Thursday, October 25, 2012

This sums it up:

Backward Isn't Forward

Good news. Election Day is fast approaching. No more ads, no more robocalls or polls, no more emails, and no more debates. The last two years of national politics have been unbearable for all who aren’t marching in Tea Party lockstep. The last two years of NH politics have been unbearable for those who love the state and don’t care to see it continue to be the butt of jokes made by the rest of the world. The opposite of progressive is regressive, and the regressives have had too much control for too long.

Ovide Lamontagne is the regressive running for governor of our state. Ovide is opposed to abortion in cases of rape and incest. He supports the so-called personhood legislation that would make a clump of cells the legal equal of an adult woman. He’s also opposed to marriage equality, and wants to repeal Obama’s health care law.  Despite his obvious religious extremism, Ovide manages (with the help of the complicit media) to be presented as a moderate. All of the extremist legislation we’ve seen enacted during the last 2 years will be compounded with Lamontagne in the corner office. He’s no friend to education or infrastructure, the two biggest needs in our state.

Just this week, a report shows that NH is home to a huge gender based pay gap. On average, women earn $0.65 for each dollar a man earns in NH. Ovide said he didn’t think government should micromanage business, by telling them what to pay people. In other words, Ovide supports the right of employers to pay women less because of their plumbing. At the same time, Ovide does support the right of government to micromanage female reproduction. I’ve been seeing a bumper sticker around that reads, “Got Ovaries? Avoid Ovide.” It’s good advice for everyone, regardless of their ovarian status.

Frank Guinta is trying for another term in Congress. Frank ran in 2010, firmly clasped to the bosom of the Tea Party. In 2012, he’s running away from that bosom as fast as he can, and attempting to reinvent himself as a moderate. Frank in 2010 campaigned on alleged abuses on the part of Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s use of the Congressional franking system. In 2012, we learned that Guinta is one of the top franking abusers in Congress. He opposed Obama’s stimulus spending, but couldn’t wait to get his paws on stimulus funding as Mayor of Manchester. We’ve all seen the pictures of him at the infamous ribbon cutting ceremony for the road to the Manchester Airport that was built with stimulus funds. Above all, we’ve seen no resolution of the investigation into the “forgotten” bank account used to bankroll his 2010 campaign. No wonder Guinta’s regarded as one of the most corrupt members of Congress by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Speaking of corrupt - disgraced former Carroll County GOP Chair Maynard Thomson is running for the NH House. Thomson resigned from his position as County Chair on the day he received a “cease and desist” letter from the NH Attorney General’s office. It seems that Thomson (retired attorney turned romance novelist) was either too inept or too arrogant to properly file the expenditure forms by the state. Political committees and individual candidates are required to send in itemized receipt and expenditure forms once they’ve taken in $500 before an election. I suspect Thomson didn’t want anyone to know who was bankrolling all those ads that the local GOP ran in the newspaper in 2010. In any case, Thomson was either unwilling or unable to fill out these forms – and it really doesn’t matter which one it was. Either way, his actions should disqualify him from holding higher office.

State Senator Jeb Bradley is running radio ads that urge us to vote for him. In his radio ad, he mentions that he worked to save 5000 jobs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. In the interest of honesty and full disclosure it’s important to note that he didn’t do that as a state senator. That was done in 2005, when he was in Congress. In the state senate he’s worked against the workers at the shipyard, by supporting out of state special interest groups trying to turn NH into a right to work state. Apparently even Bradley doesn’t think his record in the NH State Senate is attractive enough to win voters over, so he’s trying to blur the lines between his former role in Congress and his current $100 a year position in the NH legislature.  

Former Rep. Norm Tregenza is worried about perverts. He’s been running ads (big expensive ones, who is funding those?) in the Conway Daily Sun all week, to tell us of his concern about perverts in bathrooms. Why? It’s all he’s got. He certainly can’t run for reelection on his own record, so he’s attacking fellow floterial district candidate and former Rep. Ed Butler for supporting a bill that would have provided some protections for transgendered persons. One of Tregenza’s ads shows a picture of Norm himself (looking rather Hitler youth-ish) telling us what an upstanding guy he is for wanting to keep perverts out of ladies rooms. The ad in Saturday’s paper suggested that the entire ad (squirrelly photo and all) be taped to the back of the ladies room door.  Norm’s picture on the bathroom door? Eeeeuuuww! That’s REALLY perverted.

Women know who the real perverts are. I’ve never spoken to a single woman who is afraid of encountering a transgendered person in a bathroom. The real perverts are the Republicans running for office trying to redefine and normalize rape.  The real perverts are the men who want to regulate women’s reproductive organs and make their most intimate decisions for them. Tregenza is one of those perverts. He’s voted against a women’s right to bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom every time he had the opportunity.

Norman comes across as a “nice young man.” As such, people tend to overlook the fact that he doesn’t appear to have ever had a full time job, never mind a career. He’s a member of the red baiting, racist, anti-Semitic John Birch Society, and was a supporter of racist/homophobe/misogynist candidate Ron Paul. He’s being presented as a sterling character – so please be sure to ask him exactly when he moved out of his district, and why it took him so long to resign his seat after moving.  

As for the three Constitutional Amendment questions, my rule of thumb in these matters is simple: always vote no. The first one is a poorly written mess that will lead to years of expensive court challenges and adversely affect NH’s bond rating. The second attempts to let the legislature run our judicial system. It’s an invitation to all manner of legal challenges. Think about the legislature we’ve had for the last 2 years and vote no. The last question calls for a convention to amend or revise our state constitution. This is an unnecessary action that would cost NH taxpayers millions of dollars.

New Hampshire can’t go forward by moving backward.

Voting records for incumbents:

© 2012 sbruce  

Published as an op-ed in the October 26 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

How Republicans Explain Rape:

Friday, October 12, 2012

So Much For Transparency

On February 7, 2011, newly minted Speaker of the New Hampshire House, Bill O’Brien had this to say: “We are committed to bringing transparency to state government and making it easier for people to know what their government is doing.”

That was certainly a lofty and admirable sentiment. Of course only a month later, O’Brien closed the House gallery to the people during a lengthy debate. The Speaker also refused to allow Concord Monitor reporter Ann Marie Timmins into a press conference. The Monitor had published an unflattering cartoon of the Speaker, and Mr. Transparency responded by taking it out on Timmons.

The Speaker’s latest foray into transparency came at the end of September, when we learned that he’d attempted to keep the LSRs filed by incumbents under wraps until after the upcoming election. There’s an early filing period (Sept. 17 – 26) when incumbents can file LSRs (potential bills for the upcoming legislative session) so that Legislative Services can get an early start on writing and researching the bills. With a 400 member House the proposed legislation can stack up, and indeed, they are. There are 255 proposed LSRs on the House General Court website today.

O’Brien denies making an attempt to change the rules. For decades proposed bills were released in writing every week. In recent years, they’ve been posted daily on the House website. The postings are not comprehensive – it’s generally a title or a reference to the subject of a bill that has yet to be fleshed out. There is often enough information, however, to discern what the bill is about. That’s why the Speaker wants these bills kept quiet until after the election – he doesn’t want the legislators filing them to be held accountable by the electorate. It is rumored that this all came about because flagrant homophobe Rep. Al Baldasaro filed a bill to repeal marriage equality. Apparently “making it easier for people to know what their government is doing” hasn’t turned out so well for a Speaker and a House intent on pursuing a far right social agenda.

A number of bills are coming back, some for the umpteenth time. The Speaker himself has filed a right-to-work bill, despite how thoroughly he was routed on that particular subject last year. Rep. Dan Itse has filed his perennial bill to form a state militia. This is the fourth time Itse has filed this particular piece of legislation, showing remarkable disdain for the taxpayers of our state who pay for the filing and writing of the bill, not to mention the cost of this militia to the state. (An estimated $500,000 per year in 2011) Itse also shows disdain for his colleagues who have to listen to it again. And again. Rep. Robert Kingsbury of Laconia became famous on late night comedy shows last year when he sponsored a bill to include a relevant phrase from the Magna Carta in each new piece of legislation.  Apparently he liked the spotlight, because that bill is back. He’s also filed a bill that requires the rebuilding of the Old Man of the Mountain. The bill to require random drug testing of food stamp recipients is back. As you may recall, in 2011 we learned that this would cost NH taxpayers $3 million a year, while saving them absolutely no money. There are also a few other bills taking a run at food stamp recipients. What I didn’t see were bills aimed at bringing NH into the future. Forcing food stamp recipients to urinate into cups won’t rebuild the NH infrastructure; in fact, it will divert money that could be used to fix our dreadful infrastructure into a witch-hunt against poor people.

The Speaker doesn’t want you to know what incumbents have in mind for 2013, but there’s little he can do to keep their voting history over the last two years a secret. The folks at Granite State Progress have put together a legislative report card database that is very easy to use. You can look up incumbents and learn how they voted on a number of issues during the last biennium. The data was compiled from some 200 roll call votes. This is a great resource, and I urge all voters to use it before they vote.

In July, former Rep. Norman Tregenza told the Conway Sun that the key concerns of valley residents are: “ jobs, liberty, and roads.” He mentioned his concern for road maintenance, and his intent to divert funds for repair work. Given his comments to the paper, I was shocked to learn that former Rep. Tregenza voted in favor of cutting the highway fund – which is where the monies for constructing, repairing, and maintaining our highways and byways comes from. Tregenza also voted against establishing a commission to encourage broadband service in underserved areas. He voted against allowing municipalities to bond for building their own broadband infrastructure. Roads and telecommunications are essential to the economic future of our state, a fact that seems to be lost on Norm Tregenza, despite his claims to the newspaper.  

