Monday, March 25, 2013

Squeezing the Tea Bag

Last month I wrote about a group organizing gun rallies. The group is called "" a group that has been criticized as being a data mining operation; intent on gathering the names, addresses, and credit card numbers of unsuspecting Tea Party types.

Today, a letter appeared in the Laconia Sun. It appears that Tea Party folks have been getting calls from what the NH Tea Partiers refer to as "out-of-state" groups seeking donations.

That didn't take long.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Free State Frat Boys

This is a video made by a Free Stater named Dave Ridley. Dave spends his days skulking about the NH State House and the Legislative Office Building, waiting to stick his camera in the face of some unsuspecting non-Republican state rep, and attempt to get them on camera saying things that will gin up his flock of Free Stater dudebros.

The thing is, New Hampshire's 400 person legislature is populated by volunteers. NH does not have a professional legislature. These people are average citizens who get $100 a year for the pleasure of being harassed by clowns like Ridley. They wade through hundreds of proposed bills every year. The state reps do not have offices. They do not have secretaries. Some of them travel great distances to get to Concord, to work for free. This is a citizen legislature. These are hardly slick politicos - these are regular folks, trying to do the right thing for our state.

I am sorry to be posting this. I hate the idea of giving Ridley the exposure, or adding to his Bitcoin collection. The reason I'm putting this video up is simple - I want you to read the comments.

You can read the comments right here.

The comment section provides some real insight into the mind of the average Free Stater. In the comments Representative Mary Stuart Gile, a woman who serves the state of NH with no thought for financial gain,  a mother, a grandmother, and a woman who has a  Ph.D in education is referred to as a "fascist bitch" and an  especially ugly word that begins with "c" by these frat boys.

This kind of ugliness is why the Free State Project will fail.

And in case anyone gets the idea to scrub and deny that comment section, I have screenshots.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Time to Make the Sausage

Crossover day for the NH legislature is April 4. That’s the day that the bills the Senate bills go to the House and vice versa. The House is lagging behind, especially after one session day was cancelled due to a storm. This week the House had the usual session day on Wednesday, but added an additional session on Thursday. The House calendar warns that this may occur next week as well. There is still much to deal with, and there are a number of bills that require much public peacocking and posturing on the part of the minority party. 

During the House session on March 13, there were 14 roll call votes. A roll call vote is expensive. The individual votes of each representative are published on the General Court website, as well as on paper. I’ve been quoted anywhere from $1000 to $3000 as a cost for a roll call vote. The House Republicans called for 13 of last week’s 14 roll call votes. They heavily used roll call votes during the last biennium, too. Why? Because the Tea Party/Free State/Bircher wing of the NH GOP want those votes on record so that they can use them against candidates  (from both parties) in the upcoming election. In other words, our tax dollars are helping to fund the NH GOP campaigns of 2014. At $1000 per roll call, that’s $14,000 we the people spent last week on roll call votes.  This is legal, of course, but make no mistake, this is what they’re doing with all of the roll call votes. It may be legal but it’s also questionable – so please, ask those questions.

The March 20th voting session ended with 13 roll call votes. There might well have been more, but the posturing around what became the last vote of the day took up so much time that there just wasn’t any time left for more.

The first big bill to be heard was HB 271, a bill sponsored by former Speaker O’Brien, to block expansion of the Medicaid program in NH. This is part of the Affordable Health Care Act, that bizarre attempt to make sure that everyone in the richest country in the world has access to health care. Representative O’Brien had a lot to say on the subject, including, “the free market should find solutions,” and “We can do better for our poor and near poor. Private solutions are the answer.” We’ve been in this mess with health care now for decades, and the free market has failed. I can’t be the only person in the state who remembers SB110 – the bill that was going to give us increased competition amongst insurance companies and lower costs. Instead, the same old insurance companies jacked up the rates in the North Country because of all of the dangerous jobs. There was no increased competition, and there never will be. The entire population of our state is less than that of a major metropolitan city. There’s not enough money to be made here for the insurance monopolies to bother with. As for “we can do better for our poor and near poor,” why haven’t you?

Rep. Sherman, a physician from Rye, said that the uninsured have a 40% higher chance of death. He told a story about a working poor and uninsured patient who can’t afford the treatment she needs to treat her Hepatitis C. Representative John Burt asked Rep. Sherman if he would benefit financially from the Medicaid expansion, to audible groans from the House floor. (Civility? In very short supply.)  The bill was voted down. Almost immediately, Rep. Al Baldasaro tweeted, “Hold on to your wallets.” Given that he called for several roll call votes during the session, his concern for the wallets of NH taxpayers appears to be capricious at best.

