Tuesday, April 06, 2021

The Dignity of the NH House


The NH House Calendar is published weekly on the NH General Court website. It's a weekly update on what is coming up for the House: voting on legislation, committee meetings, fiscal notes, amendments, and notices. It's a serious publication about the business being conducted in the People's House. 

When a voting session is coming up, the Calendar will list the bills that will be voted on, in the order in which they will be dealt with. In the listing of each bill is a report from the committee that the bill was assigned to, and their recommendation on whether the House should pass the bill or vote it "ITL" which means inexpedient to legislate. The report is a short summary from the majority viewpoint of the committee. There may also be a minority report written by those who disagreed with the majority. These reports are traditionally businesslike summaries of why the majority finds the bill to be worth supporting or worth rejecting. They are not, traditionally, a place for ideological hand wringing and hysteria. This year is not  traditional.

I confess - I'm a nerd. I'm a geek that reads the House calendar. (The Senate, too). I'm a nerd that's been reading the calendar for about a decade, which is how I know that this year is different. 

HB 441, requiring The Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be placed in all public schools. INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE

Rep. Ralph Boehm for Education. This bill requires the school board or board of trustees of a charter school to place a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in all public schools and in every classroom where civics is taught. This is not needed, as the USA has our own Bill of Rights. If anything, the US Bill of Rights should be in our classrooms and not a declaration made by another governmental agency that includes non-democratic believing countries. In addition, NH public schools currently have the right and authority to make local policy regarding issues such as the United Declaration of Human Rights without the need for another statutory directive from Concord. Lastly the bill is yet another unfunded Part I, Article 28-a constitutional issue. Vote 17-3.

This is pretty straightforward. You can see what the intent of the bill is. The majority of the committee doesn't support the bill. In a normal year, the summary would consist of what the bill would require, and a sentence or two about why the majority doesn't support it. It would not, in a normal year, consist of a rant about the Bill of Rights and the UN. This is partisan bleating, and has no place in the House Calendar. And as you'll see, this is by no means the worst from the April 2 Calendar. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

NH State Budget - Conflicts of Interest?


There is all manner of jiggery pokery going on with  the current state-budget-in-progress. Governor Sununu inserted the Hyde Amendment into his governor's budget, despite his attempts to convince us all that he's "pro-choice." 

That's why this piece caught my eye. Garry Rayno for InDepthNH.org

 "Subcommittees of the House Finance Committee have decided to end or drastically reduce two education programs Gov. Chris Sununu touted in his budget address.

One is a student loan forgiveness program for those in high demand professions like health-care that would use revenues generated by the state’s scholarship program, and the other the governor’s School Infrastructure Fund intended to help schools improve internet connectivity and building safety.

Meeting Monday, the committee’s Division II approved an amendment that removed the loan forgiveness program from House Bill 2, instead allowing New Hampshire College Tuition Savings Plan Advisory Commission to decide how to allocate the funds between the UNIQUE program and the Governor’s Scholarship program."

NH has the highest percentage of college students that graduate with debt.  NH has the second highest student debt out of 50 states . Only Connecticut is higher. Some student loan forgiveness would be a welcome relief for NH students - the kind that might allow them to stay in NH, rather than taking their talents and moving to states where higher paying jobs are. These student loan forgiveness programs that are being removed were regarded favorably by Governor Sununu. Whoever is wielding the scalpel doesn't care about that, which is interesting in itself. (What faction of the NH GOP doesn't care much for the governor?) 

This is the membership of the House Finance Committee:

Rep. Jess Edwards (R-Free State) is  on the Finance Committee. He's also the Chair of Finance Division III. 

Like many state representatives, Jess Edwards has a job. The state representative salary of $100 a year isn't exactly a living wage. This is from his Linkedin page

He works for Credit Adjudstments, Inc.  What do they do?

Who else works there? Check out their executive team:

  Representative Jason Osborne (R-Free State) is also the House Majority Leader. 

In a 400 member House, where there are no real ethics rules, there are bound to be all sorts of conflicts of interest. I don't mean to imply that these Reps are up to anything unseemly -  I just believe in transparency - especially in a legislature that has no real ethics rules. 

A budgetary provision that eliminates student loan forgiveness means that debt recovery agencies will still be profiting. If one works for a debt recovery agency - does this create a conflict of interest? 

As for NH House ethics: 

When legislators are about to vote on a bill that has a conflict of interest, they have to fill out a form. 

This sounds good so, far, right? Then comes part two:

Legislators fill out a form that essentially does nothing. If they choose, they can describe their conflict of interest and vote in their own interest anyhow. 

I'm sure we can count on these honorable state representatives to do the right thing, fill out their forms, check off not participate, and recuse themselves from voting on the budget. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

NH Free State Project: From Cop Block to Speed Dial


See the guy on the far right, with the big badge on his pocket? That's NH State Representative Max Abramson (R-Free State Project), who ran for president on the Libertarian ticket. Needless to say, he was not elected. 

Today, when NH House Democrats got up and walked out of the House session, Libertarian Standard Bearer Max Abramson went to the Speaker and urged him to call the state police to bring the Democrats back. He gave the House clerk the phone number. 

Gone are those halcyon days of yesteryear when the Free Staters started Cop Block. Now they have cops on speed dial. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

From Libertarianism to Authoritarianism - Free Staters in the NH House

Remember this meme? Back in the olden days, when the Free State Project first started colonizing NH, they used to tell us this all the time. They don't bother any more. It wasn't true then, and it sure as hell isn't true now. They claim to be opposed to authoritarianism, but that's only because they want to BE  the authoritarians. 

Over the years the Free Staters  have become increasingly allied with the NH Republican Party. Over the last 4 years, they were happy to join the Trump wing of the NH GOP. There's little difference between the alleged libertarians and the Trumpers at this point, and nowhere has that been more apparent than with this bill, HB 544. It's titled: An Act Relative to the Propagation of Divisive Concepts. 

The sponsors are Representatives Keith Ammon, of New Boston, Glenn Cordelli of Tuftonboro, and Jason Osborne, of Auburn.

What are these divisive concepts that these men are so worried about? It seems these three fellows are offended by any talk of oppression on the base of race, ethnicity, or gender. There is no more racism, no bias, no more sexism in the workplace - or anywhere else, because we've fixed all that!  It's time to move on.  They want to make sure that these topics won't be brought up in NH schools, state agencies, or any aspect of government in the state, including cities and towns,  and labor unions. Any diversity training would have to be pre-approved by the Department of Administrative Services. No contractors could be used by schools or state agencies that did not agree to these terms. 

They are especially concerned about being held accountable for actions committed in the past. The Three Wise White Men don't want to be tied to the past. We've fixed all that now. There is no more slavery. Heck, we gave you girls the vote - stop yer whining!  We are all equal now. Who would know that better than three white guys living in NH? 

It's amusing to see this band of libertarians not only cracking down on free speech, but dictating to every aspect of government in our state what is permissible and what is not. 

The bill had a hearing last week that had to be recessed because of time constraints. I've watched the video, and Rep. Ammon claims he filed the bill at the urging of an unnamed NH college professor, who is afraid of a backlash if he were to be identified. I think Ammon created a fictional character to distract us from the fact that HB 544 is cribbed, nearly word for word from former president Trump's Executive Order 13950 which was issued in September 2020. President Biden revoked the order on his first day in office. 

Last week's hearing was on Thursday, February 11, in the NH House Executive Departments and Administration Committee. They take up HB 544 at about an hour and 31 minutes in.

The hearing will begin again on Thursday, the 18th, at 1:30 PM. 

Free State Project mover and Representative Jason Osborne, who wants to dictate speech in government, is the House Majority Leader. His Twitter account is locked. So much for freedom. Keith Ammon has me blocked, because my free speech annoys him. One could almost get to thinking that these doughty fighters for freedom are really very tender blossoms. 

THIS is what authoritarianism looks like. 

*Be sure to read the bill and compare it to Trump's Executive Order

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Speaker Stegosaurus

Sherman Packard in the Hall of Flags at the NH State House. Photo by Oliver Laughland for The Guardian 

State Rep. Sherman Packard was elected Speaker of the NH House on January 6. The previous speaker was killed by his political party in December, about a week after being sworn in. The Covid denying, freedumb loving, anti-maskers prided themselves on their big, mask free gatherings. Hinch took stupid risks, contracted Covid, and died. 

That meant a new Speaker had to be chosen. Packard was Hinch's second in command, so he served as Acting Speaker after Hinch's death. (A death he initially denied was caused by Covid.) He's been promising to honor Hinch's legacy ever since - and so far he's succeeding. 

Hinch had a long history of coddling and protecting the very worst in his caucus. He tried to protect Robert "Red Pill" Fisher from the consequences of founding an online forum for rape aficionados and other incels. 

