Saturday, October 15, 2016

Throw The Monkey Wrench!

After talking to a number of my fellow townspeople as well as some of my co-workers, I think I have underestimated the dis-satisfaction with both Clinton and Trump. While I am not surprised that quite a few people are voicing their displeasure with them, I am surprised by the increasing number of them doing so.

One co-worker had said she doesn't want to vote for any of the presidential candidates, including Gary Johnson. I said to here that she didn't have to vote for any of them, either leaving that portion of the ballot blank or writing in another name. It was then that the proverbial light bulb (an ancient and less used lighting technology created over 100 years ago, for those who may not understand the reference) lit up over my head.

While I have advocated for making “None Of The Above” a valid selection during elections, this may be an opportunity to exercise it starting at the grass roots level.

I suggested to my coworker that of she really didn't like any of the candidates running for president that she write in None Of The Above. Were “None Of The Above” to receive the most votes, I have to wonder who would be declared the winner? Or would this create a constitutional crisis, leaving the Supreme Court and/or Congress to decide who will be the next president?

There is a certain appeal to throwing a so-called monkey wrench into the election works, seeing as the leadership of our two major political parties and our so-called political elite have failed us yet again, and this time spectacularly. They've left us with a choice of two equal evils, neither which is a good choice (for different reasons). Both Hillary and Donald are symptoms of a primary and electoral system that has been corrupted by too much money, too much greed, and a lot of hubris.

Perhaps “None Of The Above” as a write-in will send a message they have been ignoring for too long. So if you really don't like any of the candidates for the highest office in the land, write in “None Of The Above”!

(Cross-posted at Weekend Pundit)

Monday, October 10, 2016

None Of The Above - A Proposal

As the election grows closer and we all see that neither major candidate for President is fit to attain that high office, as well as there being no real viable third-party candidate, I feel I must once again bring forth an idea that I and a number of others have put forth more than once over the years.

While our present ballot system gives us a number of candidates to vote for (or against) for a number of offices small and great, it still leaves out a good portion of the electorate who feel they cannot in good conscience vote for any of the candidates listed on the ballot. While write-ins have at times won some elections, usually local elections, it isn't enough. The present system does not allow the electorate to truly show their displeasure at a slate of candidates. Since staying home and not voting signifies nothing and shows nobody our true feelings, it's time to make a long overdue change in our ballot system.

To what do I refer?

None Of The Above.

None Of The Above should be a valid selection in every election, local, state, or national. None Of The Above gives those who would otherwise be silent a true voice in our election system. None Of The Above allows the people a true means of voicing their displeasure.

This is how it would work:

In any election, if None Of the Above receives a plurality or majority of the votes, the election must be run again for the office or offices affected. The new election will be held in a specified time not to exceed two months from the original election date.

Here's the kicker: none of the candidates who ran during the first election will be eligible to run in the second election, period. After all, the people already kicked them to the curb because they didn't want them to represent them in the first place.

A new slate of candidates will file to run and a committee to choose new candidates will be selected by lot from the pool of registered voters. Democrats will select the Democrat candidate(s), Republicans will select the Republican candidates, Independents will select Independent candidate(s), and so on.

If the offices needing new candidates are for President and/or Vice President, the same process will be used at state level and the political parties will hold a national convention to choose their candidate for each office. The convention cannot last more than two days from the time it convenes. The candidates wishing to be considered will have three weeks to file for candidacy in each state for a small nominal fee. Use of properly vetted proxies or representatives to file the necessary paperwork in each state will be allowed.

While this can create chaos if not handled properly, it does give those who would otherwise not vote because of the poor quality of candidates a chance to let their opinions be known. If candidates are so awful that the electorate doesn't want to vote for them, this gives the people a chance to remove them from consideration and replace them with more acceptable candidates.

Is this plan perfect? Of course not. In fact I'm sure it needs major revisions. But we need to start somewhere.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Irony Writ Small

What's the definition of irony? I guess it depends upon the circumstances. Sometimes it can be profound and other times fanciful, or even foolish.

In this case I'm not talking about something with national or international implications. I'm not talking about something that will show up on YouTube (though I wish I was). This time around, it was something local and something to which those involved with the event I am about to relate will likely be living down for quite some time.

Our town hosts a fire training ground that is used by a number of fire departments here in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. In fact, our town had just handed the scheduling, maintenance, and upkeep of the training facility to our regions Fire Mutual Aid organization.

This past Tuesday one of our neighboring towns used the facility, and particularly what is called a burn house, for training. Once finished, the firefighters packed up and returned to their station.

A few hours later our fire department was called out to the training facility to extinguish a now fully involved structure fire. The facility was deemed a total loss.

Ironic, indeed – a fire department causes a fire that burns down a fire training facility.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Small Town Road Issues

I have to relate something that, in my opinion, could only happen in a small town like mine.

Like just about any municipality, one topic of discussion that always comes up is the maintenance of the roads. At some point just about everyone who lives in a town like ours gets concerned about the condition of the road on which they live. Like many towns, ours has a multiyear schedule that lists the roads that will be fixed in a given year, with some requiring just some paving while others require a complete reconstruction.

It's no surprise that some folks don't like the fact that their road may not see anything other some patching for a few years. Their road is always in dire need of being redone. They don't want to hear about how the list was assembled or that other roads in the schedule ahead of them are in much worse shape and are almost impassible. They want to be moved up on the list and let someone else's road be put on the back burner. They usually don't get their way, at least not here.

What is a surprise is when the residents on a road scheduled to be completely rebuilt come to the road agent and the board of selectmen demanding that their road be taken off the list altogether. If they had their druthers, they'd prefer if the town tore up the existing pavement and return the road to its original dirt and gravel. Their reasoning?

Cars are traveling too fast on their road as it is and making it better will encourage even higher speeds.

Frankly, I don't blame them because they're right.

The posted speed limit for their road is 25 MPH. The highest speed measured by radar on that same road: 71 MPH. This road is a narrow country road with one very steep decline at one end. The road surface isn't very good as it is and someone somehow managed to go 71 MPH on that road. It's a miracle they aren't dead. The average speed is about 40 MPH, a good 15 MPH above the limit, a speed that is still too fast for some stretches of that road.

As such, their argument for not fixing the road and actually degrading its condition by returning it to a dirt and gravel surface makes sense. It will also save our town a good portion of the $250,000 budgeted for fixing their road next year.

Are they going to receive what it is they've asked for?

That's yet to be decided.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

It's Time To Take A Step Back

New Hampshire's state legislature is unique in many ways, one of the most prominent being its size – 400 members of the House and 24 members of the Senate. That makes it the third largest legislative body in the world, with only the UK's Parliament and the US Congress being larger.

One of the other things that used to make New Hampshire different from many other states was that its legislature only met every other year. That meant the legislators had to 'take care of business' because they knew they had limited time to get everything done before the legislative session ended.

That all changed in 1984 when a group of citizens and legislators made a pitch to switch to annual legislative sessions. Their reasoning behind the change was that the 5 to 6 month biennial session was too long and that shorter annual sessions would be less of a burden.

They sold us a pig in a poke.

Those 5 to 6 month long biennial sessions have turned into 5 to 6 month long annual sessions. The promise of shorter annual sessions never materialized. The cost of annual sessions was more than twice that of the biennial session. In that time a lot of useless legislation has been filed and wasteful spending has been passed. There were no savings in either time or money. Annual sessions are far more of a burden on both legislators and taxpayers than biennial sessions.

We were conned and I think it's time to do something about it.

It's well past time to amend the state constitution, specifically Part II, Article 3 - When to Meet and Dissolve - and go back to biennial sessions. Annual sessions have failed to live up to the promises made by its proponents and it's time to admit that we made a mistake. It's time to take a step back.

I already know the argument will be made that we can't go back now, that we can't possible handle the state's needs meeting only every other year. But I can counter that by looking at the biggest state in the continental US – Texas - which has a single 90-day legislative session every two years and it seems to be able to handle all of its business in that time. New Hampshire is a fraction of the size of Texas (9,349 sq miles vs 268,596 sq miles) with a fraction of the population (1.33 million vs 27.97 million), but we won't be able to handle the state's business in 5 to 6 months every 2 years? I'm not buying it. That implies that either the people in Texas are a heck of a lot smarter and work harder, or we've gone stupid and are incapable of doing what we once could do. I'm not buying that either.

The 'experiment' of annual legislative sessions has failed. It's costing us money and not living up to its promise. It's time to declare the experiment over and get back to something we know works and works well.

Monday, July 4, 2016

As Important Now As It Was Back Then

These are words that as as poignant now as they were 240 years ago. Too bad that many of the people living in America now have little, if any understanding of their import,

July 4, 1776

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Gas Can Hell

While this is not an new story, it is one that still pisses me off. What am I talking about?

Gas cans.

You know what I'm talking about – the red containers with a spout used to fill the gas tanks on all kinds of power equipment ranging from leaf blowers to lawnmowers to snowblowers, chainsaws, lawn tractors, and a whole host of other equipment and small vehicles.

