Friday, December 28, 2018

Guns and Grifting

The new legislature has been sworn in, and will be back in session on January 2. 

As I write this, there are 894 LSRs. An LSR is a fledgling bill that is written by the sponsor, and then sent to Legislative Services to be fleshed out and checked out. It is assigned a number and published. It will be assigned to a committee, have a hearing, and be voted on. House members have submitted 609 LSRs, and 204 have come from the Senate. Another 71 LSRs were withdrawn before they ever became bills. There are ten proposed amendments to the NH Constitution.

Some are predictable. One wants to change the NH Constitution to stipulate that taxpayer funds can’t be limited to supporting public schools. As we learned last biennium, taking money out of the public schools will mean dramatic increases in property taxes, but our libertea brethren don’t care about that.

There’s a proposed amendment that would stipulate that any broad based tax should be prohibited. Another would alter the state constitution to prohibit a tax on personal income from being enacted. A recent report finds that NH has the third highest property taxes in the US. This kind of GOP policy will help ensure that we reach first place. 

Another amendment would reduce the number of representatives in the House, and another would allow compensation for legislators to be determined by a joint resolution with the approval of the Executive Council. It seems our “live free or die” legislators want a bigger paycheck. Another would enshrine the right to hunt, subject to laws promoting sound wildlife and conservation management.

There is also a proposed amendment that would allow no-excuse absentee voting for NH residents. Perhaps the most important amendment would establish an independent redistricting commission to draw boundaries for state and federal offices. Why does this need to be a constitutional amendment? So that neither party can undo it on a whim. The state senate districts have been ridiculously gerrymandered. NH Republicans have historically opposed the creation of an independent commission, probably because they’ve done most of the gerrymandering. All of the proposed amendments have a long way to go before we ever see them on a ballot.

The first year of the biennium is the year that the next state budget is worked out. The House and Senate have both decided to continue to have Thursday voting sessions, something that began during the last biennium. Former Speaker Terie Norelli introduced mixed party seating during her second term. Her hope was that legislators would get to know one another and form relationships that transcended party affiliation. That’s been the custom since. The Republicans asked Speaker Shurtleff to restore party segregated seating, so that they can sit together, and maintain the kind of discipline needed to meet Minority Leader Dick Hinch’s stated goal of disruption and delay. Shurtleff has agreed to their request.

The GOP gundamentalists are getting all ginned up to fight about a proposed rule change that would forbid concealed carry firearms in the House chamber, anteroom, coatroom, or in the House Gallery. It’s understandable. Republicans who carry have shown an inability to holster their guns properly, as we saw when Kyle Tasker’s gun fell to the floor in a meeting of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. He’d been playing quick draw out in the hallway, and failed to secure one of his holsters. Tasker carried a gun under each arm, because you can’t be too safe in dangerous NH. The last gun drop was made by Representative Carolyn Halstead whose gun fell out of the back of her pants in a hearing on full day kindergarten that was filled with parents and children. Kyle Tasker is in prison on felony charges and Halstead was not reelected, so there is an opening for a GOP gun dropper. In most public buildings where unstable persons are likely to be present (courthouses, planes, NRA conventions) concealed firearms are not allowed.

As anyone who has ever attended a demonstration at the State House knows, a sign on a stick is not allowed inside the building. That’s right – the State House is a stick free zone, and I’m certain we’re all safer as a result. The last stick massacre was a national tragedy. 

There’s going to be a lot to pay attention to in the coming biennium. Keep an eye on the story of the funds raised for the governor’s inauguration, and how the unspent funds were dispersed to the governor’s family members, advisors, and – of course, to himself. It appears to be near Trumpian level grifting, right here in River City.

It’s a shame we’ve abandoned all interest in expecting our elected officials to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Let’s insist they do better in 2019.

Happy New Year, everyone! 

This was published as an op-ed in the December 28, 2018 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Seriously, John Delaney?

I live in New Hampshire, the first in the nation primary state. This means that every candidate intending to run for president will bombard me, and my fellow residents, with mail. The first one came this week. 

John Delaney is a congressman from Maryland. He's a Democrat. He chose to introduce himself to me with this mailer:

The George Will column makes this point: 

"Suppose, however, Democrats are more interested in scrubbing the current presidential stain from public life than they are in virtue-signaling and colonizing the far shores of leftwingery."

I'm registered as an "undeclared" voter. I can only assume that by choosing George Will as his intro, John Delaney is trying to appeal to the more conservative faction of undeclared voters, not those of us who proudly reside on the far shore colony. 

In 2014, George Will wrote a column about campus rape that should have caused him to lose his job. Mysteriously, after years of racist, sexist, and homophobic commentary, he remains employed. He's the poster boy for privileged white men endlessly failing upward. 

By choosing George Will as his intro, I can only assume that John Delaney isn't interested in appealing to women. 

It's working for me. 

That humble, working guy persona Delaney cultivates appears to be fiction, according to those pinkos at Forbes.

Here's a  blog post I wrote in 2014 about Will's column. (Language warning for the easily offended.) 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

One Way Street

Bipartisan: marked by or involving cooperation, agreement, and compromise between two major political parties. 

Oh, how we love that word! How we love that concept. How often we invoke the desire to see our elected officials reach across the aisle and get things done, because surely bipartisanship is the way things happen.

