Lesson in Survival

By Ian Aikens | November 25, 2020

For the quintessential American holiday of Thanksgiving that we celebrate tomorrow, it’s worth pondering if this is just another day to miss work or school, or is there something more significant to celebrate. Is there more to the tale of the Pilgrims escaping religious persecution in England, fighting starvation and the elements in the harsh New England winter with the help of local Indians, and celebrating a bountiful harvest in 1621?

It turns out the story is more complicated than the standard version we hear most often. The first clarification needed is the make-up of “the Pilgrims.” Of the 102 souls who sailed on the Mayflower, only 41 were actually Puritan Separatists, 18 were indentured servants bound as slaves for 7 years to their masters, and the other 43 were mostly Anglicans seeking economic opportunity in the New World. Another part of the standard narrative is that the colonists were hard-working, tenacious, and G_d-fearing. While there may have been some settlers who fit this description, according to William Bradford, who served as governor of the colony for 30 years, in his History of Plymouth Plantation, many of the colonists were lazy and refused to work in the fields. Stealing what little food there was became rampant, and the colony was overrun with corruption.

What caused the colonists to behave like this when their very lives depended on it? The arrangement was a joint-stock partnership named John Peirce and Associates between the colonists and a group of London merchants. It received a grant in 1620 from the South Virginia Company for a plantation in the Virginia territory. The terms of the alliance stipulated that each adult settler be granted a share in the joint-stock company, and each investment of 10 pounds receive a share. Herein lay the problem: “All settlers … were to receive their necessities out of the common stock. For seven years there was to be no individual property or trade, but the labor of the colony was to be organized according to the different capacities of the settlers. At the end of the seven years the company was to be dissolved and the whole stock divided.”

It should be noted that two concessions requested by the colonists in the original agreement might have made the arrangement in the New World workable despite its “It Takes A Village” emphasis. One was for the settlers to be granted separate plots of land near their houses, and the other was to allow them 2 days a week to cultivate their own land. The reason for requesting the two concessions was because most of the colonists had been tenant farmers in the open fields of an old manorial hunting park in Nottinghamshire, and though they had worked in the lord’s fields, they also had time to work their own individual plots for their own needs. As it turned out though, the London partners refused to grant the concessions and disaster in the New World ensued.

Per William Bradford’s account, “… that the taking away of property and bringing community would make them happy and flourishing … For this community was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the younger men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong … had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice … Upon … all being to have alike and all to do alike, they thought … one as good as another, and so … did … work diminish.” In other words, removing the profit motive caused everyone to work less. If it hadn’t been for the Indians who helped show the settlers how to plant crops native to New England, and how to fish, catch eels, and harvest oysters—not to mention another ship that arrived from England in 1621 just in the nick of time—the settlers would have all perished.

The harvests of 1621 and 1622 were also dismal due to low production, so finally in 1623 Governor Bradford established a system of privately-controlled plots of land, which allowed each family or individual to work them and keep the proceeds. In other words, he abandoned the communal arrangement and established real property rights, and the results were spectacular.

From Bradford again: “So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery … This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.” By the harvest of 1623, “the starving time” became the bountiful occasion we now celebrate as Thanksgiving. Furthermore, by 1624, so much food was produced that the colonists were now able to sell and export corn.

Was this success a coincidence? A stroke of luck? A divine message from above? I think not. The private property system that Bradford established in Plymouth was in sync with human nature and the natural instinct to take care of one’s needs and one’s family’s needs first before those of strangers. Which is not to say that charity or compassion is not part of human nature, but “starving time” does not advance generosity. Only independence and self-reliance, which come from the freedom to determine one’s goals and priorities, foster true goodwill towards others.

One final thought on the survival lesson of Thanksgiving. As poorly as the communal system in place until 1623 turned out, consider that it was a (mostly) voluntary arrangement, since each adult man and woman chose to sign on with the trip to the New World even though the two concessions regarding private property were rejected. Even voluntarily willing to take a chance on a perilous journey to a strange land—and still many starved to death. Can you imagine the guaranteed fiasco had the system been forced on them? You only need to look at the outcome when forced giving, production, and redistribution are mandated by government. History is filled with examples, but China’s Great Leap Forward is the best illustration of what happens when property rights are trampled on: at least 30 million people starved to death from 1958 to 1962. With so many voices raised these days in favor of forced collectivism, perhaps they should learn the real lesson of Thanksgiving.


