Local Darwin Award Nominees

It's been a while since I've even thought about the Darwin Awards, let alone posted anything about nominees or recipients. This time I have two local nominees that succeeded in removing themselves from the gene pool in an electrifying manor.

Roland Farland of Nashua, NH and Gary Rich or Manchester, NH decided they could make some quick cash by recycling copper power cables. Unfortunately the copper cables they decided needed 'recycling' happened to be carrying 13,000 volts.

The two men had gotten inside the security fencing surrounding electrical equipment that provided power to a vacant factory in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts, just across the border from New Hampshire. When they cut through a cable they apparently thought was grounded, they were really cutting through a live high voltage line. Both were electrocuted and died at the scene.

What a reVOLTing development!


The 'Witch Hunt' Begins

Considering how Scooter Libby got hosed I can certainly understand why Monica Goodling, the Justice Department's White House liaison, has no desire to go before the Senate Judiciary committee. She sees it for what it is – a witch hunt.

Had the eight US Attorneys been fired by a Democratic president none of this would be happening. This is nothing more than BDS taken to an ever larger extreme.

Sad to say, this is one more unfortunate result of the Beltway's modern habit of criminalizing political differences, a la the Scooter Libby travesty. Congress has the right to conduct oversight of the executive, and in a better world government officials would be willing to testify and give as good as they get. Thus would the public be educated about the facts and policy differences be aired.

But Ms. Goodling has been around, and she can see Democrats don't really want to know the truth; they want to shout "liar, liar" and set the stage to accuse Justice officials of criminal behavior. In a statement to the committee explaining her decision, Ms. Goodling said, "I have read public remarks by members of both the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary in which those members have drawn conclusions about the subject matter and the testimony now under investigation by the Committee." We've read them, too.

(emphasis mine)

This is all about payback for slights real and perceived, mostly the latter. Like any 'investigation' it can be turned into an inquisition that will find wrongdoing even where none exists. Reputations will be destroyed for the sake of exercising power. And if the Democrats think there won't be a backlash, they are sadly mistaken. Should they continue to pursue this course of action they may well find that the American public will see them for what they are, and that will mean that they could end up handing both chambers of Congress back to the GOP. It cold also spell doom for the Democrats in the race for the White House.

Lunatics Even The Lunatic Fringe Doesn't Like

There is the lunatic fringe, and then there's the lunatic fringe. I think these folks make even the 'regular' lunatic fringe uncomfortable.

These folks want us all to go back to living in caves. I'm not being rhetorical here. I mean they really want us all to go back to a hunter gatherer existence. Their aim is to destroy modern civilization and send us back 25,000 years all in an effort to “save the planet.” One in particular seems to have an idealistic vision of what it would be like.

"I want to bring down civilization. I’m interested in living in a world that has more wild salmon every year than the year before. A world that has more migratory songbirds every year than the year before; a world that has less dioxins and flame retardants in mothers’ breast milk; a world that is not being destroyed; a world where krill populations aren’t collapsing; a world where there aren’t dead zones in the oceans; a world not being systematically dismantled. I want to live in a world that is not being killed, and I will do whatever it takes to get there. It is really clear that for the past 6000 years, civilization has been killing the planet. I’m on the planet’s side."

Never mind that the success of Mr. Jensen's efforts would result in the deaths of tens (hundreds? thousands?) of millions of people (not including nonhumans) - the krill will be fine.

If those like Jensen truly want to live their utopian vision, I say let them give it a try for some period of time. Drop them off on some sufficiently deserted area and let them live off the land for a year or so. No modern implements – knives, axes, garments made from woven cloth, shoes, etc – will be allowed. Then after a year or two go back and see how they're doing. I'll bet we'd find one of two things: either they'll be dead or they'll be so happy to return to the modern civilization they so hate.

It's one thing to have a dream, a vision. It's another thing to live it.

I think these lunatics will discover something that our ancestors knew all too well. Living the type of existence that they desire will prove to be brutal, painful, and short. It won't be paradise they will experience.


Thoughts On A Sunday

Mother Nature threw us one more curve ball, sending us a little more snow just to remind us that we live in New England. Jere at The Manse we saw less than an inch of the heavy wet stuff, barely worth shoveling. In fact, I let Mother Nature clean up what she sent us rather than going out there with the snow shovel.


BeezleBub is at the WP In-Laws this weekend, collecting sap for his grandfather's syrup-making operation. This is something he looks forward to every year.

The WP Father-In-Law has mentioned expanding his sugaring operation, which would include a new building to hold a bigger evaporator and more taps and tubing in order to tap more maples and collect more sap.

It takes a lot of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. After all is said and done 40 gallons of sap is boiled down to make one gallon of syrup. But it's well worth the effort.


Once again I was a guest on the radio program “Meet The New Press” (podcasts available here). The question of the day dealt with the death penalty in New Hampshire, and particularly with the capital murder trial of Michael “Stix” Addison, who allegedly murdered Manchester, NH police officer Micheal Briggs during a domestic violence call.

New Hampshire still has the death penalty on the books, but it is very narrowly defined. The last execution in the state took place in 1939 and the last time the death penalty was sought was in September 1997, after Gordon Perry shot and killed Epsom police officer Jeremy Charron during a routine traffic stop. Perry escaped the death penalty by pleading guilty to first degree murder.

Of those of us in the studio, three were for the death penalty, one was against it. And of the three of us supporting the death penalty, one wanted the definition of capital murder broadened to include all forms of murder rather than the covering just a few 'protected' classes. The definition of capital murder in New Hampshire under NH RSA 630:1 is as follows:

A person is guilty of capital murder if he knowingly causes the death of:

- A sheriff or deputy sheriff, state trooper, constable or police officer of a city or town, correctional officer, probation-parole officer, conservation officer, judge or similar person, state or local prosecutor acting in the line of duty or in retaliation for their job.

- Another before, after, while engaged or attempting to commit a kidnapping as defined by RSA 633:1

- Another after conspiring with another to commit a contract killing.

- Another after being sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

- Another before, after, while engaged or attempting to commit aggravated felonious sexual assault, as defined in RSA 632-A:2.

- Another before, after, while engaged or attempting to commit an offense punishable under RSA 318-B:26, I(a) or (b) of the Controlled Drug Act.

The list is relatively short. At the moment there are no inmates on death row and there haven't been any since 1939. So it is rare when someone is indicted for capital murder in this state.

I think it's just as it should be.


Now on the international front, it looks like Robert Mugabe may be at the end days of his regime.

It's about friggin' time.

(H/T Viking Pundit)


Wavemaker has a thoughtful post about the brouhaha over the eight fired US Attorneys. Basically it comes down to whether the Congress has the right to subpoena anyone at the White House, especially if there is absolutely no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

What we have instead is a bunch of partisan assholes seeking to abuse their subpoena power to go fishing for evidence they can't obtain through their already quite extensive means (i.e., cooperation of the disgruntled dismissees, for a start) -- in other words, they have nothing, there is nothing.

I am ever more convinced that this is yet another manifestation of Bush Derangement Syndrome.


There's stupid legislation, and then there's really stupid legislation. I'm ashamed to admit that the latest piece if really stupid legislation has come from the New Hampshire House, to whit, banning the release of helium filled balloons into the air.

House Bill 62 would make it a misdemeanor to accidentally or intentionally release a balloon, with a fine of up to $250.

At first this doesn't sound all that bad. Then you realize that it could mean that some poor kid that's just lost a balloon bought at a fair or carnival could be charged under the law. It's legislative insanity.

You'd think the New Hampshire House would have more important things to take care of.


Here's another ringing endorsement for Fred Thompson to run for President. While Kim's post is mostly a verbatim quote from a Patriot Post article, it does cut to the heart of the matter: Fred is eminently electable, a candidate that can beat the Dems in 2008. Many of those commenting on Kim's post see Thompson as the next Ronald Reagan. I'm beginning to think they may be right.


Bill Hobbs also comments on Fred Thompson's chances should he decide to enter the fray.


Matt Koenig, aka Smash, has a lengthy post with lots of pictures covering the activities at the anti-war rally and march in Washington DC last weekend and the counter-protest by the Gathering of Eagles.

During the third and fourth of his posts in the series, he talks about his infiltration into the march by the peace/anti-war activists. One observation he makes is that some of the few so-called veterans against the war he saw and talked to during the march were poseurs and not veterans.

There are really only a dozen or so people who could pass for Iraq veterans in this march -- just enough to fill a single row, standing shoulder to shoulder across two traffic lanes -- and judging from the way they wear their "uniforms," walk, and comport themselves, I'm doubtful that some of them ever served a day in the military. Many of the women appear to be wives or girlfriends tagging along for the march, wearing their partners' jackets.

The only piece of military gear that I'm wearing is a desert boonie hat. A few people ask my name, and where I'm from, but nobody digs any deeper than that. I could have bought this hat online, and they would be none the wiser. There isn't the slightest bit of curiousity [sic] about my branch of service, or whether I've actually been to Iraq or even the Middle East.

For all they know, I could be another Jesse Macbeth. Or worse, an infiltrator.

How pathetic.


The effects of the real estate market deflation are still being felt. New home sales have fallen off across the nation, but existing home sales in the Northeast still appear strong, though at a lower rate than during the peak.

One of the effects of the downturn in the market has been the increasing number of foreclosures. In New Hampshire the number of foreclosures went up dramatically as compared to the same period last year. In January 2006 there were 79 foreclosures while in January 2007 there were 157. In February 2006 there were 41 compared to 130 in February 2007. The trend has been the same across the nation.

If I had to guess, most of those foreclosures have been on sub-prime mortgages. With the deflation of the real estate bubble, holders of sub-prime mortgages couldn't sell their homes when their payments ballooned beyond their ability to pay. If the market had remained somewhat strong they probably could have sold off their homes before they defaulted on their mortgages and we probably wouldn't be seeing the rapid increase in foreclosures.

It's still not as bad as the real estate crash of the late 80's/early 90's. One of main differences appears to be that it isn't the banks that are suffering from non-performing mortgages. For the most part banks learned the lessons from the last crash and were very careful when they did issue mortgages. This time around it's other financial institutions and corporations feeling the pain, many of them being on Wall Street.


Speaking of the real estate market, today I had a chance to talk with the Official Weekend Pundit Real Estate Agent, Wes. We talked about the market in his part of New Hampshire and he pretty much confirmed something that I had thought would be evident to most savvy folks, but wasn't.

Though the market is down, it isn't down everywhere. But the perception the media gives is the market has collapsed everywhere, something that is actually starting to hurt the few regions in the country where the market is still relatively strong.

Wes related the story of one client trying to sell their home in southwestern New Hampshire in order to buy one somewhere on Cape Cod. What they've found is that homes are listed for a very short time on the Cape before they're sold and that home prices on the Cape are a lot higher than in southwestern New Hampshire. That flies in the face of many of the media reports saying that it's a buyer's market throughout the country. It wouldn't be a surprise to learn that most areas where there are recreational attractions – seashores, lakes, etc. - are still doing pretty well.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the snows are quickly melting away, the time to get the bobhouses of the ice is quickly approaching, and where Presidential politics is starting to heat up.


Iraq Funding Bill Shows Democrats Do Not Understand History

It has become quite apparent that a large number of the Democrats in Congress are not students of history. Nor are they able to look far enough ahead to forecast the effects of their actions, or lack thereof.

A prime example of lack of foresight and ignorance of history was today's vote in the House of Representatives on supplemental funding for our ongoing military efforts in Iraq. In and of itself, the appropriations bill gave more money than the President had requested - $124 billion versus the $100 billion requested by the the White House. Unfortunately most of those extra funds were for pork barrel spending having nothing to do with the war in any way, shape, or form. However, the one thing that will cause the President to veto the much needed money is the proviso in the bill that the President must abandon the Iraqi people by September 2008.

Of course, the Democrats haven't phrased it that way and don't think of it that way. Instead, they claim it's a measure designed to force the President to bring the troops home because it's the will of the American people. Obviously the Dems haven't been paying attention to their own polls. While the American people do want to bring our troops home, they don't want to leave the job unfinished. For most Americans 'finishing the job' means victory. But not the victory that the Dems propose. This is where their ignorance of history comes in.

Looking back to the 1973-1975, American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, leaving the South Vietnamese to continue the battle alone. Then Congress – a Democratic majority Congress – cut off funding to the South Vietnamese, leaving them to their fate.

What was the outcome of this double abandonment? Millions of deaths that might otherwise have been prevented. The Democrats got their way on Vietnam, declaring victory and bringing the troops home. But the job was unfinished. That didn't matter worth a damn to them. It didn't matter to them the millions that died at the hands of the victorious Communists in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

I see the same thing happening in Iraq. First we will withdraw our troops. Then we will cut off funding to the Iraqis. After that, the bloodbath will begin. I can see the millions of deaths that will be the result of the Democrat's cowardly act. And that won't be the end of it because once the jihadis/harabahis have finished killing over there they will again set their sights here. The effect of giving up in Iraq will be bringing the War on Terror back to our own shores.

As proof that the Dems just don't get, here's a quote by New Hampshire's Congresswoman from the 1st Congressional District, US Representative Carol Shea-Porter:

“We have the reached the beginning of the end of the war in Iraq.”

Unfortunately she has that exactly wrong. What we have here is the end of the beginning of the War on Terror, a war that will be far longer and bloodier because she and her Democratic brethren have decided to give up and accept defeat. Calling it victory changes nothing and cheapens the lives already lost in this struggle. Too many of the Democrats have likened the war in Iraq to the one in Vietnam. Now it looks like they're going to make sure that it turns out the same way.

New Hampshire Governor's Term To Remain Two Years

New Hampshire, like Vermont, have a the distinction of being the only states where their governor serves a two-year term. Recently the New Hampshire House decided that was a good thing.

There were a number of Democrats in the House that thought four years would be a better idea, but the statewide newspaper asked in an editorial, “How did you like years three and four of the [Craig] Benson administration?”

Trick question. Republican Craig Benson was governor for only two years. What would have been years three and four of the Benson administration were actually years one and two of the Lynch administration. That's because New Hampshire has two-year terms for governor.

While former Governor Craig Benson had some interesting ideas worth considering and/or implementing, his administrative style was disastrous, sowing discontent and acrimony across political lines. Any chance he had of getting his ideas put into use were killed by his less than accommodating management style. He found out that what works in the boardroom of a multi-million dollar corporation doesn't work in the corner office of the State House. Even as a supporter of Benson I have to admit that it was a good thing that we only had to deal with him for two years.

Two year terms have served the people of New Hampshire well. I see no reason to change it unless it becomes a problem and, as far as I can tell, there is no problem. I've never liked changing things just because someone feels there should be one. Give me a good reason and I'll be all for it. Otherwise, leave it be.


A Safe Place To Live

Once again the state of New Hampshire was listed as one of the safest states in which to live.

New Hampshire ranked fourth over all, behind Maine, Vermont, and North Dakota, which ranked first.

Conversely, Nevada was ranked as the most dangerous state.

I guess what goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas.....


The Law Of Unintended Consequences

John Stossel brings up a good point – What if laws or safety regulations that are meant to protect us actually make things worse?

It's not the first time I've ever pondered such a thing and, from reading Stossel's commentary, the same is true for him.

Whenever someone is hurt in an accident, people say, "There ought to be a law!" Politicians rush to oblige them and then take credit for all the lives they saved.

But shouldn't they also accept blame for the lives lost because of those laws?

Lives lost? Yes. A joint study by the Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute found that government regulations that are supposed to save lives actually end up killing more people.

Why? Because safety laws almost always have unintended bad consequences.

Quite often laws or regulations that are meant to increase the safety of the public have just the opposite effect. When safety precautions are enacted – Stossel used bicycle helmets as an example – both those making use of the precautions and those nearby start taking them for granted and let down their guard, meaning that both parties are less mindful of dangerous situations. More often then not this leads to an increase in the very incidents the new laws or regulations were supposed to stop. In effect, it made people more reckless than they otherwise would have been had these precautions had not been mandated. The people became complacent.

Stossel cites other examples of the unintended consequences of safety laws and regulations. There was also a lively discussion about this in the Comments section following the column.

Thompson Is Sounding Like A Candidate

Though Fred Thompson hasn't announced his intentions in regards to a Presidential run, he's certainly sounding more like a candidate every day.

In an interview with John Fund, Thompson was sounding mighty presidential to me.

...Mr. Thompson appears serene about all the speculation swirling around him. "Those running are all good guys, and would be good presidents," he says leaning back in a recliner. "But there are truly vital issues--from the looming entitlement crisis to nuclear proliferation--I'm not afraid to talk about. Lots of people have such a low regard for politicians that they're open to a campaign that would be completely different."

So how would a possible Thompson campaign be distinctive? "Politics is now one big 24-hour news cycle, but we seem to spend less time than ever on real substance," he muses. "What if someone harnessed the Internet and other technologies and insisted in talking about real issues in more depth than consultants would advise? What if they took risks with their race in hopes that the risks to our children could be reduced through building a mandate for good policy?"

I think at this point almost anything different would be attractive, with so many voters in both parties having become rather cynical. If Thompson can pull it off and dig deeply into the issues, I'd say he's got a decent shot at it. It's a shame that the Democrats don't have someone as equally compelling as Thompson. It would make for a great race.


Thoughts On A Sunday

We had very warm weather last week, enough to make my eye The Boat and wonder when we'd be able to pull the storage cover off of her and get her ready to go back into the water. The end of the week brought a Nor'easter and a quick return to winter.

BeezleBub and I were out mid-morning yesterday after the snow/sleet mix had stopped falling, using the Official Weekend Pundit Snow Blower to remove the 8 inches of snow the storm had dumped on us. Hopefully this will be the last time we'll have to fire it up this year. (Yeah. Right.)

I don't expect that the snow will last all that long considering we were already seeing a lot of melting as we ran errands yesterday afternoon. And I'm still hoping to pull the storage cover off sometime next weekend.....


Raven, a fellow New Hampshire resident, is also a fellow manual transmission enthusiast.

I have never really liked automatic transmissions, and of all of the vehicles I have owned over the past 35 years, only one was an automatic. There were others owned by my parents that I drove when I was a teenager that were automatics, but even then there was only one of those that I drove on a semi-regular basis. Otherwise I drove the old 1968 Dodge ¾-ton pickup we had back then.

I'll be doing my darnedest to make sure that the next vehicle we buy will have a manual transmission.


Jay Solo brings back memories of the early days of personal computing. Do any of you out there remember the Commodore PET/VIC-20/64/128/Amiga, the Radio Shack TRS-80, TRS-80 Model 100, or the Color Computer (the Co-Co)?


Blogmeister Pam and her husband joined the Gathering of Eagles on the Mall in Washington DC yesterday as a counter to the anti-war protesters holding their rally. Pam heard that the Gathering of Eagles drew more people than the anti-American ANSWER rally. Somehow I am not surprised.

Here in New Hampshire, the anti-war rally scheduled to be held in front of the State House in Concord drew one lonely and confused 'peace' activist while our own little Gathering of Eagles, which included the Blue Star and Gold Star Mothers, drew a much larger group about 40 times that size to counter-protest. I guess the lack of attendance by the anti-war group either showed their inability to deal with New Hampshire weather or their preference for green beer to help celebrate Saint Patrick's Day. Or maybe there aren't enough anti-war protesters in this state to go around.

Michelle Malkin was there as well (no surprise) and she has photos, commentary, and plenty of links, too.


Is Europe doomed?

(H/T Instapundit)


It's no surprise to me that foreclosures on homes with sub-prime mortgages have climbed precipitously now that the introductory interest rates expired and were reset to some figure well above the prime, in many cases raising the monthly payments beyond the ability of many of these mortgage holders to pay. Many of those in trouble can't sell their homes because the real estate market is soft and very few are buying. Some borrowers are upside down on their mortgages, owing more than their homes are worth.

This is very much like a repeat of the real estate bust of the late 1980's/early 1990's, the only difference being that there's no recession to fuel an even deeper real estate market crash. Back then lenders gave mortgages to unqualified borrowers and, even worse, gave mortgages with terms that were so odious that they left the mortgage holders as deep in debt at the end of the mortgage as at the beginning. Such financial shenanigans caused a number of banks and other lending institutions into receivership. A lot of bank officials ended up in prison for predatory or fraudulent lending practices.

The fallout from the present day sub-prime lending isn't nearly as severe as it was back then, but a few of the larger financial organizations are in trouble, ordered to cease writing loans. Some are on the edge of bankruptcy. Mutual funds tied to these sub-prime lenders will also feel the pain.

One would think that the banks and mortgage companies would have learned the lessons of the real estate market bust of the late 80's, but it has become quite obvious that far too many of them didn't and repeated the mistakes from back then.

I guess George Santayana was right.


Bogie tells us that many of the residents in her section of the small rural New Hampshire town where she resides don't seem to hang around for very long. Personally I think many of those moving in to her town “from away” don't understand what country living is really all about. After a year or two they've had enough and end up leaving and moving closer to what they consider 'civilization'.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where winter has tried to stick around just a little longer, “Frost Heave” signs have made their appearance, and where we are one day closer to Ice Out.


More On The 'Fired' US Attorneys Kerfuffle

As more information has been revealed about the 'firing' of 8 US attorneys, I've come to realize that much of the brouhaha is much ado about nothing. As I mentioned in this post, US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. More than eight have been 'let go' in the past with little fanfare. During President Clinton's term, he canned all 93 US Attorneys at the same time, but little was said in the media or Congress.

Now it turns out that these 'fired' US Attorneys had reached the end of their appointment terms (4 years) and, as is usually the custom, they were retained until their replacements were appointed. (Much different than during Clinton's cleaning house, when the sitting US Attorneys were given ten days to clean out their offices and finish up their paperwork.)

One of the eight I mentioned in my earlier post, John McKay, was let go for a very good reason: he failed to fulfill his duties by investigating blatant episodes of voter fraud in Washington state. I guess some folks don't realize that voter fraud is a serious issue that must be addressed by the authorities, otherwise our representative democracy will be put into peril by ever decreasing confidence and increasing cynicism in our electoral system. It seems that McKay couldn't be bothered as he had more important things to do.

Another of the eight, Carol Lam, apparently had some real performance issues, with the number of cases she was prosecuting declining and the number of prosecutions she won declining even faster. Allegations were made in the L.A. Times that she had been targeted for firing in retribution for her involvement with the Randy “Duke” Cunningham case. But as Patterico has proven, she had been listed for termination well before any of that had taken place due to her poor performance.

I can't speak to the other six members of the “Group of Eight”, but if they had reached the end of their appointment terms and the President decided they weren't going to be reappointed, then that's entirely up to him/her. It isn't up to Congress. It isn't up to the L.A. Times or New York Times. It's up to the President of the United States, period.

This is nothing new in our history. If Congress wants to get all bent out of shape about these eight, then perhaps they should also look back into Clinton's simultaneous firing of all 93 US Attorneys during his administration.

But we know they won't.


