Category Archives: Opinion

NYPD at Occupy Wall Street S17: Same Old Same Old

Imagine hanging with your friend in a restaurant in New York City, you came down for the S17 protests; the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street.  You participated in a march earlier in the day, a little pandemonium, but hey its New York City, its Occupy!  You and your friend finish and decide to walk outside to catch what else is going on, not much happening at this street.

So you turn the corner.  Suddenly as if a tidal wave had enveloped you, a crowd passes by.  You join them, join the excitement, everyone marches on, in solidarity.  Then suddenly screaming from the front, a push backward from the crowd, people turn, looks of fear in their faces.  You have no choice but to turn and run or be trampled.  Then you see the NYPD, running through the crowd, grabbing marchers by whatever they can put their hands on, a backback, a shirt, an arm.  You are swung around and met with a uniformed animal.  Your immediate response to this assault on your person is to jerk back, move to get away and the grip becomes tighter and this machine/human pulls you forward and holds you in way that makes you defenseless as moving will certainly cause a limb to break, you feel the pressure on your tendons, your bones.

This happened tonight in New York to two Occupiers from Manchester, New Hampshire.  Arrested with many others for the crime of marching in the street.  As of the 15th, Occupy Arrests reports 25 arrested.

Acting fast to cuff a protester, this one violating a mask ban, just one ordinance made to pry open fourth amendment rights of just cause.


Mark Provost, called and reported this experience this evening.  He pointed out the NYPD policy of “snatch and grab” which consists of the NYPD infiltrating the moving group quickly and grabbing anyone at random.  As Mark points this signifies a significant strategic switch in the way that police departments possibly all over the country, have decided to quell dissent.  By removing random people at once and suddenly, pandemonium went out and dispersed the crowd immediately, creating panic which then led to the general disbursement of the marchers as a coalesced unit.

But the NYPD has behaved this way from the start, only the logistical circumstances led to a more organized arrest strategy.  Pictures of protesters lined up along a bridge or video of Occupiers’ tents being wholesale destroyed worked against the city.  The Tony Baloney’s of the NYPD, while no doubt still plentiful, are now better trained and ready to confront political dissent in anyway possible.

But the fight must go on.  People must stand up in the streets, make noise, strike, write, vote, speak.  This is democracy and the rage that has brewed against a system that has oppressed far too many people for far too long.  A system that like a headless monster, will crush and devour anything in its path.  Its rapacious appetite for profit, expansion at the cost of humanity and planet will not die until we stop it.

Yes Occupiers who can actually participate in marches and actions represent a few persons, but they represent the voices, minds and hearts of millions of Americans who have had enough.  They have had enough of worrying about the next job they’ll have, worrying about paying the rent or mortgage, worrying about getting to work on time in a running car, about not getting sick, paying the car loans, bank loan, student loan, hospital bills and even the most basic necessities that so many before died for us to have the privilege to take them for granted, such as hot water or electricity.

Our democracy is under serious attack, from within and without.  Fearful of falling into the abyss of unemployment and then possibly poverty and destitution, people cling to their jobs; their two or three jobs, keep their heads low, keep quiet and plod on.  But they know what’s up and they do what they can, but only a few of us can get out all the time, some of us some of the time, some of us have to wait for the opportunity.  Multiply the crowd at OWS by a quarter, would that represent those who can’t come? Multiply by half, again how do we know, but how many people have you talked to who know what’s up? Who know the fix is in.  The only way to get out is to fight our way out with every tool we have.

Incomplete Democracy = No Democracy

Just Kidding!

Today the editorial brain trust at the Union Leader decided to weigh in on the Voter ID law and its “practice run” during the primary.  For those who didn’t vote in the New Hampshire primary or don’t live in New Hampshire, its worth pointing out that although the law won’t go into effect until the general election in November, the legislature decided to mandate a practice run at the polls.  Yes, of course you’re thinking, “what a wonderful idea let’s practice all laws out first!”  then if you are stopped, arrested or ticketed the cop can tell you, “Oh geez, just kidding, now watch out in November!”

Dispensing with all the other problems with that issue, one wonders how many people might get the idea that the law really already is in effect and thus abide accordingly.  I mean, I guess it would be up to the goodwill of those empowered with enforcement to give up the gag before the damage is done right?  One wonders when exactly that might occur? After said individual absent an ID walks out of the polls? Its their fault they can’t hear the “Oh shucks, just kidding!” all the way from the parking lot?

Well, basically the Union Leader chooses to overlook that problem, while of course having to make the odd construction that Democrats were protesting the Voter ID law by refusing to give up their ID’s, that oh wait! really isn’t a law yet.  Bet that’s a first.  But its all good right? No one lost their voting privileges that day right?

Nope not at all, unless you talked to people who went to the polls, who were confronted with the patently illegal signage that wards had no business posting that led people to believe that the law was in fact in effect.  Nope not all unless you talk to the people who knowing their rights, refused to produce an ID and were not given the Voter Challenge Affidavit until after they had surrendered their ID.  Funny thing, guess the workers at the polls need some more training, including those poll watchers.