References:

Carson, Kevin. (2013, November 27). No, Stossel. The Pilgrims Were Starved by a Corporation, Not by Communism. Retrieved from c4ss.org/content/22792

Ceeley, Craig. (2003, November 27). From ‘Starving Time’ to Cornucopia: The American Thanksgiving. Retrieved from www.theatlasphere.com/columns/031127_ceely_thanksgiving.php

Franc, Michael. (2005, November 22). Pilgrims Beat ‘Communism’ With Free Market. www.heritage.org/markets-and-finance/commentary/pilgrims-beat-communism-free-market

Mayberry, Richard J. (2014, November 27). The Great Thanksgiving Hoax. Retrieved from mises.org/library/great-thanksgiving-hoax-1

Miniter, Frank. (2016, November 23). Did Capitalism Really Save The Pilgrims—And Give Them A Thanksgiving To Remember? Retrieved from www.forbes.com/sites/frankminiter/2016/11/23/did-capitalism-really-save-the-pilgrims-and-give-them-a-thanksgiving-to-remember/#44147f264ffb

Pease, Harold. (2018, November 15). The Mayflower Compact Facilitated Pilgrim Starvation. Retrieved from suindependent.com/mayflower-compact-pilgrim-starvation/

Celestial Seasonings – November 2020

By Heather Durham | October 31, 2020

“The turkey. The sweet potatoes. The stuffing. The pumpkin pie. Is there anything else we all can agree so vehemently about? I don’t think so.” – Nora Ephron.


November 8. Today brings the last quarter of the Moon. Mercury will rise to half phase and will be shining brightly.

November 9. Mercury continues to rise to it’s highest point.

November 10. Mercury will be far away from the sun in its orbit.

November 12. The northern Taurid meteor shower should put on a prolific display. This is from the Constellation Taurus. The Moon and Venus will rise closely to one another this evening.

November 17. The Leonid meteor shower will be prolific this evening. This shower is from the Constellation Leo. The Pleiades open star cluster from the Constellation Taurus will rise to it’s highest point in the sky.

November 19. The Moon and Jupiter will rise close to each other as will the Moon and Saturn.

November 21. The Monocerotid meteor shower from the Constellation Canis Minor will put on an eventful display this evening. The Moon will be at first quarter.

November 25. The Moon and Mars will rise closely to one another.

November 28. The Orionid meteor shower from the Constellation Orion should produce a dazzling display.

November 30. The third full Moon of autumn known as the Oak Moon will shine brightly this evening. There will be a lunar eclipse as the Moon orbits the Earth’s shadow.


References:

Country Living. (2020, October 12). 73 Best Thanksgiving Quotes to Share With Loved Ones Near and Far. Retrieved from www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/g2059/thanksgiving-quotes/

In the Sky. (2020, October 28). Guides to the Night Sky. Retrieved from in-the-sky.org/data/data.php

Wikipedia. (2020, April 21). Alpha Monocerotids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_Monocerotids

Wikipedia. (2020, October 13). Leonids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonids

Wikipedia. (2020, October 1). Orionids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orionids

Wikipedia. (2020, October 10). Taurids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taurids

Celestial Seasonings – October 2020

By Heather Durham | September 30, 2020

Hi everyone! This month we will have a blue moon on Halloween. A blue moon is named as such for it means the second occurrence of a full moon within any given month. Blue moons are relatively rare. The first moon following the autumnal equinox is called the Harvest moon. This year’s blue moon is referred to as the Hunter’s moon.

As well, this month we will be able to enjoy several meteor showers which are always a treat for our star gazers.

Now let’s delve into the details of astronomical events during October of this very strange and stressful year of 2020!


October 1. Mercury will orbit far away from the sun. Today, we will have a Full Moon known as the Harvest Moon for it is the first Full Moon to rise since the beginning of autumn.

October 2. The Moon and Mars will rise close to each other with the Moon passing just below Mars.

October 3. The Moon and Mars will make a close approach.

October 5. The October Cameloparalid meteor shower from the Constellation Draco will peak. (See 209P/LINEAR below).

October 6. Half of Mercury can be seen.

October 8. The Draconid meteor shower from the Constellation Draco will be at peak.

October 9. Today will bring the last quarter of the Harvest Moon.

October 10. The Southern Taurid meteor shower will peak today from the Constellation Cetus.

October 11. The Aurigid meteor shower from the Constellation Auriga will peak today.

October 13. Mars can be viewed from the Constellation Pisces. The Moon and Venus will rise and travel close to each other.

October 18. The Geminid meteor shower from the Constellation Gemini will peak today.

October 21. The Orionid meteor shower from the Constellation Orion will peak today.

October 22. The Moon and Jupiter will rise close to each other. The Moon and Saturn will rise.

October 23. The Moon and Saturn will rise in conjunction. The first quarter of the Blue Hunter’s Moon will be visible.

October 24. The Leonis Minorid meteor shower from the Constellation Leo Minor will peak today.

October 29. The Moon and Mars will rise and travel close to each other.

October 31 (Halloween). The Blue Hunter’s Moon will be full today. Splendid for Trick-or-Treat outings.


References:

In-the-Sky.org. (2020, September 27). Guides to the Night Sky. Retrieved from in-the-sky.org/

Marcels. (1961). Blue Moon. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0fy1HeJv80

Wikipedia. (2020, July 4). 209P/LINEAR. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/209P/LINEAR#Associated_meteor_showers

Wikipedia. (2020, April 22). Aurigids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurigids

Wikipedia. (2020, June 19). Draconids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draconids

Wikipedia. (2019, December 25). Geminids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geminids

Wikipedia. (2020, September 14). Harvest and Hunter’s Moons. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_moon#Harvest_and_hunter’s_moons

Wikipedia. (2020, April 21). Leonis Minorids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonis_Minorids

Wikipedia. (2020, August 13). Orionids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orionids

Wikipedia. (2020, August 17). Taurids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taurids

Snitchers’ Anonymous

By Ian Aikens | September 24, 2020

Is this what we have to look forward to in the “New Normal” world – turning our neighbors in to the government so they can be properly “educated”?

Did you see the recent article in The Laconia Daily Sun entitled “Mask compliance varies by business”? It got my blood to boiling to read the reporter listing six different businesses by name where people serving the public were not wearing masks in violation of the governor’s latest edict. He showed enough concern about civil penalties and fines not being levied that he put in a call to the governor’s office to find out about enforcement. At the end of the article, he listed the state’s phone number and email address to report guideline violations.

The article noted that Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards has received 175 complaints about violations of state COVID-19 requirements since the governor started issuing the emergency orders, but none has progressed to the point of civil penalties because business owners tend to comply once they are “educated.” As always with bureaucrats, it starts with friendly reminders, but quickly turns to fines and penalties and eventually threats of violence and property confiscation if subjects don’t comply. Clearly the reporter felt the Attorney General’s office has been lax with “education.”

The article also mentioned that some store owners had specific reasons for not wearing masks. One shopkeeper said it didn’t make sense for him to wear a mask for hours at a time when customers were infrequent. He said that he always keeps a mask handy in case a customer wants him to put one on. Another business owner said he tries to be amenable to his customers. That seems reasonable enough.

But that’s not good enough for the mask police. Never mind that most people have been wearing masks inside stores for months now. And never mind that beginning around July 20, virtually all of the corporate chain stores required all of their employees and customers to wear masks inside their stores, so that pushed the mask-wearing percentage up to, in my estimation, 95% or more.

Earlier in the pandemic, it was all about flattening the curve, the daily death count, and hospital capacity. But as the number of daily deaths declined as the virus ran its course, suddenly it became all about “cases.” If you’ve looked at “the curve” lately, you will see the northeastern portion of the US is almost completely flat when it comes to daily deaths. So are virtually all the countries in Europe and also Canada. The southern portions of the US aren’t quite there yet, but they are all trending downward. Not to mention the fact that bureaucratic health departments are notorious for their delays in reporting, so often the death statistics are reported weeks after they actually occurred.

Since when did it become an acceptable social norm to turn in your neighbors who are providing goods and services to the public? It should be obvious that no one is forced to patronize a business where they feel their health is being compromised. Not one single shred of evidence is provided in the article that anyone’s safety was threatened at any time in the shops the reporter visited – or that any of the customers were upset or even concerned by the non-mask wearers.

Claiming that it was all about “public safety” a few months ago might have made sense, but it strikes a disingenuous note today. It’s all about compliance and control now. Never mind that grown adults can – and should – choose the risk factor that they’re comfortable with. Government bureaucrats – and busybody reporters – know better.

It’s a sad day in the “Live Free or Die” state where liberty and personal responsibility used to be celebrated that now corona hysteria has turned people into snitches.

References:

Green, Rick. (2020, August 27). Mask Compliance Varies by Business. Retrieved from www.laconiadailysun.com/news/covid-19/businesses-vary-with-employee-mask-requirement-compliance/article_f196efac-e7de-11ea-a9e2-cf1665d0c00a.html

The COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic. (2020, September). Regional Deaths. Retrieved from covidtracking.com/data/charts/regional-deaths

Worldometer. (2020, September). World/Countries/Canada. Retrieved from www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/canada/

Celestial Seasonings – September 2020

By Heather Durham | August 31, 2020

Autumn Fires, by Robert Louis Stevenson

In the other garden.
And all up in the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over,
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

September 3. The Fruit Moon will be full. (Fruit Moon is a whimsical name for the Full Moon phase known also as the Corn Moon, or Barley Moon).

September 6. The Moon and Mars will rise closely to one another.

September 7. Venus will travel to it’s highest point in the sky.

September 9. The Perseid meteor shower will be prolific today when the celestial focal point shines above the horizon.

September 10. This brings us to the last quarter of the Fruit Moon.

September 14. The Moon and Venus will rise and travel close to each other.

September 21. Mercury will reach its highest point in the sky.

September 22. This is the first day of Autumn 2020 (the September Equinox). The Sun will rise due East and set due West.

September 23. This day will bring the first quarter of the Harvest Moon. It will be full on October 1. (The Full Moon following the Harvest Moon will be the Hunter’s Moon).

September 25. The Moon and Jupiter will ascend close to each other. The Moon and Saturn will do the same.

September 27. This will be the prime day for viewing the Daytime Sextantid meteor shower. These can be difficult to see as they appear on the eastern horizon near the rising Sun. (Do not look directly at the Sun). Just before sunrise might be best.

References:

In-the-Sky.org. (2020). Guides to the Night Sky. Retrieved from in-the-sky.org/newscal.php?year=2020&month=9

Pan McMillan. (2020, August 18). Ten Autumn Poems. Retrieved from www.panmacmillan.com/blogs/literary/poems-poetry-about-for-autumn-keats-frost-classic

Universe Guide. (2020). Daytime Sextantids Meteor Shower. Retrieved from www.universeguide.com/meteorshower/daytimesextantids

Wikipedia. (2020, August 26). Full Moon. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_moon

Wikipedia. (2020, August 12). Perseids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseids

Wikipedia. (2020, August 21). September Equinox. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_equinox

The Annual Racket

By Ian Aikens | July 31, 2020

Does passing a law translate into making the public safer? Or does it just seem like it might make us safer but actually do nothing but feed entrenched special interests and make us all a little poorer?

This is the issue that came to mind when I noticed an article recently about 3 men charged in Nashua with passing mandated annual vehicle inspections without performing them. Should anyone be surprised that this kind of hanky panky goes on? Is it not a corollary that when government programs are created, corruption and fraud fly in the door?

First a little bit of history. Car inspections actually date back to 1931 and RSA 266:1, II. Amazingly, cars were required to be inspected twice a year, but the mandate was reduced to once a year back in the 1980’s. There have been numerous legislative attempts over the years to do away with these mandated inspections, or at least reform them to make them every other year or exempt new cars, but all to no avail.

Special interests are not about to let a good thing slip through their revenue-seeking fingers. The New Hampshire Auto Dealers Association and AAA Northern New England both strongly support mandated annual inspections. Unsurprisingly, the former has made political campaign contributions of $490,000 to New Hampshire legislators over the last 21 years, and I doubt it did so out of the goodness of its heart.

From 1967-1976, the federal government could withhold highway funds from states that didn’t have annual inspection programs. There were 31 states that complied with this carrot-and-stick “encouragement,” but when the law was changed in 1976, gradually one state after another dropped their inspection programs. To this day, only 16 states still have the inspection programs.

To get to the heart of the issue, do mandated annual inspections actually prevent car crashes and save lives? The repair shops scream “Yes!” whenever a state rep even brings up the issue. However, a 2015 study from the US Government Accountability Office – which gets no guaranteed revenue from these mandated programs – did not find any conclusive evidence that the inspections prevented car crashes. The report stated that “estimates derived from data collected by the Department of Transportation (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that vehicle failure is a factor in about 2 to 7 percent of crashes.” It found that driver error was by far the biggest cause of accidents.

It’s also noteworthy that the report found that oversight of state programs is a big problem because of concern that some inspection stations recommend unnecessary repairs while others pass vehicles that really do have safety issues. So apparently the incident in Nashua is not an isolated one.

It is interesting to note that of the 16 states with the mandated programs, all but one state participated in the study. You guessed it: New Hampshire. The study notes on page 26 of its report, “We conducted structured interviews with officials in 15 of the 16 states that currently have a safety inspection program. We attempted multiple times to speak with the one remaining state – New Hampshire – but were unsuccessful.” Similarly, when You Asked, We Answered from New Hampshire Public Radio asked the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles (a bureaucracy within the Department of Safety), which actually runs the state program, “Why does New Hampshire require annual auto inspections?” it took numerous attempts to get anyone from the DMV to interview for the story. When they finally got an answer, the response was, “All vehicles register(ed) in New Hampshire are required to be inspected once a year per RSA 266:1, II.” Pitiful.

Furthermore, federal vehicles are exempt from New Hampshire’s inspection program, plus there are always out-of-state vehicles on New Hampshire highways (which may or may not have been through an inspection program) due to its popularity as a vacation destination, so at any given time there will always be uninspected cars on our highways. Do they also pose a danger to the public?

Despite the lack of evidence of the safety benefit of the annual inspections – not to mention the cost, which to those on the lower rung of the economic ladder is yet another burden to bear – there will always be the “If it saves a life” crowd proclaiming the sanctity of keeping the program intact. If they truly meant what they say, then all cars would have to be banned from the roads because the number of people killed in car accidents each year consistently runs from 30,000-40,000 in this country. Obviously, we need to balance the benefits of car travel that we all enjoy against the small risk that each of us faces every time we step inside a car. It is simply impossible to eliminate all risk and ensure complete safety, and any attempt to do so would be completely ludicrous.

