Thursday, September 21, 2006

Walls and Other Boondoggles

So, you’re worried about your health care. If you have it, you’re worried that you’re going to keep losing parts of it (the ever increasing deductible), even as your rates continue to rise astronomically. If you don’t have it – you’re afraid of getting sick. You’re worried about the cost of prescription drugs. You may have a lump, or a pain that you don’t even want to have looked at, because you’re afraid it will be something expensive, and you can’t afford to deal with that. You figure it’s actually cheaper to die than to get sick. You’re also worried about the cost of heating your house this winter, of paying for gas, and sending your kids to college.

Good news! Congress just voted (228-196) for a bill that would require all voters to show photo ID proving they are citizens. That same bill approved the building of a 700 mile fence at the US – Mexico border. This same Congress has spent a lot of time on a flag burning amendment, as well as an amendment that would limit the rights of gay folks. Aren’t you feeling happy that your concerns are a big priority in Washington, DC??

The big hue and cry about the fence is supposed to be connected to national security. As we all know, we get harassed a lot more at airports. Some of us are on no fly lists, which take various permutations. Some folks actually aren’t allowed to fly. Some (like me) are always hauled out of line for wanding, frisking, and a thorough search of all carry-ons and checked luggage. This provides the illusion that we are somehow safer. We aren’t supposed to think about the sad state of port security, or the near total lack of scrutiny of incoming cargo. Instead, our legislators are hysterically hyping the need to keep our borders safe from terrorists!! There’s no time to be concerned about the sorry state of American health care, not when Mexicans might fly more planes into skyscrapers! The fence is projected to cost $3 million per mile, which works out to be $568.18 per mile. No word yet on who, exactly will be building this wall (can anyone say HALLIBURTON?) or whether citizenship papers and ethnic purity documents will be required for this job. One thing is for sure – the money to pay for it will not come out of the bloated Pentagon’s mismanaged budget. The cuts will yet again be made in programs that provide supplemental food to seniors, and other frivolous social programs.

The NH GOP has been working steadily for decades to increase the barriers to voter participation, so it’s really no surprise that Congress has begun to do the same. If that bill passes the Senate, we must all show photo ID at the polls in 2008. No word on how our volunteer poll workers will be trained in checking ID, how much that training will cost, or who will pick up the tab. A lot of folks vote on their lunch hour. Standing in a long line while ID is checked is likely to discourage voters, especially those who have to get back to work. Discouraging voters is the goal – because the GOP believes that poor and minority voters will vote for the other party. Representative Dan Burton is quite concerned that undocumented workers are voting. He didn’t voice any concern about the electronic voting machines with no paper trail, where the votes are counted in secret by the employees of the voting machine company. Every election brings a lot of sad faced commentary about how little voter turnout there is – so it’s heartening to see that Congress is working hard to guarantee that low turnout gets even lower.

Our own Congressman Jeb Bradley has been puffed up with pride that he voted for the REAL ID Act, which is going to give us all a national ID card, and our personal information will be stored in a national database. It seems that Congressman Bradley is working hard to ensure that we will all be sporting all manner of identification, for nearly every occasion. It’s great to see him working so hard to address the issues that most concern his constituents. Worried about the increases in tuition and student loans? There’s probably an ID for that – just ask your Congressman.

Grassroots candidate Carol Shea Porter won the recent Democratic primary, and will be challenging Bradley in November. Within 12 hours of Shea Porter’s win, Bradley launched an attack at Ms. Shea Porter. “The Howard Dean wing of the party was successful yesterday and that wing is far from reflective of mainstream NH voters, and even NH Democrats,” said Bradley. Shea Porter is calling for a set time frame for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. She is also advocating single payer health care. I hear people talk about both of those things all the time – yet Congressman Bradley is calling those views “out of the mainstream.” Bradley assures us that market forces will solve our health care problems. He has a lot invested in that concept, as Harper’s Magazine revealed recently. Congressman Bradley has millions of dollars in stock in pharmaceutical companies, as well as oil, and energy. No wonder he’s happy with the status quo – he’s well insulated from the economic realities the rest of us face.

In this electoral season, don’t let the phony distraction noise overwhelm you. Make a list of your top concerns, and ask the candidates how they plan to address them. Ask the incumbents why they aren’t addressing them. If you get a filibuster instead of an answer, keep pressing till you get an answer. You’re still the incumbent’s employer of record, and you have the right and the responsibility to hold them accountable.

“I bet after seeing us, George Washington would sue us for calling him “father.” Will Rogers.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Upcoming Primary

September 12 is the NH state primary election. Primaries in non-presidential election years are sorry affairs, with a small percentage of our state’s registered voters turning out.

Why bother? The most compelling reason to vote is because you can. So far, we still have the right to vote. Big Brother may be listening in on our phone conversations, monitoring our library book choices, and messing with our hard drives – but we can still vote. In the 2006 legislative session a bill was passed stating that NH voters would always have paper ballots for every election. Unlike Ohio, Florida, and other states with the now infamous and easily hacked touch screen voting machines where votes are counted in secret by machine company employees – we vote on paper, and those votes are counted in public. We know our votes count. The very act of voting can help protect our rights, including our right to vote.

The people of NH are tired of hearing the same promises from the same politicians every single year while nothing changes. NH still has education funding problems. The statewide property tax is driving people out of homes that have been in their families for generations. The Republican Party has had control of the NH House since the Civil War. It’s becoming obvious to many people that a one party system isn’t working. There is little reaching across the aisle to do what’s best for the state – there is just the constant drone of the GOP mantras. If you were at the Five Minute Candidate Forum at the Gibson Center, recently – you heard the drone. Mr. Coburn, the GOP gubernatorial sacrifice said he was “against an income tax and a sales tax. NH doesn’t have a tax problem, we have a spending problem.” How many times have you heard that before?

We have the same problems that have been plaguing us for decades. As long as we keep sending the same legislators back to deal with those problems, we’ll continue to have the same results. NH badly needs some fresh faces, fresh brains, and fresh ideas, from people who are willing to think outside the box, and work together for the best interest of the NH people. It’s time for change, and this is the year to make it happen. We have more choices on the ballot this year than ever before.

The NH Senate has become a place where little is accomplished. Bills seem to go there to die. Thanks to the gerrymandering in the northern district, it will be nearly impossible to replace John Gallus. Fortunately in District 3, voters have a real choice in voting out ineffective GOP rubber stamper Joe Kenney. Senator Kenney voted for SB110, the bill that allowed insurance companies to discriminate against residents on the basis of geography. Small businesses in the north country saw increases of up to 150 percent in their premiums. It was a disaster. Two years later, Senator Kenney voted against SB125, which was a repeal of SB110. Senator Kenney also voted for HB90, the bill that eliminated local control from the town of Tamworth, in the matter of the proposed racetrack. In 2004, Kenney received a $750 campaign contribution from the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America, of Washington, DC. This is the drug industry’s biggest lobbying firm. On the reporting form Kenney turned in, their business is listed as “Medicare.” One wonders, why a Washington lobbying firm is interested in a rural state senator. One also wonders why in the world we want a state senator who is being funded by Washington, DC special interest groups. We have a choice. George Cleveland is willing to work for solutions, not special interests.

Our federal delegation suffers from the same one-party, one mindset syndrome. Our Congressional delegation is badly out of step with our state. The state legislature voted down a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have banned both marriage equality, and the recognizing of same gender marriages legal in other states. Congressman Jeb Bradley distinguished himself by being the only member of the entire federal delegation from New England who voted in favor of amending the US Constitution in the same way. There were 16 anti-immigrant bills before the state legislature this year. None of them went anywhere. Meanwhile, our federal legislators continue to debate the merits of building a wall and all manner of punitive measures that don’t actually address the realities of the problems or the solutions. Jeb Bradley is proud of having voted for the REAL ID Act, which will give us all national ID cards, with our personal information in a national database. The NH House voted in favor of not complying with REAL ID. Sadly, that defiance broke down in the state senate. Our federal legislators are out of touch with the people of our state.

The second compelling reason to vote in this year’s primary is the Congressional race. There are 4 Democrats challenging incumbent Jeb Bradley. State Representative Jim Craig and Carol Shea Porter are the front runners in the primary race. Craig is the NH House minority leader, and the choice of the Democratic Congressional Candidate Committee. The DCCC endorsed him early on, bringing the wrath of those who felt it would be appropriate for them to wait until AFTER the primary – instead of making the choice for NH voters. Carol Shea Porter has a small army of grassroots supporters. She may not be able to afford TV ads, but she has been all over the district talking and listening to people. Jim Craig is a good state legislator, but he’s not national material. He’s even less dynamic than Bradley, and he’s a terrible public speaker. At a candidate’s forum in Sandwich, he referred to Sandwich as “Podunk.” He’s from Manchester, and like many from the south, seems to think the state ends at Exit 15 on 93. Shea Porter, on the other hand, is from Rochester. She’s familiar with the north country. As she proved in Sandwich, she’s a strong speaker who can think on her feet. Congressman Bradley went to New Orleans on a Congressional tour. Ms. Shea Porter has been their twice, volunteering her time. That’s the difference, folks. Jeb Bradley is a man of wealth and privilege who has no experience with the lives of real people. Carol Shea Porter is a real person. This week, Carol has been endorsed by the Portsmouth Herald and the Concord Monitor. Big money should not decide our elections. A vote for Carol Shea Porter will guarantee a spirited congressional campaign, something all voters will benefit from.

“A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there’s no question about it.” President George W. Bush