Clueless Holier Than Thou Enviro-Vigilantes

I thought that this was amusing: An urbanite environmentalist taking a holier than thou attitude towards someone they don't even know just because that someone drives an SUV. That someone happened to be the editor and publisher of the Colebrook, New Hampshire News & Sentinel, a weekly paper published in that small northern New Hampshire town.

This past weekend we ventured south to cover a basketball game, using the opportunity to stay over, take a break and enjoy city life for a day. When we returned to our Chevy Tahoe after lunch at a restaurant, we were greeted with a blaze-orange ticket from EarthOnEmpty, citing us as "offenders" of the environment for driving an SUV.


What this person didn't know is that I hate driving a huge SUV, that if I lived down south I'd absolutely drive a hybrid. But four-wheel drive and a high clearance are necessary for where we live, and we have to have the capacity to haul 5,000 papers if our driver is out sick or on vacation

I've run across more than one of these types before, many deriding the choices of vehicles that I or friends of mine drive. Little did they realize (or care) that without our 4X4 truck or SUV it would be impossible to travel at all during winter or the following mud season. In some cases my friends wouldn't even be able to make it out of their driveways. But that matters not a whit to jerks like this.


Thoughts On A Sunday

It was a busy day for two of the WP household, with a trip to the WP-In-Laws in a borrowed pickup to gather more firewood for the Official Weekend Pundit Wood Stove.

While the wood stove has allowed us to keep the thermostats turned down, it isn't really capable of keeping The Manse warm all by itself on those below zero days or nights. While it can help keep the edge off during those times, it does require the assistance of the propane-fueled furnace to keep us within the comfort zone. Still, that's not bad. We would have easily used three (or four) hundred gallons of propane by now if it weren't for the wood stove. Instead we've used less than a hundred, and most of that was for the water heater and clothes dryer.

Not bad. Not bad at all.


The political buzz is starting to reach a level not seen in four years, with an ever growing number of presidential hopefuls making announcements and paying visits to New Hampshire in order to test the waters. Normally I wouldn't comment upon such a normal activity, but this time I must if for no other reason than it's reached such a level so far ahead of schedule. We usually don't see this kind of activity until much later in the year as we approach the New Hampshire Primary. One would think that the primary is only a few months away rather than a year from now.

I don't know whether this bodes well or ill for the nation, though I am leaning towards the latter. With campaigning starting earlier and ever more prevalent front-loading of the primary schedule with the DNC's approval, it's skewing the political process and endangers the ability of lesser known and less well financed candidates to compete. We don't want this process to become a battle between the candidates with the deepest pockets rather than a contest between candidates with better ideas and policies.


John Kerry hasn't gotten the message: Keep speaking like an enemy of the United States and you can kiss what's left of your political career goodbye.

Kerry decided not to run for president in 2008, mostly because he found there was little support for him among Democrats. But he's also in trouble in Massachusetts, which may mean that his Senate seat is in jeopardy.

While many of the voters in Massachusetts are Democrats, and liberal Democrats to boot, they don't like one of their own speaking like an enemy of America. He's managed to gloss over his betrayal of his military brethren during the Winter Soldier senate hearings back in the early 70's, but it's unlikely he'll be able to cover up his hatred of Bush and the American people in general after his rant at Davos.

His hypocrisy seems to know no bounds.

Senator Kerry, don't go away mad. Just go away.


Glenn Reynolds link to an article in The Independent that shows that evolution may indeed solve the problem of militant Islam.


It's only a week until Super Bowl XLI and I'm looking forward to seeing the game. I'll be supporting the Bears, though not wholeheartedly, for obvious reasons. I'll really be watching in order to see the ads made just for the Super Sunday.


QandO has an interesting analysis about both Lt. General David Petraeus testimony during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Service Committee and the Senate anti-surge resolutions that send the wrong message to our troops and embolden the enemy.

Some of these Senate clowns need to get a clue.

Also, Tigerhawk writes about how the anticipated surge of troops in Baghdad is already having a positive effect there, one that the naysayers in Congress can't dispute.

(H/T Glenn Reynolds)


If global warming is All-The-Fault-Of-The-Evil-Humans, how do we explain similar phenomena on the other planets in the solar system? Oh wait, I know. It's all of those probes NASA sent out causing these problems. Yeah. That's it. Again, It's-All-Our-Fault.



And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where nary one of the “summah people” have been seen in months, winter is sorta here, and where plans to get our boats back in the water are already in the making.

Bush Is The Decider

Normally I would have linked to this editorial in my usual Sunday post, Thoughts On A Sunday. But this editorial deserves a separate post because it does such a good job illustrating how Congress is usurping the constitutionally defined duties and responsibilities of the President.

The Constitution delegates to Congress very specific duties concerning the armed forces of the United States. Not one of them involves conducting the affairs of war.


Article I, Section 8 defines the powers of Congress with regard to the armed forces, and directing a war effort is not there.

Article II, Section 2 states unequivocally that "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States."

(Emphasis mine.)

Maybe it's time that the defeatist cabal in Congress be reminded of that, if they even knew it to begin with.


Giuliani In New Hampshire

It appears that the Republican presidential hopefuls are going in to full campaign mode, particularly here in New Hampshire.

The latest high profile candidate to make an appearance in the Granite State was former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani.

Appearing at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, Giuliani talked about September 11th, the war against terror, and the standoff between President Bush and Congress about Iraq.

It was the images of the mayor traipsing through dust-caked Lower Manhattan and his strong reassurance to his city and country that was central to the visit. Giuliani also resisted openings to attack Democrats.

"I'm optimistic the Democratic Congress and President Bush will figure out how to do things together. It looks like on Iraq, we're not off to a good start. ... You can have a different view on Iraq and that doesn't make you better or worse than me."

On Iraq, Giuliani didn't delve too deeply into the unpopular war. In chatting with reporters, he tied it to the larger war on terrorism — and linked it to his time in New York City.

If anyone should understand the war against terror, it's Giuliani. After all it was his city that suffered the effects of an attack that rivaled that of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor that ushered the US in to World War II. September 11th brought us into the war on terror in no less a fashion than the “Day of Infamy”.

Giuliani also commented about leadership by those who govern America.

He took, however, a bipartisan shot at politicians who govern according to poll results.

"That does not make them leaders. That makes them actors, not leaders," he said. "If I take a poll and figure out what you want me to say and then repeat it to you, I'm an actor, not a leader."

We in New England have a term for politicians like that: weather vanes. We also have another term for them: unemployed.

Giuliani also visited the New Hampshire GOP annual meeting, drumming up support for state Republicans as well as making contacts for his run in the 2008 New Hampshire Primary, even though at this point all he has is an exploratory committee and not an actual campaign.


Just Who Is Running This War, Anyways?

There were two related editorials in Thursday's OpinionJournal, both covering the subject of Iraq. While the editorials didn't go into the situation in Iraq in particular, they did cover the situation here in the US in regards to Iraq. One dealt with Congress and their attempt to micromanage the war, something they have no constitutional power to do. The second dealt with how it is that the jihadist apologists and their sympathizers in government are trying to make us talk ourselves into defeat. Neither one of these bodes well for us or the Iraqi people.

It seems that the Democrats in Congress learned the wrong lessons from the debacle in Vietnam. While they do control spending, it is the President that decides the course of a war. And so it is with Iraq, something they need to be reminded about.

To understand why the Founders put war powers in the hands of the Presidency, look no further than the current spectacle in Congress on Iraq. What we are witnessing is a Federalist Papers illustration of criticism and micromanagement without responsibility.

Consider the resolution pushed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday by Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel. Both men voted for the Iraq War. But with that war proving to be more difficult than they thought, they now want to put themselves on record as opposing any further attempts to win it.


All of this also applies to the many Congressional efforts to set "benchmarks" or otherwise micromanage the battlefield. Hillary Rodham Clinton says she is "cursed with the responsibility gene" that makes her unwilling to cut off funds, but instead she proposes to set a cap on U.S. troops in the theater. So while General Petraeus says he needs more troops to fulfill his mission, General Clinton says he doesn't. Which battlefield commander do you trust?


In addition to being feckless, all of this is unconstitutional. As Commander-in-Chief, the President has the sole Constitutional authority to manage the war effort. Congress has two explicit war powers: It has the power to declare war, which in the case of Iraq it essentially did with its resolution of 2003. It also has the power to appropriate funds.

There is a long and unsettled debate over whether Congress can decide to defund specific military operations once it has created a standing Army. We lean toward those who believe it cannot, but the Founders surely didn't imagine that Congress could start dictating when and where the 101st Airborne could be deployed once a war is under way.

And that is the problem. It seems that some in Congress believe they should be running the war, a leftover ghost of the Vietnam era. One of the problems with that is that they rarely have all of the information that the White House and the Pentagon have. Also, things bet confused and chaotic when all of a sudden you have 535 commanders to answer to rather than one. It is the perfect way to lose and otherwise winnable war. But this seems to bother the members of Congress not at all.

This leads to the second problem, the defeatist talk among many in government, particularly those with special interest in bringing down the present administration. First and foremost in this group are those in the State Department. They seem to think that only they can solve the worlds problems if they can just talk enough. But sometimes talk fails and the only way to solve a dire threat to the US is to take military action.

And that leads us to another group making an effort to make us defeat ourselves. I call them the Everything-Is-America's-Fault whiners. According to these folks, every evil or perceived evil in the world is our fault, therefore it is only fitting that we give up or lose. The problem with the whiners is that many of our enemies are the epitome of evil, doing far worse than what many of these Everything-Is-America's-Fault whiners can possibly imagine. It isn't our fault that they are that way, but the fault of their society and their leaders.

If this group succeeds in convincing us that we've lost and we pull out of Iraq, whose fault will it be for the millions of deaths that follow? This time it will be our fault because we abandoned the Iraqi people and the rest of the people in the Middle East at their greatest time of need, just as we abandoned the South Vietnamese in the early 70's. From that point on we will never be trusted again. But that's what the whiners want. The feel we don't deserve to be trusted. But what is really true is that it is they who aren't to be trusted. They show their moral cowardice, knowing ahead of time that they will abandon us or our allies at the slightest provocation or lame reason.

As a political strategy, unremitting opposition has worked. Approval for the president and the war is low. The GOP lost sight of its ideological lodestars and so control of Congress. But the U.S. still occupies a unique position of power in the world, and we are putting that status at risk by playing politics without a net.
On the "Charlie Rose Show" this month, former Army vice chief of staff Gen. Jack Keane, who supports the counterinsurgency plan being undertaken by Gen. David Petraeus, said in exasperation: "My God, this is the United States. We are the world's No. 1 superpower. This isn't about arrogance. This is about capability and applying ourselves to a problem that is at its essence a human problem."

But the whiners and the government wonks see it as arrogance on our part. And they won't stop until they make us see it, too, even if it isn't really there.


State Of The Union Preview

The State of the Union address is a little under an hour away as I write this.

While there has been rampant speculation about exactly what Bush will say, I think I can sum it up with a few bullet points:

? “We are not going to cut and run from Iraq. No way I'm going to let it happen, so don't even think about it. We're going to finish the job. If Congress thinks it's gonna cut the rug out from under us, you can kiss my skinny white Texas butt.”

? “I am not going to let Congress undo the tax breaks that have kept our economy growing. The Democrats seem to think that the tax cuts were only for the rich. It's true, but only if you define 'the rich' as anyone that has a job.”

? “We're done screwing around with all them oil producin' countries. We're going to build more nuclear power plants, drill offshore, and develop more alternative energy. Then all you petro-dollar addicted countries can eat your oil.”

I think that'll cover it.


Thoughts On A Sunday

If it's not the cold, it's the wind.

Ever since winter decided to finally show up here in New England, it's been trying to make up for lost time. While we've seen little in actual snow fall, the temperatures and winds have certainly been arctic-like. It's not much more than teases when it comes to snow – a couple inches here, a few there – but nothing substantial like a good old fashioned Nor'easter. Somehow I have a feeling that February and March will see to it.

And so goes the Winter of 2007....so far.


There certainly has been a lot of press about today's Patriots-Colts playoff game, with Indianapolis going all out in a series of pre-game celebrations. From what this Patriots fan has seen, it seems that they were already celebrating a Colts victory. Considering the Colts' record against the Patriots, particularly in post-season play, the celebrations were a little premature. If I were them, I'd have waited until they actually won the game before celebrating. But that's just me.

Personally, I think if the Colts had been playing the Patriots of last week, the Colts would have lost. Many players in the Pats defense were still suffering from the effects of the flu, making for above average substitutions during the game. (Yeah, it may sound like an excuse, but even the CBS commentators made that observation. Take it for what you will.)

At least the Bears beat New Orleans. That's the team I'll be rooting for for come Super Bowl Sunday. It would have been nice if it was the Patriots playing against the Bears, a rematch from Super Bowl XX that I would like to believe would have turned out differently from the first match up.


This vision of 'The Second Holocaust' is sobering.

(H/T Glenn Reynolds)


I am happy to announce that Brendan Smith's “The Life & Times Of A Flatlander Adjusting To Life In New Hampshire”, aka the Flatlander News, will be returning to Weekend Pundit starting in February!


One thing that I have watched with interest has been the ever dropping prices of wireless routers. The latests Sunday flyers show a wireless 'G' router/switch made by NetGear can be had for $39.95 at CompUSA, Staples, and Circuit City, just to name a few. A USB wireless G adapter dongle can be had for less than $10. In two cases if you bundle it with the router, it's free.

While we do not have a wireless access point here at The Manse, there are at least three open wireless access points within range, as a visit by a laptop-bearing relative proved not all that long ago. If I were unethical, I would just by the wireless adapter card or USB dongle and be done with it. But I will do the right thing and get a wireless router of our own. I will also make sure that it is locked down so that no one other than our own laptop can use it.

Ain't technology a wonderful thing?


The debate about anthropogenic global warming is heating up again, this time amongst TV meteorologists. A large majority of them say that the warming we're seeing is part of a natural cycle.

But as usual, there are those saying that the consensus among the 'right thinking' scientists is that global warming is All-The-Fault-Of-The-Evil-Humans and that any of the TV meteorologists that say otherwise should be silenced. How's that for open scientific discourse?

As one commenter to one of the numerous blog posts about the subject put it, “Scientific consensus once stated that the Sun revolved around the Earth. Galileo said otherwise, a voice in the wilderness. It turns out that the consensus was wrong.” It also wasn't the last time that scientific consensus was wrong.


It appears that I have contracted my first cold in over three years. At first I thought it was just the dry air in The Manse, but it became quite evident later in the day that it was indeed a full blown cold.



And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where there is barely a trace of ice along its shores, ice fishermen are looking at the lake with dismay, and where dreams of the next boating season run rampant.


The List Of Candidates Is Growing

The list of Democratic Presidential candidates is getting longer, with the announcement by Senator Chris Dodd (D – CT) that he is running. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson is expected to be the next to officially announce his candidacy, though his staff has said that he will run.

On the Republican side, it appears that former Senator and actor Fred Dalton Thompson may be testing the waters for a presidential run.

America once elected a president whose resume included stints as an elected official, an actor and a radio commentator - twice, actually, the second time in a landslide. It's not impossible that they could have the chance to do so again.

(H/T Bill Hobbs)

UPDATE: We can now add the name of Hillary Clinton to those candidates seeking the 2008 nomination.

An Interesting Music Video

Received via e-mail:

An interesting blend of computer, pneumatics, musical instruments, and physics. Call it the Fantastic Machine. (I only wish the clip were longer.)


Verizon Abandoning Northern New England

I believe that on more than one occasion I have mentioned that I am employed by a company that makes test equipment for the telecommunications industry. One of our biggest customers is Verizon, the amalgam of the old New England Telephone, New York Telephone, Nynex, Bell Atlantic, and finally, GTE.

Verizon has been moving forward with its plans to replace much of its copper infrastructure – meaning all of the copper wires that connect homes and businesses to the central switching offices – with optical fiber. This changeover, called FTTH or Fiber To The Home, will allow Verizon to offer new services including high speed Internet at speeds unheard of for residential customers.

Imagine my dismay when Verizon decided to pull the plug on offering their FTTH service, called FiOS, in New Hampshire. While existing FiOS customers in the state will be able to keep their service, Verizon won't be spending any more time or money expanding their network in New Hampshire. The same is true of Maine and Vermont. In fact, Verizon won't be in any of those states for much longer because they've decided to sell off their phone lines to FairPoint Communications, a telecommunications firm that specializes in providing telecommunications services to rural customers. Apparently rural states like New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine aren't profitable enough for Verizon, so they're shedding themselves of those markets, at least when it comes to residential phone and Internet services. Verizon's wireless and business services will be retained by the company as these services are quite profitable.

Not everyone is upset by Verizon's departure from northern New England.

One Maine official said it won't be hard for FairPoint to improve upon Verizon's record.

"Verizon has done such a bad job of deploying broadband," said Wayne Jortner, senior counsel from the Maine Public Advocate's Office in Augusta. "I think FairPoint can only improve from Verizon's very slow place."

Likewise, Vermont Commissioner David O'Brien from the Vermont Department of Public Service said he welcomes a company that has a commitment to broadband services in rural areas.

"It has been clear for some time that (Verizon's) future is not in Vermont or northern New England as a whole," O'Brien said. "We've wanted someone who would come to Vermont and see it as part of their future and not part of their past."

It is not known at this point whether FairPoint will continue with FTTH network upgrades abandoned by Verizon, but FairPoint has stated that they are committed to providing broadband services to all of their customers. Unfortunately that could mean DSL rather than FTTH, a system that does not have the bandwidth capabilities of FTTH.

This sale may also open more opportunities for the cable TV MSO's (multi-system operators) to step in and provide high-speed Internet and phone service. (The Manse is served by the local MSO with a 6 megabit-per-second asymmetric Internet connection, far above what is available from DSL but well below what FTTH can offer.) It may be up to the cable operators to step in and do what Verizon decided it wasn't going to or couldn't do.

Another option that may come about with Verizon's departure is municipal FTTH systems, with construction funded by the town or towns the system will serve. This has been done in many towns and counties around the US that are underserved by the incumbent telephone or cable companies. Many would not see broadband services any time soon if they left it up to the usual players.

There are certain advantages to municipal FTTH networks, one of them being that they can bond construction over a much longer period that someone like Verizon or AT&T or Qwest. The municipality isn't looking for a quick return on investment. They aren't required to show a profit, though they must cover all of their expenses. Or they can build the network and let telecommunications firms bid to operate the system. With one of the telecommunications 'big boys' pulling out, it leaves something of a vacuum, FairPoint notwithstanding. Verizon won't be around to quash a municipality's move to provide services that its residents want but that Verizon can't or won't provide. I'm hoping that FairPoint won't be as closed minded about this as Verizon has been in past.

The transaction to change over from Verizon to FairPoint will take approximately 12 months, providing that state and federal regulators approve the sale.


Obama 'Thinking About It'

Barack Obama looks as if he's going to run for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination, even thought he hasn't actually come out and actually said so. But he certainly is sounding like a candidate.

During his much-publicized "Obama-mania" visit on Dec. 10, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama looked, acted and sounded like a Presidential candidate when he spoke to 1,500 people at a state Democratic Party rally in downtown Manchester, [NH].

So it was no surprise to New Hampshire yesterday that Obama announced the formation of an exploratory committee to raise money in preparation for a Presidential run.

Officially, he is not a candidate, but his point man in New Hampshire says it's just a formality.

"I think today was the first step toward an official candidacy," said lobbyist Jim Demers, a former state representative, who said he expects to be an unpaid volunteer for Obama in the First-in-the-Nation Primary state.

It's also been reported that Obama has pulled even with Hillary Clinton amongst likely New Hampshire Democratic voters.

The field is starting to fill out here in New Hampshire as more potential candidates contemplate a run for the White House.


Doing The Unpopular Thing

After (belatedly) watching the 60 Minutes interview with President Bush, I have to say that I have far more respect for the man.

In regards to Iraq, he hit the nail on the head. It appears he's learned an important lesson:

Sometimes a President has to do the unpopular thing in order to do the right thing.

Any President who bases his decisions entirely on the opinion polls is basically an empty suit, following the whims of the American people, not leading them. Dubya has never struck me as an empty suit.

I also find it interesting that during tonight's ABC's World News, one commenter made the observation that if the Democratically controlled Congress pulls the rug out from underneath our troops serving in Iraq, they will be remembered for generations for their cowardly act. Somehow I doubt that's what they would want as their legacy.


Thoughts On A Sunday

It appears that winter is finally showing itself in northern New England. The Weather Guys™ have predicted between 6 and 10 inches of snowfall tomorrow here in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, with lesser amount to the north and south.

Todays weather wasn't conducive to travel, with sleet and freezing rain falling during the day. Normally I wouldn't care one way or the other, but there was a gathering of the WP clan planned today, with everyone meeting here at The Manse. It was a question of whether the southernmost members of the clan would chance the poor traveling conditions in order to join us today.

The answer was 'no', and rightfully so. There's no need to put one's life in jeopardy just to attend a family gathering.


Wizbang has two posts about Barbara Boxer's personal attack on Condoleeza Rice, with comments from both sides running the gamut of “She should be ashamed of herself” for making a personal attack rather than dealing with the issue at hand – Iraq – to “It's all in a day's business in Congress, so grow up!”

I have to agree with those saying Boxer should be ashamed for personalizing the whole thing. In effect, she was resorting to the shooting-the-messenger ploy used so often when someone doesn't have a cogent argument to use.

Glenn Reynolds also chimes in.


In the NFC quarter final game today, the Chicago Bears defeated the Seattle Seahawks in overtime. With the New England Patriots win over the Chargers 24-21, it could mean a Bears-Patriots rematch in Super Bowl XLI, but this time it will be the Patriots beating the Bears, unlike their match up in Super Bowl XX.


John Stossel writes about the negative affects of raising the minimum wage. Like him, I believe that it will actually cause some workers to lose their jobs and prevent others from being hired.

While proponents of raising it talk about a living wage, the minimum wage was never a living wage. There was no way to support a family making the minimum. Ever. So the discussion about a living wage is nothing more than a false argument.

Who is it that holds a majority of minimum wage jobs? Not heads of household, but rather teenagers working their first jobs. And if they do a decent job of it they don't make minimum wage for long.


One thing I realize that I haven't done in a long time is give a lot of you folks living in somewhat more metropolitan areas a small taste of what it's really like to live in a more rural area. I was reminded of this by my lovely wife. I guess I'll have to pick up where I left off a couple of years ago.

My bad.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where winter has finally arrived, snowblowres and snow plows are prepped to run, and where I'll have to go outside to clear my driveway at O'dark-thirty in the morning.


Taking Away Choice

While I could spend my time writing more about the reactions to President Bush's call to arms the other night, I thought instead that I would focus on something a bit more 'small town America'.

It is said that all politics are local. Truer words were never spoken.

In this case we're talking about a small town's taxpayers and a move by certain elements to make sure that the taxpayers will have less input and less oversight over how their tax dollars are spent.

Like most towns in New Hampshire, our town has a budget committee. This committee is elected by the voters. It is the committee's job to look at all of the budget requests, suggest changes should they be necessary, and vote on whether to approve or disapprove a budget item. For the most part a budget committee works on the behalf of the townspeople. Sometimes they don't.

In our town the present budget committee has been taking a hard look at how much money the town is spending on salaries and benefits for all town employees, one place where spending has been increasing at a rate far above that of the private sector. It's been stressing the property owners in the town, with tax increases well above the rate of inflation.

One of the biggest budget issues any town deals with is the school budget. And so it is with our town. The school budget can be 75% of a town's budget, so it's necessary to carefully watch every dollar that's spent or proposed to be spent. It's part and parcel of what a budget committee is supposed to do. The present budget committee is taking a particularly close look at this part of the budget, much to the dismay of a number of school employees. I guess they figure that it's none of the committee's business how much is being spent to educate our children.

How is it that I've come to this conclusion?

A number of school employees and their spouses have filed a petition to put a warrant article before the voters to eliminate the budget committee as it stands now. Rather than being elected by the townspeople, the petitioners want them to be appointed by the selectmen and school board and to serve at their pleasure. The committee would be stripped of its responsibilities and be beholden to the selectmen and school board and not the townspeople who would have elected them.

This is a bad idea.

Because a small but vocal group feels that they aren't getting their way, meaning that the townspeople seem unwilling to bankrupt themselves in order to pay ever higher town employee salaries and benefits and feed the ever more hungry education system in town, they figure it's easier to do an end run around the checks and balances by doing away with them altogether. How is this in the best interests of the taxpayers?

It isn't. But don't try to tell the petitioners that.

Committee member Doug Lambert said of the petition, "it doesn't really speak well of the arguments they bring to the table."

He said he feels it is nothing more than a ploy by town employees to avoid scrutiny of their budgets, "rather than bring the issues into the light of publicity through the budget committee and debating these issues out in the open."


When asked how confident he was about the committee's odds of having enough support to defeat the petition, Lambert said he could not imagine that the average [town] resident sees the petitioned article as anything more than a ploy by those with vested interests.

"I cannot believe that the voters of [our town] will hand away a check they have on local government," said Lambert, adding that the whole reason the budget committee is elected, rather than appointed, is so that, if the voters do not agree with their actions, they can vote them out.

The budget committee's job is to make sure that the various town departments and school system can justify any proposed spending. Without this oversight it is likely that spending would increase at unsustainable levels, putting a severe strain on many of lower and middle income taxpayers within the town. This is something that I believe too many of the petitioners and their supporters are overlooking in their zeal to preserve what they see as necessary spending. To everyone else it might appear that they're trying to keep the taxpayer's purse string wide open while ignoring the consequences of such an action.

This problem is not limited to our town. Spending is always a controversial topic in any town. Some think their town is spending too much, others think that their town isn't spending enough, and yet others think their town is spending the right amount. Of the three, I tend to lean in the direction that our town is spending too much, no matter where I live.

If it is found that some need is truly underfunded, spending can be increased. But if it is overfunded, it's a good bet that every penny will be spent. The taxpayers aren't likely to get a refund. It's also quite common for some in a town to confuse nice-to-haves with need-to-haves. Our town is no different. Neither is yours.

Bypassing checks and balances, even if some of those checks and balances are partisan, may seem like the answer to the problem. But eventually that bypass will be a far bigger problem than the perceived problem such an end run was supposed to correct. The only ones that will end up paying for it are the taxpayers, and particularly those less able to pay the ever growing tax burden. It will have long term negative affects that will change the character of any town that does such a thing. (Yes, I know I'm stretching this a bit, but I've seen first hand how a scenario like this can play out, and it isn't pretty.)

Welcome to small town politics.

Locks Not As Secure As We Think

My wife received this via e-mail, and after seeing it I can see why it would be a good idea to update our traditional locks to more modern versions.


Now We Know We're In The 2008 Campaign Season

What is it that truly signals the start of the campaign for the 2008 Presidential hopefuls?

While many would say that it's the numerous visits by as of yet undeclared candidates or the creation of exploratory committees or the actual declarations by many of those same candidates, it turns out it isn't the case.

The single most telling event that shows us that the campaigns are starting in earnest is the announcement that CNN, WMUR-TV (Manchester, NH), and the Union Leader newspaper (Manchester, NH) will be hosting two debates for candidates over two nights, with the hopefuls of one party debating on the first night, April 4th, and those of the other on the night after, April 5th.

The home of the First Primary in the nation will also be the home of the First Debate.

CNN, WMUR and The New Hampshire Union Leader will hold the back-to-back debates on April 4 and 5, the first such events to be held of the 2008 presidential campaign. CNN's Wolf Blitzer will moderate the debates with questions coming from WMUR's Scott Spradling and Union-Leader's John DiStaso. WMUR's Jennifer Vaughn will be moderating questions from the audience. The debate will be televised live nationally on CNN and throughout New Hampshire on WMUR.

Once again New Hampshire will be the focus of the nation as the 2008 campaign season begins.


President Bush Speaks - First Impression And A Few Thoughts On The Matter

After watching President Bush's address to the American people, all I can say is “Bravo!”

Despite what his detractors may say, and I'm sure we'll be hearing from them in spades over the next few days, I believe he's got the right idea. Cut and run won't work and will only make matters worse. Using the additional troops will allow what I've heard called Clear, Hold, and Build to take root. Once an area has been cleared of insurgents – Ba'athist and jihadi/harahabi both – troops will remain in the cleared area to prevent them from returning. This will allow rebuilding of infrastructure and faith in the Iraqi government. It's long overdue.

A friend I've known for a long time, a Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran, said that too many parallels have been drawn between Vietnam and Iraq. Most of them are false, an attempt to turn Americans away from the job that needs to be finished. One thing he believes will happen if we abandon the Iraqi people will be a bloody purge that will rival that of post-war Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Millions died then. So it could be again if run away...again. I believe he's right.

As the President stated in his address, 80% of the insurgent and sectarian attacks take place within 30 miles of Baghdad. It is there these additional troops will focus their efforts, for Baghdad is the key to Iraq. If the insurgents there can be destroyed and the sectarian militias disarmed and dismantled, the Iraqi people have a chance. Iraqis, Sunni and Shi'a both, are tired of the attacks and the violence. They just want to live their lives in peace.

Let's give them that chance.


Thoughts On A Sunday

The balmy, way above normal weather is departing the area, with temps in central New Hampshire likely to be in the lower 50's or upper 40's today, compared with in the mid-60's yesterday.

What snow there was in this area is now gone, for the most part. At least there's none anywhere around The Manse.

Our refrigerator problems are still hounding us, with a repair technician showing up some time Monday. At least the over night temps tonight will let us store our perishables out on one of the decks, keeping them nice and cold.


It is not only the Congressional Democrats that are already dealing with scandals within its ranks, but here in New Hampshire as well.

The present chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party decided she was not going to run for re-election, figuring she'd done her job and wished to move on to other opportunities. No problem.

Her vice chairman, long time New Hampshire politico Ray Buckley, looked like a shoo-in for the position. But then scandal hit and Buckley decided not to run for the chairmanship. Though claiming the allegations made about him are false, and even if they are proven unfounded, his shot at party chairman is gone.


The New England Patriots advanced to the next round of playoffs by beating the New York Jets 37-16 in Foxboro.

The Pats head out to San Diego to take on the Chargers next Sunday.


Though just about everybody else in the blogosphere has linked to this, I figure it can'y hurt for me to do so, too.

Say hello to the real Bambi and Thumper.


It seems that Cindy Sheehan will do just about anything to remain in the public eye, including traveling to Cuba in order to protest and demand that the prison in Guantanamo Bay be closed.

Some detainees there have already been cleared and will be released soon. The remaining detainees are known illegal combatants with ties to al-Qaida and other extremist Islamic organizations.

But Cindy wants them removed from Guantanamo. That's all well and good. But what does she want us to do with them? Put them in the regular prison system? Release them? Both would endanger America and American citizens.


Of all of the general's that Bush could have chosen to take on the problems in Iraq, it appears to me that he's chosen the right one. In selecting Lt. General David Petraeus to become the top military commander in Iraq, he may have found his 'go to' guy to turn things around.

While commanding the 101st Airborne while they were in northern Iraq, he and his troops made a big difference in the lives of ordinary Iraqis and sent quite a lot of insurgents, both Iraqi and foreign jihadi alike, either to the grave or had them on the run. He truly had won the hearts and minds of the Iraqis in the area secured by the 101st.

This is the kind of guy we need commanding the Iraqi theater.


All too soon it will be time to return to work. That's one of the few things I dislike about Sunday evenings – the reminder that tomorrow morning I've got to get up before the sun rises and get ready for work. The work itself I like. It's just the idea of being up before 6AM to make sure that I have enough time to get myself ready for work and BeezleBub ready for school.

Once more into the breach, dear friends....


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where once again some hearty souls are plying the waters of the lake, winter seems to be hiding, and where I now must go to bed.


An Interesting Perspective

Received via e-mail and edited for clarity:


Up here, in the " Mile-High City ", we just recovered from a Historic event---may I even say a "Weather Event" of "Biblical Proportions" --- with a historic blizzard of up to 44" inches of snow and winds to 90 MPH that broke trees in half, knocked down utility poles, stranded hundreds of motorists in lethal snow banks, closed ALL roads, isolated scores of communities and cut power to ten's of thousands.


George Bush did not come.

FEMA did nothing.

No one howled for the government.

No one blamed the government.

No one even uttered an expletive on TV.

Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton did not visit.

Our Mayor did not blame Bush or anyone else.

Our Governor did not blame Bush or anyone else, either.

CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC did not visit - or report on this category 5 snowstorm. Nobody demanded $2,000 debit cards.

No one asked for a FEMA Trailer House.

No one looted.

Nobody - I mean nobody demanded the government do something.

Nobody expected the government to do anything, either.

No Larry King. No Shepard Smith. No Oprah. No Chris Mathews

No Sean Penn. No Barbara Streisand. No Hollywood types to be found.

Nope, we just melted the snow for water.

Sent out caravans of SUV's to pluck people out of snow engulfed cars.

The truck drivers pulled people out of snow banks and didn't ask for a penny.

Local restaurants made food and the police and fire departments delivered it to the snowbound families.

Families took in the stranded people - total strangers.

We fired up wood stoves, broke out coal oil lanterns or Coleman lanterns.

We put on extra layers of clothes because up here it is "Work or Die".

We did not wait for some affirmative action government to get us out of a mess created by being immobilized by a welfare program that trades votes for 'sittin at home' checks.

Even though a Category "5" blizzard of this scale has never fallen this early, we know it can happen and how to deal with it ourselves.

"In my many travels, I have noticed that once one gets north of about 48 degrees North Latitude, 90% of the world's social problems evaporate."

It does seem that way, at least to me.

I hope this gets passed on.

Maybe SOME people will get the message. The world does not owe you a living.

I might have said north of about 40 degrees North Latitude, as 48 degrees puts one almost in to Canada. Other than that, I would have to agree with many of the sentiments expressed in the e-mail.

Mind you, Denver didn't see the kind of destruction that the Gulf Coast suffered at the hands of Hurricane Katrina, but still there are lessons to be learned.

Warm Enough For You?

Unless you've been buried in your basement, you know how unseasonable warm it's been along the East Coast in the US. Here in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire it reached 65 degrees today. 65 degrees. In January.

I'm not complaining. Well, not much.

While I like the fact that with temperatures like this there's no need to run either the woodstove or the furnace, there are definite downsides.

One of the biggest ones, at least in this state, is the lack of winter tourist dollars. There's no skiing, no snowmobiling, no sales of winter goods. That's not a good thing, economically.

Frankly, the timing could have been better.

You see, last night our 6-year old refrigerator decided that it wasn't going to refrigerate any more. It's a big inconvenience, but not a disaster by any means. But the thing that gets me, that sets my teeth on edge, is that had this been a normal winter here in New England it would have been a simple matter to put the various refrigerated and frozen foods in coolers and put them outside on one of the decks, thereby keeping them cold. No muss, no fuss. But no, we had to have some of the warmest January weather in over 60 years, meaning that we had to go out to one of the local general stores and buy ice to fill our coolers.

Buying ice. In January. In New England.

What is this world coming to?


Congress Changes Hands

The 110th Congress has convened, passing the reins of power over to the new majority party. The new Speaker of the House made history by being the first woman ever elected to the position.

The Democrats have control of Congress. It's their turn to run the show.

They better not screw it up.

Already there are questions about the ethics of one Democrat headed for a committee chairmanship, ethics that the Democratic leadership appears to be reluctant to question. Will the Democrats keep their promise to clean up the House or will their efforts apply only to Republicans they dislike? We shall see.

Will they stay the course on taxes and extend the Bush tax cuts? Will they cut spending and put earmarks into the public eye? Or will they begin a tax and spend orgy, putting the economy into a tail spin because they've sucked so much money out of the economy to fund ever more expensive and useless social programs? Only time will tell.

This will be the first new Congress that will have to deal with a blogosphere that will be watching their every move, ready to blow the whistle on partisan maneuvers that benefit no one but the congressional incumbents. The old “the people don't really know what they want/need, but we do”attitude won't cut it this time around. Too many of the American public watching. We are watching. We have our keyboards and our pajamas and we're not afraid to use them.

They better not screw it up.


Oil Problems In Iran And Venezuela

It seems somehow correct that two thorns in America's side may be sowing the seeds of their own decline, if not fall, in regards to their domestic policies. Both Iran and Venezuela have been ignoring the infrastructure that supports their respective oil industries. Iran's neglect has been endemic since the fall of the Shah back in 1979. Venezuela's problems started when Hugo Chavez took office and replaced knowledgeable petroleum managers and engineers in Venezuela's oil company, Citgo, with political cronies with little or no knowledge or experience in running such a venture. Chavez is pissing away his country's wealth with his social giveaways while doing little to preserve the ability to exploit the source of that wealth.

What are the consequences when such self-made catastrophes come to pass?

In Iran, oil production has been falling while domestic demand has increased. Oil exports have declined 10 percent per year while domestic demand has increased 6 percent per year. At some point the two will cross each other and Iran won't be able to supply enough oil for its own use, let alone to generate much needed foreign sales. Also, Iran's lack or refining capacity means that it will be even more dependent upon foreign refineries to meet its needs, not a good formula for economic prosperity. It certainly explains their claims that they need nuclear power to meet their energy needs, despite their large oil reserves. But the money Iran is spending on nuclear research could be better used to repair and upgrade the existing petroleum infrastructure. However, as the article linked above explains, they don't want to “wait the four to six years to see a return on investment.” If nuclear power development does not continue apace, they could see ever increasing power shortages and forced power cuts to ration the dwindling power supply.

If the revenues continue to fall off, social unrest is a likely scenario because the mullahs won't be able to fund the social and military spending as they have in the past. As social services start suffering cutbacks and military spending drops off, neither the public nor the military is going to like the downward spiral. At some point there is going to be protests, then open rebellion, but the mullahs won't have the support they need to quash it. It's possible we could see a second Iranian Revolution, this time with the mullahs and their puppet government being overthrown.

In Venezuela, the situation is different, but the outcome could end up being the same.

As I mentioned earlier, Chavez is spending his nation's capital while at the same time jeopardizing the source of that wealth by ignoring the infrastructure that generates that wealth. While placating the poor in Venezuela with massive social programs, he is ignoring the physical infrastructure that allows the nation to function. While the petroleum infrastructure is important, it is the more traditional civil infrastructure – roads, bridges, highways, water and sewage systems, etc - that is suffering due to Chavez's spending on social programs, both domestic and foreign. In fact, because needed repairs were not done, a major bridge that links the Venezuelan capitol of Caracas with two airports as well as the country's second largest seaport failed, cutting off the city from easy access to them all. A trip that used to take an hour now takes all day. That certainly can't be good for the local economy.

Chavez has also been using some of Venezuela's oil wealth to embarrass the Bush Administration, offering home heating oil to needy Americans at well below market prices. While it is a PR coup for Chavez, it is eating away at Venezuela's oil revenues, something it really can't afford.

Should the petroleum infrastructure collapse, as in Iran, unrest wouldn't be all that far behind. But in Venezuela it may not be those with democratic ideals who might try to fill the gap. As always, the drug cartels have lots of cash and are willing to use it to usurp governments. It wouldn't be all that difficult to co-opt Chavez, or if it comes to that eliminate him and replace him with a puppet that will do anything the cartels want. It was very much like that in Colombia, though there were also Marxist revolutionaries involved in the mix.

Two nations with incredible wealth are squandering chances to do good with it, instead focusing on what will be seen as inconsequentials rather than “taking care of business” for their people.

While a failure of Chavez's government may or may not have a great effect on the world economy, the crippling of the Iranian Islamic regime could have political repercussions all throughout the Middle East and economic effects worldwide.

Mexico could be another oil producing country to add to the list. Mexico's petroleum infrastructure isn't in any better shape than Iran's and is in as much danger of collapse as Iran's, which does not bode well for the US. But that's a story for another post.


Predictions And Resolutions - A Look Back And Ahead

This is a post I should have made yesterday, but there were other, more pressing events that pre-empted that. It's not that this post is all that important, but if nothing else it will let me look back on last year's predictions and resolutions and check on their accuracy and whether I actually kept them.

First, let's look at last year's resolutions and see how I did:

Resolution: Get back into fightin' trim. I did a little backsliding on my weight, but I'm still nowhere near what I used to be. I'll be back at 190 pounds by the time we launch The Boat this spring.
Results: Not even close.

Launch The Boat before Memorial Day. This past year we didn't get it into the water until the third week of June. Of course, May 2005 was cold, wet, and generally a miserable month, weather-wise. Even if we'd launched it May it would have sat at the slip unused until the beginning of June.
Results: The boat was in well before Memorial Day!

Find a good used pickup truck. Hey, we need one for hauling trash to the dump and towing The Boat. Of course it's gotta be a 4X4 considering the kind of weather we get here in N'Hampsha. But not an SUV or one of those wannabe sorta pickups. It's got to be a workin' truck!
Results: Not yet.

Revive the Paugus Diner Poll©. Now that we'll be entering the 2006 political silly season, also known as mid-term elections, I'll have to pay closer attention to public opinion. Though my poll is in no way scientific I believe that when I pose questions to the patrons of the Paugus Diner that I'm not using questions designed to elicit a predetermined result. I also allow a full range of answers, not just a multiple choice selection also designed to give a predetermined result.
Results: In progress for the upcoming 2008 New Hampshire Primary. Expect to start seeing poll results some time late in 2007.

Finish the Trilogy. I've completed two of the three novels in a trilogy I've been working on for a couple of years. I put aside the third volume only a third finished due to familial time constraints over the past 8 months.
Results: Not done, but farther along than I expected. The last book is turning out to be far longer than I had planned. Sometimes it just goes that way.

Take a closer look at the local and state political atmosphere. I've been slacking at that, something I'm usually pretty good at doing. I've let too many of the local pols slide and it's time I got back to hammering away at these folks who are spending our money and not doing a very good job of it.
Results: I have to give this one a 50/50. I could certainly do better.

Raise hell at Town Meeting. Oh, yeah! That's gonna be interesting, particularly when they try to convince us that a town of approximately 6,000 year round residents needs to spend one-third the cost of the new middle school for a police station. Somehow, $3.33 million seems like it's a little much for a small police force, don't you think?
Results: Done. Sort of. I also raised a few small points during the School District meeting, too. I could do a hell of a lot better.

Actually take and post more pictures to the blog. Hell, maybe I'll actually get around to it this coming year.
Results: Not even close. I did put up a few pics here and there, but not nearly as many as I'd hoped.

Never make a New Year's Resolution list ever again. Yeah, like that will ever happen.....
Results: Busted!

Over all, not great. Not bad, but not great.

Taking a look at some observations and predictions from last year, some things came true, others didn't.

In politics we've seen the Democrats melting down as more of the fringe elements have taken control of the party while marginalizing the moderate members. The Republicans have squandered their majority position in Congress and in the process have become the party of big spending and big government, the antithesis of their supposed raison d'etre.

Time, and elections, have proven some of the point. Republicans lost control of the House and Senate in Congress, as well as in a number of state legislatures. In my estimation, as well as that of at least one Democratic analyst, it wasn't so much an endorsement of the Democratic agenda as it was a rebellion against Republican spendthrifts. The fringes of the Democratic party are still trying to marginalize the moderates, an example of that being how the DNC treated Joe Lieberman.

The war in Iraq has been the focus all throughout the year, with competing viewpoints clamoring for dominance among the Main Stream Media and bloggers. The MSM keeps implying we're losing while the 'boots on the ground' mil-bloggers paint an entirely different picture. “Which one is right?” has been the question since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Not much has changed here except that too many of the American public are buying the “We're losing!” line from the MSM. Many Americans seem to think that we can just pull out from Iraq without there being any consequences, an action that will have deadly results. To quote Winston Churchill, “One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half.” This is a lesson that too many Americans have ignored. By giving the impression that we can't or won't stick out a difficult war or protracted battle, we give out enemies license to come after us again and again and again. And they will, knowing that after a while they can wear down the will of the American people by using our own media against us. There's a phrase that comes to mind when I think of such a thing – Surrender by stages. That is what many on the Left and within the MSM appear to be promoting. Never mind that they would be unlikely to survive such a surrender better than anyone else.

So my track record in regards to last year's resolutions and observations/predictions isn't all that great. I did call it correctly in regards to the Red Sox not making it to the World Series in 2006, but blew it big when it came to the Patriots pulling off a third consecutive Super Bowl win.

I don't really have any new resolutions to bring forward as I'm still working on last year's. When it comes to predictions, I am willing to make a few. Here goes:

The Democratic House will try to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the rich (meaning folks like you and me, folks that have jobs) but will fail, either because some of the Democrats in the House realize that it would be political suicide or because the President will veto any such legislation.

Nancy Pelosi will realize, if she hasn't already, that wanting to be Speaker of the House and being the Speaker of the House are two entirely different things. She will also realize that she is now under a sharply focused microscope and won't be as free to act in pushing forward her leftist agenda as she has in the past.

Despite the mid-term election losses, the Republicans will rebound, with many of the neo-cons being pushed aside and the more moderate and pragmatic conservative Republicans retaking some seats in the House and Senate. The Republicans will regain the majority in the Senate in 2008, but only by one or two seats.

The MSM will find themselves coming under increasing criticism and scrutiny by both bloggers and the public in general. Some of the larger newspapers, specifically the New York Times and the Boston Globe, a NYT organ, will see dramatic drops in readership. Some MSM outlets will be found to be nothing more than public mouthpieces for the jihadist/harabahi organizations in the Middle East, much like CNN was for the Ba'athists in Iraq.

There will be more Iranian interference discovered in Iraq, particularly by the intelligence services and the Pasdaran, trying to foment more unrest by the Shiites. The focus of their efforts will be found to be their puppet, Moqtada al-Sadr. Prime Minister Maliki will be forced to dissolve the various militias by force. Militia moles will be purged from the police force and Iraqi Defense Forces.

We'll check back at the beginning of next year to see how close I've come. One or two of these predictions may not play put until late in 2008, but I'm willing to wait.