Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Post-Truth Era

Author and teacher Ralph Keyes published a book in 2004 called, “The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life.” The “post-truth era” sounds so much better than the liar-liar-pants-on-fire era – but any way you look at it, that’s where we now reside. We don’t expect honesty in any situation anymore, and we’ve cultivated a variety of euphemisms to soften the blow of that reality. We use the term “spin” instead of deceit. We say, “ethically challenged” instead of thief or charlatan. We’ve become so compromised that we can’t even use the word liar.

There is little we can trust in our public lives. In the post truth era, we can pick our own media. We can choose the media sources that give us information that confirm our beliefs or biases. Saint Ronnie told us that gummint is the problem, so we don’t expect anything good or honest to come from our elected officials. We watched as Reagan’s history was rewritten to make him a saint. Everything is fair game these days – even history can be sanitized for our protection. Our presidential primary has become a reality show where big, bold lies are TRUMPeted with no fear of reprisal. The sad truth is this -there are no consequences for lying.

The NH House of Representatives has an internal “all reps” email listserv that is supposed to be used by House members to communicate with one another (and constituents) as they work on The People’s business. Instead, it is frequently used as a means of sending out ideological mendacity. In 2013, State Representative Peter Hansen of Amherst achieved global renown when he sent out an all reps email where he referenced, “children and vagina’s” instead of saying women and children. In 2013 State Rep. Romeo Danais sent out a “joke” over the internal mail system that compared people getting food stamps to wild animals. Danais found it so amusing that he sent it to all of his colleagues twice. In 2013, State Representatives Gary Hopper and Jordan Ulery found it necessary to send out an all reps email with a scantily clad photo of a young woman. The subject matter of the email was the “Democrat’s plan for a 100% gun ban.” In other words, it was fabrication combined with soft-core porn.

 In the weeks since the terrorist attacks in Paris, we’ve seen a near constant barrage of prevarication on just about every level of public discourse. From presidential candidates to NH state legislators, folks are working overtime to spread fables in order to gin up fear.

On November 13, State Representative Dick Marple of Hooksett sent out a real beaut to the all reps listserv:

Coming to a State near you!
“Oh” “Yes” it is coming here too! 1200 to 2,000 a day are coming here. Obama asked for to have 10,000 then it expanded to 100,000 the with in a week it went to 180,000. That is a lot of Diaper heads.
The thing is, these that Obama is bringing in does not have a wife or family with them! This a invasion! Wake up people we are being taken under with out a shot fired! Obama’s pen does the same thing! If this pisses you off! GOOD!

The spelling, sentence structure, and grammar are all Marple’s. The email heading read: “Four wives? Yup n Miochighan.”

Xenophobic? Check. Offensive? Check. Incoherent? Check.
Marple sent this out to all of his colleagues on the official House internal email system. He referred to Syrian refugees – people fleeing for their lives during wartime - as “diaper heads.” These are the words of an adult man, speaking about some of his fellow humans. That’s awful enough, but this is, by the way, a listserv paid for and maintained by our tax dollars. Our tax dollars are subsidizing the spread of lies, fear, and hate. Marple is serving his fourth term, so one assumes that the good people of Hooksett support his incoherence, duplicity, and his xenophobia.

Back in June of 2012, then Speaker Bill O’Brien sent out an email to all reps advising them of a new policy regarding speech on the all reps listserv:

"Electronic media cannot be used for knowingly transmitting, retrieving, or storing any communication that is: 1. Discriminatory or harassing; 2. Derogatory to any individual or group; 3. Obscene, sexually explicit or pornographic; 4. Defamatory or threatening.  In addition, also prohibited are jokes . . . or any other non-legislative work activity that is not allowed on government computers." This new policy was, according to O’Brien, going to be strictly enforced, and violators would lose their email privilege. Clearly it was not strictly enforced, nor has it ever been. Not a single speaker or majority leader (including O’Brien himself) has ever attempted to enforce this rule, no matter how much offensive stuff is sent out on the official House internal email system.

One would think that these guys would be smart enough to send stuff like this out over their own personal email, rather than risk having someone like me make their bigotry, calumny, and bad spelling a matter of public record, but one would be wrong. There are no consequences for lying.

