Thursday, November 13, 2014

In the United States, in the 21st Century

Three weeks ago, the news was all Ebola, all the time. Todd Kincannon, the former Executive Director of the South Carolina Republican Party announced, “the protocol for a positive Ebola test should be immediate humane execution and sanitization of the whole are. That will save lives.” The President was labeled inept and weak at handling the crisis! We needed more leadership! Retread Congressman-elect Frank Guinta insisted that there needed to be a travel ban. Congressman Steve Stockman of Texas accused Obama of unleashing Ebola on Murka to seize more power. Louie Gohmert (whose continual reelection is proof that we shouldn’t wait for Texas to secede, we should just go ahead and build a wall around the state) claimed that Ebola is “the Democrats war on women.” Women are nurses, you see. 

Corrupt blowhard and birther Donald Trump blamed Obama for Ebola, referred to him as “Barry Sotoro,” and called for his resignation. This, dear readers, is the same Donald Trump who was chosen by the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications as the keynote speaker at their First Amendment Awards dinner. The award was given posthumously to James Foley. James Foley was a reporter who lost his life in pursuit of reporting from dangerous areas of our world. Choosing Trump as the keynote speaker at an event honoring this brave man is a level of tone deafness that surprises even me, coming from the Loeb/McQuaid crowd. This can only be described as an obscenity. Trump used the opportunity to bloviate about Obama. He’s still bleating about the need for Ebola quarantines. The one true thing he said was to James Foley’s parents, “Your son was far greater than I, and far greater than I will ever be.”

Obama was even criticized for not having a Surgeon General. The reason we don’t have one is Rand Paul. The President’s choice for Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murphy regards gun proliferation and violence as a health problem. Senator Paul, Republican of the NRA district, placed a hold on Dr. Murphy’s nomination.

There have been 4 cases of Ebola in the United States. One man died.

New Congresswoman and juggler of hog testicles, Joni Ernst of Iowa was at an event the other day talking about Ebola. Reporter Charlie Pierce pointed out that there was (on that day) a single case of Ebola in the United States. Ernst’s response? “That’s your opinion,” she said. Buckle up kids. The next 2 years are going to be a bumpy ride.

There are zero cases of Ebola in the United States. That was accomplished without travel bans or humane executions. Now that there isn’t a low information electorate to whip into a frenzy of fear, we won’t hear much more about it. It’s not as if we actually care about sick people in Africa.

In other news, a whole lot of bizarre was just elected to legislatures across the land.

In Colorado, Tea Party Pastor Gordon Klingenschmitt was just elected to the state legislature, with 70 percent of the vote. Klingenschmitt claims to have performed numerous exorcisms on gay people. Gay people “want your soul,” he says. He also claims to have performed an exorcism on President Obama, to rid him of the demons of tyranny. How disappointed Klingenschmitt must be that Obama is still black.

This guy was elected by a huge percentage. In the United States in the 21st century.

In Georgia, newly elected Congressman Jody Hice is worried about lunar eclipses. It seems that the religious right thinks that lunar eclipses are signs of God’s impending judgment against Murka for the sins of gay equality and abortion. Jody Hice has a talk radio show, and told his listeners that the appearance of blood moons “has preceded world changing, shaking type events.” In another era, living in a cave, Hice would have been advocating blood sacrifices to the gods to appease them. In the 21st century, he was elected to the US House of Representatives.

New Wisconsin Congressman Glenn Grothman once warned that sex education classes are a secret plot to turn kids gay. He’s also said that money is more important for men than women, that days off from work are “a little ridiculous,” that Kwanzaa is a conspiracy promoted by white people, and that people on food stamps don’t act poor enough. In the 21st century, this man was elected to Congress.

New Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke told a Republican group that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is “the antichrist.” Naturally when he was called out for his comment, he claimed he was joking.

Joni Ernst isn’t just an expert on Ebola. She told Iowans last year that Agenda 21 agents were likely to start moving people off their agricultural land and sending them to the cities, after which their land would be confiscated. Agenda 21 is a non-binding treaty on sustainable development that was written over 20 years ago. Ted Cruz predicts Agenda 21 will bring an end to paved roads and golf courses. Both of these people are elected members of the US Congress, in the 21st century.

Ben Carson, a columnist at World Nut Daily is gearing up for a presidential run. He recently announced that he would cut back on voter fraud by undocumented workers by revoking their citizenship and deporting them.

Here in NH, the electorate has apparently determined that we need to revisit the 2011-2012 legislative debacle. The humiliation and destruction visited upon the state during those years was apparently easily forgotten, so now we have some retreads being sent back, along with a bumper crop of Free Staters and other dubious characters.

With the Republicans in control of the NH House, the position of Speaker is being hotly contested, and the rumors are rampant. Bill O’Brien wants desperately to return to his position as Official Petty Tyrant, and has reportedly sent out a hatchet man to threaten, cajole, and bribe various members to support him, with promises of committee chairmanships. The Tea Party-John Bircher- Free Stater crowd loves O’Brien. He’s unencumbered by truth or ethics.

On the other side of the GOP, Senator Kelly Ayotte, former governors John Sununu and Steve Merrill, former Congressman Charlie Bass, and former Speakers Doug Scamman and Donna Sytek are all urging House members to support Rep. Gene Chandler as Speaker. The decision will be made next week.

An O’Brien Speakership on the cusp of the First in the Nation Primary can only be a disaster for the NH Republican Party. That he’s even being considered for the position should frighten any thinking person.

