Showing posts with label Republicans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Republicans. Show all posts

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Republicans - and Democrats - YOU are responsible for Trump



Both parties deserve blame for creating the rise of what amounts to a Fascist candidate for President.

For years, Republicans have promoted and courted – usually with a wink and a knowing glance – racial and xenophobic politics. Mean-spirited attacks on the poor, demanding drug-testing for those on financial assistance and efforts to cut food stamp benefits – have been laced with an effort to generate warfare against a tiny portion of the population, even while slavishly throwing trillions of dollars at industry and runaway military spending. The purposeful intention has been to create an “us-versus-them” philosophy, blaming the poor, immigrants, and every “easy target” as the enemy. Beginning with Nixon’s “southern strategy” in the late 1960s, the GOP has actively courted a base that sees enemies all around. “Family Values” has become a buzzword in campaign literature for blaming gays and single mothers for the nation’s ills. Memes designed to justify the Police State and marginalize minorities have been carefully constructed to tap the darkest feelings of fear in every working-class, blue-collar white man in America. YOU, Republicans, created this monster: by courting this phenomenon, you always believed you could rely on those votes, without ever thinking that the voting block you created would ever rise, pitchforks in hand, to turn against you. Well, my friends, the chickens are coming home to roost. Trump has seized on this fear, and launched a classic fascist campaign, blaming immigrants and the poor for the economic mess we are in, cheering physical confrontation at campaign rallies, and openly showing disdain for the First and Fourth Amendments. Your subtle – and not-so-subtle – history of using racial and ethnic warfare as a standard campaign tool has created a populace that is actually acting on their fears.

But Democrats, please do not think you have had no role in this. The GOP has courted these people, but you have enraged them. One only needs to peruse the facebook postings and newspaper Op Ed pages to see how your response has to take this group of the electorate and further marginalize them. Examples of elitist, nasty, and disdainful comments directed against southerners, poor whites, evangelicals, and those who have jumped on the Trump bandwagon are plenty. By viewing – and branding - this group of the electorate as stupid, uneducated yokels, and pick-up driving redneck gun-toters with small penises - you have done what the GOP could never do: you marginalized a group that already feels fear and marginalization, and added to their anger and feelings of isolation. You don’t win hearts and minds by telling people they are stupid. Rather than build bridges and show how your policies might actually benefit these people, you have chosen, in your words and actions, to treat them like sub-Americans.

In other words, the GOP has convinced these people that there are un-American enemies out there who want to destroy their ways of life. You have answered the call by confirming that you despise these people, and that you need to legislate against their wishes “for their own good.”

Sociologically, the two major parties have created a disaffected group of low-income and middle-income Americans who are reeling under economic pressures and feel alienated, taken advantage of, and ignored by government leaders. A powerless sub-class. And they have now found their voice in Trump.

Meanwhile, both parties ignore their fears and anger: Both parties have spent us into unending debt, both parties have propped up a corrupt Banking Regime, both parties have refused to fix a broken immigration system, and both parties have acted in the interests of Big Pharma, Monsanto, and crony capitalism. Even as I write, even the Democratic National Committee is moving to eviscerate the Financial Consumer Protection Agency.

The prospect of a Trump Presidency is scary. But more scary is the situation that both Democrats and Republicans have created by pandering for votes, by playing divide and conquer with racial and class politics.

The Trump phenomenon is the result of a classic failure of career politicians to lead. He is your creation.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Labor Day: Republicans and Democrats AWOL on Taft-Hartley


In a broadcast to the AFL-CIO merger meeting On December 5, 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said,
You of organized labor and those who have gone before you in the union movement have helped make a unique contribution to the general welfare of the Republic--the development of the American philosophy of labor. This philosophy, if adopted globally, could bring about a world, prosperous, at peace, sharing the fruits of the earth with justice to all men. It would raise to freedom and prosperity hundreds of millions of men and women--and their children--who toil in slavery behind the Curtain.
One principle of this philosophy is: the ultimate values of mankind are spiritual; these values include liberty, human dignity, opportunity and equal rights and justice.

Workers want recognition as human beings and as individuals-before everything else. They want a job that gives them a feeling of satisfaction and self-expression. Good wages, respectable working conditions, reasonable hours, protection of status and security; these constitute the necessary foundations on which you build to reach your higher aims. “

When Eisenhower gave this speech in the 1950s, more than one-third of all American workers were members of a union. Unions were largely credited with bringing about the 40-hour work week, the 8-hour day, the concept of a “weekend,” health coverage, pension reform, and safe working conditions. But today, union membership in the private sector has fallen to 7.2% While some of that is due to changes in industry structure in the US, the single biggest factor that has contributed to the elimination of union protections and bargaining powers is the Taft-Hartley Act.

Passed in 1947 over the veto of President Harry Truman, the Taft-Hartley Act (often known in labor circles as "the slave-labor bill") has been described by Ralph Nader as "one of the great blows to American democracy…that fundamentally infringed on workers' human rights" -- most importantly, their right to unionize.


The includes the following provisions:


- Authorizes states to enact so-called ‘right-to-work’ laws. These laws undermine the ability to build effective unions by creating a free-rider problem—workers can enjoy the benefits of union membership in a workplace without actually joining the union or paying union dues. Right-to-work laws increase employer leverage to resist unions and vastly decrease union membership, thus dramatically diminishing unions' bargaining power. 23 states are currently right-to-work states, with legislation threatening in New Hampshire and Wisconsin.


- Defines "employees" for purposes of the Act as excluding supervisors. This diminishes the pool of workers eligible to be unionized. The exclusion of supervisors from union organizing activity also means they can be used (and coerced) as management's "front line" in anti-organizing efforts; what's more, employers can fire supervisors who try to unionize.


- Defines "employees" for purposes of the Act as excluding independent contractors. It means that institutions such as colleges can hire staff, often using grant funds, as ‘independent contractors,’ thus excluding them from benefits such as health insurance and pension, and denying them union membership and contractual benefits.


- Requires that election hearings on ‘matters of dispute’ be held before a union recognition election, thus delaying the election; these delays enables management to ‘buy time,’ and has been shown to give management an advantage as over time workers feel coerced into avoiding organizing activities.


- Establishes the "right" of management to campaign against a union organizing drive, thereby eliminating the time-honored legal principle of employer neutrality.


- Prohibits secondary and sympathy boycotts—boycotts directed to encourage neutral employers to pressure a defiant employer with which the union has a dispute. Secondary boycotts had been one of organized labor's most potent tools for organizing, negotiating and dispute settlement prior to the passage of Taft-Hartley.


- Enables the federal government to move in and demand an 80-day cooling off period if it deems a strike to be detrimental to the national interest.


The Act sent a clear message to employers: It is OK to bust unions and deny workers their rights to collectively bargain. Today, union membership is at historic 60-year lows, employer violations of labor rights are routine, and illegal firings of union supporters in labor organizing drives are at epidemic levels.