If we dig a little, we learn that it has happened a few times. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil famously worked together to protect Social Security. John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi teamed up on passing the ACA. Of course, that was after Boehner and McConnell announced their intention to block and delay everything coming from that oft-touted other side of the aisle, in their effort to make Obama a one-term president. Oddly, no one in the media seemed to call them out on their stated goal of ignoring and subverting bipartisanship. It was no big deal that Republicans had no intention of reaching across the aisle. By this time, we didn’t expect it from them anymore. By this time, bipartisanship was a one-way street, populated only by Democrats.

That’s where it remains. 

Democrats are expected to fall all over themselves to compromise. In fact, they’re expected to completely cave in to GOP demands. That’s what we call bipartisanship, but it could be more properly referred to as capitulation. There are whole “bipartisan” groups dedicated to this philosophy. No Labels claims to be dedicated to bridging the divide. In 2017 they launched the No Labels “problem solver caucus,” comprised of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats who would work together on ambitious bipartisan proposals. They also gave out “Problem Solver Awards.” They gave one of those awards to Donald Trump, who has never solved a problem in his life. No Labels always seems to be advocating for the position of the right. I can’t think of a time when they’ve taken the other side. Nope, they want to do things like gut Social Security and Medicare, policies that aren’t popular with most people from either side of the aisle. 

We’ve seen similar antics in Concord. When the Tea Party Junta took over the State House and installed Bill O’Brien as Speaker, all possibility of reaching across the aisle flew out the window. That was when the Republican Party began the slow descent into the kind of madness that caused them to elect an incoherent game show host as President of the United States. 

Yes, this is New Hampshire, a state where the media default setting is GOP, and so since the new Democratic majority at the NH House elected Steve Shurtleff the media focus has been on bipartisanship. A Seacoast online headline read, “Speaker Shurtleff Offers Refreshing Bipartisan Message.” I guarantee you this headline would never have been written if the Republicans had kept the majority.

It took nearly a week for the speech made by Representative Dick Hinch, the new GOP minority leader to get any media attention. It was not a “refreshing message.” Hinch began with a little lip service about unity and working together for the benefit of the state, then quickly moved on to his real message. Hinch told his caucus that their primary duty is to make sure they take back the House in 2020 so that they can gerrymander districts to ensure they keep the majority for the next decade. He urged the caucus to be disruptive at every opportunity.

This speech didn’t even merit a mention in most of the NH media. Those that did carefully danced around Hinch’s speech, sanitizing it for GOP protection. The exception to the rule was long time NH political reporter Garry Rayno who reported on the content of Hinch’s speech, at Manchester Ink Link. Why didn’t other NH media cover it? GOP is the default setting of the NH media. They are always protected and never held to the same standards that Democrats are. Stories of GOP bad behavior seldom splash across the headlines unless the story is picked up by national media, as we have seen time and time again, most recently saw with (former) Representative Porn Star. 

Republicans aren’t expected to behave in a bipartisan way. They will not be held accountable for the kind of disruptive, delaying tactics they’ll be engaging in on the House floor this year. Those tactics won’t even be mentioned in the news coverage of House sessions. The further north one travels in the state, the less likely one is to get any coverage of the goings on in the state house. Democrats are supposed to knuckle under to the demands of the GOP, because doing their bidding is their definition of bipartisan. 

Most of us want to have a representative body that will work hard to do what is best for New Hampshire. If we’re going to cling to the myth of bipartisanship, let’s insist that it be a two way street – in the legislature and in the media. 

Published as an op-ed in the December 14 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Woman's Place

Women were elected to office in record numbers all over the country. Mind you, record doesn’t mean that women have achieved any sort of parity. After this election, women comprise 25% of state legislators. We’ve come a long way, baby, in the last 98 years.

In Arizona and Vermont women comprise 40% of the legislature. Nevada’s legislature is 38% women, and the number is 37% in Washington State. Colorado, New Jersey, and Maine all have legislatures that are made up of at least 30% women. The states with numbers in the 14% range are Louisiana, Oklahoma, W. Virginia, and Mississippi. In Wyoming that number plummets to 11%. Hmmm….maybe women haven’t come such a long way after all. 

New Hampshire is definitely not Vermont. In 2019, 28% of the legislature (that includes both House and Senate) will be women. We will also have a younger legislature. Last year the average age of a NH legislator was 66, making NH the oldest state legislature in the country. There were 23 state representatives under the age of 35. This year there are 42 representatives under the age of 40. In a state that can’t seem to keep or attract young people, this can only be a good thing. Perhaps we’ll see New Hampshire move bravely into the 21stcentury.

We don’t make it easy for young people to serve. The enormous state legislature is in session half the year, as well as committee work. That’s a commitment of at least two days a week, which is a tough sell with most employers. The further away one is from Concord, the more difficult that commitment becomes – all for an annual stipend of $100. That’s not even taking into consideration the time spent studying to prepare for voting on numerous bills or providing constituent service. 

One of the youngest women to ever serve in the NH House is 19-year-old Cassandra Levesque. She worked with legislators to raise the NH child marriage age, after learning about it as part of a Girl Scout project. At the time, a 13-year-old girl could marry an adult man. A fourteen-year-old boy could also be married, though adult women don’t marry 14-year-old boys. The first attempt failed. Republican men were insistent on holding on to the privilege, while bemoaning their sadness that a young service man wouldn’t be able to wed his pregnant girlfriend. That an adult man shouldn’t be impregnating a child was not even a consideration for them. A year later, the marriage age was raised to 16 for both girls and boys. The experience of working on a bill gives Representative Levesque advance familiarity with the whole process of how a bill becomes law in our state. 