He did vote in favor of every gun bill, though, including the ones that would have allowed stalkers and abusers to legally possess handguns.
He voted for a bill that would have made it impossible for a married couple with minor children to obtain a no-fault divorce. He voted for every bill aimed at regulating women’s reproductive decisions and defunding Planned Parenthood. He voted to repeal NH’s marriage equality law.  Liberty, it would seem, is only for heterosexual men.

Governor Lynch vetoed a bill that would ban abortion even when the woman’s health is in jeopardy. Representatives Umberger, McCarthy, and Tregenza all voted to override that veto.  That’s right, women. They all voted in favor of letting you DIE rather than get an abortion. That’s right, men. They voted in favor of letting your wife (and possibly the mother of your children) DIE rather than have an abortion that would save her life.

These people are but a few of the extremists desperate to get back into the NH legislature. They all supported O’Brien’s election as Speaker, and will again, should he be re-elected to the House. Gene Chandler didn’t just support the Speaker, he’s also part of the O’Brien leadership team.

I wish I could say “vote for them at your peril” but by voting for them, you imperil the rest of us.

h/t to Mike Marland for the cartoon

© sbruce 2012   This was published as an op-ed in the October 12, 2012 edition of the Conway Daily Sun Newspaper

Thursday, October 11, 2012

They're here

Let me know if you want one/more. Every woman in the state should have one on her car. 

Sunday, October 07, 2012

If We Don't Value Our State, Why Would Anyone Else?

I took an elderly friend for a walk today. She had a stroke a few years ago, and still has one leg that drags a bit, so walking on a flat surface is her preference. We went up to the 1st turnout on Rt. 16, above the Dana Place Inn and below Dead Man's Curve.

There wasn't anyone else there, so we began walking around the parking lot. There was a big pile of beer cans and bottles that some people had dumped there. We both found this distressing. Further down was a smaller pile of fast food packaging. (Burger King) There was also initially appeared to be a big pile of dog poo. Except it wasn't dog. It was human.

After we finished walking, I grabbed a trash bag from the trunk, and picked up the bottles, cans (Bud Light) and Burger King detritus. I left the pile.

There's a picnic table at this rest stop, but no trash can. No trash can anywhere at this rest stop. Of course, if there were a trash can, someone would have to empty it, and that would mean paying someone, and we certainly don't want to do that.

It's Columbus Day Weekend, and despite all the rain that we've experienced during this foliage season, there have been tourists here from all over the country - all over the world. As I keep saying, tourism is the #2 industry in New Hampshire.

We welcome visitors to our state with closed rest areas, with banks of smelly porta-potties, and with parks in desperate need of repair.

It's no wonder that visitors to the area left their calling card: cheap beer, fast food packaging, and a pile of human waste. They were simply imitating NH's own values.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Poppy Sununu

This is my favorite picture of former NH Governor John H. Sununu. Here he is as Poppy Bush's Chief of Staff (he's the short guy with the red tie)  - standing off to the side with his finger up his nose. 

Posturing, Promises, and The Pledge

Gubernatorial candidates Hassan and Lamontagne had another non-debate event (I don't know what to call these things) where they discussed their beliefs, plans, intentions for our state. This time the topic was tourism, which happens to be the number 2 industry in NH.

NH has some distinct problems. For starters, we fund our state parks entirely by user fees. NH is the only state that does this, and there's one very compelling reason why. It Doesn't Work. NH parks are in desperate need of repair, and investment.

I wrote about our rest area/welcome center problem in April. A number of our rest areas are closed, either full or part time, and banks of porta potties are lined up in front. One can see how welcoming this might be to a weary traveler with a full bladder.

The bottom line here is that NH doesn't want to invest in anything. That's been true since I moved here in 1984. NH's infrastructure is the 11th worst in the nation. That didn't happen overnight. It happened over a period of decades. NH is one of the wealthiest states (per capita) in the union. We are also the cheapest. We aren't willing to invest in anything that would move our state forward, because not investing worked for us for a long, long time, and our elected officials (of both parties) are firmly ensconced in the past. By that I mean both parties defend the Loeb/Thomson no tax "pledge." This creates an interesting problem:

From the Union Leader:

The two candidates agreed on a number of issues.
I find that statement alarming - but how can it be otherwise? Both candidates took the pledge, which guarantees that we'll never have the revenue to fix anything that needs fixing. This means a lot of posturing and promises from both sides, while nothing changes. The only place where there can be any serious disagreement between these two is social issues. 

The bridge over the Sawyer River, on Rt. 302 in Hart's Location was washed out during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. A temporary bridge was erected. No work has been done to repair/replace this bridge. Rt. 302 is one of the two main highways in the north country, essential to the transportation of goods and services.  

This is what pledge politics looks like: