It's Time To Stop The 'Ugly House' Syndrome

There are lots of topics I could cover this evening, this being the last post of 2008. I could list my New Year's resolutions, but that will wait until New Year's Day. I could write about 2008's biggest stories, but that topic has been beaten to death by the print and electronic media, so why go there?

Instead, I will go in a different direction and cover a subject near and dear to my heart: ugly houses.

Obviously this isn't an original subject, seeing as I linked to a post over at Sippican Cottage about the subject. But it is one that seriously needs to be addressed considering how many homes built over the past ten years or so I've seen that never should have seen the light of day. I'm not the only one.

Here's a house for sale in the town I grew up in.

Everyone looks around and sees houses like this. They pass unremarked now. After a while, if it doesn't look like this, people are going to think a house looks strange. And it's wrong, wrong, wrong. The situations where a house nailed on the ass end of a garage are appropriate are so few there's no use talking about them. Never do this.

There's Postmodern evil afoot here. Everything is boiled down to a pastiche, and you put all these disconnected totems into a blender and put the mixed up parts on a concrete rectangle. It's making us all crazy in a very subtle but profound way.

There has been a concerted effort to dismantle all standards of right and wrong and beauty and truth. If ever truthiness was put into sticks and bricks, this house is it. When you rebel against standard things, sooner or later you run out of ways to be original, and all that is left is to do the exact opposite of good. It's the only permutation of new that's left to you after a while. The American house is becoming that perfect distillation of bad ideas. Everything exactly at cross-purposes with its stated purpose.

Indeed. I have seen far too many homes built that look like they came out of the mind of a schizophrenic off their meds. There's little thought to the layout, no logic that dictates what the floorplan should look like. Such homes are soulless, having less character than a refrigerator box one of the homeless would use to shelter themselves from the cold. The exteriors look bland, almost sterile, even though they have the vague form of houses we call Cape, Victorian, Ranch, Saltbox, Colonial, Federal, and so on. They are boring. Those designing them, whether professional architects or the future homeowners themselves, prove the only taste they possess is in their mouths.

Even our Manse, a supposed Cape, suffers from this malady. The basic looks are there, but the details have been overlooked or ignored, making our home an ersatz Cape Cod at best.

First, the siding looks more like clapboards rather than shakes, and most Capes are sided with shakes. While I have no desire to pull off the vinyl siding and replace them with cedar shakes, I have seen siding that looks like shakes while maintaining the advantages of vinyl siding.

Second, our fireplace is in the wrong place. Capes have their fireplaces near the center of the house, allowing more even heating. Ours is located at the south end of The Manse. What's worse is that we don't even have a real chimney. Instead it's a chase covered with siding that hides the two vent pipes, one for the furnace and water heater and one for the fireplace/woodstove. So it's a chimney-looking construct without the brick or stonework.

Third, the front door doesn't really match the Cape d├ęcor. It has a large cut glass oval with brass highlights that fills half the door. No Cape worthy of the name I've ever seen has a door like that. Only ersatz Capes like ours bear doors like that.

Fourth, the front door to the mud room is solid, bearing not a single pane of glass. Not one. The back door has the proper lights in it, but not the front. That means we don't get much light in there until late in the day. That's poor design.

Fifth, our home has sliders opening out onto the rear decks. That's right, not one, but two sets of sliders on the rear of The Manse! Sliders are an abomination on a Cape.

Sixth, though not the last or least, our garage dominates the front rather than the house itself. It should have been set back 5 or 10 feet, making the house the focus of the front. Instead it is even with the front of the house, and because of the nature of Capes, the front of the garage looks larger than the rest of the house. That's plain wrong.

I could easily go on and on about the soulless design of The Manse. Whomever dealt with the details either got lazy or got a great deal on doors, sliders, and siding. It's ironic considering there's so much that's right with our home. Much of the interior finish is excellent, belying the blandness and poor layout of the exterior. The amenities are quite good, too. But still, the proportions aren't quite right due to the lack of attention to detail.

Since we live up here in the Lakes Region of central New Hampshire, we've seen more than our share of fine lake shore homes and cottages that have existed for generations being torn down and replaced with tasteless and bland monstrosities that look so out of place they should be made illegal and burned to the ground. The owners and the architects responsible for those eyesores should be ridiculed...or maybe flogged in the town square for the crime of poor taste.

Well, maybe not. Flogging might be too good for them.


Congress Doesn't Deserve A Pay Raise

I have to agree with so many others on the issue of the upcoming Congressional pay raises: the Congresscritters don't deserve them.

It seems everyone else must tighten their belts, to look for ways to cut costs. Pay raises aren't likely for many workers these days, and even if they are lucky enough to get them, they'll be a mere pittance.

Frankly, when it comes to Congress, they haven't earned a pay raise. With the soon-to-close 110th Congress having been one of the biggest do-nothing, ineffective congresses ever, they have yet to prove to me or the rest of the American people that they deserve their upcoming 2.8% raise (about $4700). They certainly haven't performed, passing little in the way of important legislation, fooling around with other legislation that does little if any good, all while wasting hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on bailouts that should never have made it through the House or Senate. Come to think of it, maybe we should consider cutting Congressional pay. Let them feel some of the average American's pain.

Due the last economic downturn back in 2000/2001, the so-called dot-com meltdown, no one within my company saw a pay raise for over 4 years. Since then we certainly haven't made up for it. It's likely we never will. But our representatives in Congress will receive a pay raise despite the economic conditions, the huge budget deficits, and the lack of anything useful from either chamber over the last two years? What's wrong with this picture?


Why Don't They Have TV Ads Like This Here?

I have to agree with Insty on this one:

The best TV commercial, ever.

Believe it or not, it's an ad for a Siemens washing machine.

Note: Not safe for work.

Link: Fleg Master Tlpizza


Thoughts On A Sunday

The long Christmas holiday winds to a close here at The Manse. The Christmas music has been stilled, and decorations and ornaments packed away carefully until Christmas once again fills our hearts and minds.

Our tree came down today, something that is always bittersweet for me. Deb and I removed the ornaments, the garlands, the lights, putting them away. The angel that adorns the top of the tree was carefully removed, wrapped, and placed in a box, not to see the light of day until after Thanksgiving next year.

All too soon we return to our daily lives, the magic of the season fading from our consciousness as our attention returns to living from day to day.

I have always found this saddening.


This does not surprise me in least:

Americans give more to charity, per capita and as a percentage of gross domestic product, than the citizens of other nations.

A number of reasons are cited, one of them being Americans usually have more money left in their pockets after paying taxes as compared to their contemporaries.


Finally, the cause of anthropogenic global warming has been found: NASA computers used to plot global temperatures.


It appears science illiteracy is the latest rage among celebrities, politicians, and other glitterati.

This is a disturbing trend.

How can we expect our so-called “betters” to make the right decisions about science and technology if their heads are filled with pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo and outright junk science?

Being of a scientific bent of mind (I'm an engineer), I don't know how many times I've come across people with little, if any understanding about how things in their every day lives actually work. Some of these people have been politicians tasked with deciding the path of research or spending on science and technology.


While we did have a White Christmas this year here in New England, you wouldn't think so considering temps here have run from the lower 50's to the upper 60's today. The warm temps have allowed for melting of some of the ice and snow from the previous couple of weeks, leaving roads and roofs bare. Even the Weekend Pundit Lake Winnipesaukee Runabout's winter storage cover is clean.

It was warm enough to eschew use of the Official Weekend Pundit Woodstove today. Deb even opened a couple of windows upstairs to air things out.


The New England Patriots played and beat the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo, 13-0. In order for the Pats to make the playoffs, either the Jets must beat the Dolphins, or the Baltimore Ravens must lose to Jacksonville Jaquars. If that doesn't happen, the Patriots are finished for the season.

Frankly, I'd rather have the Patriots stay out of the playoffs this year. This will allow their hurt players more time to heal and/or go through rehab, allowing a fresh start come next season. The Patriots are hurting, with many of their first and second string players either out hurt or playing hurt.


I've never doubted this, particularly when I've heard it from a liberal:

Conservatives love America more than liberals.

There are far too many examples for liberals to say otherwise.


One of our feline residents has taken it upon herself to start her own blog. (No, not Bagheera. He posts here, feeling it is beneath his dignity to maintain his own blog. He has better things to do...or so he says.)

Hilda, our resident Maine Coon Cat, was pushed into it after curmudgeonly Bagheera made some disparaging remarks during one of his last posts.

You can find her not-so-daily posts at Hilda's Home. (Hey, she's a cat. She posts whenever the mood strikes her.)


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where we've received a brief reprieve from winter weather, Christmas decorations have already started coming down, and where winter will return soon enough.


AGW Predictions - Another Failure?

And the hits keep on coming.

It is no surprise to me and other Anthropogenic Global Warming skeptics that many of the predictions made by the AGW faithful have failed to materialize. As Andrew Bolt wrires:

If your current computer models can't predict the known past from retroactively entered data, then why, precisely, would you expect them to accurately predict the future.

You can't, of course.

Computer models—all computer models—do nothing more than produce an extrapolation from the assumptions that are programmed into them. The input always determines the output.

Moreover, when it comes to climate, the number of variables is so incredibly large, and often prone to chaotic effects—that I don't believe anyone has ever built, or realistically can ever build a valid computer model with our current state of computer technology.

I use computer models to predict the behavior of electronic circuits, and while they are not nearly as complex as climate models, they still have errors that will throw off the accuracy of the circuit model here and there. With circuit models we're only dealing with a few hundred well defined parameters with errors measured in fractions of a percent. With climate models, we're dealing with millions of parameters with a 1, 5, 10, 25 or even 50% margin of error. If a simple electronic circuit model can show a measurable error in its results with barely measurable errors in the input, how can anyone honestly say extremely complex climate models with wide margins of error on its inputs won't show large errors in its results? I guess it's easy if your one of the AGW faithful.


AGW Proponents Making Same Dire Predictions

Despite increasing evidence their predictions about anthropogenic global warming are wrong, some of the biggest proponents are still making dire predictions about arctic ice being completely melted in 5 years and record high temps returning in 4 years.

These predictions have been put forth despite record cold temperatures and snowfalls in the northern hemisphere and rapidly growing arctic ice and resurgent glaciers.

As always, the dating of these predictions is just far enough ahead so should they not come to pass most people won't even remember them being made...except for many of us in the blogosphere.

Folks like NASA scientist James Hansen and former Vice President Al Gore keep cranking up the rhetoric even though their predictions have not borne fruit. Climate models used by the AGW faithful have been no more successful, yet many cling to them like an overloaded lifeboat, praying their flawed models will somehow and miraculously turn out to be right before the chilly waters of ridicule and hard evidence drowns them, figuratively speaking.

There's good reason for them to be doing this: they cannot afford to be wrong. If they are, their grant monies and world importance will slip away and they will join the ranks of the many other alarmists and crackpots that have gone before them into the “dustbin of history”.


Merry Christmas

The Weekend Pundit family would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

We will be spending time with our families, meaning we will return to our regular blogging schedule on Friday, December 26th.


Yet Another Blow Against AGW

The voices of the Anthropogenic Global Warming choir have grown shrill as more evidence that AGW is a crock comes to light.

First, it was the debunking of the Mann “hockey stick” graph, showing clear evidence the global climate was getting warmer. Then, once the data sets and proxies were examined, the 'evidence' of such warming evaporated, shown to be selective deletion of data and proxies that, if included, would have shown little, if any warming.

Next, solar physicists and paleoclimatologists showed a direct correlation between sunspot cycles and changes in global temperatures. (We must remember, though, that correlation does not imply causality. Instead, it merely means there's some kind of connection between the two.)

Then, claims that 1998 was the warmest year on record turned out to be erroneous. Instead, the warmest year was way back in 1934. And 1998 was instead a turning point, where global temperatures started falling.

And then, Al Gore's prediction that the arctic ice would be gone in less than 5 years has been turned on its head because satellite photos and ground observations show the arctic ice is growing, as are glaciers that have, until recently, been shrinking.

Now there's yet another slap in the face of the AGW faithful, one they will have a tough time ignoring:

Pre-industrial CO2 levels were about the same level as they are today. Not lower. Not higher. But the same.

By now you must be asking yourself “How can that be? They said the CO2 levels were higher today than anytime in recorder history!”

The answer? They lied.

It hasn't necessarily a pre-meditated act, but some of the collected data was ignored or factored out as “noise” even though it was anything but. This skews the results to achieve a preconceived idea of what the data should show.

How many failed predictions, discredited assumptions and evidence of incorrect data are required before an idea loses credibility?


Most people don’t know that thousands of direct measures of atmospheric CO2 were made beginning in 1812. Scientists took the readings with calibrated instruments and precise measurements as the work of Ernst-Georg Beck has thoroughly documented. Guy Stewart Callendar was an earlier visitor to these records. He rejected most of the records including 69% of the 19th century records and only selected certain records that established the pre-industrial level as 280 ppm.

[Looking at graph in the article] [i]t is clear how only low readings were chosen. Also notice how the slope and trend is changed compared to the entire record.

In other words, only the data supporting the hypothesis that CO2 levels were lower in the past was included, meaning data was selected to fit the hypothesis rather than the other way around.

According to acceptable scientific method, one is supposed to collect data through observation and experimentation, and then generate a hypothesis based upon those observations and data. Then one tests the hypothesis by making further observations and design experimental studies to test the hypothesis. If the observations and tests do not match with the hypothesis, then it is time to go over the observations and data again, then modify the hypothesis, then retest the hypothesis. This is done until the hypothesis matches the observed phenomenon. The testing and results should also be reproducible by others. But when it comes to anthropogenic global warming, far too many proponents appear to be forcing the data to match the hypothesis in order to prove that they are right and everyone else is wrong. In many cases results are not reproducible by others, meaning either the data is suspect or the the hypothesis put forward is erroneous, or worse, fraudulent.

Regardless, somehow we're supposed to take action and spend our money based upon suspiciously derived theories with little or no basis in fact? I don't think so.


Thoughts On A Sunday

Round 2 of our weekend snow has started. I admit to sleeping in this morning, with a brief period of wakefulness just before 7AM to stoke the Official Weekend Pundit Woodstove. At that time I did see a few snowflakes falling past the windows. By 8:30AM the snow started in earnest.

Last night's local forecast said we'd see about 10 -12 inches of snow here in the Lake Winnipesaukee area by the time it was all done. This morning's forecast upped that total to 12 – 18 inches. That means BeezleBub and I will be out snowblowing and shoveling sometime around 9PM tonight. Better that than getting up at 5AM Monday morning to clear the snow before heading off to school and work. (It's likely BeezleBub will have a one or two hour delay Monday, so the real reason is to make sure Deb and I can make it to work without delay.)


The New England Patriots played the Arizona Cardinals today in Foxboro. It's been snowing like heck down there, something that helped the Pats since they were 9-0 playing in snow.

The Cardinals had a distinct disadvantage because they rarely if ever play in those conditions. In the first quarter the Pats managed to score two unanswered touchdowns. The Cards had 0 (that's 'zero') yards versus 95 yards for the Patriots in the first quarter.

In the end the Patriots won 47-7.


Even if the Employee Free Choice Act, the so-called 'Card Check' act, passes in Congress and is signed by soon-to-be President Obama, it may be moot. There are serious Constitutional flaws with the act, particularly with the First and Fifth amendment rights of targeted employers.

The News Junkie at Maggie's Farm wonders if 51% of a unionized business wanted to get rid of the union, could they? I know if the unions had their way the answer would be 'no'. They'd prefer it to be along the lines of “once you're in, you're in for life...”


Did the capital gains exemptions on homes passed during the Clinton Administration help fuel the housing bubble?

(H/T Maggie's Farm)


It figures.

The California Supreme Court has ruled it is perfectly legal to sue Good Samaritans despite the existence of a Good Samaritan law in that state. The court has ruled it was meant to cover those rendering medical aid. But what of the person that pulls an injured person from a burning vehicle? Nope. Not covered. The accident victim or their family can sue them.

I can't wait for the hew and cry when people start dying because bystanders won't help someone in need due to this ruling. Call it another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

What a bunch of effin' morons.


The WP Mom-In-Law called us earlier today to inform us their phone line is not working. (Yes, she used her cell to call us.) She informed me FairPoint Communications, the major incumbent local exchange carrier for northern New England, told her she would have to schedule an appointment for them to come out to service the phone line, and charge her $91 for the service call.

Excuse me?