This is your democracy, America. Cherish it.”  ~ Charlie Pierce

 © sbruce 2014
published as an op-ed in the Conway Daily Sun on November 14, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bill O'Brien - Unencumbered by Honesty or Ethics

This screengrab is from State Rep. William O'Brien's Facebook Page

O'Brien is lying. The bill has NEVER been to the House floor for a final vote. Note the link at the bottom of his post. It takes you to the text of the bill,  not to the status of the bill. Allow me to assist you:

As you can see, in March the bill came out of committee with a 12-1 recommendation that it be sent to interim study. The House adopted the committee recommendation, on a roll call vote. The roll call was 174 to 105. The bill has never been up for the vote that O'Brien claims. The bill was NOT defeated, it's still in interim study, for crissake. 

O'Brien deliberately lied. He lied to his minions, and based on his chortling, he was almost certainly in league with Corey Lewandowski in creating and sending out these dishonest and possibly illegal fliers. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Packing NH's Sleazy Mailers: The Plot Thickens

NH State Representative Robert Cushing has filed a complaint with the AG regarding the last minute sleazy attack mailers that went out the weekend before the midterm elections. 

Packing NH:
Another Shady Group Funding Attacks

Another Ace in the Hoell

Last Minute Attacks by Shady Non-Profit Affiliated with Americans for Prosperity

Packing NH's initial filing with the Secretary of State stated that they would not be making independent expenditures during the upcoming election. 

They lied. 

They sent out dishonest SCARE postcards (with really shoddy graphics) targeting Representatives Renny Cushing, Ed Butler, and Steve Shurtleff. 

Packing NH consists of State Representative JR Hoell of Dunbarton and Susan Olsen of Weare. 

The plot thickens:

As you can see from this independent expenditure report, Packing NH used Marantha Printing, at 523 Mason Road in Milford, NH. 

That's the home address of newly minted former Executive Councilor David Wheeler.


Turns out there is no such business registered with the Sec. of State:

Sunday, November 09, 2014

#Free Pindell

During a media shitstorm a few years ago, when Jack Kimball, Kevin Smith, and other Republicans were loudly calling for my head - James Pindell was the only reporter in the state who actually called me to get my comments. Every other reporter just wrote up the wingnut version of the story. 

WMUR ranked third in the US for running US Senate related ads this year. Over 10,000 of them. It's no wonder there are marble floors in the WMUR lobby. They have a very lucrative monopoly which serves to benefit 2 entities: WMUR and the GOP. I've spent the last two years at the State House watching Josh McElveen pander shamelessly to the GOP - running straight to JR Hoell of all people, nearly every time he entered the House chamber. He never speaks to a Democrat unless he absolutely has to. He doesn't even bother with a pretense of fairness. 

Reporters all over the country are being silenced by Big Money. Dave McKinney recently resigned from the Chicago Sun Times because management caved to the Rauner campaign and made it impossible for McKinney to do his job. Rauner is now mayor of Chicago, and there will be fewer reporters covering him. That's how it's going everywhere. The Telegraph ditched State House Reporter Kevin Landrigan. There are 3 AP stringers in NH - down from 12. This biennium there will be only 2 seasoned reporters at the NH State House - Garry Rayno and Josh Rogers. 

I don't think that James should be fired for making Scott Brown uncomfortable. I don't think James should be fired because of the influence of Big Money. 

Furthermore, WMUR is broadcasting over our public airwaves. They should be held accountable. 

Cop Killing With Cantwell

This is Chris Cantwell. This is his Halloween costume, worn at a recent Free State Project convention in Keene. 

He moved to NH as part of the Free State Project, the armed band of miscreants that are moving, en masse, to colonize NH, take over and dismantle our state government, then threaten secession. 

Cantwell wants to kill cops. Well, not really - he wants to "inspire" other people into killing cops. Cantwell lacks the courage of his convictions. He doesn't want to go to prison, because he's too important. The lesser folk should do his dirty work for him. It's all part of his desire to violently overthrow the US government.

The FSP publicly kicked him out in 2013, but that was all for show. He's still part of the cult, living in Keene (at the behest of the Free Keene cult leader Ian Bernard) across the street from the Church of the Free Load. Cantwell was on the CopBlock panel at the recent convention in Keene. We are asked to believe CopBlock has good, nonviolent intentions, yet Cantwell was part of the panel. One of these things is not like the other. 

I've written about Cantwell before:

Free Stater Blames Brentwood Cop for His Own Death

Cop Killers Love CopBlock

CopBlock Backpedaling Furiously

Big Turd Lands in Free State Punchbowl

He's eulogized a number of cop killers. The latest is Eric Frein, who killed one cop and wounded another, then hid out in the Poconos for almost 2 months. Frein was recently captured, and Cantwell waxes on about what Frein should have done:

I can’t help but think that his efforts would have been better spent moving to New Hampshire, and joining a community of people who also see law enforcement as a threat to their safety. He could have trained others to shoot, and survive. Instead of laying down his own life for the cause at such a young age, he could have been a force multiplier for all of us.

Yeah, I'm sure we all agree that it's a real shame Frein didn't move to NH. 

By the way - we're always told that Free Staters are peace loving folk. How does talk of "force multipliers" fit in with that peace loving stuff? Wouldn't you need "force multipliers" if you were planning an armed takeover? 

The only reason I’m alive is because I saw an alternative. I saw a way to do more for the cause of liberty by staying alive, than I could by dying. I can’t help but think the world would soon be a better place if people like Eric Frein, Jerad and Amanda Miller, Justin Bourque, Paul Ciancia, Tim McVeigh, and others, had seen that alternative too. What I wouldn’t give to today be surrounded by such brave warriors…

Jerad and Amanda Miller killed 2 cops and a bystander. Justin Bourque killed 3 RCMP officers and wounded 2 others. Paul Ciancia killed a TSA agent, wounded 2 other agents and a teacher. Heroic might not be the term you'd use to describe these folks. 

Cantwell refers to Timothy McVeigh as a "brave warrior." In 1995, Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and wounding 450 others. Nineteen of those killed were children - children that were in the day care center on the second floor. 

A man who blows up 19 children is not a "brave warrior." That Cantwell and his acolytes can justify that act, and treat McVeigh as some sort of hero is monstrous. 

The Free Staters love to tell us they come in peace. People who come in peace don't come armed to the teeth. People who come in peace don't bring guys like Chris Cantwell. 

FSP President Carla Gericke's cries of outrage reached the ionosphere last year when the FSP were called potential domestic terrorists in an application for an armed vehicle filed by the Concord PD.

Were the Concord PD  wrong? 

"We call them ‘libertarians” because ‘sociopath’ is such an ugly word." ~ TBogg

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Another Ace in the Hoell

Representative Renny Cushing wasn't the only recipient of the largesse of our  friends at Packing NH. 
You remember Packing NH - the PAC that filed paperwork with the Secretary of State's Office saying they weren't going to be making any independent expenditures. They lied.

This is the card that went out in Ed Butler's district. You can almost hear the SCARE VOICE: Democrat Ed Butler brought his New York City ways to New Hampshire.....

This is coming to you from JR Hoell - who brought his Hoboken, New Jersey ways to New Hampshire at the same time Ed moved here. 

The "more tax" stuff is just nonsense. When the libertea crowd cuts revenue sources to our state - they can thump their chests about THE BUDGET - but they never tell the whole story. When revenue streams are cut, your property taxes go up. 

Here's the real arrant nonsense. Ed isn't serving in the US Congress - he's in the NH state legislature. He didn't impose Obamacare on anyone - it's a federal law. 

Expanded Medicaid is going to end in NH when it stops being funded by the Feds. Another libertea lie from Representative Hoell. 

As for the ratings: The NH Firearms Coalition is a bunch of wingnut gundamentalists. The NH Liberty Alliance was started by the Free State Project - the armed miscreants who are moving to NH en masse to take over and dismantle our state government, then threaten to secede. JR is closely allied with the Free Stater crowd. NH Families for Education is a group that seems intent on eliminating public education, and the NH Federation of Small Businesses is the local affiliate for a lobbying group based in Tennessee. Joe Average doesn't give a squirt about any of these groups. 

But, Hoell and Co. count on the fact that most voters are just going to read this nonsense about TAXES and CIVIL RIGHTS, OMG, OMG, OMG!! and react emotionally. They sent this out at the 11th hour so that someone like me wouldn't be able to do the research and call them out on their lies.  They have to lie to win. 

That's the kind of integrity that the homie from Hoboken brought to NH. 

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Another Shady Group Funding Attacks

This last minute FEAR attack comes from a group called Packing NH, whose mission claims to be support for Second Amendment candidates. This group was formed by JR Hoell, a NH State Rep from Dunbarton, and Susan Olsen, a gundamentalist from Weare. Apparently there is a terrible threat to NH gun ownership - so much so that the gazillion other gun groups in NH weren't sufficient. We needed one more. 

As you can see by the cheesy postcard, the mission seems to have veered from supporting Second Amendment candidates, to attacking legislators they don't like. Packing NH's stance on guns is too radical for most NH residents, so they're attacking from a different angle, to divert attention from themselves. Most people think background checks are a good idea. Not Packing NH. 

These cards were sent out attacking Representatives Robert Cushing, Ed Butler, and Steve Shurtleff. They hate Ed Butler because he  thinks background checks on gun buyers are a good idea. They hate Steve Shurtleff because he's a former US Marshall who apparently doesn't believe every citizen should  have a rocket launcher in their pocket. They hate Renny because he's respected on both sides of the aisle, and impervious to their whimpering about guns. If they can get somewhere with getting these guys voted out, it sends a message to anyone else who might threaten their rights to GUNZ, GUNZ, and MOAR GUNZ! Because clearly, MOAR GUNZ is the solution to all of NH's problems. 

It's almost funny if you think about how scared these people are. They live in one of the safest states in the nation, but they're scared spitless to leave their homes without a personal arsenal. 

 Packing NH is a PAC registered in June with the Secretary of State. It seems they weren't exactly honest in their filing:

As you can see, they claimed on their paperwork that the PAC would not be making independent expenditures. As you can see, there was another box to check. If they had checked the box that reflects what they're actually doing, I couldn't call them sleazy and dishonest. 

To their credit - the PAC has filed subsequent reports noting their donations. They have not filed any reports (including the October 29 filing) that listed expenditures. 

To summarize: Gundamentalists form PAC to support their fellow gun nuts running for office. In their filing, they say they will make no independent expenditures. They report their donations. They report no expenditures. Yet attack postcards go out under the name of this PAC - postcards that don't address the Second Amendment, which is allegedly their reason for being. 

Sleazy and dishonest? You decide. 

They have filed a report of their expenditures  with the Secretary of State. 

Secretary of State Election Division

Last Minute Attacks by Shady Non-Profit Affiliated with Americans for Prosperity

This is one of the mailers that has just gone out attacking NH State Representative Robert (Renny) Cushing. Note the stereotyping, the use of FEAR language (WELFARE CARDS!) and of course the incredibly sexist stereotype of a conservative view of what a low income woman looks like. 

There's also something else noteworthy about this mailer. It references HB 1213, a bill that was held over by the legislature for interim study. The House voted in March to send it to interim study. The roll call vote was 175 to 105. (Some fairly reactionary Republicans voted to send it to interim study.)

