Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mark Warden's Funny Money

It seems Frank Guinta isn't the only NH Republican who's been using funny money. From WaPo

When New Hampshire State Rep. Mark Warden last ran for reelection, his campaign staff urged him to try something that few other political candidates have dared to do: accept contributions in bitcoins.
It didn't take much convincing. New Hampshire is already a haven for advocates of the virtual currency. Within the first three days, the Republican lawmaker had raised 160 bitcoins, equivalent to about $1,600 at the time. That's not insignificant for a candidate who would go on to collect a total of $11,000 in the 2012 electoral cycle.
As NH readers are aware, the 400 NH state representatives earn a stipend of $100 a year. Mark Warden raised $11,000 in campaign funds? Most people spend $1000 on their House campaigns. What did Warden do with all that money? 
It's also worth pointing out for those who aren't familiar, Mark Warden is a member of the Free State Project, who moved here from Nevada, to pursue his dream of a Randian paradise. 
Some of Warden's donations came from surprising sources. He found his digital wallet bursting with contributions from places as far afield as Europe and South America after international well-wishers learned of his campaign through the Bitcoin community's tight-knit grapevine.
"They didn't know anything about me or about Goffstown, New Hampshire," Warden said. "But everyone in that world wants to see Bitcoin become mainstream."
Warden quickly realized that accepting international donations could put him on the wrong side of election law. So, he gave back all the money he raised from foreign sources and struck an arrangement withBitpay, the third-party service that facilitates bitcoin transactions. (Bitpay normally charges a 1 percent fee. But the company wanted Warden's campaign to help drive bitcoin adoption, so it charged him the discounted rate of 0.5 percent, Warden said.)
Bitcoin is a currency of choice for drug dealers and black marketeers who want no records of transactions. Can Warden PROVE his claims about not using overseas money, or are we taking his word for it? 
According to NH House ethics rules, legislators aren't allowed to accept gifts valued at more than $25.  Did Warden's Bitcoin discount exceed the $25 amount? 

h/t to Catarina Garcia at FoxyCart for the great unicorn.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Frank Pageantry - From the Wayback Machine

In honor of former Congressman Guinta's announcement of his intention to try his luck against Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter again, let's take a trip in the wayback machine, back to May of 2012: 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Frank Pageantry

On Tuesday (May 22, 2012), NH CD-1 Congressman Frank Guinta hosted a job fair in Conway, at Granite State College. A mere 4 days earlier, on May 18, NH Employment Security and Granite State College partnered on a job fair, at the same location. One might be tempted to think that two job fairs in a 4 day span must mean that there is a an abundance of available jobs. One would, of course, be wrong. The Guinta job fair was just another chapter in his re-election pageant. A failed chapter.

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t get to the NHES job fair on the 18th, but I did attend the Guintapalooza. I spoke to folks who attended both events. By all accounts, there were 3 times as many vendors at the first job fair, many offering local jobs. There were more attendees, too. I’ll be generous in saying that about 50 people came through the Guinta job fair during the 3-hour period I was there. There were 14 vendors. Of the 14, two were branches of the Granite State college system; one was NHES,, the Small Business Administration, NH Works, and SCSEP (Senior Community Service Employment Network) a non-profit that helps low-income folks over the age of 55 find jobs. The businesses represented were: US Cellular, Avon, Bankers Life and Casualty Company, efi, Dove Chocolate Home Parties, Personal-Touch Home Health Services, and Aeroflex.

Aeroflex manufactures microelectronic components. They’re located in Londonderry and in Lawrence, Ma. EFI is located in Meredith. They print big stuff, like banners and billboards. Both of these workplaces involve a rather lengthy commute. US Cellular did have jobs available, though mostly in Maine. Banker’s Life was looking for unspecified numbers of people to sell their investment/retirement products. Personal-Touch Home Health Services is a national corporation that provides home health care personnel and services to individuals in their homes. They’re located in Berlin, and trying to gain a foothold in the Conway area. Avon and Dove Chocolate home parties are also available for locals. I watched a number of men walk around the room and leave without speaking to anyone.

The most glaring omission here wasn’t the dearth of actual companies hiring folks. It was far worse than that. There wasn’t a reporter or photographer from any mainstream media outlet there to capture the Congressman as he did a walk-through, and glad-handed the vendors. This was a pageant failure. No bouquet of roses, no sash, no tiara, and worst of all, no photographers.

When I went in, I did tell Guinta’s aide that I write for the Conway Sun, and do some blogging. This was a true statement. I didn’t feel compelled to explain in what capacity my writing manifests itself. The Guinta aides interpreted this as me being a reporter. As Guinta briefly worked the room, another aide approached me and asked if I’d like to speak with the Congressman. Naturally I said I’d be delighted to. The aide asked me a few more questions. When he heard my name, his face froze and he said, “I’ve heard of you.” So much for the opportunity to speak with the Congressman. The aide said Guinta had a meeting with the college president, but he’d be back. Guinta never returned. I only saw him speak with one actual attendee of the job fair.

