Saturday, July 25, 2015

Update on Free Stater Plan for Voter Fraud


The post with the Free Stater plan to commit voter fraud in NH has been removed. Sadly for them, there are screengrabs so they can't pretend to deny that this ever happened.

The subreddit now has devolved into a neener neener back and forth with Free Staters and those who oppose them.

Apparently this is the GOP's latest plan. They're so desperate to prove that voter fraud is a problem in NH that they're going to commit it themselves.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Free Staters Planning to Commit Voter Fraud

I found this on a sub-reddit

Our would-be overlords of the Free State Project seem to have cooked up a scheme to commit voter fraud in NH. That would be REPUBLICAN voter fraud, by the way. 

As you can see, "Starry Chloe" the poster lists the tired, old, unproven, canard: "busloads of people from Massachusetts." These clowns repeat the GOP line endlessly without a single thought. If Democrats bus people in, why are Republicans holding the majority in the NH House and Senate?

One of the comments on this post is from Tom Ploszaj, a Free Stater living in Grafton, NH who ran as a Democrat - and lost. Free Staters are encouraged to run as Democrats if they think it will help them get elected, even though they vote with the GOP. There are currently two fake Democrats from the FSP serving in the NH House, Elizabeth Edwards and Amanda Bouldin. 

In this video, we see former State Rep. Mark Warden advising Free Staters to run in any party they can get elected in. Sitting next to him is former State Rep. Michael Garcia, who served one term as a fake Democrat and had his ass handed to him by voters in the next election. 

I'm eager to hear GOP outrage over their own allies planning to commit voter fraud, especially from Free State Project admirer and NH GOP Chair Jennifer Horn.

Horn said the group’s philosophy is “something that’s right in line with the Republican Party.”   
"For the most part," explained Horn, "the Free State Project has been very much a movement with character that I think has probably been a positive thing in our state.”
Tell us Jennifer - is voter fraud right in line with GOP values and character? 

ht/tuck at miscellany blue

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Political Correctness

The backlash over “political correctness” is really hitting the fan these days. Donald Trump is being lauded as a hero for “telling it like it is” when it comes to Mexicans. His commentary on Senator McCain was less successful. Everywhere one travels on the information highway there is someone whining about the terrible burden of political correctness.

The definition seems like a good place to begin. Webster’s defines PC as: agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people.

Try as I might, I can’t find fault with that. It sounds pretty simple. It sounds like good manners. Sticking to good manners would go a long way toward solving all kinds of problems.

Political correctness was not a thing when I was growing up. People in my parent’s circle didn’t use racial, ethnic, or religious slurs in public, but in private after a few cocktails…well people might slip and air their bigotry or racism. As I became a teen, I began to experience the misogyny as well. In the early days of the feminist movement, one of my father’s friends told me (quite patronizingly) that if women wanted equality, they needed to earn it. I didn’t have the words or the analysis to adequately respond to that statement. I wasn’t Susan Bruce then.

Prior to the 1970’s people didn’t worry about offending anyone else. It wasn’t even considered. White, protestant, and heterosexual were the norm. Any deviation from that was often remarked upon. Racist and ethnic slurs. Slurs against various religions. Slurs against people with disabilities. Terms like “cripple” and “retard” were accepted without any thought. You know all of the names for Jews. I don’t need to repeat them.  You know all of the slurs used on folks of Latino or African American descent. The latter group has had quite a workout since Barack Obama was elected president. One locally coined term that made it to national news is “jungle alien” as regular readers will recall.

My question is this - what is the upside to using these terms? Are there people who really think this is daring and edgy? Is it a form of tribalism, making it clear to those who are “different” that your white, heterosexual, Christian tribe doesn’t accept people with brown skin, people who love differently from you, or people who believe differently from you? Or is it merely being a big public jerk?

Before anyone starts to complain about “being shut down,” stop. I’m not telling you that you can’t use any terms you want. You are free to do so. In fact, I appreciate it when you use racial slurs or fly the stars and bars from your pickup truck here in New Hampshire. It tells me exactly what you are, and that means I can shun you. I don’t have to work at it because you’ve made it easy for me. I am also telling you that when you use those words, you will be judged and criticized for them. That’s the thing about free speech that bigots never seem to understand. You can say whatever you want, but you are responsible for what you say.  