First, it's likely the problem is with the phone company's lines and not inside the In-Law's house, particularly in light of the damage to hundreds of power lines and telephone poles caused by the ice storm that hit the area a little over a week ago. If that's the case, how is it my In-Laws should be required to pay for a service call until it's determined the problem is in their home?

This isn't the first time I've heard of FairPoint pulling something like this.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the first day of winter has arrived, the snow is still falling, and where we still have a lot of it to move.


A White Christmas

There's no doubt at this point that Christmas in New England will be a white one. Friday evening into early Saturday morning we got about 8 inches of the dry fluffy stuff, with another 12 inches forecast for Sunday night/Monday morning. The temps have been well below normal for this time of year, meaning the snow we will be getting Sunday will be like that we got Friday, dry and fluffy.

I'm beginning to wonder if we're going to see a repeat of last winter, with one snow storm after another dumping a few inches here and there, but adding up to about a foot of snow each week.

Does anyone want to tell me about global warming again?


Environmental Lawsuit

At the suggestion of Dan from Taiwan (see this post), I looked into the lawsuit filed by an environmental activist against world leaders to the tune of $1 billion, citing their failure to prevent global warming.

Say what?

So this boob has decided because world leaders won't act on questionable scientific hypotheses they should pay up?

Activist and blogger Dan Bloom says he will sue world leaders for “intent to commit manslaughter against future generations of human beings by allowing murderous amounts of fossil fuels to be harvested, burned and sent into the atmosphere as CO2″.

The prosecutor’s office at the ICC, the world’s first permanent court (pictured below right) for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, says it is allowed to receive information on crimes that may fall within the court’s jurisdiction from any source.

“Such information does not per se trigger a judicial proceeding,” the prosecutor’s office hastened to add.

The question is: will or should the prosecutor take on the case?

I would think true environmentalists would want the ICC to stay as far away from this suit as possible. Should the prosecutor decide to go forward with the suit, the “warmists”, those blaming all climate change on human use of fossil fuels, will finally have to put up their evidence, meaning all their evidence, to back up their claims. They may find their evidence falls far short of convincing anyone, let alone a judge or jury, that climate change is All-Our-Fault. The skeptics will finally be able to present their case, putting holes in the claims made by the AGW faithful. It could be such a suit would finally put a stake through the heart of the warmist dogma. Then we can get back to doing the things that need to be done rather than wasting our time with this dreck.


Anthropogenic Global Warming Skepticism Grows Among Scientific Community

Despite the Sainted AlGore's claims to the contrary, the case for Anthropogenic Global Warming is falling apart. As scientists look more closely at the issue, more of them have become skeptical about the UN IPCC report conclusions and the measures AlGore and others say are necessary to halt it.

These skeptics aren't run of the mill pseudo-scientists or scientists commenting upon an issue outside their field of expertise. These are climatologists, meteorologists, geologist, solar astronomers, paleontologists, environmental chemists, and a host of others from a number of related scientific disciplines weighing in on the issue.

Quotes from just a few of the 650 scientists expressing skepticism about AGW, including some formerly supporters of the AGW theories:

“I am a skeptic…Global warming has become a new religion.” - Nobel Prize Winner for Physics, Ivar Giaever.

“Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly….As a scientist I remain skeptical...The main basis of the claim that man’s release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models. We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system.” - Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology, and formerly of NASA, who has authored more than 190 studies and has been called “among the most preeminent scientists of the last 100 years.”

Warming fears are the “worst scientific scandal in the history…When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.” - UN IPCC Japanese Scientist Dr. Kiminori Itoh, an award-winning PhD environmental physical chemist.

“The IPCC has actually become a closed circuit; it doesn’t listen to others. It doesn’t have open minds… I am really amazed that the Nobel Peace Prize has been given on scientifically incorrect conclusions by people who are not geologists.” - Indian geologist Dr. Arun D. Ahluwalia at Punjab University and a board member of the UN-supported International Year of the Planet

“Anyone who claims that the debate is over and the conclusions are firm has a fundamentally unscientific approach to one of the most momentous issues of our time.”- Solar physicist Dr. Pal Brekke, senior advisor to the Norwegian Space Centre in Oslo. Brekke has published more than 40 peer-reviewed scientific articles on the sun and solar interaction with the Earth.

“It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.” - U.S Government Atmospheric Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA.

“The Kyoto theorists have put the cart before the horse. It is global warming that triggers higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, not the other way round…A large number of critical documents submitted at the 1995 U.N. conference in Madrid vanished without a trace. As a result, the discussion was one-sided and heavily biased, and the U.N. declared global warming to be a scientific fact,” Andrei Kapitsa, a Russian geographer and Antarctic ice core researcher.

“Gore prompted me to start delving into the science again and I quickly found myself solidly in the skeptic camp…Climate models can at best be useful for explaining climate changes after the fact.” - Meteorologist Hajo Smit of Holland, who reversed his belief in man-made warming to become a skeptic, is a former member of the Dutch UN IPCC committee.

“All those urging action to curb global warming need to take off the blinkers and give some thought to what we should do if we are facing global cooling instead.” - Geophysicist Dr. Phil Chapman, an astronautical engineer and former NASA astronaut, served as staff physicist at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

More information can be found in the full minority report which can be downloaded as a PDF.

There's plenty of rebuttal that can be viewed, such as this post on the New York Times Dot Earth blog.

Andrew Revkin supports that AGW is a fact, claims of the skeptics to the contrary, and that something must be done now to forestall the catastrophic effects of AGW. The comments are telling, with those trying to open the debate being labeled as “mindless contrarians”, “denialists, “distractors”, “delayers”, “crybabies”, “lowly”, “vulgar”, and “stupid”. So much for open discourse. Read the comments to the to post and you'll see what I mean. Far too many of those dismissing the skeptics out of hand appear to be letting emotion rule their opinions rather than data, evidence, a actual debate. That's never a good sign.


Will The Networks Get It Right?

I wrote about why good television shows are canceled earlier this month, commenting that the networks (meaning ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) have got to change the paradigm they've been using to select which shows live and which die because it is so out of date and does not reflect present day viewing habits. The networks have been trying to force viewers to watch programs at times the networks choose, something that no longer works.

Now James Joyner adds his two cents worth, linking to a New York Times piece about upcoming changes in network programming in order to draw more “live” viewers and commenting about it and how, for him, it won't work.

I watch nothing “live” anymore. Indeed, I’m only vaguely aware of what networks air the shows I watch, much less the time slot in which they’re broadcast. Everything is either on my DVR or otherwise downloaded to watch at my convenience.

Increasingly, my wife and I don’t even bother watching new shows when they debut, preferring instead to catch them a season or two later on Netflix. It’s actually quite annoying, especially for serial dramas, to be at the mercy of the network’s scheduling vagaries. It’s much more enjoyable to watch the episodes back-to-back in a relative short period.

Deb, BeezleBub and I tend to rely heavily on the DVR, shifting our viewing to meet our needs and convenience. The number of shows we watch “live” has steadily been decreasing. About the only shows we watch live these days is the local news and certain sporting events, like the New England Patriots, as an example, and a few network and cable programs. All the rest are relegated to the DVR.

There are some shows we've also purchased on DVD, such as ABC's Lost and the former WB's (now the CW) Everwood. I have a feeling that this will become more of the norm for us as time passes, particularly if the networks keep trying to force us to watch when they tell us to watch.

We have better things to do with our lives than to be locked in to someone else's schedule.


Thoughts On A Sunday

The post-ice storm cleanup in New Hampshire continues, with over 200,000 homes and businesses still without electricity as of this morning. (The statewide newspaper has a storm blog which can be found here.)

Out of state utility crews started arriving yesterday, helping the overwhelmed New Hampshire crews restore service. Some towns, like Washington and Derry, have little or no power. The little town of Washington has no power, with the only road in and out of the town closed due to the large number of downed trees and power poles blocking passage. It certainly makes repairing the power lines darned difficult. Derry, a town of about 30,000 residents, has power in only 10% of the town after three days of work clearing roads and repairing power lines.

While power has been restored here at The Manse, we didn't have phone or Internet service until late this afternoon, which made it impossible to post or check out other blogs.


At least we have satellite TV service, which allows us to keep touch with what's going on around the state and the rest of the world. I'm glad we never made the switch over entirely to cable, as Deb had suggested at one point. Instead, we dropped TV service from our local cable provider, keeping Internet and phone service.