But, it seems clear by testimony from those who experienced the denial of their voting privileges unless they provided satisfactory proof of ID, they had reason to believe they weren’t voting.  So, let’s take your average citizen who works full time, probably has a family to care for and has about a one hour window that they carved out for a week or more to be able to perform their democratic duty.   Is it reasonable to assume this individual would in good faith turn around and say, “Oh, let me call my boss and see if I can more time off to get my ID I left at home/work/in the car.”  or, “Let me see if the person who gave me a ride here will be available to shuttle me around to the DMV, fill out a form, stand in line for an hour and then go back?”

Or, the person who says, “You know what, I knew voting was stupid, I’m going home.”

Or the person who, in the case of one person in Manchester who has a strong Spanish accent, of being further humiliated by having to answer to the question, “Where are you from?” So much for that old folksy New Hampshire.  Let’s just dispel that right now.  Manchester is a city, just like Nashua and Portsmouth.  There aren’t docile dairy cows roaming between white clapboard farmhouses or farmers with red and black checkered hunting caps leaning on fences saying “Ahyup!”.  Unlike the charmed sentiment of the editor, New Hampshire has had its influx of newcomers, of which many who don’t fit the New Hampshire ideal citizen, aren’t exactly given the welcome mat and a pint of New Hampshire maple syrup.  But of course these folks mostly settle in the larger communities and their participation in the polls just might change some things up old Concord way.

Never mind that the other segment of voters that the those at the Union Leader editorial board and Keepers of All That is White and Right in New Hampshire also probably only fret about property taxes in the sense that they know they are paying too much and there’s a small segment of large landowners not paying their fair share.  They’d probably vote Democratic, just a hunch, but since that conversation has only occurred on a meaningful basis within the Democratic party, one might safely conclude that.

Much better to keep those folks home and why wait until November when the Voter ID law becomes an actual law, how about have a practice run, heck what could it hurt if this election some folks don’t turn up or go home without getting to exercise their right to perform the most important civic duty in the nation.

In the accompanying report on how the practice run went, it is explained that those who did in fact challenge the law will be chased down by mail, then if there’s a letter sent back they’ll send agents out we assume to track these people down and the Secretary of State’s office will pour over each and every affidavit to verify whether the voter exists or not.  Looks like the Secretary of State’s office will be hiring folks pretty soon.  Amazing how that works; legislation that grows government comes from an administration that claims to do just the opposite.  Guess the work will be done by special little Fairies for Freedom, to find those practically non-existent fraudulent voters.

But what about the people who walked away from the polls unable to vote? What does that do to our election?  Uh-oh, thinking too much.  In the Union Leader/Republican world those little people don’t matter and the results.  We just gotta live with it, because dammit, there are brown people, poor people, aged, students and disabled folks who we know vote overwhelmingly Democrat and who cares if they stay home?

Of course the richest misunderstanding of the law is encapsulated by the editorial writer’s comment, “Well, the constitution gives qualified voters the right to vote.” Yup, that’s right and there’s nothing in the constitution about presenting an ID.  More than likely the framers never envisioned a system would develop in which certain individuals would work and live in this country and not be eligible to vote — oh wait! We tried that too didn’t we? How did that work out?

One has to wonder, with all the fervor that never seems to end about “qualifying” voters, what exactly is the motive?  Could it be that not only a threat exists from the millions of truly “qualified” citizens actually exercising their right to vote enmasse, what would happen if those who fall between the cracks of citizenship, living, working and contributing to businesses and the economy, like the many that work in Manchester, Nashua and elsewhere in the state starting suddenly voting? Yes, its a scary thought indeed.

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The Protest of Nothing

Burning a registration card, circulated on Facebook with great enthusiasm.

Michael Moore states the case, bluntly and eloquently why although Obama may have disappointed most of us on the left, the fatalism of sitting out the vote this time makes no sense.  Moore’s point underscores the fact that we need to use every tool in the box this time, which reminds me of a post I recently  saw on Facebook  showing someone burning a voter registration card.  Like a 1920’s Dadaist’s wet dream; the Protest of Nothing.

In the 60’s, young men burned their draft cards. Draft cards mandated by law that men had to go to war to suffer unimaginable horrors or death, wherein refusal warranted direct jail time. Burning draft cards represented an exercise of the belief that no state supersedes the laws of humanity and that justice is suborned when citizens refuse to stand up.  Refusal to participate in the draft constituted an act of civil disobedience that represented not simply an individual “choice” but a popular mandate that society take a deeper look at the machinery of capitalist oppression.

On the other hand, what act of oppression does burning a voter card represent again?  Let’s break this down to the simplest terms possible.  Democracy demands participation.  Like an engine; the machine parts cannot move without the force of energy pushing against them.  Thus, democracy will not activate without the forces of the citizens pushing against one idea or another; creating the tension that spurns beneficial social structure.   So basically if one group wants effective change with the existing system, engaging with that system is mandatory.

Our culture is replete with demands to doubt the “system”, to feel disengaged and uncounted.  Mass media inundates people with the message that consumption equals democratic participation and that celebration of nationalistic barbarism equals patriotic service.  We as a culture are told repeatedly that watching a news program, engaging in conversations on the internet, all equal democratic participation.  The drive to consume is also pushed as a patriotic duty (remember Bush the Younger extolling people to get happy and go shopping when gas prices rose?) and the result of longer times engaged in making money to survive and pro-war hyper nationalism do not serve the interests of democracy.

They do though serve the interests of the owners of production, of the marketers and sellers of the machinery of war and endless meaningless junk that serves to distract the electorate.  If one feels satisfied talking on Facebook or watching the latest reports on CNN, then what else is there to do? Who’s got the time anyway?

While protests and other acts of defiance against unjust laws or systems have their place, we cannot discount the easiest process available in this country; the voting booth.  The anti-Obama forces proved this in 2010 when across the country people came out to elect far-right state legislatures as an act of protest against the election of a black president.  Even with a large number of people standing down in 2008, Obama’s message, that the right loves to sneer at, the message of “Hope and Change” caused a momentous move in this country.  —- people stood up and said they wanted change and expressed it through the voting booth. Now, whether Obama stood acted on those promises certainly is another issue and one that requires voter awareness and engagement for critical action.

Many alternative candidates and parties exist within our democracy, many theories, not all of them coming from the pro-plutocracy right wing.  But knowing about alternative parties and candidates requires engagement within the process.  It requires the effort to research the issues, talk to people about the issues, take the time to attend meetings and most of all, support those issues and candidates at the voting booth.

What is the plan with those who refuse to engage? Do they have a larger message or have they completely capitulated all their decision making capacity to those who will get up and engage with the process on all fronts?  Most importantly, do those who step in the vacuum have our best interests at heart?  Would it have been smarter to keep moving forward, no matter how slow, instead of allowing us to slip back ten steps?  While there exists an argument for deconstruction, within a social system where the free press, the voting booth and free speech remain, there exists the possibility for transformation through reformation.

What’s really astounding with those who refuse to vote as some form of protest is the apparent failure to understand that one can in fact participate in democracy, rebel against the present system, protest, engage and go and vote for the best candidate offered all at the same time!  It appears as though the right has this concept down pretty well; theocrats, outright fascists and plutocrats who express nothing but contempt for the democratic process know full well that participation within is their best hope of shaping this country into their dream state.  So far, they’ve been going at a pretty good clip forward thanks to low voter participation rates.

Democracy demands engagement for success.  Opting out is not an option; you’ve got skin in the game whether you like it or not.  Might as well go pull that lever.  If you want to change or overthrow it, better to study it and to whatever extent possible, move within it and outside it.  Only then can one begin to have some understanding of the system in order to fashion a better one.

Also, as Michael Moore points out, there’s no lack of justifiable anger to meet out to both political parties, but there is no reason to let the truck slide off the cliff and disintegrate into a burned heap.  What have you to work with then?  Nihilism was never considered a way to get anywhere but to nothing.  If nothing came out of doing nothing this election or any election cycle, then we’d have nothing to worry about.  Obama has been no prize for those seeking justice; Gitmo, drone attacks, his appeal of the court’s over-ruling the NDAA indefinite detentions.  His shameless refusal to use the bully pulpit and the Democrat’s own contradictory hold on power that often undermines the very values they claim to support; none of that should go unnoticed.

But to sit out and hand the reins over the the mad kings of the GOP just makes no sense.   The platform offered by the Republican party threatens to put working people into a tailspin faster than anything since the days before the New Deal or possibly even the days before the Civil War.  They threaten with their deep cuts in basic social programs, which are social welfare programs — not entitlements, because they are based on the idea that the social welfare is everyone’s welfare.  In a just society  there is no parsing of social well being and health, there is no judgment of who is entitled to not starve, who is entitled to not die a long, slow death by preventable disease. While most of America goes on with their lives, content to watch the political process as if they were viewers of some show they have no real connection to.  The GOP and often the Democrats as well, serve the interests of global capital and imperial power while using their corporate owned media to deceive and disarm the public and keep them away from the voting booth in every way possible.

So is burning a voter registration card an act of defiance against this oppressive corporate state?  No.  By committing an act that breaks no laws and requires no great courage to perform, sends no message to the public except that some people have no problem dropping out and leaving the hard work to others and leaves open a giant hole that others who have the money and will make the time, will eagerly fill.

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So Tell Me Again Racism Doesn’t Exist

So I was at the Valley Street Stop and Shop in Manchester; the one that in the phone book is on Lincoln Street. Anyway, I’m there shopping with my little carpenter friend and suddenly, as I hunted around I heard African voices speaking, not uncommon in Manchester. Always curious about new sounds and languages I look up and see a mom and her two kids shopping.  Nothing new, so I return my gaze and concentration to answer the burning question, steel cut oats or organic? quick cooking or old fashioned? I make my selection and move down the aisle.

Then suddenly I hear some talking from a loud man, as I move closer to the end of the aisle, I saw a plump white man moving along with a carriage and his mouth moving along with him.  Then I hear quite clearly, “You like America uh?” My mind had to register for a minute if that this was not a friendly exchange. Bellowed at the top of the man’s voice, everyone in that part of the store had to have heard it.  Other people I noticed moved along quietly and said nothing. I turned the corner of the aisle and passed the mom and her children to whom I was certain the shouting was directed.

You know communication is universal and one of the most fascinating elements of communication is how, without words we humans often can pick up the subtle nuances of emotion and state of mind.  I passed the mom and noticed her son, probably a pre-teen talking quickly in his native tongue and his mother scolding him back.  The exchange continued with mom interrupting son.  I imagined the conversation as something the boy spouting off in frustration, answering the rude man’s racist jest and mother telling him to be quiet and move on.

The man’s voice echoed in my mind, the tone of mom and son’s speech and I had a hunch, I turned from my carriage and faced the mother and asked out loud, “Did that man just say what I thought he said?”  The mother answered, “Yes!” with a look of disbelief and frustration.  I told her I wish I had been there and spouted off about what a horrible thing and what an ass, she said he just started talking to her and yelling at her.  We vented together, me allowing her, I hope, the permission to be angry; to know that not all ‘white’ people agree with the ignorance of that man.

But whatever I could do as a ‘white’ person far outnumbers the violence and offensiveness of the racists.  Often I feel as if I am fighting a losing battle and I never have the opportunity enough times, nor enough support from my white peers to fight this problem.

More than likely I can’t find enough ‘white’ to stand up to this, because there are too many telling each other that racism doesn’t exist anymore.  They say that conversations and verbal assaults like what I witnessed today are rare, if happening ever at all and certainly not in our community!

Well there it is, in your community and this isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed this or had to sit and listen to an endlessly ignorant and arrogant white person tell me how they know all about people of color.  Come again?

I know it exists, I know it happens. I don’t have to be the witness every minute to verify the experiences of people of color when they tell me stories they tell me in confidence. I don’t want to walk away and pretend I don’t notice when incidents like the above happen, in fact I wish I had caught on sooner and had been in closer proximity to what was going on today; I would have been happy to provide an example of a white person standing up to a racist.

I don’t have to have dark skin to know that racism is wrong. I don’t have to count on my fingers the number of dark skinned friends I have to figure out whether I’m qualified to speak out against racism.  I don’t need someone to tell me that as a white person I have privilege when nearly once a week, maybe everyday depending on where I am, I hear a white person justify to me, why they think their white skin makes them better than and different than someone without white skin.  I hear it, I hear their ignorant words and their ignorant ideas. I hear white people say to me about “that part of town”.  I hear white people say to me, “Well he’s black.” I hear white people say to me, “I don’t rent to Mexicans.” I hear white people say to me, “Black people are lazy, spanish people are noisy.” Should I go on white folks or do you know what I am saying?

So don’t tell me there’s no racism.  See: 10 Conversations I’m sick of Having with White People

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Just words

Buried in a recent post, among Digby’s otherwise perfect literary expression is that right wing catch phrase — “abortion in demand”.

Possibly on the part of Digby this was an oversight, I’m imagining that the teevee automatically flipped to Fox News and there was our poor writer — paralyzed by the STUPID and the words just seeped in.  Then suddenly, without us knowing it, the re-framing begins.

That and other words such as entitlement — once meant any benefit guaranteed to a citizen based on certain criteria.   Now, its an insult, sneered by politicians, rolling off their tongues with all the shame and hatred buried in our culture that we deny exists.  Entitlement, as if old age, disability or poverty were some kind of cheat on the American “system”.  The system that the elite have tried to re-frame and re-adjust for the last thirty years.

Then there’s “Pro-Choice” which, coined in the 80’s to defend a woman’s right to choose, but turned on its head by anti-choice zealots into “Pro-Life”.  The fact of choice no longer plays into the frame.  The intellectually lazy media covering protests against choice, thoughtlessly, maybe happily (who knows, no one ever asked them) allow the protester’s language in.  They used it in reference to any reporting on a challenge of a women’s right to choose.  Possibly the media feels more comfortable considering a zygote more important than a woman’s choice? After all, is it too much to expect that a woman anchor, who can thank her ability to have that job, at least notice that her defense to be treated human stands with the history of the struggle? Is it too much to expect that woman to take pause, think and rephrase that title?

Which gets us back to our first gripe, “abortion on demand”.  What visions does this phrase bring? Does it conjure the image of the woman struggling with an unwanted pregnancy, considering the consequences of such? Or does it conjure up a vision of a bunch of women hippies banging on the front of a clinic door, demanding that they be let in and given abortions after a long hard weekend of frolics at an Occupy site?

Or how about the Femi-Nazi theme; mad women forcing their poor husbands or boyfriends with their Rugars to take them to the embryo extermination camp post haste?  Wherein we assume, these wild, hippies and Femi-Nazis will make other demands, like child support payments, equal pay for equal work and freedom from sexual assault?  Will they demand entitlements too, like public healthcare, nutrition subsidies for children, daycare assistance, paid maternity leave, access to male dominated work?

Messaging, words, propaganda, rhetoric, lies, innuendos; we know them all.  But we need not justify them by using them in our speech, lest we succumb to and accept the largest artillery the right has thrown so far.

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Ayn Rand Acolytes Have Finally Struck Pay Dirt

Certainly a part of Ryan and Mitt’s undeserving.

After all these years, the debunked pseudo philosopher has finally gotten herself a road to the White House.  Although long dead, her spirit has thrived in the hearts and minds of 15 year old males and selfish plutocrats looking for a way to justify their refusal to clean their rooms or their burning desire to keep their interest and dividends earnings/trust fund/insider trading windfall all to themselves.

Meet Paul Ryan, the newly minted Republican Vice Presidential candidate. Strapped onto Romney’s side like a Rugar onto an aging New Hampshire Libertarian, Ryan is posited as the one who will make Romney human.  Yes, Ryan, the self proclaimed student of the archetypical anti-human, Ayn Rand, will give the public the illusion that someone among the two of them gives a damn about someone besides themselves.

Already the Romney camp has had to decide to stuff down the press’ anxious inquiries into the details of the famous Ryan plan — you know, the plan that Newt Gingrich himself thought was going a little too far? Yeah, that Newt Gingrich, he of the “make mothers drop their babies where-ever to work at McDonald’s” Contract on America Gingrich, no shining Samaritan he. But that little glimmer of empathy made the GOP panic enough to furiously remind Newt that the Big Daddy GOP ain’t having any of that middling concern for old people, children and poor folks.   Ryan’s plan must succeed! Old folks wheel your chairs to the gallows! The time has come for the great sacrifice for Capital!

Can we imagine a world ruled by Romney and Ryan?  A world where insider trading becomes a right, where the sitting president’s offspring will run to hold the highest office in the land year after year? Where Congress won’t have to bother to have session because everyone knows the outcome already — what’s to argue? Where the television shows will blast sitcoms of happy rich people day and night and news casts will consist of lost puppy dogs and the weekly roll-call of prisoners condemned to death?

Can we imagine a world where housing subsidies are cut and a half million people will find themselves instantly homeless? Where the disease stricken or the mobility disabled will be left to hobble or crawl home to die because they can’t buy a hospital voucher? Will apartment buildings that once the landlords received subsidies for become abandoned as they can’t make the mortgage payments for lack of tenants that can pay rent on a Wal-Mart salary?  Will municipal welfare departments shutter their doors, lacking the resources to serve? Food pantries run dry, soup kitchens become over run, having to turn out before the line outside is exhausted?  Will entire neighborhoods turn black at night as power prices soar without subsidies to control them?

Will children who slept in parks, cars, alley ways, abandoned buildings, with no heat, no running water, filthy from the day before, shy away from school? Living with no place to study, with no cooked food to eat, living among a world of prosperity, what message will those children absorb?

Will murders rise as people in the cities fight over scarce resources? Will an armed suburban guerilla warfare begin as the inner city poor turn to the suburbs where once soccer moms plant homemade mines around their pristine three acre plot? Where angry and hungry inner city residents crouch behind mulberry bushes and stinkweed in the summer humidity to wait for the right moment to fire and overtake the house that has a water well and a churning diesel generator keeping the well stocked freezer going?  Will the police state expand, will martial law be called?

Paranoid some? Talk to your neighbors.  Talk to some “preppers”, one underground group among many convinced that the scenario described in the last paragraph isn’t too far off.  Unfortunately, what’s lost is the trajectory of how the nation could get there.  Its in our control, we don’t have to give up and allow defeat to define our future.

Often pundits and other observers remark on the poor memory of the American electorate.  While the poor recall of a politician’s remark or slip of judgment is one thing; to forget our entire human history is quite another.  Only within the last half of the last century did a huge portion of the human population get a chance to know what its like to have a place out of the rain and cold; to know when or where our next meal is coming from — or what it will be; a rat? a discarded piece of bread? a donation from the back of a UN truck?  A lot of that had to do with capital prosperity, but that, unlike the story repeated erroneously among the American public, did not happen naturally by the accumulation of capital alone.  It seems that people assume that the accumulation of wealth and capital assets automatically results in general popular prosperity, as if a natural occurrence as regular and reliable as the sun following the moon.

But the social contract did not fall out of the sky, it is not written in the bark of trees.  What is written in the bark of trees is the struggle of nature, of the universally understood vulgarity of nature that many like to not think about; the live and let live, the kill or be killed.  Paul Ryan’s mentor in spirit Ayn Rand celebrated the brute violence of survival and believed that all humans had attained their highest actualization when they begin to act as if they had no more self awareness than a snarling dog in a pack.

We have the capacity to become dogs; to emulate the most vile and base behavior and return to our mammalian roots.  But with our larger brains that developed the awareness we call “self”; the “I”, also came the awareness that without the ‘you’ — our mother, our father, our brother, our neighbor, that “I” becomes merely a weak, hungry mass of flesh whose worth can only be redeemed by the contribution made to the other — the community who can hear us cry out.  If Romney and Ryan get in the white house and do what they wish, we’ll need more than just a god to help us, we’ll each other and our memory.

Depression Era Daydream –

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How Trickle-Down Theory is Ruining Our Schools and Closing Our Libraries: Thank You Ronald Reagan

While You Were Working to Make Ends Meet…

Great analysis by Lisa Longo on her blog:

Economic theory is complex. My macroeconomics professor loved to use the “guns vs. butter” analogy. Does a country build its economy by helping the citizenry (supply butter) or by protecting itself (supply guns)? The current argument over whether to raise the debt ceiling and deficit has the same feel to me.

Take the pithy patter that falls from Sarah Palin’s mouth, “To have a balanced trade arrangement with other countries across the world so Americans can have our jobs, our industries, our manufacturing again. And exploiting responsibly our natural resources. We can do that again if we make good decisions.” (emphasis added)

Do you really think she understands the environment, let alone economics? Is there any way to exploit something responsibly?  Here is the definition of the word exploit:”

(click here to go to Lisa’s blog and read the rest)

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Look Up and Ask Why

by David White

Turn signals, blinkers, whatever you may call them, do you use them every time you’re turning, no matter what? If so, why? And, that is my main question. Why? The reason to use a turn signal, implicit in its name, is to signal to others your intentions. But, what if there are no others around? What if you’re turning out of your driveway onto the street, turn signal or no? I ask because I have seen, on two separate occasions, individuals pull from their drive way, turn signal blinking brightly. Now, you may say, why does it matter? Better safe than sorry. Yes, you could say that, and you could really piss me off. Not that that really matters, but just so you know. My problem with this is that people use their turn signals the way they live their lives, without thinking. Oh, they’ll tell you it’s the law, and better safe…well, you know.

Each time I see someone use their turn signal when no one else on the road was affected by their action, I feel as if they have simply given up on life. I feel they have an attitude of, “You tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.” Which, I feel, is not as far as one may think from, “You tell me who to kill, and I’ll do it.” Tell me who deserves to be alive, tell me what is best for me, tell me who to vote for, tell me what job I should take, tell me what to eat, tell me when to eat, tell me what to wear, tell me what to buy, tell me who is right and who is wrong, tell me to sit quietly, tell me to close my eyes, tell me to close my mind. Maybe, just maybe, you can begin to understand why this pisses me off so.

I use my turn signal when needed, meaning simply I take the time to look, observe what’s around me, or not, who may be affected by my turning. If anyone will be, someone ahead of me waiting to pull out, someone behind me needing to know I’m about to slow, someone on the other side of an intersection, I always use my signal, turning it on before I brake to slow. But I can tell you why I used it. I didn’t do it because it’s written in a book; I didn’t do it because most people do. I did it because there was a need for it. I thought about it. The same way I would think about any situation that involved me directly. People seem to live in an Emperor’s New Clothes kind of fog, simply following protocol. I’m not going to tell you what a lovely outfit you’re wearing if I see you’re completely naked (okay, there’s a few women I would, but that’s another blog).

This bothers me so much because I do see hope in the human mind, even in the American citizen, the same citizen who votes for a presidential candidate because, “He’s a good Christian; he got us into the war, I figure he would know how to get us out.” There must be hope; there has to be. A mind is malleable. If it has been deformed into retarded shapes, there remains hope it can be molded again into something absent of cobwebs, full of life, full of questions. There is hope; there has to be.

If I were to see one of my nieces accepting as truth that they’re not good enough just because someone else told them so, it would, say it with me, piss me off royally. My nieces are everything; they are possibility, they are hope. And, if we exist as a brotherhood of man (which, though we may not, I have to believe we can), everyone is important; everyone has the right, or should, to think for themselves. I cringe to see anyone abused.  That is what I consider this blind obedience to be, abuse. It’s the people who give up this right so easily who bother me so. People are being told, and convinced, that they can’t take care of themselves without asking someone else.
I do wonder, how many of these people are conservatives and how many are liberals? John Stuart Mill said that all conservatives aren’t necessarily stupid people, but it did seem all stupid people were conservative. I say this because I feel one definition of a stupid person is one who refuses to think for himself. Which brings us back to turn signals.

You may say this post isn’t really about turn signals, but it really is. Yes, there is so much more associated with it, but that is where it starts. And, consequently, where it could stop, or at least begin to. If people will simply take a moment to look around them before flipping that little switch, maybe they will be a little more likely to look around them before entering the voting booth, before staying with a job they hate, before entering into or staying in a relationship they know isn’t right. Maybe they will ask, “Why am I buying this? Why am I eating this? Why am I listening to this? Why am I putting up with this?” And maybe, once they look up, once they take a moment to look around, maybe, just maybe they will realize they do have the power to change their lives, and if one life can be changed, who’s to say how many other lives that one change may affect.

We are better than we treat ourselves. We are better than our politicians; hell, we’re better than our countries. We are humanity; we have no borders. Why do we continue to settle for so little, to sell ourselves so short, to not only allow others to think for us, but to accept their conclusions unquestioned? I know it’s fear, but if we can pursue the fear, chase it into a corner, I feel certain we will find, as in Oz, the fear has no intrinsic power. The only power the fear has is what we give it. And he who giveth can also taketh away. We allow the fear to run free, to dictate our lives. We can stop it. All we need to do is look up from time to time and ask why.

If only Manchester Cable Access TV Were This Exciting…

This might be what would happen if you got O’Brien in the same room with Ray Buckley, Kathy Sullivan and Harry Accornero all together to talk about, well, anything.

Must see Teevee:

O’brien the Butcher — Hack That Is

Bill O’Brien, the embattled Speaker of the House of Representatives in New Hampshire has had quite a ride through New Hampshire politics the last two years.  Seemingly a man of extremes; extreme wealth and extreme views, swept in on a wave of libertarian Free Stater support combined with love and support from the far-right Tea Party, O’Brien came in with a mission and a plan.  But looking back at his near two year tenure, one has to wonder, did he achieve his plan?  We will leave that for the reader to decide while we detail some of the more interesting aspects of O’Brien’s service to the people of New Hampshire.

In order to provide an orderly and logical progression of events, we’ll start with the most recent and then move back in time.  First off, the brouhaha he created at the state house this past Friday.  On that day O’Brien had planned a press conference to snag a great photo-op and possibly some national attention with a potentially huge issue; the problems with the federal welfare program’s EBT card, detailed here.  But O’Brien misfired by creating a distracting side-show event by excluding the Concord Monitor press crew from the press conference.

The Monitor press crew never gained entrance, but did due their duty with other reporters and writers, returned fire to O’Brien in spades.  Apparently O’Brien had been seething since the cartoon’s publication in May, prompted by the transgression on the house floor, detailed here., but failed to understand, sometimes its best to let bygones be bygones.

The story made the rounds all over the internet. But as reported in Raw Story, not all in the House found House Rep. Steve Vallaincourt’s [(R) Manchester] actions off the mark, Rep. Dick Drisko told the Nashua Telegraph, “Vaillancourt was definitely out of line when he walked out and said, ‘Sieg Heil’ but it was good commentary on the dictatorial style of Bill O’Brien.” This of course prompted the cartoon by Mike Marland.

The out-cry over the cartoon reached such fever pitch from the Tea Party side of the state that the Concord Monitor editorial board had no choice but to explain how newspapers work; that unlike O’Brien, they don’t run an authoritarian establishment.  In fact they  allow their writers freedom of their own speech.  The editorial board even went so far as to put on the hair-shirt in deference to O’Brien’s tender sensibilities and express due shame about their unruly writers.

Apparently that capitulation didn’t cure the offense to O’Brien’s position and stature.  So he couldn’t resist the chance to show the Monitor who’s boss around those parts. Shortly after the no entrada incident House staffer Shannon Bettencourt (the one closing the door on the Monitor crew) issued a churlish statement to the press wherein she chides, “When the Concord Monitor proves they have chosen to become a responsible media outlet, we’ll be happy to invite them to future media events.”

So much for the EBT story.  O’Brien misplayed again, losing an opportunity literally handed to him to get front and center on a favorite GOP campaign tactic — using welfare to pit the proletariat against each other in jealous fuming over pennies while the GOP rapes the government for millions.  Oh well, the GOP will now have to wait for another opportunity. Even the Union Leader’s gallant efforts to give the story CPR with a lead-off on the Sunday front page failed to catch a spark.  Like the old adage goes, in the world of journalism, old news is no news. It was reported, it was eclipsed, it was killed.

Now let’s go back in time a little more, where we get to D. J. Bettoncourt, former House Majority leader, a Republican from Salem and O’Brien’s young protege and law school student attending UNH.  Just before Bettoncourt’s graduation from law school, O’Brien learned of some serious problems with Bettencourt’s inner ethical compass.

As detailed in links provided here, O’Brien had plenty of opportunity to wipe his hands clean of this mess quickly and with the dignity his position requires.  He had known about the issue before it hit the public and could of dealt with it then.  But instead in a decision only he really understands, decided to allow Bettencourt to not reveal his wrongdoing, remain in the house and resign with no mention of the real cause as shown in this first announcement detailed here on May 25th.

Represenative Guida (R), owner of the firm that Bettencourt had lied about interning for, outraged that Bettencourt failed to disclose the whole reason for his resignation, did the right thing and disclosed the entire story to the press.  Suddenly speculation mounted everywhere about what O’Brien might have known about the shady ethical and moral judgment of his personal under-study.

Once the issue went public, O’Brien clumsily and evasively said he was “shocked” at the whole story, denied knowing anything more and pressed to sweep it over with talk about the house agenda.  Sadly it seems O’Brien either isn’t bothered by dishonesty or struggles to understand the association of the scandal with his failure in judgment.  O’Brien’s failure to act quickly to put out this fire caused plenty of wonder about O’Brien’s character.  Did he fail to exercise due diligence by simply relying on Bettencourt’s version of events or did he already know the full story, but chose arrogantly instead to continue the charade to the public?

As noted by Steve Vallaincourt in NH Insider, “Bettencourt’s swift public disgrace is all the  more astonishing when you consider that this young leader had spent much of his brief tenure schooling others on matters of legal rectitude, civility and purportedly high-minded ethics. (Earlier this month, Bettencourt questioned attorney Jim Bassett’s qualifications for the state Supreme Court.”[emphasis ours]  Did O’Brien fail to see the seriousness of this matter that seemed so obvious to everyone else?

But it doesn’t end there. When Bettencourt announced his resignation, he also announced he would take a position as spokesperson for O’Brien’s  newly formed NH Legal Rights Foundation.   Many in the press and the public noted it rather odd that such an ethically challenged individual would be welcome in an organization that claimed to deal in matters of law.  A few days later, the NHLRF made the decision to rid themselves of Bettencourt.  Again one wonders why O’Brien allowed Bettencourt to continue this public deception of character and even potentially tarnish another organization in the process.

While NHLRF did in fact push Bettencourt out, again it wasn’t until the public got wind of the whole story.  Its interesting to note that O’Brien has no problem bullying and moving around his opponents with little forethought or explanation, but seems to have a hard time moving the chess pieces on his personal game board.

If we look just a little further back we find another mini-scandal again.   In early May O’Brien suffered his first ethical embarrassment with his Chief of Staff, Robert Mead resigning after the discovery of his falsely claiming mileage reimbursements for restricted political campaign work.  As pointed out in the Union Leader article here, Mead made roughly $65,000 in his position, certainly Mead couldn’t have claimed economic desperation for feeling justified at stealing $456 from his employer.  Apparently in the mind of Bill and his friends, its ok for his friends to steal from government, but when it comes to funding government, that’s stealing from them [note the intro music playing the Kinks, “He’s a well respected man about town, doing the best things so conservatively.”  apparently the Kink’s sarcasm was lost on them?]

While these sites here , here and here put forward a good list of O’Brien’s history, here are some highlights:

– turning away citizens who attempt to enter the house gallery during public session,

– nationally embarrassing incident in which birthers demonstrate their inability to distinguish a legislative session from a bar room and O’Brien backs them up

– demonstrating his partisan motivations for the voter ID law which became another national embarrassment for New Hampshire

– an incident wherein House Rep Emerson (R) Rindge, claimed that she was bullied by Bettencourt and O’Brien over some amendments she’d put to the house budget.  O’Brien strongly denied the incident, but another Rep came forward and said he’d heard most of the “one sided” shouting match.  This again became national news as Emerson soon after sponsored a bill to eliminate bullying among house members.

– the ill-advised and tobacco industry pressured removal of the tobacco tax which caused a serious budget shortfall this year, proving despite the Tea Party and Free Stater beliefs, taxes have a purpose.  Especially telling is how this action undercuts the favorite theory of the Tea Party/Free Staters that commerce will naturally come running to make up funding short-falls.

The industry pressured the legislature to drop the ten cent tax with the enticement that it would increase sales and over the border travel to the state.  Then cynically, once the state dropped the ten cent tax,  the cigarette companies raised their prices by ten cents. This effectively transferred that ten cents from the state and tax-payer to the pockets of big business, making them millions at the expense of the state.   O’Brien proved himself a dupe for loopy policy ideas that most policy-makers, even if they spout the rhetoric for their cheer-leaders, know better than to actually implement them.

– serving as such an obedient slave to the extreme right, O’Brien put up the Right to Work (for less rightly says the AFL-CIO) bill up and when it was shot down, resurrected that poor dead horse again and again to the point where legislators were begging O’Brien to just let the thing go and die already.

– the embattled $456 dollar transportation forger Chief of Staff Mead wasn’t completely banished; O’Brien gives him a new job working for the NH House GOP office, making one wonder if falsifying records really isn’t a big thing at all to O’Brien or the GOP.

– O’Brien works to pull back the state requirement that insurance companies cover birth control on women’s plans

– a habit of perfunctorily removing people from posts or committees who don’t tow his far-right agenda

– orders all house reps to follow the same email communication standards as hired employees, threatens removal of those who don’t obey.  Many see the move as violating the constitutional right to free speech of elected officials, who work for their constituents, not O’Brien.

– O’Brien, with apparent little ability to judge a thinking public, tried to pass himself as some kind of economic wizard by building a thin thread of association between his pushing through extremist budget policies and the low unemployment rate in New Hampshire.  Nope! That was shot down prettily easily and his claims faded into the ether.

oversaw redistricting which was challenged in court by two major communities, Manchester and Concord, representing their concerns about losing funding and also that of smaller communities that will lose representation.   While the court challenge was lost and the redistricting stays, Democrats already vow they will be redrawn in the future, at more expense to the state.

In looking at his history, O’Brien no longer looks so much like the charging bear he portends with his huff and bluff but more like a fumbling, bumbling political hack in way over his head.

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