There have been a number of subcommittee work sessions on the bill, and it's slated to be brought back to the House floor.  This is a craven scare attack on a legislator that is considered a threat. 

That brings us to Part 2. This mailer was paid for by the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition. Who is the NHAC? It is a group originally formed in 1998, aimed at protecting the so-called NH advantage. The founders:

George Lovejoy - Barrington
Roy Stewart - Bedford
Thomas Colburn - Pembroke
Judith Thayer - Manchester
Siobhan Tautkus - Manchester
Bryan Gould - Concord
Diane Gilbert - Epping
Jim Root - Bristol
Ovide Lamontagne - Manchester

They filed only one annual report with the Secretary of State, and that was in 2000. It listed Lovejoy as the president. The non-profit was dissolved/suspended in 2006, and formally dissolved with the IRS in 2011. It was brought back to life later that year by these folks:

Corey Lewandowski - Salem
Ed Sibeleski - Salem
Diane Wolfgang - Windham
Richard Morin - Salem
Matthew Worthen - Hampstead

Corey Lewandowski is employed by Americans for Prosperity - the Koch funded group that is allied with the far right, the John Birch Society, and the Free State Project in NH.

The NH Advantage Coalition has never filed an annual report with the Secretary of State. NH Secretary of State Corporate Search.

In 2012 NHAC received money from AFP.  Americans for Prosperity dutifully reported the $20,000, as you can see by scrolling down to page 24. Note there is no tax ID number  for the NHAC listed on the paperwork.

NHAC also got money from Grover Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform in 2012. NHAC was given $15,000 to fight for "right to work" legislation. The group used the tax ID number from the defunct original corporation that was dissolved with the IRS.

It sure does look as if on top of never filing annual reports with the Sec. of State, the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition is accepting money with an invalid tax ID number. 

This group is obviously scared witless by a decent and principled legislator - so much that they'll lie and commit tax fraud to try to take him down. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

It's Almost Over

It’s almost over. A few more political ads ought to help us choose what candidates to vote for. Is there really anyone left who is undecided? Nationwide, over $4 billion is being spent on the midterm elections. Good thing we don’t have anything important we could be spending $4 billion on. The corporate taps are open wide and the dark money is flowing.

Thanks to all that money, we know that Scott Brown knows only one number. 99. We know that he’s attempting to whip white NH into a frenzy about immigration and Ebola. The fear is supposed to divert you from paying attention to why he’s here. He’s here because he lost his Senate seat in Massachusetts, and he’d like to use NH as a springboard to higher office. I’ve been to debates and forums where Brown spoke, and his ground support is thin. What can anyone say about him? He’s never done anything in NH except vacation and run for office. Brown grew up in Massachusetts, went to school there, was married and had a family there, had a career there, got into politics there. If Elizabeth Warren hadn’t beaten him, he’d still be there. The first time Scott Brown casts a vote here it will be for himself.

This is a man who has repeatedly refused to speak with members of the press, going so far as to hide in a bathroom to avoid a reporter. As you ponder his name on your ballot ask yourself this: Should New Hampshire’s US Senate seat be a consolation prize for a guy whose ambition is the only reason he’s here?

Thanks to all the money, we know that Frank Guinta blames Carol Shea-Porter for everything except his toilet training. At the WMUR debate, he was unable to answer even what was presented as a yes or no question without trying to complain about our Congresswoman. He nattered on endlessly about all of the job fairs he had during his single term. I went to 2 of them. The Conway fair was held 2 weeks after a real job fair. The one staged by Guinta was a photo op, and sadly for him, not a single photographer showed up. No one found a job that day, or at any of the other job fairs. If anyone had, they’d be trotted out for display at every opportunity. Frank’s forgotten bank account (the one with the half million he donated to his campaign in 2010) is still being investigated by the FEC. When he ran in 2010, Guinta wailed ceaselessly about CSP’s alleged abuses of the Congressional franking system. He went on to become the number one franking abuser of the 2011-12 Congress.

Guinta learned nothing from being defeated. He still hates gummint, but thinks you should send him back to be part of it. He’s tried to present himself as an independent, bipartisan thinking kind of guy, but that’s not borne out by his voting record, which showed him marching along in party lockstep 96% of the time. Guinta wants to turn the Social Security trust fund over to Wall St. He wants to repeal Obamacare, returning us to those halcyon days of the pre-existing condition, and high cost/high deductable plans that don’t cover much of anything. He is all wound up about Ebola, but doesn’t seem to grasp that public health is a security issue. We should be working to rebuild our once robust public health system.

After listening to a lot of Guinta, it’s clear that he doesn’t have any ideas or plans to move us forward. Frank has only one setting on his gearshift, and that’s reverse.

I was sorry to miss the recent local candidate’s forum, but the write-up in the paper provided such perfect illustration that I could almost hear Frank McCarthy bellowing out his misinformation. Frank is full of “facts,” like the nonsense he spewed about marijuana.  The marijuana law in Colorado does not give free pot to welfare recipients and tens of thousands of potheads are not moving to Colorado. This bellicose purveyor of foolishness should not be given a return ticket to Concord. 

