Celestial Seasonings – October 2019

By Heather Durham | September 30, 2019

This month offers an almost nightly schedule of celestial events, the majority of which are viewable with the naked eye. There is quite a plethora to view. As well, we will enjoy the full Hunter’s Moon (the first Moon after the Harvest Moon). Happy birthday to NASA!

Meteor showers take their names from the constellation or comet in the portion of the sky in which they appear. For instance, the Draconids appear near the constellation Draco, the Perseids appear near the constellation Perseus, the Taurids appear near the constellation Taurus, etc.


October 1

Happy birthday NASA…..which turns 61 today!

The Moon is at its closest to the Sun today as well (Space.com, 2019; Seasky.org, 2019).

October 2

There will be a Change of Command ceremony at the International Space Station. Luca Parmitano from the European Space Agency will replace Russian Cosmonaut Alexsey Ovchinin.

M31 (the Andromeda galaxy) may be viewed with binoculars. (It is also known as NGC 224).

October 3

There will be conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter, when the waxing crescent Moon will pass by less than 2 degrees to the north of Jupiter in the evening sky.

The planet Mercury, will be at its furthest point from the sun. Around 18:39 EDT, from Milton, they both should be visible.

October 5

There will be a conjunction of the Moon and Saturn, during which time the Moon will pass less than a degree to the south of Saturn. The two of them may be visible in the evening sky.

NGC 300, which is a spiral galaxy in the Sculptor constellation, is located where it can be observed above our southern horizon.

October 6

Today, the October Camelopardalid meteor shower reaches its peak.

October 8

Draconids Meteor Shower. This minor shower that produces about 10 meteors per hour will peak this year on October 8. Viewing will be the best in the evening or most likely around midnight as it follows the setting of the first quarter Moon which will set by then. These meteors will appear anywhere in the sky. From Milton, the shower will display directly above the horizon and will be active throughout the night.

October 9

A bright Mercury will be well placed in the evening sky.

 October 10

The Moon reaches its furthest place from the Sun.

The peak of the Southern Taurid meteor shower occurs on this date. From Milton, however, it won’t be visible before 18:56 pm EDT each night. Look towards the eastern horizon.

October 15

M33 from the Triangulum Galaxy is viewable. (It is also known as NGC 598).

October 19

Mercury will be shining bright.

October 20

Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. This planet reaches elongation of 24.6 degrees from the sun and can be viewed low in the western sky just after sunset (Seasky.org, 2019).

October 21-22

Orionids Meteor Shower. This shower, an average one, can display up to 20 meteors per hour when at its peak. These dust grains from Halley’s comet will peak on the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd. The Orionids tend to be bright even though the second quarter Moon will block some of the ones furthest away. View from a dark sky just after midnight. The best and brightest displays will occur near 05:00 AM EDT..

October 24

The peak of the Leonids meteor shower occurs on this date. The best display is said to be just before dawn.

October 26

There will be a conjunction of Mars and the Moon.

The western half of NGC 869 in the constellation Perseus may be viewable around midnight in or near Milton.

October 27

Uranus at Opposition. At times between 19:35 and 5:16, it should become visible from Milton.

October 29

There will be a conjunction of the Moon and Mercury, as well as one of the Moon and Venus.

The face of this blue-green planet will be fully lit by the sun. It should be visible all night long but is best viewed by telescope.

October 31

There will be a conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter. Look to see the Moon go by approximately one degree north of Jupiter in the evening sky.


Previous in sequence: Celestial Seasonings – September 2019; next in sequence: Celestial Seasonings – November 2019


References:

In-the-sky.org. (2019, September). Guides to the Night Sky. Retrieved from  https://in-the-sky.org/search.php

Seasky.org. (2019, September). Astronomy Reference Guide. Retrieved from http://www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy.html

Space.com. (2019, September). Space Launch Calendar 2019: Sky Events, Missions & More. Retrieved from https://www.space.com/32286-space-calendar.html

Wikipedia. (2019, September 22). Alexsey Ovchinin. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleksey_Ovchinin

Wikipedia. (2019, September 25). Andromeda Galaxy. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andromeda_Galaxy

Wikipedia. (2019, September 17). Conjunction (Astronomy). Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjunction_(astronomy)

Wikipedia. (2019, September 19).Draconids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draconids

Wikipedia. (2019, September 22). Leonids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonids

Wikipedia. (2019, September 22). Luca Parmitano. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luca_Parmitano

Wikipedia. (2019, September 21). Messier Object. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messier_object

Wikipedia. (2019, May 28). New General Catalogue. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_General_Catalogue

Wikipedia. (2019, August 14). NGC 300. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NGC_300

Wikipedia. (2018, August 16). NGC 869. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NGC_869

Wikipedia. (2019, June 9). Opposition (Astronomy). Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opposition_(astronomy)

Wikipedia. (2019,September 30). Orionids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orionids

Wikipeida. (2019, September 24). Perseids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseids

Wikipedia. (2019, September 26). Sculptor (Constellation). Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sculptor_(constellation)

Wikipedia. (2019, September 28). Taurids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taurids

Wikipedia. (2019, September 23). Triangulum Galaxy. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangulum_Galaxy

Closed for Business

By Ian Aikens | September 7, 2019

Did you see the article in the news about Faro Italian Grille, a popular eating spot in Laconia, closing early this summer for lack of workers? (See References below).

While the current low unemployment rate (if you can believe the government’s figures) is good news for those in need of a job, the other side of the coin is the current economic situation is creating havoc with businesses trying to survive. What caused this dilemma and what could be done to alleviate it?

The most obvious factor is the lack of foreign workers due to the ever-increasing crackdown and curtailment of immigrants into this country. Regardless of how one feels about legal and illegal immigration, the unavoidable fact is that American businesses need foreign labor to survive. The US economy has 7.6 million jobs open but only 6.5 million people looking for work. (The subject of work force participation and the growing number of folks dependent on government programs is a whole other subject that I may delve into at some point in the future).

Since the Department of Labor began tracking job turnover 20 years ago, this is the first time the pendulum has swung this way—and the gap is growing each month. Interestingly, while it’s common knowledge that employers have been short on workers in the science and technology field for years, the labor shortage has now crept down to blue-collar jobs like healthcare aides, restaurant workers, and hotel staff. Rather than the oft-heard proclamation that immigrants are “taking jobs away from Americans,” the reality is there simply aren’t enough native-born Americans to (willingly) do those jobs to keep the economy moving along smoothly. In the various hearings I attended in Concord this year, an oft-repeated complaint I heard was healthcare facilities in dire need of workers. “Who will take care of our old folks?” was a common theme.

Speaking of old folks, a huge part of the problem is the changing demographics of American society. Baby boomers, those who were born from 1946-1964 and about 80 million strong in the US, are retiring en masse these days. According to the AARP, 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every single day (that’s nearly 7 every single minute), and some sparsely populated states have a very high concentration of them. Maine has the most at 36.8%, and New Hampshire is a close second. While 65% of baby boomers plan to work past age 65, it turns out that 60% of retired workers had to stop working earlier than planned due to layoffs and health issues. In addition to the growing number of folks on the older end, families are having less kids these days, which means fewer young people in the future to do the work.

Another factor that comes into play here is students staying in school longer these days and entering the workforce later. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of “kids” enrolled in post-secondary degree-granting institutions increased by more than 52% between 1990 and 2014. When you look at college dropout statistics, this is a terrible trend: one-third of college students drop out entirely, and more than half enrolled take more than 6 years to graduate. Furthermore, 28% of students drop out before they even become a sophomore. At community colleges, it’s even worse with 43% of students dropping out with no degree. This is often due to the majority of students taking remedial classes for what they were supposed to learn in high school. This trend of staying in school longer and longer and extending childhood doesn’t bode well. No wonder one hears so much these days about college students turning into snowflakes and “triggered” simply by viewpoints different than their own.

Back in California, I rented out a room to a graduate student who at age 30 had never worked at a regular job for even one day in her entire life—and she was still going to school. (I often remarked to others that by the time she’s done with all her studies and is ready to get a job, it will be time to retire already.) A friend of mine who hails from Europe once told me that it’s not unusual in Europe for “kids” to study until their mid-20’s and then go to work. With more and more calls lately for “free college” to beckon young people to stay in school longer when staggering numbers of them—those who actually finish college—end up taking menial jobs not even in their fields of study, this makes no sense. Especially when there are already plenty of jobs that need to be filled. Granted, they may not be glamourous jobs, but there’s still something valuable about independence, practical work experience, being out of the ivory tower, and growing up, even in 2019.

So, back to the original problem for businesses like Faro’s, where do we go from here? While “open borders” are hardly feasible in the current political environment, how about something like the Bracero Program, which was established by President Roosevelt by executive order (unlike his infamous Executive Order 9066 which directed the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans) in 1942 and lasted through 1964? It allowed nearly 5 million Mexican citizens to enter the US legally and temporarily work on farms and railroads, and in factories, while many young Americans were overseas in the military in WWII. Like any government program, it had its share of bureaucratic problems, but it did serve the useful function of bringing in workers that were desperately needed—and giving people living south of the border an opportunity to earn a better living here. (Some call this exploitation, but you have to compare the working opportunities in Mexico versus what they faced in the US—if it was that much worse here facing “exploitation” and discrimination, why did they choose voluntarily to come north?)

Hilariously, while researching this article, I ran into another government program that definitely did not pan out. It was established in 1965 shortly after the Bracero Program ended, when American farmers complained to the government that the Mexican workers had performed jobs that Americans refused to do and their crops would rot in the fields without them. Leave it to a government bureaucrat to come up with a real zinger: called the A-TEAM, which stood for Athletes in Temporary Employment as Agricultural Manpower, its grand plan was to recruit 20,000 American high school male athletes to work on farms in California and Texas during summer harvest seasons. The end result: fewer than 3,500 of the A-TEAM signed up for work, and many of them soon quit or went on strike complaining of the back-breaking work, oppressive heat, low pay, and poor working conditions. Needless to say, the zinger was zapped after the first summer. Moral of the story: US businesses need foreign workers to do a lot of the lesser jobs that native-born Americans simply will not do.

As to the more recent trend of extending childhood well into what used to be adulthood, that’s a trend worth reversing. Of course, if students themselves, their families, their donors, and their banks are willing to pay the costs, no problem, but not at the public trough. The only real benefactors of sticking it to the taxpayers are the institutions that charge more with the additional “free” tuition money floating around, and of course all the bureaucrats who feed on the largesse. One good suggestion I ran into was for employers in the real world (voluntary economy) to reduce educational requirements and increase internal on-the-job training. If they can’t get more foreign workers in here to help out, that’s just what they might be forced to do anyway.

More foreign workers, fewer useless degrees, more real-world working experience—that might help businesses like Faro’s in the future, but too late for this season.


References:

Drapcho, Adam (Laconia Daily Sun). (2019, August 1). Weirs Restaurant Closes for Lack of Workers. Retrieved from www.laconiadailysun.com/news/local/weirs-restaurant-closes-for-lack-of-workers

Faro Italian Grille. (2019). Faro Italian Grille. Retrieved from www.faroitaliangrille.com/

Celestial Seasonings – September 2019

By Heather Durham | August 30, 2019

We will have the pleasure to see this month in our night sky, weather permitting, several wonderful celestial events. These include the usual sweep of stars and constellations, but also glimpses of galaxies, planets, comets, changes of moon phase, and the Fall equinox. Enjoy.

September 3

Mercury at superior solar conjunction

This elusive planet will pass very closely to the sun. It is often lost in the suns glare. This marks the end of Mercury‘s apparition in the morning sky and its transition to becoming an evening object over the next few weeks. It will also pass apogee at a distance of 1.37 AU from Earth making it appear very small and distant. (in-the-sky.org, 2019).

September 4

C2018 W2 (Africano) at perihelion

This comet will make its closest approach to the sun and might be visible from Rochester in the morning sky at 20:59 when it rises 21 degrees above the northeastern horizon. While this is not expected to be seen with the naked eye, it might be visible with bird-watching binoculars.

September 8

Conjunction of the Moon and Saturn

The Moon will be 11 days old when the moon and Saturn share the same right ascension. The two objects or make a close approach around the same time. From Rochester, they will be visible in the evening sky at about 8:09 PM. They will continue to be observable until around 2am when they sink below 8° above your southwestern sky.

Close approach of the Moon and Pluto

When the moon is 10 days old the pair can be seen in the evening sky at around 7:25 pm. They should be visible with binoculars.

September 23

September equinox

No matter where you live on Earth, the sun will rise almost due east and set almost due west on this, the Equinox of this coming season. The timing of this event will be 3:36 EDT. The sun has a right ascension of approximately equal to 12 hours.

September is a month for new beginnings. The days will be shorter and the nights longer until the December Solstice.

In Rochester, the astronomical twilight begins at 4:57 am, the sunrise at 6:32 am, then the astronomical twilight ends at 8:14 pm. Sunrise is at 6:32 am, sunset at 6:39 pm and the time at which the sun is at its highest point in the sky is at 12:36 pm.

September 24

Close approach of the Moon and M44

When the moon is 25 days old, the Moon and the beehive cluster, M44 will make a close approach of each other. The pair will be visible and the dawn sky rising at 1:49 AM and reaching an altitude of 45° above the eastern horizon before disappearing from view as dawn breaks. The pair may be visible using a pair of binoculars.

Moon Phases, September 2019, Rochester, New Hampshire

Moon Phase – Date – Time of Day

  • First Quarter – September 5 – 11:11 PM
  • Full Moon. – September 14 – 12:35 AM
  • Last Quarter – September 21 – 10.43 PM
  • New Moon – September 28 – 2:27 PM

Previous in sequence: Celestial Seasonings – August 2019; next in sequence: Celestial Seasonings – October 2019


References:

Dominic Ford, Editor. (August 11, 2019). From the Inner Planets Feed. Retrieved from
in-the-sky.org/news

Equinox NH 2019 Celebration. (August 2019). Equinox New Hampshire. Retrieved from www.equinoxnh.com

Skymaps.com Monthly Report, (August 2019). Monthly Map. Retrieved from www.skymaps.com/downloads.html

timeanddate.com. (August 2019). September Equinox. Retrieved from www.timeanddate.com/calendar/september-equinox.html

Wikipedia. (August 2019). Conjunctions. Retrieved from en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjunction_(astronomy)

Wikipedia. (August 2019). M44. Retrieved from en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beehive_Cluster

Wikipedia. (August, 2019). September 2019 Equinox. Retrieved from en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_equinox

 

Celestial Seasonings – August 2019

By Heather Durham | July 31, 2019

Fiftieth Anniversary of Apollo 11 – Just Past

For the first time in human history, man landed on the moon on Sunday, July 20, 1969. Michael Collins remained in moon orbit with the command module, while two others descended to the surface in the lunar module. Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin served as the lunar module pilot of Apollo 11.

Apollo 11 launched from the Kennedy Space Center at 9:32 am on July 16, 1969.

It took 2 years to locate the appropriate location for landing. Neil Armstrong was the first to set foot on the lunar surface, followed 19 minutes later by Aldrin.

These men located and brought back to Earth, 47.5 pounds of lunar material. The astronauts returned on July 24, 1969, after spending 8 days in space.

There were and are many celebrations for this 50th anniversary. This past January, the U.S. Mint released a 50th anniversary coin.

August 1 – New Moon

The new moon begins a two-week waxing (or increasing) phase that culminates in the full moon. Once visible, this would be a superb time to view other celestial events because the waxing crescent is visible in the evening sky.

August 8 – Venus at Perihelion

During which Venus is at its closest approach to the sun, a distance is 107,477,000 km. (66,783,111 miles).

August 9 – Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation

Mercury reaches elongation at 18.3 degrees from the sun. It might be viewed at dawn depending upon the weather conditions at that time.

August 12, 13 – Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseid Meteor showers come from a debris stream that surrounds the 133-year orbit of the Swift-Tuttle comet. Beginning in 1865, a young filament from the stream gives a mini peak display before the maximum shower occurred. At peak, meteor rates may reach 60 or more per hour.

These particles slam into Earth’s atmosphere so fast that it doesn’t take a large particle to put on quite a fantastic show. Actually the meteors are no bigger than a grain of sand or a pea. The show is produced by the kinetic energy that changes to heat caused by friction in the upper atmosphere,

Although these may not be that prolific this August due to the full moon, there should be 10-15 meteors per hour … a substantially lesser amount that in other years like 2016.

This month’s shower should be at its strongest right after the comet passes along the portion of its orbit that meets the Earth’s orbit as well as after it passes near the sun.

August 14 – Venus at Superior Solar Conjunction

While not visible with the Sun in the sky, Venus may be seen passing through the evening sky.

August 15 – Full Moon

August 30 – New Moon

Having two new moons in the same calendar month happens only once in every two to three years. (New moons are not lit, so there is nothing lunar to see).


References:

Lewin, Sarah. (2019, January 8). Perseid Meteor Shower 2019: When, Where & How to See It. Retrieved from www.space.com/32868-perseid-meteor-shower-guide.html

Powell, Martin J. (2019). Mercury. Retrieved from www.nakedeyeplanets.com

Sky & Telescope. (2019). Meteor Showers. Retrieved from www.skyandtelescope.com

Wikipedia. (2019, July 30). Apollo 11. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_11

Wikipedia. (2019, July 27). Moon. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon

Wikipedia. (2019, March 11). Perseids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseids

 

Railing About Rail

By Ian Aikens | July 31, 2019

The last public hearing I attended in the legislative session in Concord that ended on June 30, 2019 was anything but encouraging. It was regarding SB241, which would authorize funding for the “project development phase” of the capital rail project and extend commuter rail from Boston to either Nashua, Manchester, or Concord (or all 3 cities). For hours I listened to one proponent after another urge the committee members to approve the bill, and I ended up being the sole member of the public to speak in opposition to the bill.

One proponent called it a “no brainer” since 80% of the funding would come from the federal government. Just how a government that is $22,000,000,000,000 (and counting) in the hole has “free” money to dispense was never clarified to the committee members. One committee member asked one of the proponents if inserting the project into the 2019-2028 Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan (a big black hole) meant that the remaining 20% needed would already be funded. In other words, the money’s already there, so why not spend it? Indeed, placing a costly project in a big black hole with little visibility for the taxpaying public would be great for special interest groups, and that’s how government boondoggles are born. Many of the speakers touted how rail would create jobs and revitalize towns, cut down on traffic congestion, increase business at Manchester Airport, improve the environment, bring tourists to New Hampshire, and keep the young from leaving the state. The only benefit I didn’t hear mentioned was that it would spur the return of the Messiah.

Now let’s take a quick look at the history of rail in this country. It served a practical purpose as the country was developing and spreading across the continent transitioning from horse and buggy and water transportation, but once automobiles and air travel become affordable to the masses, rail transport became outmoded and impractical. Passenger rail was always used more by the elite, and ridership peaked around 1920 and never recovered. Despite the rosy claims of its proponents, virtually every rail project in the country features overestimates of ridership, underestimates of the building costs involved, constant and ongoing taxpayer subsidies, deferred maintenance with incredible backlogs—and a band of highly paid consultants served well by the perpetuation of the myths of rail. Outside of a very densely populated city like New York, and possibly Chicago and San Francisco, rail transit in this day and age is not economically feasible. Planes are faster and less expensive for long distances, and cars and buses are more convenient and less expensive for short distances. A few examples of the dismal record of rail projects from around the country: 1) Nashville’s Music City Star, which began operating in 2006, was requiring a taxpayer subsidy of $28 per ride by 2016; 2) Orlando, Florida’s SunRail, a 32-mile commuter rail line, opened in 2014 to such low ridership that by 2016 the government agency running the line admitted that the fare revenues weren’t enough to even cover the costs of operating and maintaining the ticket machines used to sell tickets to riders; 3) Salt Lake City opened up a commute line north to Ogden in 2008 and another line south to Provo in 2012. Through 2015, the Utah Transit Authority had already spent $2 billion on capital improvements and maintenance of rail lines that carried only 8,330 roundtrips per weekday. That’s a cost of $1,000 per resident, and the actual fares collected covered only 18% of the total transit costs. At losses of $35 million per year, it would actually have been cheaper for the taxpayers to buy every daily roundtrip rider a new Toyota Prius every two years.

Rail doesn’t fare much better when you look elsewhere in the world. France’s first high-speed rail train, which ran from Paris to Lyon, did earn enough operating profits to repay its construction costs by 1992, but later lines built all lost money, and by 2013 the country’s rail program had accumulated debts of over $50 billion. While most people are aware of Japan’s “bullet train,” did you know that the Tokyo-Osaka rail corridor is the only line that has ever been profitable in Japan? The reason for this rare rail success story is because the corridor is extremely high density (about 50 million people) and automobile ownership is low. As the government built new rail lines in lower-density corridors where car ownership was higher, those rail lines were all big money losers for the taxpayers.

Closer to home, the Downeaster provides good historical data to see how rail has worked out locally. The Downeaster, which has been running ten trains daily between Boston and Maine since 2001, makes stops in Exeter, Durham, and Dover. The first thing rail proponents always tout is that rail creates jobs and spurs economic development. A study looking at job growth paired similar cities, as far as access to infrastructure, to see how they fared since the Downeaster started running. Epping was paired with Exeter and Dover with Rochester. After 12 years, the results showed that Exeter had lost 300 jobs, Durham’s total number of jobs was virtually unchanged, and Dover had added just over 1,000 new jobs. The study’s conclusion that having a rail stop in Exeter did nothing to stop the job loss there pointed more to general economic conditions in the area and the nature of local economies (more manufacturing-oriented or service-oriented). The study found that Dover’s impressive job growth had more to do with being a large service center than trains having a stop there because Epping and Concord also saw greater job growth over the same period, and neither city had passenger rail service. The study concurred with what the director of Harvard’s Rappaport Institute had to say in the summary of a study of the MBTA commuter rail system: “The history of commuter rail in Massachusetts suggests that while commuter rail can be helpful, it generally has not revitalized communities or reduced sprawl.”

So, if government is going to be involved in the transportation business, wouldn’t it make more sense to put those tax dollars to better use? And, if the goal is to get more folks to their destinations faster and cheaper, buses are a much better bang for our bucks. The express buses that run along the I-93 corridor move 550,000 people per year for $750,000. Compare that to the Downeaster, which, mind you, is considered a “successful” rail project, and moves 530,000 riders per year for a government subsidy of $8.4 million. Furthermore, with bus lines, changes in employment and development patterns can be adapted to much quicker and economically by adding or subtracting bus lines as needed (or not). The same flexibility will never be there with rail transit.

Looking to the future, rail makes even less sense with the imminent arrival of driverless cars. The new technology will allow elderly and disabled folks to get around so much easier. While this might add to congested highways, the new technology will be able to handle the additional traffic safer and more efficiently due to the reduction of human error. Furthermore, cars are getting cleaner and more environmentally-friendly every year, so we should applaud technology that makes life easier for more folks. Clearly driverless technology will mean even less people will choose to use rail transit.

One would think with the well-publicized rail disaster in California that was supposed to link San Francisco and Los Angeles in two hours that has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars and will never be finished, that should have quelled any enthusiasm for such a project in New Hampshire. But no, I heard at least one rail advocate at the SB241 hearing mention a possible future high-speed rail line between Montreal and Boston as a goal to strive for. With estimated subsidies of $10 per rider to maintain rail service from Boston to Manchester and $60 per rider from Boston to Concord—a price tag of $5.5 million per year—why would anyone think a Montreal to Boston project would turn out any better than the California debacle? I caution readers to consider the words of Willie Brown, the former Speaker of the California State Assembly and former Mayor of San Francisco (a politician I never cared for, but one who occasionally would cut loose with an unusually frank statement of political reality): “News that the Transbay Terminal is something like $300 million over budget should not come as a shock to anyone. We always knew the initial estimate was way under the real cost. Just like we never had a real cost for the Central Subway or the Bay Bridge or any other massive construction project. So get off it. In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved. The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there’s no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.”

Finally, to end on a positive note, even though SB241 became law on June 6 without the governor’s signature and millions of “free” taxpayer dollars will be spent to study the feasibility of the capital rail project, at least all three of Milton’s state legislators (Abigail Rooney, Peter Hayward, and Jeb Bradley) voted NAY on the upcoming boondoggle. A small glimmer of hope for fiscal sanity!

References:

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/rollcall/SB241/id/805575

O’Toole, Randal. (2018, October). Romance of the Rails: Why the Passenger Trains We Love Are Not the Transportation We Need. Retrieved from www.cato.org/events/romance-rails-why-passenger-trains-we-love-are-not-transportation-we-need

Eliott-Trafficante, Josh. (2015, May). Does Commuter Rail Create Jobs? Retrieved from jbartlett.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Does-Commuter-Rail-Create-Jobs

San Francisco Chronicle column, July 28, 2013

Not the Fourth of July

By Ian Aikens | July 8, 2019

Isn’t it strange how even the name of the holiday being celebrated last week with parades, barbeques, flag-waving, and fireworks has morphed from “Independence Day” to the “Fourth of July”?  It almost seems like an intentional purpose to make people forget what the Declaration of Independence was all about and why it came into being.

Though the general population’s knowledge of civics and the most basics of American history is severely lacking these days — close to 40% of the American public cannot name even one of the freedoms listed in the First Amendment — at least most folks know there was a war when the 13 colonies broke away from England sometime in the late 1700’s, the Founding Fathers conjured up some historical documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and our country was formed.  Most folks will recall there was some type of uproar over taxes or some such grievance, but that’s about it.  Shamefully, despite the massive amounts of taxpayer money spent on education these days — in most states, close to 50% of taxes collected go to schools — much collective memory has been lost.  When I was in junior high school, studying the Constitution was one of the major hurdles of getting through the eighth grade.  When I ask young folks these days about it, they all say that it’s not even taught at all — at least not in government schools.

How convenient to forget the past.  In fact, the Declaration of Independence was a radical proclamation by rebel British subjects that the purpose of government is to protect and uphold individual rights.  After 250 years, we take that as a given, but at the time, that was truly a remarkable revelation.  Government was created to serve the people, not the other way around.  In fact, the rebel colonists were so distrustful of government from their experience with the British government that the Articles of Confederation created such a weak federal government that it didn’t even have the power to tax.  (In retrospect, perhaps a good thing?)  The Founding Fathers were on to something new and profound, and it’s no accident that Americans experienced an incredible growth in prosperity after the signing of the Declaration of Independence (which was approved by Congress on July 4, 1776 but wasn’t actually signed until August 2, 1776) to be followed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights in 1787 and 1789 respectively.  A lot of thought went into designing a government that would be limited in scope and concentration of authority to prevent the abuse of power.  They very purposely came up with a government based on the rule of law, rather than the rule of man.

Sadly, if the Founding Fathers were here today to see what the limited government they created has become, they would faint.  Endless wars and Congress completely abdicating its responsibility and allowing the president to commit US troops abroad without congressional approval goes completely against the intent of the Founding Fathers.  And this is nothing new:  the last time Congress authorized and declared war was World War II.  The Founding Fathers specifically did not want a standing army because they knew it would lead to military adventures overseas — which is has — and felt a navy would be sufficient for defensive purposes.  They would be appalled at American presidents with the power to assassinate “our enemies” with drones without due process of law.  The surveillance state and rampant abuses by the NSA, CIA, FBI, IRS, FDA, and TSA would be another whopper for the Founding Fathers to grasp.  The utter lack of economic freedom, where every branch of government has passed a myriad of laws governing every aspect of running any business these days, would also have the Founding Fathers aghast.  If you ever take a look at bills that push for more controls with licensing and fee extractions, they often literally say “for the privilege (my emphasis) of operating a business in …”  The signers of the Declaration of Independence knew from experience that government itself is the greatest threat to liberty and designed a system to prevent such tyranny.  The welfare state and calls for more government guaranteed jobs, housing, education, healthcare, and just about every other need would be completely incomprehensible to the Founding Fathers as they intended the “pursuit of happiness” to be critical for human beings to thrive, not the “guarantee of happiness.”

In my travels to Concord earlier this year to give testimony in committee public hearings, it was disheartening to listen to person after person from vested special interest groups urge our elected representatives for more control over our lives with more laws, regulations, and taxes.  Of course, as long as they received the largesse for their particular group, that’s all they really cared about.  The fact that they were basically begging for alms from the spoils of mandatory charity didn’t seem to bother anyone, which shows just how far our society has evolved away from the ideals created in the Declaration of Independence.  It has become a largely overlooked and definitely unappreciated gift from those who understood the true meaning of liberty.


See also Milton and the U.S. Constitution


References:

Harrison Elizabeth (History.com). (2012, July 4). 9 Things You May Not Know About the Declaration of Independence. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/news/9-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-declaration-of-independence

Washington Times. (2017, September 13). 37 Percent of Americans Can’t Name Any of the Rights Guaranteed by the First Amendment: Survey. Retrieved from https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/sep/13/37-percent-of-americans-cant-name-any-of-the-right/

Wikipedia. (2019, June 6). Declaration of War by the United States. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_war_by_the_United_States

 

Concord Beat – Early July 2019

By Ian Aikens | July 1, 2019

As promised in my last article, this time I examined Jeb Bradley’s recent legislative record. I culled my impression not only from his voting record but also from the bills he either sponsored or co-sponsored. While Bradley has a tendency to allow individuals and their employers to negotiate voluntarily between themselves on important issues like pay and benefits, sadly, in other areas, he shows no reluctance to give government bureaucrats the power to mandate all sorts of things.

First a little background on Bradley himself. He has been active in New Hampshire politics since 1986, when he was first elected to the Wolfeboro Planning Board. He was elected to the New Hampshire House in 1990 and re-elected five times. He was elected to Congress in 2002, but in an upset he lost his seat to Carol Shea-Porter, an anti-war activist, in 2006. He was elected to the New Hampshire Senate in 2010 and served as the Majority Leader from 2010-2018. He currently serves as District 3 Senator, representing 19 towns in Carroll County, Waterville Valley in Grafton County, and Middleton and Milton in Strafford County. Outside of the political sphere, he ran an organic bakery, a painting business, a real estate office, and even worked as a street magician in Switzerland at one time.

Now down to business:

HB1319 – Prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Bradley co-sponsored the bill and it was signed by the governor. While it is proper to prohibit all discrimination on government property and for all government services, since “the commons” are owned by all taxpayers, is it really the proper role of government to dictate to private (voluntarily-run) businesses who they must serve? In the olden days, the argument that a traveler had few, if any, choices when traveling, so it would have been uncivil to allow a private business to deny lodging to a traveler may have been plausible, but in this day and age with most businesses scrambling for more customers, it makes little sense to mandate fairness. Besides, the biggest obstacles to more choices for consumers these days are government regulations and occupational licensing.

SB1 – Granite Caregiving Act of 2019. This bill was vetoed by the governor, and Bradley had the good sense to vote NO on it. This would have actually been a tax on earned income—which in any other state is called an income tax—but politicians produce flowery-named titles for bills that might not otherwise be well-received when they are trying to pull the wool over voters’ eyes. This TAX would have been deducted out of all employees’ wages at the rate of .5%. While it would have been a nice fringe benefit for employees, and there is broad-based support for “Family Leave,” once you inform folks that they have to pay for it themselves, support for the program drops dramatically. This would have a mandate too—and the only opt-out would have been for companies that already offer the benefit.

SB10 – Minimum wage up to $12.00 per hour. Bradley voted NO on this one. Another mandate forcing businesses to pay employees more than their skills are worth on the open market. There’s been plenty written about minimum wages and their consequences over the years, so it should come as no surprise that those on the bottom of the economic ladder are hurt the most by these mandates. Those with the lowest skills just starting out lose out on the opportunities to advance their skills. It should also come as no surprise that minimum wage laws were originally pushed by union workers to keep non-Caucasians from competing for their jobs. The racism continues today, but they call it a “Living Wage.”

SB148 – Notification to public employees of right to join or not join a union. Bradley was a co-sponsor on this bill. While one part of this bill that requires new employees’ personal information to be released to unions is alarming, overall this was a net good bill because of the requirement that new employees be informed that they have a choice of joining a union or not. No mandatory forced extortion to join the union or lose your job.

SB255 – Dementia training for direct care staff in residential facilities and community-based services. Co-sponsored by Bradley, this bill demonstrates that he believes that those who choose a residential home for their loved ones don’t have sense enough to choose a facility where the health care workers have adequate training for the jobs they perform. It also assumes the residential facilities have no business interest in maintaining properly trained employees and need to be nudged by a mandate. What business can survive if its reputation is marred by poor care of its customers?

SB270 – Establish tax credit against business profits tax for donations to career and technical schools. Another bill co-sponsored by Bradley, this one would serve to help finance apprenticeships and training programs at technical schools that teach their students actual job skills for the real world, rather than traditional schools supported by tax dollars that do little to prepare students for the working world. An added plus is the tax credit serves to deprive government bureaucrats of more money to waste.

SB272 – Enforce the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Bradley co-sponsored this bill, which would force health insurers to treat mental illness as seriously as physical illnesses. Of course, we all want extra goodies we don’t have to pay for, but all these extra services increasingly mandated by politicians and bureaucrats—that’s why the cost of medical insurance and services continue to increase dramatically. Besides, I’m not so sure all this obsession with mental health is so healthy. With the ever-increasing number of new laws, bans, and mandates—that’s enough to increase mental illness in itself.

SB274 – Mothers with newborns on Medicaid entitled to “free” home visits. Another bill co-sponsored by Bradley, this is a new, small entitlement program. I have nothing against mothers—either with newborns or older children—but who will pay for these special home visits? After all, they’re not free. If Bradley and the other co-sponsors were to personally pay for these home visits themselves, that would be highly commendable, but forcing everyone else to pay—that’s forced giving.

SB279 – Requires health insurers to cover fertility treatment on all policies. Another bill co-sponsored by Bradley. Not everyone is interested in having every sort of medical option (that they will have to pay for), so forcing all insurers to cover more and more expenses drives up the costs for most people (and employers who could otherwise pay their employees more). Health insurance—like all other services that folks (and their employers) pay for—should have as much variety as possible to suit individual needs of consumers, but mandating more and more services results in less choices for all.

SB282 – Requires school districts and chartered government schools to provide suicide prevention training. Bradley was the primary sponsor on this one. Suicide, especially by a young person, is always a tragic event, but is mandating all teachers to attend two hours of suicide training annually going to actually save lives? I doubt it. More likely, it will be yet another administrative burden for teachers to fulfill in an ever-increasing list of required non-teaching duties. If politicians were really serious about suicide prevention among youth, perhaps they should consider making school attendance non-compulsory. First, there would be the obvious savings to taxpayers of not chasing down kids who hate being in school and often cause the most disruption. More important, forcing all kids to attend government schools—and face it, unless the family is well-off, the option of a private (voluntary) school is very limited—which are often dangerous (bullying, gangs, drugs) may actually increase suicides. One-size-fits-all doesn’t work for everyone.

SB290 – Changes to New Hampshire Granite Advantage Health Care Program. This bill has several parts to it, but the main thrust is to reduce work requirements for those who qualify for what is essentially totally free health care—no deductibles, premiums, or co-pays. We’re talking about able-bodied adults here, not the disabled or pregnant women. Encouraging people away from self-sufficiency leads to dependence on others and ill will from tax-weary taxpayers. Fortunately, Bradley voted against the bill.

All in all, Bradley at best has a spotty record in Concord. His view of what government should be doing borders on paternalism at best and authoritarianism at worst.

[Editor’s note: see also NH SB 154 Amended and SB 154 on the House Floor].


Previous in sequence: Concord Beat – May 2019


References:

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2018 | Regular Session. Retrieved from  legiscan.com/NH/bill/HB1319/2018

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB1/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB10/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB148/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB255/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB270/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB272/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB274/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB279/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB282/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB290/2019

Wikipedia. (2019, April 15). Jeb Bradley. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeb_Bradley