Hinch tried to cover for Rep. Robert Forsythe, after he was arrested for assaulting a pregnant woman. 

He covered endlessly for the problem that is known as Rep. James Spillane.

That is the Hinch legacy that Packard is honoring, right out of the starting gate, as we learned in this story by Paula Tracy for InDepthNH.org

This week, Packard stripped Democratic State Rep. Rosemary Rung of her committee assignment, because of a tweet she made about David Ellis, the police chief of Troy, NH who attended the insurrectionist activities in Washington, DC that led to the sacking of the Capitol. He claims he didn't participate in the violence, BUT, he was there, protesting the results of a legitimate election. This would appear to be in violation of his oath to uphold the Constitution. We know that Chief Ellis was in DC, because he did an interview there with a national publication, New York Magazine. Representative Rung's tweet called on NH police to denounce Ellis and call for his resignation. 

Packard is attempting to blame Rep. Rung for the fallout in Troy, where the town hall shut down after threats of violence. Ellis outed himself to a national magazine, but Packard is blaming Rung. From the InDepthNH story:

 "In a letter to House Minority Leader Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, Packard accused Rung of acting “beneath the dignity of the House” and committing a “dangerous violation” of the tenet for how things get done in the House of Representatives..."

The Speaker didn't contact Rep. Rung. He chose to speak with House Minority Leader Renny Cushing. Packard wanted to solve this woman problem by going man to man. 

As for the "dignity of the House" the man who has protected Rep. Dawn Johnson from the consequences of her anti-Semitic and seditious social media posts - and done the same to protect James Spillane from HIS anti-Semitic posts has a lot of nerve talking about dignity. Packard turns himself into a pretzel to defend Spillane, and shows himself to be either a liar or a fool when it comes to Johnson. She posted racist/anti-Semitic memes from the Daily Stormer on social media. She has apologized endlessly for the source of her content. She has NEVER apologized for the content. 

Spillane literally tried to incite violence last fall with a Facebook post:

“Public Service Announcement,” Spillane wrote in the post from earlier this week. “If you see a BLM sign on a lawn, it’s the same as having a porch light on at Halloween. You are free to burn and loot that house.” 

Rep. Rung called for NH police to denounce Chief Ellis for violating his oath of office.  Calling for a resignation is miles away from "you are free to burn and loot." 

But this - this is the real cherry atop the shit sundae served up by Speaker Packard:

Packard has told Rung he would consider her request to resume her committee duties, “If you can demonstrate to me in a sincere manner that you regret the tone and the subject of your social media post, and that you realize how it could have contributed to the very serious situation the town of Troy and its public officials are experiencing…”

If Rep. Rung acknowledges that she's a naughty girl, Big Poppa Patriarch will CONSIDER her request to resume her committee duties. Perhaps he'd like her to write on the blackboard 500 times or give her a spanking, because isn't that what we do with naughty girls?  He's treating her like a wayward child, not an adult human. 

Packard would never, ever, in ten million years say this to a male representative from either party.

This is old-school, deeply ingrained sexism at work. 

It's no wonder he insisted on that ridiculous drive-in House session. We know he's a dinosaur when it comes to technology. Now we know he's a dinosaur when it comes to women, too. 

You'd best be careful, women of the House minority party! Speaker Stegosaurus is ready to apply his misogynistic double standards if you don't behave. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

A Year of Free Political Advertising for Sununu


Governor Sununu has been giving weekly press conferences during the pandemic. Not because he's an epidemiologist, a doctor, or a scientist. Not because he's an expert in matters of public health. He's been giving them because he's a politician who seized the moment to advertise himself on the public airwaves (WMUR aka WGOP), for free. 

In our neighboring state of Maine, the weekly Covid updates come from Maine CDC Director, Dr. Nirav Shah. Dr. Shah is so popular that he has a Facebook fan page - and a chocolate bar named after him. 

The weekly Covid updates are not used as free political advertising for Maine Governor Janet Mills.  

Did all this free advertising have an impact on the NH state elections? Absolutely. But don't take my word for it - here's what the (unfortunately) elected Executive Councilor Joe Kenney had to say in the Union Leader

Kenney said he was one of many who benefitted from Gov. Chris Sununu, who became a TV star by virtue of his weekly briefings on COVID-19.

Even Joe Kenney gets it - and he's no rocket scientist. 

Despite lacking any sort of expertise, Sununu got a free platform every week, to stand before fawning journalists who seldom asked any difficult questions,  including the most basic one of all, "Isn't this free political advertising, Governor?"

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Big White Tent of the NH GOP

Photo from the Union Leader

Former NH State Rep. Robert Forsythe was arrested for assault and domestic violence. We learned about the arrest two months later, on August 26. The NH House Minority Leader had this to say:

“Domestic violence and assault are unacceptable and wrong and have no place in our society,” Hinch said. “Rep. Fosythe is the only person who can put pen to paper, and sign a resignation letter. The people of Boscawen have the right to ask him to resign if they believe he can no longer represent them. They also have the ability to vote for alternative candidates, including write-ins, if they believe they no longer want Rep. Forsythe to represent them in Concord. 

This translates as: domestic violence is bad, but we aren't going to ask him to resign. 

Later that same day, the governor released this statement:

“Sexual and domestic violence will not be tolerated in New Hampshire,” Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement. “Robert Forsythe must resign. Immediately."

That didn't even take 24 hours. The very next day, Forsythe resigned. 

On Friday, December 11, we learned that newly sworn in, freshman State Rep. Dawn Johnson was posting material from the neo-nazi website, Daily Stormer, on Facebook and Twitter. It took nearly 4 days for Governor Sununu to rouse himself long enough to make a statement:

 “Regardless of political party, we must condemn anti-Semitism and racism in all forms. These comments are repugnant and appalling,” Sununu said.

Note - he didn't even bring up resignation. It seems that sexual and domestic violence will not be tolerated in NH, but anti-Semitism and racism will. The second thing I notice is the sad attempt at both siderism. "Regardless of political party," is a big, steaming pantload, considering that the neo-nazi call is coming from inside his House. 

Representative Johnson has been quite clear that she has no intention of resigning. She's being represented by newly minted State Rep. Norm Silber, who was just sworn in for his second freshman term in the legislature. 

Let's take a brief side trip into the land of Silber. In 2017, during his first freshman term in the legislature,  he thought it was very amusing to try to defend Brett "kegstand" Kavanaugh from accusations of sexual assault by comparing his actions to playing spin-the-bottle. I wrote about Silber's rudeness to a voter in 2017; Silber Service, Tarnished. In addition to defending his neo-nazi colleague, he's also questioned Dick Hinch's autopsy report. Naturally, Silber and Johnson are both maskholes. 

Getting back to Silber's defense of his neo-nazi colleague -  in a letter to the Laconia Daily Sun, Silber offered up this excuse for Johnson's actions:

The internet can be a very dangerous place for adults as well as children. Just as it is easy for children to be lured into illicit sexual encounters or worse through the internet, so can adults inadvertently fall into terrible situations far beyond their intentions through the internet and email.

How many times have you mistakenly hit the “reply all” key in an email when you only wanted to respond to a single individual? How many times have you inadvertently clicked on a link, thinking it would lead you to one thing when it turned out to be quite different? How many times have we seen posts of fake photos that have been created or altered electronically solely to embarrass someone?

Dawn’s present situation is the second example of someone I know from the Lakes Region who posted or forwarded an internet link to a story that they thought in good faith was legitimate but that turned out to be of an anti-Semitic or racist origin. But I know that neither of those women are anti-Semites, racists, or haters.

That's a big helping of word salad with a side of florid dressing. It's also a bunch of hooey. No one finds themselves at the Daily Stormer by accident. A simple Google search doesn't take you there. As I discovered, you have to know where you're going, or do a deeper search.  

Johnson  posted a conspiracy theory from a neo-nazi website. That theory came with anti-Semitic and racist cartoons.  Silber is focusing on what the media has focused on, the source of the material. Johnson has "apologized" for the source. She has never tried to disavow the content. 

Roger Carroll of the Laconia Sun is the only reporter in the state who acknowledges this: 

Johnson apologized on her Facebook page for the source of the message – the Daily Stormer – but it was not clear that she disavowed the content of the post.

Be sure to read his story - it describes the material that Johnson posted, in great detail. 

Johnson has deleted her Facebook and Twitter accounts. I'm betting she's still plenty busy on Parler. 

To summarize, Johnson isn't going to resign. The Governor, who had no tolerance for domestic violence, has plenty of tolerance for neo-nazis. He's not going to call for her to resign. And when you come right down to it, how can he? This is what the Republican Party is now. These are his people. 

It's up to the rest of us to make them eat this, every single day for the next 2 years. 

A Tutorial for the NH Media on the Meaning of the Word Apology

This was October. Apparently a place opened up in the NH legislature.