Deb thought the 'triple play' combo from the cable company would be cheaper, and upon first look it appeared to be the case. But a closer look revealed we would lose many of the channels we watch regularly and would have to upgrade to a more expensive package to retain them. It would have been more expensive overall, so we kept the satellite TV service.

The decision was certainly a good one for us for if we were dependent on cable for TV we would have no service at all.


Speaking of television, I thought once we got past the national elections we would be free of the annoyingly repetitive ads, and for a few days we were. But a new series of annoying ads have replaced the political ads. In this case it's the ones reminding us ad nauseum about the upcoming transition from analog to digital TV transmission on February 17th, 2009. The ads will continue running until that date.

They seem to run once or twice every half hour. One of the local stations even includes a countdown clock, making the ads even more annoying.


At least Deb's business will be able to reopen tomorrow. A friend of ours informed us power had been restored in the town where her business is located. Not that she'll necessarily have many folks coming in when she's open as a lot of her clients are still without power and the last thing they'll be thinking about is making the trip into town to visit her. They're going to be worried about staying warm and fed.

Deb's won't be the only business that will find that to be true.


I was getting ready to head over the the corporate HQ of GraniteGrok to post today's post when my local cable MSO came to the rescue, restoring Internet and phone service to The Manse. So this abbreviated post won't be quite so abbreviated after all.


How is it possible that so many of Obama's friends and associates in the Chicago political machine with proven records of corruption and influence peddling, with some of them already in prison or soon the head there, have had absolutely no corrupting influence on the President-elect? I find it hard to believe he is totally untouched by these folks, considering he used many of them to get where he is.

Apparently I'm not the only one asking the question.


Can there be any doubt that our federal government is run by “poseurs, windbags, sociopaths and self-dealers”? There's absolutely no doubt in my mind.

Here's how to fix it.

(H/T Instapundit)


Is Al Gore really really sure global warming is the real deal? Maybe he should go back and check his data. (scroll to the bottom of the post)

Maybe he misread it and confused warming with cooling.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where power is slowly coming back, normal life is resuming, and where we still have time to finish our Christmas shopping.

An Unanticipated Day(s) Off

It happened shortly after 6AM Friday morning after a long day and night of sleet and freezing rain.

The power went off.

In less than a second we were removed from the 21st Century and placed in the 19th. Or at least it seemed that way.

We still had a couple of portable radios and our cell phones (which remained in service, thank goodness).

Listening to one of the radios we discovered BeezleBub didn't have to trouble himself with getting ready for school. Like many towns in New Hampshire, schools were closed for the day due to the heavy ice coating the roads, loss of electrical power, or both. However, that did not absolve me from heading in to work. At least with BeezleBub not having school, I was able to put off my departure for another couple of hours. At one point I called work to see if the voice mail system was still operational, which would let me know if there was power there. My first check at 7AM proved the system was still up, and hence, our engineering lab still had electricity. At the urging of Deb, I called again a little before 8AM and the phone just rang and rang and rang. No voice mail. No power. No work.

A quick call to one of my co-workers, she who is the keeper of the phone list, confirmed our place of employment was closed for the day for two reasons – the treacherous roads/ice laden trees, and no electricity. I didn't need to be told twice.

Because we had no power, we also had no phone, being one of those households receiving phone service via our cable company. That's where the cell phones came in handy.

A call to the WP Parents later in the day elicited no response other than connection to voice mail. It took me a moment to remember all they had at their home were wireless phones, so no power meant no phones. (It also meant no heat, something people in their 70's shouldn't have to endure.) I finally reached them by calling their cell phone and, after confirming they had no power, invited them to join us here at The Manse since we had heat, hot water, and company.

BeezleBub did his grill master wizardry for dinner, doing a pork roast on the grill, cooking it to perfection.

Unlike so many others here in New Hampshire, our power came back on just a few minutes before 10PM Friday night. However, there were still over 350,000 households and businesses without power as of Saturday morning, and many of those will not have it restored any time soon. As New Hampshire Governor John Lynch stated, this ice storm affected almost 10 times as many residents as the last big ice storm in 1998, and it took work crews 7 days to restore power to everyone back then. Utilities crews are coming in from as far away as Michigan and Ohio as well as Canada in an effort to get power restored.

The long term power outages will certainly have a negative effect on retail sales for Christmas, with many shops and business unable to operate until power is restored. That can make for an even bleaker economic picture than had originally been predicted.

NOTE: This post was long delayed due to the lack of a connection to the 'net. My service provider, the local cable company, had quite a bit of damage to their outside plant equipment and service was restored to The Manse but moments ago.


Ice Storm Nastiness

It's an off night for me. Not that I've got nothing to write about, that usually being the least of my problems. Instead, I'm dealing with the nasty sleet, ice, and freezing rain that's been falling since earlier today. We've been fortunate (so far) to not suffer any power outages here at The Manse due to ice laden powerlines failing. However, elsewhere in New Hampshire it's been a real problem.

Because of one of my other vocations, I am off to the state Emergency Operations Center to do my duty as a communications reservist. (Basically, I man a radio console that ties in a number of state agencies as well as amateur radio operations. It's getting busy out there.)

Regular blogging will resume on Friday.


Another Group Affected By The Recession

There are a large number of people being affected by the downturn in the world economy, including factory workers, bankers, homeowners, lawyers, real estate agents, stockholders, and small business owners. Now we can add another category of those affected by the economy: toxic wives. Unfortunately their husbands (or should I say soon-to-be-ex-husbands) are also being affected far beyond the recession.

When the super-rich feel the pinch, inevitably, the Toxic Wife heads off.

The Toxic Wife, first identified in these pages almost two years ago, is a particular and terrifying species.

...the Toxic Wife is the woman who gives up work as soon as she marries, ostensibly to create a stable home environment for any offspring that might come along, but who then employs large numbers of staff to do all the domestic work she promised to undertake, leaving her with little to do all day except shop, lunch and luxuriate.

Having married her wealthy husband with his considerable salary uppermost in her mind, the Toxic Wife simply does not do "for richer, for poorer". Little Dorrit, she ain't.

There are countless stories of them acting in the most bizarre and inhumane ways. For gold-diggers are materialistic to such an extent that they are emotionally detached from other people.

There's an inability to [empathize] with another human being. They certainly don't ''do'' conscience. Money, on the other hand, they both love and understand.

And now you know why they are called “toxic”. All they bring is grief if they don't get their way, particularly when it comes to spending money.

With today's economy in such turmoil, even many of the rich are having to watch their spending, something a Toxic Wife will not embrace nor tolerate. Rather, she bails. She starts looking for another sugar daddy, in many cases while she is still married to her now suffering husband.

Fortunately I won't have to deal with such a woman. I have no money, never did, so my wife sure as heck didn't marry me for my vast financial holdings. But I've come across a few 'toxics' in my time, and very briefly dated one. But once she realized I didn't have millions in the bank, she scraped me off like someone scraping dog poop off the bottom of their Blahniks. Thank God.

(H/T Maggie's Farm)

Vaccination - The Debate Rages On

The debate about vaccinations and the fear they generate continues unabated. Anecdotal evidence about a tie between vaccines and autism has more weight than clinical studies showing no such ties. Fear rules rather than reason. Unfortunately the only losers in this debate will be children left unprotected from diseases that kill, cripple, or maim.

Parents take the advice of people that know people that have a relative that read a story about some tenuous connection between vaccinations and a host of illnesses attributed to them. While I to agree that multiple vaccines given simultaneously may not be a great idea, I cannot subscribe to the notion that vaccinations are merely a means of “Big Pharma” to make boatloads of cash. Making vaccines is not a lucrative business. It is fraught with risk and liabilities. It's one reason why vaccines are no longer made in the US – the fear of lawsuits that would wipe out the company making the vaccines. The drug companies make far more money and take on far less risk making other drugs than they'll ever make manufacturing vaccines. But that makes no difference to those blaming Big Pharma for all the world's ills.

One of the biggest reasons given by parents for their decision not to vaccinate was the aforementioned belief that they can lead to autism. The argument goes that the rate of autism has gone up and that most changes seen in children took place right around the time they received some of their vaccinations. But autism tends to show up right around the same time in unvaccinated children. But that doesn't convince many parents and they choose not to vaccinate or delay vaccinating their children.

One of the effects of this has been the reappearance of diseases the vaccination were used to prevent, such as measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, and whooping cough. Some of these diseases can kill. It's only a matter of time before polio makes a reappearance.

The debate about the issue ran on in the comments to the article linked above, with some responses purely emotional, others purely scientific, and others with a pragmatic view about whether to vaccinate or not.

One of the best comebacks I ever heard by a doctor responding to a young mother's spiel about why she was not vaccinating her young child came from the TV show House (from memory):

Young Mother: “Oh no, I'm not going to vaccinate him. All it does is make huge profits for the drug companies!”

House: “Well I'll tell you another business that will make a fortune if people like you decide to 'stick it to the man' – the companies that make tiny little coffins for infants like yours.



Thoughts On A Sunday

It's December 7th, a day that will live in infamy.

No, it's not the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the forces of Imperial Japan back in 1941 that makes it that kind of day. Rather, it's the 47th anniversary of the birth of my dear brother, John, founder of Weekend Pundit.

You see, the attack on Pearl Harbor wasn't predicated upon Japan's ambitions in the Pacific. Rather it was motivated by the predictions of a Japanese oracle, a pre-emptive strike to prevent the birth of my dear brother, someone this sooth-sayer feared above all others. Call it a mid-20th Century version of The Terminator. Obviously they failed. And so history was changed.

Happy Birthday, John! May all your enemies flee in fear and tremble upon hearing your name!


Like some in Michael Malone's piece about going Microsoft free, I have been shifting computer operations here at The Manse away from Windows and towards Linux.

A few commenters to Malone's post had less than kind words about Linux and specifically the Open Office suite, a competitor to Microsoft Office, but I haven't had any problems with it (with one exception) and use it on every computer here, including the Linux laptop I'm using to write this. Microsoft Office does not reside on any of the Weekend Pundit machines.

The one exception mentioned above: I had a large MS Word document from work I imported so I could work on it over a long weekend. Once completed, I saved it back into the .doc format. When I opened it with MS Word at work, the formatting was all screwed up. However, when I've generated equally large documents in OO and then saved it into MS Word .doc format, it looked just fine when I opened it at work. It looks like the conversion to and from OO's Open Document Format still has some issues to deal with.

(H/T Instapundit)


This seems like a good idea: emergency power for all cell tower sites. However, the White House is against it as proposed by the FCC. Most of the cell companies are against it as well, citing the prohibitive costs. But it is something that should be looked into in light of disasters like Katrina. When power failed in the areas hit hard by the hurricane cell phones became nothing but pretty bricks even though the cell sites themselves were undamaged. In most cases the only communications available into and out of those areas were amateur radio and satellite phones. Those limited means of communications hampered rescue and recovery efforts because the destruction was so widespread.


Neo-neocon asks the question “Suppose they gave a victory and nobody noticed?”

It certainly seems to be the case with Iraq.


Christmas is still over two weeks away and it looks like Mother Nature is trying her best to ensure it will be a white one here in New England. We had snow here in New Hampshire earlier in the week and a lot of it is still here. It was snowing this morning, but left only a dusting. The temps have been cold enough for snow, so the conditions have been right for it. My only wish is that any serious snowfall holds off until I can get the snow tires mounted on the trusty Intrepid.


Why is it many retailers here in the US are afraid to use the 'C' word? You know, Christmas? Glenn Reynolds has certainly noticed the trend, and one of his readers commented about even the mighty Amazon using “Happy Holidays” rather than Merry Christmas, but only in the US. “Merry Christmas” is still being seen on Amazon in Canada, France, Germany, and the UK.

This politically correct BS has got to stop, particularly when it comes to something as important as Christmas.


The New England Patriots played the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle. The 7-5 Patriots struggled all throughout the game against the 2-10 Seahawks, suffering from too many first and second string players on the injured list. The Patriots went so far as calling back retired veteran Junior Seau for help in the defense.

After Tom Brady and Lawrence Maroney went out for the year due to injuries, I thought the Patriots might still have a chance to at least make the playoffs. But that hope has dimmed as more Patriots have gone onto the Injured Reserve list. They can't seem to catch the breaks.

Yet despite their problems, the managed to beat the Seahawks 24-21.


Paul Ibrahim gives us his opinion of a CNN poll showing Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin at the head of the pack of GOP hopefuls for 2012.

Isn't it just a little premature to start polling for the 2012 race? The present President-Elect hasn't even been sworn in yet. The last thing we need is yet another multi-year campaign season. We're still recovering from the last one.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where temps are dropping, the woodpile is getting smaller, and where winter weather will soon be the norm.


British Climate Scientists Get It Wrong

It seems the climate scientists at the UK's Met Office haven't kept up with the news and are still trumping Al Gore's “global warming will doom us all and it's all our fault” cant.

At one point in the linked article made mention that the hottest year was 1998, when just about everyone else knows that conclusion was based upon flawed analysis of NASA data and that the actual warmest year over the past 100 years or so was 1934. That right there clued me in that the scientists at the Met Office are not to be taken seriously. No mention was made of the recent find of over 100,000 British Royal Navy logbooks dating back to the 1600's.

The graph included in the article showing global average temperatures goes back only to 1850, ignoring previous warm cycles like the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods where global temps were believed to be higher than what we've experienced to date. And if solar scientists are correct, the long delayed Cycle 24 of the Sun's 11-year sunspot cycle may be a harbinger of another lengthy cool period, lasting decades or longer.

If the globe is cooling and we see the advance of glaciers and polar ice, does that mean we're still at fault because anthropogenic global warming caused the cooling? Sounds like a no-win scenario in that regard: if it gets warmer, it's global warming; if it gets cooler, it's global warming. So sayeth the Gorical. And woe be upon those that do not heed His words, for they are apostates and must suffer great ridicule and be cast out to freeze in the global warming caused Ice Age!


Copper Thefts Endanger Infrastructure

We've all read in the newspapers or seen reports on TV news about thieves stealing copper pipe and wiring from empty homes or commercial buildings or stripping electrical and telephone cable from between telephone poles. As copper prices rose the incidents of theft rose with them as thieves sought to cash in by selling off 'salvaged' copper to scrap dealers.

Such thefts are certainly a pain for home and building owners as well as utilities. It has also led to the deaths of more than a few thieves when they try to cut live electrical cables carrying 3,800 volts or more.

But one of the less recognized problems with these thefts is the danger to our electrical and communications infrastructure. Cutting the wrong line can cripple part of the electrical grid. Removing a section of cable my disrupt communications over a wide area. If enough of these kinds of thefts occur, entire cities could find themselves without power or phone service. Include Internet service along with those that might be disrupted.

Why Good Television Shows Are Canceled

Have you noticed that over the past few years the TV networks, primarily ABC, CBS, and NBC are likely to cancel shows that, while very good programs, aren't overnight hits? This phenomenon has been more prevalent over the past three years, and it's made me wonder why the programming Powers-That-Be are so quick to pull the plug on programs that may need more than a few weeks to gain a following. According to Josef Adalian, this can be attributed to a simple cause: an old-fashioned and flawed understanding of viewer habits.

Call it the Tim Kring theory.

Mr. Kring, creator of NBC’s “Heroes,” recently told a writers expo that serialized dramas such as his are “a very flawed way of telling stories on network television right now, because of the advent of the DVR and online streaming.”

“The engine that drove [serialized TV] was you had to be in front of the TV [when it aired],” he said. “Now you can watch it when you want, where you want, how you want to watch it, and almost all of those ways are superior to watching it on-air. So [watching it] on-air is related to the saps and the dips***s who can’t figure out how to watch it in a superior way.”

Mr. Kring hit upon a larger problem facing networks that aspire to airing complicated series. These days it seems the cooler, more intricate the show, the less likely it is that Nielsen will be able to accurately—and quickly—measure its audience.

Sure, Nielsen generates numbers showing how many viewers watch a show via DVR—as long as they watch within seven days. But those of us who decide to watch a dozen episodes of “Chuck” in a Hanukkah-week Hulu marathon? Or who figure “Dirty Sexy Money” is a dish best enjoyed via a summertime DVD box-set splurge? We don’t count.

And that's the problem.