The latest edgy statement of freedumb here seems to be flying the Confederate flag from a pickup truck. Who knew that NH was the cradle of the Confederacy? Those who do it, say they do it to “honor the Confederate dead.” Horse hockey. They do it because they’re racist. It’s that simple. No matter how many black friends they say they have, they do it because they’re racist. No matter how much they claim to love rap or hip-hop, they fly a Confederate flag in NH (or anywhere else) because they’re racist.

We’ve never gotten past racism in the United States because we swept slavery under a rug, and pretended we were done with it after the Civil War. We didn’t fully acknowledge it what it meant to us as a nation. We didn’t acknowledge the reality that people were bought and sold like cattle, and forced to labor for no wages. We didn’t acknowledge or even question what that did to the slaves and their descendants. We never questioned what that did to those who did the buying, selling, and oppressing. White America has made no reparations. The wounds remain unhealed. And the ugliness has reached a fever pitch because there’s a black guy in the White House.

The fortune of this country was built on the backs of slaves. The US would not be the wealthiest country in the world had it not been for slave labor. Until we do face it, get honest with it, and make reparations (whatever that looks like) we aren’t going to move past it. Not when people are still nursing hurt feelings over losing the Civil War and the opportunity to enslave people they consider lesser beings because of the color of their skin.

It’s a pity Lincoln didn’t just let the confederate states go. We wouldn’t have Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, or even Donald Trump running for president right now.    

It’s going to take a long time to eradicate prejudice and bigotry. In the meantime, I suggest political correctness. Being polite is seldom a mistake.

Published as an op-ed in the July 24, 2015 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Be Sure to Ask Them Why

The last voting session of the NH legislature was June 24. That was the day our state representatives and senators voted on the budget and the committee of conference reports. Bills originate in either the House or Senate. They go through committee, get tinkered with and get voted on.  Midway through the session, the bills are swapped over to the other body. The other body may amend that bill, could even go as far as changing the title and text of the original bill completely. After it’s voted on the original body has to concur with the changes made to the bill. If they do not, the bill is sent to a Committee of Conference. The CoC is made up of members of both political parties from the House and Senate. If they can work out a compromise, the CoC report has to be adopted by both bodies. That’s what was happening on June 24.

One of those bills was HB 681. It originated in the House (HB means house bill). It was intended to increase the fee for marriage licenses in the state, with the monies from the increase going to fund the state’s domestic violence grant program that acts as an umbrella organization to distribute funds to domestic violence programs around the state. It passed the House on a roll call vote of 223-146. The Carroll County Representatives that voted for the bill: Buco, Butler, Crawford, McConkey, Nelson, Parker, Schmidt, Ticehurst, and Umberger. Those who voted against funding for domestic violence were Representatives Avellani, Chandler, Comeau, Cordelli, McCarthy, and Wright.

The bill moved over to the Senate, where during the Senate vote, garnered three floor amendments. The first amendment made an appropriation of the princely sum of $160,000 to fund the domestic violent grant program. Thanks Senator Sanborn! The second amendment stipulated that a convicted abuser would pay a $50 fine. The monies from the fine would go to the domestic violence grant program. This eliminated the increase in the marriage license fee. The third floor amendment came from our own Senator Bradley, who added the increase in the marriage license fee back to the bill, so that it would include both the fine and the fee increase. The House did not concur, so a Committee of Conference was requested.

The biggest sticking point seemed to be that the House members of the committee were worried that a low-income convicted abuser wouldn’t be able to pay the fine and might be incarcerated as a result. The amendment was changed to give the judge the discretion to either defer the fine or set up a payment plan as needed. The Sanborn amendment was ditched. The bill includes both the fee increase and the fine.

This Committee of Conference report was voted on June 24. The Senate voted to adopt the report with a voice vote. The House with a roll call vote of 204-144 adopted the report. In Carroll County, Representatives Butler, Chandler, Parker, Schmidt, Ticehurst, and Umberger voted to help fund domestic violence programs in our state. Representatives Avellani, Buco, Comeau, Cordelli, McConkey, McCarthy, Nelson, and Wright voted not to fund domestic violence programs. Representative Crawford was not voting.

I spoke with Representative Buco, who has a good record of supporting domestic violence funding. He voted against the CoC report on HB 681 because he voted against all of the CoC reports. He felt as though he didn’t know enough about what had transpired in any of the committees of conference, so he just voted no on everything.

Representative Comeau is a member of the Free State Project, and all of the Free Staters who were present on June 24 voted against adopting the CoC report. All but one of them voted against the original bill, back in March. The one who did was Elizabeth Edwards. Edwards ran as a Democrat in Manchester, as did fellow Free Stater Amanda Bouldin. Representative Bouldin votes with the GOP, thereby defrauding the people who voted for her.  Edwards is a little more thoughtful. Both Bouldin and Edwards were absent on June 24. Instead of representing their constituents, they were at the annual Free Stater frat party in Lancaster.

Free Staters and their libertea allies hate domestic violence bills, because a conviction means that an abuser will lose his or her firearms. Last year libertea ally JR Hoell voted against the bill that made domestic violence a crime in NH. When I asked why, he mumbled something about unintended consequences. I asked, “Oh, like having their guns taken away?” He ran away. No one was ever as glad to see Josh McElveen of WMUR as Hoell was that day.

The entity known as the House Liberty Alliance, a group originally formed by the Free State Project (though they will deny it) passes out a handout to legislators heading in to the session. The handout is called, “The Gold Standard.” (insert roll-eyes here) It tells the legislator how to vote on selected bills. It’s so much easier than thinking.

As for the rest of the Carroll County Republicans who voted against funding domestic violence programs – I suspect that they’ll tell you that they signed pledges that said NO FEE INCREASES or FINES. Again, taking pledges is so much easier than thinking.

Over the last ten years, domestic violence homicides comprise half of NH murders. Between the years of 2011 and 2013, the numbers dropped to 47%. In the years 2011 -2013, of the victims murdered by their partners, three out of four were women. Forty-two percent of the domestic violence homicides involved a gun. Domestic violence happens to men, women, children, the elderly, and the physically or mentally disabled in our state, regardless of income, race, sexual orientation, age, or gender. It’s estimated that 33.5% of women and 24% of men in our state have experienced a physical assault by an intimate partner.

Half the murders in our state are domestic violence murders, yet a number of our local state legislators don’t want to fund programs to help victims and educate others.

Be sure to ask them why.   

Published as an op-ed in the June 10 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Deliberately Decreasing Our Means

Every biennium the legislature creates a new state budget. This budget is required to be balanced every year. This happens no matter what party currently holds the majority in the House, the Senate, or the Governor’s office. Right now the legislature is winding down. The Committee of Conference reports will have been voted on by the time you read this.

As always, the most interesting item to watch is the budget wrangling. The House got started a bit late this year; probably because the O’Brienistas created so many diversions that everything was late. On days when the House is session, bills that will be coming up for a vote fall into two categories in the calendar: Consent and Regular. The Consent Calendar is comprised of bills that come out of committee with a unanimous vote to either pass or kill. They’re generally non-controversial, and are easily dispatched with voice votes. O’Brienistas made it a “thing” this session to yank as many bills off the consent calendar as possible, just to gum up the works and create delay.

Rep. Neal Kurk chairs the House Finance Committee. Kurk has long been a fiscal conservative, but generally someone who could be sensible when the situation called for it. This biennium apparently Kurk was so giddy at GOP control of both houses that he’s thrown caution and good sense out the window in favor of ideology. He partnered up with Free Stater Dan McGuire to create a hastily written budget that was guaranteed to ensure that NH would continue lose ground economically and hurt a lot of people along the way.

The original version included $88 million in DOT cuts, which meant rest areas and some bridges would be closed. Half the workforce would be eliminated. Federal funds would be lost, the widening of I-93 would be jeopardized, and some 2500 miles of roads and 1000 bridges would have been turned over to cities and towns to pay for. Apparently Meals on Wheels was a socialist program that needed to be cut, and Service Link was completely de-funded. Dan McGuire proposed $2 million in cuts to the NH Veteran’s Home, which would have resulted in 25 veterans losing their place to live. Some changes (the proposed cuts to the Veteran’s Home were too much for even the most rabid members of the right) were made, and eventually the budget found its way to the Senate. The Senate made some cosmetic changes and added business tax cuts. Because when you claim that there isn’t enough money to adequately fund the needs of the state, the only thing to do is cut revenue! 

A recent op-ed in the Laconia Sun penned by Senators Jeb Bradley and Jeanne Forrester claimed that the Senate decided to reduce business taxes at the end of the budget process. On January 8, Senator Bradley introduced a bill to lower the business profits tax (BPT). On January 8, a bill Bradley co-sponsored was introduced to lower the business enterprise tax. (BET).  Those bills were both passed by the Senate and Bradley tabled both. The intent from the very beginning of the session was to lower business taxes. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous at best. They’re telling us on the one hand that we must live our means while the other hand is slashing the means we live on.

The lowering of the BET and the BPT are touted as the way to bring business to our state. The fact that businesses actually want good infrastructure, lower utility costs, and an educated work force is lost on our representative ideologues, who are firmly steeped in the kind of economic policies that have failed to work since the Reagan administration. NH is a wealthy state, yet we refuse to raise sufficient revenues to fix the things that need fixing and invest in the future. As a result, we have the 11th worth infrastructure in the United States. Award winning NH civil engineer Darren Benoit tells us that if we start right now, it will cost us $1.5 billion to fix everything. NH also ranks at about 100th place out of the 50 states for state funding of our university system. We want an educated workforce, but we do not want to pay for it. If a budget is a statement of our values, than it’s painfully clear that the budget writers don’t value our state or its people.

The budget for tourism, the second largest industry in our state was level funded in this budget. This will not hurt the southern part of the state. It is likely to impact the North Country. Be sure to thank your GOP representatives for voting against the best interests of our area. It’s also worth pointing out that this budget fails to invest in repairing our state parks, something that would also benefit the tourist economy.  

A variety of self-congratulatory legislators are boasting that the substance abuse treatment budget was increased. It was but the Senate added those increases. They were not in the original House budget. The increases came about because even the most rabid ideologues couldn’t pretend that there aren’t significant numbers of young people dying from heroin overdoses.

Another aspect of all of this that goes unmentioned by our budgeteers is the downshifting of costs. Items the state doesn’t adequately fund (like infrastructure) get passed on to the counties and municipalities, which will likely be passed on to you, in the form of an increase in your property taxes.  

As I write this, the Governor has stated her intent to veto the budget unless changes are made. The NH GOP is wailing about the need to compromise. Their definition of “compromise” appears to mean that the House Republicans get to write the budget; the Senate Republicans get to change it, and the Republicans of both bodies compromise with each other in the Committee of Conference. The CoC process included the compromise of closed door meetings with Greg Moore of the Koch funded Americans for Prosperity. After all that internal GOP compromise (with a dash of Koch-promise) the Governor is expected to meekly sign it, displaying her willingness to compromise.

This budget fails to address the needs of our state and blows a big hole in future budgets by cutting business taxes. It guarantees that nothing will ever get fixed properly, because we will have to live within our deliberately decreased means.

Published as an op-ed in the June 26 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Other Side Does It Too

Ethics: A social, religious, or civil code of behavior considered correct, especially that of a particular group, profession, or individual.

Consequence: something that happens as the result of a particular action or set of conditions.

Ethics issues and politics go together. Money and power corrupt. This is nothing new. What’s newer is our growing willingness to accept it, cry that both sides do it, and continue on with our political cynicism.

Famous ethics violators who are Democrats: Rep. Charlie Rangel of NY is a one-man personal finance disaster. Rep. Max Baucus nominated his girlfriend for a job in the Justice Department.   Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich went to prison for a variety of colorful offenses. Ohio Congressman James Traficant (of the large and defiant toupee) went to prison for taking bribes, racketeering, and filing false tax returns. Sen. Robert Menendez of NY has been investigated for taking improper gifts and taking action to benefit donors.

Famous ethics violators who are Republicans: Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois complained that he was too broke to pay child support, while loaning money to his Congressional campaign. Rep. Darrell Issa of California broke federal disclosure laws when he inserted information from a sealed wiretap application into the Congressional Record. Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois resigned in March after we learned that he used taxpayer money to fund lavish trips. He’s the one who redecorated his Congressional office to look like Downton Abbey. Tennessee Rep. Marcia Blackburn has had problems with reporting campaign contributions and expenditures.

Other famous GOP ethics violators include: President Richard Nixon, President Ronald Reagan, and President George W. Bush.
There are seldom consequences for those who flout the law. None of the Republicans on my list spent time in prison. Only two resigned. Schock was in Congress long enough to get a pension. Nixon got his pension too.

On a local level, State Representative Gene Chandler had an ethics problem about 10 years ago, when it was discovered that he wasn’t reporting funds raised at his annual corn roast, when donors like RJ Reynolds were making contributions.  Chandler used this fund to pay for his living expenses, claiming he thought that was allowed. He also claimed he didn’t know he was supposed to report the fund, despite having been instructed to do so a couple of times by Speaker Donna Sytek. Former Carroll County Republican Chairman Maynard Thomson stepped down from his position just as the NH Attorney General’s office sent him a letter informing him that he’d violated the law with his improperly filed campaign expenditure reports. Thomson acknowledged that he’d done a sloppy job of reporting, but blamed the Democrats for reporting him. After all, someone with his (self-touted) superior intellect shouldn’t be expected to perform the same menial tasks that the peasants do. He’s busy! He’s important! Personal responsibility doesn’t apply to Republicans!

Our own NH Congressman Frank Guinta has a BIG ethics problem. The FEC released their report on Frank, wherein they found (in a rare 6-0 unanimous finding) that Frank lied about his magic bank account. The only support Frank has these days comes from the O’Brien wing of the NH GOP, where ethics are…how you say….fluid. Frank’s still digging himself in, claiming it was really his money, despite the fact that his name wasn’t on the account, the checks written by his mother had “LOAN” written on the memo line, and he has been able to produce no paperwork to prove he ever put anything into the account. Despite ongoing calls for his resignation, Frank has steadfastly refused. Given that he has to pay back his parents and pay the FEC fine, he can’t afford to resign. He’s also stated his intent to run again in 2016. Primary candidates are giving Frank a wide berth, not wanting his presence at their events, his endorsement, or anything to do with him.

Former State Rep. Fran Wendelboe came to Frank’s defense last week in the Concord Monitor. Her defense began with, “But Hillary.” She also went off into the land of how Republicans always take the high moral ground. We’ve certainly seen a lot of that recently, what with Josh Duggar and Dennis Hastert. When the best defense any politico has is “the other side does it, too” – you are not taking any kind of high ground. Taking the high ground is cleaning up your own side of the street, and holding your own folks accountable for their unethical and illegal behavior.

Former NH State Representative Maureen Mann recently modeled ethical behavior for us. She had a young man named Carl Gibson volunteering on her campaign during the special election in Rockingham Dist. 32. About a week into his work on her social media sites, he was fired. A month and a half later, he sent out a bogus press release claiming that the Republican candidate had dropped out of the race. When the NHGOP started their predictable cycle of wailing, Maureen joined them in calling for an investigation, saying that attempts to manipulate elections should not be tolerated. That didn’t stop the NHGOP for blaming her for his actions, even though she’d fired him over a month earlier. There is much to be suspicious in this act of deliberate sabotage, but I suspect we’ll never know if Mr. Gibson was paid to perform it or by whom.  

Our investigative bodies are either underfunded or inept. Investigations seldom involve consequences. Frank Guinta stood in front of television cameras last fall and called Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter a liar for saying there was an open FEC investigation into his campaign finances. We now know that it was Frank who was lying. He’s never apologized to our former Congresswoman. As is so often the case - there are no consequences for lying. We don’t seem to expect our politicians to behave ethically any more, and are far too willing to accept the mantra of “the other side does it too,” as some sort of justification.

The acceptance of ethical violations leads to cynicism, which leads to more voters failing to participate in our elections.

Will we have the courage to start cleaning up and expecting better?

The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home. – Confucious

This was published as an op-ed in the June 12, 2015 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.