They tried. They really tried. Despite all of the efforts of the last state legislature, NH only came in third place in a recent Mother Jones story about the worst state legislatures. Tennessee and Oklahoma took the coveted first and second place titles. In Tennessee there was a bill to outlaw saggy pants and one that defined miscarriages as murder. There were more, so many more, including the state rep who sent out an email warning constituents that President Obama was planning to stage a fake assassination attempt to prevent the 2012 election from happening.
Oklahoma had GOP state Senator Ralph Shortey’s bill to ensure that human fetuses didn’t get into food products, in “their search for artificial flavors.” He had no evidence that any company was doing this, or intended to, but he just wanted to make sure no one was going to have ramen noodles with fetus flavoring.
If you’re thinking that those made the Magna Carta bill and the WARNING signs at the NH border bill sound almost sane, you’re right. Ilya Gerner of Comedy Central described NH as: "a bunch of part-time real-estate agents throwing monkey feces at a wall." As Mother Jones points out, that’s not entirely fair. Some of them are lawyers, too.
NH’s newly elected legislators were sworn in on December 5. A number of last session’s worst offenders were not re-elected, but some were, and some new ones were added. Former Speaker of the NH House, Bill O’Brien barely squeaked out a win in a district gerrymandered to keep him in office. He was photographed sitting (ignominiously) in the rear of the House chamber on swear-in day. The former speaker should take heart, though. Gene Chandler was voted to be the House Minority Leader, proving that scandal and malfeasance have a short half-life in our state.
Newly re-elected Rep. Dan McGuire, a Free Stater from Epsom is bringing back a bill that went nowhere last session. HB 1400 allows the DOT commissioner to sell the naming rights (not limited) to bridges, overpasses, exits, and state buildings. There’s a doctored picture of the Albany covered bridge making the rounds on the Internet, wearing a McDonald’s sign. The companies would pay some sort of annual fee for this privilege, and they’d be responsible for putting up the signs and maintaining the signs. Why not have the “Budweiser NH Dept. of Safety Building”? From my past as an instructor of the state’s DWI program, I know that their products have a role in the commission of drunk driving offenses in our state.
This bill comes from the same Free Stater who tried to get a bill passed to divert the Suncook River back to where it was before a big storm: in front of his house. Rep. Grifter’s river diversion bill would have cost the taxpayers of our state over $4 million. Dan McGuire is the ultimate poster boy for the FSP. He doesn’t want to pay his taxes, but he’ll happily use yours to feather his own nest. In the mind of Free Staters, everything is for sale, and there should be no such thing as public property. Next up: Mount Walmartshington!
NH has a new legislature, but we still have the same NHGOP, comprised of Tea Partiers, Free Staters, and John Birchers. At first glance, these may seem like disparate groups, but they are all interconnected. In fact, their origins can all be traced to the same place. Koch Industries. The Koch Brothers are the financial engine behind the Tea Party. Fred Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society, and Free State Project founder Jason Sorens is an affiliated scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The Mercatus Center is a think tank funded by the Koch Family Foundation. On the FSP web forum just last month, Sorens was huffy about being portrayed as having ties to Mercatus. Evil forces, apparently, are making this all up. His bio on the Mercatus Center website must have just landed there by accident. We are all defined (to some extent) by whom we take money from. He’s a guy who hates all things public, who teaches at a taxpayer-funded university. Sorens is no stranger to hypocrisy.
Many folks are surprised to find that the John Birch Society still exists. They associate the JBS with commie scares and being anti-fluoridation. These days they’ve turned their sights on the UN. Apparently the UN is the purveyor of all that is evil, and is just waiting to turn us into “one world” where we all join hands and sing kumbaya together. Or something. It was rumored that there were 12 Birchers in the last legislature. The only one to publicly acknowledge it was Norm Tregenza, whose re-election bid was unsuccessful. The others weren’t brave enough to come out as Birchers. The same is true for the Free Staters, most of whom do not acknowledge their ties to the FSP. Why? Both groups are unpopular. They also wish to avoid scrutiny. It wouldn’t help the FSP at all to have their ties to the JBS uncovered and discussed.
For those who don’t remember, the JBS opposed the Civil Rights Movement. Their president, Robert Welch, called Eisenhower a communist and a traitor. Their new hobbyhorse is the UN’s Agenda 21, and they sent a known white supremacist to Conway, to lead a discussion on a film about it.
In fact, the Northeast Regional Field Director of the JBS, Hal Shurtleff, has been turning up on the Sun’s op-ed pages and FB page. I owe my thanks to Mr. Shurtleff for his vociferous defense of a former state rep and Free Stater, which inspired me to dig for the connections between the groups. These two groups may have some surface areas of disagreement, but they speak at each other’s events and conferences. They share members. They’re two peas swimming in the same cup of libertea that the Tea Party has been brewing.
It’s not a brew that has the best interests of our state at heart. It’s a selfish, Randian brew, and one that bears watching.
© sbruce 2012
This was published as an op-ed in the December 7, 2012 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.