NH is the seventh wealthiest state in the nation, yet we have the 11th worst infrastructure. Vermont has just about finished wiring their whole state for high-speed internet access. NH has a commission that is still gathering information before acting. Our infrastructure problems, combined with our unwillingness to fund education are the root causes of our economic stagnation. Yet still we hear the same slogans that got us into the mess we’re in taken as some sort of gospel: “NH doesn’t have a revenue problem, NH has a spending problem.” That’s true in the sense that NH is unwilling to raise sufficient revenue to fund our state properly. That’s why we have hundreds of bridges on a red list for structural impairment. Representative Chandler seemed quite comfortable with the fact that we raise insufficient revenue to do the work that desperately needs to be done. Carl Thibodeau is spouting the same old drivel about how to turn the economy around. Union busting won’t magically give NH a 21st century infrastructure.  Also, guy who dons a Santa suit and stands outside the polls insulting voters might be seen as lacking sufficient gravitas for serving in even our volunteer legislature.

Judging from the reporting on this forum, guns and MOAR GUNZ are the most important issue facing NH. The same people who are desperate to make voting as difficult as possible are living in desperate, scrotum-shriveling fear that gun buyers should have to go through background checks. Mark Hounsell doesn’t seem to think domestic abusers should lose their gun rights. Domestic violence is a leading cause of death in NH. Over 50% of the murders committed in NH between 2001-2010 were related to domestic violence, and over 90 percent of the murder-suicides. Instead of worrying about beheadings in Conway village, Mark would do well to contact Starting Point to learn about domestic violence in NH.

It’s almost over. The calls, the mailers, the surveys will stop for a few months. For now there are still a few days left to research candidates so that we all make informed decisions on Tuesday when we cast our ballots.

In Addition:

This was sent to me by Mark Hounsell:

"If a person is found to be a felon for action as a domestic abuser, based on a conviction in a court of law, that person should loose they right to carry a firearm." - You are free to quote me on this."

This was published as an op-ed in the October 31 issue of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

©sbruce 2014


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

No Comment

Seen on a car in Manchester, NH:

Our last Republican governor:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Does Connection to Place Matter?

Scott Brown was born at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. His father worked at Pease AFB in Portsmouth. The first couple of years of his life he lived in NH. He grew up in Massachusetts. He went to school there, got married there, started his family there, was part of his community there – in Massachusetts.  His political career began in Massachusettts. He was elected to the US Senate there, and he lost reelection there, too.

He moved to NH this year to run for the US Senate. Beyond having a vacation home, he has no ties to our state. He’s not part of a community. He hasn’t served on local boards or committees. He hasn’t welcomed the new babies, or comforted grieving neighbors over the loss of a family member. Brown has no base of support, which is visible at every debate. Sure there are people standing around with signs – but that has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with his political party. He has never worked in NH. I’m not sure he’s ever been to town meeting. He’s never voted in a statewide election.

That’s why his support is so thin. Temple Adath Yeshurun in Manchester had a breakfast forum on Sunday morning for CD 1 candidates Carol Shea-Porter and Frank Guinta, gubernatorial candidates Maggie Hassan and Walter Havenstein, and US Senate candidates Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown. Shaheen’s campaign is a machine. Volunteers kept arriving, and a van held enough signs to hand out to every person in Manchester. In contrast, there were some people holding Brown totems. The Shaheen volunteers started a chant. The Brown supporters had no chant. How could they? He’s never done anything here.

Jeanne Shaheen grew up in Missouri. She moved to NH 40 years ago. She worked as a teacher in Dover. She raised a family here. She’s been a part of her community. She served 2 terms in the NH state senate, then served 3 terms as governor. In 2002 Shaheen lost her first bid for the US Senate, in part because of GOP phone jamming on elecion day. John Sununu, Jr. served one term before being ousted by Shaheen in 2008.

So, does place matter?

This is a small state. Does it matter that she may be “from away,” but she’s been part of her community and her state for 40 years? As governor, when the paper mills started to die in Berlin, she fought to keep the mills open and the workers on the job. It was a big deal,  because most NH politicians don’t pay much attention to anything that happens in the vast frozen tundra north of Concord. She is still beloved in the north country. Jeanne Shaheen is on intimate terms with NH. She knows the challenges that face NH as we kick and scream our way into the 20th century. She knows the problems our state faces.

She’s been a public servant. NH isn’t a springboard for Shaheen’s ambition. This is where her family and friends are. This is where her life is.

Scott Brown may have lovely memories of vacations in NH. He has not been a public servant here. He hasn’t done anything for us. He doesn’t know what NH needs to move into the future. Quoting glib GOP slogans isn’t going to move our state forward – but it’s all he’s got.  NH is just a handy way station on his road to higher office. NH is not where his family and friends are. His life isn’t here – only his ambitions.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

APF: They Often Call me Freedo

From today's Americans for Prosperity email:

Their friends call them Freedo but their real name is Mr. Koch.

I misread it the first time and went here:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Beauty Contest

From the moment girls are born, we are wrapped in little pink blankies and put into little pink outfits. We are encouraged to love Disney princesses, dress up our Barbie dolls, love sparkle and glitter, behave like little ladies, and above all, be pretty, pretty girlies!

The beauty contest begins the moment we appear. For the rest of our lives, we are judged on our appearance, and unless we are considered beautiful by societal standards, we are usually found wanting. The judges in the pageant that is our lives are not at all hesitant to let us know where we fall short of the male ideal of beauty. We are judged too tall, too short, too fat, too thin, too shrill, too feminine, too masculine, too much, or not enough.

From the time we start developing breasts, they become the focus of the male gaze. They are stared at, hooted at, and sometimes grabbed by complete strangers. Rather than look us in the eye, strangers speak to those breasts, as if they are unaware that they are attached to actual sentient beings. The older we get, the more intense the beauty contest becomes. The beauty contest includes our voices (don’t be shrill or strident!) our behavior (be ladylike – don’t make waves) and our brains (boys won’t like you if you’re too smart.)

What we look like is everything. That is reinforced daily through advertising and through the comments of men – men we may or may not know. If we are not cheerful chipmunks in every public moment, some guy will come along to tell us “you’d be so much prettier if you smiled.” In fact, throughout our lives, all kinds of people endlessly provide advice on ways to be “so much prettier.” The fun never stops.

If we choose to go into politics, the beauty contest is exacerbated. Men have a distinct advantage, beyond the whole patriarchy/money/power thing. They wear a uniform. Photographers never close in to catch a look at their ankles or their shoes. There are no write-ups on what a male candidate is wearing at an event. Seldom is the appearance of a man ever even remarked upon. There are some exceptions. Chris Christie is remarked upon for being portly, but it is often done in a joking way. Paul Ryan was photographed lifting weights. We were all supposed to be dazzled by his manly muscles. Wes Clark had the sweaters and the Speedo. Then, of course, there is Obama, who has been roundly mocked for wearing “dad” jeans, though how many of us would want our dads wearing anything else? Then there was the big kerfuffle about the tan suit. Because no president has ever worn a tan suit ….er…. except for Harry Truman, Ike, LBJ, and even Saint Ronnie Reagan. Of course it doesn’t matter what Obama wears, it’s always going to be wrong.
It’s a different ballgame for women. We had to hear about Hillary Clinton’s appearance endlessly. Her hair, her clothes, and as she aged, even her ankles. On a Twitter account, there’s a space for a short bio. Hillary’s mentions that she’s a “hair icon” and “pantsuit aficionado.” Sarah Palin was on the other end of the beauty obsession. From the beginning she was advertised to us as the hot GOP chick from Alaska, but the relentless focus on her hair, glasses, shoes, and wardrobe was tiresome. No one took photos of John McCain’s comb over, or his shapely legs. Michelle Obama has been criticized for wearing too many sleeveless dresses, for having muscular arms, for spending too much money on clothes, and for not spending enough; just whom does she think she’s fooling by shopping at Old Navy?

It never ends. For men, though, it never really begins. Scott Brown is the rare candidate whose looks are commented upon. I’ve never read a critique of Walt Havenstein’s suits or hairstyle. No newspaper ever remarks on the fact that Frank Guinta seems to wear a lot of red ties. All of the criticism and commentary is saved for women.

In 2011, an interviewer asked Elizabeth Warren a question about Scott Brown posing nude in Cosmo. She answered, “I kept my clothes on.” Brown heard about this and said, “Thank God.” His contempt for women was on display again over the weekend when he attended a tailgate party at UNH. While drunken fratboys shouted out rapey slurs about our US Senator, Scott Brown said nothing. If he’d turned to them and told them to stop, that’s no way to talk about our US Senator, or ANY woman, I’d be writing a very different piece, one that included the use of the term “respect.” Try as I might, I can’t remember a gang of women bellowing similar comments about any male candidate, anywhere, ever.

The beauty contest came home to NH in another form this weekend. State Representative Steve Vallaincourt of Manchester felt compelled to pen a blog post giving his opinion of Congresswoman Ann Kuster’s appearance. It was puerile and mean spirited, but that doesn’t surprise anyone who knows Steve Vallaincourt. The story hit the international fan hard, which meant the NH media couldn’t ignore it. Now he’s whining about being misunderstood. Some of his staunch male GOP defenders (brothers in misogyny) are blubbering about his First Amendment rights. What these guys never seem to get is that, yes, the First Amendment gives you the right to free speech. It does not give you immunity. If you say stupid stuff, you get to deal with it. I believe they call that taking personal responsibility. Why the women of the GOP continue to tacitly condone this kind of behavior remains a mystery.

That we’re still dealing with this kind of double standard in 2014 is depressing. That we haven’t evolved sufficiently to evaluate our female candidates (and all women) on the basis of their talents, experience, and qualifications is maddening. In 2013 a study done by the group Name It. Change It. found that when a female candidate’s appearance becomes the focus (positive or negative) they lose elections. One could begin to think it’s done intentionally.

They always say the Miss America Pageant isn’t a beauty contest, it’s really a scholarship program. If that’s the case, why don’t we just put all the contestants on "Jeopardy” and pick Miss America that way?“ Jay Leno

Monday, October 06, 2014

Happy Birthday Lucy

Today is Lucy's 5th birthday. Lucy's father had my daughter charged with a heinous crime, and the state of Maine seems intent on railroading my daughter, with ZERO interest in actual investigation or justice. 

That's a story for the days ahead. 

Today on Lucy's 5th birthday, her mother is not allowed to see her or have any contact with her. Today and every day, her heart is breaking. It's unimaginable. 

I can't see Lucy either. 

Lucy's father has refused to let me see her. He even threatened me, via text message, something that Sargent Jared Austin of the Rangeley, Maine police force was completely uninterested in when I called to report the incident. He and my former son-in-law are buddies. No surprise there. Sargent Austin spoke to me in a shockingly unprofessional manner. I wrote a letter of complaint to Chief Dennis Leahy of the Rangeley Police Dept. He has not responded. The inappropriate and unprofessional behavior of one of his officers is apparently of no concern to him.

Today is Lucy's birthday, and I cannot see her. Her father told me that Lucy has no idea who I am. Just before he had Lucy's mother arrested, Lucy and I had a conversation about the hat she had just made for me. "I love you Grammy!" Lucy said to me. I don't believe for a minute that Lucy has forgotten who I am. I do believe that Lucy is living with people who are hurting her physically and emotionally. 

Maine does have so-called grandparent's rights. Unfortunately, those rights are only accessible if one has an attorney. There is no standard form that one can fill out, one has to navigate the process with a lawyer and costly filing fees. I can't afford this. One can hardly call it a "right" if one has to pay a lot of money to have access to it. 

Something is really rotten in the State of Maine. I have no intention of letting that go. 

Today is Lucy's fifth birthday. I love my granddaughter with all of my heart. 

Note: I have no desire to use my family as fodder for my blog. Thing is, my daughter is being railroaded - and I'm not going to let that happen quietly or without a fight.

Friday, October 03, 2014

405 Manchester St.

Mark Hayward's latest story on the continuing saga at 405 Manchester St. appears in today's Union Leader. Some highlights:

Manchester Water Works said Thursday it restored water service to a problem-plagued apartment house at 405 Manchester St., only to discover that someone had stolen copper pipes from the building.
No pipes means no water - and this comes AFTER the tenants had made a downpayment on the water bill. A bill that was not paid by the landlord. Water was included in their rent. Now some of the tenants are buying new pipe and hoping to get the water on today. 
However, the city may close the property sooner. Community Development Commissioner Leon LaFreniere said city lawyers are working with Schaefer’s local attorney to go to court and ask a judge to secure the property.
The City would like this story to go away, as quickly as possible. The City does not want to have a big discussion about deteriorating buildings, the need for new housing codes and more stringent enforcement. 
Paul Schaefer, the disappearing landlord, bought 405 Manchester St. in October 2005. In November 2005, he was issued a Certificate of Compliance. That CoC was revoked on July 20, 2006 because of fire alarm system failure. It was reinstated shortly afterward. That same CoC expired on September 22, 2008. The next CoC was issued on June 2, 2011. It took nearly 3 years for Schaefer to "fix" the 95 violations cited by the housing inspectors.  

The violations included water stained ceilings and water damaged floors in many of the apartments. The ceilings and floors may have been fixed - but nowhere was there any mention of fixing the actual leaks. Leaking pipes in an old wooden building are going to cause ongoing deterioration, as well as providing a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, rodents, and insect infestation. 

It seems there is no real enforced time limit for making the necessary repairs, even though the building isn't supposed to be rented out without a CoC in place. The code enforcement department is woefully understaffed and underfunded. Lowell, MA has 11 housing inspectors. Manchester currently has 4. 

The people living at 405 are living in a terrible situation. The building is a mess. One man's windows blow out if the wind blows too hard. He has to tape them to the frame from the inside. There are a number of broken windows in the building. The place is infested with bedbugs, the mailboxes don't lock, doors don't close properly, and the yard is full of trash. 

Given the precarious legal position these folks are in, and with the City desperate to close this place down, I worry that they may make an investment in the building and still wind up out on the street. 

This is no way for people to be living. Not in the 21st century in the wealthiest country in the world. 

previous coverage:

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Learning from History

One of my friends wrote a book about town meeting a few years back. I contributed some stories and research. I spent a day at the Gorham Historical Society reading old town reports. The earliest town reports were mostly inventories of what the town owned. Shovels, snow rollers, rakes, and other tools. Those terse summaries show how the town began to grow and change.

The town reports also changed over time.  Early reports contained a narrative school report. The town meeting narratives came later. In 1891, advertising was introduced in the town report. In 1895, the town report contained a report from the Board of Health on the topic of sanitation. The school outhouses were decried as “unsightly and unclean.” Gorham’s status as a burgeoning summer resort was also a concern. The Alpine House hotel was lauded as “first class” for emptying their sewerage into the river.

In 1896, the town report included a list from the Library Trustees of the 476 books that were purchased for the new library. The list was updated for several years in subsequent town reports, along with a stern admonition each year that young readers needed to use more care when handling books. In the 1901 report, the library has 1700 books. In 1902 there were new volumes from Darwin, Kant, Hegel, and Adam Smith.

Then, as now, the town reports included births, marriages, and deaths. The causes of death were interesting. In 1897, there were deaths from “exema rubrance", spasms, a gunshot wound, and “general decline.” In 1899, two people were run over by cars. In 1901 a woman died of “natural decline” at age 91. In 1904 the tailor died of a bullet wound.

1903 was the first year there was an official notice of town meeting, and the first year the town report was indexed.

In 1904 the report contained 32 pages from the road agent that included every ditch dug, every man who plowed or shoveled snow, or fixed a bridge. Many more roads required many more man-hours. Twenty men were paid varying amounts for fighting forest fires.

1905 was the first year with a police report. Some 70 people were arrested for “drunk.” In 1908 there were 48 completed water closets in the town.

From counting shovels to water closets, the history of the town unfolds. I’m betting you cringed when you read about the hotel dumping sewage into the river. Polluted rivers were taken for granted when I was growing up. We moved to Groveland, MA when I was 10, and the nearby Merrimack River reeked in the summertime. The shoe factories along the river in Haverhill emptied their sewage right into the river. Ohio’s Cuyahoga River caught on fire in 1968. The environmental movement began. We stopped throwing trash out of our car windows. We stopped dumping stuff into rivers. We learned.

Human history is comprised of lessons learned, followed by vigilance, followed by the erosion of vigilance started by people who know we can do it better this time, followed by either the same problem or a variation of it. Rinse, lather, and repeat.

Reaganomics, supply side, trickle down, laissez faire – whatever we want to call the response to Keynesian economics has been a failure since it was imposed during the Reagan administration. We’re encouraged to believe that all of that wealth concentrating at the top will eventually trickle down to the peons at the bottom. This type of economic policy has been failing us for 30 years, with no end in sight. Meanwhile our infrastructure crumbles, and taxpayers pick up the tab for food stamps for the “job creators” at the top who refuse to pay their employees a living wage. This lesson remains unlearned.

THE PLEDGE seems to have begun on the fringes of NH politics in the 1950’s. In the seventies, under the stewardship of Governor Meldrim Thomson and Union Leader editor William Loeb, THE PLEDGE went mainstream. For over 40 years now, some of our elected officials pledge every two years that they promise that they will not support a state income tax or a sales tax. The Pledge is now seen as inevitable and necessary. It’s called The New Hampshire Advantage. As I’ve pointed out before, taking pledges is easier than thinking.

There’s a definite NH Advantage for the state’s 27,000 millionaires and the numerous military retirees who move to NH as a sort of tax shelter. For the rest of us, the advantage hasn’t been evident in some time. What the pledge really means, is that we will continue to raise insufficient revenue to fund our state at anything more than a bare minimum. Our infrastructure will continue to crumble, our state parks will continue to deteriorate, and we will continue to rank in last place in the nation when it comes to investing in our state university system. When this lesson is finally learned, it’s going to come at a very high price.

The lessons of the Gilded Age brought about the Progressive Era. We’re now watching the reforms of the Progressive Era erode. All of the positive gains through the 1970’s are disappearing faster than the polar ice cap.

Gorham learned that libraries are a great idea. They learned that dumping sewerage in the river was not such a great idea. In a 13-year period, Gorham went from applauding the dumping of sewage into the river to having 48 water closets. Progress through plumbing! It is possible for us to learn from our history and our mistakes, but we don’t seem to do it very often.

“I’ve got news for Mr. Santayana: We’re doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That’s what it is to be alive.”  Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

© 2014 sbruce
published as an op-ed in the Oct. 3, 2014 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

From Unfit for Human Habitation to Safe Enough for Now: 24 hours in an election year

                                Peeling lead paint on the outside of a building in Manchester.

Mark Hayward had a story in the UL on Friday about a house that had been declared "unfit for human habitation. My commentary on that storyOn Saturday he updated the story.

It seems that 405 Manchester St. went from being unfit for human habitation to "safe enough" for now:

The Health Department determined it was not unsanitary as long as tenants can flush their toilets with outside water.

The Fire Department reset the fire alarm system, which had not been working, LaFreniere said.

And his building inspector determined the other violations — such as doors that do not close and bedbugs — are quality of life issues and not reason to clear out the building, said Chief Building Inspector David Albin.

Having doors that work properly are a "quality of life" issue? Expecting to be free of an insect infestation is some sort of LUXURY? 

Water still remains shut off. Albin said he’s encouraged the tenants, who aren’t paying rent, to pool their money and work out a payment plan with Manchester Water Works.

Albin said he didn’t speak to tenants when he posted the building, but several called his office to ask about it. On Thursday, several tenants said they couldn’t get answers from the city after the sign went up.
“We have a responsibility to notify you that things aren’t right,” Albin said. “The city doesn’t have a responsibility to find you a place to live.”

Chief Building Inspector Albin didn't have the guts to knock on doors to compound the misery the folks who live in 405 were already experiencing, even though "we have a responsibility to notify you that things aren't right." Then he quickly absolves the City from any responsibility to help these people who are living in a situation that has been enabled by the City. 
Every 3 years, the City of Manchester inspects apartment buildings for compliance to the housing code. A certificate of occupancy is issued when the building passes inspection. Technically, apartments should not be rented out in buildings without CoCs. In reality, it happens all the time. It happened here at 405 Manchester St. 
The last CoC for 405 expired May 2, 2014. The process of acquiring that CoC began sometime in 2009. My notes begin in January 2010, when the owner, Paul Schaefer, was supposed to meet the building inspector and didn't show up. He was fined $50. This is not the kind of fine that strikes fear into the heart of a slumlord. It's a damn sight cheaper than doing the repairs, and with enough of those no-shows, a landlord can drag the process on for months, even years. Schaefer did exactly that. 
When the building was finally inspected, 95 code violations were found. Some were "quality of life" issues like switchplate covers on electrical outlets. Many related to replacing bathroom ceiling tiles, painting bathroom ceilings, and replacing bathroom floors. The reason for all of these bathroom repairs is obvious - leaky pipes. Fixing the leaks was never, ever mentioned. Just cosmetic repairs to conceal the ongoing leaks. How could a building deteriorate so much in 3 years? Leaky pipes and cosmetic repairs would be the first place to look. 
At 405 Manchester, he process of repairing code violations  took nearly 2 years. The CoC was issued on June 2, 2011. 
Another violation mentioned a bathroom wall with peeling paint that needed to be scraped and repainted. Was it lead paint? We don't know. The City doesn't test for lead paint unless there's a poisoning case. 
At the time the CoC program was initiated in Manchester, it was regarded as cutting edge. 
Not any more. 
It's evident that the regulations need to be rewritten, and then stringently enforced. It's also clear (after looking at numerous housing files) that a three year gap between inspections is too long for some landlords. The file on 405 Manchester is very thick. All of the files on the most dilapidated buildings are thick. They've been allowed to deteriorate over the decades. They were bought and sold as slums, by landlords who make a living exploiting low income tenants. Buildings that are well maintained do not have inspections that result in 95 code violations. 
There's something of a prevailing attitude that THOSE PEOPLE (meaning the low income tenants in buildings like 405 Manchester St) should feel lucky that they have a roof over their heads. Apparently the poor somehow forfeit any right to decent housing. 
And so the City decides that a building that was unfit for human habitation for a month is suddenly an okay place for people with children to be living. 
This is a decision that lacks conscience or humanity. It's the cowardly decision of a City that doesn't want to deal with the image problem that would be created by tossing women and children out on the street just before an election.