In March, the Congressman had an event at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester that was billed as the first “Empower, Educate, and Engage Women’s Conference. I was there, with approximately 50 other women. There were a number of photographers and someone doing video recording. Guinta gave a short speech, encouraged us all to reach out to him personally, because he is here to serve the people of NH. Lots of pictures were taken. When the photographers left, so did the Congressman.

The Women’s Conference began with a panel about leadership, and included a rather lengthy discussion amongst the 3 panelists on the “psychology of dressing.” We learned that, as women, we are all leaders. The next panel was comprised of women from the non-profit sector. They were more interesting. The last presenter was a young woman who is the HR director at a corporation. She offered up a lot of information about resumes, interviews, and what to do about gaps in one’s employment history. That was especially important to the attendees. There were some young women there; some obviously students from St. A’s, but the majority of attendees were over 50. I spoke with many of them. Mostly they’re older women re-entering the workplace out of financial necessity. They have sick husbands or family members, they lost their savings when the economy crashed, there were many wrenching stories.

These were women who didn’t need anyone blowing smoke up their skirts about leadership. They’re just trying to stay afloat – and they’re scared. They know that as unemployed people over the age of 50, they have a better chance of getting struck by lightening than finding a good paying job. This conference did little to help the women in that room. It did, however, provide excellent photo coverage for the re-election pageant, which is the sole reason for all of the job fairs.

Congressman Guinta puts out a series of memos called “Frankly Speaking.” In spite of his alleged frankness, he still has yet to adequately explain the magic bank account that funded his 2010 campaign. Frankly Speaking Frank was terribly concerned with Congressional franking privileges during the 2010 campaign. One of his centerpieces was getting his teanut supporters all wound up about Carol Shea-Porter’s alleged abuses of the Congressional franking system. The franking system was created in 1775, and allows Congresscritters to send out mail under their signature, with no stamp or postage. Congress reimburses the Post Office for the franked mail that it handles. Candidate Guinta bemoaned the mailings of our former Congresswoman, and asked, “How is this supposed to help our deficit?”

Given all the caterwauling over the franking, I was shocked to learn that Congressman Guinta spent more than any other member of the House on franked mail. Let’s be frank about Frank’s franking. He sends out big multicolored mailers all the time. He does this, because he doesn’t actually want to meet with constituents. Guinta has chosen to conduct his “town hall” meetings with constituents via conference call. I’m sure you all remember the contentious town hall meetings held in 2010, where teanuts were shrieking at Congresswoman Shea-Porter. It seems likely that the GOP is smart enough to realize that their tactics could easily be turned on them. Guinta’s chosen to eschew events that might provide that sort of potential.

If Guinta had chosen to speak to me, it wouldn’t have changed my mind about how he has served this district. It would, however, have caused me to give him credit for being willing to speak with a member of the alternative/opposition media.

A last minute addition that didn't make the newspaper: Webster's defines a pageant as "a mere show." 

© sbruce 2012 Published as an op-ed in the May 25, 2012 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

Thursday, September 19, 2013

It's All Over But The Shooting

September is here, and that means it’s time for legislative fun to begin again. September 9 was the first day that representatives could file LSRs (potential bills/Legislative Service Requests) for 2014. September 27 is the last day to file House LSRs. September 30 is the first day for Senate LSRs, and the cut off date for the Senate is October 25.

So far, House members have filed 86 LSRs. They have not yet been assigned numbers; there is no actual bill text available, just the titles chosen by the sponsors of the LSRs. Those titles sometimes provide great clarity into the potential bill, and sometimes create more questions. It’s worth noting that 2014 is an election year. Some legislators are intent appealing to voters through social engineering. Some are intent on making a name for themselves through means that the rest of us might find unusual.

The very first LSR listed is quite clear: “repealing the death penalty in NH,” is sponsored by Rep. Robert Cushing. At a time when other states are repealing their death penalty statutes out of fiscal concern, NH chose to bring ours out of mothballs and use it, thanks to former AG Kelly Ayotte, who rode a death penalty case right to the US Senate. That case has already cost our state millions, and will cost us many more before it is finished. It’s sad that the moral argument has less power in this state than the financial – but the bottom line is pretty simple. Are you willing to see an increase in your property taxes to pay for executions?

Representative Kathleen Souza has filed 2 bills that seem related to making a legal procedure more difficult for women to avail themselves of in the state of NH. The first has to do with the licensure of out patient abortion clinics, and the second has to do with gathering data. Naturally women have no right to medical privacy. Imagine a bill filed to gather data from the records of men getting prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs? Would men meekly submit to having their private medical records invaded by nosy number seekers?

Rep. Leon Rideout has filed an LSR to include the term “fetus” in the definition of “another” for the purpose of certain criminal offenses. This is a tactic frequently engaged in by the uterus police in an attempt to create “fetal personhood” which would grant a clump of cells the same legal rights as an adult woman is supposed to have. In an election year we can expect to see more bills aimed at regulating women from the crowd that is bitterly opposed to regulating guns.

Rep. George Lambert has filed 6 bills so far. Rep. Lambert is considering a run for governor next year. Lambert would like to repeal the timber tax, eliminate sugar packet requirements, and repeal the licensing of career schools. He also has bills relative to the conferring of college degrees, relative to training programs in career schools, and relative to funding career schools. These are interesting areas of focus for a guy who is considering a run for governor in a state where he has no name recognition. It sounds as if the freedom and liberty crowd is gearing up for another attack on hair stylists and beauticians. Or to put it more bluntly, an attack on women’s work.