8 vs. 93

Isn't it interesting that while President Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez are roundly criticized and Congressional Democrats are looking for wrongdoing after 8 US Attorneys are dismissed, former President Bill Clinton and former Attorney General Janet Reno raised nary an eyebrow after all 93 US Attorneys were dismissed during their tenure?

Congressional Democrats are in full cry over the news this week that the Administration's decision to fire eight U.S. Attorneys originated from--gasp--the White House. Senator Hillary Clinton joined the fun yesterday, blaming President Bush for "the politicization of our prosecutorial system." Oh, my.

As it happens, Mrs. Clinton is just the Senator to walk point on this issue of dismissing U.S. attorneys because she has direct personal experience. In any Congressional probe of the matter, we'd suggest she call herself as the first witness--and bring along Webster Hubbell as her chief counsel.

As everyone once knew but has tried to forget, Mr. Hubbell was a former partner of Mrs. Clinton at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock who later went to jail for mail fraud and tax evasion. He was also Bill and Hillary Clinton's choice as Associate Attorney General in the Justice Department when Janet Reno, his nominal superior, simultaneously fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys in March 1993. Ms. Reno--or Mr. Hubbell--gave them 10 days to move out of their offices.

Can you say “double standard”? Sure you can.

US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the Attorney General and, ultimately, the President.

While some of the released US Attorneys have said that their firings were political in nature, it might be said that at least one was, and for good reason.

Take sacked U.S. Attorney John McKay from Washington state. In 2004, the Governor's race was decided in favor of Democrat Christine Gregoire by 129 votes on a third recount. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other media outlets reported, some of the "voters" were deceased, others were registered in storage-rental facilities, and still others were convicted felons. More than 100 ballots were "discovered" in a Seattle warehouse. None of this constitutes proof that the election was stolen. But it should have been enough to prompt Mr. McKay, a Democrat, to investigate, something he declined to do, apparently on grounds that he had better things to do.

I'd say that's reason enough.

Small Town Turns Frugal

It's not often I see something like this, particularly in our small town.

New Hampshire is usually portrayed as being particularly frugal. It's not as true as it used to be.

Many communities in the state have seen spending and taxes increase at well above the rate of inflation, even taking population growth into account. So it's been in our town.

This past year our property assessment went up 20%, while the town property tax rate went down. But the property taxes on The Manse went up 10%. That's about 6 points above the rate of inflation. Our town has seen new commercial properties come onto the tax rolls, some worth millions of dollars that added a substantial amount to the tax rolls and taxes collected. Yet the taxes went up.

Our town was not being frugal with its spending as it should have been.

For far too long many things that most people would consider nice-to-haves have somehow become need-to-haves. It's not quite as bad in our town as I have seen in others, but it was heading that way. And then the townspeople did something that gave me a glimmer of hope.

They voted down the school budget and an almost $1 million bond issue.

Last year's school budget was approximately $21,250,000. I don't know about you, but for a town of 7,000 people, that's a lot of money. This year's proposed school budget was set at approximately $22,700,000! I don't know about you, but that's a ton of money. Apparently the townspeople thought so, too. They said no to the budget, meaning that they school system would revert to what is called a 'default budget'. The default budget is basically the previous year's budget. That will save the taxpayers about $1.5 million of their hard earned money.

I wish I could say that the vote on the proposed school budget was solely based upon the economics, but like any small town, there were political issues that were probably just as much a cause of the voter's rejection of the budget. Since I feel there's no need to delve into something that has no interest to you, I'll spare all 13 of my readers from my rather insipid take on the whole thing. (Trust me, I'm doing you all a favor.)

But it seems that there is some movement to bring town spending under control. Some signs of that include the election of fiscally conservative candidates to the Budget Committee and the Board of Selectmen. I'd like to think that we might yet restore Yankee frugality to our small town, something we've badly needed for some time.


It's Sugaring Season

With the return of warm daytime temps (anything above freezing is 'warm' around here) and below freezing night time temps, the sap is flowing well in the sugar maples. It is being collected in buckets and barrels, all of which will soon be emptied into evaporators to be boiled down to maple syrup.

Yes, it's sugaring time here in northern New England!

Far too many of you out there think that the dark amber stuff you pour on your pancakes or French toast is maple syrup, but it's not. Instead, it's maple flavored corn syrup with food coloring to approximate the color of Grade A maple syrup. You don't know what you've been missing.

Of course, we here at the Weekend Pundit Lake Winnipesaukee Manse are all too spoiled when it comes to maple syrup. The WP Father-In-Law taps the trees on his property every year and boils the sap down until it reaches the proper consistency. A lot of that maple syrup makes its way to our breakfast table.

Some of you out there may think that there's very little difference between the pseudo-syrup and the real thing, but I know at least one person who will beg to differ. One of the local Mormon missionaries that has been visiting our home has told us that he can no longer stomach the pseudo-syrup. When he returns to his home in California he will be taking at least a couple of one-gallon jugs of New Hampshire maple syrup with him. We've promised to keep him supplied once he returns to the Left Coast.

If the weather cooperates we should see one of the better sugaring seasons in some time.


Thoughts On A Sunday

Spring-like temperatures arrived in New Hampshire yesterday, with more following over the next few days. Frankly, I'm relieved. With this winter-that-almost-wasn't I was tired of the weather weirdness. Either it should be winter or it shouldn't. Considering that December and January were some of the warmest on record (some folks were still boating on a wide open Lake Winnipesaukee as late as January 14th), and then the plunge into the deep freeze in February and March, it's no wonder I'm a little weather weary. Usually we see the sub-zero temperatures between late December and early February. It's all a little confusing to a body.

The early changeover to Daylight Savings Time isn't helping all that much, either.


The peak of the local political silly season arrives on Tuesday, with elections for town officials and voting on numerous town and school warrants taking place in our little town.

For the most part there hasn't been all that much controversy except in one area. - the Budget Committee. There has been more brouhaha, angst, and recriminations over our Budget Committee than any other issue facing the voters this year. It doesn't help that there a number of candidates running to fill three slots in the committee that seem to favor style over function. They're concerned mainly about civility within the committee rather than spending, which is were they should be focusing their efforts.

The 'lack of civility' used as a rallying point for these candidates is a non-issue. It is something that was blown way out of proportion that has become a straw man. During our town's deliberative session, one resident cited the committee's “contempt for the taxpayer” as a reason for supporting the dissolution of the committee in toto. My question to him at the same meeting was “How is looking out for how the taxpayer's money is being spent showing 'contempt for the taxpayer'?” He was showing his contempt for the committee and the taxpayer by his statement.

Another question: Will 'being civil' also mean that the Budget Committee will be a rubber stamp for the Board of Selectmen and the School Board? Under the code of ethics these candidates are putting forward, will denying or changing a request for funding be considered a violation of that code? If so, then all of the taxpayers in our town are in big trouble.


Continuing on the topic of local politics, many other towns throughout New Hampshire will also be holding their Town Meetings and voting in local elections this week, deciding who should serve in office and how much money their towns will spend over the next fiscal year. It is democracy in action at the local level, something that far too many people tend to ignore.

One of the old sayings that is as true today as when it was first uttered long ago: “If you didn't attend town meeting and vote, then you have no right to bitch about anything.”

I don't know how many times in the past that I've attended Town Meeting in the various towns in which I've resided over the years, staying until the end, commenting and voting on various warrant articles, only to hear some time later someone moaning and complaining about one thing or another that the town is doing or not doing. More often than not when I've asked if they attended Town Meeting or voted in the local elections, the answer was “No.” At that point I'd make the quote above and stop listening to them. They forfeited their right to complain when they couldn't take the time or make the effort to attend. It's one day out of the entire year and they can't make plans to attend? It isn't as if the date of Town Meeting isn't known well in advance.

More then once I've heard that same person comment, “But it's only one vote. My vote won't make a difference,” or something to that effect. And I've shot right back at them that more than one warrant article has passed or failed by one vote. One vote.

Sometimes they just don't get it.


It may be that the DNC has miscalculated in its decision to back out of a Presidential candidate debate in Nevada hosted by Fox News.

The decision has garnered editorials, blog posts, and comments galore slamming the Democrats for being far too partisan.


In case you missed this, Brad Delp, lead singer for the rock group Boston and long time New Hampshire resident, died at his home on Friday. He was 55. There were no indications of foul play.

I can say that I've had the pleasure of meeting him on more than one occasion over the years, and he was one of the most down to earth people I've ever met. He didn't let his celebrity change who he was, didn't buy into the hype that so often colors or poisons musical artists.

I saw Boston play well before they made the big time and even then there was something different about their sound. One of those things was Brad's vocals, so different from so many others that his were instantly recognizable.

Damn, I'm going to miss him.


The buzz about a possible presidential run by former US Senator Fred Thompson keeps growing. And it's not like Thompson has acted to kill the buzz. Frankly, I am far more enthusiastic about him than any of the other Republican hopefuls presently campaigning.

Some say that he'll be getting into the race far too late should he decide to run. But these 'some' need to remember that the first caucuses and primary are still 10 months away. Some of the hopefuls on both sides will have either burned out or done a crash and burn long before then. Thompson still has a large window of opportunity. I'm betting he'll jump into the fray, but at a time of his choosing and no one else's.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where political posters and signs litter the countryside, sap is filling the buckets, and where all too soon Daylight Savings Time has arrived.


'Double'-Dipping At The Government Trough

Question: When is a charitable Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) not a charity?

Answer: When it is dipping from the government well not once, not twice, but four times.

Here in our little town an organization local to the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, providing mental health care to residents unable to afford such care on their own, has been less than forthcoming about its funding. In what has amounted to emotional blackmail, in my opinion, this organization has not requested funding by the taxpayers so much as demanded it.

It also doesn't help matter that the person that made a motion during town meeting, amending a budget warrant article that originally zeroed out funding for this organization was a member of a committee in the organization in question.

What was not known at the time the amendment was made and voted on was that the organization had also been receiving funding from the county as well. And where do those county funds come from? From the taxpayers of the towns that comprise the county. So in effect this organization hit up the taxpayers in our town twice.

It was said a few years ago when this funding was first requested and approved that it was the first step on a slippery slope. It turns out that statement was oh so true. Now that this non-governmental organization has gotten used to government funding to the point that their requests are really nothing more than “polite demanding”, I believe that it can no longer be considered an NGO.

Either this organization should change its charter to reflect its status, that of a government funded organization and become part of the county government, or it should stop requesting demanding funding by the taxpayers of the towns within our county. Either it is an NGO, or it is not. They can't have it both ways.

Charity is something given willingly. It is not something to be demanded.


Credit Cards Is De' Debbil!

I'd always wondered about how banks and financial organizations handled credit cards, particularly how they set interest rates, credit limits, and fees. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Here at the Weekend Pundit Manse we've managed to kill off our credit card debt, getting rid of a couple of them and dropping both the credit limit and interest rate on our remaining general purpose card (Visa). We'll still be shopping around for a lower rate credit card, something with a less than 12% interest rate (and not an introductory rate). We know they're out there. We've seen them from time to time. We've also kept our Home Depot card. But the others are gone.

But it appears that when it comes to credit card debt that we are the exception rather than the rule. It isn't necessarily because we are thriftier or in better control of our spending than many other Americans. Rather it's because we've been lucky with our choices of which credit cards we had. For many others, credit cards are darn near impossible to get rid of because the lending institutions make it very difficult to get out from under. Why? Because they want you to be in debt to them. That's how they make their money.

ABC News covered some of the less savory practices credit card issuers use to suck you in and keep you as a customer. But relief may be on the way.

In a move that could help consumers, Congress will hold hearings today to discuss the tricky fees and the baffling penalties that credit card companies use to keep their consumers paying off high interest rates and finance charges month after month.

