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:

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Fraudulent Fraud Commission

On October 31, 2016, right wing talk radio show host Howie Carr asked his guest, NH gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu why Democrats have repeatedly won gubernatorial elections. Sununu responded by saying that NH Democrats have repeatedly engaged in voter fraud.   

“We have same day voter registration, and to be honest, when Massachusetts elections are not very close, they’re busing them in all over the place,” Sununu said.

He also said the system was rigged. A week later, Sununu was elected governor of NH, and had to pedal backwards furiously. After all, if all those buses from MA came to NH and voted – it meant they voted for him, and he didn’t want anyone to question HIS win.  Days after the election, Brave Sir Robin announced that he no longer believed the system was rigged.

On right wing talk radio, Sununu was asked how come Democrats have repeatedly won gubernatorial elections. His response was to lie and blame voter fraud. Too bad he wasn’t honest enough to point out that one-term Governor Craig Benson’s corrupt shenanigans poisoned his party for several cycles. The NH GOP couldn’t manage to find strong candidates. In 2014, they tried to pass off a guy from out of state as a viable NH candidate. Then of course, there was the phone jamming scandal of 2002, which poisoned the brand – but given that is how his brother was elected to the US Senate, one wouldn’t expect him to mention that. Easier to blame mythical fraud.

Meanwhile, Trump announced in January that he was going to investigate voter fraud. Winning the election wasn’t enough for him. That anyone else got any votes had to have been a result of “widespread voter fraud. In February, Trump announced that the reason he lost NH was because of widespread voter fraud and thousands of people were bused in from Massachusetts. Did the bus hide behind a tree in Jackson? Where did they park that bus in Hart’s Location? 

Trump was (and still is) miffed that everyone in the US didn’t vote for him. He’s an insecure little tyrant, and he desperately needed the validation of a NH win. Trump’s acolyte, Governor Sununu was again forced to say that there was no widespread voter fraud because, again, he didn’t want his win to be questioned. Since then, Trump the sore winner, has continued to complain about the election on Twitter, as world leaders do.

In May, Trump issued an executive order establishing a commission on election integrity. Vice President Mike Pence is chairing the commission. He spouts the same false claims Trump has made about voter fraud. As Governor of Indiana, he supported a crackdown on a statewide effort to register African American voters. The commission’s vice chair is Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Kobach continues to insist that voter fraud is widespread. A number of his voter ID provisions have been struck down in federal court. He’s been fined for misleading a federal judge in a voting rights case, and is currently the subject of a Hatch Act complaint that alleges he’s exploiting his position on the commission to promote his candidacy – he’s running for governor of Kansas.

This is how we know the commission on voter fraud is fraudulent. Frauds are in charge of it. Regrettably, NH’s own Secretary of State, Bill Gardner has allowed himself to be used by the fraudsters. He’s on the commission, too. Gardner has been serving as Secretary of State since 1976. He’s been making inconsistent noise about voter fraud for a few years and now claims he wants to clear up any doubts about election integrity. That the same people who are using him created the doubts about election integrity appears to have escaped his notice.  

The commission intends to create a national voter database, and has begun by requesting a lot of information from every state about voters, including: names, addresses, birthdates, party affiliation, electoral participation history, felon status, and the last 4 digits of their Social Security numbers. So far, 44 states have refused to comply with some, if not all, of the demand to produce this information. Bill Gardner is willing to provide it all. Only a court challenge is preventing it from happening.  After a lifetime of public service, this will be Gardner’s legacy.

In 2005, NH Republicans were outraged by the REAL ID Act, claiming that this would create a national identification database. In 2017, they are rolling over for Donald Trump, and insisting that those who are opposed to the creation of a national voter database “have something to hide.”

To show us all how well the fraudulent fraud commission will do with handling sensitive information, they’ve just released 112 pages of unreacted emails from people commenting on the commission. Their names and email addresses have all been made public.

 This was published as an op-ed in the July 21, 2017  edition of the Conway Daily Sun Newspaper 

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Failing the Lynch Test

                                 Union Leader Photo 

In 2005, torrential rains caused flooding in Cheshire County.  Between 8 and 11 inches of rain fell on Sunday, October 9, 2005 A third of Keene was underwater, 2 people drowned in a car in Unity, and a double-arched stone bridge was washed away in Walpole. Alstead was hit the hardest. A weakened dam and a broken culvert resulted in a 4-5 foot wall of water surging downstream, damaging a dozen bridges on Rt. 123 and damaged several miles of road. Four people died. It was a disaster.

Governor John Lynch was in Europe on a trade mission. He flew back on Sunday, and the day after the storm, he was in Alstead.  The governor declared a state of emergency, and traveled all over Cheshire County assessing the damage.  Lynch spent a great deal of time in Alstead, where houses and businesses had been washed away. The rebuilding and repairing took over three years.

Six years later, Tropical Storm Irene blew through NH and Vermont, wreaking havoc in late August of 2011. The damage was profound in the northern part of the state, where what little infrastructure there is was badly hurt. Part of Route 16 was washed out. Rt. 302 (the only other method of north/south egress) was washed out by the Willey House and the Sawyer River Bridge was completely wiped out. Part of the Kancamagus Highway was damaged. The Notchland Inn, located in Harts Location, between the two was isolated for days. Governor Lynch flew into Harts Location in a helicopter to assess the damage and begin taking the steps to get FEMA money flowing to help repair and rebuild. The timetable was crucial because in just a few weeks, tourists would be arriving to see the fall foliage. Those roads and bridges were vital to the area’s economy.

Whatever one’s political leanings were, it was clear after 2005 that Governor Lynch excelled in handling disasters. His slicker was ready to jumpstart as needed. The roads were all open by foliage. A temporary bridge spanned Sawyer River while a new bridge was built.

Each of these were declared to be “hundred year storms,” or the kind of storms one would see every hundred years. Apparently a hundred years isn’t what it used to be.

On Saturday, July 1, 2017, six years after Irene, torrential rains pummeled the northern part of the state. Rain fell at about an inch an hour. There was serious flooding in a number of places. The usual places along the Saco flooded. Campgrounds in the Campton area flooded. Roads were washed out around Grafton County. Orford was especially hard hit. A large section of Rt. 25A was wiped out. Nearly every road in the town of Sugar Hill was damaged. The old culverts that the town hasn’t been able to replace proved to be inadequate.

Roads were washed out. Roads were undermined. The next day, (Sunday) stories of campers being rescued from flooded campgrounds, and videos of roads disintegrating were everywhere. Upper and Lower Falls on the Kancamagus were closed, because the water was still so wild.  The cleaning up began.

It wasn’t until Monday that our governor appeared on the scene. Governor Chris Sununu flew over Grafton County in a helicopter. He landed in Campton at a campground and spoke to some tourists from out of state who had been rescued. A reporter from WMUR was with him. Sununu said he “is likely” to seek a federal disaster declaration from President Trump. He thanked the first responders, and the local fire and rescue. He then made his most important point – that despite the extensive damage, “New Hampshire’s open for business.”

That stop in Campton appears to be the only stop that the Governor made. He did march in some parades on the Fourth. As I write this, the Governor has still not issued a formal statement.

There was also considerable damage in Vermont. Governor Phil Scott issued a press release urging Vermonters to put safety first, thanking first responders, various government agencies, and emergency personnel. The statement also directs people to various emergency resources. It’s the response of a leader.

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, we have a guy who made a big deal of interfering with Fish and Game about some bears. We have a governor whose first legislative priority was passing a gun bill. We have a governor that did a flyover of Grafton County, made one stop, then announced NH is open for business. We have a governor who began complaining about voter fraud before he was elected, and has spent a lot of time on this non-existent problem. Forty-four state governors have refused to send voter registration information to the bizarro Trump commission, yet Sununu is eager to comply. We need a governor who is willing to work on the real problems of our state. One of our realest problems is our infrastructure, and this storm just damaged what was already deteriorating.

We need a leader. This latest crisis proves that we don’t have one.

* To be fair - it seems the Governor did go to Orford on Monday when he did the Grafton County flyover. It wasn't reported anywhere until after my deadline. 

** Follow-up - the Governor never issued a press release about the flooding. 

Published as an op-ed in the July 7, 2017 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.