State Representative Max Abramson, Republican, Free Stater and convicted felon, from Seabrook sent out his refugee falsehoods on Twitter. He tweeted, “Shaheen and Obama are still trying to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to New Hampshire to help the Democrats win a close race in 2016.”

This is complete fabrication. The total of all Syrian refugees approved to come to the United States is 10,000. That is for the entire country, not the state of NH. If Representative Abramson had done even a modicum of research, he would have learned that a refugee coming to the US is not eligible to apply for citizenship for five years after they arrive. They have to be citizens to vote. Abramson didn’t bestir himself to find facts. His intent was to gin up fear and xenophobia for his political party, before an election, so he deliberately sent out misinformation. 

No one has paid any attention to his lies, or those of his colleague Dick Marple. We should want better from our elected officials, but this kind of behavior is exactly what we have become conditioned to expect. There are no consequences for liars in the post-truth era.

“Casual duplicity picks at the thread of our social fabric.” Ralph Keyes

published as an oped in the November 27 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pitfalls of a 400 Member Legislature, Part Two

Max Abramson is a member of the Free State Project, the group of armed libertarian miscreants that intend to take over and dismantle the NH state government, then threaten to secede from the US. He's also an elected state representative from the town of Seabrook. This is a screenshot of a comment he left at a story at the Union Leader newspaper. The UL is one of the propaganda arms (along with WMUR) of the NH GOP. 

The 10,000 refugees he mentions are the sum total of ALL Syrian refugees slated to come to the US in the next 12 months. 10,000 for the entire country. Not the state of NH. 

Also, only US citizens can vote in US elections. 

Felonious Max is deliberately spreading dishonesty and deliberately fearmongering, just like his GOP colleague Dick Marple. We should expect better from our elected officials. 

This is another instance of what you get when you have a 400 member volunteer legislature.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Pitfalls of a 400 Member Volunteer Legislature

NH State Rep. Glenn Aldrich (R - Free State Project) posted this tasteful profile picture yesterday. He appears to be pushing the Newt Gingrich line of thinking about the recent terrorist attack in France, because for the libertea crowd the answer to everything is always MOAR GUNZ!

Because the 230 million guns in the US in 2001 did so much to prevent the terrorist attacks on September 11. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

He's Lost His Marples

Dick Marple (pictured above) is a NH State Representative from Hooksett. He's well known for taking some peculiar positions on issues - like his 2008 opinion that a woman can't legally be elected president.

The NH legislature has an internal email system that is supposed to be used for doing The People's business - official communications. Far too often, it's used to spread offensive communiques. ( Like this one: Vagina's and Children First

Representative Marple was moved by the events in Paris to send this out to all of his fellow representatives:

Offensive? ✔ 

It's also a lot of bunkum. Marple links to a YouTube video that is supposed to fuel the anger of his fellow white American  incoherents, narrated, curiously by a fellow with a British accent. The video
is available here:

The video is completely debunked by SNOPES here:

This man is an elected representative from the state of NH. He's using the NH House internal email system (paid for by NH taxpayers) to spread fear, hate, and xenophobia. 

Diaper heads. That's what an adult man is sending out as a message to his colleagues. 

The NH GOP covers our state with glory once again. 

Tuck over at Miscellany Blue and I attended the same choir practice yesterday. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Medical Marijuana in Timid New Hampshire

In 2013, the NH House passed HB 573, a bill that was supposed to enable access to medical marijuana. Twenty-eight months later, not a single patient has benefitted from it. One might think that there’s some foot-dragging going on. One would be absolutely correct.

In the interest of full disclosure, this is personal. David Emerson, my husband, died of multiple myeloma. That’s cancer of the bone marrow and blood plasma. The disease weakened his bones so much that he could break a rib just breathing.

In December 2008, David was having serious neck pain, and so we wound up in the ER one night. No one paid us much attention. Christmas vacation in a resort area meant that there were many more interesting things going on – until the X-rays came back and 3 people came screaming down the hall with a backboard. It seemed the bones in his cervical spine had deteriorated to the point where his head was in danger of falling off his neck. He would have been paralyzed. He had neurosurgery at Maine Med, where a titanium infrastructure was fused to the remaining bone. His head was secure - in fact, he’d never be able to move it again. David also had to have a three week course of radiation to protect the remaining bone. It was aimed at his neck. As a result, everything he ate or drank tasted like sheet metal.

He needed to eat and drink in order to recover from the surgery. He couldn’t muster up the will to do it. David was not a complainer, but this was more than even he could bear. One of his friends brought over a joint, which stimulated his appetite enough so that he could eat and drink, despite the taste. It also helped with his anxiety.

David was able to get unlimited prescriptions for opiates. The state he loved so much denied him legal access to medical marijuana. Cancer made him a criminal, and he hated that. He deserved a better death. That’s why this is personal.

The NH legislature passed 3 prior medical marijuana bills. Governor Lynch vetoed them all on the advice of law enforcement and his wife the pediatrician. Law enforcement mostly hates the idea of legal marijuana. The war on drugs guarantees them all kinds of extra money and shiny toys, and they’ve become addicted to those things. The reality that our drug policies are a failure does not matter. They want more money and bigger toys, because somehow more law enforcement will stem the tide. It’s akin to the believers in trickle down economics. Both have been failures for over 30 years now, but the believers in both are determined to keep on trying.

Here’s the thing. No one has died this year from injecting an overdose of marijuana. We aren’t hearing about a marijuana crisis.

Sure, we have a medical marijuana statute in our state, but it’s going nowhere. A byzantine system of approval for marijuana dispensaries was created. Apparently there will be four of them. The locations haven’t been officially decided. There will not be one in Carroll or Coos County. There may be one in Lebanon. A person dying of cancer in Colebrook or Pittsburg can look forward to a 2.5 or 3 hour road trip. It’s clear that this process wasn’t thought out with any kind of empathy or interest in job creation.

Our neighboring state of Maine passed a medical marijuana bill in 1999. In 2009, they added more qualifying conditions and created 8 dispensaries. Maine has a very humane system, one that involves a number of choices. Patients can grow their own, cultivating up to six plants. They may choose to use a registered caregiver, who can supply a small number of patients with marijuana, or they can use a dispensary.

New Hampshire has chosen a far more dictatorial system. A very small list of qualifying conditions. No growing. No registered caregivers. Four dispensaries. If you live out of range or you’re poor – well- tough noogies for you. You can either keep taking opiates or be a criminal. Have a nice death.

Last week, a woman named Linda Horan filed suit against the State of New Hampshire. Linda has stage 4 lung cancer. She is suing the state to get a card that certifies that she is a medical marijuana patient, so that she can go to Maine and access their humane system, given the absence of humanity here in the state where she lives. Linda may not live long enough to be able to access a dispensary in slow moving NH. She would prefer to live the remainder of her life without being stuck in an opiated haze. She would prefer to live out the rest of her life without being a criminal. This should not be too much to expect.

New Hampshire is often touted as a place of independent thinkers and “libertarian” philosophy. What that mostly means is that we get to live free of the kinds of amenities (like infrastructure) that other states provide as a matter of course. We are a state full of timid, wincing conservatives. We’re too afraid to eliminate the death penalty, because it upsets law enforcement. We’re too afraid to have a legislative study committee on end of life issues, because it upsets the governor. We’re too afraid to enact our medical marijuana statute because it upsets law enforcement, our AG and our governor. We are a state ruled by bumper sticker slogans (Ax The Tax!) and that, dear readers, has robbed us of any ability to have adult conversations.

This all says something ugly about what kind of state we are. Guns in the State House – NO PROBLEM! Managing your own illness – BIG PROBLEM!

My husband didn’t get to die the way he wanted to. I hope Linda Horan does. I hope her lawsuit moves the state forward in enacting our medical marijuana law. People with chronic or terminal illnesses should have choices in how they live and die. Opiates are ravaging our state. We have the ability to provide a humane alternative. All we need now is the courage.

This was published as an oped in the November 13, 2015 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.