The hearings have banks and credit card companies howling in protest.

Take the example of Derek Lee, who paid off one of his credit cards because he wanted to cancel it. Six months later, he still hasn't been able to because the card company keeps charging him mysterious fees that keep the account open.

Not that lenders/credit card issuers don't have a right to set the terms and conditions, but they should make them public and understandable. The ABC News report illustrated that many lenders don't disclose all of the conditions, fees, and obligations to their customers. Some also make it difficult to cancel a card even after the balance has been paid off.

One thing that my dear wife Deb taught me: when dealing with a credit card company, get all changes – especially closing out your account after paying off the balance – confirmed in writing. Then if there is any argument or unexpected charges you'll have written proof from the credit card company itself that your account is indeed closed and that they can charge no more fees or “penalties”.

As a side note, do any of you out there know what credit card companies call customers that pay off their balances every month? Deadbeats. That's a status to which the Weekend Pundit household aspires.


More Star Trek Tech Becomes A Reality

We are yet another step closer to the Star Trek future.

The latest gizmo that has come into being that originally made its debut back in 1966? How about a tricorder?

Purdue University researchers have demonstrated a portable instrument that they claim can identify any substance in less than a second, much like the "tricorders" used by the crew of the Enterprise in the Star Trek series.

The 20-pound, battery-powered unit combines a mass spectrometer with a desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) source.

Given the progress of nanotechnology I have no doubt the 20-pound device will end up being about the size of a largish book within 5 years, just about the size of the “original” tricorder that Spock and McCoy carried around.


Still Wasting The Taxpayer's Money - Part Deux

I've lost track how many times I've written the following, or something very much like it:

Insanity - Repeating the same action over and over again, but expecting the results to be different this time.

By that definition, both the Treasury Department and Congress are insane. What am I talking about?

A dollar. And not just any dollar, but two kinds of dollar in particular.

One folds. The other clinks.

For the third time as in many decades the Treasury is trying to interest the American public in moving away from dollar bills and towards dollar coins. The problem? It won't work.

The first time, they came out with the Susan B. Anthony dollar in the 80's. It was an unmitigated disaster. It was easily confused with a quarter, meaning people had to pay too much attention to make sure they weren't spending a dollar rather than 25¢. The Treasury also made the mistake of keeping the dollar bill, which meant there were two different forms of the same denomination, something inherently wasteful. Bags of Anthony dollars remained in bank vaults all over the US.

The second time, they tried with the Sacagawea dollar, a gold colored coin with smooth edges that couldn't possible be confused with a quarter. But it too failed, again because the Treasury and the Congress didn't do away with the paper dollar.

Now this, the third attempt, is doomed to fail for the same reason, despite 'sweetening the pot' by releasing the Presidential Series of coins, much like the 50 State Quarters Series. Without the discontinuation of the One Dollar bill, any attempt to use the One Dollar coin will see the same response as the previous two attempts: Initial favorable circulation, mostly by the curious and the collectors. After that they'll start to pile up in bank vaults and at the Federal Reserve. Billions of dollars worth of coins will languish unused and unwanted

What a waste of the taxpayer's money.


Another Hole In Anthropogenic Global Warming Theories

The never ending debate over global warming has added yet another factor that must be taken in to account – global warming on Mars.

While some detractors have tried to explain away the increasing Martian temperatures by saying that it's only a coincidence, which is entirely possible, it appears that there may also be a temperature increase in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter. If this is indeed the case and there isn't some other mechanism involved in this increase, then the chances of coincidence have become, if you will excuse the phrase, astronomical. If so, it pokes yet another hole in the Global-Warming-Is-All-The-Fault-Of-The-Evil-Humans theories.


Thoughts On A Sunday

It was a nice snowstorm, as snowstorms go. While not quite the behemoth that was the Saint Valentine's Day blizzard, it did drop nearly as much snow.

Unlike the last storm, the snow wasn't the light, fluffy snow but rather the heavier kind that ended up with the consistency of mashed potatoes. It made shoveling a real workout with each shovel full feel like it weighed 50 pounds. That in itself was bad enough.

The Official Weekend Pundit Snowblower decided that it was time to break down.

While BeezleBub manged to clear enough of the driveway leading to The Manse, there wasn't quite enough room to maneuver. That meant that we had to break out the shovels and the push plow. We cleared just enough snow to lay down some snowmelt, which allowed us to get into and out of the driveway. That left us enough time to dig into and repair the snowblower.

Fortunately the snowblower only required two new drive belts (we already had them on hand, knowing that a broken belt was always a possibility) and a realignment of the auger pulleys due to a loosened attachment bolt. A little less than an hour later and the snowblower was back in action.

I was amazed at how easily the snowblower threw that heavy, doughy snow. But it did the job and a little over an hour later we were done and the sun melted off the leavings, taking the driveway down to dry pavement.

Thank goodness for small favors.


Glenn Reynolds linked to a New York Times article about ethanol and US/Brazil cooperation. Unfortunately I think the US is headed in the wrong direction, backing corn-based ethanol production rather than sugar cane and switch grass based ethanol.

Corn based ethanol is a losing proposition because it takes just as much or more fossil fuel to produce it as it replaces. Corn is a high maintenance crop. Sugar cane and switch grass are not. Neither requires fertilizer or pesticides while corn requires both.


Senator Barack Obama says that legislation that will “make it easier to for workers to start unions” will pass in the Senate.

Fortunately President Bush has already said he will veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.

At least the President understands that this bill is measure that will give the unions a pass to use intimidation tactics and other means that would get anybody else prosecuted under RICO. It is a bill designed to fix a problem that is of organized labor's own making.

Wizbang also has more on the story, with plenty of commentary.


As I wrote in last week's Thoughts On A Sunday, the selling of fear is a big business. John Stossel covered it on the February 23 edition of 20/20 and expounds upon what he calls the Fear-Industrial Complex in his Town Hall column this week.