Safiya Wazir is a naturalized citizen from Concord, who was just elected. She spent 10 years in a refugee camp in Uzbekistan. Wazir and her family were fleeing the Taliban, and eventually came to the United States. She ran because she wants to give back to her community and her new country. Safiya is 27. 

A report by the NH Women’s Foundation found that 335 women ran for various offices in NH, up from 306 in 2016. The party difference is stark; 44% of candidates who ran as Democrats were women. About half those numbers of female candidates were Republican. There were regional differences; women made up 49% of the candidates in Grafton County, yet only 21% of the candidates in Cheshire County.

New legislator orientation is taking place this week, over a three-day period. Organization Day is December 5, when all legislators are sworn in by the governor, and in front of the Executive Council. After that the new legislature will elect a Speaker.  The new Speaker will take the chair and the members elect the clerk and the Sergeant-at-Arms. 

Once these tasks are complete, the House informs the Senate that it has organized. The House and Senate then meet in joint session to elect a Secretary of State and the State Treasurer.

Women make up half the population, yet we aren’t well represented in the electorate. I don’t want to get too giddy about the possibility of parity, but this election’s results are at least hopeful. Why does it matter? Ask yourself how different our history and our nation would be if women had been included in the founding process. What would the Constitution look like if women hadn’t been intentionally excluded?

Perhaps one day we’ll move beyond the view of the founders that women were lesser beings. I’m somewhat hopeful that by the end of the new biennium, adult men won’t be able to marry minors any longer in the state of NH. Progress comes slowly in a state that is run by old men. 

Published as an op-ed in the November 30, 2018 edition of the Conway Daily Sun

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Change Comes to New Hampshire

NH has survived another election, despite the confusion around the NH Supreme Court decision concerning SB3, which was helpfully intensified by the Secretary of State.  In spite of the incorrect absentee ballots that were sent out, and without even the usual complaining about busloads of out of state voters. I’ve read grousing about how people from Commiechusetts are coming here to destroy NH, but the reality is, that most people who migrate to NH move to Rockingham County, the reddest county in the state. They aren’t coming to Carroll County. There aren’t good paying jobs, and there isn’t any affordable housing. The migrants to Carroll County are primarily in their 50’s and 60’s, coming to live in their second homes and protect their pensions in tax free splendor.

In 2016, the Republicans won control of every part of the NH state government. What did they do with that control? The governor’s first priority was passing a concealed carry bill – because, apparently, guns are more important than anything. After taking a pay increase negotiated by the State Employees Union, he tried to pass right-to-work legislation. The Republicans passed more business tax cuts. They tried to pass a voucher bill that would have dramatically increased property taxes. The governor referred (more than once) to a bill that would have provided family leave for workers as “a vacation.” Caring for a sick family member isn’t exactly a trip to the Bahamas. The Trumpublicans are nothing if not tone deaf. 

On the other hand, the Governor earned a reputation with the media for being “affable,” and “avuncular.” Anywhere a camera was held up and the lens focused, he was there. His party often touted his bold leadership, and I think we can all agree that Sununu did some fine work on the placement of price labels on deli cheese at Market Basket.

In May, he boasted that the state had “more money than we know what to do with.” What did he do with it? Nada. Nil. Nothing. He claims he wants to invest in infrastructure. Meanwhile, we still have hundreds of red listed bridges. We have rest areas on I-95 that are in less than stellar condition. Our parks are years behind in maintenance. We have a serious housing problem, and a very serious school funding problem. We need to build a secure psychiatric hospital that isn’t part of the NH prison system. If Sununu is having trouble coming up with ideas, he should call me.

At least we know that NH will not become a right-to-work-for-less state during the next biennium. NH will not pass a voucher bill. There’s already a bill to make the very questionable voucher program an amendment to the NH Constitution loitering in the queue of upcoming legislation for 2019. 

The legislature will be voting to choose a Secretary of State for the next 2 years. The House will be voting on a new Speaker. The Republicans will be voting for a new minority leader. All of the committee chairs will be different with a Democratic majority. The first year of the biennium is always the year that a budget is crafted. 

I urge all legislators, old and new, to spend some time on the Secretary of State’s website before they vote. I’m an adept researcher, but I had to spend a couple of hours trying to come up with the magic phrases that unlocked candidate financial forms. The magic phrase was different each time, and more difficult if one were trying to access a “Friends of Rep. Jim Jeremy” committee finance report. I was trying to access candidate forms for several different candidates, including Senator Bradley. Wheelabrator, an international solid waste incineration company mysteriously appeared in the biomass bill, which guaranteed them taxpayer subsidies. Bradley was a sponsor of the bill, and a vocal public supporter. It turns out that Wheelabrator generously donated $4,500 to Bradley’s 2018 re-election campaign. I should have been able to access that information easily, but the Secretary of State’s website is not user friendly. In an NHPR discussion with Secretary of State candidates, Gardner commented that the information is there, it’s just hard to find. That just isn’t acceptable. 

