Thursday, February 06, 2014

Don't Believe Everything You Read

“Don’t believe everything you read” was the mantra of one of my high school history teachers. As hoary a maxim as it may be, it is one that we should recall when reading through any letters to the editor section of a newspaper. (Or when reading opinion columns, for that matter.) 

Two weeks ago I wrote about HB 1573, a bill before the NH House that would eliminate the 9 regional planning commissions in our state. I described the hearing I attended, where a lot of people spoke about how zoning and planning will lead to the takeover of the country by the United Nations. Several people wrote pithy responses to that column. Careful readers discovered that in all of the pith were no incidences of overreach by NH RPCs. There was plenty of hand wringing, but no proof, coming from conspiracy buffs that pore over documents, looking for sinister portent. It’s somewhat reminiscent of late 60’s Beatlemania. (Newsflash: Paul wasn’t dead!)

The writer of one such letter huffily informed us all that the ACA lists fishing tackle as medical equipment.  A simple Google search reveals that his claim was debunked long ago. It started because of a glitch in the cash register system at Cabelas. The mistake was rectified and anyone overcharged was given a refund. But - that receipt was spread all over the internet, and sent out on the endless stream of propaganda emails that conservatives send around to one another. All of us read things that we want to believe because they confirm our worldview, and we don’t always take the time to verify. We should. Don’t take my word for it. Do your own search. This is one link:

The Municipal and County Government Committee has recommended to the House that HB 1573 should be voted ITL, which stands for inexpedient to legislate. The vote was 15 -0.  From the House Journal:

HB 1573 has come before this committee in numerous forms over the past several sessions. This time we heard testimony that regional planning commissions are tools of the United Nations and its Agenda 21, and that the RPCs, by conforming to the department of Housing and Urban Development standards, are violating our local property rights.
Membership in a regional planning commission is entirely voluntary. No community is forced to join or required to remain a member. 

This is a part of the recommendation from a bipartisan committee. It was their finding that “abolishing the RPCs would be foolhardy.”

Other recent letters to the paper illustrate a level of unfamiliarity with how things work in the NH House. That one of those letters came from a former member of the House is especially unfortunate. The GOP is all ginned up about HB 1589, a bill that requires a background check for all firearms sales. Given the ongoing slaughter taking place across the nation, one might think that our GOP brethren might applaud background checks, to make a start at keeping guns out of the wrong hands. One would be wrong. Any attempt at regulating guns is cause for screams about their RIGHTS. In their minds, the Second Amendment was written by God and gives them the right to stockpile nuclear weapons if they so wish.

It seems likely that most of the screamers wouldn’t pass a background check, and that’s why they fear them so. We are expected to tacitly accept the growing pile of small coffins as collateral damage because …freedom. The tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of 5 year olds.

HB 1589 is before the House Commerce Committee. Rep. Ed Butler is the committee chair. A simple search of the bill on the legislative website will link you to the text and the sponsors of the bill. The recent spate of letters about this bill suggest that Rep. Butler is a sponsor of the bill and is somehow responsible for the fact that the bill was assigned to his committee. Neither is true. There are 8 sponsors listed. Butler isn’t one of them. Committee chairs don’t pick out what bills they want to work on. Bills are assigned to committees by leadership. 
Gun bills are a huge time and resource suck for a committee, and are accompanied by threatening phone calls and harassing emails from the libertea crowd. No committee wants these bills.

The bill goes through the committee process, including public hearings, committee work sessions, maybe a subcommittee session, and an executive session where the full committee votes on whether to recommend that the bill ought to pass or ought to be deemed inexpedient to legislate. The folks on the committee vote the way they want to. It’s not as if the chair is…holding a gun to their heads to make them vote his/her way.

Frank McCarthy should know all this, given that he spent one term in the House. He has chosen to misrepresent, insinuate, and even outright lie about this bill and Rep. Butler. Why? As you can read for yourself in his letter this week, Frank McCarthy has some unpleasant prejudices that he is unafraid to trumpet in public. This was his excuse to make a lot of ugly comments about Representative Butler being gay, none of which have anything to do with HB 1589. 

There’s nothing in the bill about a gun registry, or any of the other sky-is-falling nonsense that McCarthy insists will be next. The purveyors of propaganda hope desperately that you won’t do your homework. They want you to don a shiny chapeau and repeat their lies. 

I’ve said it many times, and will undoubtedly have to say it many more - NH has a media problem. We are not well served by a statewide media that consists of one network TV station and one newspaper that both serve as stenographers for the Republican Party. The further north one travels, the less statewide news there is – and with good reason. The small dailies and weeklies can’t afford a “Concord bureau” to report on the legislative session every year. They’re struggling to stay afloat. Most people from our area don’t go to the State House on a regular basis, they’re too busy working. That lack of trustworthy media means that people rely on the bits and pieces they see in the paper and what they hear from family and friends. When distortions and dishonesty are passed around enough, eventually the lies become truth. Just ask the Kenyan socialist, fascist, Marxist in the White House.

Or, as Ronald Reagan used to say, “Trust, but verify.”

© sbruce 2014  
published in the 2-7-14 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper


Anonymous said...

I made note from reading the letters to our Sun regarding this bill that NO details of the bill were given at all. Rather, reference, inference, and slanted personal opinions. As to our state media. It's a downright disgrace. Were we to watch any TV news station it would be one out of Maine. NH media is pitiful, one sided and a clear example of purist Capitalism at work which is not to report the facts, but to pay attention to your very own job, wallet and MO.

Anonymous said...

Great article. It truly is sad that so many people in today's world take everything they read in the paper or see on politically slanted (both ways) TV as gospel instead of doing their own homework. Amazingly, some conservatives will rip the "liberal national media" as being untrustworthy, yet to defend that viewpoint they point to biased right-wing media like FoxNews! Regardless of which side of the isle you support, do yourself a favor and stop following these news outlets blindly and do some research. It has literally never been easier thanks to the internet. The facts are out there, you just have to take the time to look.

Anonymous said...

The Hon. Frank McCarthy(ism) has a letter in todays Sun about Right to Work Legislation. He is clearly anti-Union and in his world these are Socialist and left wing Pinko Commie outfits. The same outfits that had to be organized to prevent women from jumping out of windows to their deaths and children from dying horrible deaths in machinery.

In his world, I was fired from a job for breathing the idea of Union. His perfect world is designed only for his high living elbow rubbing few. The few that still believe in slavery.