The advent of unions created a balance in bargaining power between ‘producers’ of labor (workers) and purchasers of labor (employers), providing for fairer conditions overall. The attempted destruction of unions through Taft-Hartley and recent political moves against public employee unions represents a scary step backwards in American history.


On labor issues, the Republicans are essentially a lost cause, preferring to regularly side with the owners and investors of businesses at the expense of common workers.



But Democrats have not been appreciably better.


The Taft-Hartley Act passed in 1947 with majority support of the Democratic majority in Congress. 

Under Truman in 1949, the Democrats failed to repeal Taft-Hartley.

Under Johnson in 1965 and 1966, the Democrats twice failed to repeal Section 14b of Taft-Hartley, the section that enabled states to outlaw union shops (so-called “right-to-work” laws).


Under Carter in 1977 and 1978, the Democrats failed to pass one bill that would have repealed the Taft-Hartley prohibition on solidarity picketing at construction sites and another bill to reform the National Labor Relations Board whose long delays and inconsequential employer sanctions had made it a shield for union-busting.


Under Clinton in 1993, the Democrats failed to pass a ban on permanent striker replacements.


Under Obama in 2009-2010, the Democrats failed to pass the Employee Free Choice Act for majority card check union recognition. Worse, unlike any previous period of Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, the Democrats failed to even bring the bill to a vote.


Republicans claim that Democrats have been 'captured' by 'big union bosses.'  Democrats promise to deliver in campaign appearances, but those promises have amounted to little more than empty lip-service. 


It’s time for hardball politics if Labor - and the middle class - is to survive in this nation.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Energy: A New Green Paradigm


As the GOP convention approaches, I am sitting here listening to the Republicans explain their platform on Energy Policy on TV:  Increased Oil Drilling, building the keystone pipeline,  extracting oil and gas from the Canadian Tar Sands, increased use of Coal, relaxed standards for offshore drilling…..everything appears geared towards an explosion of dirty energy resources for “cheap energy” and Big Oil Profiteering.


Climate Change?  The Republicans don’t think government should address the issue.

Are they reading any news reports at all? Here are some of the news reports from the last 3 weeks:

In Iowa, about 58,000 fish died along a 42-mile stretch of the Des Moines River.   Biologists measured the water at 97 degrees in multiple spots.  (Toledo Blade)


In Connecticut, the Millstone Nuclear Power Station had to be shut down because the water in the Long Island Sound was too warm to effectively cool the reactor. (WWLP)

In Illinois, fish are dying in record numbers as state officials have raised the temperature at which water-cooled power plants can return water to area lakes and rivers. Hundreds of millions of gallons of water per day are now being returned into the waters at temperatures approaching 100 degrees. (Morris Daily Herald)

The weather has affected grain crops as well.  Corn futures– which sold for $2.00/bushel just 10 years ago -  have surged 60 percent since mid-June, closing yesterday at $8.075 a bushel.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently estimated U.S. corn yields will be at least 20% below the norm. 

Of course, much of the grain that is being harvested is not going anywhere: The Coast Guard has closed an eleven-mile stretch of the Mississippi River near Memphis to shipping after another barge grounded near Greenville, Miss. (WANE.com)


And in Kansas, “Bare ground and stagnant ponds of water can be seen where a flowing Arkansas River should be.” According to The National Weather Service, the water has ceased to flow at I-235.“There's a quarter of a billion dollars worth of grain in the port of lake providence alone and guess what? we can't move the barge. so, we'll bring in trucks it will take 7,000 trucks. They don't exist,” said Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner, Mike Strain. (WKSN News)

 

And that means there's less water flowing down Mississippi river into the Gulf of Mexico, and less outflow means saltwater from the Gulf is creeping in.  Cities in Louisiana cities have had to purchase emergency drinking water…and the entire city of New Orleans is now at risk. (NPR)

The loss of grain crops also affect the livestock who feed on grain - and eventually, the price of meat on supermarket shelves.  And non-food livestock, such as horses, are affected, too.

Tony Caldwell, owner of an 80 acre horse rescue ranch in Indiana, reports “Everybody is using their winter hay now. The pastures are destroyed and they probably won’t recover before winter. The price of hay has doubled, and the availability is down by 75 percent…Today the problem is not nearly as bad as it’s going to be.  It’s terribly bad today, but it is going to get a lot worse.”  (Business Week)


The hotter weather will not only affect the prices of food, but of health care as well.  At least 8 deaths have been blamed directly on this summer’s heat, and that doesn’t count deaths, injuries, and property losses from western forest fires.  Nor does it include deaths labeled as ‘respiratory failure’ or ‘natural causes’ from the elderly living in homes without air conditioning.  And looming on the horizon is the nation’s largest outbreak of West Nile virus, fed by the drought.

The mosquito responsible for the West Nile virus flourished during the summer's record heat and drought.   Updated figures from the Illinois State Department of Public Health show extremely high numbers of the Culex pipiens species have tested positive for the disease — 71 percent in DuPage County and nearly 60 percent in Cook. Officials consider 10% problematic. National figures show 1,118 cases and 41 deaths have been reported to the CDC — the highest number of cases through the third week of August since the disease was first detected in this country in 1999, and a substantial jump from last week's tally of 693 cases and 26 deaths. And the number of reported cases through the third week of August this year is nearly three times higher than the average over the last 10 years, according to the CDC.  (Chicago Tribune)

 I don't care whether you believe that climate change is natural or man-made.  The incontrovertible fact is that our climate IS changing, and it IS warming, and it is CHANGING our landscape.  And whether this is part of a natural cycle or man-made, is immaterial:  We must respond to it if we are going to avoid more catastrophes like these.

How? By reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

(1) Higher Fuel Efficiency Standards for autos are a no-brainer.  I have been disgusted for the last several years attending the New York International Auto Show at NYC’s Javits Center, and reading the mpg statistics on new models.  The auto industry thinks it's offering something wonderful when a new car get 23 mpg.  They just don’t get it. (Actually, they do:  they can continue to offer crappy mileage because they can count on Republicans to obstruct fuel standards, and on Democrats to bail them out.)

(2) Amtrak and High-Speed Rail.  This country lags decades behind every developed nation in the world, including China, which has caught up and surpassed us on rail technology. While politicians throw money away on road projects for their home districts, subsidies for oil companies, sweetheart deals to ram through oil pipelines, exemptions for deepwater off-shore drilling safety devices, and auto company bailouts…..they wring their hands and hem and haw about investing in rail. And the Republicans seek to slash Amtrak's budget every year, rather than seeing trains as part of the solution to smog-choked highways.

(3) Energy-neutral Buildings.  In Europe, architects presume that a building that consumes more energy than it creates contains a Design Flaw. While the U.S. Congress continues to wring their hands over energy legislation, the European Union is requiring all residential buildings to produce nearly as much energy as they consume by 2020, in part by using renewable power sources. Public buildings will have to meet this standard two years earlier.  In urban centers, rooftop gardens and solar panels on a massive scale can lower temperatures, counter emissions, and save energy.


