Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NH House Passes Pay Equity Bill

The bill passed the House: 187-134. Yes, Virginia, there are 134 legislators opposed to equal pay, here in the year 2014. One of them is Rep. William Infantine, (R. Stone Age):


Seriously? And you think you're going to get reelected, clownshoes? 


That certainly explains this:


The chief operating officer Yahoo fired in January made $96 million for his 15 months in the role, according to the New York Times’s analysis of the company’s latest proxy statement. Marissa Mayer on the other hand, his boss and the current CEO, made $62 million.
The fired COO, Henrique de Castro, got $58 million in severance pay thanks to a big increase in the company’s stock price while he was at the company. Yahoo’s board of directors said in the proxy statement that if the stock hadn’t risen, that package would have only been worth $17 million. He also got $11 million in salary and stock-based compensation last year and $39 million in 2012. He would have gotten more if the stock options had been fully vested when he left.

Marissa Mayer, the company’s female CEO, made a good deal less than that. For 2012 and 2013, she got just $62 million in compensation. Of course, she could see a good deal more from the millions in shares and options that will either vest if she stays for a long time or would be partially paid out if she were to leave early.
Clearly being the Chief Operating Officer at Yahoo is far more dangerous than being the CEO, right Rep. Infantine? 

Not true for legislators, lawyers, and grifters though, is it Obie? It's nice to see a guy who has never done any manual labor in his life become the champion of dangerous workplaces. 

The Man Without a Committee hath spoken. Men, men, men do all the REAL work. 

Of course 85% of domestic violence is experienced by women. Murder is one of the leading causes of death for pregnant women, and about 3 women per day are murdered by their husband/partner. 
I'm pretty sure Obie and his freedumb posse wouldn't want to trade places. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Up to Our Axles in the Past






How do we know it’s spring in NH? The frost heaves are settling and the potholes begin to bloom before we see the crocuses. A recent letter to the editor bemoaned the condition of East Conway Road and excoriated the governor for failing to respond, and repair. Governor Hassan may make a convenient whipping post for the issue, since she is governor (and a Democrat) but the sorry condition of our state’s infrastructure isn’t something we can blame on Maggie Hassan. It took decades of “NH doesn’t have a revenue problem/NH has a spending problem” for us to reach this point. To put it a bit more sharply, the very politicians the letter writer votes for both caused and perpetuate the condition of East Conway Road.

For decades we’ve failed, as a state to invest in both upkeep and new public construction. Our legislators were so intent on not raising any revenue, that there was none to spare. There is currently a bill calling for a study committee to examine the efficiency of the NH DOT. Apparently the fact that they don’t have enough money to work with, or a sufficient number of employees to do the work is their fault. The DOT has seen a steady 22% decrease in employees since 1992.  It’s not the governor’s fault. It’s the fault of our regressive tax system and our regressive legislature.

Since 1990, US military spending has steadily increased. There was a leveling off during the 1990’s but starting in 2000, the increase in military spending has been steep. We spend three times more on offense than we do on public construction. Roads, bridges, airports, electrical grids, schools, drinking water and waste water systems all fall into the category of public construction. Spending on these types of projects is at it’s lowest since 1995. Meanwhile our infrastructure continues to deteriorate.

The states aren’t spending the money, because (in many cases) since 2008, they’re fighting just to balance budgets. Congress isn’t making up the difference; they are intent on making sure anything with the word public attached to it is an anathema – while also making sure that nothing positive is allowed to happen during the tenure of the black guy in the White House. Here in NH, we have 145 state owned bridges on the red list for structural impairment. That’s 7% of the state owned bridges. There are 353 municipal bridges on the red list, or 21% of the municipally owned bridges.

A rural bridge collapsed in Iowa last week. It was built in the 1950’s, and a tractor and 2 ammonia tankers fell into a creek. No one was injured, and fortunately the ammonia didn’t leak. Iowa ranks third in the nation for the most structurally deficient bridges. The ranking of New England states: Rhode Island in fourth place, NH in eighth, Maine in ninth, Vermont in 24th place, Connecticut in 27th, and Massachusetts is in 28th place. Texas is ranked 49th in the nation for structurally deficient bridges. This is a 19.6% improvement, which is the most significant improvement by any state. Texas has been making big infrastructure investments. It makes sense to do so. That kind of investment creates both short and long term jobs, and makes the state more attractive to potential investors.

In an effort to avoid making those investments here in NH, House Bill 534 calls for a study commission to consider awarding naming rights for highway bridges, overpasses, and exits. There is much to consider. Is this a purely advertising move? Will those companies be responsible for upkeep? Who will own that bridge, overpass, or exit? Bill sponsor, Rep. J. Tracy Emerick was quoted in the Eagle-Tribune as saying, “Private enterprise could take responsibility for a bridge and keep it up to state code.” Does that mean they buy the bridge? What happens if they fail to keep up their end of whatever deal they make? There are those who believe that private enterprise does everything better, and so the push is on to privatize everything from prisons to schools. The phrase “the public good” has disappeared from our vocabularies.

Privatizing the roads hasn’t worked out so well in Chile. Private companies own the highways. This means paying tolls when you get on the highways and when you get off. The toll schedule for Chilean highways warns, “Don’t be caught without cash.” For the 700-mile trip from Santiago to La Serena, the toll charge is $25. From Santiago to the coast, a journey of $186 miles, the toll charges are $20, adding roughly $2.69 per gallon to the cost of gas.

In the beginning, these private investors paid for the building of the Chilean highways. It was supposed to be a loan, and the tolls were supposed to decrease over time to just cover the maintenance. Naturally the tolls never decreased. Instead, they’ve continued to increase over time. Private enterprise doesn’t do anything altruistic – not in Chile, not in NH – not anywhere. It always comes down to profit. A family driving up to the mountains for a ski trip, already a fairly expensive outing, when faced with paying a $5 toll to use the Big Name Corporate Exit Ramp, then another $5 to cross the Big Corporate Bank Bridge may well decide to veer off to friendlier territory in Vermont or Maine.

The idea of privatizing transportation infrastructure has other sinister implications. In the greater Mt. Washington Valley area, rental housing costs are astronomical, while wages have been stagnant for decades. Those people who actually do the low wage work that tourist areas rely on have been priced out of living in the towns they work in, and are forced to commute from ever increasing distances. If bridges and roads become privatized, those people already making substandard wages will have one more hard choice to make. They’re already juggling how to pay rent, put food on the table and keep gas in the car. Adding tolls to that would be unconscionable.

Private isn’t always better – which is how our national public infrastructure came to be built in the first place. The United States has the funds to rebuild our national infrastructure and help all of the states. It’s just that we’d rather spend that money on war. We’ll still be shoveling billions at the F-35 (which still won't be able to fly) when our bridges are collapsing around us.

In NH, we’d rather not spend any money on anything at all. We’d rather continue to pay the pound of cure, and sell our public infrastructure to the lowest bidder.  NH is always desperate for the short-term quick fix, while giving no thought to the consequences or the future.  A legislature comprised overwhelmingly of retirees guarantees that we’ll continue to be mired up to our axles in the past.



© sbruce 2014
From my bi-weekly column in the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cult Leader Urges Followers to Harass NH State Rep.




Fresh from a  jail cell, Pastor Ian Bernard of the Church of the Free Load in Keene,  is taking up the cause of harassing female legislators. He posted two of the videos I posted yesterday  and had a little tantrum to go with them, which you can see at their website: Free Keene

Ian whatever-his-name-is-this-week begins by referring to Rep. Wall as a "slimy politician" in his heading. The first sentence is where the fun begins:

"What does state rep Janice Wall have to hide and why is she so unfriendly?"

For starters, she's State Representative Janet Wall. Also - not wanting to be followed by a creep with a camera doesn't mean she has anything to hide. She asked him to stop and he kept on badgering her. In some places that might be considered a crime.  

"Dave Ridley of the Ridley Report returns to the state house to attempt to hold members of the judicial committee accountable on what, if anything, they are doing about Thomas Ball’s self-immolation nearly three years ago."  

It's clear that Ian Bernard hasn't troubled himself to learn anything about the legislative process in his adopted state. Like any three year old who wants something RIGHT NOW, he's having a petulant little tantrum. It's not Representative Wall's fault that Tom Ball killed himself in 2011. Nor is it the job of the House Judiciary Committee to stop the actual 2014 legislative work to have a gabfest about Tom Ball, just because Ian Bernard thinks they should. 

The cherry on this shit sundae: 

"I sure hope I recognize her next time I’m in the state house, because I’ll be sure to grab my camera and ambush interview her as well.  In fact, any activists living in the Madbury area should also try to interview her about why she’s so unfriendly to independent media." 

Pastor Freeload announces his intent to hound Rep. Wall, and he urges his fratboy followers to do the same. All because Rep. Wall refused to speak to his fellow FreeLoader, Dave Ridley. That's all she did. And for that, they're threatening continued persecution. What is wrong with these people?


They'd never, ever, in a million years do any of this to a man



The Multiple Identities of Ian Bernard

h/t Nashua Patch

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dave Ridley, State House Stalker



It's hard to imagine that sign was necessary. 

That's Dave Ridley. He's a member of the Free State Project, the armed libertarian insurrectionists who want to take over NH. He's one of the early movers, who came here from Texas. Dave fancies himself a journalist, in the same way that Jimmy O'Keefe does. They both do weird ambush interviews, piece them together and call the results "journalism." Libertarians are overwhelmingly white and male, and the Free State Project is no exception. There's a deep strain of misogyny running through the glibertarian crowd. Read the comment section of any one of these videos and you'll see what I mean. 

Ridley likes to grab his camera and pose as a member of the press at the Legislative Office Building in Concord on days when the committees are in session. He is never seen at the State House on session day. As most of you know, there are 400 representatives in the NH House. They earn $100 a year for their service. They do not have offices. They do not have secretaries or assistants. They wade through hundreds of bills every year. Ridley's badgering people about something that happened 3 years ago, while these folks are trying to do the work of the 2014 session. This isn't journalism. This is a clown show. 

April 1, 2014  - Ridley in action with a lobbyist at the Legislative Office Building in Concord.
He admits that he doesn't know who she is or what she lobbies for, but he "thinks his viewers will be interested." That doesn't even make sense. Why would his viewers be interested in some stranger Ridley knows nothing about? This is all about Ridley. HE wants to follow the attractive blonde around and harass her. If she were wearing a skirt he'd be trying for upskirt photos - that's the kind of "journalistic" integrity at work here.



Here he is harassing Nancy Cosette, a staffer at the LOB:



Remember, it's 2014. He's harassing members of the judiciary committee about a disturbed individual from Keene who burned himself to death on the steps of the courthouse there in 2011. Tom Ball was Vietnam vet who was angry about his wife leaving him, angry about the divorce, angry about the settlement, angry about having to pay child support,  and generally angry. He was angry at everyone, so his next step was to join a men's rights group, which added more gasoline to the fire. He was miffed that peaceful protest didn't get him his way, so he decided to show everyone, by setting himself on fire at the courthouse.

That was in 2011. There's been an election since then, so it's entirely possible that the legislators Ridley is harassing weren't in office then, or on the judiciary committee. (An actual journalist would have asked, or done research in advance.)  And whether they were or not - they had nothing to do with the unbalanced man who set himself on fire. The only person responsible for Tom Ball's actions is Tom Ball. It's 2014.When Ridley comes in to badger them about something that happened 3 years ago, he's just trying to get them to look stupid on camera so he can do a gotcha video.

Here he is asking Rep. Donna Schlachman to handcuff him. A journalist would have asked her questions about the minimum wage bill, instead of creating a side show.





Here he is harassing Rep. Janet Wall, even after she makes it clear that she doesn't want to talk to him.



Note where his camera is focused as he aims it at a young woman sitting on a bench in the hallway. 
He follows one female representative out of committee and into the stairwell badgering her about Tom Ball.

Part 2 of his video stalking of Rep. Janet Wall:



He follows her up and down the halls. He follows her into committee. He follows her almost into the elevator at one point - even though she's asked him to leave her alone. She is under no obligation to talk to Ridley, and who can blame her for not wanting to? 

Ridley doesn't follow men down the halls, or into the stairwells if they ignore him. He doesn't follow them to the elevator, or pan the camera over their chests. 

He doesn't do this to Republican female legislators. 

This is creepy, stalkerish behavior. And of course, if Ridley's conduct causes him to be barred from the LOB, he'll use that to whine about what a victim he is, because that's what Free Staters do. They're never responsible - it's always someone else's fault.

Ridley's antics give citizen journalists a bad name. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Scott Brown Puts a Ring on It




Some of the signs that welcomed former  Senator Scott Brown as he (finally) announced his candidacy for the US Senate in Portsmouth. 

Or, one might say former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown announced his intent to run for the US Senate from his new home in NH. Elizabeth Dinan did a writeup on the protesters at the announcement, for seacoastonline. com. The highlight of her story:


Tristan Debree called Brown a carpetbagger and held a sign saying, “Scott Brown wants to confiscate your firearms.” He said conservatives, like him, want to “get rid of” Brown, “get a Republican who supports the Second Amendment,” and “then we can go after Shaheen.”
Constitutionalist group the Oath Keepers had representatives from New Hampshire and Connecticut. They held a Gadsen flag with the “Don't tread on me message” and described themselves as “liberty minded.”

The NH Oath Keepers brought Connecticut Oath Keepers in to call Scott Brown a carpetbagger. 
Irony sticks her head in the oven again. 

h/t Elizabeth Dinan/seacoastonline.com

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Crossover





March 27 is Crossover Day in the NH legislature. It’s the day when the House turns over their bills to the Senate, and the Senate returns the favor. This year there was so much delay and obstructionism that there was some doubt as to whether the deadline would actually be met. The House had 2 voting session days throughout the month of March, and the Speaker threatened to add a third session day on March 27.