NH currently has 500 bridges on the red list for structural impairment. Rep. John Cloutier, who proposes that the priority status of the widening of I-93 be repealed in the 10-year transportation plan update, filed the only LSR filed that has any grounding in infrastructure. Perhaps there will be some interest in solving our infrastructure problems when one of those bridges finally collapses and people are injured or killed.

Rep. JR Hoell has filed an LSR requesting Congress investigate the Benghazi incident. As we all know, Congress has, in fact, investigated. Rep. Hoell just doesn’t like the results of that investigation, so he’s willing to waste $1500 of our tax dollars to get his name up in lights with a bill to nowhere.

The NHGOP doesn’t seem to have heard, never mind heeded Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s warnings about the need to stop being “the party of stupid.” Former NH State Senator Jim Rubens announced his intention to run against popular US Senator Jeanne Shaheen. At his press conference, he described Senator Shaheen as “out of touch” with New Hampshire voters.
Shortly after the announcement, we learned of a blog post Rubens made in 2009, linking women in the workplace to the incidence of mass shootings. It seems that women have taken men’s jobs away from them, and that’s caused them to start gunning people down. In this same blog post, Rubens also said that “tweaking the tax code to add manufacturing jobs would be one way to relieve the stress on men.” It seems Rubens slept right through NAFTA and all other free trade agreements, and is unaware that the US gave the manufacturing industry away.  

Rubens has since removed that post from his blog, and put his blog behind a firewall so that we can no longer see his odes to being part of the glorious one percent: “I just returned from a not atypical vacation of private charter flights, organic meals on white linen, and a private bungalow.” It seems likely he wasn’t the inspiration for Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

This is some kind of a record – beginning and ending a campaign on the same day. It’s all over but the shouting (or the shooting). Rubens just doesn’t realize it yet. Those who defend him will only serve to alienate female voters even further, especially given that the gender wage gap is higher in NH than many other states. Women in NH earn $0.77 for each dollar earned by men.  Ten percent of NH women live in poverty. Of minimum wage earners in our state, 69% are women. No wonder there haven’t been any mass shootings here, eh Jim?

There are a great many problems in our state and our nation that need serious attention. It’s a shame they won’t be getting any this year.

“If stupidity got us into this mess, than why can’t it get us out?” ~ Will Rogers

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

Monday, September 16, 2013

Citizens for Clean and Fair Power - Campaign Kick Off Meeting

This group is trying to close down the  Bow/PSNH coal plant: 

PSNH’s coal-fired power plant here in Bow is damaging the health and welfare of communities.  The soot and smog from Merrimack Station lead to higher rates of asthma and heart attacks.

To add insult to injury, PSNH’s reliance on outdated, dirty coal plants is making customers right here in the Merrimack Valley, including Bow, Pembroke, Allenstown, Hooksett and Concord areas pay ever-increasing electric bills.  It’s time for PSNH to stop making us pay to pollute our air and water.

We can make a difference and bring clean air to the Merrimack Valley.  Come to our kick off meeting to find out how!
The Merrimack Valley should have breathable air and clean, sustainable energy that fits the scenic and unique character of the area.  Governor Hassan and our elected officials need support to go toe to toe with PSNH, a powerful company who has bullied New Hampshire too long for shareholder profits.

We can win and get these coal plants responsibly retired and plan for a smooth transition if we build enough public support- starting here on the Merrimack, where we’ve been burdened with the coal pollution for decades.  So please join us on Thursday night.  Join other concerned residents and local organizations to find out how to retire Merrimack Station and plan for our sustainable future. RSVP to let us know you can make it, and bring a friend! 

To learn more about how you can get involved before the meeting, please contact Zack Deutsch-Gross at

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The "State People" Lied!

Last week, Ian Freeman of the Free Keeners announced that he was declaring his house in Keene a parsonage, therefore it is now exempt from taxes. He's also claiming to be a minister in the Church of the Shire. (aka the The Church of the Free Ride.) 

Free Keeners Wendy French and Darryl Perry  (Perry for President 2016), and Ian Freeman are claiming they are ministers of an interfaith church. There doesn't appear to be an actual brick and mortar church, but there is a house, owned by Ian Freeman. A  house that they don't want to pay property taxes on, so they've come up with this rather obvious tax dodge. 

This is manna from interfaith heaven for me - since I've long referred to the Free State Project as a cult. The Church of the Free Loaders has provided me with some significant justification for that claim. 

But wait - there's more! Ian Freeman has written about the spiritual journey he went on - the transformation from atheist to minister.

It's a compelling tale of a "gifted" boy from a middle class family, who realized after he started smoking pot that "those people who called themselves the state" had lied to him. Yup, they told him that "cops with weapons" would come and arrest him if he smoked pot. They lied. 

They lied to him about everything. He was miffed:

When I moved, I was still really angry at the state people.  They’d lied and lied.  Some would kill and hurt peaceful people every day here and around the globe.  I had thoughts frequently about taking them out before they take me out – that kind of violent fantasy.
I don’t think that way anymore.  I found peace.  Why and how?
I was scared.  The state people are dangerous and their belief system justifies endless aggression without any real responsibility.  They have guns and cages and aren’t afraid to use them.  Fear can lead to anger and anger to violence, especially if one feels cornered and alone, as I did in Florida, where there were few activists and no hope for liberty-oriented change.

Oh, he was angry, he was scared. The big bad STATE PEOPLE didn't want "liberty oriented change."  AND, they have guns and they're big meanies!

This reads like the diary of a pimply faced teenaged boy who was endlessly indulged by Mommy and Daddy. A boy who had all the time in the world to spend listening to Rush and reading Atlas Shrugged. And like most of the disaffected white boys who fall for libertarianism, he's never grown out of it. 

Anyone can call themselves a minister. But standing in a garage doesn't make you a car, any more than claiming to live in a parsonage makes you a minister. Ian may be setting himself up for some sort of martyrdom. (like Ed and Elaine Brown.) It's an interesting choice, given how hard the Free State Project has attempted to promote themselves as having some level of mainstream appeal. 

Bottom line - Ian's willing to say anything to get out of paying taxes. He, like all the FreeLoaders, wants to enjoy the amenities of a civilized society (roads, bridges, public water and sewer) but he doesn't want to pay for them. He especially doesn't want to pay for schools. Those "STATE schools" are bad places. Children should be homeschooled or even unschooled: the movement that allows kids to learn whatever they want when they decide to. 

In the Randian utopia of the future, everyone will only have to do things they want to do and pay for the things they want to pay for. 

“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.” JM Barrie, Peter Pan

Monday, September 09, 2013

Blood on Our Hands

This was written as an op/ed and sent out to all the major NH papers. None have published it. I post it here with Will's permission. Will Hopkins is the Executive Director of NH Peace Action and an Iraq War veteran. 

"It may be easy for people who have never experienced war to write it off as spending a few bucks to get rid of a monster. For those of us who know what charred flesh smells like, who can still hear the screams of a man whose legs have been blown off, who still wonder if there is a hell, and if that is where we will end up to pay for the blood on our hands - war is a very serious thing.

Syrian soldiers are no different from American soldiers; patriotic, brave, and convinced that they are fighting for freedom, their God, and country. If the Senate and House vote for the Authorization for Use of Military Force, they are voting to kill human beings. Especially with the reality that we are allied with Al Qaeda and other equally brutal groups in Syria, and that we have no idea how this will pan out, who will control Syria, or what the blowback might be-using military force against Assad’s regime is about the worst thing w
e could do.

The vast majority of Americans are opposed to military strikes. Polls show fewer than 20% of Americans support military strikes-so why is it, that three out of four of New Hampshire’s representatives are still unsure about what they are going to do, or leaning toward supporting yet another middle east war next week when this vote comes?

If any of our representatives vote for this new attack, they are voting AGAINST the people, and FOR military contractors, whose stock has skyrocketed with the news of a new attack. They are voting AGAINST the people, and FOR Al Qaeda. They are voting AGAINST the people, and FOR the oil companies. They are voting AGAINST the people, and FOR more spending on bombs and death instead of taking care of our needs at home.

Detroit is bankrupt. Our roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair. The national debt is now over sixteen trillion dollars. Children are starving, homeless, and going without medical care. As President Eisenhower said,” Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.” If any of our representatives vote for this, they are failing in the truest sense to represent us, and we the people should see to it that their political careers end with that vote.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Peace for the Annoyed, Frustrated, Angry, Irate, Miffed, and Peeved

 I had the great honor of serving as the lay speaker at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Eastern Slopes (UUFES) on Sunday, August 25. This is my sermon from that service. 

One night I was walking down Park St. in Concord, on my way to a NH Peace Action board meeting. Along the way, I ran into a fellow board member and we chatted as we walked. We began discussing some  politician who had said/done something stupid and I said, “I could just slap the snot out of that guy.” We looked at each other and quickly I said, “Now there’s a fine sentiment for a peace activist.” We laughed ruefully. But there you have it. How do we work for peace in an increasingly angry world?

Every day brings more reason to be aggravated – and that’s compounded by the knowledge that we don’t even hear half of the stories we should be hearing.

Peace activists are generally kindly, often spiritual people. Some are genuine peacemakers; able to bring disparate groups together and reach agreements. Some are peacekeepers; able to keep the peace at events where emotions are high and can get out of control. Naturally there are many UU’s who fall into these categories. They read spiritual texts, they meditate, they post Rumi quotes on their Facebook pages. As for me:  I have all of the spiritual depth of a Dixie cup. I wince at what appear to me to be platitudes. I’m cynical, sometimes bitter, and frequently angry. And I am not alone. As a friend says, "I say what I mean, I mean what I say, but sometimes I say it mean."

There is so much to be angry about. Prisoners are still being tortured at Guantanamo Bay. Still. Over half the federal discretionary budget goes to the Pentagon, while we’re told we have to cut food stamps and Social Security. That same Pentagon can’t pass an audit and can’t account for over a trillion dollars. That’s just a crumb from the table of outrage. There is so much more.