(4) Intolerance for Local NIMBY Obstructionism. Some of the most progressive, greenest, liberal people I know suddenly become ardent conservatives when windmills are proposed in their neighborhoods, or on mountain ridges that will impede their personal views.  Too Bad.  It is given to Congress and Congress alone to regulate interstate commerce, and if there is any product that crosses state lines, it is the national electric grid.  Far too many wind farms have been bogged down in local obstructionism, and it must stop.

(5) Local Farms, Local Food.  EVERY community needs to be a Right-to-Farm community (yes, even urban and suburban communities.) Uptight zoning regulations that outlaw chickens, restrict vegetable gardens from front yards, insist on crippling health regulations, and outlaw raw products need to go.  The Obama administration has been problematic on the left (FDA raids on raw milk farms), while snooty Republicans have used zoning to protect the landscape of their precious ‘burbs.  The more food that can be produced locally, the less food that has to be transported on the nation’s highways - and the fewer dollars and reliance on Monsanto and AgriBusiness.

We need more than Republicans who wear blinders, and Democrats who offer lip service to Energy Policy.  

We need a New, Green Paradigm.  Now.

.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Feds, County Election Supervisors Stop Purge of Voters in Florida

On Martin Luther King Day this year, we reported that Republican leaders have responded to a shrinking party base by across the country by throwing up obstacles to prevent the young, the elderly, and naturalized citizens from voting  (Republicans Seek to Suppress Voters).  One of the most extensive efforts to purge voting rolls of democratic-leaning voters has been taking place in Florida under the direction of Gov. Rick Scott.

But on Thursday, the federal Justice Department insisted that the purge of voters from Florida voting rolls cease immediately, as the program violates federal law.

County Elections Supervisors agreed. In response to the Justice Department order, Ron Labasky, the general counsel to the state's 67 county election supervisors, issued a memo recommending

 "...that Supervisors of Elections cease any further action until the issues raised by the Department of Justice are resolved between the parties or by a Court.” Accordingly, all 67 County Supervisors have ceased implementing Scott's Purge.

Those Elections Supervisors have been pushing back against Scott's efforts, as they have discovered multiple errors in the Governor's purging system. The Palm Beach Post quoted Martin County Elections Supervisor Vicki Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, as saying that the errors found in Scott's program, present in every county, made the planned purge "undoable."

Governor Scott has until June 6 (Wednesday) to respond to the Justice Department.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Republican Race: Watch George E. Pataki

In the Republican Presidential race, those who place bets on such things have given Mitt Romney the edge from the beginning. Romney has not given them much reason to be confident: his continual (and silly) lurching to the right on every imaginable issue to appeal to the party base, coupled with a constant stream of verbal gaffes and inability to ‘connect’ with voters, has resulted in a performance that can be described, at best, as lackluster. Even when he wins, polls show that those who vote for him do so out of a sense of inevitability and without much enthusiasm.

In spite of his narrow win in his home state of Michigan, he actually split the delegates from that state on an even 50-50 basis with Rick Santorum. Next week’s “Super Tuesday” will see Romney losses in southern and western states…with more southern states (Alabama and Mississippi) lined up for votes on March 13.

The prospects of a brokered convention – and the possibility of the Republicans choosing a yet-unnamed candidate – is growing by the minute.

So, let me be the first to say it:

Watch George E. Pataki.

Pataki may have been flying under the electoral radar all season, but he has been a very busy man.

On February 13, Pataki issued the following statement:

“The Obama administration continues to govern in its own Bizarro World that fails to recognize the devastating impact of the debt crisis we face. Today’s election year budget with another staggering trillion dollar plus deficit is a clear sign that the Obama administration has given up on even the facade of fiscal restraint and is content to bankrupt America in a cynical bid to save his political career. Jack Lew is right about one thing, the time for austerity is not today, it was last week and last year. It’s not halftime in the debt crisis; we’re in sudden death overtime and the clock is ticking down on our ability to effectively address this issue. President Obama must get real and revive the recommendations of the Simpson Bowles Commission.”

While slamming President Obama in the national debt on one hand, he has operated as the quintessential New York establishment Republican on the other hand: he has managed to take an anti-public employees union position (to the cheers of conservatives), while allying himself with a liberal Democrat (New York’s popular Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo). On Sunday, Pataki told the NY Daily News that the New York State public employees pension system needs to be changed:

“In this case, I think it’s clear the governor’s efforts to reform the pension system are correct and necessary. What we’ve seen is just an enormous increase in the contributions required by government employers.” The result, he said, is “continued spiraling upward [of property taxes] that is not sustainable. It’s wrong and I would hope the reform movement will succeed and will succeed this year."

Anti-Government Spending. Anti-Taxes. Anti-Public Employee Unions.

All while supporting a popular Democratic Governor.

These are not the positions of a casual commentator. These are the positions staked out by a shrewd politician.

The challenge for any Republican candidate for President is to hold on the conservative GOP base, while attracting moderate independents, and maybe even gathering some liberal support. This is standard politics for Pataki, who managed to govern one of the most reliably Democratic states in the country – New York – for twelve consecutive years (1995-2006).

For red-meat conservatives, Pataki offers solid credentials on some specific issues: Having been trusted to introduce George W. Bush at the Republican Nominating Convention, he was then appointed by Bush as a United States delegate to the 2007 United Nations General Assembly session, a post that required (and received) the approval of the U. S. Senate. In that post, Pataki focused on terrorism. He continues to serve on the Board of Directors of the American Security Council Foundation, a neo-conservative, pro-military-industrial complex “Peace Through Strength” advocacy group. The Foundation’s positions are entirely consistent with the saber-rattling words uttered by Gingrich, Romney and Santorum throughout the primary season.

But in contrast to Romney, whose Massachusetts health care plan (“Romneycare”) was the precursor and model for the federal “Obamacare,” Pataki has strongly (and credibly) opposed the Obama plan, much to the delight of the conservative Republican base: Two years ago (April 2010) Pataki announced that he was creating a nonprofit organization, “Revere America,” to push for the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which he called "horrific" and a “costly bungle.”

Like a good New York statesman, though, Pataki has been careful not to lurch to the right on every issue, thus preventing him from being pigeonholed as a fringe conservative. After serving as Governor, Pataki joined Chadbourne & Parke, a law firm that emphasizes its renewable energy practice. He then formed the “Pataki-Cahill Group,” an environmental consulting firm, and worked with the Council on Foreign Relations on climate change issues.

Probably the most important environmental initiative in the northeast – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or “ RGGI” – was the brainchild of George Pataki, and a project he implemented while Governor.

