Friday, April 29, 2016

Losing Strategies



In 2013, a wealthy guy named Shawn O’Connor moved to NH in hopes of purchasing a US Senate seat. He was thinking about running as a Democrat against Kelly Ayotte. He began by not getting involved with local or state politics. The day before the election in 2014, he donated $1000 to the Manchester Democratic Committee, and $1,000 to Executive Councilor Chris Pappas. Those were his only donations of the election cycle.

The 2014 election cycle might have been illustrative for O’Connor. We all watched a former US Senator from Massachusetts move to NH and lose his bid to defeat Senator Jeanne Shaheen. Scott Brown had big name recognition. Shawn O’Connor? None. When Governor Hassan decided to run against Ayotte, O’Connor set his sights on Congress. He decided to run against Carol Shea-Porter in the Democratic primary against Frank Guinta in the first Congressional district.

In early 2015 he hired a bunch of people. There were media consultants, communications strategists, direct mail consultants, fundraisers, digital strategizers, and legal counsel. (To date, he’s spent over a million dollars of his own money.) And still, he couldn’t seem to get any traction. No one knew who the heck he was.

There were some mentions here and there, most not very flattering. NH is suspicious of carpetbaggers with big wads of cash. When O’Connor moved to NH he was a “third way” Democrat. The Third Way think tank is funded by corporations and hedge funds. Third Way Dems are centrist to right leaning types – friends of Wall St. not friends of workers.

Then in the summer of 2015, he made a speech at a political event about being a survivor of domestic violence. Even with all those communications strategists, he wasn’t getting any name recognition. In early January 2016, he endorsed Bernie Sanders. Bernie’s campaign had caught on fire in NH, and it was a way to differentiate himself from all of the other top ticket NH Democrats. They’d all endorsed Hillary Clinton. Suddenly he was a news story. Fighting income inequality, he said, was his number one priority. Those who heard O’Connor speak over the summer don’t remember ever hearing him mention that. He must have been saving the announcement of that priority for a special occasion.

The glow of media attention was what he’d been waiting for. Sadly, it waned. Desperate measures were called for. And early this month, he began to take them. He announced that he was going to sue former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter for defamation. He claimed that her campaign had engaged in a whisper campaign, accusing him of being a domestic abuser. There was evidence, he said! He said it loudly and often. The Shea-Porter campaign said it was “a sad, desperate, and untruthful attack.” O’Connor called on Shea-Porter to end her campaign. There was evidence, he said! He roped in some state legislators who really should have known better. More huffing and puffing. More legal threats. More claims of evidence.

This week, the NH Democratic Party released a statement saying that O’Connor had threatened to sue the party, and suggested they pay him to drop out of the race. O’Connor responded with a lengthy press release that made some peculiar accusations. In the weirdest game of telephone ever, O’Connor claimed that one state senator told another state senator that O’Connor planned to buy rats and put them in the kitchen of the Puritan Backroom – a restaurant owned by Chris Pappas, the Executive Councilor. O’Connor stated that he does not know where one would purchase rats. He further claimed that the restaurant had a long-standing rodent problem. That, of course, was easily checked with the health department, and quickly proven wrong.

It’s difficult to imagine what O’Connor hopes to gain at this point.  He’s made many accusations. Some of them have changed over time. The one thing he hasn’t done? He hasn’t provided a single bit of proof. Not one item of corroborating evidence to back up his many bizarre claims. It’s too bad that none of those high-priced advisors O’Connor has on the payroll are telling him that this is the worst election strategy ever. He spent over 10 hours tweeting at the media on Tuesday. For Shawn O’Connor, it’s all over but the shouting, and he seems to be determined to shout for as long as his keyboard holds out.

On the local level, the Concord Monitor had a story over the weekend about the number of state representatives that aren’t showing up to do committee work. All legislators are assigned to committees. Some refuse committee assignments – both former Speaker Bill O’Brien and Rep. Max Abramson (R. Free State) have refused assignments. There seems to be an epidemic of “I’m too good for this” going around.

One of the representatives mentioned was Lino Avellani of Wakefield. He’s assigned to the House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee, and he hasn’t been to a single committee meeting or hearing this year. He told the Monitor that it’s “hard” to get away from work. Avellani owns a restaurant. He owned the restaurant when he ran for office, yet he ran anyway. Still, as “hard” as it is to get to committee meetings, he does make it to House voting sessions. Luckily, members of the House Liberty Alliance stand in the hallway and hand representatives “The Gold Standard” a sheet telling them how to vote on libertea issues, so no preparation or thought is required.

This committee information should be readily available to us all, on line, but it isn’t.  The 21st century beckons, but NH is still looking wistfully into the distance. The libertea crowd brays about transparency, but does nothing to actually further it, when it comes to our state government. There are gun bills to write and women’s bodies to control.


Call me old-fashioned, but I have this silly belief that if you make a commitment, you should honor it. If you are elected to a position of public trust, you should be worthy of it. If you can’t do the work of The People, you shouldn’t run for office.



published as an op-ed in the April 29 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

Monday, April 25, 2016

Go to the Made in NH Expo this Weekend!



Last week, I reported an incident where right-wing talk radio host Jared Goodell of WFEA said (several times) in a discussion of the change coming for the $20 bill,  that the best way to honor Harriet Tubman would be to put her picture on an EBT card. 

It's all here: 
Racist Rhetoric on WFEA

I suggested that folks contact WFEA, and also their advertisers. One advertiser was the Made in NH Expo. A lot of readers took action, and contacted WFEA. They contacted the Made in NH Expo, too. 

The folks at Made in NH Expo took this incident very seriously, and they made the decision to pull their advertising from WFEA, and remove them as a sponsor of the Expo. 

If you're wondering what to do this weekend? I suggest you go check out at the Made in NH Expo - at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, starting Friday and ending Sunday. 

150 companies will be there showing their products. 

Please be sure to say thank you!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Racist Rhetoric on WFEA Talk Radio



This is Jared Goodell. He has a right wing talk radio show on WFEA in Manchester, NH. The call letters are 1370 AM. 

He's an obnoxious twerp, in the way that most far right talk radio guys are. He's a good megaphone for knee jerk talking points, but appears to have little actual knowledge about the world or US history for that matter. That isn't a detriment to a career in wingnut media. Young Jared is on his way up, and may soon be leaving NH behind. 

Today he really distinguished himself on the topic of Harriet Tubman and the $20 bill. Wingnuts are furious - only white men should be on money! 

Equality makes them furious. Equality makes them feel as if they're losing. They had everything, and they do not want to share with women. Sharing with people of color makes them even more furious. 

At about 1:03 in the April 21 show, he starts talking to Arnie Arnesen about Harriet Tubman on the $20, and making accusations of leftist liberal pandering. 

At about 1:09, he says that if we really want to honor Harriet Tubman, she should go on an EBT card. 
Here's a link to his show: http://1370wfea.com/jared-goodell/podcast-jared-goodell-show-4-21-16/


UPDATE: WFEA has taken down the podcast to the April 21 show. 



The Made in NH Expo is advertising at WFEA. Be sure to call them to tell them you won't be attending the Expo next weekend, because they advertise on a radio station that features racist commentary. (603) 626-6354

Made in NH Expo Facebook Page

A business called Half Off NH also advertises on WFEA. Half Off NH on Facebook
Their phone number is 866-311-9806

WFEA 


WFEA Facebook Page   - hasn't been updated since early March. 


AM 1370 WFEA
500 Commercial Street – Manchester, NH 03101
Business Phone: 603/669-5777
Business Fax: 603/669-4641
Newsroom Fax: 603/668-3299
Bob Cox  bcox@manchesterrg.com   President/General Manager
Pat Mckay  pat@wzid.com  Operations Manager & Brand Manager
WFEA is owned by Saga Communications, which also owns WZID and WMLL. 
I'm in favor of making some noise about this. Feel free to join me. This kind of talk should not be welcome on our public airwaves. 




Sunday, April 17, 2016

Punchable Face in NH CD 1 aka Dodds 2.0

Things have gotten ugly in NH Congressional District One. A wealthy guy named Shawn O'Connor moved to NH to purchase a seat in Congress. Try as he might, he couldn't get any name recognition or traction. So he (at the behest of one of his really ill advisors) decided that the way to get his name up in lights was to tell a bunch of Big Public lies. 

