Thursday, May 26, 2016

Legislative Legerdemain

Every legislative session starts with most of our legislators displaying at least a modicum of dignity and good manners. Most years that doesn’t begin to break down until the last month or so when it’s time to concur or not concur on amended bills.

This year the breakdown began early. As part of the House committee process, a member of the committee writes up a summary of a bill that is ready to go to the floor for a vote. It will explain what the intent of the bill is, explains any moving parts, the fiscal aspects and gives the committee’s recommendation. There may be a majority report, detailing why the majority of the committee supports or does not support the bill, and a minority report explaining why the minority does or does not believe it should pass. This write up is included in the House calendar. They are generally written with a neutral tone and language.

Not this year. Fellow calendar geeks undoubtedly noticed that a number of committee reports were written in either a sarcastic or self-righteous tone. This was an exceptional year in many respects. The NippleGate scandal was the result of Rep. Josh Moore opining on Twitter that a nipple bared in public was open for grabbing. Rep. Ken Weyler announced his opinion that giving public benefits to anyone practicing Islam is treason. Representative Kyle Tasker brought glory to the GOP when he was arrested at the place where he was supposed to be meeting a 14-year-old girl he’d been soliciting sex from on the internet. He met a cop, instead. More cops found his house full of drugs, and there is reportedly a list of his legislative customers, that may go public at some point. As someone once involved in the informal pharmaceutical trade, let me give ya’ll some advice. One thing you really want in a drug dealer is discretion. Don’t buy drugs from the guy who drops his gun in the State House and is always in the news for saying and doing obnoxious things.

As the legislature winds down, it’s time for shenanigans and deals. Any bill that was amended by either the House or Senate must go back to the body it originated from, where that body votes on whether to concur with the amended version, to non concur which kills the bill, or they can ask for a Committee of Conference. (CoC)

The language from dead or tabled bills can be tacked on to completely unrelated bills (a phenomenon known as the non-germane amendment) in an effort to sweeten the deal or twist arms. Some of the weirder examples include HB 636: relative to forfeiture of property; relative to the sale of premixed synthetic urine; establishing a grant program for high schools for heroin and opiate prevention education; and clarifying who may petition to adopt. Because when you think adoption, you think synthetic urine.

SB 495: relative to the health care premium contribution for retired state employees who are eligible for Medicare Parts A and B due to age or disability, relative to funding of retiree health benefits, making appropriations to the department of administrative services, and relative to the definition of a cigar bar. (One of these things is not like the other.) The goal is to give the other guys something they want, so that they’ll vote for your bill, even though they don’t like it. 

That’s how a bill written to fund the police standards and training council and purchase some state police cars (SB 527) was amended to include a provision about bi-weekly paychecks. The Senate tabled the original biweekly paycheck bill. In the legislature, tabling can also be defined as “saving for future leverage.” In this instance, money for cops and cop cars would not be approved by the anti-cop libertea crowd – but tack on the language from the biweekly paycheck bill that was written and sponsored by a number of libertea restaurant owners, and the cops might get their cruisers. This bill is still in the CoC.

Once in a CoC, the members have to unanimously agree to changes, and everyone has to sign off on the report. The report then goes back to the originating body for an official vote on whether to pass the whole thing or not. If it passes, it will eventually hit the governor’s desk.

Another fun aspect of the Committee of Conference process is that the members of the committee can be changed at any time, depending on the desired outcome.  For example, SB 4 is yet another attempt to solve the nonexistent problem of voter fraud. The bill will require a voter to live in the state for 30 days before being allowed to vote. This is almost certainly unconstitutional, but that does not deter the voter suppression crowd. Wasting money on court challenges just means less money to spend frivolously on things like roads and bridges. The House amended the bill to add some rather pompous language about the intentions of the 1974 Constitutional Convention and the meaning of the term domicile, and the Senate asked for a CoC. A dissenting Senator (Democrat) was replaced by a Republican Senator and suddenly there is agreement! Not because it’s a good or necessary bill, but because it’s partisan jiggery pokery.

Eight voter domicile bills were filed this year. There were 4 concealed carry bills. These are the priorities of the current legislature. They aren’t the priorities of the average voter, but they do reflect the mindset of the ideologues that currently populate the majority party.

There is a link on the House General Court website where you can check out the bills currently in Committees of Conference, and who the members of the committee currently are. A look at the bill’s docket will show any changes in the configuration of the committee.

Legerdemain is defined as “sleight of hand when performing conjuring tricks.” That’s what the end of the legislative session is all about.

Published as an oped in the May 27 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

New Comment Policy

If all you have are gratuitous insults, don't bother. I'm not publishing them anymore. 

Be smart, be witty, be snarky - but above all be interesting. Or be gone. 

The Management 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Living in the Past

Last August about 50 women staged a “Free the Nipple” protest at Hampton Beach. There is a nation-wide movement to desexualize the breast and strike down local, state, and national laws against toplessness. A month later, six women were arrested for being topless on a beach in Guilford. Going topless is a misdemeanor offense for a woman in the state of NH. Driving while impaired is a misdemeanor. You can kill someone while driving drunk. Our state equates the crime of driving while impaired to being topless and female in public.

Clearly something had to be done about those dangerous breasts and the women who might flaunt them in public. State Senator Nancy Stiles of Hampton wrote a bill  (SB 347) to enable the state and municipalities to adopt ordinances regulating attire on state and municipal property. The bill concerned itself largely with regulating bathing, sunbathing, and swimming in municipal or state properties. It was going to be added to a statute that is intended to restrain and punish vagrants, mendicants, street beggars, strolling musicians, and common prostitutes and prevent them from engaging in obscene conduct. The state and municipalities would be allowed to create ordinances to dictate what sort of attire should be worn on state or municipal property. 

One could imagine, perhaps: Tuxedo Thursdays in Tuckerman’s Ravine?  Or maybe Hawaiian shirt day in Crawford Notch? Mendicant Mondays? Naturally every day would be coverall day at Hampton Beach to keep those rampant bosoms out of sight. This would also include the State House, which doesn’t seem to have occurred to the sponsors.

One could further imagine the creation of the Governor’s Commission on Proper Public Attire. What the bill lacks (other than any sort of coherent rationale) was an enforcement mechanism. It needs a Dress Code Czar, which is pretty much my dream job. I’m ready, willing, and able to instruct strolling musicians, common prostitutes and legislators on how to dress.

This bill came to us from Senate Republicans. Republicans, you may recall are the folks who complain so bitterly about what they “nanny state.” Then again, legislating the behavior of women has always been at the heart of the GOP agenda, and is therefore exempt - the accusations of “nanny state” only apply if they affect MEN. This attempt at dressing women in burkas at public beaches is just business as usual. Any idiot can have a gun in this state, but breasts are apparently the REAL danger. Two of the bill’s sponsors are not running for reelection. The rest of the bunch should seriously consider retirement, if this is their idea of important or necessary legislation.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, by the time a child reaches the age of 18, they will have seen over 16,000 simulated murders and over 200,000 acts of violence. And we’re worried about naked bosoms scaring the children?

In the category of actual important legislation, the House will have voted on the omnibus opioid bill (as well as the dress code bill) by the time you read this. The big drug bill is intended to do something about the opioid epidemic that is having such an impact on our state. It is one of the bills that were written last year to be “fast tracked” by the legislature. There is no fast track in NH. (If a provision had been added to give every addict a gun, this would have been passed months ago.) One of the actual provisions of SB 533 is an appropriation for $2 million to the Housing Finance Authority for supportive housing for substance abusers.

This is important. Addiction does not lend itself to cookie cutter solutions. Addicts have a variety of different needs. My second husband became a heroin addict after we split up. He had a good job, a car, and a place to live. When he got to rehab, he had the clothes on his back. No car. No place to live. Holes in his shoes. He still had the job – and lucky for him, he had excellent health insurance. He called me from rehab, because I was the only sober/clean person he knew. His world had narrowed to being populated mostly by other addicts, which is not unusual. He stayed clean for a while, but relapsed, which is common with any drug addiction. The second time, he stayed clean. He moved into a sober house when he got back from the second stint at rehab, and he stayed there for a couple of years. Some addicts need to put a lot of distance between the new life they’re trying to begin and the old life they’re trying to get away from.

New Hampshire doesn’t offer much in the way of substance abuse treatment. Supportive housing for people who need a complete change of venue if they’re going to be able to stay clean is crucial. Heroin (and other opioid) addicts can recover and go on to lead productive lives, despite what one sees in the comment section of the Union Leader. Unfortunately most people know very little about addiction, and that includes most of our legislature. We weren’t overly concerned about addicts until the children of the middle class started dying.

A disappointing aspect to all of the bills intended to deal with the opioid crisis is the heavy emphasis on law enforcement solutions. At the beginning there was a lot of talk about how NH couldn’t arrest its way out of the problem. That is still true, yet our legislature is determined to try. The war on drugs, the pledge, and trickle down economics are all failing our state, but we are unable to end our addiction to living in the past.

Edited to add:

Every story I read about the Free the Nipple events was incorrect. The NH media didn't do a very good job of covering the story. Going topless is not against the law in NH. Only 2 women were arrested in Guilford. I found SB 347 mockworthy for a number of reasons, mostly, because it would have allowed dress codes at every public property. That was and is silly, and deserved to be made fun of. I didn't intentionally spread misinformation - and I'm sorry that I inadvertently did. 

I wasn't writing to be sympathetic to the Free the Nipple activists, because frankly, their issue isn't even on my list. There are many, many things that need to change in women's lives. Homelessness, poverty, health care, equal pay, good jobs, the right to bodily autonomy, and affordable child care are right at the top, along with doing something about guns and violence against women. I find the Free the Nipple "movement" silly and self-indulgent. 

Published as an op-ed in the May 13 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.

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:

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 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   President/General Manager
Pat Mckay  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.