Northern Carroll County experienced a blue wave. The entire northern House delegation is now comprised of Democrats. In southern Carroll County, voters inexplicably chose to re-elect the same candidates who voted to dramatically increase their property taxes by attempting to initiate a school voucher program.

We should all take a page from Rep. Karen Umberger who lost her bid for re-election, and graciously wished the winners well. Rep. Umberger and I have disagreed on many issues over the years, but she has been unfailingly polite and willing to listen, which is what we should expect from citizen legislators.

Published as an op-ed in the Conway Daily Sun newspaper, November 16, 2018

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Election Integrity

NH has a late state primary. This year it fell on September 11. The general election is November 6. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for the Secretary of State’s office to print up ballots for the 221 towns, 13 cities, or the absentee ballots – especially those that have to be sent overseas. The overseas ballots are sent out 45 days before Election Day. 

This year it didn’t go well. There were errors on the ballots. Some of the overseas voters received incorrect ballots. Stephen D’Angelo, a Democrat running for State Rep. in Rockingham District 4 was completely left off the ballot. In his place was the name of the guy he’d beaten by 5 votes in the primary. Tammy Siekman, a Democrat from Londonderry, running for State Senate was listed as a Libertarian. Gray Chynoweth, a Democrat running for the Executive Council was listed in the column for Democrats, but as a Libertarian. The mistakes have been corrected, but the incorrect ballots were sent overseas.

Deputy Secretary of State, Dave Scanlan, was quite offhand about it. He was quoted in the Concord Monitor as saying that it only affected about 50 votes, but those people would all get a corrected ballot. He said that it was a small percentage of voters who received incorrect ballots, but the key thing was that the ballots for Election Day, when most people vote, were corrected.

That sounds rather blithe to me. If I were one of the 50 voters who got a bogus ballot, I would be angry. I would feel as though my vote didn’t count, and that my state didn’t care about my vote. Secretary of State Bill Gardner was quoted in the Boston Globe as saying, “We do a lot of proofing here, but things happen.” Things happen? We should just accept these errors as part of the process? That’s ironic, coming from a guy who claims to be concerned about election integrity.

Bill Gardner has been the Secretary of State in NH since 1976. He is elected every biennium – not by the voters, but by the NH legislature. For decades he enjoyed the support of legislators from both parties. But that was before he bought into the Republican fairy tales about our elections. That was before candidate Chris Sununu went on the Howie Carr radio show and talked about busloads of people from Massachusetts coming to vote in NH. It was before he got involved with Kris Kobach’s voter integrity commission. It was before he surrendered to becoming a pawn of the far right and their voter fraud/voter suppression agenda.

The bus rumors began when Democrats began winning elections. NH Republicans felt entitled to those seats, and they were plenty miffed when they started losing. Then came Chris Sununu who really put the rumors up in lights – and by doing so, enabled Donald Trump to question the integrity of NH elections. Somewhere along the way Republicans decided it was easier to blame their failure to recruit young people to their party on student voting, and they’ve been desperate to eliminate it ever since.

And so they set about undermining our elections. Every year there are nearly a dozen bills filed that attempt to redefine the words “residency,” “resident,” and of course, everyone’s favorite, “domicile.” SB 3, currently in a bizarre legal limbo, comes with a provision that if your residency is in question, people may come to your house and question you. Yep, that’s voting in the free world, folks. In a state that has no problem with voter fraud. Brought to you by the political party that ran an out-of-stater as their goobernatorial candidate in 2014.

A study done by the Secretary of State’s office and the AG found that voter fraud is quite rare in New Hampshire. Yet, State Senator Regina Birdsell (a zealous perpetuator of the false fraud narrative) often refers to the “perception” her constituents have about voter fraud. It’s a perception that she and her cohorts in the Republican Party have worked hard to create. Our hapless Secretary of State has fallen right into their trap.

When asked about the busloads, Gardner said at a hearing at the State House, that his office has never been provided proof, but a lot of people in this state believe that is happening. Under no other circumstances do we write laws based on perception or the beliefs of “a lot of people.” It is truly unfortunate that Bill Gardner didn’t choose to retire before he tarnished his own legacy. 

Finally, there are those who continue to spout the fiction of college students influencing our elections. A helpful reminder: the Republican Party won control of every branch of our state government in the last election. It seems all those college students and busloads of Democrats voted Republican. 

Published as an op-ed in the November 2, 2018 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Vote to Amend?

November 6 is Election Day. This year on the ballot there will two proposed amendments to the NH Constitution. They are CACR 15 and CACR 16.

Every year a number of potential amendments are filed. Some are filed every biennium, despite their lack of popularity. That’s what you get with a 400 person volunteer legislature. In order for a CACR to advance to the ballot, the bill must receive a three-fifths vote in the House and again in the Senate. In order for the state constitution to be amended, two-thirds of the voters must vote in favor of the amendment. 

CACR 15 is titled, “relating to legal actions. Providing that taxpayers have standing to bring actions against the government. This means that anyone eligible to vote would have the standing to sue over the government’s use of revenues, without having to prove they were harmed by the expenditure in question. In the past courts have dismissed cases on the grounds that the person doing the suing wasn’t personally injured by the expense. The example used most often is the 2012 case of Duncan v. New Hampshire, which concerned public funds for state education going to private religious schools, which is a violation of the state constitution. If this amendment had been in place, that suit would have gone forward. 

That’s the upside. The downside is that New Hampshire is filled with libertea-loving miscreants who think paying any taxes is illegal. This amendment would give the malcontent crowd an opportunity to sue cities, towns, and the states. The sponsors of the bill claim this isn’t so, that there are adequate protections against nuisance suits. Former NH Supreme Court Justice Chuck Douglas is a supporter of the amendment. In a recent radio interview, he was unable to guarantee that there wouldn’t be a barrage of lawsuits about taxation.

No one has proven to my satisfaction that this won’t be a disaster. Those lawsuits come at a high cost, which is seldom reported on. The money to respond to those lawsuits comes from our tax dollars, which means that something important isn’t getting funded, while Joe Free Stater’s lawsuit about how taxation is theft at gunpoint will get the money instead.

Be sure to read the text of the amendment. At the NH General Court website, there’s a box on the left side of the page where you can look up a 2018 bill. Type CACR 15 (or 16) into the box. When the bill comes up, click on “Bill Docket” and you’ll be able to follow the history of the bill from the beginning. At the top of the page you can click on “Bill Text” and read it. 

CACR 16 concerns privacy.  The text of what would be added to the constitution reads, “An individual's right to live free from governmental intrusion in private or personal information is natural, essential, and inherent.” 

I have problems with the language. What does this even mean? It sounds good, but how does this translate into legal interpretation? Don’t we have enough trouble with interpreting the word “domicile” in this state? How about the vague language of Second Amendment to the US Constitution?

It’s a laudable goal, trying to shore up an individual’s right to privacy from the government. I applaud the intent; it’s the language that is problematic. This is a good idea that needs a lot more work. At this point, there is no way to know how this will be interpreted in the context of other amendments to both our state and federal constitutions. It’s also worth noting that this barely passed in the House and Senate. It was one vote that secured the three-fifths needed in each chamber.

This bill also guarantees a surfeit of nuisance lawsuits. There will be those that think the DMV has no right to know if they wear corrective lenses. Again, responding to those suits costs money, and we’re already spending a boatload of tax dollars on lawsuits already in progress. Also, to be clear, this proposed amendment does not address the right to privacy from companies, who can buy, sell, and publish our personal information without fear of reprisal.

Both amendments are well intentioned. I don’t believe either is ready for prime time. The online news publication, Manchester Ink Link has two pieces on the amendments, one written by State Representative Timothy Smith of Manchester, and one by reporter Laura Aronson of Ink Link. Smith’s piece is in the opinion section, and Aronson’s is in the news section at 

There is still plenty of time to read up on these amendments and research the candidates you’ll see on your ballot on November 6. Amending the NH Constitution is serious business, and it is our civic duty to be well informed when we vote. 

Rep. Tim Smith in Manchester Ink Link

Laura Aronson in Manchester Ink Link

The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen, October 5  - the interview with Chuck Douglas starts at about 29 minutes in. 

Published as an op-ed in the October 20, 2018 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

Thursday, October 04, 2018

I Believe Her

Brett Kavanaugh must have the most inept handlers in the history of handling. His story could have been spun as the mistakes made by a young man who had a troubled relationship with alcohol. A young man who realized he was in trouble, and changed his life, leaving him with profound regrets. He would apologize to anyone he had wronged, and added a tearful, personal apology to Dr. Ford. If he’d done all that, he’d be sitting next to Clarence Thomas right now. 

But he didn’t do that. Instead, he showed us the kind of rage that an entitled scion of privilege can summon up when he’s held accountable. Here’s a guy who has had (despite his protestations of working his butt off) everything in his life handed to him. The idea that he might not have this latest prize handed to him was so unacceptable that he had a tantrum on national television.

Imagine going to a job interview, where you shouted, cried, gulped water as if it were straight vodka, and talked obsessively about beer. Think you’d get hired?

Climb into the wayback machine with me and travel to July of 2009, when hearings were held on the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor. Senator Lindsey Graham expressed concerns about her judicial temperament. In a story by ABC news, he said, 
"She's a terror on the bench. She's temperamental, excitable, she seems angry. She's overall aggressive, not very judicial.”
Poor Judge Sotomayor. Who knew that the key to impressing Senator Graham was screaming, crying, and talking about beer? 

When women ask tough questions, they’re angry and aggressive. When men are denied what they feel entitled to, they have tantrums that are justified by other men. Women don’t get to have public hysterics and then get lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court.

At this point in time, our country is so dysfunctional that sides are being chosen. Either you believe Dr. Ford, or you think she’s lying. I asked a guy why the evil Democrats didn’t do this to Neil Gorsuch. His response? “They hadn’t thought of this tactic then.” It’s far more likely that Neil Gorsuch, though he may have traveled in similar elite circles of prep schools and fraternities, managed to avoid engaging in constant drunkenness and attempted rape.

What do we know about elite prep schools? We know that that rape culture was alive and well at St. Paul’s, Phillips Exeter, Horace Mann, and Milton Academy. We know that these future captains of industry, after being groomed at pervy prep go on to Ivy League colleges to finish their development. We know there’s a troubling culture at Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, and pretty much any school where there are fraternities.  