The RGGI uses market-based mechanisms to make dirty power plants pay for their pollution and clean up their act while simultaneously investing their payments in clean energy. The concept of the program is simple: Put a limit on power plant pollution, make polluters pay for the global warming emissions that they spew into the air, and reinvest that money in clean energy construction projects. These projects create jobs, reduce U.S. addiction to foreign crude oil, and reduce pollution. It is largely regarded as a win-win for the economy and the environment. It was promoted by both Republicans and Democrats from 10 states stretching from Maine to Maryland. And it was spearheaded by Pataki.

Anti-Tax, Anti-Spending, Anti-Debt, Anti-Obamacare, Pro-Military.

Pro-Environment, Pro-bipartisan, with Foreign Affairs (UN) experience.

Fiscal Conservative, Social Moderate.

Did I mention that at age 67, it’s now or never for Pataki? And that he has a Political Action Committee?

You read it here first: Watch for a Republican Convention without a conclusive nominee. And watch for George E. Pataki.

.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Republicans Lose Critical Elections All Night

On ballot issues ranging from statewide elections to union bargaining rights and voter access, Republicans took a beating in all corners of the nation tonight.

Perhaps the most closely watched ballot initiative was in Ohio, where voters rejected “Issue #2,” a Republican-supported initiative that would have severely restricted the rights of unions to pursue collective bargaining agreements. The vote was not even close, as voters in this swing-state rejected Republican Governor John Kasich’s bill by more than a 2:1 margin.

At the same time, voters in Maine have decisively rejected conservatives efforts to eliminate same-day registration for voting by a margin of 60% - 40%.

And in Kentucky, a state that saw a Republican Senate win in a special election just last year, voters elected to give four out of five statewide offices to Democrats. And in New York's Suffolk County (Long Island), where Republicans made the County Executive race a "referendum" on President Obama, the Republican candidate was losing by a surprisingly large margin of 55%-45% with roughly 40% of all precinct reporting. Further south in Virginia, that state elected its first openly gay State Senator, Adam Ebbin.

[Update from the West: Russell Pearce, the Arizona state senator from the Republican-dominated suburbs of Phoenix who wrote Arizona's controversial immigration law lost, was recalled last night 55%-45%. The election was widely seen as a referendum on tough measures against illegal immigrants.]

Nationally, Republicans have waged multi-state campaigns to restrict collective bargaining rights, oppose gay rights, impede voters from accessing the polls, and fomenting anti-immigrant sentiment. In my home state of New Hampshire, the Republican-dominated legislature supported all such measures.

When one considers that off-year elections tend to result in losses for the President’s party….and considering that the lower turnouts associated with these off-year elections almost always benefit Republicans...and considering the continuing economic malaise – these results should send a very clear message to the GOP:

Americans may not be thrilled with how Obama has handled his Presidency so far - in fact, they may be downright unhappy, frustrated, and/or disappointed - but by even greater numbers they completely reject the agenda of the current extremist Republicans.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Masks, GLBT rights, & GOP Presidential Politics

This month saw the 25th Year Anniversary performance in London of the Phantom of the Opera - the highest-grossing entertainment event of all time, the most financially successful theatrical show in history, and the longest running show on Broadway. Around the world, the show is easily identified - even by those who have never seen it - by the trademark Phantom’s Mask

Masks have always intrigued me. Fascinated, terrified, and intrigued me.

As a child, clowns scared me. They still do. There is something evil and scary about clown make-up to me; it is a very obvious statement that what you “see” before you is not what is “really” underneath. Something is being prettified, or changed, or hidden; something awful is being presented as if it’s funny and joyful. I don’t like them.

I was drawn into the 1998 film, “The Man in the Iron Mask,” which itself was based on the Alexandre Dumas novel of an actual man imprisoned in the Bastille. In the movie, it is proposed that the prisoner was the twin brother of King Louis XIV - but he was kept hidden from view behind locked prison doors, his face encased in a locked iron mask so no one would recognize him as an heir to the throne. Had his true self been revealed, it would upset the established social and political order, and so the King insisted that no one be permitted to see him.

As a gay man living a closeted existence for several decades, I could identify with that.

Just as I can identify with the Phantom.

Of course, in the Phantom’s case, no one forces him to wear his mask. Rather, it is his fear of rejection, and the public's revulsion at his "differentness," his disfigured face, that causes him to hide. He voluntarily wears the mask to obscure his true identity, and lives in the shadows of the Opera House’s basement. There he can continue his life's musical work without fear of rejection. I can identify with the Phantom even more than with the Man in the Iron Mask.

I recall a heated discussion I had six years ago about the Phantom. I was admittedly sympathetic to him, understanding his perspective. The woman with whom I was speaking was outraged. “He is a monster! He’s a liar! He manipulates and uses people! How can you defend him?!” I suspected that she was seeing this from her very personal perspective, just as I was seeing from mine.

Which brings me to the main point of this blog post: the scrambling by Republican presidential candidates to shove masks back on our faces.

Here in New Hampshire, we go through the every-four-year sideshow of Presidential-wannabes traipsing through the state seeking a First-in-The-Nation Primary win. And as Primary day gets closer, each candidate tries to outflank the next in securing votes. This week, they tried to outdo each other on the issue of Marriage [In]Equality.

In August, Rick Perry had signed a pledge to support a Constitutional Amendment banning Marriage Equality nation-wide. This past Friday, at a dinner hosted by the extreme right-wing “Cornerstone Action,” Perry shored up his credentials, adding,

"As conservatives…We believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage, and I applaud those legislators in New Hampshire who are working to defend marriage as an institution between one man and one woman, realizing that children need to be raised in a loving home by a mother and a father."

Perry was referring to the current effort by the NH House to repeal the 2009 NH Marriage Equality bill.

Mitt Romney, despite pledging his personal support as an advocate of GLBT rights to the Log Cabin Republicans in 1994, turned around and signed the pledge calling for a federal amendment defining marriage as one-man and one-woman. Rick Santorum has stated that there is “no right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution” (50 years of Court decisions say otherwise), and called gay rights to the equivalent of another 9-11 terrorist attack in the Morning Call. This actually sounds like a remix of Michelle Bachmann’s letter in which she declared that legislators who oppose a federal Marriage Amendment to be like “soldiers who missed the Pearl Harbor warning signs.”

Speaking (or should I say ”pandering?”) to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Last week possible front-runner Herman Cain said,

“I think marriage should be protected at the federal level also…I used to believe that it could be just handled by the states but there’s a movement going on to basically take the teeth out of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and that could cause an unraveling, so we do need some protection at the federal level because of that and so yes I would support legislation that would say that it’s between a man and a woman.”

Make no mistake: Theocratic political action groups such as the National Organization for Marriage and Cornerstone Action are scrambling to find ways to lock iron masks on gay men and women, lest the world see us for who we are: neighbors, teachers, firefighters, sons, daughters, architects, sports figures, secretaries, construction workers, accountants, warehousemen, drivers, and nurses.