He claims that Carol Shea-Porter's campaign is spreading the rumor that he's a domestic abuser. So far the messy "he said - she said" stuff resembles a third grade game of telephone. Ugly, unfounded accusations have been made - by people who really ought to know better. 

You can read about all that here, at the invaluable NH Labor News 

It's difficult to imagine why anyone would think this was a way to win an election. If this guy isn't working for Frank Guinta, then he's the second coming of Gary Dodds. 

Last night on O'Connor's Facebook page, I saw this:



That comment about the punchable face had been up for 10 hours at that time. O'Connor posted on his page several times while that post was up. He must have seen it. 


A few hours later, this was O'Connor's response to being challenged about the punchable face comment. He removed it shortly thereafter, leaving only the punchable face comment. 

At 8 pm tonight:


The comment is still there. Now other people are challenging O'Connor for leaving it up. 

At 8:17 pm


The comment is finally gone. But only after he was repeatedly challenged about it. After I tweeted it out. After NH Labor News wrote about it. It was up for over 24 hours. It would still be there, if people hadn't complained. Shawn O'Connor had a chance to take the high road, and point out that violent rhetoric is never acceptable. He failed to take it. 

The kindest thing I can say about O'Connor is that he has terrible judgement. 



Update: 

As of 10:08 PM, all of the comments are gone. 


Update Part Two:



O'Connor seems to be having a memory problem here. As one can clearly see in screenshots above, he saw the punchable face post - and responded to it. Then he deleted the criticism, deleted his response, and left the punchable face comment hanging there for at least 10 hours. 




Volunteers tossed under the bus. Pants still ablaze:





Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Deprivation Mindset


Conway Public Library 


As soon as humans developed written language, there were libraries. The Great Library of Alexandria in Egypt was built in 300 BC, and became a center for scholars. It was not open to the rabble, only to those with suitable scholarly qualifications. It was part of the Musaeum of Alexandria, a larger research institute. There were collections, lecture halls, meeting rooms, and gardens. It flourished, until Julius Caesar burned it down.

The earliest libraries in the United States were the private collections of doctors or ministers. John Harvard bequeathed his books and an endowment to the university that adopted his name. Books symbolized wealth, because only the wealthy had them.

Benjamin Franklin came up with the idea of the social library. He had thousands of books, so he incorporated the Library Company of Philadelphia that one could join by buying stock in the company. Only members could access the books. Athenaeums worked in much the same way. The first was founded in Boston, and members were the male gentry, who bought high priced stock. Women were not allowed in the early years. Knowledge is power. The men knew that. They wanted to keep their women uneducated and obedient.

Circulating libraries developed in the late 1700s, often in bookstores, where popular fiction was rented out. In Massachusetts, Horace Mann pushed for school libraries in the 1830s, pointing out that once children were educated, they ought to have something to read. In 1833, the town of Peterborough founded the first public library. The state had collected taxes to start a state college, but it didn’t work out, so the state allocated the money to various towns to support education. Peterborough took their share and bought books for a town library. In 1849, New Hampshire became the first state to pass a law permitting the use of local taxes to support public libraries.

Libraries and education are still a source of contention here in NH, as one can see every year during election season.

For ten years, the Conway Public Library tried to get voters to pass a bond so that the library could expand. In 2001, the bond measure passed. For those who don’t remember, the original library was small. They were running out of room. There was no comfortable meeting room. There were books stacked up in corners in some places. It was a lovely old building that had become too small for the needs of the town. There were opponents, of course. One of the most vocal opponents had never actually been inside the library.


The expansion was completed in 2003. The addition was true to the character and appearance of the original building. There was still plenty of green space outside. And now there were meeting rooms, a big children’s room, a history room, and plenty of space for computers, for reference, and for readers. I’ve read, researched, and written at the library. I met my third husband there.

Library ugliness seems to crop up every few years, and this year is no exception. Elections for cemetery trustees never seem to generate a lot of controversy. No one fights to become a cemetery trustee. There is no power in being the gatekeeper to the dead. The gatekeepers of public knowledge are an entirely different story.  

Some property owners who don’t use the library hate it. They always have. It’s a waste of their tax dollars, blah, blah, blah. The greater good is of no interest to them. They have no concern for the others in the community or the children – in fact, those pesky kids are a problem, too, what with paying to educate them. They may have moved here because our state is something of a tax shelter for the affluent. Once here, they become intent on nickel and diming. New Hampshire functions on a deprivation mindset. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember, and it plays out in a number of ways.

The Conway area has ignored the housing shortage for decades. Once in a while the need for affordable housing for the local work force would come up, and out would come the Oh Hell NO crowd, trumpeting their opinion that affordable housing would mean those welfare people from Massachusetts would move up here so they could live cheap. There are holes in that argument that one could drive a fleet of dump trucks through. Poor people were going to flee to NH to live in a place with no public transportation, no jobs, in a state that provides almost no social services, just because of cheap housing? But that was always the argument, and the faithful nodded their heads, because logic is not part of the deprivation mindset.

The affordable housing never came. The economy collapsed in 2008. Lots of folks lost their houses. Rental property was now a really hot commodity, and that drove the costs up. They have not come down and wages have not gone up. There are a lot of help wanted ads in the paper, but not much in the way of rental housing. The service jobs are many, but they don’t exactly provide a route to home ownership.  In a recent perusal of the classifieds, I found the rental costs are similar to what one would find in Concord or Manchester.  

It’s hard to live here. Property taxes are (thanks Mel and Bill!) are prohibitive. The jobs aren’t high paying. It’s a resort area, and that means that rich people buy vacation homes, but they don’t live here. They drive up the property values, but still expect workers to be on hand to wash their cars and fill their coffee cups. Those workers have to come from increasing distances in order to afford housing.

There was a lot of noise about giving free library cards to people who don’t live in Conway. How dare we give anything to moochers! The deprivation mindset was on parade.

Those potential library cards were part of a discussion - not any kind of a done deal. It was presented as a fait accompli to alarm voters during an election. The discussion was around giving library cards to workers at some local businesses. These are very likely to be workers who commute because they can’t afford to live in the same place where they work. This idea of benefitting workers was regarded by some as if they were potential thieves getting away with something. They were going to be stealing…words? Some guy who has never been in the library was incensed that someone might get to read a book for free? Seriously? We don’t have enough words and books to go around?

Most of us grow out of the “MOM – he got more than I did” phase. Those who don’t move to NH.  





My editor told me of a term she learned in a medical anthropology class, "socialization for scarcity." 

Published in the April 15, 2016 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

NH House Republicans Show Their Reverence for Life



Photo from nh1

This is GOP State Rep. Ernie Bridge. Ernie, at the age of 80, is a freshman legislator from Unity, NH. He represents the towns of Newport and Unity. Bridge serves on the House Environment and Agriculture Committee. 

Representative Bridge was diagnosed with a lung problem in January. He is required to use an oxygen concentrator 24 hours a day. NHPR story.  He's been told by the House Sergeant-at-Arms that he can't bring the concentrator to his assigned seat, because it would block the emergency routes for other legislators. 

Bridge hasn't exactly been a forceful self-advocate. He's responded to this by staying home. 

From the Valley News:
This fairly common device has been deemed a safety hazard by House Speaker Shawn Jasper, because, according to spokesman Jim Rivers, the equipment could block the route of House members to the exits in the event of an emergency — such as, we suppose, an exchange of gunfire among members, who are, after all, allowed by House rules to carry concealed firearms while they go about their legislative business. 

Yes, that's right. NH legislators can have guns on the House floor - but this guy can't have an oxygen concentrator. It speaks volumes about the priorities of the NH Republican Party. 

What about a seat on the aisle? No dice. Those are reserved for committee chairs and other legislative heavyweights, rather than first-termers like Bridge, even though it appears from a seating chart that Representatives Hall has about 90 of them. In any case, Rivers decreed that Bridge’s equipment also would unduly obstruct the aisle. 


This, too, speaks volumes about the House Republicans. Not a one of his Republican brethren will give up their "entitled" seats to an elderly man with a health condition. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

What About the Yacht Dwellers?




The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute (NHFPI) recently released a report called, Taking the Measure of Need in the Granite State. NHPI looks at NH issues, and also examines problems with the federal poverty guidelines.

The poverty rate in NH is the lowest in the nation, at 9.2 percent. The federal poverty threshold was created in the 1960’s. At that time, a research showed that a family of three spent approximately one third of its budget on food.  After that, official poverty thresholds were created by multiplying the cost of a minimum food diet by three. Over time occasional adjustments have been made to account for inflation. In 1995, the Census Bureau created a supplemental poverty measure, which didn’t replace the poverty threshold, but exists to provide alternative information.