Donald Trump warns that it’s a very scary time for young men in America. Womp womp. It’s been a scary time in America for young women for forever.  In the US, 90% of adult rape victims are female. It is estimated that at least 63% of rapes are never reported. The percentage of false rape accusations are somewhere near 2%, and even that may be inflated. Remember, this warning comes from a man who was caught on camera boasting of his proclivity for sexually assaulting women.

On Tuesday night, at a reassurance rally in Mississippi, Trump mocked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who testified that a drunken Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her. This is the president of the United States, a position we once believed should involve dignity and statesmanship.

This sends a message to your daughters - that when they are raped or assaulted, they will not be believed. It sends a message to your sons – that it’s okay. Boys will be boys, and that means that white boys get to rape girls without fear of reprisal. The dull witted men who wonder why she didn’t report it are the reason that she didn’t. Girls and women who report are seldom believed and frequently harassed. Only one in every thousand rapes ends in jail time.

Brett Kavanaugh is a lawyer who has never tried a case. He was one of Kenneth Starr’s Clinton sheet sniffers. GW Bush put him on the bench to reward his years of partisan service at the White House. His testimony before the Judiciary Committee was unquestioningly partisan (and self pitying), which calls into question his future ability to be impartial. We’ve already seen his lack of self-control. This is a privileged white guy failing upward. It will mean that 20% of the Supreme Court is comprised of sex offenders. It will also mean the Court no longer has legitimacy.  

If you think you don’t know anyone who has been raped, it means they don’t trust you enough to tell you.

The 24-hour sexual assault hotline: 1-800-277-5570. 

This was published as an op-ed in the October 5, 2018 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

Check out  I Believe Her  by Emma's Revolution 

                                     I believe her. I am her. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Paying Attention.

The leaves are changing, summer is over, the primary has come and gone, and so has veto day at the legislature. Yes, it’s time to think ahead, dear readers. Before you can say pumpkin spice, the legislature will be back in session. For some of us, this means a welcome return to the kind of good, nerdy fun we enjoy during session months. There’s good news – the New Hampshire General Court website has been retooled, so it’s easier to read and navigate. 

Any hard-core nerds out there will appreciate the way the media stream is now set up.  All recorded House or Senate sessions are archived, easily accessible. This means you can watch the recordings any time. You should. Most people don’t have time to go to the State House on a weekly basis to sit in the gallery and watch the sessions. The videos are the next best thing. The camera is glued to the front of the chamber, so you miss the side groups constantly forming and reforming on the sides of the room, but you can hear everyone who speaks about a bill, and watch the votes. 

The daily calendar of hearings is right on the front page. Even when the House or Senate isn’t in session, there are committee hearings going on – even after the legislature has gone on hiatus in June. Many of the bills that were sent to study committees are worked on all summer and into the fall.

Why should you care about this? What happens in Concord affects your life, 365 days a year. The goings on at the State House may not be as exciting as whatever is going on in Congress or the White House, but it is often more important. We NH voters, have incredible access to our elected officials. We can influence the legislative process. We have more power than voters in most other states, because of the ridiculous size of our legislature. Also - legislators behave better when they know we’re watching.
On September 10, House incumbents running for office could begin to file LSR’s (the beginning of a bill) for the 2019 session. The last day of that filing period is Sept. 21. The general election is November 6. On November 14, all elected representatives can begin filing LSRs for the upcoming session. December 21 is the last day for filing. These dates apply only to the House. The Senate doesn’t seem to have any deadlines when it comes to the filing of LSRs.

So far, there have been 27 LSRs filed for 2019. None of them have been filed (so far) by Carroll County incumbents. That doesn’t mean they don’t have them ready to go, it just means they don’t want any public record of them before the general election. It also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention, because as you should have learned by now, decisions that affect the north country are made by people who live in the southern part of the state. Most of those deciders have no knowledge of  (or interest in) the needs of the northern part of our state

Representative Robert Elliot of Salem has filed an LSR that would provide that tax dollars for public education wouldn’t be limited to public education. House Majority Leader Dick Hinch, from Merrimack, filed an LSR to establish education savings accounts for students. This means (as I predicted in my last column) we’ll be seeing a return of last year’s voucher bill. We learned last year that the removal of those tax dollars for public education would cause a significant increase in our state property taxes, which are already some of the highest in the nation. Hinch and Elliot are both Republicans. Republicans make a big deal of taking The Pledge, but have no compunctions about legislation that will hit you square in your ability to hang on to your house. Fiscal responsibility? That isn’t what I’d call it.

Governor Sununu desperately wants to pass a voucher bill, as you may recall from the shenanigans around it last year. He imagines that it will pave his way to the US Senate in 2020. A huge increase in your property taxes is a small price to pay to send the publicly affable Sununu to DC, right? I say publicly affable, because he’s known to be rather shouty behind closed doors when he doesn’t get his way with the GOP caucus. He wasn’t too happy about the recent overriding of his vetoes.

The only Carroll County Republican State Representative who didn’t vote for last year’s voucher bill (SB 193) was Karel Crawford, who was excused that day. All of the others were eager to increase your property taxes. Remember that when you go in to vote on November 6. They count on you not paying attention, which is exactly why you should. 

Published as an op-ed in the September 21, 2018 edition of the Conway Daily Sun 

Thursday, September 06, 2018


A year ago, we watched the #MeToo movement begin to unfold. Women, who had been raped, molested, harassed, or perhaps all of the above began to speak truth to power. They began telling their stories in public. The response was sometimes predictable, the usual “why didn’t she speak up before now?” Some of you men learned what women have always known – that speaking out against powerful men can destroy careers, ruin reputations, and lead to harassment and threats. 

