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. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Grade A Bunkum

By the time you read this, NH may have a budget for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. It’s also possible that we may not.

The budget process begins with the Governor, who presents his budget to the House and Senate. It contains his priorities, the things he would like to see funded in the next biennium. The House Finance Committee then uses the Governor’s budget as a blueprint for the budget they design. There are hearings where every government agency lists their needs, and public hearings where residents can express their budget priorities. Eventually they finish it and it comes out of committee, and goes to the full House for a vote. After passing it goes to the Senate Finance Committee, where they tinker with it. The House flies blindly, without revenue projections, but the projections are in by the time it gets to the Senate. When they finish tinkering, the bill comes out of committee and goes before the full Senate. If it passes, it goes back to the House, where it is sent to a Committee of Conference, where members of the House and Senate work out their differences, agree to concur, the budget is voted on by both bodies, and then prances off to the Governor’s desk.

This year, the budget process has been a disaster from the very beginning. For the first time in recorded history, the House failed to pass a budget. The creation of a budget became the responsibility of the Senate. The Senate Finance Committee had the same hearings with various government agencies, interested parties, and a public hearing for voters. Once they finished, the committee voted it ought to pass, and then it went to the full Senate for a vote. The Republican Party has control of the Senate, so the votes fell along party lines. The budget went back to the House for concurrence but there was no concurrence to be had, so a Committee of Conference was put together so that both bodies could work out an agreement. They have. The only Democrat on the Committee of Conference was removed when she refused to sign off on the CoC report. The House and the Senate will each have voted on this budget by the time you read this column.

Opinion pieces by the majority party are springing up like mushrooms (and you know what mushrooms grow in) in newspapers around the state. There is much chest thumping about “living within our means, “business tax cuts,” and “job creating.” The writers assume you won’t put two and two together. If the last round of business tax cuts were such a tearing success, why are we running the state as if it were impoverished? They claim the tax cuts will allow businesses to hire more and keep young people here. That’s pure grade A bunkum they’re selling.  

The state fails to invest in higher education, infrastructure, and affordable housing. Even if young people wanted to stay in a state so unwilling to invest in itself, there isn’t any place for them to live. This week there are four and a half pages of help wanted ads in the Conway Sun and 6 apartments for rent. It’s the same all over the state. Rather than wake up and smell the future, thanks to The Pledge we continue to elect people who perpetuate the foolishness that it’s still 1975.The business tax cuts just mean that the burden will continue to be shifted to the homeowner in the form of property tax.

Attaching keno to the full day kindergarten funding is being touted as a “compromise” instead of the poison pill that it really is. The education of our children should not be attached to uncertain gambling revenues, and, again, if those business tax cuts are working so well why is this necessary? A cynical person might wonder if this weren’t the plan all along. Our Trump supporting governor made himself sound human on the campaign trail by touting support for full day kindergarten. If the kenogarten bill fails, he can blame Democrats AND not have to cough up state money for education, something Republicans in this state are profoundly opposed to. It’s a win-win for him.

The Republican Party is fighting an internal war, between the regular old right wing and the far extremist right wing of the party.  The self-styled Freedom Caucus thinks the regular right wing is spending too much money, and doesn’t hurt enough people. The Democrats don’t think the budget spent enough money. The regular right wing probably could have negotiated with the Democrats, to pass a budget, but they didn’t want to, because this isn’t about what’s best for the state. This is about ideological purity, and party loyalty. To negotiate with the Democrats would be seen as weak. They’d be called RINOs. They’d be primaried in their next elections for not being hard core enough. The Republican Party has abdicated its responsibility to NH voters, and chosen ideology over New Hampshire.  

Published as an op-ed in the June 23 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

NH Voters Get Hinched

The NH legislature passed a so-called fetal homicide bill in haste and are now repenting, and scrambling to rewrite it and pass it without any public hearings, or even a trip to the House floor. 

Story in the Concord Monitor

State lawmakers are scrambling to fix a fetal homicide bill that critics say has serious unintended consequences, including letting pregnant women kill people with impunity.

Did none of these brilliant minds actually READ the bill? Or were they too busy trying to tack on "life begins at conception" amendments? Yes, I'm looking at you, JR Hoell. 
Suddenly now, pearls are being clutched by the same damn people who voted for it. 

Here's where it gets really interesting:

Through what’s known as the “enrolled bills process,” Republican Senate leaders now plan to tighten the exemption and put the fix up for a vote June 22, Bradley said. It’s not yet clear how the revision will read.
“I don’t think anybody will have a problem with it, even at least, I hope, people who are opposed to Senate Bill 66,” he said. “Whether you are for SB 66 or against it, I don’t think anybody would support allowing manslaughter, murder, etc.” 

Okay, then. The Senate is going to change the content of the bill, but NOT have public hearings on it. 

Amendments at this late stage – once a bill has already cleared the Senate and House – usually consist of minor spelling or grammar corrections that don’t need another vote. Because changes to the fetal homicide bill deal with the legislative intent, Bradley said another vote is needed for transparency. 

Okay, then. The Senate is going to change the content of the bill, but NOT have public hearings on it. They are, in the name of "transparency" having a vote. 
Slightly more transparent than flannel, I'll give them that. 

The Senate, however is positively gauzy compared to the House:
The House plans to make the same fixes, but won’t seek sign-off from the full chamber, according to Republican Majority Leader Dick Hinch. 

Not only is the House not having a public hearing, they aren't even having a vote. 

Hinch is just going to ram it through.

Can you imagine how the Republicans would be howling if Democrats tried this kind of behind closed doors jiggery pokery?  Dogs on Mars would hear them. 

I'd say shame on  Hinch, but as he illustrated during the Fisher/Frost debacle, he isn't capable of feeling any. 

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Time For A Divorce

found at

For years we’ve been hearing Texas threaten to secede. NY City has threatened to secede from the rest of the state. In 1933 State Senator William E. Martin of North Dakota proposed that the 39 western states leave the US. The remaining states of Maine, NH, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey would be left as the union.

That was not a bad idea. Sadly, nothing came of it. The Free State Project, the armed miscreants invading our state with the intention of taking over and dismantling our state government would like to secede. Out on the west coast, the California Freedom Coalition has turned in a proposed ballot initiative calling for California to withdraw from the US. Spokesperson Cindy Sheehan said the state should stop subsidizing a federal government that is out of state with California values.

miguelcolumbia on reddit

We’ve held this huge, unwieldy country together for almost 250 years. That’s a long time. We’ve always been deeply divided (remember slavery?) and those divides have been glossed over, but never actually healed.

Racism is a huge divide. Religion, even though we’re increasingly non-religious, is a huge divide. The evangelicals have a death grip on the middle of the country. Anti-Muslim fear is a constant beat, drummed by people who wouldn’t recognize Sharia if it leapt up and bit them on the buttocks, but are sure that Sharia Law is already being enacted in the United States. We are divided by science and facts. A great many people who believe in Noah’s Ark deny that humans are having an impact on the climate. Anyone who doesn’t like the news they’re hearing feels free to declare it fake. We have wealth, poverty, gun, and education divides. We have an information divide. We are divided on whether women are fully autonomous beings or not. We don’t even agree what facts are any more.

Worst of all, most of this is tacitly accepted. We’ve somehow accepted living in the “post-truth” era, where alternative facts rule the day. Hardly anyone is bold enough to say that this is absolute nonsense, and if we can’t do better than that, we should get out of the nation business. 

Rob Beschizza on Boing Boing

Bottom line – a large segment of the nation voted for a dull-witted reality TV star with an incredibly embarrassing hair style at the last presidential election. A nation that once praised the virtues of statesmanship, went in the opposite direction, and chose a leader who is an acknowledged grabber of female genitalia.  He and his grifter family are now lining their pockets at taxpayer expense. This clan is hastening the demise of the US as a global superpower. Under Trump, we’re officially a rogue nation.

Under Trump, we have reality TV government. He tweets incessantly, picking fights, blaming others, and just plain making stuff up. A large part of the audience cheers him on. That’s what they’ve become. An audience. There is nothing on the looms, but they swear they can see the fine fabric the Emperor is clothed in.

Nation States Forum

I’m not sure there’s any hope for unity, not after all this. If you were married to someone who was rude, abusive, and insisted on revising history and loudly trumpeting ignorance while calling it fact, would you stay with them? We should consider a divorce. A big national divorce.

The eastern seaboard down to Virginia is blue, and that includes New York. The west coast, Hawaii, and Nevada are blue. The rest is mostly red with some outcroppings of blue. Years ago I proposed creating the nation of New England – well, I wasn’t far off. We’d find a way to divide the country up equitably, with the red minded folks moving to the south and the center. They’d be able to have all the freedom they want from regulation, from taxes, from big gummint - from all the things that make them so unhappy. They could set it up any way they wanted:  monarchies, theocracies, dictatorships, or perhaps Randian enclaves with manly men doing manly things together with no government required.

The blue countries wouldn’t be picking up the tab for them any more, (or for a bloated military) so they’d have plenty of money for innovation, education, and infrastructure projects. High speed, cross-country rail could connect the blue coasts. No need for the red area to contribute. Or participate. The blue countries could set up their own social security systems, safety nets, and health care. The red countries could issue bootstraps, handguns, and hire bathroom police. Careful consideration would have to be given to missile silos, weapons sites, and military assets. All nuclear weapons will be destroyed. This isn’t going to be a quickie divorce.

The US is a superpower in decline. Ideology and willful ignorance divide us. There’s no way to come back from that.  We’re in an abusive relationship. We might as well accept it, split up, and move on.


Published as an op-ed in the June 9 edition of the Conway Daily Sun Newspaper