Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Party of Patriarchal and Stupid

In today's Telegraph, Kevin Landrigan does some damage control for Rep. Jordan Ulery in his role as cup bearer and tender to the NH GOP media narrative. Whenever Republicans get caught doing something stupid, they immediately try to pass it off as a joke. 

I saw the emails. Ulery wasn't joking. He had no idea those were satirical sites. But hey - he says so, and that's good enough for the NH media, where GOP is always the default setting. 

As for the picture in question, Ulery and Hopper had this to say:

Hopper said the photo is no different than advertising and programs on television going back to the “Dukes of Hazzard” series of the 1970s.

“The picture wasn’t any more offensive than what you can see on TV every night,” Ulery said.

It's awfully big of Ulery and Hopper to tell women what they should be offended by. Until they grow a pair of ovaries, however, they don't get to make that decision for their female colleagues, some of whom expressed their displeasure with the photo. 

That's the most stunning thing of all. Hopper and Ulery heard from colleagues who stated that they were offended. In that situation, most of us would apologize profusely. 

Not these two. Their response is to tell their colleagues that they don't have any right to be offended. (I'm pretty sure that neither of these ill mannered oafs would be pleased if hot, young male beefcake shots started being circulated by the women.) Their conduct here is disrespectful of their colleagues and flat out RUDE. 

These fine patriarchs will make women's reproductive decisions for them, ignore the wage gap in NH, and now - tell women not to be offended by the soft core porn they like to ogle. 

Nice to see the GOP working overtime to change their image as the party of stupid. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Creepy Old Pervs in the NH House

It's only Tuesday, but NH State Rep. Jordan Ulery is already having a bad week. As Tuck over at Miscellany Blue reports, Ulery got into a discussion on the House all legislators email system. Somehow a discussion of imaginary gun bans was steered into the land of bestiality, polygamy, and gay marriage by Rep. Ulery.

In an effort to support Ulery, Representative Gary Hopper posted this:

Naturally,  the way to foster respectful dialogue with one's fellow elected public servants in the NH House of Representatives is by posting pictures of scantily clad young women. 

Except that some of Hopper and Ulery's fellow legislators didn't see it that way. They found it insulting, demeaning, and lacking in professionalism. 

This is Ulery's response to those criticisms:

Gals and guys the message is in the comparison between Huston and Chicago, the photo is merely that - a photo to attract attention, it is neither obscene nor demeaning. The rather healthy looking young woman got paid for her pose, she chose a career of modeling in order to be an independent woman. Yet there are several women here objecting to a woman having a career. It may not be your thing, but why object to another, having the necessary skills and attributes, performing?

What does the photo have to do with guns - well it attracted your attention didn’t it?! Hopefully the comparison was read, unless one was too busy looking at the photo.

That is part and parcel of advertising and (the collective we) see it every day on TV, Newspapers, Magazines, movies (there is always the obligatory nude or erotic scene that seems to have very little to do with the plot, eh?) it has become part of society. In the “good old” movie days the screen just faded to black or the door closed (even in Westerns with John Wayne) and what was implied was left to your imagination. At least we don’t have models (male and female) demonstrating how to put on undergarments as appears on some Canadian or European networks, they just prance around in their undies here.

Well, all you sillies - this is a healthy looking young woman who was paid to pose in order to be independent. This is just what we see in advertising every day. Jordan Ulery - who makes a big point on his FB page of presenting himself as a very pious Catholic - is happy to ogle a "healthy young woman" who is at the very least young enough to be his daughter, and quite possibly his granddaughter. 

This may be part and parcel of advertising, but the House email system isn't for advertising. It's for representatives to communicate with one another, and with their constituents. The taxpayers of NH are paying for this system - and I'm pretty sure that most of us are not at all interested in subsidizing the soft porn fantasies of Hopper and Ulery. 

I'm also pretty sure that if the women of the NH House were posting beefcake pictures attached to their emails, the boys would be wailing and moaning in horror. 

I worked in a kitchen once where the walls were covered with pictures and post cards of barely clad "healthy young women." The chef's office was covered with posters of scantily clad busty beer models. 
One night all of the men were off. I took down all of the pictures and replaced them with pictures of barely clad healthy young men. No nudity, just beefcake. My phone started ringing at 6 am, with calls from men who were bordering on hysteria. One sounded on the verge of tears. How could I? What would make me think they wanted to look at pictures like this?