If we can’t be seen, or acknoweldged, or recognized, they hope, we will be forgotten, as if locked in the Bastille.

As they attempt to re-introduce a climate of fear and loathing, they work on our psyche much as the crowds worked on the Phantom’s psyche: by convincing him that he was ugly, that he was different, that he would be attacked by ‘normal’ people...and just as he chose to live his life behind a mask so no one could see, so, still, do many gay and lesbian citizens.

After all, NH Rep. Ralph Boehm, the vice chairman of the House Education Committee, tried to gut the states new anti-bullying law, saying that

"Students need to be prepared for life...bullying is part of it.”

You see? We should hide...because otherwise we will be attacked. It's just "part of life."

But living behind a mask has repercussions worse than these theocrats understand.

In a 2008 poll of 260 openly gay men in New England, fully one half stated they used to me married to a woman…which, of course, ended in divorce.

They did not ‘change’ their orientation half-way through their lives. Rather, they tried to live behind a mask, where no one could see their ‘real face,’ or their ‘differences,’ and hope it would work.

It doesn’t.

And for those who claim to be on the side of “marriage,” they do themselves – and society – no favor by forcing men to live in ways they can’t.

Harvey Milk pleaded with us to drop the masks:

“…Gay brothers and sisters,... You must come out. Come out... to your parents... I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives... come out to your friends... if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors... to your fellow workers... to the people who work where you eat and shop... come out only to the people you know, and who know you… But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene…”

No More Closets…No More Bastille Prison Doors…No More Iron Masks…No More Phantoms.

And no more two-faced, pandering, ignorant hateful Republicans as President, thank you.

Friday, June 17, 2011

NY Senate Republicans Stalling of Equality exposes Cowardice

According to Michael Gormley of the Associated Press, "Senate Republicans in New York say protecting religious groups that won't perform gay weddings or offer services to gay couples is a major factor in their refusal so far to bring same-sex marriage to a vote."

Marriage Equality in New York - which would probably pass if a vote was taken in the Senate - is being held up because the Republican-controlled Senate is (so far) not permitting the bill to be scheduled for a vote. The Senate adjourns on Monday.

Their reason? That religious institutions are not being protected in the bill.

A reason, that, in plain language, is a pure crap.

Religious institutions have ALWAYS been protected under the US Constitution to create their own rules for membership and marriage. Since our birth as a country, heterosexuals have had the right to marry; However, NO Roman Catholic Church has been forced to marry non-catholics. Synagogues have not been forced to marry non-Jews. Every religious institution has ALWAYS had the right to define who was eligible for marriage within that religious institution.

What the proposed law in New York State refers to is the legal right to be married in a CIVIL ceremony, as recognized by the STATE - it has NO effect on the right of religious institutions to conduct their own policy as they have seen fit, just as they have always done. This delay tactic by the GOP, presumably to protect religious institutions, has nothing to do with churches and everything to do with playing politics with peoples lives. And, quite frankly, not having the balls to stand up to the the RC Archbishop, Hassidic Jewish leaders, and the Conservative Party, which has threatened to withhold its endorsement from any Republican supporting the Marriage Equality Bill.

To be sure, the Conservative Party can deliver the margin of victory in a race, as it commands about 5% of the vote in many districts. However, the Conservative Party is notoriously weak and disorganized - if not entirely unorganized. When Conservative Party leaders are challenged by insurgents, it has been standard operating procedure for those leaders to call upon Republican operatives to step in and do their campaign leg-work for them...and yet, the NY GOP - once the most progressive in the nation - continues to allow itself to be emasculated as the Conservative Party becomes the very small tail that wags a once very large dog.

To be fair, in recent years, there have been two series of court decisions that, on their face, have seemed to require religious institutions to provide services to gay couples, and this may be part of the fear that some Senators have. It makes sense, then, to look at these two decisions.

The first is the Ocean Grove, New Jersey case, where the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association was stripped of its non-profit status because it would not allow gay couples to rent their oceanfront boardwalk pavilion for weddings. Conservatives immediately pointed to this as evidence that 'gay marriage' would force religious institutions to provide services against their beliefs. But a closer look at the Ocean Grove situation shows their fears to be empty.

The pavilion is not owned by the United Methodist Church (as is often claimed), but by an independent organization called the "Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association." (There are "Camp Meeting Associations" associated with revival meetings within Methodism all up and down the eastern seaboard). The OGCMA owns all the land in a 1 square mile section of Neptune Township, but leases most of it out to homeowners and businesses. The pavilion in question received its tax exemption NOT BY BEING A RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION, BUT THROUGH THE NEW JERSEY "GREEN ACRES" PROGRAM, whose purpose is to provide tax breaks for properties which help preserve open space for enjoyment and use by the public, without discrimination. The OGCMA never reserved the pavilion for Christian weddings or religious services of ANY kind, and received its tax exemption for preserving open green space. Thus, this case did NOT involve an infringement on religious rights, but on the terms of a state program exchanging tax relief for public access.

The second series of cases Conservatives point to involve adoption services offered through religious-oriented agencies such as Catholic Charities. In Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts, courts or legislatures have made it clear that these agencies can not discriminate against applicants, if they receive state tax money. In a number of jurisdictions, Catholic Charities has chosen to longer place children in foster care or adoption rather than comply with these rulings.

However, they had another choice: they could have stopped taking taxpayer funding. In each case, the agencies were prohibited from discriminating precisely because state governments were contracting with them to perform state functions - the placement of children into foster care or adoptive families. Catholic Charities can not claim to be both a private religious institution on one hand - and then stay afloat by using tax dollars paid for by Americans of all religious stripes on the other - and expect to be able to serve only those with their own religious viewpoint. (It should also be pointed out that these agencies were not only prohibited from discriminating against gays, but also against single moms and cohabiting heterosexuals).

Even though both of these cases turned on very specific, non-religious issues - tax exemption for open space, or state contractual duties using taxpayer money - Conservatives continue to claim that gay marriage will destroy religious groups' ability to practice their own faith. This, of course, is complete nonsense.

And the New York Republican Senate's efforts to avoid and stall Marriage Equality based on these arguments is shallow and cowardly.

Dean Skelos, Kemp Hannon, Chuck Fuschillo, John Flanagan, Mark Grisanti - your constituents deserve better than kowtowing to the Conservatives and throwing up religious smokescreens to avoid doing the right thing...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Open Letter to NYS Senators Hannon, Skelos & Fuschillo:



Dear Senators Hannon, Skelos, and Fuscillo:

As a former Baldwin resident and Past President of the Nassau County Young Republicans, who worked tirelessly on your campaigns for a decade, I am asking that you stand for what is right and support Marriage Equality in New York State.

Kemp, in the late 1970s, you ran for NYS Assembly for the first time. I met you daily, running ahead of you to make sure that we knocked on every door in South Hempstead for your first campaign. I spoke to voters, delivered literature, and worked phone banks on your behalf. While I certainly can’t claim credit for the victory that launched your life-long electoral career, I can recount the endless effort I put into your campaigns. You accepted that help gratefully. You didn’t ask whether I was gay or straight, and it didn’t seem to matter.

Dean and Charlie, your very electoral survival is due, in part, to the tireless efforts of gay men on your behalf. When Ronald Reagan ran for President in 1980 and again in 1984, there were serious concerns that he could not carry a state such as New York….and that his coattails (or lack thereof) might damage ‘local’ Republicans. None of you complained when Terry Dolan, a gay man, founded and operated NCPAC (the National Conservative Political Action Committee) out of a Greenwich Village rowhouse, to insure a lopsided Reagan victory in New York. Rolling into the 1990s, you all were nervous when Bill Clinton was polling double-digits ahead of George HW Bush, and, later, Bob Dole on Long Island….but that didn’t stop you from calling on the expertise of Art Finkelstein – another gay man – who had practically set up shop out of Nassau Co GOP Headquarters, beginning with his engineering of Al D’Amato to the statehouse. As Clinton steamrolled over the GOP in NY, Finkelstein coordinated media messages that resulted in victories from Pataki down to yourselves. And in spite of the Democratic wins in NY and nationally, you all managed to hang on to your seats for three decades.

All with the help – acknowledged or not – of gay men you on whom you were more than happy to rely.

I organized rallies, manned phone banks, coordinated enthusiastic youth for your events, ran local headquarter operations, and responded to every request.

And so now, as an “out,” gay man in his 50’s, I ask this of you: Do the right thing, and take this opportunity to end the apartheid treatment of your gay and lesbian constituents.

I now live in New Hampshire, arguably a far more conservative state than New York. We have had full Marriage Equality for a year and a half now. The sky has not fallen. Churches have not been forced to do anything contrary to their beliefs. Marriages across society have not suffered. Children have not been harmed.

Rather, people have avoided bankruptcy and unaddressed illness because they’ve been covered by their spouses health insurance. Children have been able to refer to their parents, rather than “mom and her friend.” Hospitals and banks have been able to afford spousal recognition on marital property. Couples have been afforded security and equality. And society has continued, stronger than ever.

Gay men and women are all around you. They have voted for you, strategized for you, and campaigned for you. They have the same dreams for their children, the same hopes and dreams for their future as any other of your constituents.

Do the right thing, and be a part of history in New York.

Sincerely,

T. Thomas Fitzsimmons
(f/k/a Thomas Simmons)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Making sense of the NH Republicans...and the UNPUBLISHED poll....



In the wake of yesterday's election of Jack Kimball over Juliana Bergeron as New Hampshire State Republican Chair, many news articles have attempted to present this as a battle between "two sides." And in America, we tend to simply battles into just two sides: Republicans vs. Democrats, Packers vs. Bears, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Toby Keith vs. The Dixie Chicks. But the reality behind the scenes is that the state GOP can be divided into at least three different factions, and the direction the party - and the State - will take is a function of how those coalitions come together - or fall apart - on individual issues.

In brief, the three main factions are The Establishment Yankees, The Theocrats, and the Libertarians.

The Establishment Yankees are best represented by the House of Sununu and the House of Gregg, two Republican families that have dominated NH politics for 40 years. These two families provided State Party Chairs, Senators, Governors, and White House Advisors (Sununu The Elder was Bush the Elder's Chief of Staff). And while the Sununus tended towards very conservative politics, their base has been the old tyme Republicans who worked the polls in the past, provided the votes, and had moderate tendencies (The McCain - Romney faction)

The Theocrats are a vocal, blistering minority of social conservatives, most of whom have moved in from out of state. They belong to Bible, Pentecostal, and Independent Churches. The Home Educate in droves. They are Pro-Life. And they have found their voice in the Cornerstone Policy Institute and its mouthpiece, Ken Smith. They are both fiscal and social conservatives, but it is the social issues that inflame their passions and drive them to organize and campaign and vote. When choosing candidates, they are the ones most likely to ask in a knowing whisper, "Is he saved?"

The Libertarians draw from two sources: young, fresh blood, drawn to the Granite State by its traditional bent towards libertarianism and publicity from organizations such as the Free State Project and the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance (Not to be confused with the House Republican Alliance); and from old tyme Yankees who have rejected some of the 'entrenched' politics of the Establishment Houses (see above). This group is fiscally conservative...but quite socially tolerant, if not liberal. This is the faction within the GOP seeking to preserve Marriage Equality through a variety of approaches (including getting government out of marriage all together), and support medical marijuana (as well as outright decriminalization).

To muddy the waters, there are many news reports trumpeting the success of Tea Party favorite Jack Kimball. But the Tea Party movement, while united on fiscal issues, is extremely fractured on social issues, and does not speak with one voice (a mistake often made by those on the left when commenting on the Tea Party).

And so, the recent election fell along these lines:

Julia Bergeron, Chair of the Cheshire County GOP, who rose through the ranks working within and for the party. Unsurprisingly, she had the support of The Establishment, including most of the GOP Senators, 4 of 5 Executive Councillors, and the House of Sununu.

Jack Kimball, former candidate for Governor, businessman, and Tea Party activist.

But where did they stand on the issues?

Juliana Bergeron was seen by some as a 'moderate,' by others as a conservative...and Marriage Equality was the lightning rod issue. Bergeron was not very clear where she stood: she voted against including an anti-same-sex marriage plank in the state GOP platform, and afterwards stated, “I’m 100 percent for our platform, but we have to respect those who don’t agree with every portion of it..." But she also made statements such as, “I have never been a proponent of gay marriage; I support traditional marriage." Her attempt to negotiate a bitter feud between pro-Equality and Anti-Equality Republicans in the Town of Swanzey resulted in her being seen as 'liberal' on this issue: she lost the support of Cheshire Republican strongman (and former NH Christian Coalition Chair George Fellendorf), and could not secure the support of one of five Executive Councillors, David Wheeler of Milford, a hero of the Theocrat faction.

Kimball, on the other hand, who cut his teeth on fiscal, not social, issues, came out with this beaut: “I won’t tolerate our party deviating from its conservative platform,” he told NHJournal.com. “I plan to get involved in activities at the Statehouse if and when I think we are straying from our platform."

In getting elected, Kimball attempted to make his agreement with the socially conservative platform very clear.

However, his actions belie his words: He then said Thursday he would name abortion rights supporters and U.S. Senate candidates Bill Binnie, of New Castle, and Jim Bender, of Hollis, to co-chair the GOP Finance Committee. Binnie openly appealed to abortion rights supporters in his unsuccessful campaign for Senate, and while news reports claim that he supports the the state’s same-sex marriage law, he told your Blogger, to his face, that he opposed it.

In the end, Bergeron had the Establishment. Kimball had the Libertarians (who were suspicious of Bergeron's moderation on fiscal issues) and the Theocrats, who were unimpressed with the strength of her support for the social issues in the Platform...though it's not certain that Kimball's action will support his words.

It was a close vote: 222-199.

Now, the straw poll...the media are announcing Mitt Romney's win among the delegates (an Establishment win), even if they are ignoring Ron Paul's second place showing (a Libertarian win).

But the "other story" is the poll that is not being reported. Delegates were asked, in a second poll, to indicate ALL the candidates they could support. Here are the results:

Tim Pawlenty 46
Michele Bachmann 44
Mitt Romney 42
Rick Santorum 41
Sarah Palin 38
Ron Paul 38
Jim Demint 34
Mike Huckabee 29
Mike Pence 24
Paul Ryan 24
Gary Johnson 20
Rudy Guiliiani 20
Haley Barbour 19
Newt Gingrich 19
John Bolton 15
Judd Gregg 15
Joe Arpaio 12
Donald Trump 11
John Thune 10
Mitch Daniels 9
Herman Cain 8
Jon Huntsman, Jr. 6
George Pataki 5
Scott Brown 4
John Cornyn 2
Tom Tancredo 1
Steven King 1

Notice the cluster of hard-line social conservatives at the top of the list: Pawlenty, Bachmann [shudder], DeMint, Huckabee, Santorum, Palin.

Notice the Libertarians in the second tier: Paul, Johnson

Notice no one gets more than 1/3 of the delegates voting.

Any appearance of a united, monolithic NH Republican Party is a news media invention. Any announcement that the "Tea Party" has taken over is premature and unhelpful. The NH GOP remains divided between its three camps. In the short term there will be an unpredictable dance between these camps..in the long term, as The Establishment dies off and loses ground....we will see a war between social conservatives and social libertarians. Who knows how far off that was is...

Friday, December 03, 2010

Health Care: Can the GOP Prove it still has a Soul?


With Republicans poised to take control of the House of Representatives, there is little doubt that the recently-passed health care bill is up for, shall we say…”discussion.” The fact that Democrats continue to hold the Senate and White House also means that there is no run-away train here when it comes to passing – or repealing – legislation. A ‘divided’ government means that we can have two years of gridlock...or we can have statesmen from both sides of the aisle who actually work together to address the nation’s ills.

Eric Cantor, set to become the new Republican House Majority leader, has suggested in the last few days that the Republican Party, while looking to repeal “Obamacare,” may also offer revisions and additions to the bill rather than just repealing it and walking away. In this statement, there is the faintest glimmer of hope that America could actually end up with a better law.

Tea Party darling (and complete lunatic) Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has already gone on the offense, stating to the Christian News Service,

“…I think there needs to be an insurrection here in Washington, D.C., against our own [Republican] leadership, because that is the message that's come loud and clear out of this election: a full-scale repudiation and rejection of the federal government takeover of private industry…If we want to replace ["obamacare"] with Obamacare-lite where the government comes in and tries to have interventionist policies, we are going to continue to see failure…”

Bachmann represents everything that has gone wrong with the Republican Party: extremism, ignorance, mean-spiritedness, an elevation of ivory-tower theory over people and reality, and a slash-and-burn, rule-or-ruin style of governance.

For all its flaws, the Democrats got several things very right with the Health Care Bill: A new McClatchy Newspapers/Marist survey found that 68% of respondents favor allowing people under the age of 26 to be covered by their parents' plans, and 60% want to deny insurance companies the right to turn people down for coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. Permitting insurers to refuse coverage for pre-existing conditions is a pocket-lining win for corporate insurance at the expense of struggling families.

The entire theory behind insurance is that everyone goes into the ‘pool’, and those at greater risk are subsidized by ratepayers who pay more than they take from the system.

Seven hundred years ago, ship merchants in the Baltic Sea were besieged by Vikings; they got through that period by pooling their risk and cargoes, thus creating the first known insurance pool (The “Hanseatic League”). Those merchants who were set upon by Vikings were not ‘ruined,’ but rather, participated in the profits of the ships that did successfully reach port. That is the theory behind insurance: sharing the risk increases the chances that all will survive horrible mishaps. When Insurers are permitted to cut off newborn babies born with birth defects, or refuse to cover spouses with crippling diseases, they are throwing the ‘bad risks’ overboard; it is no longer an insurance pool, but a cartel of the healthy for the profit of the insurer.

Contrary to Bachmann’s blind quasi-religious belief in the existence of perfect markets in health care, we must acknowledge that there *is* a problem in terms of affordable access to health care for many Americans. With 10% of the Labor Force out of work, an additional 10% “underemployed,” and youth, stay-at-home parents, part-time workers, the disabled, many immigrants, and the homeless not included in those figures, estimates range from 30 to 50 million Americans living without health insurance. That means somewhere between 10% and 15% of Americans living on the edge of ruin or death at the instance of a single serious mishap or disease. The compassion of a civilized society rejects, "hell, tough on them!" as an acceptable response.

Republicans must be convinced to keep these two provisions of the health care bill, as well as an end to lifetime caps, or suffer the consequences at the ballot box two years hence.

In addition, this is an opportunity to make improvements to the existing bill. Those improvements could include the following:

1) Permit non-profit regional or state groups to form for the purpose of buying health insurance. Sounds simple, isn't it? But it's illegal under IRS Rule 501(m). Individuals can *not,* under existing law, form 'groups' whose primary purpose is purchasing group health insurance. (Groups may form for business or fraternal purposes, and then choose to buy insurance as an incidental benefit, but they can not form for no other reason than to buy insurance). End this prohibition, let competition ensue, and there will be no need for the single Federal Government Insurance company the Republicans fear.

2) End State-granted Insurance Monopolies. The Federal Government has the authority to regulate Interstate Commerce, and since people may get sick *anywhere* and request their insurer to cover it, this is clearly federal jurisdiction. Blow open the lid on Insurer Competition across state lines.

3) Enact Tort and Medical Malpractice Reform. It was reported 6 years ago that an OB-GYN doctor in Massachusetts has to deliver EIGHTY-FIVE babies just to cover malpractice insurance premiums for a year. Worse, 5% of doctors are responsible for 95% of malpractice claims, raising all doctor's and hospital's premiums. Limit Malpractice Awards, raise the negligence standards (so hospitals don’t need to run costly and unnecessary tests), and relieve the 95% of decent doctors from paying the premiums of the 5% convicted of malpractice.

4) Eliminate the FDA's Efficacy test, especially for terminal patients. Currently, the FDA requires that pharmaceutical companies prove that their drugs meet two tests: they must prove safe, and they must be 'efficacious,' that is, they must be proven to cure the condition they claim to address in virtually 100% of patients. This is a costly and inconclusive standard: people react differently to different substances. The peanut butter that fed me through high school will kill someone with an allergy; let *Doctors* decide what to prescribe, with the understanding that the idiosyncrasies of individual patients means that results WILL be different with different drugs. And while we’re at it, permit the medical production, possession, and use of cannabis.

5) Engage in Multi-national agreements with other nations to accept their pharmaceuticals and increase competition. The refusal of the US FDA to permit the importation of Canadian pharmaceuticals is insane. An individual can come to the US from France, or Britain, or Mali, or India, and providing only a driver's license from their own nation, get behind the wheel of a 6,000 pound rental car and take off minutes after landing - even if they don't speak English or have never driven on the right side of the road. And yet, if a pharmaceutical company goes through hundreds of thousands of test subjects in Germany, or Britain, or Canada, the results are not considered 'valid' in the US. Now, realistically, which is more dangerous: the driver, or a drug produced in Canada?

6) Permit every American to have a Medical Savings Account. Currently, Government workers and some self-employed people can utilize a Medical Savings Account which permits them to cover medical costs using a credit-card-like card. These citizens have a certain amount of money deducted from their paychecks, and go into an account for medical expenses: prescription drugs, eyeglasses, dental work, and even over the counter remedies. These deductions are pre-tax, meaning it lowers the person's gross income, lowering their tax and even possibly dropping them into a lower tax bracket. Better yet, these workers can 'borrow' against future deductions if they incur expenses early in the year at no interest expense. If government workers are allowed these accounts, why not ALL Americans?

7) Repeal DOMA and the Internal Revenue Service Imputed Income provisions. The Internal Revenue Service requires that employers report the value of health insurance benefits provided to non-traditional partners: registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, and some marriages. The value of this 'benefit' results in greater employee taxes - often as much as $3,000 annually. This creates a disincentive for employees in the majority of states where thee benefits exist to actually cover their partners...who then go uninsured, or who qualify for taxpayer funded low-income health programs in the states. ALL of these partners can be better served, with better insurance, at no taxpayer expense, if the IRS would stop punishing otherwise economically viable households based on their formal definition of 'federal marital status.'

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kelly Ayotte: the Police State Candidate



Of the 33 Senate races taking place across the country this year, there are few whose outcome is as unpredictable right now as New Hampshire's. There are currently 4 major Republicans and 1 Democrat (Congressman Paul Hodes) running for an open Senate seat in this, a state that has voted both 'red' and 'blue' in recent elections. The danger is that in freedom-loving New Hampshire, this combination of candidates - and the support of the national GOP establishment in Washington, DC - could propel former NH Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, perhaps the most dangerous, pro-police-state politician the state has seen in decades, to front-runner status.

Anyone who has watched television in New Hampshire over the last few weeks has seen the barrage of Ayotte ads, each with the same theme: Ayotte put criminals behind bars. All but one of her ads features a uniformed police officer, and her latest shamelessly lauds her prosecution of the man guilty of killing Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs.

But it is her other activities as the Granite State's Attorney General that should bring one to pause, if not shudder, for what she would bring to the legislative table. On a consistent basis, AG Ayotte testified before the state legislature to curtail civil liberties and protect the power of the police state. Four important examples:

1) The most egregious must be her abject lies about Medical Marijuana, delivered at last year's legislative debate.

She wrote,

"In fact, marijuana is an addictive drug that poses significant health consequences to its users, including those who may be using it for medical purposes...The use of smoked marijuana is opposed by all credible medical groups nationwide."

In fact, several major national medical groups have taken positive views of medical cannabis, including the American Academy of Physicians, the American Nurses Association and the American Public Health Association. In a 2001 report, even the American Medical Association noted that marijuana helped those suffering from certain ailments including HIV wasting syndrome and chemotherapy-induced nausea.

It is too bad she didn't consider the testimony of Fremont, NH resident Dennis Acton:

"...I am a cancer survivor and successfully used marijuana to treat severe nausea when my $1600 prescription didn't work. I testified along with many others at the Senate HHS Subcommittee hearing back in April. After the senate passed it, we were able to set up a meeting with the Governor. He was "unavailable" so he sent two policy advisors. About 20 of use showed up for this meeting and told our stories. … I really wish the Gov. could have been there to hear these moving stories. I wish other people like AG Kelly Ayotte... and others who dismiss the medicinal properties of marijuana (based on ignorance rather than science) could have heard this as well.

The bottom line is that terminally or severely ill people want to use marijuana to ease symptoms and to avoid becoming addicted to expensive and harmful opiate based drugs. It is just inconceivable that drugs like Oxycontin are readily available and are being abused terribly while marijuana is outlawed..."


Both the House and Senate adopted a medical marijuana bill, but the Senate lacked the votes to override the Governor's veto...a veto that relied, in part, on Ayotte's disgraceful testimony.

2) A second area is her continued opposition to permitting videotaping of police actions.

In 2009, House Bill 312 was submitted, simply permitting the recording (on a cell phone or other device) police activity. For years, police indiscretions have been brought to light through citizen vigilence (Even parking garages have video cameras these days!) The Bill was bipartisan, sponsored by 3 Democrats (Joel Winters, Susi Nord, and Maureen Mann) and 2 Republicans (Neal Kurk and Jenn Coffey), and passed the Democratically-controlled House.

Ayotte opposed the bill, likening the procedure to illegal wiretapping, and it died in the Senate.

3) In New Hampshire, "...Jury nullification is the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by the judge and contrary to the evidence." (State v. Hokanson, 140 N.H. at 721B906, cited in State of NH v Sanchez). This undisputed power is a check on a rule-oriented legal system that could result in terrible miscarriages of justice. And yet, when HB 906 was filed in 2007, simply requiring that jurors be informed of their existing, "undisputed" rights, Ayotte testified against the bill.

4)On two seperate occasions, Ayotte urged Governor Lynch to veto bills (2006 SB318 and 2009 HB160) that would establish the "Castle Doctrine" in New Hampshire. The Castle Doctrine gives a crime victim the right to use force when attacked when that victim is legally in a place where they have a right to be. Instead, Ayotte has supported the notion that a potential victim has a duty to retreat, rather than defend themselves...cold comfort to a woman walking home late at night and confronted in a dark street, or someone in a wheelchair, or a nightclub patron being surrounded by a group of thugs out to bash someone for fun.

Of course, this is also the Attorney General who advocated for the requirement that picture IDs be produced simply to purchase cough medicine...

Kelly Ayotte has spent her life enhancing and enlarging the power of the State and its Police and enforcement mechanisms as against its citizens. Having garnered the support of the GOP establishmentm, it is now no surprise that as the GOP primary nears, she is tripping over herself to embrace anti-immigration extremism, 14th-Amendment repeal nonsense, Sarah Palin, and the far-right elements that she needs to capture the nod.

But for anyone - Republican, Independent, or Democrat - who values New Hampshire's libertarian way of life, this candidate MUST be defeated. She does not, and must not, represent the people of New Hampshire.