It takes a great deal of courage to speak up, to take action against a powerful man. At the beginning of August, NH State Senator Jeff Woodburn was arrested on charges of domestic violence.  Woodburn was the Senate minority leader, a rising star in the Democratic Party; a powerful man. 

There were immediate calls for Woodburn’s resignation. He refused to resign, though he did step down as minority leader. He declared his intention to fight the charges. He deserves his day in court. So does the victim. Disclaimer: I know the victim.

We should honor the concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” or at least strive to. Regrettably, most of us don’t, and that brings us back to “why don’t women come forward?” Since this story broke, a number of NH media outlets, including the Conway Daily Sun have chosen to print the name of the victim. As a result, she has been subject to endless harassment, by phone, by email, in social media and even in mainstream media.

Some of that has come from reporters who really ought to know better. Reporters who ought to be respectful enough to take no for an answer, especially after putting her name out there. Some of it has come from individuals involved with politics in Coos County. Mayor Paul Grenier of Berlin has stated publicly that Woodburn is the “real” victim in this case. This is a shocking public statement from an elected official. Grenier should resign, immediately. In the event of a guilty finding, he’ll wish like hell that he had. 

This is why women don’t come forward - because they will be subject to the kind of harassment that this woman is experiencing. I’m disappointed in the papers that chose not to respect the victim’s privacy. No one should be subjected to public shaming and endless streams of vituperative emails because they chose to press charges against a powerful man. 

Moving on. Tuesday, September 11 is the date of the NH state primary elections. The state elections may not be as sexy as national elections, but they’re more important. The people we send to Concord make decisions that impact our lives every single day. 

This past year, the Republican majority attempted to pass a school voucher bill that would have taken our tax dollars out of the public school system, laundered them through “freedom” accounts, and passed them on to private schools, home schools, or religious schools. This would have caused a huge increase in property taxes, which is why Representative Neal Kurk, Chair of the House Finance Committee, and certainly no pinko liberal, came out against it. The governor and his allies engaged in some tactical legerdemain in the hopes that if the legislature voted on the bill enough times, they’d eventually get the result they wanted. They failed – but nothing bad ever dies. It comes back, year after year. Right to work has been coming back for over 30 years.

The voucher bill will be back. Right to Work will be back. The effort to eliminate child labor laws will be back. The ongoing effort to restrict voting rights will continue. There will be more bills intended to rob women of the right to control their own bodies. NH has some serious problems. We have housing problems, a lack of affordable day care, high energy costs, and infrastructure problems. (Water, roads, bridges, dams, telecom) 

The northern part of the state is treated like an afterthought at every opportunity. Legislators in Concord tend to think that the state stops at Lake Winnipesaukee, and that everything above it must be Canada. The North Country perpetuates that point of view by sending rubber stamp Republicans to Concord, who choose party loyalty over their constituents. 

A recent letter of support for a Congressional candidate in this paper was a rare instance of GOP honesty. He didn’t even attempt to tout the record of the former state senator, or pretend that Sanborn will represent voters. He wants you to vote for a serial harasser so that he can provide access to Trump for Governor Sununu. No pretense, just blatant pandering to power. 

Speaking of access, this is your chance to vote for a governor who isn’t a Trump loyalist. (Loyalty to Trump should be an immediate disqualifier for any candidate.) We hear about the booming NH economy, but it hasn’t migrated north. Why? Ask a pledge taking panderer. Then vote for candidates who will fight for the future of the North Country. 

This was published as an op-ed in the September 7, 2018 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

Monday, September 03, 2018

Hillsborough 38

This is State Representative John Valera from Windsor, NH. He's running for a second term. He has told people that he wears this wig to protest the transgender non-discrimination bill that is now law. 

In June, Casey McDermott of NHPR published a piece on attendance records at the NH House. A number of folks discovered surprising information about how they're being represented in the legislature. NHPR

That research led to this exchange:

To the Editor:
Why has NH State Rep. John Valera not been attending sessions at the State House? A recent report by New Hampshire Public Radio shows that Rep. Valera, Hillsborough County District 38, missed 71% of the House role call votes in 2018, 47% of them unexcused.
The press and voters in Antrim, Bennington, Francestown, Greenfield, Greenville, Hancock, Hillsborough, Lyndeborough, Wilton, and Windsor, should be asking whether constituents are being properly represented. He might be in favor of small government, but no government is not an option.
Brian Beihl

Rep. John J. Valera's Response:
Valera explains reason for absence
Monday, August 06, 2018 9:13AM
"To the editor:
During my first year in the Legislature, I had an excellent attendance record. But during that year, I came to realize that the Legislature spends most of its time contemplating bills that it has no legitimate power to enact, because they are clearly in conflict with the written state constitution. (Particularly Article 8, which says that if you couldn’t hire someone to do something for you, you can’t elect him to do it for you either.)
I routinely voted “no” on these bills. But there’s a problem: even voting “no” implies that I could be voting “yes.” Participating in the process legitimizes it.
Until the legislature allows members to vote “yes,” “no,” or “improper” on a bill, there’s no way for any representative to sit in one of those seats and press either of those buttons without violating his oath of office – although many of them do not yet realize that.
I do realize it, and I take my oath seriously, which is why I show up only for votes where the legislature seeks to exercise a legitimate power. On those occasions, I vote in a way that I believe is consistent with views of the people who elected me.
But let me put it very simply. Suppose each district had to elect a representative, whose job was then to go down to Concord occasionally to participate in a mass fight, a rumble, where two gangs try to beat each other up. I hope that Mr. Miller, upon reflection, would agree that the best way for me to represent him would be to refuse to participate.
But that’s basically the situation I’m in whenever the Legislature meets. The difference is, the gangs aren’t trying to beat each other up. They’re trying to beat my constituents up, by stealing their money, liberty and their property. The fact that they dress in suits instead of leather jackets, and use parliamentary maneuvers instead of knives and chains, doesn’t change the nature of the transaction, or the end result.
By staying away, I’m saying, on behalf of the people who elected me: We choose not to pretend that government should be in the business of taking our rights away. As Jefferson said, government is formed for the purpose of protecting our rights.
I hope this clears things up.
Rep. John J. Valera
Hillsborough District 38"
Monadnock Ledger Transcript

Representative Valera would have us believe that not showing up to fulfill his responsibilities as an elected official is the best way to serve his constituents. 

I'm betting they may think differently. All legislators are assigned to a committee, where they are supposed to work on legislation. Valera was assigned to the Transportation Committee. Be sure to ask him if he's ever attended a committee meeting.

You might want to ask him about the wig, too.........

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Petty Tyrants

Once upon a time, we valued oratory. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is considered the best speech given by a US president, followed by JFK’s inaugural speech. Alas, those days are behind us. In  2018, presidential oratory comes to us over the social media platform Twitter, in 280 characters or less. What will the Trump Presidential Library look like?

 This week, Donald Trump launched a tweet referring to former staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman as a dog.  Ms. Manigault-Newman is African American. Imagine the response if President Obama had referred to a white woman as a dog?  Trump managed to hit the racist and misogynist dog whistles in a single tweet. I wonder how we’ll ever come back from this presidency, if we can, or even if we should.

We have a president who has said horrible things about women throughout his arrogant, white guy life. We’ve all seen the Access Hollywood tape where he boasts of grabbing women by their private parts. On The Apprentice, he routinely referred to deaf actress Marlee Matlin as retarded. He told Howard Stern that his own daughter was a real piece of a**. When his third wife was giving birth to his fifth child, what was he doing? Stormy Daniels. This is not a man who has any respect for women, including the women in his own family, yet Republican women still support him. The closest I can come to an explanation is that he pisses off the people they hate. What they don’t seem to grasp is that he hates them, too.

There’s a lot of that going around. NH State Senator Jeff Woodburn (a Democrat) was recently arrested and charged with domestic violence. He’s refused to resign, and his name will be on the ballot in November. Imagine the trial, and how that will reflect on our state. Also refusing to resign is State Representative Eric Schleien, (a Republican) who is going to trial for molesting a teenaged girl. The judge in the case refused a plea deal, because he wants Schleien to serve some time in jail. 

At the beginning of August, the NH House released files of State House harassment complaints received since January, in response to right-to-know requests made by various media outlets.  The complaints are made to the House Chief of Staff, Terry Pfaff, who is also in charge of investigating them. One complaint was filed by a House staffer, who reported that a male lawmaker had a pattern of abusive behavior, referring to her as “the old bat,” or “the granny in the corner.” He told another legislator (in front of her) that, “she hates men.” We now know that this complaint was made against State Representative Dan Eaton, a Democrat serving his 14thterm. Eaton claimed it was good-natured banter. The woman felt otherwise. Witnesses found his behavior “immature.” Representative Eaton is 62. There was an investigation, it was recommended Eaton go to training, which he said he’d consider doing. No word on whether he actually did. State House staffers are not members of the state employees union, so they are reluctant to come forward, knowing they could be fired in retaliation. 

In another instance, a female legislator reported that a male legislator stood in front of her while she was seated in Rep’s Hall and made an “offensive pelvic gyration” in front of her. Representatives are squished in like sardines, and getting in and out of their seats and out of the rows is challenging. Apparently too challenging for the third grade boys disguised as adult men in our legislature, unable to comport themselves with dignity. 

These complaints should not be investigated internally. An outside agency should be retained for these investigations, so that there can be no question of political motives or retaliation. Even then, there will be no consequences. There are no ethical standards with any teeth. There are no disciplinary measures that can be taken, short of expulsion, which never happens. The prevailing attitude is always, “let the voters decide.” These are the same voters who aren’t going to learn about the behavior of their legislators unless it becomes a national story. The only real avenue available to a victim of ongoing harassment is legal action. 

Abusive and harassing behavior toward women has always been lurking behind the scenes, but thanks to Trump, it’s back on the main stage. It’s behavior that is not confined to a particular party. It’s behavior related to power.  Abigail Adams reminded her husband in 1776, “All men would be tyrants if they could.” Not much has changed since the all male Constitution was written.

Imagine what the US Constitution might look like if women had been included in the process.  Would President Trump have been possible if women had been (or were now) regarded as equal?

If you’re weary of petty tyrants who can’t even get out of a chair without pelvic gyrations, change the power dynamic, and vote for women. 

Published as an op-ed in the August 18, 2018 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper