Thoughts On A Sunday

We experienced a return to winter-like temperatures yesterday, with highs in the low 30's and high winds. However, today more than made up for it, with slightly warmer temps but no wind.

There's been a lot of snow melting, with some of the taller piles and snowbanks showing the most erosion. Our only wish is for a slow and steady melting of the snowpack, considering we've had the second highest snowfall on record. Too much melting too soon may cause some flooding and will raise the level of the lakes too much, which could delay the start of the boating season. (High water will cause the state Marine Patrol to declare a lakewide No Wake Zone, meaning all boats will have to go slow, leaving no wake from their passage. That makes getting anywhere on the lake take a long time.)

In any case, the warmer temps and melting snow are welcome.


While it is possible to get a bargain on a house at a foreclosure auction, it isn't as common as it once was.

I remember seeing pages and pages of foreclosure auctions during the last housing bust in the early 1990's, and saw house after house going for far less than it's actual value. The housing market didn't recover until all the foreclosed properties were sold.

Seeing how the housing market is today and the climbing number of foreclosures, I expect the same thing will be true this time around, though the bargains will be found in the more rural and smaller suburban areas.


One plus side to the weak housing market and weaker US dollars has been European bargain hunters coming to the US to buy homes.

With the U.S. dollar at its weakest level in decades, international buyers are chasing housing bargains here, eager to take advantage of their purchasing power and the declining prices in some of the best-known U.S. cities.

Against that backdrop, the Washington area is luring more than the usual crowd of diplomats. Now that the dollar is cheap, the region's appeal has broadened, enticing international business types and sophisticated investors who find comfort in the area's global reputation as a recession-proof market.

It wouldn't surprise me to find the same is true in many of America's vacations spots as well.


It looks like the Verizon-FairPoint deal has hit a snag. Loans that were supposed to have a rate of 8% turned out to have a rate of 13.125%, adding millions more to costs of FairPoint's acquisition of Verizon's landline assets in northern New England.

I've believed this deal was a bad deal for the consumers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. This 'snag' has only strengthened that belief.


Dutch Elm disease all but wiped out elm trees in America by the early 1970's. They are slowly making a comeback in the form of the American Liberty Elm, a specially bred disease resistant species.

The elm is not the only tree species that was nearly wiped out by a foreign blight, the chestnut tree nearly suffering the same fate. Like the elm, the chestnut is being bred to improve its disease resistance.

Let's hope that one again we will be able to see a “spreading chestnut tree.”


One of the sure signs that winter is in retreat is the removal of bob houses from the ice out on the lakes. Here in New Hampshire all bob houses must be off the ice by April 1st. As of today I saw two bob houses left on Lake Winnisquam and two on Lake Winnipesaukee down at Alton Bay were still there on Saturday. If they didn't get them off the ice today I doubt they'll be able to remove them Monday.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the snow is slowly melting away, the temperatures are slowly rising, and boating season is slowly approaching.


Mandatory Health Insurance - Constitutional?

With some of the hoopla about health insurance for everyone being co-opted by the Democratic presidential candidates, and looking to Massachusetts to see how their mandatory health insurance program is working, it appears that no one has asked the one question that might change he entire perception about the existing and proposed mandatory health insurance programs.

The question?

Are mandatory health insurance requirements imposed by government constitutional?

I have to admit the thought never even crossed my mind. I never thought to ask. But someone else has.

Are health insurance mandates constitutional? They certainly are unprecedented. The federal government does not ordinarily require Americans to purchase particular goods or services from private parties.

The closest we come is when government imposes a condition on the grant of a discretionary benefit or permit. For instance, in most states, you must have auto insurance to drive a car, or you are required to install fire sprinklers when building a new house. But in such cases, the "mandate" is discretionary -- you don't have to drive a car or build a house. Nor do you have a constitutional right to do so.

But Americans do have a constitutional right to live in the United States. Accordingly, neither federal nor state governments can require you to purchase health insurance as a "condition" for residency. The Supreme Court has drawn a distinction between requirements that are flat-out imposed by government and those imposed as a condition for discretionary benefits.

When you think about, the question is obvious. How can the government force us to buy a product or service from a private party, even though we don't want to? That also implies other questions, such as what kind of sanctions would they impose if we refuse to do so? What about the man or woman who happens to have the means to pay for all of their medical expenses out of pocket? Will they be forced to pay for insurance they neither want or need?

I can see these questions never bothered either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. After all, they're doing it for our own good. It's obvious to them we aren't capable of making that decision for ourselves. Therefore, they need to do it for us whether we want them to or not. Isn't that the way it's always been?

The last time they tried something this big we ended up with the 18th Amendment. They decided alcohol was a Bad Thing™, so they banned it. We all know how well that turned out.

Now they want to impose something almost as bad, and they want us to pay for it directly rather than hiding the cost through more taxes. Sound familiar?


Obscene Oil Profits Not Really Obscene

A comment I heard on Thursday morning's Free Beer & Hot Wings radio show set my teeth on edge. I couldn't shake the idea that a lot of people out there would take the comments made by one of the people on the show to heart. The comment that started it all?

“Everyone knows the oils companies are making obscene profits.”

Really? Not just profits, but obscene profits? OK, could someone please help this poor ignorant blogger understand what is meant by obscene profits?

I know what profits are: the amount of money left after all of the costs, fees and taxes are subtracted from a business's income. Does that sound about right?

So, at what gross profit margin do profits become obscene? 5 percent? 10 percent? 20 percent? More? Less?

The obscene profits mentioned on the radio show as well as by Hillary Clinton aren't as much as most people would think. Hillary had mention ExxonMobil by name during one of her campaign stops, saying she would take their 'excess' profits from them to use for social programs. So let's look at those obscene 'excess' profits to see what it really means. Let's use Exxon Mobil, since Hillary is looking at them to fund her pet social programs.

For 2007, ExxonMobil's profit margin was 11.23%. That means they made a little over 11¢ for every dollar in income. As far as most companies go, 11% isn't large. There are a lot of companies that make far more than that (the company I work for has a much larger profit margin than ExxonMobil), but their profits aren't considered obscene. Isn't there some kind of double standard being applied here?

