Thursday, June 28, 2012

Kindergarten = Crime

NH State Rep. Robert Kingsbury has a theory. From the Laconia Daily Sun:

Not to be outdone, Representative Bob Kingsbury said he's been working on a theory since 1996, when he analyzed local crime rates and compared them to a list of communities that offered public kindergarten. Then, he told his colleagues, Laconia offered kindergarten and had the highest rates of crime. Meanwhile, surrounding towns, some of which didn't offer kindergarten, had less crime.
"We're taking children away from their mothers too soon," Kingsbury concluded.
Kingsbury wrote to all of his then state representatives, informing them of his research.


In addition to kindergarten, Kingsbury also linked the rise of crime to the decline of gun ownership and to fact that boxing is no longer taught in school or offered as a sport.

So, increasing crime is the fault of kindergarten. One wonders if Rep. Kingsbury spent even a moment pondering the potential impacts of increasing population density. One might begin to wonder how this area of "study" even occurred to him, but one quickly realizes that that way lies madness.

As for boxing being taught in schools or offered as a sport - there's a direct corollary between the kind of education funding/budgets that Rep. Kingsbury supports and the decreased funding for EVERY sport.

Rep. Kingsbury hails from Illinois, where, by the way - they have kindergarten. Perhaps he was driven out of his home state by gangs of pre-school thugs, who terrorized him every day with their counting, singing, and finger painting. Oh - the horror!

At least now I know exactly where it was in life that my moral compass broke down. It was when I attended kindergarten at the Manasseh Cutler Elementary School. You see, not only did I attend kindergarten - I attended kindergarten in Massachusetts. No wonder I've been arrested a dozen times. I could hardly be other than a career criminal with that background, right Rep. Kingsbury??

Songwriting genius Beverly Woods was inspired to write a song about this horrifying information. Here she is, accompanied by her equally brilliant partner Seth Austin, playing the mandolin.

You can read the lyrics here.

There's one comment at YouTube but it's a beaut. I applaud anyone who uses the term "lumpen proletariat."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rabid Ideologues Will Destry Us

The state of NH is looking into privatizing its entire prison system. Four companies have submitted bids. If Governor Lynch and the Executive Council accept one of those bids, NH would become the first state in the nation to hand over the entire prison system to a private company. The four venders are:
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), Management & Training Corporation (MTC), The Geo Group Inc. and the Hunt Companies.

None of these companies are altruists, who want to ensure that prisoners are rehabilitated and leave prison prepared to tackle the challenge of turning their lives around. These are private companies with only one interest: turning a profit. That means cutting corners in every way possible, while working to ensure that the prisons remain full.

A recent story in USA Today focuses on a deal being offered by one company in some 48 states. CCA is offering to buy prisons from cash strapped states, in exchange for a guarantee that the governments guarantee a 90% occupancy rate for at least 20 years.

If NH’s prison system becomes privatized, the corporation will be leaning on legislators to pass the kind of laws that guarantee harsher sentences, and fuller prisons. Other states will send their prisoners here. The corporation will build more even more prison facilities in the state, and I think you all can guess where those prisons will be. The north country seems to serve as the dumping ground for the rest of the state.

A study in Arizona revealed that the privatized prisons were actually costing the state more. The Arizona legislature responded to this by inserting a provision into the budget that eliminates the need for a cost and quality review. In other words, they didn’t like the report, so the solution is not to take action – the solution is to ensure there will be no further reports.
If you don’t think that could/would happen here, you haven’t been paying attention to the sorts of things the NH legislature has done in the last biennium.

CCA has eliminated about 240 jobs in their Colorado prisons. Remember, this is a business. Profit means cutting costs, and that doesn’t leave a lot of choice in a prison. It means hiring people who aren’t well educated or trained, and as few of them as possible. It means cutting back on programs for sex offenders and addicts. It means a lot of solitary confinement. No need to have a big staff if everyone is locked in a cell 23 hours a day.

There is a reason other states don’t do this. It’s a really bad idea.

Apparently studies and numbers really are a bad idea. A story just now making the rounds in northern New England reports that the ski business in the US as a whole experienced its worst winter since the early 1990’s. In 2011, visits to alpine areas in NH were down by 20% from the year before. The ski industry continues to try to make the case that if folks don’t see snow in their back yards, they don’t come to the mountains to go skiing, but in these days of easily accessible information, that’s just lame.

A story in the Laconia Sun about bike week revealed that no one wants to come up with any numbers about attendance. If it had been huge, they’d be falling all over themselves to speculate. It wasn’t huge, as was quite obvious to anyone who has lived in this area for six or seven years. There were bikes, but not nearly as many as there have been in the past.

