Friday, July 22, 2016

Led by the Dead

There are 14 candidates running for the office of Governor of New Hampshire. Five are Democrats, five are Republicans, and there are four not affiliated with the two major parties. Only two candidates are women, one Republican and one independent. Most of them don’t have high name recognition. Just for fun, I’ve read their websites. I’ll begin by reporting on the Republican candidates, and cover the rest in upcoming columns.

Frank Edelblut is currently serving his first term as a state representative, from Wilton. According to his website, Frank thinks that NH should be the first state to try new ideas, and the first to jettison old ideas. Reading through the priorities section was illuminating. Frank thinks that cutting business taxes and eliminating regulatory hurdles will create jobs. He wants to do something about energy costs. He wants to enable a 21st century workforce. And he wants to “get a handle” on healthcare costs. Can anyone find the new here? Frank is going to stand up for families, which translates as: “Frank wants to make women’s reproductive decisions for them.”

Frank loves our community college system, though he says nothing about funding it. It’s difficult to discern exactly what he means when he says he supports all options when it comes to schools, but it sounds as if he thinks we taxpayers should be paying for private religious schools. Frank supports the 2nd Amendment. He owns a gun. MOAR GUNZ! Frank also wants to reform welfare. He wants us to know he’s the only candidate for governor who has consistently opposed “Medicare welfare expansion.” I’m guessing this means he opposed the NH Health Protection Program, aka expanded Medicaid. I hope this doesn’t mean he’s referring to the earned benefit seniors receive known as Medicare. Frank wants us to know that he values the NH environment. He supports Northern Pass, he wants to build pipelines, and he’s miffed about those who turn environmental concerns into political issues. Frank appears to view the NH environment as one big potential cash cow. He says nothing on his site about state parks, clean water, or clean air. And finally, he wants to end politics as usual, by doing exactly the same things that have been failing our state for the last 30 years.

Jeanne Forrester’s website tells us that she is a real conservative and a break from the past. She’s currently serving as a state senator from Meredith.

It’s not an appealing or intuitive website. Over a photo of a lake, we learn that she is pro-life. It’s repeated a couple of times, just in case there is any doubt, and it’s also listed in the section where one can download position papers. She, too, seems to think that taking back NH will be accomplished by taking away women’s bodily autonomy. Forrester thinks that prevention education will solve the opioid crisis. She thinks that the answer to our state’s economy and job creation is lowering business taxes and eliminating red tape. Senator Forrester has taken The Pledge.

Jonathan Lavoie wants you to know that he’s a REAL New Hampshire citizen. According to his website, he’s a regular person. Not a career politician or a millionaire. He’s against restricting our freedoms. He’s running as a Republican and did a little compare views with other candidates – but he only compared his views with the Democrats. To his credit, he thinks abortion is none of his business. He has no economic plan listed on his site.

Ted Gatsas is the current mayor of Manchester. On his website we learn that he’s taken The Pledge. His devotion to dead Mel and Bill* is so strong that he would like to enshrine that Pledge in our state constitution. Gatsas would like to replace expanded Medicaid with a NH solution. He offers no specifics on what that might look like. He wants to stop Common Core. He believes in STEM education, in local control, and sending kids to tech schools. He will create jobs by cutting business taxes. What a maverick! To his credit, Ted is in favor of investing in infrastructure (he and Sununu are the only candidates who mention it on their websites) and he doesn’t say a word about abortion.

Chris Sununu has the benefit and the curse of a well-known name. In this anti-legacy campaign year, it’s difficult to know whether that will help him or hurt him. One of the first things he wants us to know is that he’s taken The Pledge. According to his website, he also wants education reform, funding for charter schools, and school choice. His “vibrant” economic plan consists of cutting business taxes and eliminating red tape. He wants to reorganize DRED, and reduce health care costs. Sununu also wants to make NH a right to work state, because right to work states get all the jobs. (That those states have better infrastructure, lower energy costs, and a lower cost of living hasn’t occurred to him.) That union jobs are some of the only good paying jobs that offer benefits in our woefully underpaid state is of no concern to him. That right to work states have even higher poverty rates would not interest him. This is about busting up unions and has nothing to do with what is good for workers in our state. 

Sununu blames the NH infrastructure crisis on the Democrats. No one seems to have told him that the GOP had control of the NH House for 150 years, until 2006. The infrastructure didn’t fall apart in a decade. The last two items in his economic plan are infrastructure and telecom infrastructure. He says he’ll get expanded fiber connectivity through public/private partnerships. Sure he will. The monopolies that have control of our telecommunications aren’t interested in expanding, because there’s nothing in it for them in the way of financial reward.

There is nothing new under this sun. All of the GOP candidates promise new, innovative thinking, and bold leadership. All of them propose exactly the same things that their party has been saying for the 30 years I’ve lived in this state. Taking the pledge means never having to think for one’s self. NH has been run like a poor state for decades, as the condition of our infrastructure illustrates. The Republican war cry continues to be, “NH doesn’t have a revenue problem, NH has a spending problem.” Just like trickle down economics, this is a failed policy. And just like trickle down economics, conservatives are intent on perpetuating the failure. NH has a housing crisis, which none of the candidates even acknowledge. None of the candidate websites mention the north country. It’s the same old recycled stuff, wrapped in The Pledge, and served up as “innovative leadership.”

Mel and Bill are chuckling from their respective graves. *

*Mel Thomson and Bill Loeb 

This was published as an op-ed in the July 22 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Baldasaro: Representing NH to the World

Josh Rogers of NHPR is in Cleveland. He just tweeted this out:

I've been seeing a lot of NH media and NH folks talking about how this is "just Al." This kind of behavior is tacitly accepted by our media and our legislature. He's never had to deal with any consequences for the outlandish and frequently dishonest things he's said in public, and that has served to embolden him to the point where he has called for the execution of a presidential candidate who has not been arrested, charged, or convicted of anything. 

Some of Al's greatest hits:

The time he testified at a hearing that the state of NH was selling babies to gay couples for $10,000 per baby. I was at that hearing.

The time Al testified at a hearing that phasing out lead fishing tackle was a part of the UN's Agenda 21 to invade the tackle boxes of NH fishermen. I was at this hearing, too.

Or the time he insisted that there was a double triple secret 13th amendment to the US Constitution that was intentionally deleted.

Then there was the time he approved of the booing of a gay Marine.

And finally, there was the nipple incident.

I keep reading that there isn't any way to expel him from the House (not true - it's just never been done) and that the voters in his district will have to take care of it. 

Here's the thing. As long as Al was embarrassing himself on the NH State House floor, he wasn't my problem. He wasn't MY representative. 

Right now, Al is representing NH on the world stage. He has become MY representative. Yours, too, if you live in NH. 

This is not acceptable. This is not the face New Hampshire wants to be showing to the world. 

h/t to Josh Rogers

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Impulse Control


are the direct descendants of these:

I have no doubt that those yelling "lock her up" in 2016 would have been yelling "burn the witch" in Salem in 1692. 

Then along comes Al:
“I’m a veteran that went to Desert Shield, Desert Storm. I’m also a father who sent a son to war, to Iraq, as a Marine Corps helicopter avionics technician. Hillary Clinton to me is the Jane Fonda of the Vietnam,” he said. “She is a disgrace for the lies that she told those mothers about their children that got killed over there in Benghazi. She dropped the ball on over 400 emails requesting back up security. Something’s wrong there.”
“This whole thing disgusts me, Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason,” he added.
This is State Representative Al Baldasaro of Londonderry, currently serving his 5th term in the NH House. 
A duly elected representative calling for the death of a person who has not been charged or convicted of any crime. 
Once again, the NH GOP covers our state with glory. GOP Chair Jennifer Horn issued a weak assed statement urging Al to apologize. If she had any ovaries, she'd be asking him to RESIGN, right away. Does she really want to DEFEND this kind of conduct - because that's what she's going to have to do. 
It's also worth noting that there is no honor code, no rules for legislators on how to behave in public. GOP State Rep. Kyle Tasker sat in the Child and Family Law committee setting up a sexual assignation with a 14 year old girl. He broke both state and federal law - but he didn't break any House rules. 
Al Baldasaro has made many obnoxious and frequently dishonest statements loudly in public. If the NH GOP treats this as another instance of "oh, it's just Al," they'll be as guilty as he is of inciting and condoning violence. They'll also be handing the Democrats the House majority in 2017. 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

We Remain Undeterred

The Governor and the Executive Council comprise the executive branch of our state government. The Council has veto power over pardons, contracts with a value greater than $10,000, and nominations. Executive Councilors earn a yearly salary of $12,354 plus an additional $4000 per year for expenses, in Districts 2-5. The District 1 Councilor gets $5800 per year for expenses. It should come as no surprise that NH is the only state that does the executive branch this way. We’re the only state with a ridiculously large House full of unpaid legislators. Neither one of these things actually works all that well anymore, but that does not deter us.

The Executive Council was intended to be a check on the governor’s power. Instead, it’s become a home for some angry men who don’t give a fig about what’s right for the state. Their figs are reserved for what is far right, as in their ideology. The Executive Council has become just another parade ground for ideological posturing by the members of the GOP as they use the position as a springboard to higher office.

Last summer the Executive Council voted against funding Planned Parenthood on the basis of the bogus videos that have since been discredited. Republicans seized on those videos as a way to play politics with women’s health and bodily autonomy, while pretending to have great concern for life. That Planned Parenthood saves lives didn’t factor into their grandstanding.

Planned Parenthood saved my daughter’s life twenty some years ago. Low wage working women in the north country didn’t have many choices when it came to their health care back then. The choices haven’t expanded all that much in the ensuing years, though the ACA has improved access for some. My daughter could afford Planned Parenthood, thanks to their sliding fee scale. An annual pap smear came back showing precancerous cells in her cervix. They were removed. She didn’t get cervical cancer. About 15 years later, she had a baby, because she didn’t get cancer and die, thanks to Planned Parenthood.  

It is worth pointing out that Planned Parenthood is not just a provider of birth control. Planned Parenthood also provides STD testing and treatment, breast exams, and cancer screenings.

When Executive Councilors Joe Kenney and David Wheeler start grandstanding about Planned Parenthood, I take it personally. Women’s lives and women’s health are of no concern to these men. Women are just pawns to be used for grandstanding purposes.

Last week the Executive Council voted to restore funding to Planned Parenthood. Republican Chris Sununu was the swing vote this time. He’s supported Planned Parenthood in the past, and after a foray into political expedience last summer, he’s returned to his original stance. His own political party has already begun to excoriate him. There is no room for differences of opinion in today’s Republican Party.

David Wheeler brayed about “Planned Parenthood selling baby parts.” This has been disproven (at the same time the videos were debunked) but in the fact free age we live in, that is unimportant. He knows that the NH media won’t hold him accountable for his lies. Only two states (California and Washington) had fetal tissue donation programs. The program was completely voluntary. The tissue wasn’t sold – it was donated. Some (not all) of the clinics were reimbursed for the cost of shipping and handling. The tissue went on to be used for scientific research.

Joe Kenney put on his sad face to declare that the money for Planned Parenthood should be spent on the opioid crisis. Family planning is not a crisis, he opined, in the way that one might if they had zero chance of ever becoming pregnant. Women’s lives don’t matter in Joeworld, but suddenly, addicts lives matter? Try as I might, I can’t ever remember Joe having any concern for them in the past.

At the Executive Council meeting, Kenney said that there is never an unwanted child. There are orphanages and adoption agencies, he said. Does he even know what an orphanage is? (Spoiler Alert: warehouse for unwanted children.) Fauxlifers love to pretend concern for children, while begrudging every dime spent on their education, and doing nothing about child poverty and homelessness.

The 2015 data from NH Kids Count shows that in Carroll County, 10.5% of families with children under the age of 18 live below the federal poverty level. In Coos County it’s 19.2% of families, and in Grafton it’s 11.8%. Given that NH is the seventh wealthiest state in the nation, those numbers are shocking. Joe Kenney has yet to put on his sad public face to discuss the need to do anything about the increasing percentage of child poverty in his district.

According to the nhgov website, “The Executive Council plays a vital role in improving the state's infrastructure, especially roads and bridges, via management and oversight of the state's 10 year Highway Plan.” The website does not list “overseeing women’s reproductive parts” as one of the EC responsibilities. Ponder that next time you drive on East Conway Road.

NH typically has about 500 bridges on the state’s red list for structural impairments. We have 1,2000 bridges that are over 75 years old. New bridges are added to the red list every year. We add more bridges than we take off, though one way to remove a bridge from the red list is just to close it. The wait list for new municipal bridge projects is about 17 years. Our 10 year transportation plan is a farce. But hey, that’s not sexy. Talking about bridges doesn’t get your face on WMUR or get you written up in Breitbart. Doing your damn job doesn’t get your name up in lights.

According to the Executive Council website, Council members are supposed to be advocates for the people. Check out their responsibilities at , then ask questions of your local EC candidates accordingly. You might ask about that “vital” role they play in improving our infrastructure. Ask the incumbent what he’s done in that regard. Be sure to ask which people they intend to advocate for.

 Published as an op-ed in the July 8 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.