In general people seem angrier than they used to, although maybe that's just because people's opinions are more widely known than they used to be because of the internet and the ability to anonymously comment on news sites and blogs. The day that Bradley Manning came out as Chelsea, one of the first stories I saw advised, "Avoid all comment sections today." It was good advice. Too late, but good advice that hopefully others heeded.

Recently the Concord Police Dept. applied for a grant to the Dept. of Homeland Security to purchase an armored vehicle called a BearCat. My first reaction was predictable outrage. This was Pentagon/ defense contractor pork! This was the militarization of police departments! I went to a public hearing, and listened to the police chief. And against my will, I was swayed. I still disagree strongly with the sweetheart defense contractor deals and Pentagon pork – but I understand why the chief wants this vehicle. I’m very uncomfortable with how I feel right now. Why didn’t anyone tell me that I’d spend my whole life growing up? This thinking through stuff is painful. Knee jerk responses are so much easier and more comfortable!

Thinking can lead to anger. And fortunately, thinking can lead us out.

 A fellow NHPA board member loaned me his copy of William Sloane Coffin’s book Credo, saying that he reads it to feel good. “He was such an optimist,” Frank told me. Other members of the board have devoted a lifetime to peace activism, and have achieved a level of calm and acceptance that I admire and hope to one day claim for myself. John helped Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin attempt to levitate the Pentagon in 1967. He’s involved in the ongoing work to close down the School for the Americas, in Georgia – a US school that trains military leaders and future dictators of Latin America. Frank and John are smart, kind, and peaceful men who just keep going about the work that they have chosen to do. They’ve chosen their area of interest to work on, and they just keep plugging away.

Ruth McKay was a lifelong peace activist who died in 2005. She became a counselor to conscientious objectors in the 1960’s. She was active in the Civil Rights movement. After she married, she and her husband chose to live below the poverty level, to avoid paying taxes that went to fund war. I met Ruth and her husband Ralph in the 1980’s, while demonstrating at the nuclear power plant in Seabrook. We were arrested together a few times.  For decades Ruth had an ongoing vigil in front of the weapons manufacturer Sanders Lockheed in Nashua, which is now known as BAE Systems. Ruth called her actions dissent, saying that the word “protest” sounded “too angry.” Her form of principled, peaceful dissent resulted in numerous arrests for civil disobedience, where she won the admiration of police and judges for her calm demeanor, her principles, and her joyous personality. Ruth was a religious and spiritual person. Is there hope for those of us who are not?

How do we press forward in the face of outrage? How do we continue to believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, when some persons might be found not just wanting, but perilously close to worthless?

Only with the greatest conscious effort. This is the real work of peace. It begins within. And with that work comes a level of acceptance of who and what we are, right here right now. I can continue to strive to be someone who posts Rumi quotes, but right now I am not.

Acceptance means accepting the excruciatingly slow pace of change.
Musician Greg Brown’s lyrics to the song “The Poet’s Game” echo my frustration:

I watched my country turn into
a coast-to-coast strip mall
and I cried out in a song:
if we could do all that in thirty years,
then please tell me you all -
why does good change take so long?

Martin Luther King assures us that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I hate to get pushy about all this, but, I’m not getting any younger here, Positive Change. Could you pick up the pace a bit?

In this increasingly angry world, it's hard to know what to have faith in. So many of the institutions we were brought up to believe in are in disarray. The very rocks and trees are in peril as a result of our failures to take threats to them seriously. And because some of us are so intransigent, how do we have faith in our fellow humans? How do we have any faith in a positive future?

A union organizer I know says that given the correct information, most people will do the right thing. I'm not sure I share her optimism, but it seems to me that we have little choice. We have to have that faith. Without it, how can we go on?

Sloane Coffin writes:

Socrates had it wrong; it is not the unexamined but finally the uncommitted life that is not worth living. Descartes too was mistaken; "Cogito ergo sum - I think therefore I am?" Nonsense. "Amo ergo sum" - "I love therefore I am." Or, as with unconscious elegance St. Paul wrote, "Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love." I believe that. I believe it is better not to live than not to love.

In the end there aren't many choices. We can detach from the frenzy and refuse to participate. We can keep on swimming upstream, like salmon, battered occasionally against the rocks but powerless to resist the pull of nature, instinct - or the internet. We can strive for balance - find the work that calls to us and do it, setting limits and making sure to take time to enjoy all aspects of our lives.

What is increasingly clear to me though, is that I must/we must all keep trying to work for a peaceful world. In that, there is no other choice. When we fail at the high standards we set for ourselves, we must return to the wise words of Robert Eller- Isaacs in his Litany of Atonement (number 637 in the back of the hymnal)

For remaining silent when a single voice would have made a difference
We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love
For each time that our fears have made us rigid and inaccessible
We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love
For each time that we have struck out in anger without just cause
we forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love
For each time that our greed has blinded us to the needs of others
we forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love
For the selfishness that sets us apart and alone
we forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love
For falling short of the admonitions of the spirit
we forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love
For losing sight of our unity
We forgive ourselves and each other;
we begin again in love
For those and so for so many acts both evident and subtle which have fueled the illusion of separateness
we forgive ourselves and each other;
we begin again in love.

Over and over. Forgiveness. Love. Swords into plowshares. Over and over till we get it right.

Jennifer Horn: REALLY?

The FreeLoad State Project loves to talk about their adherence to something called the NonAggression Principle. Essentially that means that they shouldn't have to pay taxes, BUT, they do have the right to shoot you if you're pissing them off. And for people who claim to be non-aggressive, they sure do like the idea of shooting people, especially cops: 

Carl Drega, Folk Hero to Free Staters

Free State Project Excommunicates Participant ~ Miscellany Blue

Free State Project Debate: When Should You Shoot a Cop? ~ Miscellany Blue

With all of this coming to light, I can't help but wonder how NH GOP Chair Jennifer Horn is feeling about the comments she made a while back:

Horn said the group’s philosophy is “something that’s right in line with the Republican Party.”   
"For the most part," explained Horn, "the Free State Project has been very much a movement with character that I think has probably been a positive thing in our state.”

Miscellany Blue again, thank you Tuck!

A movement with character, eh Jennifer? The group's philosophy is "right in line with the Republican Party?" 

Really, Jennifer? 

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Stop Signs: Statist Plot Against Mah Freedumbs

This video comes to us from the boys at GraniteGrok - a blog for the Teabagger/FreeStater Libertea crowd. These boys are anti-gummint, pro-gun, anti-helping folks, but pro-forced birth. They label those of us who enjoy the various aspects of living in a civilized society "statists." A friend recently defined a statist as "anyone who believes stop signs have their place in society."

The libertea position is: "how dare you tell me when to stop?" 

I had to watch it twice, because the first time I was convinced it had to be a parody. It's not. 

Only locals use these roads! We don't want no steenkin' strangers here in our town! Better find out what town the Children of the Grok live in, and steer clear after dark.....

Friday, September 06, 2013

The Church of the Free Ride - Praise the Shire!

From the Keene Sentinel:

A Keene City Council candidate with a history of staging protests says his group won’t pay taxes on its Leverett Street residence, claiming it’s a parsonage.

Ian Freeman, a prominent part of the Free Keene movement, an anti-government group, identifies himself as a minister of the Shire Free Church. He and two others have put the city “on notice” that 73 and 75 Leverett St. are ministers’ parsonages for the church, and he will no longer pay property taxes.

This is a new one. The Free Staters are claiming their cult is a religion to avoid paying taxes. 
In a Sept. 2 letter to city officials, Freeman, Wendy French and Darryl W. Perry, who are all identified as ministers, wrote that the Shire Free Church is an interfaith ministry with peace as one of its central tenets.
“Historically, people calling themselves ‘The City’ or ‘The State’ have engaged in systematic threatening of peaceful people. You have jargon for this like ‘taxes,’ ‘statutes’ and ‘ordinances,’ ” the letter says.
Freeman, French and Perry further wrote that, as ministers, they have dedicate their lives “in service of god and peace,” and “are no longer participating as victims under your coercive schemes.”
These people live in Keene - a city with public roads, libraries, schools, water, and sewer. I'm certain that none of the Free Keeners have chosen to discontinue their use of any of these public amenities. 
What they worship is getting a free ride. They're moochers. 

There are people of principle who refuse to pay their taxes becuse of opposition to war and military spending: National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee 
These are people who will go to jail for their beliefs. 
Whereas the Free Staters beliefs and principles add up to this: 
someone else can pick up my tab. 

Accidentally Voting in Two Places Can Happen to Anyone!

From the Union Leader:

Five years ago, when his father was running for the U.S. House, the son of current state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley's voted in the 2008 general election in both New Hampshire and Colorado, according to voting officials and records in each state.

Sebastian Bradley, who is now in his late 20s, voted in person in Larimer County, Colorado, in the November 2008 general election, county election officials said, citing records. Bradley was student at Colorado State University at the time.

Separately, Wolfeboro town clerk Patricia Waterman confirmed the younger Bradley voted there by absentee ballot in the same election.

But hey, let's not get all judgey:

The elder Bradley said in an interview Thursday he did not know for sure whether his son actually voted twice.
But he said, "He was a college student at the time. He was attending Colorado State University and if he voted in two places, it was clearly a mistake, if that's what he did."

Because accidentally voting in two places can happen to anyone! Geez, simmer down people. 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Cry Me a River

In a recent Union Leader opinion piece, former NH GOP Chair Fergus Cullen bemoaned the takeover of his party by  “Tea Partiers, Ron Paul apostles, and fringe figures.” These are the same people that won in 2010, victories Cullen cheered about. The NH GOP threw open the doors to the Tea Partiers, Ron Paul apostles, Free Staters, John Birchers, and wearers of tinfoil berets. They boasted about their great electoral accomplishment. They elected Jack Kimball, a bombastic, bellicose tea tyrant, to be their state party chair.

And soon it all fell apart. That great GOP majority proved to be comprised of inept bumblers and outright lunatics. There was the guy who had to resign for saying that people with disabilities should be sent to Siberia to freeze to death. There were the guys who wrote the bill to include relevant quotes from the Magna Carta in each new piece of NH legislation. There was the Free Stater who wanted to put warning signs up at the NH border. Let us not forget Speaker O’Brien. The list of his follies is long, and includes closing the House gallery to members of the public, and refusing to allow a reporter from a newspaper that had been critical of him into a press conference. This is but a thumbnail sketch of the results of that great majority that the NH GOP crowed about. When Fergus cries his bitter tears about how his party has been taken over by the lunatic fringe, he’d better cry me an entire river. The NH GOP not only allowed this to happen, they welcomed these people. Only now, when they have no chance of winning much of anything in the next election does Fergus get out the crying towel.

The old guard NHGOP must have been absolutely petrified when O’Brien announced he was considering a run against Ann Kuster in the second Congressional District. Poor Obie was not able to raise much money, possibly because he has all of the charm and charisma of a garden slug. He decided (or the party higher ups did) that he’d better drop out. This week, former State Senator Gary Lambert announced he’d be running for that seat. Lambert doesn’t have much name recognition outside of the Nashua area, and his brand of conservatism isn’t likely to be popular in the more liberal of NH’s congressional districts. He’s opposed to marriage equality and does not believe that women are autonomous, equal human beings. At his campaign launch, he said, “Republican ideas work. We’ve proven how they work in New Hampshire.” We have indeed seen how those Republican ideas work in NH. Every day we see our crumbling infrastructure, the death of our manufacturing base, and our high, high property taxes.

In the first Congressional District, Frank Guinta is making noises about a rematch against Carol Shea-Porter. Frank, a Tea Partier who rode the red wave in 2010 would be facing the same questions and ridicule he was ignoring when he was voted out in 2012. He ran on a huff of indignation over Shea-Porters alleged overuse of the House franking system. Frank was outraged about franking! He practically accused Shea-Porter of electioneering. Then, once in office, he became the number one Congressional abuser of the franking privilege, spending double what Shea-Porter had spent during her term.

Then there’s the matter of Frank’s magic bank account. He loaned his first campaign $355,000 that he didn’t have, according to his original financial disclosure forms. He later amended the forms, saying he forgot about a bank account with $250,000 in it. Well, of course he did. Who among us hasn’t forgotten about a quarter of a million dollars? Why it could happen to anyone.  

The Committee for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) put Guinta on their 2011 “most corrupt members of Congress” list, which is something of an accomplishment for a freshman legislator. Frank doesn’t just have baggage - he has shipping containers. This time he’ll not only be running against Carol, he’ll be running against himself.

If Guinta doesn’t run, State Representative Pamela Tucker is considering running for that Congressional seat. Tucker was former Speaker O’Brien’s deputy Speaker, and one of his trusted lieutenants. That would be her biggest claim to fame in a district where she has no name recognition.
Rep. George Lambert, a NH native allied with the Free State Project, is exploring a run for governor. He’s definitely part of the “Ron Paul apostle, fringe figure” types that Fergus Cullen is now bemoaning. So far, he’s the only one. He’s another “candidate” with zero name recognition. Where are the candidates with even an iota of gravitas or name recognition? I saw a discussion online among Republicans where Craig Benson’s name was being bandied about as a potential gubernatorial candidate. That’s a subterranean level of desperation right there.

The NH GOP is in disarray, and they have no one but themselves to blame. They not only invited these folks to join them, they allowed them to take over.  To paraphrase the old maxim: “If you lie down with clowns, you will rise with rubber noses.”

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

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

My Active Opposition to the Concord BearCat is Over

I am deeply concerned about the militarization of the police around this country. I was strongly opposed to the city of Keene purchasing a BearCat. It seemed to me that Keene had no need for it, and the justifications provided didn’t hold water. It seems I was correct. Keene has never used the BearCat.

I was horrified to read that the Boston Police Dept. brought a sound cannon with them when they busted up the Occupy Boston encampment. Occupy was a non-violent movement. The people in that camp had no weapons. The idea of a sound cannon being brought along to use on peaceful protestors is shocking. Equally shocking is the fact that the now-defunct Boston Phoenix was the only media outlet to report on it.

These are some of the reasons why I was opposed to the City of Concord getting a grant for a BearCat. The sweetheart contractor deal that LENCO gets – because they know what congresscritters to bribe makes me ill. It’s Pentagon pork – filtered through the Dept. of Homeland Security. The grant application naming certain groups as potential domestic terrorist threats was also upsetting, but not as much as militarization and pork.

So, with all that in mind, I went to the Concord City Council hearing on the purchase of the Bearcat. I did not expect to be swayed by Chief Duval’s presentation, but I was.

The BearCat is intended to replace the 1970’s vintage armored Peacekeeper that the Concord PD has. This can’t be called  increased militarization - it’s replacing old equipment. The current armored vehicle goes out on calls where there are hostages, where armed individuals are shooting, and other equally dangerous situations. It is not an “attack” vehicle. It is a tool employed to protect the lives of police officers and emergency responders.

But wait – this is Concord – a small peaceful city, right? That’s true. But Concord has something that no other city in the state has. The NH State House. Concord is our capitol city. Visiting dignitaries visit our capitol. Nearly every presidential candidate visits our state capitol. And this year, nearly every month (so far) there has been a big demonstration in front of the State House by gun nuts.

And then there was June 19, 2013, when gun nuts violently disrupted a peaceful vigil in front of the NH State House.

And then there was my eyewitness account of this event: 

It was a scary scene. I’m still amazed that no one was injured or killed there. The gun crowd was out of control – illustrating why some of us support expanded background checks. It’s likely that many of the participants in that melee couldn’t pass a background check on the best day they ever had.

Then there’s the fact that the State House has no metal detectors. Many legislators and visitors are armed.

I understand why Chief Duval wants this armored vehicle.

I do not support the contractor/Pentagon/DSH pork. I do not support the increased militarization of police. After listening to the chief and thinking about our capitol city, I no longer view this particular instance as increased militarization. It absolutely was increased militarization in Keene.

I left the City Council hearing feeling really uncomfortable. I was disgusted with the histrionics of the Free Staters and their allies. I was disgusted with State Representatives George Lambert and JR Hoell for inserting themselves into an issue of local control – and they aren’t local. Lambert (who wants to put the goober in goobernatorial) wanted to show the video of the drunken heckler being tased in front of the State House thinking it would stop the Concord City Council from approving the BearCat. I tend to think that if they saw that video they’d order a few extra BearCats as backup.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Gospel From Inside the Clown Car

Priceless. There's no news story about this online. There's no proof that it ever happened - yet here we have two NH State Representatives accepting it and spreading it as if it were the gospel. 

Hypocrisy on a Platter: Fun in Fosters

On August 24,  Fosters published an opinion piece by Ashley Pratte, the Executive Director of Cornerstone Policy Research. From Ms. Pratte's scattered, confusing, and somewhat dishonest opus:

In recent weeks there has been discussion around the topic of abortion as well as female objectification when recent sexting scandals were brought to light.

It is important to note that I myself am a single, twenty-four year old woman involved in activism in New Hampshire. On a regular basis I am subject to constant criticism because of my pro-life views.

I think I speak on behalf of all women when I say enough is enough. We need to stand up for ourselves and not be degrading to one another. While as females we may hold a variety of different opinions and beliefs there is one thing that binds us all and that is our gender. If we ever hope to be respected by men we must first respect ourselves.

Last week a known blogger here in the Granite State found it necessary to tweet the following, “@ashpratte @demchairs at least they won’t hit you. Or leer at your boobs. Or call you a “vagina”. They aren’t republican men after all.” Not only do I find this tweet to be horribly offensive but it depicts the culture that we are living in. Women are constantly the subject of degradation especially those in the political arena. 

Oh, some naughty blogger offended poor Ashley. 

That would be me. Fosters generously agreed to give me space, and they've just published  my rebuttal  to the horribly offended Ms. Pratte. Some highlights:

In April Rep. Peter Hansen of Amherst became world famous for calling women “vagina’s” (his grammatical error) in an internal NH House email. I tweeted Pratte to ask if this was an example of family values, since Hansen has a high rating on the Cornerstone legislative report card. No response.

In July, Representatives Jordan Ulery and Gary Hopper came under fire for their internal House emails, which included a cheesecake picture of a nubile young woman. There was no reason for the picture to be included, other than the reason that all women are familiar with — the one that involves drool. Both Ulery and Hopper have high Cornerstone ratings. I tweeted Ms. Pratte to ask about her silence on the subject. No response.

On Aug. 5, we learned that a Republican Super Pac registered in Nashua was hosting a video game called Slap Hillary. What could be funnier than slapping women? This is certainly a novel way of showing respect to a former First Lady, US Senator, and Secretary of State. This was an opportunity for Ms. Pratte to express her co
ncerns about respect for women. She didn’t take it. 
On Aug. 6, in an attempt at snark, Ms. Pratte tweeted out, “What an exciting new follow @DemChairs.” For those not conversant in twitspeak, that means that DemChairs had just opted to follow Pratte on Twitter. My “horrifying and offensive” tweet was in response to that. I tweeted “At least they won’t hit you. Or leer at your boobs, or call you a “vagina” They aren’t Republican men after all.”

I combined those three incidents of disrespect that Pratte had intentionally ignored into one tweet. “Hit you” was a reference to Slap Hillary. “Stare at your boobs” referred to Ulery and Hopper’s soft-core porn, and “call you a vagina” was a direct reference to Rep. Hansen. All are items she’d gotten tweets from me about, which makes her slow ride to horribly offended seem a bit contrived.

It is difficult to take Pratte’s finger waving about respect seriously. She is saying is that in order to show her proper respect as a woman, I must refrain from commenting as she ignores GOP men who are degrading women. She wants me to ignore her hypocrisy. 

Sadly for Miss Ashley, that is a thing I cannot do. 

I mentioned dishonesty. At the end of Ms. Pratte's op-ed, she gives a big shout out to Cornerstone, yet fails to mention her connection to the organization. She's the Executive Director. 

In making this a big public thing, Ms. Pratte has succeeded in exposing her poor reading and writing skills, and put her hypocrisy on a platter for all of us to admire. 

Thanks, Ashley!