When I asked them what would make them think that I wanted to look at pictures of barely clad women, they stuttered. That's normal, they said.  Half naked buxom babes are the default setting of the world, apparently. Expecting to work in a professional atmosphere was just plain silly of me. 

Getting back to creepy old men in the legislature: 

It's a volunteer legislature - but surely there is a modicum of professional behavior that should be expected from our representatives. Remember former Speaker O'Brien's strict rules about electronic communication on the House email system? 

"Electronic media cannot be used for knowingly transmitting, retrieving, or storing any communication that is: 1. Discriminatory or harassing; 2. Derogatory to any individual or group; 3. Obscene, sexually explicit or pornographic; 4. Defamatory or threatening.  In addition, also prohibited are jokes . . . or any other non-legislative work activity that is not allowed on government computers."
O’Brien warns that “there will be zero tolerance for any violation” of the language section of the policy. Upon any House member violating that section “his or her legislative email privilege will be immediately terminated.”

Ulery and Hopper are both in violation of the rules put into place by their fellow Republican, former Speaker Bill O'Brien.

Why aren't these rules being enforced, House Majority leadership?

h/t to Tuck, Concord Patch, and HuffPo

Monday, July 29, 2013

NH House Republican Alliance Legislator Ratings

The NH House Republican Alliance just came out with their rankings of state representatives, based on 100 votes. All those roll call votes were essential to this process. This is how they explain the ratings system on their website:

 A grade of 100% indicates that a legislator voted in perfect conformity to the NH State Constitution, traditional Republican values, and the NH State Party Platform.  On the other hand, a grade of 0% indicates that a legislator never voted with the NH State Constitution, traditional Republican values, or the NH State Party Platform.

Let's just say that Nate Silver isn't going to be calling them for ideas on gathering polling data. The scorecard does have some interesting results. According to the Concord Monitor:

Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff, a Penacook Democrat who participated in all 100 votes, scored 16 percent.
Six Republicans had perfect, 100 percent ratings: Jeanine Notter of Merrimack, Moe Villeneuve of Bedford, Emily Sandblade of Manchester, Joe Duarte of Candia, Daniel Tamburello of Londonderry and Kyle Tasker of Nottingham.
The highest-ranked Democrat was Michael Garcia of Nashua, at 87.5 percent – he frequently sides with the GOP caucus. The lowest-ranked Republican was Carolyn Gargasz of Hollis, at 40.7 percent, followed by David Kidder of New London at 44.7 percent.

What the Monitor doesn't point out is also interesting. Emily Sandblade, one of the perfect 100% rated Republicans is a Free Stater. So is Michael Garcia, the high ranking Democrat. There's a reason he "frequently sides with the GOP caucus." He's not actually a Democrat. He ran as a Democrat so that he could get elected in his district. (He would have come under much more scrutiny as a Republican. The Democratic Party has turned a blind eye to Free State fauxDems.)  Garcia's HRA rating is higher than that of Gene Chandler - the House Minority Leader, and lifetime conservative Republican. 

Free Stater and fauxDem Tim O'Flaherty got a 75.8% rating from the HRA. He voted "right" 69 times out of the 91 votes he cast. Free Stater Democrat Joel Winters voted right 63 times, and scored a 63% from the HRA, on his 100 votes. 

Free State Republican Mark Warden voted right 80 times, and scored a 90.9% from the HRA on 88 votes. Other Free State Republicans: Laura Jones voted right 92 times out of 100, and received a 92% rating from the HRA. Dan McGuire voted right 93 times out of 97 votes and scored a 95.9% rating. Calvin Pratt voted right 84 times out of 85, and got a 98.8% rating. Carol McGuire voted right 99 times out of 100, and got a 99% rating. 

It is interesting to note that Kyle Tasker, who failed to vote for months, even if he was present, scored a perfect NHRA 100%. Tasker voted right 37 times. Of course he only voted 37 times out of 100. Where was young Tasker when he wasn't voting? Practicing his quick draw skills in the hallway perhaps?

Other GOP notables:
JR Hoell voted right 83 times out of 85, and rated a 97.6%. Disgraced former speaker Bill O'Brien (who refused a committee assignment this year) voted right 85 times out of 87, and earned a 97.7% rating. Goobernatorial candidate George Lambert voted right 90 times out of 91, which gave him a 98.9% score. Rep. John Burt voted "right" 99 times out of 100 and got a 99% score. Former State Rep. Stella Tremblay voted right 54 times out of 83, and earned a 91.5% score. 

A legislator in line and marching in lockstep with the Tea Party/John Birch/Free Stater ideology of today's NH GOP is going to have a high score, regardless of party affiliation. 

These are not folks concerned with what is best for the state. They're concerned with adhering to the ideology of the freedumb and libertea crowd. Their agenda seems to consist of GUNS, GUNS, GUNS, regulating ovaries and voters, GUNS, no new or increased revenue sources, GUNS, and did I mention, GUNS?

The scoring system doesn't reward effective legislators. Jeanine Notter sponsored 10 bills this year. Seven were ITL'd (voted inexpedient to legislate) and three were retained in committee. Kyle Tasker, another 100% rated legislator sponsored 7 bills. Of those 7 bills, 2 passed and one was retained. One concerned home wine production, and two concerned marijuana. Again, not an effective legislator, but clearly one who enjoys recreational drugs. Emily Sandblade sponsored 5 bills. Three were ITL'd, one is retained in committee, and one passed.

Apparently as ineffectual (and in Tasker's case, weirdly absent) as they all are, they voted for the freedumb version of the CONSTATOOSHUN and that's all that matters. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

We Didn't Send You to Congress to Be a Blue Dog, Annie (part 3)

Thanks to Edward Snowden, we now know that there's a huge US spy program that is able to collect all manner of data, including our phone call records.

I've never had contact with anyone I knew was a terrorist - yet I'm on an airline watch list. I'm allowed to fly, but not unmolested. Every time I fly, I get hauled out of line, felt up, wanded, and everything I have with me is searched: computer bag, purse, and checked baggage. Why? I don't know. I can't find out either, because no one will admit that I'm even on a list, because that's protected information, thanks to the Patriot Act. I can't find out how I got on a list or how to get off - because there is no list. Frisking me at airports keeps the rest of you nationally secure - middle aged women being such a big terrorist threat and all.

Neither the CIA or the Dept. of Fatherland Security can stop actual terrorist attacks, probably because they're too busy spying on US citizens. Since the beginning of the good old USA, whenever the opportunity arose, there were those brave patriots who thought the answer to any threat was spying on their fellow Murkins.

This week, there was an amendment to the bloated Defense Appropriations bill that would have limited the NSA's (National Security Agency) ability to collect electronic data, including phone call records.
It was called the Amash amendment. Most of us thought it was a fine idea. We don't like the idea that we're being spied on. Obama, of course, supports the spying, as do many in leadership. Surveillance means big bucks being shoveled at contractors, and they certainly wouldn't want to interfere with that.
The amendment failed, on a vote of 217-205.

Here in NH, our Congresswomen were split. Carol Shea-Porter voted for the amendment:

This week, after very careful analysis and meetings with those pro and con, I voted for the Amash Amendment. As we have all seen in the last few months, government intelligence activities are in dire need of more transparency. I voted for the amendment because it would have helped keep our government accountable to the people and still allow for the collection of necessary information.

Annie Kuster, who ran for Congress as a progressive, got there, and settled in as a Blue Dog, voted in favor of continued surveillance.

"Rep. Kuster strongly believes we can and must protect both our national security and our constitutionally protected right to privacy, and she is committed to conducting vigorous oversight of our country's intelligence operations. She supports a bipartisan measure that would ban the NSA from acquiring the content of Americans' phone calls and emails without undermining counterterrorism tools that help keep our country safe," Kuster spokesman Rob Friedlander said in a statement Wednesday night.

Pre-election progressive Annie was concerned about military spending, war, surveillance, etc. Blue Dog Annie marches in lockstep with the wingnuts on the far right, far too often. 

Kuster has surrounded herself with bad advisors from the Lieberman wing of the Democratic Party. She didn't have to. I don't know why she felt the need to veer sharply to the right the minute she landed in DC. I do know this: many of her former supporters are disgusted, and will not contribute to her fundraising for 2014. Groups that supported her last time are disgusted, and won't support her again. If only the NH Democratic Party were smart enough and strong enough to encourage someone strong to mount a primary challenge against Kuster. They aren't. 

O'Brien doesn't have a chance, but if Charlie Bass wants his old seat back, he's likely to win it. 

We didn't send you to Congress to be a Blue Dog, Annie. 

We Didn't Send You to Congress to be a Blue Dog Annie, Part 1
Part 2

Honorable Mention: Kuster joins No Labels

Newspaper stories about this vote:  Concord Monitor and the Union Leader

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pass the Popcorn

The candidates are coming! The candidates are coming! The next presidential election is three years away, but already the fringe hopefuls are coming out of the woodwork to visit NH to test the waters. Or cast the maple leaves.  (Note to candidates: careful with maple syrup. Ask Rick Perry.) Or maybe just to fatten their PAC funds. In any case, it’s time to make a fresh batch of popcorn and settle in to take a look at the first round of  hopefuls who have no chance of reaching the White House.

Former Florida Congressman Allen West will be the keynote speaker at the Nashua Republican Committee’s annual “Steak Out” fundraiser in August. West is a big favorite of the Tea Party crowd. West is indeed a colorful character, so much so that he lost his GOP seat in Florida, of all places, to a Democrat. These days, he’s a paid commenter at Fox News. He recently told Sean Hannity that we should elect someone who has been “called” to be president. Voices in his head? God? Wrong number? Stay tuned.

 In the wake of President Obama’s remarks about racism in the US, West was quick to say he’d never experienced any such thing as a boy in inner city Atlanta, because HIS parents brought him up to be respectful. His respectful nature fails when it comes to women. In 2011 he called colleague Debbie Wasserman Schultz, “despicable, vile, and not a lady.” Before being elected to Congress, West was a monthly contributing writer to a biker magazine that regularly featured misogynistic material, including one article asking readers to imagine having sex with the aforementioned Congresswoman. Other pieces referred to women as “oral relief stations.” If Allen West were coming toward my car, I would lock the doors post haste.

West was forced to retire from the Army after he admitted to watching his men beat an Iraqi policeman that West suspected of planning an ambush. West fired a gun near the man’s head to scare him into divulging the details of the alleged ambush. There weren’t any. There was no plot, as all investigations revealed, despite West’s claims that his actions saved lives. Far from being repentant, he campaigned on being proud of his actions. In some circles, torture and detainee abuse is something to be proud of, along with Islamophobia.

That leads us to noted Islamophobe, Congressman Peter King of NY, who will be speaking to the Carroll County Republicans in August, and the Strafford County GOP in September. King is considering a run for president because he wants to push a national dialogue about the need for a more robust national security. Given that we are currently shoveling 58% of our federal discretionary budget at the Dept. of Defense, one wonders how much more robusticity we can afford. Rep. King was the Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee. The Dept. of Homeland Security is one of two cabinet level federal agencies that are unable to pass an audit. The other is the Pentagon.  

King was quite annoyed with Senator Aqua Buddha’s recent filibuster on drone strikes, calling it a “trivial and unimportant debate.” King also recently called for the prosecution of journalists who report on classified information. He doesn’t seem to think that we have the right to know about the US surveillance programs that came to light thanks to Edward Snowden. King would like to make sure that you don’t sully your pretty little head with any knowledge of what kind of things the government is up to in your name.

Tea Partier Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is coming to headline a NH GOP fundraiser in late August. He’s also going to be the keynote speaker at a Florida Tea Party event hosted by the Koch Bros. funded group Americans for Prosperity.

Cruz was elected to the Senate last year. This is the first time he’s held office. Cruz was born in Canada to a father who was a Cuban citizen and an American mother. There are some questions as to whether he’s eligible to be president on those grounds. The rest of us have other questions about his eligibility.

Cruz is a proponent of the Tea Party/John Bircher tin foil hat brigade on the issue of Agenda 21. Cruz thinks it’s a plot by George Soros who is leading the UN to eliminate golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads. Senator Cruz apparently slumbered through 2008, and thinks that turning the Social Security Fund over to Wall Street is a good idea. He also believes that Sharia law is an “enormous problem” in the United States, despite a lack of any evidence that this is so. It’s GOP standard issue Islamophobia.

Cruz is definitely a big bagful of nuts. He recently said that marriage equality would lead to hate speech laws and the imprisonment of pastors who support traditional marriage. Again, there’s no evidence that any group is moving toward any such thing – but a lack of fact or evidence doesn’t seem to deter the folks on the far right.

NH GOP Chair Jennifer Horn calls Cruz, “one of the most principled and exciting new leaders in the Republican Party.” This is the same Jennifer Horn who has also said that the philosophy of the Free State Project “is something that’s right in line with the Republican Party.” The Free State Project is a group of libertarian anarcho-capitalists moving to NH with the goal of taking over the state, dismantling state government, and threatening to secede. They’re hoping to move 20,000 of their fellow Rand worshippers to NH in time to swing the 2016 election. As people in some towns and counties (notably Carroll, Strafford, and Belknap) can attest, they’re already doing some very real damage. In a video of a panel discussion of Free State office holders, Rep. Mark Warden said, “The Republican Party asked Carol McGuire (also of the FSP) to recruit more FSP candidates.”

The NH GOP has obviously learned nothing from their last round of electoral defeats, and has every intention of continuing to merge with the fringiest of the fringe. This first round of presidential wannabes are straight from the Mad Hatter’s table.

Pass the popcorn. 

© 2013 sbruce
published as a bi-weekly column in the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sexting etiquette

It's never okay to send a woman an unsolicited dick picture. 

More Prattefalls

Ah Cornerstone - how the family values have changed. Only a few years ago, founder Karen Testerman expounded on how holding hands should be discouraged because it "leads to other things."

I wonder what she makes of Miss Pratte's television viewing:

This is a show where a woman is shown dating and kissing numerous men on television, in an attempt to meet a husband. This season began with one woman and 25 guys.  Every week at least one of the potential suitors is eliminated. When the show reaches the final episodes she shares a night alone in a "fantasy suite" with each one of the final three, before choosing the one she will pretend she's going to marry. 

According to one former contestant, there's a lot more than hand holding going on behind closed doors. This year, word is that  Desiree will be taking the bachelors for a test drive.

From the Cornerstone website:

Relationships are wonderful gifts given to us by God. As we read in the Bible, the most-intimate relationship is marriage between a husband and a wife.

Apparently the most intimate relationship can also be given to us by a television reality show! 

Let me be clear - I'm no prude. I don't care what any of these people do, or who they do it with. (It is silly that they pretend they're going to get married.) I don't care that Ashley watches this tripe (as mockworthy as it is). The trouble with wagging a prissy moral finger and presenting yourself as possessing superior values is that you're setting yourself up for a fall. 

Like having some jerk on the internet point out that you (of the allegedly superior moral values) are cooing on Twitter while watching a show about a woman who is paid to be on a reality show, and who is having sex with some of the contestants. Isn't there a word for that? Anyone? Karen Testerman? 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Face of Evil

 Rolling Stone put Dzhokhar Tsarnev (aka the Boston bomber) on the cover of the magazine. They used the picture most commonly associated with Tsarnev. The howls of outrage began immediately. 
How dare they "glamorize" Tsarnev, and make him look like a teen idol? That this picture has been associated with him from the beginning is apparently irrelevant. There has been much wailing, moaning, gnashing of teeth, threatening boycotts, etc. We aren't adult enough to have the conversation about what went wrong in this kid's life that he turned into a terrorist. We just want to yell about a magazine cover. 

Why? Because we're a nation of idiots, who apparently need to have the media sanitize images for our protection. (Which is why the foreign versions of many US magazines run different covers overseas.) We can't handle reality - and the reality is that the kid looked like a teen idol. We want our monsters to look like monsters. 

Timothy McVeigh might not have looked monsterly enough, so a picture of him looking angry was chosen for this cover. So we didn't miss the point, THE FACE OF TERROR was put on the cover in big letters. Whew. No way to miss that point. 

Or the next one. Just in case, they stamped EXECUTION ON HOLD across his face. Hard to miss. 

Teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people and injured 24 others when they shot up the school in Littleton, CO. They looked like high school kids, so as a counterbalance, the cover included pictures of all of the dead victims.

We want our monsters to have cloven hooves and horns, so that we can recognize them when we see them. At the same time, we all know that isn't the way it works. 

We have all known someone in our community who beats up their wife, or molests kids - people who look perfectly normal. 

The boyfriend who hit me so hard he almost broke my jaw back in the early 1980's looked like an average guy. The guy who stalked me for 10 years and sent me nasty, threatening letters was a popular person in the community, beloved by many. 

They didn't have swastikas carved on their foreheads, like Charlie Manson. They fit in. They were innocuous. And that is where the REAL terror comes in.  Abusers, rapists, and killers walk among us. We can't tell who they are by looking at them. The most ordinary looking people are capable of great evil. Scary? You bet your ass. 

We read stories about the guy who suddenly snaps and kills his wife and then himself. We can't see it coming. Just as we can't see the monsters coming. Instead of acknowledging that, it seems we'd rather have the media manipulate us into thinking that we can tell. That monsters DO have a certain look about them. 

Now here's a guy who is responsible for thousands of deaths in El Salvador. He signed off on selling weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of US hostages held in Iran. The profit generated from the secret sale of those weapons was used to secretly fund the Nicaraguan Contras, whose death squads were responsible for over 70,000 civilian deaths and too many rapes to count. Yet his smiling face is presented to us (even now, long after his death) as the saintly face of American democracy. His face scares me far more than Tsarnev's ever could. 

We want to be manipulated by the media. It's easier that way. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mitch Daniels; Academic Cop

In a disturbing AP story in Bloomberg Business we learn that former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (now president of Purdue) was trying hard to ban books and eliminate "liberal propaganda" at Indiana public universities while he was still governor of the state. Daniels was hired as president of Purdue by a board of trustees he appointed, despite his lack of academic credentials. (He's a lawyer.)

He does have other skills. AP accessed a number of emails through a FOIA request that show Daniel's obsession with Howard Zinn:

"This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away," Daniels wrote. "The obits and commentaries mentioned his book, 'A People's History of the United States,' is the 'textbook of choice in high schools and colleges around the country.' It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page."

"This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state. No student will be better taught because someone sat through this session. Which board has jurisdiction over what counts and what doesn't?" Daniels responded three minutes later.

To his credit, he's completely unrepentant:

"We must not falsely teach American history in our schools," he said in a Tuesday email to the AP. "We have a law requiring state textbook oversight to guard against frauds like Zinn, and it was encouraging to find that no Hoosier school district had inflicted his book on its students."

Meanwhile, back at Purdue:

Daniels has adopted a different public approach since taking over at Purdue. He hosted a lecture that included AAUP members on speech suppression at universities nationwide, and he sent an "open letter" to the Purdue community in January saying universities have squashed free speech rather than encourage it.

In other words, he's for censorship, except when he's against it. 

Let's give the eminently credible  Professor Zinn the last word here:

Scholars, who pride themselves on speaking their minds, often engage in a form of self-censorship which is called "realism." To be "realistic" in dealing with a problem is to work only among the alternatives which the most powerful in society put forth. It is as if we are all confined to a, b, c, or d in the multiple choice test, when we know there is another possible answer. American society, although it has more freedom of expression than most societies in the world, thus sets limits beyond which respectable people are not supposed to think or speak. 

Luckily we can just leave it to Mitch. He'll set those limits for us.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cornerstone's Prattefall

After the Zimmerman verdict was announced on Saturday night, Ashley Pratte the Executive Director of Cornerstone Action/Policy Research sent out the tweet you see above. 

An adult man who killed an unarmed boy was found not guilty, and Miss Pratte* calls this justice. 

In my own understated way, I called it as I saw it, and mocked Miss Pratte. 

From Cornerstone's mission statement: 

Cornerstone communicates with a reasonable, persuasive, and compelling voice on family issues in the media and in the halls of Concord.  We believe the origins of our culture were purposely rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and thus advocate for the traditional New Hampshire values of personal responsibility, strong families, limited government and free enterprise.  

I guess I just don't understand contemporary Judeo-Christian values. Is applauding the not-guilty verdict of an adult man who killed an unarmed boy what Jesus would do? Is finding this verdict "justice" the use of a "reasonable, persuasive, and compelling voice on family issues?" 

More from the mission statement: 

We believe that one person can make a difference in his or her community. In our democratic-republic form of government, public policies essentially stem from the values, attitudes, and behavior of people and institutions. Therefore, changing laws without changing the hearts, minds and lives of people proves futile. We believe that influence over hearts and minds are earned by compassion in service, wisdom in relationships, and intellectual excellence in persuasion.

Oh, well, that explains it. Ashley was trying to influence hearts and mind by her use of compassion, wisdom, and intellectual excellence.

A perusal of the Cornerstone website reveals a lot of Christian oriented material. They have a compassion project. They have a page of lessons on social justice from the  the Heritage Foundation. Cornerstone has a page promoting Focus on the Family's Truth Project, which claims to be dedicated to showing the importance and relevance of living the Christian world view in daily life. 

An unarmed teenager is dead. I'm still not getting how cheering the fact that his killer was found not guilty fits into the Christian world view. 

I'm aware that this verdict has created a lot of anger and discussion. That's neither here nor there. A woman who is the Executive Director of an organization that allies itself with Christianity should have had the sense to keep her opinion to herself.  She could have tweeted something compassionate out, about sadness for all of the families involved, since Cornerstone claims to care so much about families. 

Instead, she got mad at me. Miss Pratte's response to my jab was:

Given that I don't work for  (or belong to) the NH Democratic Party, I'm not sure what Miss Pratte is hoping to accomplish by calling upon them to chastise me. (They haven't even tried) A couple of Ashley's buddies retweeted her plea, but she wasn't able to get the kind of media juice for it that she seems to have been hoping for. 

She's right though. It is blatant disrespect. And it is deserved. Someone who could send out a tweet congratulating the killer of an unarmed teenaged boy doesn't deserve my respect. Her respect for the family of Trayvon Martin is nonexistent. In the land of Cornerstone, only some families have value. 

* Since I'm guessing Ashley doesn't identify as a feminist, I chose to eschew the term Ms. and go with the old-school Miss, given that she's unmarried. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Execution Channel

Michael McCord calls this book a political fable. It's a look into a bizarre political landscape that takes place in the near future.

The book is laugh out loud funny in places. At other times it seems to be an eerie predictor of what is just about to happen. It's so well done that political junkies from every state will be able to identify which members of their legislatures might make up the Imbecile Caucus of the Mad Hatter Republicans in Real America, on both a state and national level.

In this (not so) strange world, there are two kinds of people: Real Americans or moochers. Real Americans read the Sludge Daily War Report or the Galt Street Journal. They support the Galtian Imperatives (even if they don't understand them) and the War on the Poor. Fact free statements have become the guiding principle of the Mad Hatter Republicans. The characters from Ayn Rand's novels are deified as if they'd actually existed.

Vermont is a foreign country in this world, an anti-Galtian political zone.

As I was reading the book, headlines kept cropping up in the real world that were straight out of McCord's fable. On June 24: "Under GOP Plan, States Would Be Free to Take Money Away From Poorest Schools." That's right out of the Galtian Imperatives. Last week another story prompted me to email Michael to say, "You thought you were writing fiction, not history."

That's what is so interesting and creepy about this book. As you read, you'll see it happening all around you. It is smart, funny, and one heck of a ride into a horrifying future. You'll find that by the end of the book you're not so sure where the lines are drawn between fact and fiction.

Buy the book

Michael's website

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Strategies for Increasing Poverty

The most recent jobs report got a nice spin from the media, who seemed quite excited that 195,000 jobs were created in June. This was presented as a “solid improvement” in the job market. That this didn’t change the unemployment rate of 7.6% was mentioned as an afterthought. Meanwhile, there are over 11 million Americans still out of work, and 37% of those folks are among the long-term unemployed. If we add the number of folks who are underemployed (working part time because they can’t find full time work) the numbers increase to being 22 million. The folks at Planet Money track what they call the broader unemployment rate, which includes the underemployed. That number is about 14%.

These numbers should be of concern. A consumer-based economy is never going to recover if 14% of the population is unable to spend money. Congress has shown their deep concern for jobs and the economy by recently voting for the 37th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act. These 37 votes have cost US taxpayers over $53.8 million. The Congressional Budget Office reports that the repeal would add $109 billion to the deficit over the next decade. This is a Congress that is on track to be the most do-nothing Congress in US history, passing fewer bills than any thus far.

What are states across the nation doing in response to the huge numbers of unemployed and underemployed? Well, duh – they’re doing what logic dictates. They’re passing restrictive abortion laws.

Texas just passed a law that dramatically restricts abortions, and outlaws them outright after 20 weeks. The forced birth crowd would have us believe that women get bored with being pregnant, or find it inconvenient, and decide at 5 months pregnant that it’s time to just have an abortion. The reality is that fewer than 2% of abortions occur at this point in a pregnancy. The late term abortion is an agonizing choice, made for health reasons, no matter what the forced gestation crowd tries to tell us. Texas has just sent women a message: “we’d rather let you die.”


Texas is sending out all kinds of messages. Their unemployment rate is 6.5%. The poverty rate in Texas is 18.5% and the child poverty rate is a whopping 25.7%. Texas has the highest number of uninsured children in the nation. That deep concern for the fetus ends at the moment of birth.  Pew Research finds that only 38% of Texans want to make abortion laws stricter. It’s certainly not the will or the work of the people that’s being done by the Texas legislature. 

Ohio has a 7% unemployment rate. The poverty rate is 16.4%, and the child poverty rate is 24%. Ohio’s response? They’ve just passed an abortion bill that forces women to have ultrasounds, and cuts funding for family planning. Rape crisis centers risk losing public funds if they mention abortion. That kind of flagrant limitation of free speech would never, ever be applied to any other law. Governor Kasich signed it on a Sunday night.

Arkansas passed a law (currently blocked by a judge) in May that prevents abortions after 12 weeks. Arkansas has a 7.3% unemployment rate, a 19.5% poverty rate, and a child poverty rate of 28%. It seems those numbers are such a source of pride for the state that they’re desperate to expand them by forcing women to incubate.

Last week in Wisconsin, Scott Walker secretly signed a bill that makes ultrasounds mandatory for women seeking an abortion. If this is a good, necessary thing, why was it done in secret? Wisconsin, by the way, has a 7% unemployment rate, 13 % poverty rate, and an 18% rate of child poverty. Clearly mandatory ultrasounds are the key to changing all that.

Mississippi, Alabama, and Kansas all have court cases pending on restrictive abortion laws. Alabama has a 9.8% unemployment rate, a 19% poverty rate, and 28% of Alabama’s children live in poverty. Mississippi has a 10.5% unemployment rate, a 22.6% poverty rate, and 32% of the state’s children live in poverty. One can only conclude that those numbers are a source of pride, since they’re working so hard to perpetuate them. As for Kansas, their unemployment rate is 5.7% (it’s on the rise), the poverty rate is 13.8%, and the child poverty rate is 19%.

One wonders why, at a time of economic turmoil, the response is to invalidate women’s rights and create more poverty. There’s no interest on the national or state level in job creation – just uterine regulation. The uterus must be the deadliest weapon on the planet, since the desire to regulate it is unparalleled.

North Carolina has tried to graft restrictive abortion language to other bills in recent weeks. One concerned banning Sharia law (the irony!) and the pending bill concerns motorcycle safety. The language to restrict abortion was added in secret to the bills, by Republicans in the legislature. That they have to resort to secrecy and trickery to attempt to pass these kinds of bills tells us all we need to know. This isn’t the people’s business that’s being conducted – it’s throwing red, divisive meat into the public sphere in an effort to distract voters from the things they really should be mad about. Like the utter failure to do anything that will create jobs – especially jobs that pay a decent wage. Forcing women to serve as involuntary incubators isn’t going to rebuild the nation’s economy.

 © 2013 sbruce
published as a biweekly column in the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Andy Sanborn Compares the ACA to a Plane Crash

State Senator Andy Sanborn, recently of Bedford (where he and his wife, Rep. Laurie Sanborn moved after redistricting hurt their chances of reelection in Henniker) had a little trouble on the radio this afternoon, leading to an age old politician's problem - foot in mouth:  

Sanborn, R-Bedford, was the guest host of the afternoon radio show on WTPL-FM in Concord Tuesday afternoon. During one segment he was talking to former State Sen. Ray White, also a Bedford Republican, about the new national health care law. Sanborn has been vocal opponent of the law.
At one point Sandborn said the new law "is barreling down on us like a jet landing into San Francisco. It’s (laughter) it should make people really concerned."
After the program Sanborn didn't recall the remark, but after hearing the audio of the program said he apologizes for it.
"It was my mistake. If I offended anyone I am sorry," Sanborn said.

He compared the ACA to the recent plane crash in California that killed 2 people and injured 168 others. 

I'm pretty sure that having access to health care doesn't kill people - it is NOT having access to  health care that kills people. The ACA contains a provision that eliminates the "pre-existing condition." My granddaughter is 3 years old. When she was born, she required some preventative treatment right away. It was successful. She's fine. If the old language were still in place, she would be tagged with the label of "preexisting condition" for the rest of her life, and would have difficulty getting health insurance because of that. I think that eliminating that label was a very fine thing. 

I think anyone who thinks otherwise is a wretch. 

Senator Sanborn makes his point of view very clear. He's opposed to the ACA, and thinks that comparing it to a plane crash is funny. He laughed.  He was recently appointed to the commission to study the expansion of Medicaid in NH. Two things are clear after reading this story. 1) Senator Sanborn is a close-minded ideologue 2) Senator Sanborn is a public embarrassment. 

He should resign, immediately, from the commission. 

What Sanborn  presented was not an apology. It was a fauxpology. "If I offended anyone, I'm sorry" translates as "I'm sorry I got caught spouting stupid stuff."