It used to be that they held gas and allowed you to fill a gas tank with little muss or fuss. But seven years ago the EPA got involved with gas cans and everything has gone to hell.

While they still can hold gasoline, they no longer allow easy transfer of fuel from the can to whatever gas tank you're trying to fill. Where it once could be done easily, it now requires two hands to even open the gas spout (you have to slide a toggle before you can press the handle that opens the spout..and that toggle is rarely easy to move). And because the vent that used to allow gas to flow freely is no longer allowed, gas flows poorly, in surges, and usually ends up everywhere but in the gas tank you're trying to refill. It spills, sloshes, and ends up places it's not supposed to.

The new gas cans were supposed to help prevent gas spills while at the same time eliminate gas vapors from escaping into the air. But between the now increased number and volume of gas spills and the big whoosh of gas vapors that are expelled from the cans when the spout valve is opened, I'd say they've been a complete failure.

If nothing else this works as an example of how government doesn't make things better but worse, due entirely to its intervention. Government didn't know better and actually made the situation worse than if they'd left well enough alone.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Democracy In Small Town America - 2016 Edition

Call it a twofer for American democracy, one for Small Town USA and the other for the entire nation.

Earlier this week our little town held it's school district and town meetings, the first steps in a two-step process that decides what our town will spend during the upcoming fiscal year. Each meeting of the town's residents deliberated school and town budgets and warrant articles that covered everything from zoning amendments to changes in how town government will run to funding outside agencies. One article even dealt with changing the classification of a dirt road from a town maintained road to an unmaintained road.

Some amendments to budgetary items and a few town warrant articles were made, those being the most debated issues addressed during the meetings. But for the most part both meetings were low energy with little real drama. Frankly, that's a bit unusual considering some of the school district and town meetings in the not-so-recent past.

It's amazing to see folks not blink twice when some spending articles total in the millions of dollars, with little discussion or debate, but lengthy and sometimes passionate debates over a spending article asking to spend a few hundred dollars. One would think it would be the other way around.

The outcome of these two meetings won't be known until we move on to the second step in the process next month, when the people in our town will vote to accept or reject all of the warrant articles as well as elect some town officials.

Early next week, specifically Tuesday, voters will head to the voting booths to vote during the New Hampshire primaries, helping to select the candidates from each party who are vying to be their party presidential nominees come this fall. Once done, the echoes of the candidates' speeches and campaign ads will rapidly fade away and be nothing but a memory by Wednesday evening, leaving us to recuperate in peace for the next few months until Election Day 2016 approaches.

And so it goes in small town America.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Faster Internet Speed Arrives In Town

I got a pleasant surprise today, that being the download speed from my ISP, the local cable company, has been bumped up to 40Mbs at no additional cost. The upload speed, however, is still where it was before at 4Mbs.

That will certainly help the cable company keep its present Internet customers, and maybe entice some of those still using DSL to make the switch.

Of course this speed increase could have been driven by the prospect of a new player entering the market. Ain't competition, even of it hasn't arrived yet, a wonderful thing?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Watching Snowzilla

I have to admit to a little bit of “Let's see how you like it!” thinking in regards to the blizzard pelting the Mid-Atlantic states.

Being a hardy Yankee in northern New England gives me just a little gravitas since we see snowfalls like the one places like Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and a host of other cities are experiencing at the moment, but we see them just about every winter, and in some cases more than once in any given winter.

Then again, we're used to them and are well prepared to deal with them. With few exceptions, we rarely see folks clearing store shelves in anticipation of what to us is a not unusual storm. However, we do still have to put up with the ubiquitous Storm Center TV news and the overblown drama and dire “We're all gonna DIE!” level warnings about not going out into the storm unless it's absolutely necessary. Well, duh.

I don 't know about you, but I'm not one to go out in a storm just because I can. I never have been. If I'm out in one it's because there's a pretty darned good reason, one that makes it necessary even though I don't really want to be out there. The most common reason – snowblowing the driveway in order to stay ahead of the anticipated snowfall totals. Sometimes it's easier to go out and snowblow once or twice during the storm than it is to clear all of the snow after it's all over, particularly if snowfall is expected to be above two feet.

So far our winter up here in New Hampshire has been rather benign. We haven't had the days and weeks of below zero temperatures or storm after storm after storm. We figure we're due a respite after the past two winters of heavy snowfall and below normal temperatures. A little breather now and then is a good thing and we're hoping to make the most of it. In the meantime we're more than happy to watch others struggle with winter weather we consider normal up here.