Thursday, August 31, 2017


                                    cartoon by Kirk Anderson

On September 11, 2001, contrary to popular belief, the terrorists really did win. Since that day, the US has been obsessed with internal security, as if harassing US citizens would protect the nation from another terrorist attack.

We learned nothing from 9/11. No national humility crept in; we were too busy waving flags, beating our chests, and bellowing USA! USA! USA!

Since then, however, we’ve cracked down upon the enemy, and apparently the enemy is us. The Patriot Act was pushed through even though hardly anyone had read it. It gave law enforcement the authority to search homes and businesses without the owner’s consent or knowledge. It gave the FBI the authority to search telephone, email, and financial records, without a court order.

A few years later, the REAL ID Act was passed. To get it passed, it was attached to a military spending bill. In 2005, few would dare vote against a military spending bill. REAL ID was sold as a way to “set standards” for the issuance of identification – such as driver’s licenses. It made sense for a nation fearful of another foreign terrorist attack to create standards for driver’s licenses as a means of prevention. It wasn’t quite as brilliant as having air passengers remove their shoes, but close.

Privacy advocates were howling in outrage at the thought of a “national ID card.” It proved so unpopular that the date for compliance was put off several times. In 2007, it was announced that compliance by states would be put off till 2009. In 2008 the deadline was extended to 2011. NH was one of the states that fought hard against REAL ID. That opposition was in character with the “live free or die” philosophy we’re supposed to be famous for embracing. It was in character with our reputation as a libertarian leaning state.

Somewhere along the way we stopped fighting REAL ID and meekly submitted. Sixteen years of indoctrination – a combination of fear based agitprop and training to submit to authority, changed our tune from Just Say No to We Have to do this for National Security. REAL ID means that the state maintains a database of information on people, including Social Security numbers and photos. This database can be accessed by federal authorities, and will be all fun and games until the identity theft begins, and it will.

Let’s do a quick summary: The US experienced a big terrorist attack. We became afraid. Rather than evaluate US behavior in the world, we chose to suspect ourselves. We were programmed to submit to measures that invaded our privacy in the name of safety and security. We were trained (by means of constant drumbeat) to fear terrorists, especially at the airport. Apparently terrorists were just waiting to pounce on suitcases full of dirty underwear, and use them for nefarious purposes. FYI, you’re far more likely to be killed by a white, male, domestic terrorist. We ignore that reality – it’s not a money maker, and it doesn’t appeal to authoritarians.

Last week I was driving north on I-93, when I passed a pop up Border Patrol Inspection near Lincoln.  Cars heading south were being stopped and quizzed about their citizenship by Border Patrol agents, who may also have had drug-sniffing dogs. Not much shocks me anymore – but that did. After all, the border crossing is in Pittsburg, which is 2 hours away. It turns out that the Border Patrol can operate immigration checkpoints within 100 miles of an international or coastal border, which is pretty much anywhere in New England.

New Hampshire’s second largest industry is tourism. Nothing says welcome to NH like, “show us your papers.” NH is loath to pay for highway rest stops (or maintain the few still in existence) so instead - we’re going to give them an adventure! The possibility of being detained by US Customs and Border Protection will enliven a dull highway journey, especially for those of a duskier hue, which is what this is really all about.

This pop-up checkpoint had been an annual event in NH. Vermont’s Congressional delegation fought hard against them, and so they’d mostly stopped in Vermont. On I-95 in Maine they appear, generally in the Houlton area.  About five years ago, the NH checkpoint had stopped. According to an NHPR story, US Customs and Border Protection has been newly empowered by the Trump administration to resume this checkpoint and more of them can be expected.

There hasn’t been a peep out of the liberty and freedumb crowd about this. Not a word from the allegedly liberty loving Free Staters. The folks who do the wailin’ about gummint encroachment on our lives are strangely silent when it comes to “show us your papers” stops. Their interest in gummint interference extends to deregulation and tax cuts. Actual violations of privacy and civil liberties don’t interest them in the slightest. 

Live Free or Die has become Roll Over and Submit.

Published as an op-ed in the September 1, 2017 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

We All Learn at Our Own Pace

The NH GOP headquarters in Concord was vandalized this week, and not for the first time. 

This was the time before:

Yep, back in 2013,  NHGOP headquarters was vandalized in nearly the same spot. 

This is terrible.  Not only is it against the law,  it's mean spirited, demoralizing, and obnoxious. It hurts our community. Concord is a nice place to live and work, and this isn't who we are. 

From the Concord Monitor :

Patrick Hynes, a senior adviser for the Republican Party, said workers arrived in the morning and immediately saw the graffiti after parking their cars. They checked the inside of the building and it didn’t appear as though anyone tried to gain entry, he said.
“I think it’s safe to say that the staff was concerned,” he said. “Obviously, it’s an unpleasant thing for anybody to experience.” 
Hynes said there are security cameras at the front of the building, but not in the back.
“Going forward,” he added, “there will be cameras in the back.” 

As one can see from the photos, it's the same back wall that keeps getting vandalized, yet the security cameras are in the front.....

Well - we all learn at our own pace. The NHGOP sent out a fundraising note today, asking for donations to help upgrade security. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Pick a Side

It’s official. The Trump presidency went so far off the rails this week that the rails will never be seen again. The press conference held this past Tuesday was proof that Trump is completely unfit for office. All of you who said he’d “grow into the office?” You were wrong. Really wrong.

Voters loved him because he “tells is like it is,” which means he spouted a lot of incomprehensible nonsense, punctuated with insults and bravado. Republicans loved him because he claimed to be one of them, they march in lockstep, and because ideology is more important to them than integrity. The GOP didn’t just ignore his twitter wars, inciting of violence, and boasts of grabbing women by the genitalia. They defended him.   

They loved Trump because he was about as far from Obama as you could get. The Republican Party was furious that a black guy spent 8 years in the White House. When Donald Trump became a big public birther, they ate it up.

Don’t dare tell me you’re surprised by his conduct this week. The warning signs were a mile high and flashing. We’ve all been pretending that presidenting by Twitter is perfectly normal; even though we know it is not. 

A bunch of white supremacists were miffed about the removal of confederate statuary in Charlottesville, VA, so they decided to have a rally. They publicized the rally, and made a big deal out of it.  Richard Spencer, the new David Duke was going to be there. The old David Duke was going to be there. Chris Cantwell, a NH Free State Project mover turned white supremacist was going to be there. (Sidebar: have any of these guys who think of themselves as the master race ever looked in a mirror?)

Hundreds of white supremacists marched through the UVA campus last Friday night with tiki torches, yelling, “Jews will not replace us,” and “white lives matter.” The next day, the white supremacists showed up with shields, clubs, and guns for their peaceful demonstration. Naturally, counter-protesters showed up, too. There were violent clashes. The police mostly turned their back on the protesters. One of the neo-Nazis drove his car into a crowd of people, killing one person and injuring 19 others. Two state troopers were killed in a helicopter crash.

Trump was laboring selflessly at his golf club, where he found time to tweet about how we must all be united. He emerged later in the day to attend a news conference. He said “we” condemn the violence on many sides. He liked “many sides” so much he said it twice. He switched to talking about what a great job he’s doing, and how when he watches Charlottesville it makes him very sad. He didn’t acknowledge the white supremacists were responsible for the violence. He didn’t mention their domestic terrorism. How could he? They’re his base.

There was a lot of national outrage over what Trump didn’t say. It turns out a lot of Americans disapprove strongly of white supremacists. After 24 hours of bad press, back in Washington, some adult forced Trump to read a prepared speech, where he denounced the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists, and finally mentioned the two troopers, and the young woman who were killed. He was furious at the negative coverage and furious at being forced to read an adult speech.

The next day, after several CEO’s from his manufacturing council bailed out on him, he went from simmer to full boil, and hijacked his own press conference. He babbled insensibly about a young woman, a fine young woman, whom I assume is the one who was killed, but he never provided any context, so it just came across as disconnected nonsense. He said David Duke’s statement was beautiful. He kept braying about facts, and how he waited because he needed to know the facts. Clearly he was resentful about the facts he was forced to recite the day before, because he started blathering about two sides again, and how there were some “very fine people” on both sides.

How many of you know “fine” people who grab tiki torches and Nazi flags and march through college campuses bellowing about Jews? There are not two sides to neo-Nazis engaging in domestic terrorism. Our fathers and grandfathers fought a war against this.   

Trump has never been able to elevate himself to the kind of behavior the office demands, but this press event was a whole new frontier. This is a man who is the exact opposite of a statesman. He is the antithesis of gravitas. He is seriously, dangerously, unfit for office. He is incapable of being a world leader.

He should have been in Charlottesville, speaking seriously about violence and paying homage to the dead.  He should have been grave and presidential. Instead he was conducting a petty war with the media and petulantly presenting himself as the victim in the situation. Seriously, dangerously unfit for office.