There are far more viewers the networks ignore when it comes to quantifying the popularity of any given show. I know my family is one of those as there are a number of TV series we record on our DVR and watch when it is convenient for us to do so. We don't necessarily have the time to watch them when they air because we're busy with other activities or they air at the same time another show we like is on. There are plenty of other viewers that will watch their favorite shows online for the same reason - convenience. The old model of watching a program when the network(s) decide to air them is flawed and does not reflect reality of modern viewing habits. It skews the results of any rating system such as Nielsen because the old model hasn't kept up with the times.

Unless the networks can update their decision making process, choosing not to ignore non-traditional viewer profiles, they are doomed to fade away to be replaced by those embracing the changes and providing the kind of programming the TV audiences want.


Oil Prices To Drop Below $40 By End Of Year?

Oil prices keep coming down, making OPEC and other oil exporting nations nervous. Some are predicting oil could fall below $40 per barrel by year's end.

Oil tumbled below $44 a barrel Thursday and the average gallon of gasoline is now less than $1.80 nationally, both four year lows.

Part of the reason gasoline prices have fallen so low is that many people no longer have jobs to drive to and fewer people have money to spend shopping. Gasoline futures fell below a dollar a gallon.

Prices at the pump continued to decline, falling 1.4 cents overnight to $1.789, according to auto club AAA, the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express. That price is down 60.2 cents from just last month.

On the way home from work this afternoon I saw Regular selling for $1.67 per gallon. That's about $2.50 per gallon less than during the height this past summer.

Even with the lower gas prices neither Deb or I will be driving any more than we have as we've always been chea...uh...frugal.


New Hampshire City Fights Against Taxpayer Revolt

In these tough economic times is it any surprise taxpayers want the government, and more specifically, their local government to hold the line and spending and taxes? Apparently it is to one of the local cities here in New Hampshire.

The city of Concord, the state capitol, has gone to court in an effort to head off a taxpayer revolt, the revolt taking the form of a petition to get the question of imposing a tax cap on the November ballot. (No direct link available, but the December 3rd issue of the Laconia Daily Sun can be found here.)

Petitioners, led by the conservative New Hampshire Advantage Coalition, sough to place an amendment adding a tax cap to the city charter on the general election ballot this year, but the City Council, in a decision upheld by the Superior Court, chose to postpone the vote until the municipal elections in November 2009. At the same time, the council filed suit, appealing the opinion of three state agencies required by law to approve charter amendments – the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Administration – that the language of the amendment is consistent with the Constitution and state law.

The Concord City Council is taking the position that such a charter amendment is unconstitutional because it lies outside the “home rule” article in the state constitution. It seems the councilors don't like the idea of the taxpayers “gettin' uppity” and telling them how much they're going to be allowed to spend. By moving the ballot question to an off-year, the City Council knew voter turnout would be far lower than if the question had been on this year's ballot, giving the councilors a better chance of quashing the charter amendment.

A small number of other New Hampshire communities have already incorporated tax caps into their charters and they appear to be holding spending and taxes in check. However that could be in jeopardy should the Merrimack County Superior Court rule in Concord's favor. Such a decision could invalidate the tax cap portion of the charters of those municipalities, assuming such a decision isn't appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Tax caps have been a instrument to rein in profligate spending and rapidly increasing property taxes. They were enacted because the city or town governments weren't willing to do what was necessary to keep spending and taxes in check. For the most part the tax caps have been successful, forcing the cities and towns to keep a close eye on spending and make them better able to discriminate between nice-to-haves and need-to-haves. If Concord gets its way, all that will go out the window and the taxpayers will once again get the shaft...and the bill.


Our Culture Is Better

As much as the “multi-culti” folks might disagree with me, I have to state in no uncertain terms that all cultures are not equally valid. Let's face it, there are some that are the antithesis of everything good and decent in the world. Multi-cultis will accuse me of being prejudiced, that I have no basis to make such a claim. But they are wrong. There are things in some cultures that are so debauched, so evil that they cannot be seen as being just as valid as Western culture. Frankly, I am willing to say our culture is better than many out there.

[T]he West suffers from an excess of toleration for those who do not share its tradition of tolerance. "We believe that -- 'we' means the political elite -- that all cultures are equal," [Geert Wilders] says. "I believe this is the biggest disease today facing Europe. . . . We should wake up and tell ourselves: You're not a xenophobe, you're not a racist, you're not a crazy guy if you say, 'My culture is better than yours.' A culture based on Christianity, Judaism, humanism is better. Look at how we treat women, look at how we treat apostates, look at how we go with the separation of church and state. I can give you 500 examples why our culture is better."

Wilders goes on to explain that cultures that sanction the execution of homosexuals, the beheading of women, the genital mutilation of girls, or treating women as nothing more than chattel, are in no way equal to or superior to Western culture. Many of these same cultures described by Wilders have no such thing as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of (or from) religion. Some of them also sanction genocide, ethnic cleansing, religious persecution, 'honor' killings, infanticide, and a host of other customs that we in the west find heinous and barbaric. The list could go on and on.

These are not the hallmarks of cultures that are equal to Western culture. Many of them produce nothing but misery. Instead, they are cultures that either need to change or to wither away and disappear into history as have so many others well deserving of it.


Thoughts On A Sunday

The Thanksgiving holiday weekend winds to a close, and many holiday travelers are on their way home. The malls and outlets are jam packed, making it seem the economy may not be as bad as some have been reporting, at least not here in New Hampshire.

The holiday also heralds another yearly event: Beezlebub's assembly of the Christmas Village and the erection and decoration of the Official Weekend Pundit Artificial Christmas Tree. (I am of two minds about this. It seems too early to me to put up the Christmas decorations, far too early. But I also see BeezleBub's reasoning about it, trying to extend the holiday feelings.)

At least I don't have to worry about putting up outside decorations, something neither my or Deb's family ever really got into.


WKRP in Cincinatti is back on the air. No, not the TV show, but the TV station!

(H/T Instapundit)


You know criticism of the Indian police and their reluctance to open fire on the terrorists is valid when those critics start quoting Heinlein.



In light of the events in Mumbai, neo-neocon gives us an important bit of advice when it comes to responding to terrorist attacks: If the Israelis give advice, take it.


There's always one aspect of heating with wood that we conveniently forget...until the next heating season arrives: cleaning.

When we're running the Official Weekend Pundit Woodstove it's necessary to vacuum and dust every other day, if not every day. We also have to sweep up around the wood box and stove at least once a day.

There are definitely advantages to just being able to turn up the thermostat when we want heat. Unless we go solar or geothermal, I doubt we'll see that here at The Manse any time soon.


In contrast to this tragedy, Bogie reports her experience of shopping on Black Friday was relatively quiet, with crowds large yet well behaved.


Now that we've gotten past the first blush euphoria of Obama's election to the highest office in the land, members of the MSM have started admitting they were completely in the tank for Obama. Some are even admitting to feeling shame, though not necessarily for themselves but for others in their profession.

Time magazine's Mark Halperin, one of the most respected political editors in America, said at a recent Politico.com conference that the media bias in favor of Obama was "the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war."

Big surprise there.


Speaking of media spin for the Obamessiah, now the New York Times is trying to give him and the Democrats credit for the victory in Iraq.

Uh, weren't they the ones working very hard to make sure we failed in Iraq? This spin wipes out the last shred of credibility the Times may have had.


The New England Patriots took on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Foxboro today. As I wrote this the Pats are ahead 7-3 in the first quarter.


The snow started flying here at The Manse around 3PM. While we're not expecting to see much in the way of accumulation before it changes over to rain, it is a preview of what to expect over the next four months.

One thing both BeezleBub and I have pondered is if we will see a repeat of last winter's snowfall. We had over 150” of snow here at The Manse last winter, the storms coming so often and dumping so much snow we were exhausting ourselves trying to keep up with it. If we'd had just one more storm we would have been in trouble because we had no place to put it.

We know we'll be seeing a 'colder' than normal winter, normal being a relative term. (We blame global warming!)


Bob Parks reminds the Electors of their duty and the need to make sure the candidate for which they are obligated to cast a ballot on December 15th is constitutionally qualified to be POTUS.

The question of Obama's birth certificate isn't going away despite claims by many on the Left it's a non-issue.


Megan McArdle takes a brief break from packing for her move to quote and comment upon a piece by Yglesias about “first principles on markets, property rights, and air pollution.”

As Yglesias points out:

On one conceivable conception of property rights, the Sierra Club could buy up a field somewhere and then assert that its property rights over the field give it the right to exclude any form of air pollution from wafting into its field. On that definition of property rights, which is the one "the Greens" would favor if we really wanted Stone Age economic conditions, industrial production would swiftly become impossible. You couldn't so much as warm yourself with a fire before neighbors were accusing you of trespassing for depositing microscopic soot particles in their lawns.

So obviously we don't define the property rights that way.

But I wouldn't put it past “the Greens” to try something like that at some point, likely in California or Oregon. Then it would likely come down to a suit in court about property rights and eminent domain exercised by a private concern to force abutters to do the bidding of the so-called aggrieved party.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the snow is flying, the ponds and lakes are freezing, and the woodstoves are keeping homes warm.


Black Friday Bargain Hunting Gone Too Far

I know people really wanted to get an early start shopping on Black Friday, but knocking down and killing store employees is not a good way to do it.

Apparently a mob of shoppers waiting outside a Long Island, New York WalMart figured they'd waited long enough and forced their way into the store, knocking down several employees and trampling one of them. 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour, to death.

"He was bum-rushed by 200 people," said Wal-Mart worker Jimmy Overby, 43.

"They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me.

"They took me down, too ... I didn't know if I was going to live through it. I literally had to fight people off my back," Overby said.

Damour, a temporary maintenance worker from Jamaica, Queens, was gasping for air as shoppers continued to surge into the store after its 5 a.m. opening, witnesses said.

Even officers who arrived to perform CPR on the trampled worker were stepped on by wild-eyed shoppers streaming inside, a cop at the scene said.

I know people are looking for bargains during their Christmas shopping, but this is taking saving on their purchases to a new low. It is depraved behavior.

I wonder how many kids would want their Christmas presents if they knew their parents actually killed someone to get it?


Thanksgiving And America - An Englishman's View

The WP family is away, visiting the WP In-Laws for Thanksgiving. As such I am taking a short break from blogging, returning sometime Friday.

Before I head off to bed, I thought I'd repost something written by Andrew Sullivan way back in 1996 for the Times of London and posted on his blog in 2002 about Thanksgiving. Call it an Englishman's view of that holiday and about America in general. I've posted this before back in 2002 and once or twice since then, but it deserves a repeat appearance.

A THANKSGIVING POST: My old colleague, the legendary British journalist and drunk Henry Fairlie, had a favourite story about his long, lascivious love affair with America. He was walking down a suburban street one afternoon in a suit and tie, passing familiar rows of detached middle-American dwellings and lush, green Washington lawns. In the distance a small boy - aged perhaps six or seven - was riding his bicycle towards him.

And in a few minutes, as their paths crossed on the pavement, the small boy looked up at Henry and said, with no hesitation or particular affectation: "Hi." As Henry told it, he was so taken aback by this unexpected outburst of familiarity that he found it hard to say anything particularly coherent in return. And by the time he did, the boy was already trundling past him into the distance.

In that exchange, Henry used to reminisce, so much of America was summed up. That distinctive form of American manners, for one thing: a strong blend of careful politeness and easy informality. But beneath that, something far more impressive. It never occurred to that little American boy that he should be silent, or know his place, or defer to his elder. In America, a six-year-old cyclist and a 55-year-old journalist were equals. The democratic essence of America was present there on a quiet street on a lazy summer afternoon.

Henry couldn't have imagined that exchange happening in England - or Europe, for that matter. Perhaps now, as European - and especially British - society has shed some of its more rigid hierarchies, it could. But what thrilled him about that exchange is still a critical part of what makes America an enduringly liberating place. And why so many of us who have come to live here find, perhaps more than most native Americans, a reason to give thanks this Thanksgiving.

When I tuck into the turkey on Thursday, I'll have three things in particular in mind. First, the country's pathological obsession with the present. America is still a country where the past is anathema. Even when Americans are nostalgic, they are nostalgic for a myth of the future. What matters for Americans, in small ways and large, is never where you have come from - but where you are going, what you are doing now, or what you are about to become. In all the years I have lived in America - almost a decade and a half now - it never ceases to amaze me that almost nobody has ever demanded to know by what right I belong here. Almost nobody has asked what school I went to, what my family is like, or what my past contains. (In Britain I was asked those questions on a daily, almost hourly, basis.) Even when I took it on myself to be part of the American debate, nobody ever questioned my credentials for doing so. I don't think that could ever happen in a European context (when there's a gay American editor of The Spectator, let me know). If Europeans ever need to know why Ronald Reagan captured such a deep part of the American imagination, this is surely part of the answer. It was his reckless futurism (remember star wars and supply-side economics?) and his instinctive, personal generosity.

Second, I'm thankful for the American talent for contradiction. The country that sustained slavery for longer than any other civilised country is also the country that has perhaps struggled more honestly for the notion of racial equality than any other. The country that has a genuine public ethic of classlessness also has the most extreme economic inequality in the developed world. The country that is most obsessed with pressing the edge of modernity also has the oldest intact constitution in the world. The country that still contains a powerful religious right has also pushed the equality of homosexuals further than ever before in history. A country that cannot officially celebrate Christmas (it would erase the boundary between church and state) is also one of the most deeply religious nations on the planet. Americans have learnt how to reconcile the necessary contradictions not simply because their country is physically big enough to contain them, but because it is spiritually big enough to contain them. Americans have learnt how to reconcile the necessary contradictions of modern life with a verve and a serenity few others can muster. It is a deeply reassuring achievement.

Third, I'm thankful because America is, above all, a country of primary colours. Sometimes the pictures Americans paint are therefore not as subtle, or as elegant, or even as brilliant as masterpieces elsewhere. But they have a vigour and a simplicity that is often more viscerally alive. Other nations may have become bored with the Enlightenment, or comfortable in post-modern ennui. Americans find such postures irrelevant. Here the advertisements are cruel, the battles are stark and the sermons are terrifying. And here, more than anywhere else, the most vital of arguments still go on. Does God exist? Are the races equal? Can the genders get along? Americans believe that these debates can never get tired, and that their resolution still matters, because what happens in America still matters in the broader world. At its worst, this can bespeak a kind of arrogance and crudeness. But at its best, it reflects a resilient belief that the great questions can always be reinvented and that the answers are always relevant. In the end, I have come to appreciate this kind of naivety as a deeper form of sophistication. Even the subtlest of hues, after all, are merely primary colours mixed.

At the end of November each year this restless, contradictory and simple country finds a way to celebrate itself. The British, as befits a people at ease with themselves, do not have a national day. When the French do, their insecurity shows. Even America, on the fourth of July, displays a slightly neurotic excess of patriotism. But on Thanksgiving, the Americans resolve the nationalist dilemma. They don't celebrate themselves, they celebrate their good fortune. And every November, as I reflect on a country that can make even an opinionated Englishman feel at home, I know exactly how they feel.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


Americans Flunk Basic Civics Test

Why does this not surprise me?

The average American citizen flunked a civics test given by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. What could be worse than that? Our politicians, the ones running our country, did even worse.

How can the average American or our politicians be trusted with preserving our nation, our rights, if they don't even know what either entails?

This is the worst part for me:

The question that received the fewest correct responses, just 16 percent, tested respondents’ basic understanding of economic principles, asking why “free markets typically secure more economic prosperity than government’s centralized planning?”

I blame the universities and the public schools. I mean, Marxist economic theory is routinely taught in classes but naming an economic institute after Nobel Prize winner Milt Friedman? Well now that’s controversial.

That's scary, to think that the folks making the decisions in Washington DC and our state capitols have a poor understanding of history or basic economic concepts. No wonder we're in the mess we're faced with. The boobs in Congress went against basic economic principals and in the process screwed up the economy. Such are the wages of ignorance.

If you want to test yourself, the test can be found here.

In case you're wondering, I passed the test with a score of 33 correct out of 33, or 100%. I give credit to my parents and the public schools I attended (well before the disease that started afflicting them took root in the 1970's).


A Different View Of US Troops

Our friends at Granite Grok steered me to this, a translation of an article by a French infantryman serving in Afghanistan along side soldiers from the US Army (from what I could tell from the article, the US soldiers are from the 101st Airborne Division). The original article is in French and was translated by Jean-Marc Liotier over at Serendipitous Altruism.

I have included the translation in its entirety.

“We have shared our daily life with two US units for quite a while - they are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. To the common man it is a unit just like any other. But we live with them and got to know them, and we henceforth know that we have the honor to live with one of the most renowned units of the US Army - one that the movies brought to the public as series showing “ordinary soldiers thrust into extraordinary events”. Who are they, those soldiers from abroad, how is their daily life, and what support do they bring to the men of our OMLT every day ? Few of them belong to the Easy Company, the one the TV series focuses on. This one nowadays is named Echo Company, and it has become the support company.

They have a terribly strong American accent - from our point of view the language they speak is not even English. How many times did I have to write down what I wanted to say rather than waste precious minutes trying various pronunciations of a seemingly common word? Whatever state they are from, no two accents are alike and they even admit that in some crisis situations they have difficulties understanding each other.

Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine - they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them - we are wimps, even the strongest of us - and because of that they often mistake us for Afghans.
Here we discover America as it is often depicted : their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by promiscuity lack of privacy and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland - everything here reminds of that: the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location : books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission. And that is a first shock to our preconceptions : the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention.

And they are impressive warriors ! We have not come across bad ones, as strange at it may seem to you when you know how critical French people can be. Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how. Beyond the wearing of a combat kit that never seem to discomfort them (helmet strap, helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.) the long hours of watch at the outpost never seem to annoy them in the slightest. On the one square meter wooden tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full battle rattle and night vision goggles on top, their sight unmoving in the directions of likely danger. No distractions, no pauses, they are like statues nights and days. At night, all movements are performed in the dark - only a handful of subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence of a soldier on the move. Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered - everything happens in pitch dark even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy pump.

And combat ? If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all - always coming to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always in the shortest delay. That is one of their tricks : they switch  from T-shirt and sandals to combat ready in three minutes. Arriving in contact with the enemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting : they just charge! They disembark and assault in stride, they bomb first and ask questions later - which cuts any pussyfooting short.

We seldom hear any harsh word, and from 5 AM onwards the camp chores are performed in beautiful order and always with excellent spirit. A passing American helicopter stops near a stranded vehicle just to check that everything is alright; an American combat team will rush to support ours before even knowing how dangerous the mission is - from what we have been given to witness, the American soldier is a beautiful and worthy heir to those who liberated France and Europe.

To those who bestow us with the honor of sharing their combat outposts and who everyday give proof of their military excellence, to those who pay the daily tribute of America’s army’s deployment on Afghan soil, to those we owned this article, ourselves hoping that we will always remain worthy of them and to always continue hearing them say that we are all the same band of brothers”.

I have had the honor and privilege of meeting men like those described above, from the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Any words I may add would be pale in comparison to the those written by that French comrade-in-arms, so I'm not even going to try. All I will say is “Godspeed!”


Thoughts On A Sunday

It's the weekend before Thanksgiving, but it feels more like the weekend before Christmas, temperature-wise. Highs have been in the 20's and lows have been in the teens and single digits all week. It's also been quite windy, making it feel even colder. The Official Weekend Pundit Woodstove has been running continuously for days, sometimes requiring me to stoke it in the middle of the night. Usually night time stoking isn't required until late December. (Does anyone want to tell me about global warming again?)

The chilly temps and the wind certainly have been a damper to getting the last of the outside work done. Beezlebub and I still have some work to finish on The Boat before it goes under cover. At least the firewood is now under cover, thanks to BeezleBub's efforts.


Speaking of Thanksgiving, we will be headed down to the WP In-Laws to celebrate the holiday. This will be the first time in the past few years we won't be hosting the Thanksgiving feast. At least the trip down and back won't be taxing as it's less not a long drive as compared to some we've taken in the past. At least we don't have to cross any state lines to get there.


Glenn Reynolds links to a story in the Detroit Newsthat points the finger at Congress rather than the Big Three for the problems in Detroit.

The article names names, including Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.


At least Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is flying commercial, unlike some folks we could mention.


Will the anti-gun Attorney General designee also try his hand at stifling free speech on the internet?

Obama lost any credibility with me once I saw he was selecting Clinton retreads. “Hope and Change” indeed. Obama was hoping we wouldn't notice the change he was taking us back to the days of the Clinton administration. That's not so much change as sleight of hand.


And speaking of the incoming Obama administration, the Left nutroots are already displeased with their 'messiah'.

Gee, what a shock!


I find it disturbing the 'Meanest SOB in the House' is expanding his power at the expense of fellow Democrats.


The New England Patriots defeated the Miami Dolphins in Miami, 48-28.


An opinion piece in the LA Times by Professor Alexander MacPherson of UC Irvine explains how sexual harassment training is “is worthless, a childish piece of theater, an insult to anyone with a respectable IQ, primarily designed to relieve the university of liability in the case of lawsuits.”

I agree.


Skip at Granite Grok tries to answer the question, “What is a conservative?” He points out that far too many people, particularly liberals, believe “they only have the same old rhetoric that dates from the Reagan era and is no longer applicable.”

And sometimes, we fall for it. But that is not what Conservatism is. Rather, it is a way of thinking, of believing, and most of all, activating. I was going to say acting, but that seems to be what a lot of faux conservatives seem to have been doing for a while - merely acting.



Rachel Lucas is dismayed about one aspect of her upcoming move to the UK: the dearth of Mexican restaurants. I did let her know of one out on the Isle of Wight in the town of Ryde run by a Texas ex-pat from San Antonio. It has some of the best Tex-Mex food outside of Texas.

Of course she'll have to have a major Mexican food jones to justify making the trip out to the Isle. It isn't like a trip to the local take out place, that's for sure.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where ponds and bays are freezing over, the winds are whipping, and where Thanksgiving won't arrive soon enough.


Spread The Wealth

Received via e-mail:

Behold the new “Spread The Wealth” pencil sharpener. Every U.S. Taxpayer will receive one along with their 2008 1040 forms.


Dating - Why Bother?

After reading this report about the dating scene by Kay Hymowitz, it makes me glad I'm not in my 20's. The last thing I'd want to go through is the crap a lot of men are dealing with these days.

Is it really as bad as it's made out to be? The only evidence I have beyond Hymowitz's report is anecdotal in nature. And it echoes a lot of what was in her report, at least in the urban areas. It's not quite as prevalent out here in the hinterlands.


Are Conservative Beliefs Immoral?

In Sunday's post I made mention of Dr. Lyle Rossiter and his contention that today's liberalism is akin to a mental illness. Prior to that I posted about how, according to psychologist Jonathon Haidt, conservatives are capable of thinking like liberals, but liberals aren't capable of thinking like conservatives.

Now Ace of Spades follows up with paper by that same Jonathan Haidt, and asks “How can some liberals hold such visceral and vitriolic hatred for us and our beliefs?” It boils down to this: conservatives tend to have a far stronger and broader moral framework than liberals.

In a 2007 paper, Jonathan Haidt and Jesse Graham, a couple of social justice researchers, managed to come up with an explanation. Brace yourselves: it turns out that our beliefs are immoral.

Well, at least as far as liberals are concerned. These researchers determined that "there are five psychological foundations of morality, which we label as harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity." Conservative morality is based on some combination of all five of these moral foundations. There may not be an exact 20% input from each one, but they are all present. Liberal morality is based on only the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity foundations.

Liberals are only concerned about harm/care and fairness/reciprocity. When we talk about patriotism, or respect for the country, or abortion, we are speaking from a set of morals and values that liberals simply do not see as being moral at all. In fact, liberals often believe that we have "non-moral motivations—such as selfishness, existential fear, or blind prejudice."

It doesn't surprise me, having had more than my share of run ins with more than a few modern liberals totally incapable of understanding my point of view and the beliefs that drive it. They have no concept of my morals and where they come from, nor do they wish to. Instead they blow them off, explaining them away as was done in the last sentence of the paragraph above - “selfishness, existential fear, or blind prejudice.” Such condemnations must save them from having to think about their own moral and intellectual shortcomings.

Oh, wait a second, I made a mistake. I almost ascribed 'thinking' to their beliefs when it has become evident over the years that modern liberalism isn't about thinking at all, but about “feeling”. One thing I learned a long time ago is that feelings can distort one's reasoning, and reason should be the driving force for what is right and wrong. But reason takes effort. Feeling takes none.

Need I say more?