Thursday, September 15, 2016

Finding Your Inner Unicorn

William Shakespeare wrote: For the apparel oft proclaims the man.” A more familiar axiom is “clothes make the man.”

We all have favorite clothes. The clothes that make us look and feel like a million bucks. When we wear them, there’s an extra spring in our step – and we project an air of confidence. In the photo attached to this column, I’m wearing a purple silk blouse that was my favorite. It was my lucky shirt. The last time I wore it was to a job interview. I was drinking a cup of coffee in the car, hit a frost heave, and spilled coffee down the front of the shirt. In spite of the big coffee stain, I got the job. The stain never came out.

Clothes serve a variety of functions. They cover us, protect us, and keep us warm and dry. Some of us wear uniforms so that we can be easily identified as a member of the military, or perhaps a fire fighter, EMT, or police officer. Various types of clothing can also be part of ceremonies, rituals, or special occasions. Clothes can reflect how we feel, and just like mom always told you, clothes project a message. We do judge books by their covers.

My granddaughter will soon be seven. She just started second grade. I’ve been doing some back to school/birthday shopping for her. It’s been quite a learning experience.

I traipsed through some stores and then did some online shopping, and found some universal truths. Clothes for girls are mostly awful. There is no shortage of gaudy pink, cheap polyester covered with ruffles and sparkles. Faux worn and torn jeans are a big thing this year. It’s almost impossible to find a plain shirt that isn’t tarted up with lace, sequins or glitter – and that is in addition to the graphics.

Somewhere along the way, Disney decided they could sell the bejeebers out of princess crap, and began to invent new princesses to tie merchandise to, and market the heck out of it to girls and their parents. This seems to have coincided with the backlash against feminism.

Boy’s clothes haven’t changed much over the decades. Their shirts feature superheroes like Spiderman, Batman, or Captain America. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are popular again. There are shirts with dinosaurs or racecars. There are sports themed shirts, with soccer balls or basketballs, or slogans such as, “Start Fast Finish Faster,” or “Any Game Any Time.” Boy’s shirts come in plaid or stripes, and they also come in plain colors. Boys and girls both wear blue. Only girls wear pink.

The graphics on clothing for girls is an entirely different matter.
In my admittedly unscientific study, the number one graphic for a girl’s shirt is a heart. It can be covered with small hearts, or have one large. Some have the word “LOVE” inside the heart. LOVE with a heart shape replacing the O is common. Others have “There is No One Like Me” inside a big heart shape, or “Do What You Love,” inside a graphic heart. Other slogans I found: “Follow Our Dreams, They Know the Way,” “Keep Dreaming and Follow Your Destiny,” “Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti,” “Live, Love, Dream,” “Believe,” “Always Beautiful,” “Happiness is a State of Mind,” “Let Your Heart Shine,” “Lead Your Own Way,” “Let Your Light Shine,” “Happy Girls Shine Brighter,” and “Dream Big, Sparkle More, Shine Bright.” There were shirts with pictures of Barbie, kittens, unicorns, butterflies, or ballerinas. “Find your inner unicorn,” one tee shirt advises. Any sports themed shirts for girls were pink and often involved ruffles. One girls clothing company is called, “Self Esteem,” and produces clothing that seems likely to create just the opposite. Would a boy wear a vest that has tiny writing all over it reading, “Love you to the moon and back?” Do girls require so much extra reassurance that they are loved that it is necessary to print it on their clothing?

There is plenty of money to be made in selling products to girls and women. Not so much for boys and men, because they aren’t taught from the cradle to be insecure. Boys do not wear shirts telling them that happiness is a state of mind. There are no hearts emblazoned upon their clothes, or messages of love. Why doesn’t boys clothing tell them to love, to smile, to sparkle more, or follow their dreams? What kind of message does this clothing send to our girl children? What does it prepare them for? Why does a seven year old need to hear that “happiness is a state of mind?” Are we sending them off to a Zen retreat or preparing them for a lifetime of second-class citizenry?

These girls will grow to adulthood in a world where what they look like is how they are judged. We’re seeing the end result of that in the current endless presidential election cycle. If girls clothing is being designed to reinforce self esteem and steer them toward success we’re already doing something wrong.

All those hearts, all that admonition about love made me wonder. Is love an activity solely for girls?

Judging on the basis of clothing alone, we seem to expect boys to love dinosaurs and sports. We expect girls to love, smile, dream, and sparkle. It explains a lot. Dreaming is good. Dreaming isn’t threatening. One shirt read, “Future Princess” with a slash through the Princess and under it read, “Boss.” If we really want that girl to be a boss, why would the shirt need to even mention princesses? Is this a form of training, or grooming? Do we need to get girls focused on love early so they’ll grow up to love the boys who aren’t being programmed to love? So that they’ll be ready to settle for less?