What are we going to do about it? 


Published as an op-ed in the August 18, 2017 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Hey Big Spender

Photo: Fred McNeill/NHPR

The American Society of Civil Engineers released their annual report on infrastructure in the spring. The report covers the nation’s infrastructure (it gets a grade of D+) and provides a report on each state. New Hampshire received a grade of C-.

NH spent $43,062,914 on bridge projects in 2013. Despite that infusion of cash, thirteen percent of NH’s bridges are structurally deficient. That’s 492, to be exact. In 2016, 20 bridges were removed from the red list…..and 17 were added. We aren’t putting a dent in the red list; we’re just breaking even.

According to the ASCE report, NH has 146 high hazard dams, and has 20 sites on the national priorities for hazardous waste sites list. The report calls for an investment of $835 million in drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years. The park system has $104 million in unmet needs, and we need to invest $198 million in wastewater infrastructure over the next 20 years. Due to the less than stellar condition of our roads, motorists average $363 annually in repair costs.

In 2016, the latest version of the perennial 10-year highway plan was passed. It calls for spending $3.8 billion on some highway and turnpike projects. The seemingly endless project of widening of 1-93, widening 101 in Bedford, expanding part of the Spalding Turnpike, and part of the Everett Turnpike. The plan “increases” spending for red listed bridges, assuming there’s any money left over from the highway projects. 

                                Photo: Concord Monitor 

The ASCE estimates that to fix the US infrastructure would cost $4.6 trillion. The Trump administration won’t be making that kind of investment in making America great again. Instead, Trump intends to add $54 billion to the already bloated defense budget. Trump has been talking about his $1 trillion infrastructure plan, but it’s all talk. There is no trillion, and there is no plan. Our crumbling national infrastructure is a threat to our security, but that doesn’t capture the fancy of the global imperialist crowd, who prefer to invest in weapons contractors and endless war. Infrastructure isn’t a sexy issue like legislating women’s reproductive tracts. Oppression – now that’s sexy.

There are 3,848 bridges in the NH DOT inventory. Some 80% of the state owned bridges were built before 1980. According to the ASCE, the “typical” design life of a bridge is 50 years. There are 650 state owned bridges that are 75 years old. The legislatures of the past 30 years have kicked the infrastructure can down the increasingly bumpy road, and as a result, the cost of doing the work will never be cheaper than it is at this moment. 

Governor Chris Sununu has just announced that $30 million will be sent back to cities and towns for infrastructure projects. An additional $6.8 million will be dispersed to towns for red list bridge repairs. It’s a start, but given the need, $30 million won’t go very far. The legislature chose to use the same formula they use for distributing gas tax monies, a formula based on miles of roadways and population. This is a one-time block grant, and the details and restrictions around how these funds will be used have not yet been made clear.

Ossipee has two of the top 15 red listed bridges. Number 8 on the priority list is the bridge over the Bearcamp River on Routes 16/25. It’s been on the red list since 2004, and according to the list, it will be repaired in 2018. Number 10 on the list is the relief bridge over the Bearcamp River on Rte. 16/25. It’s been on the list since 2004, slated for repair in 2018.

Osspiee’s share of the $30 million is $153,081.10. The town maintains approximately 83 miles of paved roads. They won’t have trouble spending the money.

Number 12 on the priority red list is the Conway Lake outlet bridge on Rt. 302/113. It’s been on the red list since 2010. It’s scheduled for repair in 2018. The covered bridge is also on the red list, but covered bridges aren’t included in the 10-year transportation plan.

Conway’s share of the $30 million is $217,101.73. According to the Conway Master Plan, there are 161 local roads, totaling 82 miles.

                                        Photo: Will Brown/ NH Coastal Adaptation Work Group 

Number 59 on the priority list is the Ellis River Bridge in Jackson, on Rt. 16. It’s been on the red list since 2011, and is scheduled for repair in 2023.

Jackson’s share of the $30 million block grant is $35,018.26. Again, they won’t have trouble spending the money; it just won’t go very far. It certainly won’t help that red listed bridge.

Albany is slated to receive $32,933.31; Bartlett comes in at $89,588.71, and Chatham $11,847.45.

It will be interesting to find out what restrictions will apply, and how the cities and towns will use the funds. I’m especially eager to hear what Hart’s Location is going to do with the $1,792.47 they’ve been allotted.

Published as an op-ed in the August 4, 2017 edition of the Conway Daily Sun Newspaper 

List of towns and grants: