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2004 Archives

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February 26, 2004, 10:55 P.M.

I have Ron Carrier's permission to reprint his excellent letter that appears in today’s Citizen.

New Hampshire advantage?

Editor, The Citizen:

The Belknap County Commissioners report that a consequence of intentional State Government Fiscal Policy, in substantially underfunding state/federal funded Medicaid nursing home funding, our local county nursing home will wholly cost Belknap County local property taxpayers, an additional $2 million this year. Good trade.

Federal tax money we paid will go somewhere else. How much of a financial licking will you absorb in the county that you live in? Thanks Gov. Craig Benson and the Republican state legislative leadership.

Meanwhile, even more potential bad news looms on the near horizon for Laconia. Some will be even worse off than us, because we’re not a "property-value poor community." They want to cut Laconia’s state aid for local education by another $2 million. The governor and state Republican legislative leadership reportedly support this too. It’s a double header. Yet all over, once again. What will this phony orchestrated state-local education aid equation cost you in your town or city?

Eight months ago, Gov. Benson told state legislative leaders, that by hiring a former Cabletron $150,000-a-year consultant "whiz bang," he could save state government multi-millions. Recently said consultant resigned, savings? Republican Senate President Tom Eaton claims they were misled in this regard by the governor. Gov. Benson reportedly wants to hire yet another big bucks consultant. He says the state’s warrant budget problems are the fault of former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, or was it the late Gov. Hugh Gallen? He died 25 years ago, never mind, Gov. Benson seems pretty occupied with and very enthusiastic about welcoming a substantial Libertarian party emigration to our Granite State. Maybe that’s the solution? They better not have kids! Reality, sounds like the solution may have to be up to us New Hampshire come Nov. 2. Here’s hoping we don’t lose yet again

Ron Carrier

Laconia

February 26, 2004, 10:40 P.M.

And then there's George Will. His column entitled, “The Left-Wing’s Anti-Semitic Chic” takes a broad, but hollow swipe at anyone who dares criticize America’s ally, Israel. To equate critical discussion with anti-Semitism is vile. It’s a sickening extension of the neo-conservative method of attacking anyone who criticizes the invasion of Iraq as unpatriotic.

Will speaks of “political anti-Semitism,” as compared with “religious anti-Semitism” and claims that it is “a new twist on the left’s recipe for salvation through elimination. Apparently, according to Will, the left is on a mission to make the world right (correct, actually) be eliminating, among other things, capitalists, private property, the ruling class and America’s biggest ally.

I beg to differ. Many Israelis have a problem with the humiliation of Arab citizens of Israel and to say so is neither anti-Semitic nor unpatriotic. I’m sick of the practice of putting a vile label on people who you don’t agree with in order to silence them. Anti-Semitism is no less prevalent now than it ever was throughout history. It is an ignorant, jealous and disgusting concept. Political criticism is not, however, comparable to political anti-Semitism.

February 26, 2004, 10:15 P.M.

Richard Perle has finally resigned his post on the Defense Policy Board. I say finally because I advocated his ouster almost a year ago.

Perle claims to be leaving the Board because of the upcoming election. In his letter to Donald Rumsfeld, Perle wrote, “We are now approaching a long presidential election campaign, in the course of which issues on which I have strong views will be widely discussed and debated,” adding, “I would not wish those views to be attributed to you or the President at any time, and especially not during a presidential campaign.”

Well, now, let’s think about that for a minute. Perle is a leading figure in the neo-conservative ideological school, which also counts Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and by extension, George W. Bush as members. What Perle says these guys actually believe. His resignation only serves to remove a lightening rod to the core of the President’s re-election campaign. Out of sight, out of mind.

I hope this doesn’t’ work because Perle stayed far too long in a place where he should not have been, and from where he exerted far too much influence. This is typical of the cabal currently in power in this country and the issue, and the debate on the issue, should not go away because Perle has faded to a less visible place.

The excuse given by Perle’s lawyer, Samuel Abeday, for the resignation was that Perle is quitting the Board so that he could sue the news organizations that “falsely accused him of conflicts of interest.” It’s that kind of stupid statement that gives lawyers a bad name. Perle has been threatening to sue for almost a year and he hasn’t done it because even in England, the truth is an absolute defense. When you make jillions of dollars in the defense industry, and you sit on a board that makes defense policy recommendations, you actually do have a conflict of interest. But these guys don’t see it that way. Dwight Eisenhower’s fear of the military/industrial complex was because of guys like Perle.

February 26, 2004, 9:45 P.M.

I have not waded into the debate about gay marriage because I have not sorted out for myself how I feel about that. I do know that the idea of amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage is an unacceptable attempt to institutionalize bigotry. Regardless of how you feel about same-sex unions, amending the Constitution to ban them should be seen as an inappropriate course of action. Bush 43 fears that the courts will strike unconstitutional bans on civil unions and therefore, he supports the amendment to preserve what he calls a "fundamental institution of civilization." His ouster from office should be seen as necessary to preserve civilization.

February 26, 2004, 9:40 P.M.

Reading Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo left me feeling as though I have a lot of work to do on this site. He reported that his site had over 2 million page visitors in January (during his field trip to New Hampshire for the primary), his best month ever. Our best month was March 2003, when we had 1076 hits. We are going to beef up our content and do a little advertising in the coming weeks.

February 26, 2004, 9:30 P.M.

For all of our friends who have expressed concern about Bridget, we want you to know that Bridget passed quietly at home on February 25, 2004 at about 1:00 P.M. The loss has been hard on all of us. Her spirit and her energy burned bright to the end. She has been a truly great friend. We love her and will miss her.


Bridget on Lockes Hill, Gilford, NH


Bridget with her kids, New Castle Island, NH, 1998

February 23, 2004, 9:15 P.M.

Building a Better Criminal: It’s bad enough that major U.S. corporations are “outsourcing” work previously performed by American workers in order to cut costs, but now the State of New Hampshire is considering “contracting out” prison space. Governor Benson has asked that a request for proposals be sent out to house, clothe, feed and provide shelter for as many as 1,000 individuals incarcerated in New Hampshire prisons. The bidding closes on March 10 and the Governor plans to choose the winning provider by March 24.

The Governor’s timetable suggests that this is a fait accompli, however, a contract for these services would have to be approved by 3 of the 5 Executive Councilors. At least one councilor, Councilor Peter Spaulding, says that the Governor has not even spoken to him about this issue, according to Michael Kitch of the Laconia Daily Sun. Another Councilor, Raymond Burton, has apparently pronounced his opposition to any proposal that would result in the closing of the Laconia facility and the attendant loss of jobs. It’s nice to hear from a Republican who is concerned about jobs, however, the Governor obviously does not share his concerns.

Another councilor, Ray Wieczorek, met with about 50 concerned corrections workers to air their concerns about Benson’s plan. According to Eric Moskowitz of the Concord Monitor, Wieczorek attempted to allay the group’s fears. “I'm the newest member of the council; I've been on now for a little more than two years. But I am going to tell you, you've got a very thoughtful group there.” Wieczorek promised that the Council was not going to do anything foolish. (The approval of some of Benson’s agency appointments gives me cause for concern in this regard, but I’ll let that go for now.)

Major Dennis Cox, head of the Laconia prison, was apparently less circumspect in his comments. The Monitor reports that Cox, criticizing Benson’s plan said, “We have no vision and no leadership (from the Governor).” The Governor’s plan was described as an inappropriate application of a business model to a public sector situation. This is precisely the criticism that I have repeatedly leveled at the Governor. Sometimes the public sector problem is not fixed with the private sector solution.

For example, very few businesses are governed by consent decrees which were entered in response to decades of federal constitutional litigation. New Hampshire’s prison system, on the other had, is governed by such a consent decree. Many of the orders and decisions that resulted in the extensive reforms to New Hampshire’s prison system were written in response to the deplorable conditions deemed unconstitutional. These orders and consent decrees cannot be avoided or circumvented by simply “outsourcing” the very services that have been reformed as a result of court involvement. In the private sector you have products produced in foreign countries to avoid child labor laws, fair labor standards and environmental regulations. You can’t simply move prisoners, who do still enjoy some rights under the constitution, and deny their families access to them, simply because you can get someone to warehouse them for less money.

I also doubt the claimed “cost savings.” Certainly all of New Hampshire’s prisoners won’t be moving and equally certainly the private firms bidding on this RFP won’t be bidding to take the most costly, medically needy or violent offenders. They, in the true private sector model, will be bidding to house the least troublesome.

One hallmark of our prison system is its attempt at rehabilitation. Even the pretense of rehabilitative services attendant to incarceration will be lost with this move. Dan Coffey, a councilor at the Laconia facility, asks “Are you going to make them a better criminal, or a better citizen?” Without a system that at least makes a valid attempt at rehabilitation, the current RFP requests nothing more than warehousing, at the expense of New Hampshire families and workers. I hope the council is, as Mr. Wieczorek promises, wiser than Benson because this is truly a dumb idea.


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