What triggers this visceral response that their profits are obscene is the vast size of the profits: On $361 billion (that billion, with a 'b') income, they made approximately $40.5 billion in profits. That's about 11%. That's in the normal range for most businesses. Again, is it the 11% that folks consider obscene, or the $40.5 billion? And of that $40.5 billion, how much of that goes to stockholders, most of which are mutual funds held by retirees. pension funds, or contributors to 401(k) plans? Does Hillary really think she can do more with those 'obscene' profits than those directly benefiting from them?


The Taliban Learn An Important Lesson

We've all heard about the Law of Unintended Consequences. It appears the Taliban is learning the lesson in Afghanistan.

Taliban attacks on telecom towers have prompted cellphone companies to shut down service across southern Afghanistan, angering a quarter million customers who have no other telephones.

Even some Taliban fighters now regret the disruptions and are demanding that service be restored by the companies.

[T]the cutoff is proving extremely unpopular among Afghan citizens. Even some Taliban fighters are asking that the towers be switched back on, said Afghanistan's telecommunications minister, A. Sangin.

That dissenting view shows how decisions made by the top-ranking Taliban leadership can have negative consequences for lower-ranking fighters in the field, the minister said.

Even though Taliban fighters have been tracked and targeted by NATO forces by tracing the signals on their cellphones, the disruption of cell service has made it difficult, if not impossible for those same Taliban fighters to communicate with their upper level commanders or their subordinates. So by shutting down the cell towers they've also left themselves with no means of rapid communications.

Way to go, Taliban!


Windows Vista Sucks Even More

As if we don't have enough reasons to hate Microsoft's Windows Vista, here's yet another one.

PCs from Hewlett-Packard, Gateway, Lenovo, and other major computer makers that contain a widely used Intel chipset can't be upgraded to Windows Vista Service Pack 1 if they're running certain drivers.

Microsoft has said that Vista SP1 won't work with "a small number of device drivers." The list, however, includes drivers for an Intel chipset that's found in thousands of PCs and laptops.

A service pack that was supposed to fix some of the problems with Vista is actually causing more problems than it fixes. Not a brilliant move by Microsoft.

I know the IT department for my employer has already declared that Vista will not be deployed on any of the corporate computers. There's only one exception to that rule: one of our engineering computers has Vista installed which allows us to test a companion PC application for some of our instruments. That one computer is a standalone machine, not connected to our network.

A Picasso Of Asininity

While the conservative blogosphere, as well as some of the more conservative dead tree media, have been pleased to see that lifelong liberal David Mamet has “seen the light”. Writes Jonah Goldberg:

"As a child of the '60s," he recently wrote in a startling and lively essay for the Village Voice, "I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart."

But Mamet has changed his mind. The accretions left from wave after crashing wave of reality made it impossible for him to carry the load of his cognitive dissonance. For years he'd called NPR "National Palestinian Radio." He'd realized that while government may be incompetent, corporations at times myopic, and the military imperfect, seeing politics through the prism of a Thomas Nast cartoon (you know, where industrialists are cast as pigs in tuxedos feeding at the public trough) might not be as wise as, say, The Village Voice believes it is.

"I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson and Shelby Steele ... and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism."

However, some of his former political compatriots are aghast at his conversion.

Michael Billington might have a different response. "I am depressed to read that David Mamet has swung to the right," wrote the Guardian's theater critic of more than three decades. "What worries me is the effect on his talent of locking himself into a rigid ideological position."

This response is quite simply perfect, a Picasso of asininity, a Mona Lisa of moronic imbecility.

Excuse me? “Locking himself into a rigid ideological position”? Some of the most rigid, ideologically locked people I have ever come across have been those from the Left. For the most part they have been indoctrinated, some since they were children, and others through their post-high school years. They've been spoon-fed a morally bankrupt and politically corrupt ideology that has, in its many incarnations, killed millions through actions, direct or indirect.

Many of the conservatives I know did not grow up conservative. Instead, they went through an awakening all by themselves, with no coaching or indoctrination from those walking the halls of academia. In many cases they were liberals who were finally mugged by reality, realizing the political ideology they'd been following was a hollow shell, offering feel good platitudes, pseudo-intellectual political dogma, a piss poor understanding of our fellow humans and what motivates them, and little understanding of how the world works. The Left knows how they'd like to believe the world to be, but they don't truly understand what it's really like out there.

Welcome to the fold, Mr. Mamet.


Thoughts On A Sunday

Despite the calendar telling me it's Spring, the weather is behaving more like it's winter. While we haven't had any heavy snow over the past couple of weeks, the winds and wind chills have been more like the dead of winter rather than the beginning of spring. There have been a few days here and there that were springlike, but they were quickly supplanted by a return to winter weather.

At this point I think I can safely say just about everyone is tired of winter, particularly the folks up in Stewartstown, New Hampshire, where over 19 feet of snow have fallen so far. That's 228 inches of snow. So far.

And I thought we'd gotten a lot of snow.


How many of you out there have access to Verizon's FiOS fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service or the equivalent? Other then some communities in the southern part and seacoast area of New Hampshire, none of us in the rest of the state are ever likely to have such access.

With the sale of Verizon's wireline business to FairPoint Communications, any chance of FTTH service throughout the rest of New Hampshire disappeared. FairPoint has already said they will not be deploying FTTH. Instead they will deploy DSL, a copper technology that won't have the bandwidth or upgrade capability of fiber.

While the cable companies are offering high-speed Internet connectivity, it has nowhere the bandwidth of fiber, and coverage isn't universal because they aren't required to connect everyone within their service area.

What to do? Maybe it's something we should do ourselves.


This bit of good news couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of folks:

The inhabitants of the Falkland Islands are preparing for a South Atlantic oil rush which they hope will make them among the richest people in the world.

Let's hope the Argentinians don't get any ideas about 'reclaiming' the Malvinas, as they call the Falklands. Their first attempt to do so in 1982 ended in disaster. I have no reason to doubt another attempt would end the same way, particularly since the British Armed Forces have considerable combat experience (Afghanistan and Iraq).

(H/T Right Thinking)


I've been using Linux on my old Dell laptop for six months now and the experience has been good for the most part. About the only thing the laptop needs is some more RAM to speed things up when I've got more than a few apps running. Other than that I've got no complaints.

The 900MHz Athlon tower is still running well though I made a change in the version of Linux running on the machine. Originally I was running Ubuntu, but made the change to Kubuntu to experience a different desktop environment. Ubuntu uses the Gnome desktop environment, while Kubuntu uses the KDE desktop. Gnome is very plain and simple. KDE has more functionality. Other than the desktop environment the two versions of Linux are identical.

For the laptop Ubuntu/Gnome is just fine. All it's used for is word processing and web browsing. Kubuntu is great for extended functionality, particularly when I've used WINE to run some Windows programs under Linux.

All in all I have to say it's been worth it.


I have been a proponent of more efficient lighting, particularly when it comes to street lighting. While high pressure sodium lamps have been the technology of choice for years, they aren't nearly as efficient as the newer technologies such as LEDs. But now there's an even more energy efficient lighting technology out there that blows high brightness LEDs away: plasma light bulbs.

The plasma bulbs are small, about the size of a quarter, and put out about 150 lumens per watt of electricity. At present LEDs put out about 75 to 100 lumens per watt, though work is ongoing to increase their efficiency. The plasma bulbs emit full spectrum light, just like the sun. LEDs tend to be a cooler white, though that may or may not be an issue. I can see where these technologies, while competing, may compliment each other. The main thing is that they throw a lot more light per watt than existing technologies.


One question making the rounds among the boating community here in the Lake Winnipesaukee area:

Will high gas prices, expected to be $4.50 per gallon or higher at the lake marinas, cause less boat traffic out on the lake this summer?

Seeing how much boat traffic was down last summer when marina gas prices were hovering around $3.50 per gallon, I'd have to guess it will be even quieter out on the lake this summer.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the weather still vacillates between winter and spring, gas prices are rising, and where we still have two months worth of firewood left.

Yet More Blows Against The Anthropogenic Global Warming Argument

Yet another set of blows has been struck against the Global Warming Is-The-Fault-Of-The-Evil-Humans believers.

First, according to the holy writ from the sainted Al Gore, temperatures continue to climb, with no end in sight unless we “Do Something!” But there's a problem with the claim.

It's wrong.

If one uses the year 1998 as a reference point, global temperatures since then have fallen. If 2002 is used as the reference, then temperatures have plateaued, staying steady for the past 5 years. If atmospheric carbon dioxide is steadily rising and carbon dioxide causes global warming, shouldn't the temperatures have continued climbing?

More than one anthropogenic global warming theorist has proclaimed that carbon dioxide levels would soon reach a tipping point that would throw the Earth's climate into a runaway thermal meltdown. The problem with this theory is that it is based upon the false assumption the climate is controlled by a positive feedback mechanism, where a small change triggers a big reaction. But if that were so, none of us would be here because our climate would be more like that of Venus. The fact we are here shoots holes in that theory. The carbon dioxide level in Earth's atmosphere has been many times higher than it is now, but it didn't trigger the kind of catastrophe predicted by the AGW theory. Instead, it appears the climate is moderated by a negative feedback mechanism, where any change is minimalized by that feedback.

In a debate between two commenters to the post linked just above, we get a tutorial from one of them on how feedback works, particularly in regards to Earth's climate. The first, a dyed-in-the-wool AGW believer using the moniker The Scientist, tries to come across as an authority on the aforementioned feedback, sounding smug and condescending at the same time.

...just like the author of this blog, you don't understand what positive feedback actually means. If anyone's a complete idiot in their understanding of this, it's you.

...your simple estimate would be wrong because that's not how you calculate climate sensitivity. And you don't believe that water has a high heat capacity? Oh dear. Tell me, generally speaking, which places have more extreme climates? Those near oceans, or those far from oceans?

A number of others replied to The Scientist's comments, getting to the point that one could see he/she was fighting a battle of wits while unarmed. One reply in particular shredded The Scientist's pronouncements, showing it was he/she with little understanding, if any, about climatic feedback mechanisms. It is quoted in its entirety below.

If you choose not to explain, people will assume that you don't really know. And in any case, will not be persuaded. The concepts are not at all hard to understand. Why not simply help people out and explain them?

When people talk about positive feedbacks, what they're actually talking about are positive perturbations on an overall negative feedback. The hotter things get, the faster heat is convected or radiated away, which is a massive negative feedback. Water vapour may make that slightly less negative, and as such is a positive feedback contribution, but the overall feedback is still negative. When you're talking about the effect of changes in temperature and changes in water vapour, the bulk of the feedback drops out, and the feedback on the changes could indeed then be considered positive, but its a rather specialised usage of the term. It's because of the dreadful way they're explained by climatologists that people get confused.

It is true that positive feedback with a feedback coefficient below unity doesn't give a runaway effect. It magnifies changes by a factor of 1/(1-f). But given the wide range of changes of forcings over the past few billion years, the climate would have been a lot more unstable than it has been if f were above 0.6 as proposed. And if there were any "tipping points" as some supposedly reputable scientists have claimed, we would have hit them. That's a valid argument against a slightly different argument to the one you made.

Your examples regarding the thermal capacity of the oceans are a bit misleading. Oceans warm and cool more slowly than the land because they are transparent, not because water has a greater thermal capacity. Nevertheless, ocean surface waters can change temperature by many degrees in a matter of weeks. Adjusting a fraction of a degree, such as that proposed as being caused by AGW, would be far faster.

Where it gets complicated is when you get to the role of the deep ocean, and overturn. In fact the ocean has many different thermal capacities, when considered on many different timescales. The surface waters mix only slowly with the deeper water, on a timescale of hundreds to thousands of years. It is extremely nonlinear that way. Temperatures that when averaged over long periods are above or below normal can give net transfers of heat to or from deeper layers, and in return cool or warm the surface slightly, that could in principle give such an effect. The longer the delay involved, the slower the process and the less heat will be transferred in any given time, so it can only explain so much.

However, such effects ought to show up as long-term average temperature changes in the sub-surface ocean. Measurements are highly uncertain and subject to large errors - we don't really know much about conditions below the surface except for a few samples at isolated spots - but observations by Levitus et al. have gone looking for these changes and failed to find them. I don't regard the science here as conclusive yet.

There is also, as alluded to above, the impulse response function measured from volcanic eruptions that suggest the time constant is very short. And the calculation by Schwartz of the time constant from the autocorrelation function of temperatures suggests the global climate has about a five year delay on the decadal timescale at which AGW should show up.

There are many ways to estimate climate sensitivity, and dreamin gave a simplified version of one of them. I assume it was based on Idso's paper on natural climate experiments - if so, I suggest you comment on Idso's arguments in detail rather than dismissing it with a vague "that's not how you calculate it."

So you can see from that that the explanations aren't quite as simple as you made out, and that patronising comments about people being "beyond help" are somewhat uncalled for.

If you know this, then the best thing you can do is to take the time to explain it, without being snide about it. It helps, even if only to the extent that we don't use that particular argument again. If you didn't know it, and yet are still pretending that one would have to be a fool not to, then consider yourself 'caught out'. I assure you, seeing that sort of thing helps the skeptic case enormously. :-)

What's puzzling is that robot probes used to measure ocean temperatures at various depths (down to the ocean floor in some cases) have been showing no change in ocean temperatures anywhere. If the AGW climate models are correct, there should be some changes below the surface, but they're nowhere to be found.

Of course I'm leaning heavily towards the heliogenic model of climate change. If it holds up we might be in for a lengthy period of colder weather, perhaps another Little Ice Age. Should that happen I'll be one of those working towards anthropogenic global warming.

NOTE: As an aside, my one big question for the AGW folks: “What makes you think a warmer climate will automatically be a bad thing?” So far they've shown no evidence that this will be the case. If past history is any indication (think the Medieval Warm Period or Roman Warm Period) the climate will be better.

Just something to think about.


The Roads Of Danger

Spring has arrived, and with it the ever dreaded frost heaves.

For those of you not familiar with the term, frost heaves are not something that happens when you drink too much of an ice cold beverage. They are ridges, bumps, and sinks that form on roads due the freeze-thaw-freeze cycle of water that seeps under the pavement. It is something we in the northern climes deal with every year. Sometimes frost heaves are few and far between if it's been a mild winter. During bad winters they appear every foot or so along every paved road. This year is one of those bad years.

What makes it worse is most of the repairs the roads require can't be performed until later in the spring when the snow and ice is gone. Until then we will have to suffer the bumps, bangs, and thumps of the torn roads, putting our vehicle suspensions and the fillings in our teeth in peril with every mile.


Heliogenic Or Anthropogenic - The Global Warming Question

After listening to yet another bunch of sanctimonious self-important pseudo-environmentalists in Washington State going on and on about global warming, the failure of the United States to sign on to Kyoto, and how they were going to do their part by greatly reducing Washington's carbon footprint, I felt the need to respond to their recitation of the religious dogma from the House of Gore.

Listening to the properly indoctrinated faithful spout the gospel of anthropogenic global warming, it became clear there was no room in their belief system for contrary views or theories. As more than one of them said, the debate is over, global warming is a fact, and it's all our fault.

If only it were so easy.

Time and time again I have pointed out to the anointed that much of the information they take on faith is based upon unproven theory and discredited studies, all the while ignoring that the computer climate models their high priests have used to 'prove' their beliefs have so far not matched what is actually happening. All the while skeptics have been pointing out factors the true believers have purposely ignored or tried to marginalize.

There's more evidence that recent trends in climate have been driven by solar activity, part of a regular cycle that's been going on for eons. While the cycles have been ongoing, they aren't always regular. There is the short term 11-year sunspot cycle, of which we're at the beginning of Cycle 24. That means that sunspot count on the Sun's surface is minimal, if not non-existent. It also means that the Sun's activity in general is at a minimum. Solar output is down, the Sun's magnetic field is calm, and cosmic radiation reaching the Earth is at its maximum. Because there is a lag between the Sun's activity and its effect on Earth's climate, changes in solar radiance aren't immediately reflected in the weather experienced. But what happens if the Sun enters a prolonged period of minimal sunspot activity? At least one scientist, Dr. Theodor Landscheidt of the Schroeter Institute in Germany is predicting that Cycle 24 will be a particularly weak one, implying global temps may start falling. More than one weak cycle in a row may well put us into yet another Little Ice Age, meaning that it isn't global warming we need to worry about, but global cooling.

Regardless of the predictions above, it is foolish to ignore the solar activity theories of global climate change, particularly in light of climate trends over the past 100 years. Should the global warming of the last few decades turn out to be heliogenic rather than anthropogenic, the billions or trillions of dollars the true believers want us to spend to combat global warming will have been wasted taking measures that will not reverse the trends one way or the other. Rather the money should be spent mitigating the effects of climate change, whether it gets warmer or cooler.

What proof can I offer that it isn't human activity alone driving the warmer temperatures we've seen since the 1970's? Only this: Temperatures on other planets in the solar system have been rising, too.

Somehow I doubt the true believers will be able to point the finger at human activity to explain that. However, I did once have to explain to one of the even less well informed true believers that humans weren't polluting the Martian atmosphere with carbon dioxide, which he claimed was causing the temperature rise, because the Martian atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide and had been since long before humans walked the earth.

Other scientists have been able to track climate changes with changes in the sunspot activity over a period of more than 3,000 years using carbon dating of sedimentary layers of soils and peat bogs for sunspot activity and historical records and paleoclimatology findings. (The post linked above only covers back a little over 1,000 years, but other articles linked to in that post go back even farther.)

In the past I've had commenters counter with the argument that the amount of change in solar radiation isn't enough to affect the climate as much as we've allegedly been seeing recently. But that argument misses one of the points about the side effects of decreased solar activity: more lower level cloud formation. More lower level clouds means more solar radiation reflected back into space. The more solar radiation reflected into space, the cooler the temperatures. When solar activity picks up there's less lower level cloud formation but more upper level clouds. These upper level clouds trap the infrared radiation, which in turns cause temperatures to go up. In each case the solar radiance hasn't changed much, but cloud formation has, which has either a subtractive or additive effect depending upon the types of clouds.

So would you consider the debate about anthropogenic global warming is over, or are there still too many unanswered questions?


Another Retailer Suffers From Credit Card Number Theft

First it was TJX, with over 45 million credit and debit cards put at risk when the numbers were stolen from their computer servers. Banks and credit card companies had to scramble to replace potentially compromised cards.

Now it's Hannaford Bros., a supermarket chain here in the northeastern US, with 4.2 million cards potentially compromised.

In the Hannaford case, which is being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, the breach was discovered Feb. 27. Investigators determined irregularities started on Dec. 7. The breach wasn't contained until March 10, the firm said.

As many as 4.2 million credit and debit card numbers were potentially exposed to fraud, and the firm said Monday 1,800 cases of fraud have been related to the breach. But no personal information -- such as names or addresses -- was taken.

The breach involved all of its 165 stores in the Northeast, 106 Sweetbay stores in Florida, and several independent grocers that sell the chain's products, the company said.

I'd seen the story about their trouble, which at first didn't really concern me even though Deb and I occasionally shop at the local Hannaford's. But that changed today when I got a letter from my bank:

Dear Mr. Weekend Pundit,

We have received notification from MasterCard Alert that there has been a compromise at a merchant or retailer. MasterCard is obligated to notify us of such compromises and we wanted you to know that your debit card was included on this list of potentially compromised cards.

The letter went on to explain that they were willing to replace my card free of charge. All I had to do was call their service center number and they'd take care of it. So I did just that and a new card will be on its way to me in about a week.

So let me ask you this: How do you define irony?

Would you believe that Deb and I had replaced our debit cards about 3 weeks ago because we saw charges we couldn't explain or track showing up on out bank statement? We suspected that one of our card numbers had been stolen so we called the bank to cancel our cards and get new ones.

Is that ironic? No, not really. What's ironic is that when we got our new cards and activated them the first place I used mine was at Hannafords!

It figures....


Thoughts On Heller vs. the District of Columbia

Though I've been paying attention to the Heller vs. The District of Columbia Second Amendment case, I have refrained from commenting other than some vague references now and then. I did catch the oral arguments before the Supreme Court via SCOTUSblog as they live-blogged it, as well as catching their round up of Heller coverage.

Of all the arguments I read, both from in front of the Supremes, as well as on the blogosphere, nowhere did I see any mention of the semantic meaning of the Second Amendment.

"The text of the Second Amendment is, 'A well-regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.'

The verdict? The Second Amendment enumerates an individual right:

"The words 'A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,' contrary to the interpretation cited in your letter of July 26, 1991, constitutes a present participle, rather than a clause. It is used as an adjective, modifying 'militia,' which is followed by the main clause of the sentence (subject 'the right', verb 'shall'). The 'to keep and bear arms' is asserted as an essential for maintaining a militia.

“The sentence does not restrict the right to keep and bear arms, nor does it state or imply possession of the right elsewhere or by others than the people; it simply makes a positive statement with respect to a right of the people."

“The right is not granted by the amendment; its existence is assumed. The thrust of the sentence is that the right shall be preserved inviolate for the sake of ensuring a militia."

Read the whole thing for a much more definitive breakdown of the semantics of Second Amendment.


Yacht Delivery In Australia

Received via e-mail:

65' custom-built motor yacht complete with 4 staterooms, a state-of-the-art galley,
GPS System and radar for navigation, twin supercharged diesel engines, etc:

Champagne, chocolate covered strawberries with cream and music dockside for the excited 'soon to be owners' and a small group of friends:



Two corporate representatives, crane, and rigging complete with faulty turnbuckle:


(Note the guy in the stern!)

Watching your dreamboat nose dive into the harbor, accompanied by two corporate
representatives just prior to 'inking' the final paperwork...




Thoughts On A Sunday

Even with yesterday's snow fall it feels as if winter is losing its grip. More dirty snow is being exposed as the sun and warmer temperatures are starting to have an effect.

That suits me just fine.

Frankly, I'm tired of winter. BeezleBub and I have moved more snow than we care to think about, have gone through three times the amount of gas for the snowblower than we have over the previous two winters combined, and shoveled off the roof of the garage – something we've never had to do in the past. The biggest problem this winter was finding space to put the snow we removing. Hopefully we won't have to do much more of that before the spring weather finally takes hold.


Part of yesterday was spent making arrangements for The Boat's new home port. With the money we'll save by making the move we'll be able to buy gasoline to actually go out on the lake this summer.

I have no doubts we'll see a repeat of last summer here at Lake Winnipesaukee, with little traffic out on the lake during July but a normal amount during August. There might even be less traffic this coming summer considering most folks around here expect gas to cost $4.50/gallon or more at the marinas. Goodness knows high gas prices kept traffic down on the lake for most of the summer.


It was the second round of town meetings here in New Hampshire this past week, with many towns voting on their expenditures for the coming fiscal year.

A lot of towns held the line on spending, some cut spending, and the voters in at least one town spent like drunken sailors.

Some towns held traditional town meetings, where town residents gather at town hall or the local school to discuss and vote on warrant articles that cover everything from the town budget to zoning changes to the addition or deletion or changes of town services. There is also a second town meeting, usually called the school district meeting, where the school budget and education related warrant articles are debated and voted upon.

Other towns run a modified version of town meeting where the discussion and debate portion of the meeting is held in February and the voting portion of the meeting is held in March. Many larger towns have switched to this type of town meeting, referred to as SB2, or Senate Bill 2, the legislation that authorized this type of town meeting.

Regardless of the type of town meeting each town uses, there's one thing in common to both of them that holds true: “If you don't attend or vote at town meeting then you have no right to complain about your taxes.”


One other season tends to coincide with town meeting is sugaring season, aka making maple syrup. The cold nights and warm days get the sap flowing in the sugar maples, so the sugarers tap the maples, setting buckets or plastic tubing to collect sap. From there the sap goes to evaporator to boil away the excess water, which concentrates the natural sugars in the sap. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup, so there's a lot of boiling to reduce the sap to the proper consistency.

The WP Dad-in-Law sugars every year, though his operation isn't big like many of the others in New England. He produces enough maple syrup for the family and maybe just a little bit more to give away as gifts.


One downside to increasing oil prices many people overlook is the effect they have on food prices. As the cost of growing food (fuel for tractors and base chemicals for fertilizer), harvesting food (again, fuel for tractors and harvesters), and transporting the food (fuel for trucks, freight trains, etc), is it any surprise the cost of food has gone up?


The story of how Immigration and Customs Enforcement let a detainee die from a treatable cancer may be a good illustration of what awaits us if we ever end up with a national health care system like that of Canada or the UK.

Just like the detainee in ICE custody, the national health officials will deny you treatment because there have been no tests. And there will be no tests because until tests have been performed you aren't ill. It's a perfect Catch-22, something we call all look forward to if the government takes over health care.


All of the networks have been advertising the return of new series episodes now that the writers are back to work. Some series won't be returning (their ratings weren't good enough). Some shouldn't return despite their ratings because they're plain god-awful. Others won't be returning that should.

But how often do the networks listen to the viewers when it comes to TV shows? Once in a blue moon? CBS tends to be the worst, canceling shows that have better ratings than some shows they keep on the air, Joan of Arcadia being one such example. After receiving Emmy nominations over two seasons, CBS canceled the series. They've also been quick to pull the plug on new series before giving it any kind of chance. When CBS debuted The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire, they gave it four weeks to get a large following. They killed it before they aired the fifth episode. The series might have had a shot if it hadn't been up against perennial hit Law & Order.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where winter is slowly losing it's grip, thoughts of boating have shoved aside thoughts of skiing or sledding, and where there's still too damn much snow on the ground.


Investment Banks Feeling The Pinch

Yesterday a co-worker told me about the problem Bear Sterns was facing, requiring a request for funds from the US government to prevent the investment bank from failing. My co-worker's comment: “I thought you said that banks weren't the ones suffering the fallout from the sub-prime and ARM loans! But here's a big one on the verge of bankruptcy!”

But I stand by my statement to my co-worker. You'll find that commercial and 'regular' banks, such as mutuals and so on, aren't suffering much from the effects of foreclosures on homes with sub-prime mortgages or adjustable rate mortgages (or ARMs). Most learned their lessons back in the late 1980's/early 1990's when the housing market collapsed and banks were left with billions in underperforming or non-performing home loans. In New Hampshire alone over $1.3 billion of real estate went into foreclosure and five major banks failed. That happened because the banks gave mortgages to borrowers who weren't qualified for the amounts the banks lent and when the recession hit they could no longer make the payments.

This time around the traditional banks stayed out of the mess. But the investment banks, which are really investment firms or brokers and not what one would normally think of as banks, took the gamble and lost. They saw no problem with taking the risk, seeing the potential for huge profits. But I have to wonder if these firms let visions of huge profits blind them to the downside of the loans and signs of encroaching weakness in the housing market. Those with sub-prime mortgages and ARMs also gambled (though some receiving these mortgages were misled by the mortgage brokers writing the loans), figuring if they got behind they could sell their homes and get out from under the loans. But the housing market cooled off, homes were no longer selling quickly and prices fell. Some mortgagees, even if they were able to sell, found their homes sold for less than what they owed. Even after the sale they still owed the mortgage holder thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars.

Why would anyone in their right mind lend to someone with little or no downpayment and with a poor or non-existent credit history? It was a gamble, no different from laying down a bet in a casino in Las Vegas. They lost and now they want the taxpayers to cover their losses. Frankly, I don't think we should because we'll be setting a bad precedent, sending a signal to financial institutions that they can expect a bailout if they make poor choices and squander the investors' money on questionable loans or enterprises.

The Law Of Unintended Consequences - Sexual Consent - Part I

Tonight's 20/20 was an eye opening look at the problems with the age of consent and sex offender laws. As the report illustrates far too many teens are being caught up by laws that were never intended to criminalize what many see as typical adolescent sexual behavior.

What are the consequences if a teen aged 16 has consensual sex with another teen aged 15? Would you believe prison and a lifelong listing on a sex offender registry? While I do not like the idea of underaged sex, I think it is reprehensible to treat such 'offenders' no differently than pedophiles or violent sexual predators. There have been far too many kids whose lives have been destroyed by many of the sex offender laws throughout the nation. These kids are proof of the Law Of Unintended Consequences.

Another unintended consequence has been the appearance of sex offender vigilantes, some which harass registered sex offenders in their neighborhoods, and others that kill them, regardless of the sex 'crime' of which they've been charged. (Far too often the state sex offender registries don't specify the charges of which the registered offender was convicted.)

This is an issue which will not go away and something must be done to prevent teens from being lumped together with dangerous sexual felons.



Have you ever left home or work and at some time during your trip get that niggling little feeling that you've forgotten something? You know what I mean. Maybe you left the water running in the sink, or left the iron on or forgot to turn off a light? Most times that feeling is wrong. But every so often it's right. And sometimes it's really right.

In this case, the forgotten item wasn't a light or a faucet or a burner on the stove or a door left unlocked. It was a prisoner left locked up in a holding cell for 4 days over a weekend with no food or water.

An Arkansas woman was left in a secure holding area at the Washington County Courthouse in Fayetteville over the weekend, according to the Washington County [Arkansas] Sheriff's Office.

At about 9:40 a.m. Monday, courthouse staff notified the Washington County Sheriff's Office that Adrianna Torres-Flores, 38, of Springdale, Ark., had been left in a detention room for four days.

Torres-Flores was left in the detention room --- intended for short-term detention only --- with "no water, no restroom facilities. You know, it was a very unfortunate situation," County Judge Jerry Hunton said.

Torres-Flores was transported Monday to Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville by emergency medical personnel. However, hospital representatives said she was never admitted to the hospital.

You'd think that before they left for the weekend the bailiff or sheriff would check to make sure the lights were out and all the prisoners shipped off to the county lockup. You'd also think someone from the sheriff's office would be in and out of that place over the weekend because crime doesn't take a break between Friday night and Monday morning.

This certainly illustrates a breakdown in procedure, with no means of checking the status of any detainees via a check-in and check-out process. Leaving it up to the memory of a single person obviously didn't work in Washington County, and no procedure should.

Hopefully the sheriff will take the necessary corrective actions to prevent something like this from happening again. The next time someone locked in the holding cell might not survive, leaving the county in one hell of a legal mess.


One Down, One To Go

With the media abuzz with the revelations about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's activities, there's been little else to write about. It is said that the great or near great quite often sow the seeds of their own destruction. What I find ironic is Spitzer's downfall was brought about by a banking computer program the then New York Attorney General insisted banks in New York install to help track suspicious financial transactions. The program ended up tracing numerous small payments he made to to an escort service, the regular transactions triggering a flag that informed investigators 'something funny' was going on in the Governor's personal expenditures.

Very few will end up crying any tears over Spitzer's plight. Many who felt his wrath, rightly or wrongly, will undoubtedly delight at his downfall.

Now if we could only do something about Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), known as one of the most intolerant and petty Congressmen serving in Washington.


Another Great Rant By The UK's Pat Condell

I've come to really enjoy Pat Condell's video rants, tearing down all the foolishness he sees occurring in the UK, and elsewhere as well.

This clip is actually from last year but it is no less germane than if he'd released it just today. He does a pretty god job of tearing down Islamofascists, the Saudis supporting them, and the ever more lily livered UK government for allowing the aforementioned Islamofascists/Saudis to get away with the crap they've been laying on the UK populace for far too long.

Give 'em hell, Pat!

NOTE: Apparently the video doesn't always render properly depending on which browser is being used, so if you don't see the video frame above you can click here to go directly to the video clip.


Thoughts On A Sunday

I started today's post quite late in the day, which is unusual for me. But I have a good excuse.

BeezleBub, one of his friends, and I made a trip to the WP In-Laws to pick up a truckload of firewood to fuel the Official Weekend Pundit Woodstove. We borrowed Submarine Tim's 1952 GMC 6x6 deuce-and-a-half, aka 'Clifford' to make the trip. Clifford allowed us to bring a little over 23/4 cords of wood in one trip. The only downside is that Clifford rides like a truck. During our fall trip it isn't a problem. But our trip today was fraught with peril, caused by the poor conditions of the roads.

This winter has been particularly harsh on the roads, leaving far too many of them resembling washboards. Now add a large truck with a heavy suspension.

Our trip was exhausting. Loading Clifford with firewood was the relaxing part. We got back a little after 6PM, realized we were too darned tired to unload the firewood, and decided to call it a day.

Note to self: next time make two firewood trips in the fall!


Is this stupid, or what?

(H/T Maggie's Farm)


This story shows that sometimes the little things mean the most to those you least expect to appreciate them.


Before I forget, I should mention I've started a second blog, one devoted to issues concerning my home town and home state of New Hampshire. While I could cover a lot of those things here on Weekend Pundit, it seemed a separate venue made more sense. I know 99.999% of the readers of Weekend Pundit will have absolutely no interest in the blog whatsoever. That's quite alright with me. It's that 0.001% that might find some value from anything that appears there (all one of you).

On occasion I expect to cross post to both blogs should the topic warrant such an action.


And that's the much abbreviated news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where town elections and/or town meetings will be taking place, the rains have diminished some of the snow on the ground, and where our wood pile has been replenished.


Anti-War Judicial Prejudice

It appears the anti-military Berkeley Virus has spread from its point of origin.

A Simi Valley, California teen under foster care wanting to enlist in the USMC under the Delayed Entry Program found himself blocked by an anti-war Children's Court judge.

[L]ast fall, a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner dashed [Shawn Sage's] hopes of early enlistment for Marine sniper duty, plus a potential $10,000 signing bonus.

In denying the Royal High School student delayed entry into the Marine Corps, Children's Court Commissioner Marilyn Mackel reportedly told Sage and a recruiter that she didn't approve of the Iraq war, didn't trust recruiters and didn't support the military.

"The judge said she didn't support the Iraq war for any reason why we're over there," said Marine recruiter Sgt. Guillermo Medrano of the Simi Valley USMC recruiting office.

"She just said all recruiters were the same - that they `all tap dance and tell me what I want to hear.' She said she didn't want him to fight in it."

Nope, it's obvious that Marilyn Mackel has no agenda, is totally impartial, corralling a wild and impetuous child from making the mistake of serving his country. And if you believe that, I've got a bridge in New York I want to sell to you.

[Sage's] foster parents, as well as his social worker, supported his decision to enlist early. Despite being denied, he still shows up for USMC physical training.

"Did they ever kick my butt," he said proudly. "They still do."
When he graduates and turns 18 in June, it'll be all Semper Fi, bonus or no signing bonus, whether he's allowed early deployment or not.

A judge is supposed to be impartial, making decisions based upon the law, not upon their personal beliefs or biases. This judge let her personal dislike and mistrust of the military get in the way of making an impartial decision. It's not the first time she's done so. She also denied another foster teen the opportunity to enlist in the US Navy.

Just who does this judge think she is?


Are Hillary And Barack Serious About Breaking NAFTA?

I'd like to think the rhetoric about NAFTA being spouted by the two Democratic contenders for the presidential nomination is nothing more than campaign fluff, something to be ignored or repudiated once one of them attains the office they are so desperately seeking.

How could it be that either one, Clinton or Obama, actually believe that free trade has been a bad thing? Or are they pandering to the crowds in Ohio, a state that'd had more than its share of lost manufacturing jobs? Never mind that more manufacturing jobs have been created in Ohio than have been lost, mostly due to trade with Canada and Mexico. Both Clinton and Obama have been pointing the finger at Mexico, as if it's Mexico's fault for any perceived problems with NAFTA. But the problem lies within the Democratic Party, members of which have shown again and again over the decades they have no understanding of economics.

The assault on NAFTA is a signal that the Democratic Party thinks the U.S. should abandon its leadership role in pushing for modern, democratic capitalism in Latin America. But that's only the half of it. When Mrs. Clinton says she wants "core" labor standards shoved into the pact, it is code language for forcing on the U.S., by treaty, what the U.N.'s International Labor Organization calls "core principles." The U.S. has signed only two of the ILO's eight conventions precisely because the others would lead to labor-market rigidity à la Argentina. Big Labor bosses would love that but what about the rest of us? Probably not so much.

Canada got a mention Tuesday. But the whipping boy was Mexico, which stands accused of attracting firms by allowing worker exploitation. If an American lost a job in the past decade, the charge goes, it's because in Mexico business has no labor obligations. This claim is not only untrue, it is the opposite of reality. Mexico is home to militant, high-powered unions and the most burdensome labor regulation in North America.

Mexico suffered the tragedy of repressive corporatism throughout most of the 20th century. A one-party system under the Institutional Revolutionary Party -- PRI -- ruled for more than 70 years, making sure there was no economic or political competition. But in the late 1980s and early 1990s a young, educated class of technocrats began to break the chains of protectionism, isolation and monopoly. NAFTA, signed and ratified in 1993, was central to this. Its benefits include greater access to capital and trade for Mexico and also an increase in information flows, which are the source of innovation and progress in any country.

It seems Clinton and Obama want the US to fall under the sway of the same kind of high powered union organizations and ever more restrictive business regulations. Do they really want to destroy America's economy in such a fashion? To listen to them you'd think so. All we can do is hope that their noise is nothing more than campaign rhetoric, otherwise we could be in very deep trouble.


Thoughts On A Sunday

At least it will be sunny and warm today and tomorrow, allowing for some melting of the snows that have fallen over the past couple of weeks. BeezleBub and I spent a couple of hours on the roof of the garage this afternoon clearing away up to 5 feet of snow. With rain and freezing rain forecast for Tuesday night and Wednesday morning we knew we had to get it down today. All that rain soaked snow would likely have caused the collapse of the garage roof. As it was the 'fluffy' snow was heavy enough put 100 lbs per square foot load (or more) on the roof, which is twice what most roofs around gere are designed to bear.

It became quite apparent a little over two weeks ago we were falling behind in our efforts to remove snow from the driveway, parking areas to the side of the garage, the walkways, steps, landings, decks, and roofs. We'd get about 80 or 90% cleared and another storm would come along. The next time we'd get 70 to 80% cleared before more snow arrived, and so on.

We aren't the only ones worried about the loading on roofs. There have been a number of collapses, including a warehouse just yesterday. It's not surprising considering we're close to reaching record snowfall totals for the winter.


One bright spot this weekend – we've secured yet another year's dockage for The Boat. This time we'll be at a new location, the move being dictated by the expected cost of boating this coming season. The new slip is only 60% the cost of the one we've used the past couple of years. With gas prices on the lake expected to be well above $4 per gallon this coming summer, the savings from the slip rental will allow us to fill the fuel tank on The Boat an additional 8 times over the summer (a fill up will run approximately $120, assuming I never let the tank get below a ¼ full).


Next weekend will entail a trip to the WP In-Laws with Submarine Tim's 1952 GMC 6x6 deuce-and-a-half in order to replenish the supply of firewood to stoke the Official Weekend Pundit Woodstove. We're down to a few days supply and then we'll have to rely on $3.37 per gallon propane to heat The Manse. I wouldn't necessarily mind doing that all that much if The Manse wouldn't go through $600+ of propane every month. I'd rather spend the $160 for gasoline to run the deuce-and-a-half to bring 2 or 3 months worth of cordwood back to The Manse.


Could a Clinton or Obama presidency bring back the worst of the Smoot-Hawley era, also known as the Depression? It will if they gut NAFTA.

(H/T Maggie's Farm)


Another link from Maggie's Farm – Democrats are in fact the purveyors of modern racism. It is in their best interests to promote victimhood and poverty upon minorities because it gives the Democrats power. That's something I've been saying for years.

Looking over history, it has been the Republicans moving forward with civil rights legislation. As Frances Rice, chairman of the National Black Republican Association reminds us, “the Republican Party has been at the 'forefront of the struggle for civil rights, which is why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican.' ”


One good thing about this time of year, despite the almost record snowfalls, is that it's sugaring season. Sugarers have started tapping maple trees and collecting sap as part of the yearly ritual of making maple syrup.

BeezleBub and the WP Dad-in-Law spent part of this past week tapping maple trees on his property in southwestern New Hampshire. While the Dad-in-Law's operation is relatively small, making enough syrup for the family, he could easily produce much more if he tapped all the maples on his land.

Making maple syrup takes a lot of sap, requiring 40 gallons to make 1 gallon of syrup.


The Verizon-Fairpoint sale looks like a done deal.

FairPoint is buying Verizon's landline business in northern new England. At first I was all for the sale. Then I got a chance to look at the financial information and realized this sale would be a bad idea. Verizon wanted too much money for a shrinking market and FairPoint was going to be carrying too much debt to make this a good deal. The three states involved – Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont – agreed, which forced the two telephone companies to restructure the deal.

I do have a gripe about the deal, specifically FairPoint's plan to expand DSL, covering areas not presently served by any kind of broadband. I don't mind that part. What I don't like is Fairpoint has no plans whatsoever to go beyond DSL, a mature technology that cannot provide the types of connection speeds seen by Fiber To The Home or the newer high speed cable modems. That lack could easily mean that northern New England could quickly become a broadband hinterland.

The three states had best watch FairPoint closely, making sure they meet their obligations and reconsider deploying Fiber To The Home.


It appears the New Hampshire “Blues” are working hard to outlaw or strictly control things they don't like. They're trying very hard to change the Live Free Or Die state to the Do As We Say state by trying to outlaw transfats, incandescent light bulbs, putting a 60 percent tax on cigars, taxing candy, imposing a $250 dollar fine if someone releases a helium balloon into the air, and forcing gas stations to round up the price of gasoline to the nearest penny, amongst other things. They're doing everything they can to turn New Hampshire into another Nanny state, much like our neighbor to the south, Massachusetts.

Frankly these idiots need to spend their time doing more important things like fixing the budget, which they increased by over 16% and now has a $50 million shortfall with a projected shortfall of $140 million by the end of the fiscal year.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the snow is ever deeper, the legislature is slowly taking away our rights, and where spring is merely a date on the calendar.