I haven’t finished shopping, but after all of this, I sent my granddaughter a tee shirt that says, “Future Brain Surgeon.”

If clothes really do make the man (or woman) what kind of men and women are we trying to create?

Published as an op-ed in the September 16 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

Friday, September 09, 2016

Melting Ice - Shifting Sands

Go meet Marjorie and hear her story. It's a love story, it's an Alzheimer's story - and it's a story told with honesty and humor. You can hear Marjorie talk about the book on The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen, in the second half of this podcast:

Melting Ice - Shifting Sands
with Marjorie Burke 

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016, 5:30 p.m 

In partnership with the Concord Regional Visiting Nurses Association we present Melting Ice-Shifting Sand, written by Marjorie Burke of Weare, which chronicles her and her husband's experience with Alzheimer's Disease - her as the caregiver and Donald as the one living with the disease. A deeply honest and moving account of their struggle with this awful disease. Join us for a presentation and Q and A. 
Event date: 
Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 5:30pm
Event address: 
45 South Main St
ConcordNH 03301

Friday, September 02, 2016

Problem Solving 101

NH has a drug problem. Our drug problem didn’t didn’t get much attention until middle class white kids started dying. Suddenly our politicians are paying attention, and using addicts as a political football. Here are the NH numbers for the last 5 years:

2011 – 201 deaths.
2012 – 163 deaths.
2013 – 192 deaths.
2014 – 326 deaths.
2015 – 433 deaths.

So far this year there have been about 200 overdose deaths. The state epidemiologist’s office predicts there will be about 482 deaths by the end of the year.

All of the gubernatorial candidates that have websites have plans for dealing with the opioid crisis. They’re all pretty much the same. Education, treatment, and law enforcement. Some candidates have a stronger focus on law enforcement. Even the cops will tell you that they can’t arrest their way out of this. While educating  kids is never a bad thing, education is not enough to solve the problem.

The one thing no one ever brings up when they talk about strategies and solutions is the why. Why do we have so many addicts? Why do we have so many people experimenting with heroin? What is the root cause? It seems likely to me that we can’t solve a problem until we begin to try to understand why we have the problem in the first place. What is lacking in the lives of so many people?

I believe it is hope.

I’m going to saunter out into the old fart zone, and reminisce. The phrase “the common good” was in vogue when I was a wee lass. A high school graduate could get a job and have the potential to move up the advancement ladder. (Heck, a high school drop out could, too.) Companies valued their employees and rewarded years of loyalty with things like regular raises and retirement pensions. It was a time when many people had a job with the same company for their entire working life. The American Dream was a reality for most people.

Then along came the 80’s. An actor from California was elected president. We learned that everything that was wrong was because the government was bad. The phrase “the common good” was discarded in favor of phrases like “welfare queen,” “trickle down economics,” and “evil empire.” Greed and selfishness began their takeover of the American mindset. The belief in the common good morphed into a Galtian version of “you’re on your own, Jack.”

A young person in the north country has little chance of finding or creating a good job. The failure of our state to invest in infrastructure works against them. In fact – the failure of our state to invest is part of the problem. We begrudge every dime we spend on education, and we make sure to tout that at every opportunity. NH ranks dead last in spending on post-secondary education. If we tripled the amount tomorrow, we’d still be dead last. Mississippi – the poorest state in the nation spends more on state colleges than NH – and NH is the seventh wealthiest state in the nation. (We aren’t ashamed of this.) The cost of a college education means taking on a lot of debt for students that don’t qualify for scholarships. Once that education is complete – then what? NH is not exactly a mecca for good paying jobs.

We are surprised when our kids leave our state and don’t return; yet we offer them few reasons to stay. Working two or three jobs to try to stay afloat isn’t anyone’s idea of a life plan. It used to be that if you worked that hard, you could at least afford a modest little house and a family, but those days are long gone.

I grew up in a more innocent and idealistic time. JFK was reminding us to ask what we could do for our country. His question was aimed at far more than donning a uniform and going off to fight in one of our endless wars. Kennedy was one of the founders of the Peace Corps. Young people coming of age today haven’t experienced anything but endless war. They’ve grown up in a country where the corporate media monopolies mostly fail to inform us about anything other than celebrity gossip and sports.

The goal-oriented kids will almost always turn out okay. It’s the kids who don’t have a gravitational pull toward a particular area of study or career that are more likely to get lost. 

They see a nation at odds with itself, in a state of perpetual war. They live in a state that fails to invest in them – or anything else. Climate change is damaging the planet – yet politicians with no scientific background deny science. Every message is conflicting. There is no cohesive vision of a shared future – only the promise of more conflict and endless war. It’s only a surprise that the 30-year slide into national nihilism didn’t start killing us sooner. 

As long as the medication of choice for hopelessness was alcohol, we didn’t care. It was bought in our state stores, after all, and kept our economy afloat. In 2000, the Alcohol Fund was created, to take 5% of the profit from our multi-million dollar booze biz, and use the money for treatment, education, and prevention. The fund became active in 2003, the only year that it was fully funded. Since then, every year, the funding mechanism has been suspended, and the monies go right to the general fund. Over the last twenty years, the treatment and mental health systems that were once in place have been systematically dismantled. No one cared much, as long as it was just booze. It is cynical, but it is how we fund our state. Cheap booze and butts, sold on the highways.

Now that middle class kids are dying from heroin overdoses, suddenly everyone cares. Don’t read me wrong, I’m glad people are starting to pay attention. I just wish it hadn’t taken so long. This is NH, where we’d prefer to pay the pound of cure, and we do, at every exhausting opportunity.

NH is now rebuilding treatment infrastructure. Everyone running for office has a plan for “solving” the opioid crisis. The plans provide a good starting point, but the deeper issues must be examined. We cannot prevent what we don’t fully understand.

“Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences.” Robert Louis Stevenson

This was published as an op-ed in the September 2 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

NH State Rep Takes the GOP Clown Car for a Ride

     NH State Representative Gary Hopper with Donald Trump. 

In this video, Hopper provides his (illegal) solution to the stealing of Trump signs: 

This is the libertea Republican trifecta - violence garnished with name calling AND a sprinkling of homophobia. Apparently that's Hopper's "safe place." 

From the Hopper archives: 

Creepy Old Pervs in the NH House

GOP Leadership Should Take Their Shovels Away

Guns Don't Kill People, Divorced Women Kill People

Photo stolen from Tuck at Miscellany Blue

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ian Freeman: Putting the Goober in Gubernatorial

 This is Ian Freeman. He's a Democrat, running for governor of New Hampshire. 
             These are some candidate videos he's done:

This is why you should carefully research the candidates before you vote. Freeman admits he's a libertarian, but he's too lazy to go out and get the signatures needed for a third party candidate to get on the ballot. Also, he hates the US and wants NH to secede. 

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to read Ayn Rand......

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Led by the Dead, Part 2

This week, it’s time to wrap up the series on NH gubernatorial hopefuls by taking a look at the Democratic candidates. There are five of them. I’ll be reporting on their various positions as shown on their websites.

Mark Connolly is a former Deputy Secretary of State, and former Director of the NH Bureau of Securities Regulation. Connolly wants NH students to have a world-class education, with more emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.) He doesn’t mention K-12 education funding. He would, however, like to return the funding of our state university system to the pre-2011 levels. This would certainly improve the situation, but even if he tripled the level of funding, NH would still rank a firm 50th in the nation for funding post-secondary education. Mr. Connolly would like to modernize our state government, which is certainly a worthy goal, and quite necessary. He wants to strengthen our campaign finance laws. He supports renewable energy and expanded passenger rail. He mentions the need to repair NH’s infrastructure, notably the rural roads and bridges. His site does not mention Northern Pass.

He’s taken The Pledge.

Derek Dextraze has a website. It is not a good one. There are too many fonts and too many paragraphs written in capital letters. There is no biographical information. Digging deeply into the site, I was able to discover that Dextraze is from Dover. He supports raising the minimum wage to $15. He favors legalizing marijuana, and wants tougher laws for heroin dealers. Dextraze wants to lower property taxes. He has taken The Pledge, and favors a constitutional amendment to prohibit an income tax. He also wants to keep the DMV open later in the evening and possibly on weekends. My daughter recently spent nearly 2 hours on hold with the DMV. The reason for this is that NH doesn’t raise sufficient revenue to fund our state agencies and/or run our state as if it mattered. Mr. Dextraze doesn’t seem to understand the role that taxes play in funding our state government. In any case, the real goal of his website seems to be selling his children’s book.

Ian Bernard Freeman does not have a website. Ian Bernard moved to NH as part of the Free State Project. He’s since changed his name to Freeman, an affectation that is common amongst Free Staters, who seem eager to adopt new names once they move to a new state. Ian has been the leader of the Free Keene cult, but has had some problems this past year. The FBI raided his house and took a bunch of computers, amidst rumors of a child porn investigation. This is the house that he’s repeatedly tried to get tax free status for, claiming it is a church. No arrests have been made as a result of this raid, but the raid brought up the old stories about Ian’s views on the age of consent for adult/child sexual relations. He doesn’t think there should be one. This made life a little embarrassing for the new corporate Free State Inc. so they decreed that Ian wouldn’t be welcome at their large public gatherings. Ian has no website or Facebook page for his gubernatorial race. From the NH Liberty website, I learned that Ian wants to legalize marijuana and end enforcement of victimless crimes. He wants equal ballot access for all candidates regardless of party affiliation. He wants NH to secede, and he wants to make all taxes voluntary.

Steve Marchand has been an auditor, auditing municipal, county, and state governments around the country. He served on the city council in Portsmouth, and also served a term as mayor. Marchand supports legalizing marijuana. He’s opposed to the death penalty. He supports paid family leave. He opposes Northern Pass. He’s in favor of eliminating the cap on state education grants. He lists restoring school building aid as an infrastructure issue, where it merited 5 paragraphs. The red listed bridges got one paragraph. He does include municipal and state employees as part of the NH infrastructure, and emphasizes the need to repair the retirement system for these employees. Roads got nothing. Telecommunications infrastructure got nothing. He thinks that college/business partnerships will bring down the cost of college tuition. Marchand had nothing to say about education funding. He refuses to take the pledge, but is opposed to a sales or an income tax. This sounds a little bit like Kelly Ayotte saying she will support Trump, but not endorse him. The late Antonin Scalia might have called this, “jiggery-pokery.”

Colin Van Ostern was a business manager at Stonyfield, Inc., helped launch the College for America at Southern NH University, a college that helps adults get a college education with little to no debt. He’s also served two terms in the Executive Council. He has the best organized website. Colin mentions a lot of issues that the other candidates did not. He believes that NH needs to expand access to rural broadband! He opposes Northern Pass. He points out the need to safeguard NH’s drinking water. Van Ostern also supports fully funding the NH Alcohol fund. If he succeeded, it would be the first time it’s happened since the initial appropriation in 2003. Five percent of the revenue raised in our state liquor stores is supposed to go to directly to that fund to help finance treatment and prevention. He believes in expanding supportive housing for recovering addicts, and working with businesses to give people in recovery a second chance, by giving them a job. He’s also a supporter of expanded passenger rail and raising the minimum wage. He, too, has taken The Pledge.

Taking The Pledge is a tacit admission that nothing will change. There will still not be enough money to run the state in more than the most rudimentary fashion. The infrastructure will continue to decay, while the costs of repairs will continue to rise. And the libertea crowd will still bray about cutting business taxes, as if that will entice businesses to ride into NH on their unicorns, despite our failing infrastructure, high energy costs, high housing costs, and various other failings. The Pledge allows Mel Thomson and Bill Loeb to continue to run NH from the grave.

Not a one of the candidates mentioned the serious housing problem we have in our state. All of these candidates face an uphill battle with statewide name recognition.

The state primary election is on September 13. Be sure to research all the candidates, be sure to bring a photo ID (to combat the non-problem of non-existent voter fraud), and be sure to vote!

This was published as an op-ed in the August 19 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Frank's Franking 2016

Step into the wayback machine, kids. We're going to travel all the way back to 2010. You may remember that Frank Guinta made a lot of noise about the alleged abuses of the House franking system by Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter. From Guinta's Blog:

 There is a thin line between maintaining a rapport with one’s constituents and electioneering. These pamphlets violate the idea of a “Congressional Update,” and show an abuse of a representative’s franking privileges. This is not the first time either, that Carol Shea-Porter has been singled out in the past as well for exploiting tax dollars for personal gain. 

Yes, Frank was quite incensed. While he was on the campaign trail, that is. Once he landed in Congress, he became the number one franking abuser.  

Lets Be Frank About Frank's Franking:

The Bakersfield Californian had a story in their Sunday edition about how much members of Congress spend on franking privileges:
* Also among individual House members, Rep. Frank C. Guinta, R-N.H., spent the most on franked mail in 2011: $164,650.

And in 2016?  From Roll Call  

On average, members running for re-election in non-safe districts spent $172 per day on mail franking. That’s far more than the $63 per day that members in safe districts have spent.
Three of the top four spenders on mail between January 2015 and March 2016 are running in some of the most vulnerable districts in the country: Republican Reps. Rod Blum in Iowa's 1st District, Frank C. Guinta in the New Hampshire 1st and Will Hurd in the Texas 23rd.
Jay Ruais, chief of staff for Guinta, said the congressman is “committed to openness and transparency, including communicating our efforts on behalf of Granite Staters, important at a time when many feel alienated from their federal government. As a result of our correspondence, constituents have offered ideas for legislation that Rep. Guinta introduced in Congress, and a few have even been signed into law.”

Yeah, Frank is a real paragon of transparency. From How Do You Spell Apology

On October 27, 2014, WMUR televised a debate between Guinta and Shea-Porter. I was there. When Shea-Porter asked about the money, Guinta said he’d been cleared by the FEC, in Dec. 2010, before he was even sworn in, and he had been exonerated. He accused Carol of lying about his record, and huffily announced, “The people of NH ought to know the truth.”  

He's right about that. The people of NH ought to know the truth. It's just that Frank won't ever tell it. I'll give the Union Leader the last word: