Guest Blogs

Friday
Dec222006

Magic Wand Middle East Summit

by Ray Will

What if...

What if Nixon went to China?

What if Anwar Sadat told Walter Cronkite that he was willing to meet with Menachem Begin within the week?

What if Ferdinand Marcos told Ted Coppell he would be more than happy to hold elections in the Philippines?

What if I waved my Magic Wand (TM) and President Bush, the most stubborn US President in modern history invited the major players of the Middle East to a Comprehensive Summit? Stranger things have happened.

The Magic Wand Comprehensive Summit for the Middle East:

The Players: USA, Syria, Turkey, Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Israel, the EU, Russia.

The Broad Agenda:
1. The Kurdish Opportunity
2. The Palestinian Opportunity
3. The Sunni and Shite Opportunity only then...
4. The Future of Iraq

Actually there is a pragmatic method to my madness. Notice the format of the Summit. First we are dealing with the actual religions and ethnicities of the region (Kurdish Shite, Sunni, Palestinian) and not the modern borders. (Iraq, Iran, Israel/Palistinian Authority.) Only then do we deal with the future of Iraq.

Draw the borders any which way, the issues will be less Iraq vs Iran and more Sunni vs Shite or a Palestinian State vs recognition Israel's right to exist. Kurd vs other ethnicities (like the Turks or Russians for example). By formatting a summit in this way we can affect change over many borders. This may broker agreements that make Iraqi stability more attainable for it's stage in the summit. And by having Egypt and Jordan sponsor each summit, these moderate states at general peace with Israel get to showcase the results of that peace.

The Dream Team of US Diplomats: James Baker III, Jesse Jackson, Ambassador George Mitchell, Colin Powell, President James Earl Carter, Senator Richard Lugar (R)IN, Madeline Albright, and of course, Condi Rice.

Considering the roster of the Dream Team there is a balance. If one of our out-of-the-box thinkers (Carter, Jackson) says or does something nuts, the more pragmatic members (Lugar, Albright, Mitchell) will keep them grounded.

First Summit Meeting: February 20th 2007, Sponsored by Egypt and held in Cairo, to take up agenda issues 1-3.

Second Summit Meeting: September 1st 2007, Sponsored by Jordan and held in Amman, to take up agenda issue 4.

Since 2001 the US has been engaged for good or ill in a "war process". Maybe its time to remind the world just who has the diplomatic gravitas to broker a peace deal. If I remember correctly we ARE really good at brokering peace. With only a 230 year history we don't have NEARLY the grudge matches that other countries have with their neighbors. (Sure, our relations with Cuba are shrill, but we aren't lobbing anything at each other but press releases.)

We helped the Palestinians and Israelis.
We helped the Balkans. (In beautiful downtown Dayton Ohio no less.)
We helped the Egyptians and Israelis.
And we tried with a lot of other countries

Now before you say, "but can we trust the players...?" Only pollyannas will believe trust is even an issue. People have been killing each other. NEITHER side will call the other trustworthy after or during armed conflict. The whole point to ANY summit process is there is a need to talk and it must be done in spite of everyone's misgivings-- not born of some foolish hippie notion that your blood enemy just became a Boy Scout so peace talks can take place.

The other side of this school of thought is much worse: believing that because the other side is untrustworthy there can be no talks. I'm no pacifist but at some point even in war you have to at least have talks. If they are unwilling to even talk, well where does the killing end then? This school of thought acts like its a waste of breath to even invite the Players to the table. Well waste it! People are dying, and you can't even TRY?.

So how do I believe we can overcome the aforementioned obstacles? Strangely enough, and don't laugh: George W. Bush himself. I mean only Nixon could go to China. The Summit, the Dream Team, the border-crossing format of the agenda, even the moderate Arab locales all hinge upon one unlikely event: What if the most intractable US President in modern history invited the major players of the Middle East to a Comprehensive Summit? However unlikely all of this, none of it goes anywhere unless GW is on board front and center.

I'm also of the belief that if a peace process in and of itself is going on it injects hope into communities that feel the only response to their lot in life is a death wish. Remember the pictures of Middle Eastern babies with bombs strapped to them?

But how well did recruiting go for the Communists in the Philippines after Macros lost the election to Cori Aquino in 1986?

Remember the relative calm between the Palestinians and Israel after the 1993 signing.

What happened to the Sandanistas and Contras after the Oscar Arias peace plan?

We must give people on all sides in this region a reason to hope. That won't happen with a "Pollyanna Peace Plan". Only Nixon could go to China and I think only President Bush (as unlikely as that is) can initiate this plan.

Besides that, I would pay real money to see Jesse Jackson, Richard Lugar, Jimmy Carter, and President Bush all having a fallafel together in Amman Jordan.
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 Raymond Will is a Generally Busy Guy. In addition to working full time, he serves on his local Planning Board, is the Secretary of the City-Wide Neighborhood Committee and volunteers weekly with the Salvation Army. He lives in Portsmouth with his wife Jenn and their two cats Mandy and Mystique.

Tuesday
Dec122006

The NH Homestead Plan

By State Representative Andy Peterson

Hillsborough, District #3

This year the voters delivered a re-election victory of historic proportions to Governor Lynch and unceremoniously replaced Republican majorities in the New Hampshire House, Senate and Governor’s Council. The after-effect of this “blue tsunami” leaves the Democratic Party with a greater ability to formulate and implement state policy than at any time in living memory.

But sooner than we can imagine, Republican sorrows and Democratic joys alike will be eclipsed by the massive responsibility which confronts the Governor and State Legislature this session: The need to resolve the education funding issue by the July 1, 2007 deadline imposed by the NH Supreme Court.

State Education Funding has for years now loomed like a foreboding shadow over our state’s efforts to support beneficial programs and protect the many advantages that provide New Hampshire citizens with a vibrant economy and singular quality of life. In what I hope will be a constructive contribution to the upcoming debate, I have proposed a comprehensive legislative solution to State Education Funding requirements entitled “The NH Homestead Plan”.

The bill includes a formulation of $4,500 +/- state adequacy grants which will be inflation indexed and paid directly to school districts annually on a per pupil basis. In addition, the legislation calls for over $200 million dollars to be paid to communities annually in the form of targeted aid and approximately $36 million to be distributed in stabilization grants. The total state funding provided for in the plan would be nearly $1,150,000,000, in the 1st year, or over $300 million more annually than provided for in the existing law, which has now been ruled unconstitutional.

The funding for the plan is based on one simple premise: The education of the next generation of New Hampshire citizen’s is everyone’s business … we’re in this together!

I propose that we raise the needed additional revenue by forming a single taxing district for the purpose of raising basic state education expenses and tax property at an even rate of $7.50 per thousand, via the statewide property tax.

The plan is called the “NH Homestead Plan” because resident’s primary homes across the state will receive an exemption from this base tax rate for the first $200,000 of equalized accessed valuation, or a $1,500 tax reduction, estimated to provide over $430 million dollars of direct property tax relief to homeowners statewide.

In addition, the moderation of local property tax rates, which now vary statewide from between only about $3 per thousand to more than $25 per thousand (equalized total rates based on full value assessments/market value), will create a more equitable distribution of tax burdens and lower property taxes for communities which have long been overtaxed when compared with the state average.

These changes require no sales or income taxes, nor do they require other changes such as legalizing casino-style or other expanded gambling. They would, however, achieve two valuable goals: Remove the need for further intervention by the state courts and provide long overdue property tax relief to NH homeowners.

According to Legislative Budget Assistant Office estimates, a resident owner of a $300,000 home in Keene would experience the double benefit of a 95 cent reduction in their property tax rate and also gain a $1,500 reduction via the plan's homestead exemption, lowering their 2005 tax bill of $7857 to $6072. In Manchester, where the tax rate would rise by approximately 74 cents (based on the recently established 2006 rate), owners of $300, 000 homestead properties would see their taxes fall from $5,055 to $3,777. No Manchester homeowner would see an increase for property valued under $2,000,000. In Dublin the tax rate is also projected to increase. However, due to the homestead benefit, primary homes in Dublin valued under $750,000 would see a decrease in total property taxes. As a result of these changes, the "donors" would henceforth truly be individuals, rather than communities.

Owners of second homes, businesses and speculative property in low tax towns will no doubt object to these changes, but the maximum increase in property taxes is limited to $3 per thousand on an equalized basis, and those who will experience these increases will still pay less than if they were located in a neighboring community.

When I compare the overall affects of this plan to other alternatives, I believe it has significant advantages and merits serious consideration in this pivotal year. Take a look at www.AndrewPeterson.org , click on ISSUES and see the details for yourself.

Sunday
Dec102006

AMS Council, Amend Draft Statement on Climate Change

by Andrea Saul

A group of 17 American Meteorological Society (AMS) members and renowned scientists has banded together to petition the AMS to include natural variability in their draft statement on climate change (http://www.ametsoc.org/policy/draftstatements/index.html). According to their website, AMS “represents over 11,000 professionals, professors, students, and weather enthusiasts” in promoting “the development and dissemination of information and education on the atmospheric and related oceanic and hydrologic sciences and the advancement of their professional applications.”

These scientists, led by AMS fellow and council member Joseph D’Aleo, submitted their letter yesterday (below) in an effort to influence the deciding committee on the final statement. They are concerned that the current draft statement on climate change “does not adequately address issues that continue about the measurement of past and even current climate and the factors which cause climate changes.”

In the letter, the scientists agree that the draft statement needs to be amended to include “data uncertainty issues,” “additional anthropogenic and natural factors,” and “natural variability when discussing the possibility of continued warming predicated on the imperfect climate models.”

All comments on the AMS statement under consideration are due tomorrow.

December 7, 2006
American Meteorological Society
45 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108-3693
statement_comments@ametsoc.org

Response to AMS Council on the Draft Statement on Climate Change

Dear AMS Council:

The October 20, 2006 AMS draft statement concerning climate change deserves a closer examination.

First of all, we were struck by the remark in the first sentence about the warming of the climate for the last 50 years. In fact, the statement in the relevant IPCC chapter as well as in the technical summary speaks of 30 years. Only the misrepresentation in the IPCC Summary for Policymakers speaks of 50 years.

Overall, the current statement does not adequately address issues that continue about the measurement of past and even current climate and the factors which cause climate changes. As we continue our research and determine the proper policy recommendations, it is important to first address these issues.

There can be no denying our climate is changing or that human activity plays a role, through urbanization and land-use changes around stations as well as greenhouse gases and aerosols. The degree to which climate is changing itself is subject to question. The drop-off of the number of global stations from 6,000 to 2,000 in the last 35 years (with the biggest drop-off in the last 15 years) and the large increase in missing data months in the last decade in some large regions of the world invite some data integrity questions that need to be addressed. A study by Roger Pielke Sr. of Colorado State University, “Unresolved Issues with the Assessment of Multi-Decadal Global Land Surface Temperature Trends” (
http://blue.atmos.colostate.edu/publications/pdf/R-321.pdf), which demonstrates the errors in the measurement of surface temperatures with a bias toward warming has been submitted to Journal of Geophysical Research.

A major conclusion of the study is that as a climate metric to diagnose climate system heat changes (i.e., ‘global warming’), the surface temperature trend, especially if it includes the trend in nighttime temperature, is not the most suitable climate metric. As reported in Pielke [BAMS 2003], the assessment of climate heat system changes should be performed using the more robust metric of ocean heat content changes rather than surface temperature trends. If temperature trends are to be retained in order to estimate large scale (including a global average), the maximum temperature is a more appropriate metric than using the mean daily average temperature.

John Lyman and Greg Johnson of NOAA and Josh Willis of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, in a 2006 GRL paper, “Recent Cooling of the Upper Ocean” (
http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2006/2006GL027033.shtml), showed that about a third of the heat gained by the oceans since 1993 disappeared between 2003 and 2005 and that the cooling is “unlikely to be artifacts of inadequate ocean sampling.”

Adjustments are being made for urbanization and local factors in the global data, but the fact that rural areas remain in almost every state and country that show little or no warming (and many areas cooling) raises additional questions about whether these adjustments are of sufficient magnitude. The NCDC HCN data base has the most stability and has been argued the best urban adjustment. It shows a temperature trend that is small (just 0.03C/decade since 1930) and more cyclical in nature, suggesting the role of natural cyclical factors.

Indeed, considerable peer review work has established the important role that the sun, through direct and indirect factors, and multidecadal cycles in the oceans have played in past climate. While the statement mentions solar output, it claims that it probably has had a small impact. In fact in some studies solar and these other factors have been shown to correlate with observed cyclical temperature changes as well as, or better than, greenhouse gases. As for one example, N Scafetta and B. J. West of Duke University, in “Phenomenological Solar Signature in 400 years of Reconstructed Northern Hemisphere Temperature Record” (
http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2006/2006GL027142.shtml) (GRL 2006), suggests that the sun might have contributed approximately 50% of the observed global warming since 1900. And Willie Soon in a GRL 2005 paper “Variable Solar Irradiance as a Plausible Agent for Multidecadal Variations in the Arctic-Wide Surface Air Temperature Record of the Past 130 years” (http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2005/2005GL023429.shtml) showed a correlation of 79% of arctic-wide surface temperatures with total solar irradiance from 1880 to 2000 compared to just 22% for greenhouse gases.

Similarly the temperatures over Greenland and the Arctic have been shown to correlate with the phases of Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation with values as high as 62% over the past century. Greenland temperatures from 1959 to 2003 actually had a negative correlation of -16% with greenhouse concentrations (last two in paper to be presented at Annual AMS).

To limit the debate over current global warming scenarios by virtually ignoring such man made and natural changes is to dangerously mischaracterize the debate. There is not an absolute consensus. There are legitimate alternate viewpoints that deserve recognition.

With such uncertainty as to how much change has occurred and what factors are responsible, it is no easy task to try and project where climate goes from here. We attempt to forecast future climate changes with complex and imperfect climate models. The climate models haven't even convincingly shown whether there will be more or fewer clouds -- which makes their capacity to accurately gauge radiational effects of any change suspect.

In order to develop a policy to correctly anticipate and plan for temperature change we must first develop more accurate future assessment methods which might include a move away from numerical climate models and towards empirically based statistical models. As you may know, a similar evolution occurred in the multi-seasonal forecast realm at CPC.

Let’s not forget the 2001 NAS report that said there is no certainty. Specifically the report said: “Because there is considerable uncertainty in current understanding of how the climate system varies naturally and reacts to emissions… future warming should be regarded as tentative and subject to future adjustment (either upward or downward).”

Nor should you ignore the findings of the 2005 NRC Report “Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: Expanding the Concept and Addressing Uncertainties” (
http://www.nap.edu/openbook/0309095069/html/), which concluded a need to move beyond the radiative forcing of CO2, including the need to assess regional radiative and non-radiative climate forcings.

As such, we ask that the draft statement be amended to include references to the following:

-the need to address data uncertainty issues

-the need to discuss additional anthropogenic and natural factors, and

-the need to consider natural variability when discussing the possibility of continued warming predicated on the imperfect climate models.

Thank you for your consideration of our proposed changes. The undersigned are available to discuss this further, and welcome an opportunity for a full and open debate with the committee on this issue.

Sincerely,

Joseph D’Aleo
CCM, Fellow of AMS, Council Member AMS
Executive Director, ICECAP

Dr. Gary Sharp
Scientific Director
Center for Climate/ Ocean Resources Study

Dr. Ben Herman, Ph.D.
University of Arizona
Professor and Head of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences
Director of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics; Optical Remote Sensing; Radiative Transfer, Satellite Remote Sensing.

Dr. Richard S. Lindzen
Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Patrick J. Michaels
Professor of Environmental Sciences
University of Virginia
Past-President, American Association of State Climatologists

Dr. Sallie Baliunas
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
60 Garden St.
Cambridge MA 02138

Dr. James O’Brien
Robert 0. Lawton Distinguished Professor, Meteorology & Oceanography
Director Emeritus of the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies
Florida State University
Tallahassee, Florida 32306-2840

Dr. Timothy F. Ball, PhD, Environmental Consultant, Professor of Climatology (Ret'd).
Chairman, Natural Resources Stewardship Project (www.nrsp.com)
205-27 Songhees Road
Victoria, British Columbia, V9A 7M6

Madhav Khandekar, Retd. Scientist Environment Canada
Environmental Conultant
Unionville, ON, CANADA
AMS Member since ~1965

Dr William Gray
Emeritus Professor
Department of Atmospheric Sciences
Colorado Sate University
Fort Collins, CO

Paul Cousins
Managing Director
AtmosForecast
Portland, Maine

Kevin Williams
Director of Meteorology, News 10NBC
AMS Seal Holder
President, Weather-Track, Inc.
Rochester, NY

Tom Chisholm
Chief Meteorologist
AMS Seal Holder
WMTW TV
Portland, Maine

Peter D. McGurk
BS Atmospheric Science, Cook College, Rutgers University, 1977
SM Geophysics, University of Chicago, 1979
Senior Meteorologist, WSI, Andover MA

Herbert E. Stevens
The Skiing Weatherman and/or Grass Roots Weather
39 Surrey Lane
North Kingstown, RI 02852

Dr. Mel Goldstein
Chief Meteorologist
WTNH-TV
New Haven CT

Tim Kelley
NECN Meteorologist
AMS Seal Holder
160 Wells Ave
Newton MA 02459



Tuesday
Dec052006

Merrimack needs to steward the will of the voters

by Bill Boyd

The Board of Selectman's recent decision to refund $500,000 back to the Merrimack taxpayer certainly is laudable, but hardly noteworthy. It seems to me that the Board's attitude toward rate relief is predicated on what emanates from the mind and mouth of Selectman Dave McCray. Certainly, if style over substance dictated town governance, then not much would ever get accomplished in Merrimack. As a new resident of Merrimack, this reality just doesn't escape me; it troubles me.

The reality began with the advisory warrant, which Selectman McCray championed and the voters overwhelmingly approved in 2002. It culminated when the voters comfortably reelected McCray over Bernie Rousseau this past April. Clearly, the voters are sending a specific message to the Board's majority about which direction Merrimack should travel. More importantly, the community, by ballot and by warrant, will continue to promote local control as the means by which we govern. This is the message the majority needs to realize.

Merrimack's identity, as a quiet, bucolic New Hampshire town, is changing and major decisions such as the town charter, property revaluations, Industrial Drive and the Harclos property site will, most certainly, dominate the town's agenda for 2006. Promoting growth, expanding the tax base and developing our local economy needs to be done in a thoughtful and collegial manner that still retains the character and charm of our community while embracing the progress and growth occurring in Merrimack. It goes without saying that if the Board cannot steward the will of the voters in 2002, who will steward the community in 2006 when change and progress hit us head on?

In the end, the majority needs to embrace Selectman McCray as an agent of change. They also need to further embody the will of the voters by returning $1.3 million in surplus. The majority will have their rainy day fund at $2 million and can position our community positively towards the growth developing. Certainly, Selectman McCray needs to continue his passionate advocacy for the taxpayer while channeling his emotions towards public policy not personality. Too often in politics, personal invective permeates the perspective when disagreements occur. There is no reason why the Board cannot agree to disagree professionally. Lastly, the Board is a steward of the community?s trust. Stewardship is about preserving community and putting people first above politics and personality.

Friday
Dec012006

Going Old-Line to On-Line, Advice to Mayor Frank Guinta

by Bill Boyd

Mayor Guinta should make a greater commitment to E-government and "one-stop shopping" by expanding their on-line capability and making the city's website more user-friendly.

Currently, there are some requests that can be ordered online; other requests require the citizen to download the form and mail it in. Mayor Guinta should look to expand its online opportunities so that city transactions are seamless and paperless. The ability to download forms should continue to be made available for those not comfortable transmitting information online, however, the transformation should be made so that the citizens of Manchester and its employers can transact with the city from their own home or work "on-line" instead of "in-line" at City Hall.

Using newer technolgies, business and companies can submit applications and permit requests and pay for them online. Homeowners and members of the general public could be able to view tax cards and assessor maps as well. If someone wanted a copy of their tax card or the lot on an assessor's map, they could pay for it online and print it off of their home computer. In this same vein, Mayor Guinta should maximize the city's usage of technology to allow car registrations, tax payments, and parking tickets to be paid online as well. Newer technolgies shouldn't be limited to its citizenry, though; Manchester should also use technology for e-commerce purposes like vendor payments, bids and proposals, and online procurement.

The bottom line? Transactions will be faster. Staff will spend less time dealing with the minuitia of purchasing and more time being responsive to their job requirements. Departmental costs for postage, printing and paper will be lower. The city's overall purchasing function will be easier to manage and most likely allow the city to purchase items at the lowest price possible. Ultimately, department heads can manage their budgets more efficiently which is the bottom line that Mayor Guinta is seeking to accomplish.

One investment that, over time, would create an efficiency is bringing laptop technology into the Aldermanic Chambers. Initially, the idea that each alderman should have a laptop to conduct municipal business was laudible, but political unfeasible as long as Manchester's children didn't have access to that same technology. The Union Leader was quick to take Alderman Roy to task and rightly so. However, there is no reason why the chambers couldn't be equipped with laptops at each seat with WiFi capability.

As previously stated, the Agenda items could be downloaded into the laptop via email and that information would be at the individual's fingertips. The aldermen would have access in the aldermanic chamber to review the materials and, at the same time, could also be available to meet with constituents on issues affecting them in the ward or citywide. The aldermanic committees would benefit as well.

With WiFi capacity, reporters (and members of the general public) equipped with laptops could have access to the agenda as well. Reporters would have the added benefit of being able to type their story and transmitting it back to their editor. With these factors, a multimedia component could be added to the chamber as well allowing members of the general public, without the benefit of a laptop, to follow along with the multimedia display.

Manchester has moved from being an old-line city with an old-world economy to a new-line city with a new-world economy. Mayor Guinta represents what is new and growing about Manchester. E-government represents even better opportunities for its citizens and its businesses, and hopefully, Mayor Guinta will embrace and unlock the efficiencies e-government can bring to Manchester.