Finally, I need only to point to California, where I used to live. When I purchased a new car here, I was amazed that the car had to go through the annual inspection. Even back in California, which doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to extracting every last bit of blood and money from its residents, they don’t have annual car inspections, just a smog check every 2 years. Trust me, California is really into the safety business – San Francisco even has a 30-foot social distancing and mask ordinance in force and they’re not shy about issuing citations too – so, if the bureaucrats don’t require them, annual car inspections really are worthless.

References:

Green, Rick. (2019, October 14). New effort unveiled to ease vehicle inspection law. Retrieved from www.laconiadailysun.com/news/local/new-effort-unveiled-to-ease-vehicle-inspection-law/article_ec53a4f4-ec71-11e9-b428-bb9940c67883.html

McDermott, Casey. (2017, July 28). You Asked, We Answered: Why Does N.H. Still Require Annual Car Inspections? Retrieved from www.nhpr.org/post/you-asked-we-answered-why-does-nh-still-require-annual-car-inspections#stream/0

New Hampshire Union Leader. (2020, June 19). Three men charged after allegedly selling inspection stickers without inspecting cars. Retrieved from www.unionleader.com/news/crime/three-men-charged-after-allegedly-selling-inspection-stickers-without-inspecting-cars/article_229deda8-1fe8-548f-8305-6383c1408474.html

United States Government Accountability Office. (2015, August). VEHICLE SAFETY INSPECTIONS – Improved DOT Communication Could Better Inform State Programs. Retrieved from www.gao.gov/assets/680/672131.pdf

Celestial Seasonings – August 2020

By Heather Durham | July 30, 2020

Most Jupiter-sized planets orbit the mother star in a highly elliptical orbit. This means they will often cross the orbit of any Earth-like planet and fling it into outer space, making life impossible. But our Jupiter travels in a near-perfect circular orbit preventing a collision with any Earth-like planet, making life possible. – Michio Kaku


August 1. The Moon and Jupiter will rise and appear to travel close to one another.

August 2. The Moon and Saturn will rise and appear to travel close to one another.

August 3. Today, there will be a full Moon.

August 9. The moon and Mars will rise and appear travel close to each other.

August 11. This date, we will have the last quarter of the Moon.

August 12. This will be the best day for viewing the Perseid meteor shower. Venus will be shining brightly.

August 13. Venus will be far away from the sun allowing it to shine brightly in the sky.

August 15. The Moon and Venus will rise and appear to travel close to each other.

August 17. The k-Cygnid meteor shower will be prolific.

August 25. The Moon will be at first quarter.

August 28. The Moon and Jupiter will rise and appear to travel close to each other.

August 29. The Moon and Saturn will rise and appear to travel close to each other.

August 31. The Aurigid meteor shower will put on a display.


References:

BrainyQuote. (2001). Outer Space Quotes. Retrieved from www.brainyquote.com/quotes/michio_kaku_818170?src=t_outer_space

in-the-sky.org. (2020, July 29). Guides to the Night Sky. Retrieved from in-the-sky.org

Wikipedia. (2020, April 22). Aurigids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurigids

Wikipedia. (2020, April 22). Kappa Cygnids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kappa_Cygnids

Wikipedia. (2020, July 1). Perseids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseids

An Inconvenient Freedom

By Ian Aikens | July 4, 2020

As the annual holiday most associated with the idea of liberty, it would not be an understatement to say that limited government took a massive hit this year. The virus was one thing, but the disastrous effects of the lockdowns will be felt for years to come. Worse still is what appears to be approval from most folks that the lockdowns were the correct course of action for state and local governments to take. While one can’t trust the mainstream media to put anything in perspective, I do believe a poll I read a few months back that 81% of the respondents did NOT want the lockdowns to end and were concerned about opening up too soon.

Incredibly, even here in the Live Free or Die state, it appears that most people have succumbed to the idea that “this time it’s different.” Really? If you check even the CDC records, in the 2017-2018 flu season, there were anywhere from 46,000 to 95,000 deaths in the US. For those with longer memories, you might recall the 1968-1969 Hong Kong flu season when an estimated 100,000 people perished in the US. Benjamin Franklin’s eternal words, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” come to mind. Should our state motto be changed to read “Live Free AND Die”?

I moved to this state specifically because it had a reputation for being liberty-oriented. What a major disappointment when our governor issued Emergency Order #17 and required all “non-essential” Granite Staters to stay at home. Of course, many people were already cutting back on their social contacts as news of the virus was everywhere, but not everyone was, so the heavy hand of government stepped in to “protect” us. The initial emergency order was only 4 pages long, but Exhibit A describing “essential” jobs was 11 pages long. My own industry was not originally listed as “essential,” but my professional trade association raised Cain, and voilà suddenly we were added to the list and became “essential.” So much for there being any doubt about the arbitrariness of it all.

On the other hand, I have great respect for how the pandemic was handled in South Dakota. The governor’s executive order was only 2 pages long, and there was no lockdown. As the governor stated, it’s the residents of South Dakota who are primarily responsible for their own safety. These days, what a radical thought to proclaim publicly—and as a government official too—that people have to take care of themselves and not expect the government to take care of them. They have the freedom to be treated like adults but also the responsibility to face the consequences of their choices. The governor noted that she was trusting them to act like responsible adults during the pandemic, so there was no need for authoritarian behavior like in other states.

Of course, the government control freaks weren’t keen on letting some folks keep their liberties intact, so when there was an outbreak of the virus at a meat plant in South Dakota, the governor took a lot of heat for not locking down the state. Unlike other governors who caved in to mounting pressure, she once again reiterated her non-authoritarian stance and also pointed out that meat plants were deemed essential by the president, so they would have been open anyway during a lockdown.

So, does liberty really work or are we destined for gloom and doom if our leaders don’t treat us like children? Obviously the original “models” were pathetic in how far they were off base, but let’s look at some actual data a few months into the pandemic. New Hampshire is not very different from South Dakota as it’s mostly rural. With a population of 1.36 million, it’s the 10th least populated state, while South Dakota is the 5th least populated state with a population of around 882,000. As of this week, New Hampshire had 373 corona-related deaths, while South Dakota had 93. Dividing the number of deaths by the total population, the virus death rate is .027% per capita for New Hampshire and .013% for South Dakota. If lockdowns save lives, then why is the rate lower for South Dakota, which had no lockdown? As for unemployment as of 06/19/20, the rate for New Hampshire was 14.5% and 9.4% for South Dakota. So apparently authoritarianism isn’t good for your livelihood—or even your health.

To be completely fair to our governor, one of our state reps told me that when some of them complained to the governor that state troopers were pulling drivers over during the initial phase of the lockdown to check why they were out driving, he vowed to put a stop to that nonsense. From what I’ve read, he kept his word, and there were none of the really outrageous civil liberty violations here like arresting surfers, citing people sitting in their cars watching the sunset, taking down the license numbers of cars in church parking lots during Easter Sunday, and the disgusting “Karens” who turned in their neighbors to local police departments and “good citizen” government hotlines.

As today’s holiday approached, there’s been a mainstream media feeding frenzy about the president visiting South Dakota and Mount Rushmore for a celebration and fireworks. The governor said, “We’ve told people to focus on personal responsibility. Every one of them has the opportunity to make a decision that they’re comfortable with. So, we will be having celebrations of American independence. We told those folks that have concerns that they can stay home. But those who want to come and join us, we’ll be giving out free face masks, if they choose to wear one. But we won’t be social distancing.” Needless to say, those who celebrate the god of government control are fit to be tied. Ignoring CDC guidelines is akin to or perhaps worse than heresy.

If I were a bit more cynical, I would say the governor’s critics are hoping for lots of new infections and, better still, deaths resulting from today’s celebration in South Dakota. But I prefer to focus on being happy that there’s actually an elected official who is actively promoting self-ownership, personal responsibility, and self-reliance. Perhaps the meaning behind today’s holiday hasn’t been lost after all.

References:

Baumann, Beth. (2020, April 18). SD Gov. Noem Drops a Truth Bomb on Critics Demanding She Issue a Stay-at-Home Order. Retrieved from https://townhall.com/tipsheet/bethbaumann/2020/04/18/sd-gov-kristi-noem-claps-back-at-critics-who-wanted-her-to-implement-a-statewide-stayathome-order-n2567167

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1968 Pandemic (H3N2 virus). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1968-pandemic.html

Cummings, William. (2020, July 1). ‘We won’t be social distancing’ at Mount Rushmore celebration with Trump, says SD Gov. Noem. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/07/01/kristi-noem-social-distancing-mount-rushmore-trump/5354257002/

Fund, John. (2020, June 7). Kristi Noem: The Governor Who Stayed the Course. Retrieved from https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/06/coronavirus-pandemic-south-dakota-governor-kristi-noem-stayed-the-course/

State of New Hampshire – Governor Chris Sununu. EXHIBIT A to Emergency Order #17. Retrieved from https://htv-prod-media.s3.amazonaws.com/files/emergency-order-17-1585267833.pdf

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020, June 19). Local Area Unemployment Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm

Wikipedia. 2017-2018 United States Flu Season. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017%E2%80%932018_United_States_flu_season

Celestial Seasonings – July 2020

By Heather Durham | June 30, 2020

Summer Stars by Carl Sandburg

Bend low again, night of summer stars.
So near you are, sky of summer stars.
So near, a long arm man can pick off stars,
Pick off what he wants in the sky bowl,
So near you are, summer stars,
So near, strumming, strumming,
So lazy hum-strumming.

July 1. An open star cluster from Serpens (IC4756) may be viewable near midnight but may require binoculars.

July 3. Asteroid Herculina in Sagittarius may be viewable most of the night.

July 4. The Earth will be at its farthest point from the sun.