It is difficult to know what the obstructionist’s goal is in holding everything up. They aren’t doing the People’s business. They aren’t enacting legislation, or doing what is best for the state. They are wasting taxpayer dollars and treating their colleagues with a glaring lack of respect.  They get all caught up in the drama of it; adult sized boys, buzzing around the chamber for whispered consultations and making “secret” signals from the sidelines. These aren’t votes they can win - the goal is just to slow the process down as much as possible. As I’ve said before, this is what you get when you elect people who hate government to BE the government.

There were 13 roll call votes on the March 12 session day. Two of them concerned a mandatory headlight use bill. That bill was debated for 2 hours, even though everyone in the chamber knew it wasn’t going anywhere. The whole process did, at least, amuse the New York Times reporter I was sitting next to. A bill regulating the use of alkaline hydrolysis as a means of disposing of human remains provided a stage for Rep. Jordan Ulery to leap upon and very dramatically describe the process of alkaline hydrolysis to the few legislators who stayed in the chamber.  The same bill had been proposed last year. This wasn’t new information, but when gumming up the works is the goal, no corpse must be left un-described. No one was going to be forced to dispose of a dead person this way unless they wanted to, but the loudest believers in freedom and liberty only seem to do so when its convenient for them. If a free gun came with alkaline hydrolysis, they’d be lining up around the block to throw Granny into the chamber.

There was also a lengthy debate that same day on repealing the death penalty. To the credit of all, that was mostly an intelligent and respectful debate. Most of our Carroll County delegation voted for repeal, and the bill passed the House. By the time you read this, the Senate Judiciary Committee will have had a public hearing on the bill. NH has spent $7 million so far on the death penalty case of Michael Addison, and we’re nowhere near done. The death chamber hasn’t been built. The drugs – Europe won’t sell us the drugs any more, because we’re barbarians. We don’t know what kind of drugs we’ll be using, or how much they’ll cost. Expect the entire shebang to tally up to near $20 million. Remember that, as you drive down East Conway Road. Assuming you return from that voyage be sure to ask Representatives Chandler, Buco, and McConkey where the money’s going to come from to execute that one guy.

Speaking of warm and fuzzy, a truly significant piece of legislation was recently passed and signed into law by the governor. Medicaid expansion will ensure that many low-wage workers in the North Country will have access to health insurance. A report recently issued by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute found that Coos County is the least healthy county in NH. Carroll County wasn’t far behind. In both Coos and Carroll, 17% of the population is uninsured. In both Coos and Carroll 18% of the population engages in excessive drinking. In Coos 18% of the population is in fair or poor health. The ratio of patients to mental health providers is 932:1. There is 7.7% unemployment in Coos, and 23% child poverty. In Carroll County there is 20% child poverty, and 17% of residents have severe housing problems. In Grafton County, 15% of the population is uninsured.

The bill originated in the NH Senate, where our own Senator Jeb Bradley was a supporter. The vote in the House fell largely – but not entirely – along party lines. There were a few Republicans who voted for people over ideology. Not many, but there were a few from the North Country. One of the conservative talking points suggested that “those people” would have no incentive to work if they got “free” health care. Most of us  know how hard people work up here just to stay afloat. Affordable health care isn’t going to pay their rent or put groceries on the table. It may well make the difference between preventative care and expensive “I waited because I couldn’t afford to go to the doctor” kind of care.

Given the dire situation in the North Country, it was depressing (though unsurprising) to learn that our newly minted Executive Councilor, Joe Kenney, voted against approving Medicaid Expansion. In other words, one of his first acts in office was to vote against the best interests of nearly 50% of the population in his district. Ray Burton would not have voted that way, but then, Ray was often described as the “champion of the north country,” a sobriquet that will never be applied to Joe Kenney.

Everyone should spend a session day at the State House to witness the full spectacle. The General Court website has streaming audio on session days, which I encourage folks to listen to, but it is not the same as being there to see all of the sideline drama. I’m pleased to report that no one from the Carroll County delegation is a major player in Obstructionist Theater, but all of you really should go see your representatives in action. It might well change the way you vote in November.



© sbruce 2014  
Published in the 4-4-14 issue of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Free Keeners Lose Again





From the Keene Sentinel

A judge has dismissed a petition against the Keene School District, ruling that voter-approved changes to seven petition articles were lawful.   Judge John C. Kissinger Jr. denied a request from residents Conan Salada, Darryl W. Perry, David Crawford and Eric LaRoche to find amendments made at the district's deliberative session illegal and to give residents a chance to vote on the original articles. The four had claimed the amendments changed the purpose of the articles and made them useless.

The judge disagreed:
When examining the language of state laws, the court has to follow "the plain and ordinary meaning to the words used," Kissinger wrote.In this case, the petitioners argued that the subject matter was eliminated because the amendments created a "nullity" where it made no difference whether residents voted "yes" or "no."

This is how the Free Staters often get into trouble. Plain and ordinary meanings of words seem to be problematic for them. 
A lot of them were unable to grasp the concept of censor vs. censure back in 2013.