No one likes to tell these stories or recount these facts. The US is the only country that is in denial of climate change. Those changes are affecting our winters. Only the most devout anti-science ostriches can deny that our snowfall is diminishing. Another factor here that no one wants to get into is the economy. Since the 2008 collapse of the economy, the news media and many economists have fallen all over themselves to present this as a recession, even calling it “the great recession.”

Earlier this month, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman spoke at the 2012 Netroots Nation gathering in Providence, RI. Krugman calls our current economic situation a depression. At NN he said, “When things are going down, it’s a recession. When things are down for a long time, it’s a depression.” Of course we can’t call it what it really is, because that would look bad, and it might call into question our obscene level of military spending. Krugman also said, “This is not an economic problem, this is a political problem.” He’s right. The US has rebounded from a depression before. We know how to do it.

We have a Congress that isn’t interested in solving problems; they’re interested in preventing solutions. They would prefer to ensure greater destruction rather than let the black guy appear to succeed. These aren’t public servants; these are rabid ideologues that will destroy us, if we let them.

We have rabid ideologues in NH, too. On Facebook the other day, the Conway Sun asked what questions readers would ask 2012 candidates. I would ask all of our local candidates for the NH House and Senate how they intend to solve NH’s infrastructure problems. Our roads, bridges, and dams are in trouble, and our telecommunications infrastructure is no better. The bad economy is hurting tourism, as is the change in our climate. Tourism is NH’s second largest industry. We don’t fund our state parks adequately. We have rows of outhouses at our information centers, something that should be a source of great shame to us all, here in the wealthiest state in the union.

If they tell you we can privatize, cigarette tax and/or casino our way out of this mess, they’re lying. Casino revenues are down at Foxwoods, in Atlantic City, and in Nevada. NH needs to have some serious discussions. I wish I thought that would happen. In a state where the media functions as the propaganda wing of the NH GOP, it seems unlikely.

“He who is afraid of asking is ashamed of learning.” Danish proverb

This was published as an op-ed in the June 22, 2012 edition of the Conway Daily Sun Newspaper
© sbruce 2012

Chris Shane did the great cartoon.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Governor Lynch Vetoes HB 1679

Governor Lynch has vetoed HB 1679, a bill that would outlaw "partial birth abortion." This is a rather transparent attempt to gin up the forced incubation advocates, given that federal law already outlaws this non-existent medical procedure. Governor Lynch's statement here.

I say non-existent, because if you were to look in a medical book (one that contains actual SCIENCE), you would not ever find mention of such a procedure. The term was created by the fetus fetishizing terrorists to use to gin up their followers. The proper term for a termination in the last trimester is late-term abortion.

As you can see in the comment section at the Union Leader the crowd is swilling down the gin already. These are the same (male) commenters who are also in favor of eliminating food stamps and TANF - who see no hypocrisy in their position of wanting to force women to incubate. They'd also rather the woman die than have a late term abortion to save her life.

No woman has a late term abortion for any reason other than medical necessity. The mostly male, anti-abortion crowd refuses to recognize that, preferring to portray women who go through hell making this decision as being inconvenienced by pregnancy.

The bottom line is - a woman doesn't get to the third trimester by accident, or negligence. A woman who reaches her third trimester wants to have a baby.

After Dr. George Tiller was murdered terrorist Scott Roeder, a number of his patients shared their stories about the agonizing decision they made to have a late term abortion. They're deeply personal and deeply sad.

So, thank you, Governor Lynch. This was an entirely unnecessary bill, put forth by Freebaglicans who are so unfit to run our legislature that they chose to abdicate their promised focus on jobs and the economy in order to focus on throwing red meat to their witless constituents.

cross-posted at Blue Hampshire

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Wheels are Coming Off the Clown Car

Over this past Memorial Day weekend, NH House Majority Leader DJ Bettencourt announced he would be resigning from the House, effective June 6. Bettencourt said he was going to be getting married, had a new job, and wasn’t planning to run for re-election, so he was stepping down. This created something of a stir, and not only because he’s been practicing the same kind of pre-marital abstinence that the Palin family has made famous.

A few days later, we learned more about what was really behind the resignation. Bettencourt was supposed to be graduating from the UNH Law School, and had realized earlier in the semester that he didn’t have enough credits. He asked fellow GOP lawmaker and attorney Brandon Guida for an internship. Guida agreed. DJ apparently showed up once, for about an hour. He did, however, submit detailed, falsified reports to the college, about the work he’d done during his internship. Somehow, (we aren’t clear on this) Guida, Speaker O’Brien, and Bettencourt would up discussing this matter. They all agreed that Bettencourt would tell the school that he’d cheated, and announce that he was leaving the legislature for personal reasons. Instead, he announced the new job, and posted a picture of himself on Facebook, at the UNH graduation, wearing a cap and gown, and standing with Senator Olympia Snowe. Guida wasn’t pleased, and he publicly outed Bettencourt for his dishonesty. Or at least some of it. Bettencourt resigned immediately, and the new job – at a right wing non-profit headed up by O’Brien, seems to have gone away.

There are many questions that are still unanswered. It seems that if Bettencourt had done what O’Brien and Guida wanted, we the people would know nothing of Bettencourt’s lack of ethical behavior. It sounds suspiciously like a conspiracy to keep the truth behind that resignation a secret. Furthermore – Bettencourt submitted detailed, bogus reports about his internship to the college. Who wrote those reports? Didn’t they have to be signed off on? Did Bettencourt forge Brandon Guida’s signature? Some are calling for an independent investigation into this matter, and I agree with that. This legislative body certainly can’t be trusted to investigate themselves. The Speaker is certainly not credible – he appears to have been all too willing to cover for his pal Bettencourt.

The Speaker sent out an email to the GOP caucus that stated: "Now we are left with the consequences of this event. There will be those that say that D.J.'s failure and his resignation characterize our current majority. Others will say it characterizes the leadership of our caucus. Neither is true."

Au contraire. Both are true. This legislature has been a source of ongoing national shame to our state, from the moment they were sworn in. In one of their first acts, the O’Brien junta tried to force Rep. Mike Brunelle to resign for ethics violations. Rep. Brunelle was the Executive Director of the NH Democratic Party, and in fact, earned a salary for doing so. This was not acceptable to the newly minted Speaker, so he tried to make the case that this was unethical. They howled that Brunelle would write legislation that benefitted Democrats! (Because party affiliation never influences the legislation representatives introduce.) This was flat out stupidity.

Sadly for the Speaker, there were many, many instances of Republican representatives that worked for influence groups or other candidates – notably the new Speaker’s own Speaker pro Tempore; Gene Chandler. Chandler had been on Charlie Bass’s payroll, as well as working as a “consultant” for Steward of Prosperity, a group bankrolled by the odious far right activist Fred Tausch. Then it turned out that former Speaker of the NH House, Republican Donna Sytek had also been the Executive Director of the NH GOP while she was serving as a representative. Suddenly the howls turned to harrumphs, and then it just sort of went away, amidst a lot of IOKIYAR: “It’s okay if you’re a Republican.”

A month later, Rep. Martin Harty, the 91 year old freshman legislator had to resign after telling a constituent that it was too bad we couldn’t send people with disabilities off to Siberia to freeze. Harty was the ultimate lesson in what happens when you just vote for anyone who has an “R” next to their name. On the heels of that ugly incident, the ethically challenged DJ Bettencourt distinguished himself by referring to Bishop John McCormack of the Manchester Diocese as a “Pedophile Pimp.”

All of these incidents took place within the first three months of these folks taking office in January 2011. The level of shame has increased, the longer they hold office. The bill to place warning signs at the NH border, the bill to add quotes from the Magna Carta to all new legislation, the bill to teach creationism in the public schools – the list goes on and on. Meanwhile, the Speaker has bullied legislators, retaliated against those who refused to march in lockstep by removing them from their committee assignments, or in the case of disabled GOP Rep. Timothy Copeland, (a police officer, wounded in the line of duty) moving him from an accessible aisle seat to an inaccessible inside row seat, a seat other representatives describe as the most inaccessible seat in the House chambers. O’Brien has run the House as one might expect a petty, vindictive tyrant would. The early promises of transparency never materialized, any more than the promised laser-like focus on jobs.

Instead, this legislature has engaged in all manner of social engineering (need a job? Repeal marriage equality! Property taxes too high? You need to wait 24 hours for an abortion.) They claim to love our state constitution, even as they filed some 33 amendments to it. Apparently they’ll REALLY love it when they rewrite it. Their aim is clear. They know that most of them will have their hind ends handed to them by the voters in November, so they want to enshrine as much evil into our state Constitution as they can, to ensure that the hands of future legislators are tied by their brand of far right ideology.

The wheels are coming off the clown car, and the clowns are spilling out. Unfortunately, they can do a great deal of damage before we’re finally rid of them, and it will take decades to undo what they’ve done to our state.

This was published as an op-ed in the June 8, 2012 edition of the Conway Daily Sun Newspaper.

© sbruce 2012