No adjustments have been made for the cost of housing. These days, housing costs account for upwards of two thirds of a poverty level budget. That’s another problem, the poverty threshold does not account for geographic differences in housing or other costs. As we all know, NH has some of the highest energy costs in the nation – as well as some of the highest property taxes and housing costs. Rent, day care, and health care costs combined make up at least half of the average working family’s budget.

The report finds that jobs in NH don’t match up with the cost of living. Only 30% of the jobs pay enough for a single parent with one child to have an “adequate” standard of living. The availability of those jobs depends greatly on where one resides in the state. The further north one travels, the more likely it is that the region is dependent on low wage service jobs. The cost of living does not decrease proportionally.

We all know that young people flee our state to avoid crushing student debt. We know they don’t come back because the employment prospects are limited and the exorbitant property taxes limit their ability to buy a house. There’s a shortage of rental property, so the rents are too damn high. We also know that many towns rely on volunteers to serve as firefighters and EMTs. This creates a conundrum in an aging population.

What are we doing about it? Well….nothing. We rely on volunteers to populate our legislature. Many of them are old and retired, and their sole interest is protecting their pensions. Some are businessmen whose sole interest is either passing or preventing legislation that applies to their businesses. Some are younger people who have no visible means of support. They generally do have a lot of expensive video equipment and plenty of weapons.

We are a state that lacks any kind of vision for the future. We live in and are legislated by the past.


Senator Jeb Bradley has been tweeting out lovely photos of his climbs up our 4000 footers in our various state parks. The same state parks we fund with user fees. NH is the only state that does it, because every other state was smart enough to realize that it doesn’t work. We are so miserly that we’ve created a mess. To fix the state parks would require a large infusion of cash. Our visionless legislature has been kicking the infrastructure can down the road for decades. You have only to drive down East Conway Road to see the results of that brilliant strategy. It would have been cheaper and smarter to keep up the maintenance of our roads and bridges all along, but that would have meant spending money, and we don’t do that here. As I’ve said far too many times – we prefer to pay the pound of cure. NH would rather amputate a limb than buy a band-aid.

The NH Senate will be voting on extending the NH Health Protection Plan (NHHPP) this week. Our Republican brethren don’t want to do it, because only people who can afford health insurance deserve it. The 50,000 low-wage workers in our state that are currently covered by the NHHPP apparently aren’t “deserving.” Greg Moore, the head of Americans for Prosperity in NH, was quoted at a hearing on the bill, as saying that “we aren’t getting a return on our investment,” when it comes to the NHHPP. The health of our residents isn’t worth investing in. It’s all about money for the Moores of the world. When everything has a price, nothing has any value.

Moore is a mouthpiece for the Koch Brothers, the funders of Americans for Prosperity. He was included in secret budget meetings last year. The Kochs aren’t creating any jobs here, other than Greg Moore’s. Luckily for the Kochs, we know that money is speech, and they get to speechify aplenty in a state where they have no investments other than AFP and the Free State Project.

The Senate is intent on attaching a work provision to the NHHPP. These are people who have been marinating in Reagan mythology for so long that they’re unable to accept reality. The welfare queen was a myth, and so is trickle down economics. When the NHHPP was first proposed, State Representatives Laurie Sanborn and Neal Kurk penned a letter to the editor 
that bemoaned the fact that “low income yacht dwellers” would be taking advantage of “free” health care. Has anyone found a low income yacht dweller in NH? The Republicans in our legislature believe that workers will quit their good paying jobs so that they can get “free” health care. Because that “free” health care will pay their rent and buy their groceries? These same legislators conveniently forget the fact that low-wage workers pay taxes. The same taxes that fund the NHHPP. 

The report from NHFPI shows that we use an outmoded tool to assess poverty, in a nation (and our state) where it is increasing. It’s difficult to imagine that this is an accident. The wealthiest country in the world doesn’t want to have accurate information about the poverty of its citizens, because that might require doing something about it. Right now, we’re more than content to blame that poverty on the poor.


published as an op-ed in the April 1 edition of the Conway Daily Sun