Consider vaccines. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says the mercury in them has "poisoned an entire generation! It's causing IQ loss, mental retardation, speech delay, language delay, ADD, hyperactivity!"

The news media love this kind of story. They repeatedly invite Barbara Loe Fisher, who heads the Vaccine "Information" Center, to tell parents about vaccine risks. She warns of "seizures, brain inflammation, collapse shock, and of course the most serious effect is death."

Causing autism is the biggest accusation. "Before kids received so many vaccines," says Fisher, "you didn't see autistic children. ... We can't build the special-education classrooms fast enough now to accommodate all these sick and disabled children."

The problem is that all of these accusations are untrue, as proven by years of clinical research. But that doesn't stop the fear mongers or the media that loves them. To hear some of them talk you'd think that we're living in the worst times since the Black Plague swept through Europe.



And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where politics is one of our favorite sports, politicians squirm at the thought of facing us, and where the 2008 Presidential campaign has been going on since November 2004.


Socialist Thinking Alive And Well In Washington State

It appears that the not so covert socialist movement has found a new home in the Pacific Northwest.

As liberal and twisted as the San Francisco Bay area can be, it appears that Seattle is the new hotbed of socialist group think. After reading this by Skip at Granite Grok, I'm wondering if it's time for the US to invade Seattle and rescue the citizens from this morally corrupt and nascent totalitarian movement.

Skip's post starts out talking about how many in the Seattle area look down at their noses at NASCAR fans. Sounds ridiculous, right? But this is symptom of a far greater problem in Washington State.

Well, while the talk is all about San Fran values, or California values, it seems like Washington state really wants to give the former a real run for their money with this story.

Some Seattle school children are being told to be skeptical of private property rights. This lesson is being taught by banning Legos.

A ban was initiated at the Hilltop Children's Center in Seattle. According to an article in the winter 2006-07 issue of “Rethinking Schools” magazine, the teachers at the private school wanted their students to learn that private property ownership is evil.

And then teachers wonder why they are coming under more and more attacks...and this one is justified. The right to control, to own, "stuff" goes to the heart of the capitalistic society. I keep seeing this more and more as I see teachers not teaching the fundamentals but going after subjects like "social justice", eliminating competition, and the like.

You know, things that make the real world work? I do have do wonder if these teachers can play chess, for they certainly are not thinking several moves ahead. Without ownership, without the incentive to do better, earn more, the taxes that pay these teachers would evaporate.

Skip goes into quite a bit of detail, but one thing that stuck out in his commentary is his mention that these numb nuts socialists are still trying to play the “Zero sum game”.

What is meant by that? Simply this: They believe that if someone got rich, then they must have taken it away from someone else and made them poor. In other words they act as if there is a finite amount of wealth. That may have been true many generations ago when wealth was defined by the possession of valuable commodities (gold, silver, platinum, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, land, etc.). Wealth had a finite sum that didn't change rapidly. The rich did get rich by taking the wealth away from those under them. This is the so-called zero sum. But that is no longer true. Unfortunately the anti-capitalist throwbacks haven't figured this out. That's why they are trying so hard to indoctrinate children to believe that wealth is evil and that private property shouldn't exist.

Of course the socialist experiment has been tried again and again, where everything was owned by everyone (meaning that nobody owned anything). And every time this experiment has been tried it has failed miserably. But that doesn't stop them from trying it one more time. (Of course you know the definition of insanity, don't you? It is trying the same thing over and over again, but expecting the results to be different this time.) Need I say more?

Like the PC movement, which is yet another attempt by the socialists to engineer society, this failed ideology needs to die a lingering, painful death. The sooner, the better.


Rigging The Rules

It's not surprising to me that labor unions are doing all they can to survive and to expand their ranks. After all, union membership has declined since the 1950's, being only 7.4% of the workforce today versus 35% fifty years ago.

In the past labor unions were at the forefront of labor law, making sure that workers weren't exploited or endangered needlessly. Today there are widespread state and federal labor laws that codify the gains made by the unions. But because of those gains the era of unions is fading and fading fast.

Not that this has stopped the labor movement from trying to stem the loss of membership. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the tactics that the unions are trying in order to fill their ranks (and coffers) again.

First, it was the so-called WalMart law in Maryland, designed to punish WalMart because the unions couldn't get a foothold in the company any other way. Fortunately the law was struck down in court, thwarting organized labor's plans.

Next, it's their attempt to make it 'easier' to vote a union in. But this is a lie. While the unions and the supporters of legislation that would do away with secret ballots by workers voting about organizing a union say that the open balloting will prevent business from intimidating potential union members to vote against a union, it is really a means for organized labor to intimidate workers into voting for a union.

The union claim is that employers are engaging in rampant unfair labor practices to prevent employees from exercising their right to organize. But data from the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees union elections, show no rise in such activities. The reality is that union membership has been in decline for decades, and labor leaders are desperate to rig the rules in order to reverse the trend.

All of which explains the drive to rewrite the rules and do away with secret-ballot elections administered by the NLRB, a procedure in place since the 1935 Wagner Act. Under current rules, once 30% of employees at a workplace express interest in unionizing by signing an authorization card, organizers can go to management and demand voluntary "card-check" recognition. The employer then has the option of recognizing the union or demanding an election.

It shouldn't be surprising that many workers who sign these cards later have second thoughts after getting the employer's side of the story. Workers sign cards for all kinds of reasons, including peer pressure and intimidation. It's not uncommon for an organizer to approach an employer with cards that show 90% of the workforce wants to unionize, only to have the percentage plummet once employees hear about the downside of a union shop and have a chance to vote by secret ballot. So Big Labor wants to dispense with these petty elections and make union recognition mandatory as soon as a simple majority of workers sign a card.

This method lends itself to easy intimidation by the union because they will know who has and has not signed the cards, making it easier to target those that have not yet signed. This has nothing to fairness and everything to do with maintaining power at the expense of the very workers organized labor says they are protecting.