July 5. There will be an eclipse of the full Moon this evening between 23:08 and 1:53 am. The Moon will also be at its farthest point from the sun. The Moon will be closely passed by Jupiter.

July 6. The Moon and Saturn will rise and be close to each other.

July 8. Venus will be as bright as it ever gets in the sky this evening.

July 10. Venus will be at its farthest point from the sun.

July 11. The Moon and Mars will both rise and closely approach one another.

July 12. This date will bring the last quarter of the moon which will also appear smaller than normal.

July 14. Jupiter, in Sagittarius will be viewable most of the night.

July 15. Asteroid 2 Pallas from Sagitta will be viewable much of the night. 134430 Pluto, in Sagittarius will be viewable much of the night.

July 17. The Moon and Venus will rise and closely approach one another.

July 20. There will be a new Moon today which will pass close to the Sun. Saturn, in Sagittarius will be viewable much of the night.

July 22. Mercury will be at its farthest point from the Sun.

July 25. The Moon will be at its closest proximity to the Earth and will appear larger than usual.

July 26. Mercury will be at its highest point in the sky.

July 27. The Moon will be at first quarter.

July 28. The Piscis Austrinid meteor shower can be best viewed at 3:00 am.

July 29. The Southern Aquariid meteor shower will be best for viewing at 5:00 am … yes, just before dawn. The Capricornid meteor shower will be viewable most of the night.


References:

In-the-Sky.org. (2020, June 29). Guides to the Night Sky. Retrieved from in-the-sky.org

Sandburg, Carl. (1920). Summer Stars. Retrieved from www.yourdailypoem.com/listpoem.jsp?poem_id=425

Wikipedia. (2020, June 20). 2 Pallas. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2_Pallas

Wikipedia. (2020, March 22). 532 Herculina. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/532_Herculina

Wikipedia. (2020, April 22). Alpha Capricornids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_Capricornids

Wikipedia. (2020, June 4). Piscis Austrinus. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piscis_Austrinus

Wikipedia. (2020, April 18). Serpens. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serpens

Wikipedia. (2019, February 23). Southern Delta Aquariids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Delta_Aquariids

Opting Out

By Ian Aikens | June 15, 2020

While “Staying at Home” recently, I decided to get my taxes out of the way once and for all. I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that I owed a larger-than-expected amount on my state income tax. I know they say we have no state income tax here in New Hampshire, but that’s baloney. If you have received more than $2,400 in income in interest, dividends, or annuities in one year, you will pay the State of New Hampshire a 5% tax on the total. Of course, they do have some of the usual exemptions for age and blindness (and why not deafness too – isn’t that discrimination?), but if that isn’t a tax on income, then I don’t know what is. They say it’s a tax on passive income, not earned income, but a tax is a tax, no matter what you call it.

However, what I did discover is New Hampshire has a great option available to take a credit against this income tax by making a donation to a school scholarship program. This 85% credit, not deduction, is part of the New Hampshire Education Tax Credit Program. It serves two worthwhile purposes: it helps children from families with less financial means attend non-government schools, and it gives state bureaucrats less money to waste. The latest data shows there were 413 students in the state benefiting from this program at 58 participating schools. This is a lowly participation rate of less than 1% of the 47,584 students who are income-eligible statewide. Still, to the families of those 413 students, even a mere scholarship of 15% of government school per-student spending means a lot.

So, how does the program work? As with all government programs, they come with their share of rules, conditions, and requirements. That said, the requirements don’t appear to be particularly onerous. To be eligible, the family members must be New Hampshire residents, the child must be between the ages of 5 and 20 (and not graduated from high school) or must be entering kindergarten for the first time or entering 2nd-12th grades and coming from a government school. The family’s income cannot exceed 300% of the federal poverty level, which in lay terms means $51,720 for a family of 2, $65,160 for a family of 3, and exponentially an additional $13,440 for each additional family member. There are only two government-approved scholarship organizations that qualify for the education tax credit program – the Children’s Scholarship Fund and the Giving and Going Alliance. I checked out both organizations before I gave my donation, and both seemed just fine to me. The Children’s scholarship Fund is for nonsectarian schools, and the Giving and Going Alliance is for the more faith-based crowd. Most important, the scholarships are awarded to students struggling in their current government schools to allow them to attend any school—private, religious, out-of-district government school, even home schooled—that the parents deem best for their child.

The tax credit program was established in 2012 by SB372 and launched in 2013. It only applied to business organizations, which could utilize the 85% credit against the Business Profits Tax (BPT) and/or Business Enterprise Tax (BET) or Interest & Dividends Tax (I&D). However, HB1686 extended the same credit to individuals to use against any I&D tax owing. The program has an annual cap of $6 million, and while contributions from donors have increased over the years from $20,000 in fiscal year 2014 to $381,000 in fiscal year 2018, it still has never gotten anywhere close to the cap.

For years, those who purport to help the poor have been on the offensive to kill the program or chop it down as much as possible. One of their favorite arguments is the program is for the benefit of “the rich.” The data does not support their claim. In the 2018-2019 school year, 61.4% of the students in the Children’s Scholarship Fund and 44.9% of the students in the Giving and Going Alliance qualified for free or reduced-price lunches.

Their next favorite argument is that the program “carves out” $6 million that would otherwise go to government schools. More bunk. Firstly, the maximum tax credit is 85% of the $6 million, which is $5.1 million. Secondly, up through March 8, 2019, the total tax credits claimed since the program started are only $2,218,254. That’s only 7.25% of what could have been claimed over a 6-year period.

Another favorite rant against the program is that it drives up property tax rates. Considering how small the program is, this is completely laughable. The funds that would have been paid to the state if the tax credits had not been claimed go to the general fund (a big black hole), and since only 24% of state funding goes to education, there’s a 76% chance the funds would have gone to other priorities than education. If you count every dollar given out on a per-student basis since the program began, it would only come to $12.66 per student. However, per the Department of Education’s Office of Student Finance, the total annual cost at government schools is an average of $18,991/student. Looking at it another way, even if you included all the educational tax credits claimed from 2014-2019 (6 years) and compared that to what the state spent in just the last fiscal year ($1.4 billion), that’s .16 of just 1%. Any way you slice it, the program is a drop in the ocean of what is spent at government schools.

If they were really so concerned about property tax increases, maybe they should look at the Veterans Tax Credit Program. Its numbers are huge compared to the peanut Education Tax Credit Program. In 2016, 54,790 veterans claimed $26.76 million in property tax credits through the veterans’ program as compared to a few hundred students. As an example, looking at Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest school district, in 2016, 2,797 veterans claimed the credit for a loss in tax revenue of $1.2 million. Contrast that with 27 students who received scholarships at a total loss in tax revenue of $133,534, which includes the additional grant for the federal lunch program. That’s roughly 11% of the veterans’ credit, so why go after peanuts if your real concern is high property taxes?

Of course, the real elephant in the room is the increase in state spending on education despite the steady drop in student populations. From 2009-2018, the statewide average decline in enrollment was 10.1%. However, spending and adding staff have gone in the opposite direction. From 1992-2015, New Hampshire government schools’ student-staff ratio declined from 8.6 to 5.8 (national average was 8.0 in 2015). It is the dramatic increase in non-teaching staff that is driving the wild spending. In 1992 the schools had an average of 19.6 students for every non-teaching staff member; by 2015, the number was down to 10.8 students for every non-teaching staff member. If schools are for teaching, why are so many non-teachers needed?

Despite all these extra resources at government schools, clearly one-size-fits-all doesn’t work for every child. Why begrudge children who do better in non-government schools (and for the most part are not from the upper echelons of society)? Such a large pool of students who are eligible for the federal school lunch program suggests that students who use the scholarship program tend to do worse in government schools and need extra attention and resources. So, by leaving government schools, that should not only reduce the burden there, it should reduce it even more since those who leave require more services. If the money truly followed the child, then this miniscule number of students should actually get more resources, not less. However, under the education tax credit program, the average scholarship for 2018-2019 was $2,301, and the rest of the tuition costs was shouldered by the families. Not to mention transportation costs, which parents have to arrange themselves. And yet these families manage to get their kids into better schools at great expense to themselves and are grateful for the program due to better outcomes for their children.

This is a win-win for everyone. Certainly, the parents and children are happier with the expanded choices afforded by the program. In surveys required by the program, 93.8% of the parents in the Children’s Scholarship Fund and 96.9% of the parents in the Giving and Going Alliance indicated that they were satisfied with the program. Government schools get to lose a few “customers” who are better served elsewhere anyway, and the foregone revenue has a negligible effect on their budgets. Perhaps the only losers are the power control freaks who cannot stand it when anyone opts out of their centralized control plans.

References:

Cline, Andrew. (2019, March 27). The Education Tax Credit Program: Fact vs. Fiction. Retrieved from jbartlett.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Education-Tax-Credit-Program-Fact-vs.-Fiction.pdf

ed Choice. (2020). School Choice – New Hampshire Education Tax Credit Program. Retrieved from www.edchoice.org/school-choice/programs/new-hampshire-education-tax-credit-program/

NH Department of Revenue Administration. (2017). The NH Education Tax Credit Program. Retrieved from www.revenue.nh.gov/quick-links/education-tax-credit.htm

NH Department of Revenue Administration. (2018 and 2019 ED-05). Children’s Scholarship Fund Organization Report. Retrieved from www.revenue.nh.gov/quick-links/documents/childrens-scholarship-fund-ed-5.pdf

NH Department of Revenue Administration. (2018 and 2019 ED-05). Giving and Going Alliance Scholarship Organization Report. Retrieved from www.revenue.nh.gov/quick-links/documents/giving-and-going-alliance.pdf