There was a roll call vote on HB 454 (called for by Baldasaro), a bill requiring the consent of homeowners prior to installation of smart meters. The committee found the bill inexpedient to legislate, but the wearers of tinfoil tricorne hats seem to regard smart meters as a part of Agenda 21 or some other sinister plot.

The tricorne hat brigade didn’t like HB 242, either, a bill to change the NH standards for child safety restraints. Free Stater Dan McGuire asked for a roll call vote on this bill. Baldasaro immediately tweeted (after the bill passed) that this was NANNY STATISM. Oddly, it’s never nanny statism when it comes to regulating women’s reproductive decisions.

The bill to increase the tobacco tax (HB 659) by 20 cents was hotly contested. Some of you will remember that the tobacco tax was slashed last biennium, and as a result, the state lost over $10 million in revenue. There was a lot of angst on behalf of the poor. Rep. Laurie Sanborn said, “This tax takes money from low income families!” The same low-income families she voted against expanding Medicaid coverage for, less than an hour earlier. (The message to the poor of NH is clear: smoke! Die!) There was much concern for the businesses of NH, because apparently cheap cigarettes are the very basis of our state economy. There was no concern expressed by the extremists for the lost revenues from last biennium. Those roll call votes don’t pay for themselves, Al Baldasaro.

 Rep. Ames from Jaffrey inserted a little clarity into the dialogue, by pointing out that NH would still have the lowest cigarette tax in New England AND no sales tax. There was a roll call vote, and the increase was passed 193-167.

The House also passed HB 573, the medical marijuana bill. Rep. Wright from Tuftonboro spoke very honestly about his wife’s breast cancer, and what a boon this would be to her, and other sick people in our state. It’s never easy to speak about deeply personal issues in public, and I thank Rep. Wright for his bravery. With yet another roll call vote, the bill passed: 286-64. This is the fifth time medical marijuana has passed the House. Perhaps, this time it will be signed into law. Treating our sick and dying people nearly as well as we treat our sick and dying pets would be a big step forward.

Last week, I sat in the gallery on session day with a woman who had never been there before. The blaring horns, the Sergeant-at Arms bellowing for “ROLL CALL” or “DIVSISION VOTE” were all new experiences for her. That’s true for many, if not most NH residents. Everyone should go and spend a day observing our elected officials doing the People’s business.  Otto von Bismarck famously said: “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” Otto’s understandable squeamishness aside, we all need to pay more attention to the sausage makers of our state.

© sbruce 2013 
Published as an op-ed in the March 22 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Full House Email Concerning "Stand Your Ground"

This week, the NH House will be voting on  HB 135, a bill that would repeal the so-called Stand Your Ground law that was passed during the last biennium. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee majority report recommends that this bill ought to pass, by a committee vote of 12-6.  From Rep. Steve Vallaincourt's majority report:

"This bill does not prevent anyone from owning or carrying guns. It simply takes us back to the practice that was in effect for more than three decades (and was never chal- lenged in court) which affirms that a person is not justified in using deadly force on another if he or she can retreat from the encounter. Note that nothing about the bill prevents one from using deadly force if retreat is not deemed possible. Also note that the person is not required to retreat if the incident occurs on his or her private property. Thus, the castle doctrine is left intact. The committee believes a legitimate difference can and should be drawn between actions in defense of one’s home and actions in common or public areas. "


"Many reasons were stated for retaining section one of the bill, the most salient being that ours would be a safer society if people are not encouraged to use guns on the street as a first resort."

Rep. Kyle Tasker wrote the minority report. You may remember that Rep. Tasker achieved national notoriety last year when he dropped his gun on the floor during a Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee meeting.

There will undoubtedly be a floor fight over this bill. There are those in the legislature who are utterly unconcerned with the deplorable condition of our state's roads, bridges, highways, and dams - but are obsessed with passing any and all legislation that will put guns into the hands of all comers. There has been a great deal of time spent on gun legislation already this session. This will undoubtedly be another bill where the minority party (the Republicans) call for a roll call vote. During last week's House session, there were 14 roll call votes, all but one called for by the minority party. The estimated cost for each roll call votes falls somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000. The reason for all of the roll calls is simple - it's part of the NH GOP election strategy for 2014. In other words, the NH GOP is using NH taxpayers to help fund their campaigns.

A lot of hand wringing and hysteria is being generated by the minority party around this bill, as Tuck
illustrates here and here at Miscellany Blue. This is going to be a hotly contested vote. The emails and calls to NH legislators have been flying. A legislator (who shall remain anonymous) forwarded an email regarding this bill  that was sent out to all members of the NH House. The author of the email addresses his public safety concerns regarding HB 135, concerns that we haven't heard before about this bill:

The legislator asked me to go public with this email:

To Whom It May Concern:

We are writing to express our grave concern about the possible repeal of the Stand Your Ground law in New Hampshire. We feel, as an organization deeply committed to the education and preparation of the citizenry in regard to the inevitable zombie apocalypse, that Stand Your Ground is a vital improvement to the law in New Hampshire. Repeal would have significant ramifications on economic development, individual rights, and last but not least - the safety of every New Hampshire citizen, young and old, for generations to come.

The Society for Preparation Against Zombies (SPAZ) is a well-established organization in New Hampshire promoting zombie prep and combat training. The recent passage of the Stand Your Ground bill has enabled us to develop what has become our most effective tactic against the zombie since we began training in 1999. 

"Zombie Baiting" involves provoking a zombie into attacking you. This tactic works by creating a scenario wherein a SPAZ member will make intellectual exhortations in the presence of the suspected zombie (such as: "According to Roger Taney's opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford, 'The undead have no rights that the living are bound to respect,'" or, "People from Phoenix are called Phoenicians,"), provoking an uncontrollable desire in the zombie to consume his engorged, pulsating brain matter. Once this hunger has been aroused a SPAZ may have only seconds to put his training to use, drawing his weapon and blasting the zombie away before it can finish groaning “BRAAAINS!” 

In our bi-quarterly training exercises, this tactic has proven of integral importance to our overall strategy. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 1 in every 5,457 Americans is a zombie; experts predict that rate to explode to 1/100 by 2020. Nothing is more effective at culling the ever-growing population than “Zombie Baiting”. We believe the Zombie Apocalypse is inevitable; however, to forestall this eventuality we intend to expand our training grounds. Our soon-to-open Zombie Hunting and Adventure Park in Coos County is only made possible by the immunity provided by the Stand Your Ground law. Its repeal will doom this multi-million-dollar economic development for the North Country. New Hampshire will become the world-leader in the zombie killing adventure park tourist market - so long as Stand Your Ground is not repealed.  In addition to being a monumental economic stimulus, the training provided in our facility will become essential when - not if - every city and town in New Hampshire is overrun by throngs of the undead.

If statistics are not enough; if you think the threat is not truly serious - imagine, if you will: a family of four are walking down Elm Street in Manchester, on their way to Ben & Jerry's to get some Chunky Monkey, when suddenly a zombie appears - perhaps from the direction of City Hall - creeping, stumbling, lurching - hungry for braaains. The children, a boy, only 7, and a girl, still so innocent at 12 years old - run to their mother for safety, who shrieks, "Oh, the horror!" before fainting on the sidewalk, a collapsed pile of uselessness. The father is carrying a SPAZ-approved AR15-Z ('Z' for zombie); he pulls it out, aiming, ready to fire - but he pauses, concerned. What will happen to him if this zombie survives and sues him? Will his children ever go to college? Will the court put a lien on the home he has worked tirelessly to provide for his family? Will he face prosecution if he doesn't run away? What if he does not have the constitution of a man who comes out “on top” in prison? In the brief seconds he hesitates, the zombie closes the gap between them and attempts to consume the incapacitated mother. At first bite she is immediately converted to a zombie herself, and she awakens with a new thirst for life - or death, if you will; she glimpses her young children, grasping for them, in an attempt to consume them, her own flesh and blood. The children scramble away, quivering behind their father, who is now confronted with not one but two zombies who might sue him if he shoots them. What would you do in this situation? What decision would you make?!?

Those opposed to the Stand Your Ground law argue that it will promote a more violent society, but the facts are these: zombies bite healthy New Hampshirites, thereby creating more zombies, who will in turn bite more New Hampshirites, which will, of course, create more zombies; furthermore, the only way to control (and hopefully eradicate) the rapidly-growing zombie population is through gun violence-- stopping the zombie outbreak before it is truly, terrifyingly out of control. Stand Your Ground holds the key to the protection of the world at large.

Sincerely yours,
Mike Hunt
Public Outreach Coordinator for SPAZ New Hampshire

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Free State Astroturf

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The creation of the Free State Project was announced in an article in “The Libertarian Enterprise,” in 2001. The announcement came from Jason Sorens, then a Ph.D. student in political science at Yale. Sorens got a BA in Economics and Philosophy at Washington and Lee University, a prestigious private college in Virginia. He then moved on to Yale, where he earned his Ph.D. Sorens went on to teach one course “Secession and Autonomy Movements” at the New School University in NY. He was also a lecturer at the Yale PoliSci Dept, before settling in as an assistant professor of political science at SUNY Buffalo. He’s also an affiliated scholar at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University.

Sorens’ original Free State manifesto bemoaned the failure of libertarian candidates to get elected, and proposed the creation of a project where like-minded people would “establish residence in a small state and take over the state government.” After that: secession. From the inception of the FSP, secession was part of the plan. As people bought into the plan, a vote was held to determine what state to move to. The top choices were NH and Wyoming. Former NH Governor Craig Benson (the Voldemort of the NHGOP) invited the FSP to move to NH. In 2004, Sorens held a press conference at the American Enterprise Institute’s offices in Washington, DC to announce that the move was beginning. Yes, that’s right. The American Enterprise Institute. We’ll come back to that.

In the beginning the Free Staters were full of bluster, happy to announce they were coming here to take over. They moved into the town of Grafton and created a lot of trouble with the locals. After a lot of negative publicity, they went underground for some years. During that time they rehabbed their image, and stopped talking about taking over and secession. They moved their target dates back a number of times. These days the website tells us that “The purpose of this cooperative migration is to create a freer, better society through the electoral process and cultural change.” The migration, by the way, calls for 20,000 people to move to NH as part of the FSP.  Carla Gericke, president of the FSP, recently announced a massive fundraising effort in an attempt to ensure that move happens by 2015.

Aye, there’s the rub. The Free State Project has been attempting to create the illusion that they are a grassroots organization, just lassoing little libertarian lambs and suggesting they move to NH, and be peaceful purveyors of liberty and freedom. The Free Keeners, (an FSP subgroup) have gotten attention for smoking pot and going naked in public. The diversion clowns have captured a lot of media attention, while the serious business of the FSP has been completely ignored.

This is not a grassroots movement. The Koch brothers, the far right billionaire brothers who fund Americans for Prosperity, as well as the American Enterprise Institute, have funded Jason Sorens’ scholarly work. They fund the Institute for Humane Studies that funded Sorens. They also fund the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and they fund George Mason University. If Dr. Sorens were a racecar he’d have KOCH written all over him.

A guy named Peter Eyre helped the Free Keene group along. Before he went to Keene, Eyre interned at the Cato Institute (funded by Koch Bros) and went on to become a Fellow at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, and then to the Institute of Humane Studies – another Koch project. It’s no accident that he turned up in Keene as part of the FSP.

So, why are the Koch Brothers funding a group that intends to invade and occupy the state of NH? Politics. There’s a first in the nation presidential primary coming up in 2016. The new FSP target date is 2015.That’s no coincidence. The forces behind the FSP have their eyes on that prize. We’ll also have elections for 2 Congressional seats, a Senate Seat, and the entire NH state government. The NH House with our unwieldy volunteer legislature is easy pickings – easy to get their activists elected, especially in the far right southern reaches of the state. Once elected, even a small group of malcontents can easily bond with the larger group of malcontents known as the NH Republican Party. They can move into cities and towns and have profound influence.

This year in Weare, the police overtime budget was cut by $10,000. The vote was 24-23, with Free Staters making the difference, and later congratulating themselves on their accomplishment in saving taxpayer dollars. Immediately after that, FSP President Carla Gericke dumped a 32-page lawsuit on the town, thereby negating any savings that might have occurred.

In Keene, at a sparsely attended school district deliberative session, the Free Staters helped pass a budget that eliminates a full time athletic director, an English teacher at the high school, foreign language classes for the 5th grade, and a district wide program for gifted and talented students. Lots of FSP backslapping after that! Education isn’t necessary for the masses – only for overlords.

In Grafton, the town budget was cut by 10%. A vote to reduce by 20% failed by one vote. This isn’t strategic cutting, this is chainsaw budget reduction. This is more roads and bridges failing. This is what can happen in your town if you don’t pay attention. This is why we all need to know who candidates are. These are people who don’t care about our cities and towns or our state. Their goal is to take over and dismantle our state government, paving the way for Koch Brothers sponsored neofeudalism.   

Carla Gericke announced that the FSP would be applying for non-profit, tax-exempt status. This reeks. This is a faux-grassroots group, attempting to hide their activities behind tax-exempt status. Their stated goals from the beginning have been to invade and occupy our state, and dismantle our state government, and then secession. That’s an inconvenient truth now, hence the need for the non-profit smokescreen.

There’s an irony inherent in all of this. The Free Staters march in and cut budgets, and that ensures the further decay of the NH infrastructure. The worse our roads and bridges get, more our quality of education diminishes, the likelihood of businesses moving to NH decreases in direct proportion. Taxachusetts and Vermont are creating jobs, while NH is losing them, despite our tax-free status. The FSP will be opposed to the kind of investments the NH economy needs, thus ensuring the failure of their own project.

© sbruce 2013
This was published as an op-ed in the March 8, 2013 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

Note to Free Staters: The comment section of this blog is heavily moderated. Don't expect to see your long libertarian tirades published, or your complaints about how I hate freedumb and libertea. Don't bother bleating about how I'm engaging in censorship and I'm afraid of you. This is my blog. I own the content. Think of this as a microcosm of the free market you folks claim worship. It's mine. I can do as I want with it. I choose NOT to give FSP grifters free advertising space.