trees weren't very common, meaning we used real trees. Real trees dried out over a period of two weeks, so it wasn't practical to set one up the first weekend of December and expect it to last until New Year's.

Then again, maybe it's just me being old fashioned.


The Patriots beat the Detroit Lions, but at the cost of having Mike Vrabel carted off the field. As far as I'm concerned it wasn't a good trade off.


One of the more pleasant side effects of Submarine Tim's help today was being able to avail ourselves of a bowl of delicious bear stew made by his boss, Dawn. It's been a while since I had any of Dawn's bear stew, but it was a delicious as the last time I was fortunate enough to have some.

Mmmm. Bear stew.....


And that's the truncated version of the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where winter is finally closing in, ski resorts are starting to make snow, and where The Manse has a enough fire wood to last the next few months...we hope.


Some Democrats Displeased With DNC

You know it's getting bad when even staunch Democrats are criticizing the DNC for its decisions in regards to the upcoming 2008 Presidential Primary schedule.

Changes in the process made by the DNC has forced more front loading of the primary schedule, which in turn will seriously cripple that process by giving an even bigger advantage to the wealthier, more well financed candidates.

"If the DNC had any real courage, if (DNC Chairman) Howard Dean really wanted to solve the problem, he would stand up to Michigan, he would stand up to California, he would stand up to Florida and say, 'No, you've got to go further back in the process so that all states are important,'" [New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy] Sullivan said. "He hasn't done that, the DNC hasn't done that. Frankly, I'm a little bit fed up with the DNC at this point and how they've addressed this."

Incentives offered by the DNC to larger states in an effort to get the larger states to push back their primaries may not work, according to New Hampshire State Republicans.

"We had a rule like that in the (Republican National Committee) maybe three cycles ago," New Hampshire RNC committee member Tom Rath said. "Everybody said, 'We don't need the delegates. What we want is to participate in a meaningful way in the process.'"

I'm not sure how the DNC will be able to promote something that has been proven not to work, unless somehow they've taken up an attitude of “Just because they couldn't make it work doesn't mean that we can't.” They are intent on proving the saying “Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting the results to be different this time.”

It seems that far too often the DNC chooses to overlook a major factor when making some of their policies, that factor being human nature. (I'm not saying the RNC doesn't do that, too. But they aren't doing it this time.) The various states will do what is to their advantage, regardless of the incentives to do otherwise.

Unless the DNC decides to step up and tell the larger states 'Back off!', the primary schedule will become skewed and there will be a huge gap between the last primary and the party convention. That rarely works well under any circumstances. All one needs to do is look at the 2004 campaign as an example – John Kerry ended up with the nomination when he was the worst possible candidate the Democrats could have chosen. Kerry's advantage was the large campaign war chest he had, much of it his wife's money. He bought his way into the nomination, something made possible by the front loaded primary schedule. Better candidates were crushed by his financial superiority. That's no way to choose a possible president.


A Christmas Story

Political correctness has gone too damn far.

Since when does Christmas have nothing to do with Christ? When the local Chamber of Commerce says so.

The Chamber of Commerce in Hillsborough, NH decided that a Bible reading about the birth of Christ during the annual Old Fashioned Christmas was too much, turning a non-sectarian celebration of Christmas into a religious event.

Come again?

I could have sworn that Christmas was supposed to be about the birth of Christ. After all, it is called Christ-mas. It isn't Non-Sectarian-Celebration-Of-Yet-Another-Winter-Retail-Season-mas, is it?

The hew and cry raised by those hearing the story flooded the Chamber of Commerce with angry phone calls and e-mails. The outpouring of support for the local minister wishing to read the appropriate Bible passages about Christ's birth and the bad publicity garnered by the Chamber's unthinking action have caused the Chamber of Commerce to reverse its decision. The Bible reading will be allowed.

For once, the forces of ever more ridiculous Political Correctness have been shown the door and the will of those who actually remember the meaning of Christmas have prevailed.

Merry Christmas!


Traitors Within?

It makes one wonder about whether there are those working within the Bush Administration that are, to all intents and purposes, fifth columnists for those who look upon America with disdain and, dare I say it, hatred.

I'm not talking about jihadis, harabahis, or militant Islamofascists. Instead, I'm talking about some of the elitists that harbor such ill will towards their own country that they are willing to do as much as they can to damage anyone they consider not one of us.

The timing of a leak of a White House memo that questions the efficacy of Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki could not have been a coincidence. It was leaked when it would do the most damage, causing a postponement of a summit between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Maliki. It was something that was not in the best interests of the United States or Iraq. Yet someone working inside the White House decided that it needed to be made public, and damn the consequences. Or worse, they knew exactly what they would be which is why they leaked it in the first place.

Someone in the White House has an agenda that does not match that of the Bush Administration and appears to be willing to cause embarrassment and diplomatic problems for the US regardless of the long term consequences. And should the miscreant be identified and their actions cause the deaths of American armed forces and innocent Iraqi civilians, they will most likely plead that they were doing it for the greater good. But it won't be for the greater good of Americans or Iraqis. Rather it will be for the greater good of the America-hating elitists that infest so much of the Left.

They may see themselves as patriots, but I see them for what they are – traitors. They give aid and comfort to sworn enemies of America and everything it stands for. Those enemies want to bring down the US and Western civilization. The traitors will applaud when it happens because they believe that we deserve it even though our enemies have committed far greater atrocities in the name of a twisted and morally bankrupt ideology that excuses even the most heinous acts. Of course they will applaud only until the time that those same enemies put them up against a wall and blow their brains out for being enemies of their twisted ideology. But like most of the Left, they can't see that far ahead. All they want to see is the downfall of someone they detest.

Am I being too harsh? Probably not. Am I being partisan? Damn right. I'm against anyone that wishes harm against this country, no matter who they are.


John Edwards - Hypocrite

As presidential hopeful John Edwards makes the rounds in an effort to drum up support, he has yet again shot himself in the foot.

The supporter of a number of anti-WalMart watchdog groups, most of which are organs of organized labor, first tripped up when a staffer tried to conjole WalMart in to making sure that Edwards got one of the few Sony Playstation 3's.

In an effort to show his disdain of the international retailer, Edwards scheduled a book signing in a Barnes & Noble in Manchester, NH. This particular B & N is located in front of a WalMart. So how is this a mis-step by Edwards?

"Wal-Mart makes plenty of money. They need to pay their people well," Edwards said at a Pittsburgh anti-Wal-Mart rally in August.

So naturally Edwards is holding his book signing at Barnes & Noble instead of Wal-Mart. Which is too bad for his anti-low-wages campaign, because in Manchester Wal-Mart pays hourly employees more than Barnes & Noble does.

The Barnes & Noble where Edwards will hawk his book pays $7 an hour to start. The Wal-Mart that sits just yards away pays $7.50 an hour.

Oh, the humanity!

So the presidential wannabe that has it in for WalMart because he believes that it doesn't pay its employees a fair wage instead patronizes a national retailer that pays its employees less than WalMart.


Thoughts On A Sunday

Come Monday I will be undergoing a rite of passage. It is a rite usually reserved for those who have crossed a threshold, in this case a certain age.

What is this rite?

A colonoscopy.

While the procedure itself is no big deal, it is the preparations the day before that are...umm...unpleasant. It also means a clear-liquid diet until after the procedure tomorrow.


What she said.


Jay Solo's work in helping Deb assimilate into New England culture continues.


I don't know how I managed to do this, but I've missed the last two episodes of Battlestar Galactica. The first, because I plain forgot to record it a week ago Friday. Second, because the electronic programming guide on Dish TV lied to me, showing that it wasn't on this past Friday...or at least not on at its usual time.


I haven't written as much as I'd hoped to at this point, not because I have nothing to write about but because Hilda, the youngest of the three feline members of the household, insists on trying to help me out. It doesn't help when she blocks my view of the screen in an effort to point out where the cursor is located.


John Stossel asks whether government should be mandating more liberal paid family leave, child care requirements, or mandatory flexible work schedules in order to meet the demands of working mothers.

His answer: No.


The New England Patriots managed to beat the Chicago Bears, 17-13. It was an awesome game.


It appears that Charlie Rangel has pulled a John Kerry, insulting our men and women in uniform. Will there be as much of an outcry? Somehow I think not.

Is this endemic in the Democrat leadership? I think so.


Michael Moore is at it again.

Is that any surprise?


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the weather is still warmer than normal, ski areas are waiting to open, and where the outlet malls of done a booming post-Thanksgiving business.


Are Muslim Men Weak? I Think Not

I was listening to a rebroadcast of the Diane Rehm Show on NPR this morning as I was heading back home after dropping off BeezleBub for a weekend with a friend of his.

The first hour's topic was Muslims, the Veil, and the West, which covered the custom of Muslim women wearing head scarves or full veils. While some claim it is a religious requirement, the guests all quoted a number of respected Muslim scholars who said that nowhere in the Qu'ran does it say any such thing.

But one point was brought up by a caller and one of the guests about the imam in Australia making the statement about unveiled Muslim women being nothing more than 'uncovered meat'

If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem.

This is what one could call a fallacious argument by bad analogy. First, that women are nothing more than uncovered meat. Second, that Muslim men are animals. Neither is true.

If Muslim men have no control over their passions, their emotions, or their vices, then they are truly weaker than men elsewhere. That's something I find very hard to believe. Yet here you have a Muslim cleric saying exactly that. And if it were so, then Islam would be doomed because it means that Muslim men would always give in to their baser instincts and would, indeed, become nothing more than animals. While there are some that do act in such a savage manner – like those in Al Qaeda and members of certain extremist Muslim militias - they are a minority.


Yet Another Dollar Coin Disaster In The Making

The US Treasury and US Mint are going to try, yet again , to make a One Dollar coin popular. This will be the third attempt in three decades to move people away from the dollar bill and towards the dollar coin.

The first attempt in the 1980's was a dismal failure. The Susan B. Anthony dollar looked too much like the quarter and was often mistaken for one.

The second attempt was shortly after the turn of the millennium with the Sacagawea dollar. It, too, was an unmitigated disaster, but for a different reason.

The geniuses in Congress and at the Treasury figure that releasing 4 different dollar coins every year with a different president's portrait on the face would garner interest just as the 50 state quarters have. But they won't. They haven't learned the lesson of Sacagawea dollar: any dollar coin will fail as long as the dollar bill is still in circulation.

It's time for the long lived dollar bill to go the way of the dodo. It is expensive to keep them in circulation due to their short survival time. The average dollar bill lasts less then 18 months in circulation before it's worn out. The average coin lasts 35 years. Even though coins cost twice as much to make as a dollar bill, they last 23 ½ times longer, meaning that after 3 years in circulation they've more than made up for the higher cost of their minting.

When will the government wise up and dump the dollar bill? If they don't, why waste time and taxpayer money to mint coins that people don't want and won't use?

I don't have to answer that question, do I? You already know the answer.


Thoughts On A Sunday

Yesterday was a time of sprucing up The Manse in anticipation of the upcoming Thanksgiving gathering of the WP clan.

One thing that required quite a bit of work was cleaning up around the Official Weekend Pundit Woodstove. I'd forgotten how messy they can be, requiring quite a bit more cleanup due to the ash. Of course it didn't help that on a prior emptying out of the accumulated ash BeezleBub thought he'd be clever and put some water in the bottom of the ash bucket to quench the coals. When the hot coals and ash hit the bottom of the bucket, the ensuing steam explosion spread ash all over the room, coating everything with a fine layer. That was part and parcel of the cleanup in the living room yesterday.


Captain Ed gets into the lengthy debate about global warming, opining that instead of a drastic warm-up we might be heading for another “Little Ice Age” like the one that we suffered between the 1300's and 1850.

Ed started by quoting Reuters about the 'disappointing' hurricane season and how they failed to mention global warming, unlike during last year's record hurricane season. How quickly they forget.

One commenter to Ed's post nailed it right on the head.

Oh Ed, global warming causes global warming, except when it doesn't, which is when it causes hurricanes, and other times the Seminoles. Don't you understand that? It was global warming undid the ancient Mayans. They lived on frozen french fries, made from potatoes donated by the Irish in County Derry. When the wind patterns changed, the coracles of the Irish were blown off course, and the Irish landed in Ireland in the 6th century BC, just in time to become Druids, conveniently later converted to Christianity by Saint Patrick, himself blown off course in a global warming caused storm as a 'yout' and enslaved by the Romans, whose galleys would reach Britain years later. They would have crossed the English Channel in operation "See, Lyin' " in 482, except it hadn't quite warmed up enough for the glaciers to melt, so they walked. However at the same time off the Coast of Chile, people who lived only on clams were inventing Guiness (sic) to drink with their clams. But global warming frustrated their attempts to make glass, so they left Chile in balsa wood rafts, left their giant carvings on Easter Island and became Polnesians (sic). The plaques beneath the statues, proving all this are in a sub-basement of the Vatican to this day.

So there!


Emily at it comes in pints? brings up one of the most annoying things about people that insist on using the cell phones no matter what. The fact that this incident pushed her past the breaking point only illustrates that it's gotten worse as the damn things have become ubiquitous.

Some people seem to have their cell phones permanently grafted to one ear or one hand, making it impossible for them to put them down or hang them up. It also makes it impossible for them to pay attention to whatever it is they're supposed to be doing.

While I am no technophobe (hell, I'm an engineer!), I don't like the damn things. While we do have one, or more accurately Deb has one, I rarely use it. I refuse to carry one. The closest I come to something like that is a pager, and that one was given to me by a state agency that I work for on a part time basis.


Who knew that silicone gel breast implants were such a social and political issue?

As far as I'm concerned, a poor FDA decision and a lawsuit based upon junk science have been reversed. Now if Dow could only get its money back....


The New England Patriots shut out the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, 35-0. It didn't help that Brett Favre was playing hurt, with bad ankles and a possible injury to one of his elbows during a sack. I like that the Pats beat the Packers. I only wish that it had been more of a game.


There has been considerable controversy about what has been called the “view tax” here in New Hampshire, something I've covered before here, here and here.

Now the so-called view tax is hurting even more people, particularly farmers. One in particular has seen his property taxes go up from ~$22,000 to $70,000 per year in one year. While his property has a nice view and would be worth millions to a developer, he runs an orchard that has been in business for 242 years. But it won't be in business much longer.

How did a 242-year-old orchard have its property taxes jump by $50,000? A little thing called the view tax.


The view tax as applied is rapidly destroying agricultural land and family estates across New Hampshire. If local or state officials do not act, there won't be any hillside farmland left in the state.


Gould Hill Orchard has been around longer than the United States. In all those 242 years, the owners never had to destroy the orchard to pay their tax bill. Now that appears likely.

The view tax is a historical aberration. Its shockingly high assessments cannot be sustained. Eventually it will have to be reconceived to bring property values more in line with reality. It would be a travesty if, in the meantime, the trees of Gould Hill Orchards fall to the cold steel teeth of the developer's bulldozer.

The view tax is something that is applied arbitrarily and is totally subjective. Taxing agricultural land as if it were residential property is madness. Tacking on the ever more hated view tax is adding insult to injury. If the various revenue-hungry town governments don't watch it they may end up taxing themselves right out of their jobs.


The Dems are making a bonehead move, pushing to reinstate the military draft. Charles Rangel (D-NY) is trying to force the draft, not out of the kindness of his heart but to drum up even more anger and resentment towards the war in Iraq. This is nothing new for him as he's tried this once before, claiming that too many minorities were serving on the front lines. This was proven to be patently false and the bill he filed back then languished in committee and died a lonely death.

He and the Dems are trying to recreate the domestic conditions that existed during the Vietnam War and the quickest way to do that is to reinstitute the draft.

What a putz.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where road traffic has dropped considerably since the summer folk and leaf peepers have left until next year, thoughts of snow are still in the future, and where preparations for Thanksgiving are in full swing.


One Step Closer To Star Trek

First, there was the cloaking device for aircraft, including Boeing's Bird Of Prey stealth fighter. Now there's cloaking technology for armored vehicles, trucks, and combat soldiers?

It's becoming more and more like Star Trek every day.

Very cool.


Anti-WalMart Supporter's Embarrassing Moment

The latest anti-WalMart brouhaha has certainly left one presidential hopeful with egg on his face (or at least on the face of a soon to be ex-staffer).

The ever more shrill condemnation of WalMart by organized labor fronts is getting old. I don't know about you, but the longer WalMart can keep these thugs from moving in on their business and taking money from the pockets of WalMart employees, the better I'll like it. And before you get your knickers in a twist, be mindful that I was a union member (IBEW) for almost 20 years. What I saw over that time changed my mind about organized labor, making me wonder whether it had outlived its usefulness. Seeing what the organized labor front organizations have been trying to do to WalMart has only strengthened that belief. They aren't interested in representing the workers because of the way they're allegedly being mistreated (such allegations made by the unions, not by WalMart employees), but rather because of the hundreds of million of dollars they will collect in union dues should they succeed in their efforts to unionize WalMart.

Union membership has been dropping at a precipitous rate and union leaders are looking for ways to bolster the ranks of organized labor. An influx of hundreds of millions of dollars will help them do to WalMart what they've done to GM, Ford, and Chrysler.

Let's pray that they fail.


The Circus At The Ninth Circuit Court

I have to agree with George Will on this one.

There should be two Supreme Courts, one to reverse the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the other to hear all other cases. Last term, more of the Supreme Court's caseload -- 18 of 82 cases (22 percent) -- came from the liberal 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco, than from any other circuit, and the 9th was reversed in 15 of the 18. The 9th's winning percentage (.167) was worse than that of the 1962 Mets (.250).

Will goes on to delve into the case of Fernando Belmontes where the Supreme Court overturned the Ninth Circuit Court (no surprise there). The Ninth Circuit had overturned the death penalty given to Belmontes for a brutal murder he'd committed 25 years ago. The Supremes weren't buying the argument.

It's not called the “Ninth Circus Court” for nothing.

Pelosi's First Loss

All in all, I'd say the GOP managed a small victory against the Speaker-Elect of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

John Murtha did not get elected as the House Majority Leader, as much as Pelosi wanted it to happen. Instead, Steny Hoyer of Maryland was elected to the post, with the Republican members of the House cheering from the sidelines.

Murtha and Hoyer fought a bitter and brutal battle for the majority-leader post. Hoyer had long been running for the job, raising money for Democratic candidates. He counted on the support of many veteran lawmakers as well as most of the incoming freshman class.

Murtha had Pelosi, and her loyal allies who applied pressure -- too much pressure, according to some -- to give her the second-in-command of her choosing. But the secret ballot vote wasn't even close: 149 to 86 in favor of Hoyer.

I believe Mrs. Pelosi has learned the first lesson of her new post: Just because you're now in a position of power doesn't mean you'll be able to bully those under you to get your way.

The Iranian Nuclear 'Maskirovka'

I was listening to an NPR report on the way home when I heard Ted Koppel make one of the more profound observations in regards to Iran and its nuclear program. While I can't quote it verbatim, it did make me think, “Of course, how could I have been so blind!”

What was it that Ted said? Iran is pushing the limits on its nuclear program in order to draw attention away from its civil rights record, or in this case, the lack thereof.

Could it possibly be that simple? My gut tells me yes. The nuclear issue is just so much smoke and mirrors. It obligates the mad mullahs to do nothing. However, if the world started hammering them on their abysmal human rights record, the mullahs would have no place to hide. Their violations of basic human rights would be exposed for the world to see. They might actually have to do something about them, loosen their iron grip on the populace and cease their predations upon the dissidents.

Nope, it's easier for them to muddy up the water and move forward with their nuclear ambitions, even if they truly have no plans to develop nuclear weapons.


Health Care In The US

I had some conflicting thoughts about linking to this post, which brings up the oh-so-wonderful plans to make America's health care system over into some kind of copy of the ever more useless health care systems as seen in Canada or the UK or a host of other nations with 'nationalized' health care.

The numerous comments brought up a number of valid points, criticisms, and ideas of how to fix our health care system, assuming that any attempt at a system wide fix won't just make things worse.

Having been part of the health care system many years ago, with other family members either having retired from health care or still deeply involved working in health care, I think I can safely say that there are a number of factors that affect the cost and availability of medical care in the US.

-1- Paperwork: Probably the biggest burden every medical practice suffers. While moves have been made to streamline the mountains of paperwork involved with medical care by using information technology, there's still a lot of room for improvement.

-2- Malpractice Insurance: Between the premiums squeezing some practitioners out of their specialties, OB/GYN being the most prevalent, and doctor's taking a defensive posture by ordering more tests to back up their diagnoses in case they're sued, it's no wonder costs keep going up.

-3- Health Insurance: Medical costs didn't start skyrocketing until health insurance became readily available to the masses. Office visits and procedures became far more expensive once a majority of people had health insurance. See #1 above.

-4- Medical Technology: New equipment and procedures that didn't exist 20 years ago are here today, and they aren't cheap. It doesn't help that many patients demand the latest/greatest/best when it comes to their treatment, even if some of the older proven remedies and treatments are just as effective. While this might not be a large factor (though it probably is), it is one thing that most people don't think about when they complain about health care costs.

There are plenty more factors to look into, including the lack of preventative medicine. It's far less expensive to take action before something becomes a problem than after. Unfortunately many people take poor care of themselves and then expect the doctors to bail them out once things go wrong. At that point it's always more expensive to fix the problem.

Some may say that some kind of national health care system will fix the problem, but from what I've seen of other countries I would much prefer that my doctor figure out a course of treatment for me than some faceless government bureaucrat that does not have my best interests at heart.


No Left Turn - This Means You!

Every so often citified attitudes intrude upon our little portion of New Hampshire. Sometimes it can be something about the food at a local restaurant or the lack of certain items at the village store. Most times this “city folk” attitude is minor in nature, garnering a few amused glances in the direction of the offender. Sometimes the offense is over the top, generating a lot of bad feelings on part of the offended and the offender. And at times the offense lies somewhere between those two extremes. Today was one of those times.

I, as many in out little town, drop of my son in front of his school weekday mornings while I am on my way to work. It is not inconvenient for me as I pass right by his school on my way to work.

One of the things that helps keep traffic flowing smoothly mornings as we drop our kids off at school is that the exit from the school allows right turns only. This keeps things from getting jammed up as there won't be anyone waiting to make a left turn across traffic in order to leave. Someone waiting to make a left turn will stop the dropping-off-the-kids process dead in its tracks because no one else will be able to enter the drop off lane until they leave.

For the most part everyone makes the right turn at the exit. But not everyone.

This morning was a perfect example.

BeezleBub and I followed a woman driving a Subaru Forester into the drop off entrance. Her young charge got out of the car, slung their backpack over one shoulder, closed the car door and charged towards the front door of the school. As BeezleBub was getting out of our car the woman drove off towards the exit. Once our car door was closed and BeezleBub was well on his way into the school, I followed her.

She stopped at the exit looking to see if traffic was coming. I expected her to make the right turn, just like everyone else. But instead she pulled forward a foot or so, stopped next to the No Left Turn sign, and put on her turn signal. The left turn signal.

A line of school buses was coming from the left, entering the bus lane to drop of the rest of the kids at the school. Traffic was starting to back up as ever more impatient parents waited to get into the drop off lane. But they couldn't because the witless woman in the Subaru insisted on making her left turn. She sat there waiting to make the left turn for over 5 minutes, tying up traffic. It would have taken her less than a minute to make the right turn, go to the next street, make a right, go to the next intersection and take another right to get to the same place she wasted all that time waiting to make her all so important left turn.

This is the type of behavior I might expect from city folk, figuring that the laws don't apply to them. If I had to guess, she was a flatlander who brought her big city attitude to a small town and managed to piss off a lot of people in the process, all to no good. Her thoughtless need to make a left turn inconvenienced over 100 people, tied up traffic, broke at least one traffic law, and may have made a number of people late for work or school.

It was rude, and we don't take to rudeness very well.


Thoughts On A Sunday

Bruce of mAss Backwards has made it official – he and the family are packing up and moving into their new house in New Hampshire.

Does this mean he'll be changing the name of his blog?


BeezleBub and Deb were out of town yesterday, leaving me by myself here at The Manse. Not that I sat around and did nothing all day.

There was still a little winter storage prep work to do on The Boat, some of which did get done. There was also some paperwork to deal with, mostly for health care reimbursements (even when everyone in the family are all healthy, out of pocket medical expenses still add up...even with medical insurance). Then it was working on reports for some consulting work I do on the side. I also did some software upgrades on the Official Weekend Pundit Computer Systems and installed some new audio editing software and attempted to install some video editing software as well, but with less success. (BeezleBub has shot hours of digital video, but the editing software that came with his video camera is clunky, lame, and doesn't let you burn the resulting video on to a separate DVD. Any suggestions for simple freeware/shareware editing suites out there?)


With all of the talk in the past about the schedule for the 2008 Presidential primaries and how the DNC has reshuffled and front-loaded the schedule, how come I haven't heard mention of the RNC in regards to this? Doesn't the Republican Party have some say about the schedule? Can the RNC schedule its own primaries on different dates, with consent of the various states? How much say do the various states Secretary of State have in regards to elections of this type?

I ask this because, in my opinion, the compressed schedule laid out by the DNC means that only those candidates with deep pockets will have a shot at gaining their party's nomination. The candidate with a small campaign war-chest will be at a disadvantage when most campaigns will be reduced to 15-, 30-, or 60-second TV and radio ads and full page newspaper ads. Candidates will no long have time to meet face-to-face with the electorate, making retail politicking that has long been a requirement to do well in an election a thing of the past. How can a voter make up their mind about which candidate they will vote for if all they have to go on are the slick ads they'll be bombarded with? The less well-known candidate will be drowned out, even if he/she is the better candidate. We saw a lot of that during the 2004 campaign, which is why the Democrats ended up with John Kerry as their nominee. I think that even the long time Democrats have to agree that he was probably the worst candidate they could have put up against George W. Bush.


I forgot to mention that Bill Whittle has two new posts up!

One of them, Seeing The Unseen – Part I, brings up a number of points, two of which stuck out above all of the others.

No Blood For Oil!

What would a real "war for oil" look like? Well, US troops would have sped to the oilfields with everything we had. Everything we had. Then, secure convoy routes would have been established to the nearest port – probably Basra – and the US Navy would essentially line the entire gulf with wall-to-wall warships in order to ensure the safe passage of US-flagged tankers into and out of the region.

There would have been no overland campaign – what for? – and no fight for Baghdad. Fallujah and Mosul and all those other trouble spots would never even see an American boot. Why? No oil there. The US Military would do what it is extraordinarily well-trained to do: take and hold a very limited area, and supply secure convoys to and from this limited area on an ongoing basis. Saddam could have stayed if he wanted: probably would have saved us a lot of trouble, and the whole thing would have become a sort of super no-fly zone over the oil fields, ports and convoy routes, and the devil take the rest of it. Sadr City IED deaths? Please. What the f**k does Sadr City have that we need?

That’s what a war for oil would look like. It’s entirely possible that such an operation could have been accomplished and maintained without a single American fatality.


Who can argue with this? Not me, certainly.

What I CAN argue with is the idea that if only enough stupid, warlike Americans would just get on the Coexist train, then the world would be a happy and peaceful garden. Who else are the people with these bumper stickers preaching to, if not their ill-informed, knuckle-dragging neocon fellow commuters?

Unfortunately, here’s where reality inserts its ugly head. There is no more multi-cultural society on earth than the United States. The United States owns the patent on Coexisting religions and ethnicities. Drive half a mile though any major US urban area and you will see more ancient ethnic enemies living cheek by jowl in harmony than any other spot on the planet. Thursday morning water cooler conversations about Dancing with the Stars wallpaper over more ancient ethnic and religious murders than history has been able to record, and this despite Hollywood and the news media’s deepest efforts to remind you on a daily basis that the black or Hispanic or Asian or white friend in the next cube is secretly seething with racial hatred just beneath that placid veneer.

Americans are able to coexist because they have subjugated, if not abandoned, those ancient religious and ethnic hatreds to join a larger family, that larger family being America. And this is why, if you truly value the idea of coexistence, you should be dead set against multi-cultural grievance and identity politics, which do nothing but pit one ethnic group against the others and reinforce, rather than dilute, ancient resentments and grievances.

Now as it turns out, there is one member of the human family that seems to be having a little difficulty with the whole coexist thing. Muslims are at war with Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are fighting Animists in Africa, Hindus in Kashmir, Buddhists in Southeast Asia…they are blowing up nightclubs and schools and police stations and trains and buses and skyscrapers and are under daily orders to kill Jews on sight anywhere in the world.

I don’t mind preaching so much as preaching to the choir. When I see Coexist bumper stickers in Islamabad and Cairo and especially Riyadh to the degree I see them in Venice, California, I will be a happy man. They will make a very welcome sight covering over the Death to the Infidel! stickers that seem to be somewhat outselling Coexist messages in that part of the world. Until then I think we should coexist and carry a big stick.

That's merely two of the many points that Bill discusses. As the saying goes, “Read the whole thing!!”


An article in today's Sunday Citizen (Laconia, NH) reports that the year long housing slump will end in another year, with prices dropping a bit more before they start rising again.

That's all well and good. But to look at the tax assessment for The Manse, you'd think that the assessor had missed the news that housing prices have fallen since April 2005. In one year the assessed value of The Manse rose 20%! Something doesn't seem right to me. It's also apparent from this article that others in our town are thinking the same thing.

The recent sale of homes at prices well below their assessed values has led to questions about the accuracy of property valuations in town.

Selectmen Connie Grant said mid-sized homes have been selling below the assessed values. She suggested that the Board of Selectmen consider having a town-wide property revaluation to see if over-assessed properties are the rule or the exception.

After talking to a number of townsfolk, I believe that over-valued assessments are the rule, not the exception. Having knowledge about the sale prices of some homes within my neighborhood and their assessed values, all of them sold for considerably less than the assessments. One home three lots down from The Manse has been up for sale for nine months, for the same price as we paid for The Manse over a year ago. Both places are comparable in size, land, amenities, and both were assessed last year within a couple of thousand dollars of each other. The other day I see that they've reduced the asking price by $25,000. Yet their assessment is $75,000 higher than the new asking price. That tells me that the new assessments are way off, at least in this neighborhood.


I don't know who those guys wearing the Patriots uniforms were, but they didn't seem like the Patriots team I've watched the past 10 weeks. Only during the the last minute of the first quarter and nine minutes into the fourth quarter did they seem like the Patriots. The rest of the time they played like third stringers, losing to the New York Jets, 17-13. What a painful game to watch.


It came to me only this morning that Thanksgiving is a week and a half away.

I think of all of the holidays that Thanksgiving is my favorite. There isn't the hype of so many other holidays. It hasn't been commercialized all out of proportion. I remember far more Thanksgiving holidays over the years than Christmas, New Year's, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or any other holiday. There's something about it that I can't easily explain.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the once bustling streets have finally quieted down, the summer cottages and camps are deserted, and where the serious family cooks are already working on their Thanksgiving menus.


Now The Real Campaign Starts

The celebrations by newly elected Democrats has barely subsided and already the 2008 presidential hopefuls are hitting the campaign trail.

Two candidates have announced that they are running – Governor Tom Vilsack (D-Iowa) and Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA). I expect to be seeing them in New Hampshire any day now, along with ever growing multitude of the non-declared and undecided wannabes.

And here it is you thought it was all over.....


Profound Political Wisdom

While my first reaction the the Democratic sweep in New Hampshire and the nation was one of “We better hold on to our wallets and guns,” I was heartened by the remarks of a Democratic political analyst.

Norm Demers, long a figure in Democratic circles in New Hampshire, made one of the most telling statements during an analysis of the elections last night on the local ABC affiliate, WMUR. While I don't remember the statement verbatim, it was so profound that I couldn't help but remember the gist of it.

Something that newly elected Democrats must remember is that we must deliver on our promises and not discount the will of our constituents. This election wasn't so much a mandate for the Democratic party as a vote against Republicans. They're not the same thing.

Truer words were never spoken. If I recall correctly, Demers also said something about that the Democratic party will ignore this at their own peril. After all, it's just as easy to be voted out as it is to be voted in. Easier, in fact.



Did you vote today?

If you did, congratulations for exercising your constitutional rights!

If you didn't, then shame on you! You've given up any right to bitch about anything the town/state/federal government does until after the 2008 elections.


Negative Ads - Where Do They Come From?

As I mentioned here, those negative campaign ads can be grating. They're always so...so negative. But have you ever wondered who it is that actually does the voice-overs for those ads? Well wonder no more.

NPR interviewed two of the foremost voice-over actors involved with making many of the negative ads you hear on the radio or see on TV.

One of the most telling segments of the interview was when the host asked one of them to take a simple nursery rhyme and turn it into a negative attack ad. One got right to the point.

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. He said he could put himself together again. But after wasting thousands of our tax dollars, all the King's horses and all the King's men, he failed us. Humpty Dumpty. Wrong on wall sitting.”

I will never be able to listen to that nursery rhyme again without thinking about this attack ad.

There are few more like the one above that show how easy it is to 'go negative'.

Listen to the whole thing as I think you'll find it amusing and educational at the same time.


Thoughts On A Sunday

In case you've been locked away without any connection to the outside world, Saddam Hussein was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging.

My only question is whether there will be other trials for the multiple murderous actions of the former Iraqi dictator, or whether he will swing at the end of a rope long before other trials could begin?


BeezleBub voiced his displeasure at the breakfast table this morning about all of the campaign ads airing on radio and TV. As he said, “It's all a bunch of BS. I'll be glad once Tuesday gets here!”

That's one smart 12-year old.


Even though the electioneering clamor will calm down after Tuesday's election, it won't stop for long. With the number of presidential hopefuls who showed up in the Granite State to campaign for their party's candidates, it portends a similar flood of wannabes looking to win their party's nomination for President.

While it won't be something that happens immediately, I expect that the full court press will start shortly New Year's Day, a full year before the first caucuses/primaries.

The New Hampshire Primary can't happen too soon for me.


And speaking of primaries, it doesn't surprise me to learn that the Democrats didn't learn the lesson of the 2004 election: Front loading actually hurts their chances.

By front loading the primary and caucus schedule – lumping most of them together in the first three months of the year – only candidates with deep pockets can hope to compete. Those without the deep pockets get shoved aside, even someone who might be the Democrat's best hope. With few exceptions, the old fashioned face-to-face retail politicking can't be done in the short time the schedule allows. The campaigns become more about sound bites and 15 to 30 second TV and radio ads, something that takes large amounts of cash. Very few voters will actually get the chance to meet the candidates, to ask them tough questions, or take the measure of the man or woman asking for their vote.

The Democrat's last nominee, John Kerry, had the deepest pockets of all. He was also the worst possible candidate they could have chosen because he was so far out of touch with much of the American public and condescending to boot. Yet here they are, doing exactly the same thing again. I wonder how long it will take them to realize they're shooting themselves in the foot.


Bruce of mAss Backwards is still house hunting in New Hampshire. This weekend he's come across a place that, as he says, could be “it”. There's even a picture included.

Nice place, Bruce!


Both neo-neocon and Austin Bay have thoughts about John Kerry's latest slam against the military, the so-called “botched joke.” Little does he realize that the joke's on him.

Mark Steyn also chimes in on Kerry.

A vain thin-skinned condescending blueblood with no sense of his own ridiculousness, Senator Nuancy Boy is secure in little else except his belief in his indispensability.


Whatever he may or may not have intended (and "I was making a joke about how stupid Bush is but I'm the only condescending liberal in America too stupid to tell a Bush-is-stupid joke without blowing it" must rank as one of the all-time lame excuses), what he said fits what too many upscale Dems believe: that America's soldiers are only there because they're too poor and too ill-educated to know any better. That's what they mean when they say "we support our troops." They support them as victims, as children, as potential welfare recipients, but they don't support them as warriors and they don't support the mission.


It's half-time at the New England Patriots/Indianapolis Colts game. The Colts are up 17-14 at the half.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where preparations for Election Day abound, last minute work before winter arrives still needs doing, and where memories of this past winter are already fading....

Housing Bubble Is Officially Deflated

If there was any doubt that the housing bubble has cooled, I think we can safely say that is no longer the case.

Many homes for sale in this area are now on the market for a considerably longer time, and of those many sellers have dropped their asking prices in an effort to sell their homes. The days of 12% to 18% annual appreciation in home values are over and more realistic prices are being seen. It is now a buyer's market and that is what's driving the drop in prices.

There's a hissing sound in the air as the balloon carrying the real estate bubble higher and higher seems to have developed a small leak and is gradually settling down from the giddy heights that it reached in the last few years.

Signs of the return to earth, or at least lower elevations, are abundant along the roadsides in the area where For Sale signs are more likely to say ``price reduced'' or ``newly priced'' rather than ``under agreement'' or ``sale pending.''

It is reported that average home prices have dropped between 8 and 10 percent in central New Hampshire compared to last year, showing a trend towards more realistic housing values. Not all segments of the housing market in New Hampshire have seen the drop in prices. Upscale homes in the $300K to $600K range are still selling well, though not at the rate they were last year.

From looking at a large number of present listings in central New Hampshire, it seems that homes are on the market for six months or more before selling. From my own observations I can say it seems that a large number are on the market for far longer than that. Many homes in my town alone have been on the market for a year or more. While some of these are seasonal homes, meaning that the pressure to sell isn't nearly as great as for someone selling a primary home, it is still indicative of a weakened housing market.

The housing bubble has indeed inflated and isn't much more than a memory.


Goin' Negative

It's only a few more days until the elections and things have been heating up, particularly here in New Hampshire. While the gubernatorial race is pretty much a foregone conclusion, the two congressional races are close, with most polls showing them too close to call.

With few exceptions, almost all of the political ads here have gone negative.

According to an ABC News Tonight report (sorry, no link yet available), this is a nationwide trend, with a large majority of the political ads on TV and radio airing being negative. The ads aren't aimed at those voters that have already made up their minds. Instead, they are aimed at those few voters that have yet to decide. Those few undecideds can be the difference between a candidate winning or losing.

While negative ads can be informative, they too often skirt the edge of outright lies. The typical ad will inform the voting public that a candidate voted for or against some bill that their opponent would have voted differently. After recording a few of those ads, I looked closely at the bills referenced (most carried the bill numbers as part of the ad). In a few cases an officeholder voted against a bill they otherwise would have voted for because someone attached a rider to the legislation that would have authorized something the officeholder opposed. This forced the vote to kill an otherwise desirable piece of legislation. So sometimes we have to take claims by opponents with a grain of salt, even if they are factual. Even so, I know I'm getting tired of the negative ads.

Thank goodness election day is four days away.


Another Report On Global Warming

A new report was released this week that outlines the economic costs of global warming. The report, also known as the Stern Report, tries to lay out the costs of both putting an effort into reducing carbon emissions and of doing nothing. The problem is that the numbers in the report don't add up, in many cases understating both the costs of combating climate change and the time it will take to do so.

Also, global warming skeptic Bjorn Lomborg digs deeper into the numbers and shows that certain assumptions made in the 700 page Stern Report are either suspect or appear to made up out of thin air.

In any case the report will give both pro- and anti-global warming supporters plenty to talk about.


Open Mouth, Insert Foot

There's one of the better roundups of the John Kerry kerfuffle over at The Moderate Voice.

Reading the many posts and comments about Kerry's gaffe makes me realize that Kerry's major error wasn't the 'poorly rendered joke', but rather his response to the outcry over his perceived insult to the men and women of the Armed Forces. If Senator Lurch had merely stated “Gee, I really screwed up that joke. I'm sorry if it offended anyone and offer my sincere apologies” this whole thing would have gone away. But his arrogance got the best of him and it wasn't until other Democrats called him on it that he tried to do some damage control.

Sorry, John, too little too late.


Another Case Of NIMBY

I believe we can safely say that the conventional wisdom is that most folks support the development and use of alternative/renewable energy technologies to bolster power production in the US. After all it makes sense since some of them have reached the point where they compete rather handily with conventional power producers.

One of the more advanced, as well as most visible forms of alternative energy production are wind turbines. They can generate large amounts of electrical power. The larger wind turbines out there can each generate 3.5 megawatts of electricity or more, enough to provide power for over 1000 homes. There are many decent locations where wind turbines could be built. But they won't.

Far too often wind farms, large or small, are opposed by the very people who say they are all for renewable energy sources. It all comes down to NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard.

We've seen it writ large down on Cape Cod where the Cape Wind project has come under fire from Senator Ted Kennedy (D–MA) because the wind farm might ruin the view from the Kennedy Family compound in Hyannisport. Massachusetts. Surprising, considering Kennedy has been a supporter of renewable energy sources.

The same kind of problem has also made its presence known here in New Hampshire.

For some time a company called Community Energy has been trying to build a number of wind turbines on a ridge in the small rural town of Lempster, New Hampshire. The local residents haven't had any problems with the idea of wind turbines along the ridge considering that the owners of the 1500 acres of ridge property have allowed the public to use it for recreational purposes for years, including hiking, snowmobiling, ATVing, and so on. However the taxes on that property have been heavy. Allowing Community Energy to lease space for a test turbine would provide the owners of the property to gain some income and make it easier to pay their taxes, which in turn would allow them to keep the property and allow the public to continue using it. And if the entire wind farm were built, it would add considerably to the town's tax base. But there are spoil sports trying to keep that from happening. What's worse, they aren't year round residents, but summer residents.

A small handful of wealthy summer residents and out-of-towners have deluged local select boards with letters trying to stop a project that would benefit us all.

Among these are a summer resident, who spends most of the year in Florida, who has decided that he doesn't want to see a wind farm on "his ridge line" that my wife and I pay taxes on. Another is a person who lives 100 miles away whose sole purpose in life seems to be to stop wind farms in their tracks.


These people who have come out against the wind farm say that the state has to be involved because we don't have any zoning in Lempster and therefore don't know what we are doing or can't "protect" ourselves.

The fact is, our town has voted against zoning laws time and time again, even when last year the proposed windmills were the reason for taking the vote on zoning.

So the summer folk...er...'summah people' are trying to say that the townsfolk don't know what they're doing even though it is quite obvious that they do. Is it ignorance or arrogance that makes them come to this conclusion? I'd say that it's more the latter than the former.

This won't be the first time that seasonal residents have tried to push aside the needs of the year round residents in order to shove their 'needs' down the town's throat. It won't be the last. But in this case they're messing with the town's tax base, choking off potential tax revenues the town could really use. Will these 'summah people' make up the deficit from the lost taxes? No. Why should they? After all it's not their problem, is it?

The amount of permitting a project like this has to go through is mind boggling. Community Energy has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars on studies and engineering and shared the information with the town.


We'd like to think that the state Site Evaluation Committee will understand this when it comes to Lempster tonight, but the way things appear to be going, the "Not in My Seasonal Backyard" people will probably talk the loudest and the longest.

And as we know, money talks. Many of these 'summah people' have deep pockets and they're quite vocal about things they don't like, particularly if it's the townspeople where they have their summer camps. It's not like they'll have to carry the burden being forced upon the year round residents, will they?