Wednesday, November 26, 2008

reasons to be thankful

We won't have to see him doing this next year. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Moving Forward

The US is in a world of hurt, economically speaking. We’ve learned (at least temporarily) that deregulation isn’t such a great idea for financial institutions. The national unemployment rate is the highest it’s been since 1992 – and that is based solely on claims filed by people for unemployment benefits. Many of the jobless aren’t eligible for employment benefits. In NH, the jobless rate is up to 4.1 percent, and counting. It seems that an economy based on paying some people vast sums of money to shift pieces of paper around, while the rest of us are expected to endlessly buy things isn’t really working out so well for the nation. The service economy isn’t a great economic engine. When the bad financial times hit, the first things people forego are things like vacations, eating out, or buying things they don’t actually need. It’s going to be hard times in this area - the Reagan years revisited.

A recent livable wage study released by the Carsey Institute at UNH finds that 70% of NH jobs don’t pay enough for families with only one working parent. About half of the jobs in our state pay enough for a family with both parents working, provided they only have one child. The livable wage is defined as covering: rent, food, utilities, transportation, phone, clothing, household expenses, child care, health care, and a small allowance for personal expenses. This isn’t the high life. This does not include savings or debt. Carroll County has the lowest percentage of livable wage jobs in the state.

Our state’s population is increasingly older. Our young people don’t come back here after college. Given that NH college grads have the second highest student debt in the country, it’s no wonder. If they do come back to NH, they can’t get good paying jobs or affordable housing. Thanks to our regressive tax system, and over-reliance on property tax, we’ve turned children into the enemy. This isn’t news. On a local level, every time the debate on affordable housing goes public, there are the same old arguments about welfare queens moving in from out of state. Given the attractive climate, the local economy, the many amenities for the poor, and the availability of public transportation, one wonders why we aren’t being inundated already. (Warning – don’t fall into the sarchasm)

In October, the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition screened the documentary “Communities and Consequences,” which takes a look at how housing problems are shaping the population and growth of our state. The film is not political, nor does it offer solutions – it just clarifies some of the problems we face as a state with changing demographics. It should be shown to everyone who participates in local government, on any level.

The economy of our area can’t grow in a positive direction if there aren’t workers here. Expecting low-wage workers to commute long distances isn’t the answer. A strong, vibrant community is only possible when most of the citizenry is invested in building that community – and that can’t happen when the workforce is commuting from out of town.

The film is based on the book by the same name by Peter Francese and Lorraine Stuart Merrill. Both the film and the book can be ordered at the website: . Both are excellent resources as communities contemplate and plan for the future. It’s especially important for areas like ours, which rely on volunteer fire departments and emergency squads. If we don’t have young people and young families – who will be manning those fire trucks? Who will be answering the emergency calls?

We’re at a turning point, in our state and in our nation. We need to think about the future of education, transportation, agriculture, jobs – everything, really. We’re entering what will probably be a long period of economic hardship, and that hardship should be shaping our plans for the future. Community building is essential to our future, especially if we intend to continue forward with a citizen legislature. All of our problems are fixable, as long as we have the courage and creativity to make the necessary changes.

”Some experts say that the United States has to fall back on more protectionist policies. We can't run a nation on a service economy. We used to insist that if you wanted to sell something here, you had to make it here. That policy was diluted over the years, and then abandoned. The GM-Ford-Chrysler meltdown may remind even our thickest legislators that people need jobs, and capitalist nations need industries. 

This is so obvious that even the communists have figured it out.” Jeff Danziger, in the Rutland Herald.

This was printed on 11-21-08 in the Conway Daily Sun

Monday, November 17, 2008

out of Joementum

Let's not forget that Joe was defeated by Democrat Ned Lamont in the Connecticut primary in 2006. Rather than accept the judgement of the CT Democrats, Joe decided to run as an "independent Democrat." Defense contractors and Republicans helped fund his campaign, which he eventually won, with the help of all those out of state interests.

Why a non-Democrat was given any kind of chairmanship is a mystery to me. As the chair of the Homeland Security Committee, Joe has done nothing. Lieberman promised to investigate Katrina, during his 2006 campaign. He has not made good on that promise. A cynic might surmise that since the GOP helped him hold his seat, in exchange, he gave up the investigation.

Lieberman should be stripped of all of the perks of seniority. If he wants to caucus with the Democrats, fine. The Senate should not cave in to his threats of caucusing with the GOP. Let the little weasel go, if he has so little integrity. No negotiating with blackmailers and hostage takers.

Kick Joe to the curb. He's a huge liability.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Blue Hampshire

The election is over; most of the results are in and overwhelmingly across the country folks voted for change. Here in NH, voters proved that the elections of 2006 were not a one-time thing – that NH has become a blue state. Instead of acknowledging that, the NH pundits are busy explaining that this election was ANOTHER reaction to our absentee president, George Bush. It will be interesting to see what they blame it on in 2010. Anything to avoid taking a look at the root causes.

“Voters are angry,” I heard John Sununu, Sr. say to a very sympathetic WMUR reporter who kept patting his shoulder on election night. He waggled his big head and said folks shouldn’t vote in anger. Apparently it never occurred to him that maybe the voters were angry with his son, and that’s why they voted him out. Young John E came up with a plan to privatize Social Security that was even scarier than the one Bush was floating, he told business owners worried about health insurance costs to “stop complaining” – and his father wonders why voters were angry? We didn’t like the phone-jamming thing, either, Papa Sununu.

Those who aren’t blaming Bush are blaming Obama. It seems Carol Shea-Porter and Jeanne Shaheen rode to victory on the coattails of Barack Obama. In 2006, Shea-Porter beat Jeb Bradley, and that was explained away as voters hating Bush and being angry about the war. Two years later, she stomped Bradley again, and now it’s being explained away as riding the Obama wave. The same old tired pundits don’t take a moment to think that perhaps we voters like our Congresswoman, and we approve of the job she’s doing for us. Even though she’s been elected (quite handily) to a second term, the punditocracy of NH is still dismissing her as a “fluke.” Jeb Bradley’s two terms were not written off that way. He wasn’t described as “riding the Bush wave.”

NH has changed. One has only to look at voter registration numbers. The number of registered Republicans has been slowly declining while the number of registered Democrats has been slowly growing. This is a sign of change, but one that is ignored by our pundits and pollsters, who seem unwilling or unable to grasp the idea that things can change in NH, never mind that they already have. I don’t expect anything better from the Union Leader, but the rest of the chattering class, including UNH pollster Andy Smith, really need to wake up and smell the coffee. They’re still drinking instant, when the rest of the state is moving on to freshly ground.

The marriage of the GOP to the Christian right has proven to be unpalatable to many. The spawn of that marriage are rabid, intolerant, ideologues – people like Sarah Palin. They appeal to the basest of the GOP base, the kind of Republicans who march in lockstep to whatever they hear on hate radio and TV. Meanwhile, the smart, thinking, and intellectual members of the GOP are jumping ship. The moderate members of the party feel as though they’ve been left behind. It’s time for the Republican Party to have a makeover, especially in NH. The days when having an “R” next to your name on a ballot guaranteed a win are over. De-regulation failed. Trickle down economics don’t work, no matter how many times you try it. If cutting taxes were the answer to job creation, no one would be out of work right now. The unfettered free market doesn’t work, either. Hate and intolerance are not family values. It’s time for the GOP to accept homosexuals. (Hint: it will lead to fewer sex scandals if you accept the closet gays within your own party.) Time to get over your white male selves, and leave women’s bodily autonomy alone. You don’t have to like abortion – no one does. Abstinence only sex ed doesn’t work. Move into the real world, and find ways to ensure abortion seldom happens. Forced incubation should not be a “value.” If you really are in favor of smaller government, then get out of bedrooms and doctors offices. Be what you say you are.

As thrilled as I was to receive all of the local GOP mailers – especially Gene Chandler’s attempt at looking studly by the woodpile – the days of mail order campaigning are over. The NH GOP has no ground game. For the first time ever, I saw a few local Republicans in front of the Conway office holding signs. They may have been attempting to compete with the highly visible groups of Democrats who were out that day, but it was a beginning. Like all beginners, they required a reminder from the Conway PD, who came by to tell them to get out of the street.

The NH GOP messages throughout the campaign were the same one they’ve been using for a century. “Cut taxes, cut spending,” and “NH doesn’t have a revenue problem, NH has a spending problem.” Again, it’s time for the NH GOP to move into the real world. Craig Benson told us that families sat around kitchen tables making decisions about cutting out the things they couldn’t afford in their budget. It’s a typical GOP pronouncement that fails to acknowledge a simple fact. There are only so many cuts one can make. When one can’t afford basic services, it’s time to go out and get a second job. The myth of the tax and spend liberal is just that. George Bush gave us a far bigger government, and borrowed us into near bankruptcy. NH Democrats don’t want to spend foolishly. At the local candidate’s forum, I was struck by how often Gene Chandler said he was against legislation. Maybe, it’s time to start attempting to work with the majority party instead of just bellowing no.

The challenges of the 21st century require different attitudes and solutions. If the NH GOP can’t move into the present, they’re condemning themselves to sliding even further into irrelevance. That goes double for the NH punditocracy.

“Last night wasn’t just a victory for tolerance; it wasn’t just a mandate for progressive change; it was also, I hope, the end of the monster years.” Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, on election night.

This appeared in the Conway Daily Sun on November 7, 2008

It's the end of the world as we know it....

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

First Votes!

In the tiny NH town of Harts Location, voting begins precisely at 12:01 AM on Election Day. By agreement, all of the voters are present to vote, and as soon as they are done, the voting is closed. NH law allows very small towns to do this. Harts Location was the first NH town to begin the practice in 1948. The other NH town to vote at midnight is Dixville Notch, which gets more attention, because Harts Location stopped midnight voting in 1964, but picked it up again in 1996.

Over the years, the voting has taken place in a variety of places in Harts Location. Some years, the voting was done in the dining room at the Notchland Inn. Some years it was done in Harts Location Town Clerk Marion Varney’s basement. A few years ago, the Appalachian Mountain Club was getting rid of a couple of small huts, so an enterprising resident snagged them, and they were put together to make the 2 room town hall where the voting now takes place.

It’s a social event – folks begin gathering at around 11:15, munching on coffee and cookies. Tonight, for the very first time, there was actually a visibility event out on the street. As voters came in, they were greeted by a dozen or so enthusiastic folks holding signs for Obama and other Democratic candidates. The voters didn’t seem to mind, any more than they mind the presence of a variety of media, including a number of Canadian reporters and photographers. Tonight there are 29 voters present, and 11 absentee ballots.

At 11:58, the voters queue up in alphabetical order. At midnight, the countdown to 12:01 begins. Everyone counts the last 10, Moderator Les Schoof bangs the gavel, and Marion Varney is the first voter. Voting is swift, efficient, and over in 4 minutes. The youngest voter was Aron Dindorf, who turned 18 in August. As he said, “it’s pretty awesome.”

After the voting was finished, and declared closed by the moderator, the counting of the ballots began. In many small NH towns, voters still vote on paper ballots, marked with pencils, and counted by hand. Harts Location is one of those towns.
A lot of young volunteers who are up here in NH to help us with grassroots GOTV wanted to witness this. They’ve read about the midnight vote, and this was an opportunity to see it. Their excitement was infectious – and suddenly it hit me – it’s finally Election Day! This is it!

In Harts Location, in Carroll County, N.H., the results are in:
Obama – 17
McCain – 10
Ron Paul – 2 write ins.

Lynch - 15
Kenney - 14

US Senate:
Shaheen- 14

Shea-Porter - 13
Bradley - 16

Executive Council:
Burton - 15
Cauble - 13

NH Senate:
Gallus - 15
McLeod - 13

NH State Rep:
Butler - 16
Buco- 11
Funicella - 10
White - 10
Chandler - 12
Umberger - 11
Wernette - 13
Bacon - 10

Registrar of Probate:
Monet - 10
Hall - 14

County Commissioner:
Solomon - 14
Albee - 15
Okkola - 10
Cools - 9

Go vote!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Joe the Plumber

Joe the Plumber

I finally figured out who Joe the Plumber reminds me of:


Rebels, mavericks, non-conformists - the real ones - never claim the title.