Rep Steve Vaillancourt



Saturday
Mar102012

A New Liberty Coalition Forms

As the New Hampshire House hits crunch time with three session days planned for the coming week, a new coalition seems to be forming to thwart Republican leadership.

Libertarian-minded Republicans (I certainly include myself in that group along with people like Andy Manuse, JR Hoell, the Jonses, at least half the McGuires, Mark Warden--to name just a few) seem to be joining a huge majority of Democrats to prevserve freedoms which Republican leadership inexpicably seems determined to rob from the citizens of our great state.

Three example stand out just from last week, and the numbers will prove this assertion.  On decriminalizaing marijuana, voting rights for independents, and forcing students to stand for the pledge of allegiance, this new coalition prevailed.

It may well be a sign of things to come on such outstanding issues of gay marriage.

The vote requiring students to stand for the pledge (Hosue Bill 1146), despite an 8-4 recommendation by the Constitutional Review Committee (what a joke!), was 155-170 (52.3 percent).  Had it been up to Republicans alone, the bill would have passed.  Only 37.7 percent of Republicans (90-149) voted against this bit of nanny state mischief.  Democrats were 93 percent (80-6) against it.  The only six Democrats to vote with Republicans Ben Baroody and Barbara Shaw from Manchester, Parkhurt from Cheshire County, Gagnon and Schmidt from Sullivan County, and Roger Berube, presumed Democratic candidate for Senate in the Dover area.

Among Republicans to vote against the bill (along with those mentioned earlier) were Neal Kurk, Bill Belvin, Jordan Ulery, David Welch, Lynn Blankenbecker, Norm Major, Sherm Packard, John Hunt, Betsey Patten, too many to mention here...but suffice it to say it was way beyond "the usual suspects".

House Bill 1595, Republicans' misguided plan to force undeclared voters to remain aligned with a party for 90 days should they vote in that party in a primary, was a real stunner.   It failed 136-178 with no less than 100 Republicans voting against the party's ill-conceived idea which would have created massive confusion in the voting ranks and hundreds of extra hours of work at city and town halls throughout the state as undeclared voters would be forced to trek to city halls rather than revert back immediately after voting in a party primary.

I like to think of this as "voters held hostage" legislation and frankly, I was convinced Republican leadership had the votes to pass it, and we'd have to kill it in the Senate.

Obviously, more Representatives then I dared hope have become familiar with the primary process and realize current system runs smoothly.  Either party is already able to close its primary should it so choose, but what an idiotic idea that would be.  It would simply drive the majority of undeclared voters (40 percent and counting the last time I checked) into the arms of the other party.  If Republicans don't want independent voters, they'll never beat Obama and will become a permanent minority party, yet that's just what this bill would have done.

In fact, Republicans suppored to bill 135-100 (57.4 percent).  Only the coalition of libertarian-minded Republicans and all Democrats except Sandy Keans (78-1) were able to stop this ridiculous idea. The final vote wasn't even close actually,  136-178 represenats a 56.7 percent total against the idea, and subsequent votes to kill the bill were even more lopsided.

It was a classic example of Republicans attempting to slash their own wrists and being stopped by libertarians and Democrats.

You just can't make this stuff up.  Once again, the 100 Republicans are too numerous to mention, but there were so many that leadership can't whine and moan that it was only the usual RINO suspects opposing them.

Then there was House Bill 1526, decriminalization of possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana.  The bill passed by the narrowest of margins 162-161 and most likely will either be killed in the Seante or vetoed by Governor Lynch, but once again, had it been up to the Republican majority, the bill would have failed in the House.  Republicans were 108-126 against it (46.2 percent) while Democrats were 54-35 for it (60.7 percent).

The Speaker could have created a tie by voting against the ought to pass motion, but that would not have killed the bill, simply set the stage for more motions and additional time being consumed, so let's not give the Speaker all that much credit for Libertarian leanings....at least not yet.

He may have more chances to join the Liberty Republicans and Democrats in coming days and weeks, especially because he's apparently instituted a policy to allow every committee chair to hold the gavel for a few moments on the floor...thus O'Brien will be in a position of voting more than any previous speaker.

Saturday
Mar102012

Romney Leads Obama By Five

Read 'em and weep, George Will.

I'm referring to the latest Rasmussen polling data which shows Mitt Romney moving to a FIVE POINT lead over Barack Obama, 48-43 in a nationwide survey.  Even Santorum leads the anointed one today (46-45) and Obama's negatives have moved back into double digits, 44-54 according to Rasmussen.

Obviously these numbers will change from day to day, but the point is that George Will, supposedly the wisest of the wise, was totally off the wall when he said ten days ago that Republicans should give up on the Presidency and concentrate on Senate and House races.  Obviously, Morris Derangement Sydrome has robbed George Will of his former abilities to serve as a rational pundit.

You know my admonition--when pundits are so outrageous on repeated utterings, you should begin to doubt anything that once wise pundit says.  I won't place George Will in that category yet, but he's headed there.

 

Friday
Mar092012

The Reading Room--Breaking INTO Auschwitz

The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz
 

 The Reading Room, an occasional feature of this blog and the Liberty Express on Manchester TV 23, looks at recently published books of interest.

Seventy years after being sent by England as part of its fighting forces in North Africa, Denis Avey tells an amazing story of how he was taken prisoner by the Germans and actually broken INTO rather than out of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The story is not quite what I expected.  When it was loaned to me by a fellow State Rep, I expected to be reading about a man who spent the entire war with Jews and homosexuals and other undesirables at the concentration camp.

In fact, Avey was taken prisoner of war and after being relocated to a work camp just outside Auschwitz, he actually "broke into" the concentration camp for only two nights.

That fact does not diminish the power of this short book. 

It succeeds on four or five levels.  While I'm not usually a fan of reading about military maneuvers, Avey managed to capture the fighting spirit of the British while going against the Italians in North Africa (it was quite another story when the Germans arrived on the scene).

The chapters about life in captivity, albeit not in such sever surroundings as concentration camps--POW camps were somewhat easier to deal with--make the book worth a read by themselves.  Avey talks about being able to shut one's mind and body almost completely down in order to survive.

He also explores how he coped with post traumatic stress syndrome long before society had developed a term to account for the malady.

Then there's the mystery part of the book, perhaps the most thrilling part of all.  The last 50 pages or so are spent explaining how six and a half decades later, Avey manages to find the family of the Jewish man he managed to trade places with back in 1944.

This will either make you tear up or well up with pride over the indomitable human spirit.

It's a story worth telling, even all these many years later.

There's also a rather strange personal story about me and the book.  While I was attempting to return it to the Rep who graciously loaned it to me (I always believe in returning books), I left it on a desk at the State House.  Someone walked off with it, not knowing it wasn't for popular consumption.  I posted a note for State Reps and received a reply that the book would find its way back to my possession.   A few days later, I received a hard cover version of the book in the mail (the one I'd borrowed was a paperback). 

This is truly odd, I thought.  The day I gave the hardcover back to the person who had loaned me the book, the paperback showed up as well.  A good Samaritan State Rep (you know who you are) apparently felt so badly that someone would walk off with the book that he bought one as a replacement.  There's a little library of books for State Reps to pick up or leave off for reading.  I believe one version of "The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz" will make it to those shelves.

It's well worth a read; it's a quick read.

I also recommend a fictionalized version of a POW story, Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five/The Children's Crusade".  Vonnegut was a POW held in Dresden at the time the city was devastated by American and British bombers in February, 1945.  It took him more than 20 years to fictionalize the account of that horror with the birth of the legendary character Billy Pilgrim.  This can be read (or reread--I've done it three times now) in a day.  There's also a better than average movie version directed by George Roy Hill.

And so it goes.

 
 
Friday
Mar092012

A Super Tuesday With Surprisingly Few Surprises

            Except for slightly better performances than expected by Ron Paul in Virginia and Rick Santorum in Tennessee and North Dakota, the long-anticipated Super Tuesday played out just about as expected.

            Due to the convoluted rules of awarding Republican delegates, according to Real Clear Politics on Friday, only 381 of the 437 delegates up for grabs had been awarded, but Mitt Romney garnered far more than half of them, 208 versus 173 for the other three combined (84 Santorum, 68 Gingrich, and 21 Paul) keeping him on pace for a first ballot victory at the convention.

            AP currently has Romney ahead by more than half in the overall delegate totals—419 to 322 for the other three combined (178 Santorum, 107 Gingrich, 47 Paul).

            Different sources are going to provide slightly different totals, but the bottom line is the same—Mitt Romney is going to be the next Republican nominee and Republicans need not fear.  According to a Rasmussen poll today, he’s moved two points ahead of Obama (47-45), even with all the turmoil and disarray in Republican ranks.  So much for George Will’s absurd idea that Republicans should forget the Presidency and concentrate on senatorial and congressional races instead.

            Britt Hume, on Fox News, had perhaps the best line Tuesday.  When asked if it’s known when Romney would wrap up the nomination, he remarked, “It’s knowable, but it’s not callable.”

            In other words, we know it now; we just can’t call it yet.

            It’s even more knowable now that fivethirtyeight.com gives Romney a 70 percent chance of carrying Mississippi next week, thus cracking into the deep South with a win.  He's even at even odds of winning in Alabama.

            So much for a Gingrich resurgence in the South.  Were it not for a severe case of egomania, The Eft would be out of this race, but those of you who think that will help Santorum take down Romney, check out the excellent and lengthy analysis from Nate Silver a few days ago on fivethirtyeight.com.

            He’s run the numbers and has found that even if Gingrich hadn’t been in the race, the outcome in only four states would have changed.  Santorum—not Gingrich—would have won South Carolina and Georgia and Santorum would have beaten Romney in only two others (Alaska and Ohio).  Romney would still lead in delegates with 404 to 264 for Santorum and 71 for Ron Paul (about the same he has with Gingrich in), and he’d lead in popular vote 45.1 percent to 37.7 percent for Santorum and 14.7 percent for Dr. Paul.

            Even if Silver’s numbers are off slightly—and he’s very good at what he does—you get the picture.

            It’s Romney.  (And hopefully Marco Rubio to get numbers up for the GOP in Florida and the Southwest with Hispanic voters).

            The polling winner in Ohio Tuesday was PPP.  It had predicted Romney to win by one percent; the actual margin was 0.8 percent. (ARG was way off, projecting a seven point Romney win).

            YouGov was closest in Oklahoma calling it eight points for Santorum; he won by 5.8 points.  Other pollsters had the margins even higher, including 25 with Rasmussen.

            Most polls showed Tennessee closing in the final days, but due to a 70 percent turnout from Evangelicals, it actually widened for Santorum.  He won by 9.3 points, giving YouGov another polling win.  They had the margin at 7 points; everyone else had it closer (PPP 5, Rasmussen and ARG 4).  ARG was close to the Gingrich margin of 21 points in Georgia.

            The polling average was 70-30 for Romney in Virginia.  The fact that Ron Paul got up to 40 percent is attributable to anger that no one else was on the ballot and low turnout.

            It’s tough to say what happened in North Dakota, but only 11,000 people showed up for the caucuses there, and about the same number in Alaska.  In Vermont, only about 60,000 people voted with Romney winning by 14 points, twice as much as the lone poll indicated, and Ron Paul edged out Santorum for second, unlike the poll was saying.  With such low turnout, it’s tough to read anything into the results, but hey, no one expects anything other than an Obama victory in my native Green Mountain State anyway (I’m never going back…except for brief visits).

            The good news for Romney and Republicans is that he’s doing well in urban and suburban areas where Obama was strong four years ago.  Basically all he won in Ohio was the areas around the cities of Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, but if he can cut into Obama’s margins there and hold the rural areas carried by Santorum, Republicans should be in good shape.  Similarly, Romney is doing better with the college educated, higher income voters which Obama scooped up.

            Although George Will and company might pooh-pooh Romney’s chances, I am convinced the exit poll numbers Tuesday bode well for Republicans with him at the top of the ticket come November; if this were a black jack hand, I’d double down on my bet that Mitt Romney will be our next President (but then, I was convinced Ted Gatsas would be our next Governor, I must keep reminding myself).

            Here’s a little Super Tuesday synopsis I put together to point out just how pathetic a candidate The Eft is.  (We’ll count Virginia as last place finishes for both Santorum and The Eft since neither managed to get on the ballot there).

            Romney—6 first place finishes (Ma, Vt, Va, Id, Oh, and Ak), 3 second (Ok, Tn, Ga) and one third (ND).

            Santorum—3 number one (Tn, Ok, ND), 3 number two (Ma, Oh, Ak), four number three (Ga, Vt, Id) and last in Va.

            The Eft—Number one only in Ga.  Number two in three states (Tn, Ok, Oh), and LAST IN THE OTHER SIX STATES.

            Dr. Paul—Alas no number ones, but number two in four states (Vt, ND, Va, Id), number three in Ma, and last in the other four (Ga, Tn, Ok, Oh).

            As for watching results, Fox Business was head and shoulders above everyone else for the very simple reason that rather than scrolling percentages all night, it’s the only network I could find that gave us raw numbers.  Any political junkie (like me) thrives on raw numbers, and only Fox Business came through.  Too bad my dish in only giving it to me for another three weeks.  Neil Cavuto must be the most underpaid media personality out there…the man does it all, and without co-hosts.

Friday
Mar092012

Flag Salute Debate Reaches Texas

Apparently some things we do in New Hampshire spread out to the rest of the country.   Here's an unsolicited email I received from Texas Thursday, in the wake of my verklemptish (I just learned the word, so I have to use it as soon as possible--it's Yiddish for emotional) speech on the House floor against forcing students to stand for the pledge of allegiance.  While it's a small issue, as I said on the floor, freedom is indivisible.  It cannot be denied to any one group without minimizing it for all of us.  Coerced patriotism is the antithesis of freedom, the opposite of what the flag stands for.  We in fact trample on the flag by forcing anyone or group to stand for its pledge or to salute it.  That's so a simple concept, it should go down as a given.

The media (Gary Rayno in the Union Leader) reported what I said accurately, but he didn't have the space to get into the details.  I referred to the excellent book by Erik Larson last year, In The Garden of the Beast, about the newly arrived American ambassador (Dodd) and his family living in Hitler's Germany in the summer of 1933 after Hitler had just come to power.  Those who refused to salute the flag as it went by in the steets of Berlin, even visiting Americans who did not know they were expected to salute, were beaten by gangs of SA goons, causing a problem for the ambassador and German/American relations.  Forced partiotism, is never a good thing, whether in Nazi Germany or in American schools.  No "Sieg Heil" for me if you please.

A fellow Rep reminded me today of the story of William Tell.  We all know that he shot an apple off his son's head with a bow and arrow, but for the first time today, I learned the reason why he was forced to do such a silly thing, for failing to salute the ruler's hat (it's a play by Schiller).  That's another good illustration of the slippery slope we head down when we would force anyone to become a patriotic automaton.

 I also noted on the floor that back in 2000 when I interviewed the late Senate President Alf Jacobson, one of our fighers on Iwo Jima, the issue of flag burning was before the body politic.  When I asked Alf if he would support the constitutional amendment banning flag burning, he didn't miss a beat in saying no; definitely not. It's powerful testimony when one who fought so hard for the flag does not believe we should be forcing anyone to worship (or stand for it).

It's a basic tenet of libertarianism.  Don't tell me what to do as long as I'm not hurting someone else.  I'll gladly salate the flag, but maybe not so much if you tell me I must.  That's all the more reason not to force children to salute.  With their rebellious spirit, our youth might take exactly the opposite message from a forced salute.  Is that what we want?  Of course not, and I'm proud that the House overturned the misguided 8-4 vote of the Constitutional Review Committee.  As a Republican, I'm more than a little saddened that it took most Democrats (all except five) to join a minority of Libertarian-minded Republicans to defeat this bit of unnecessary mischef.  But as I'll note in a future blog, that Democrat-libertarian-minded Republican alliance is becoming a powerful force in the NH House.

Long Live Lady Liberty!

Apparently at least one person in Texas believes it!

Rep. Vaillancourt:

Wow!  I can't believe that a Republican actually had the courage to say this:  The House voted 181-143 to kill a requirement for students who are physically able to stand during the pledge of allegiance.  Opposition, led by Manchester Republican Representative Steve Vaillancourt, argued it would be unconstitutional to force chilrdent to stand.  He said patriotism should not be "forced down people's throats."

You are right of course.  Forcing children to stand makes no more sense than forcing people down the aisle as the choir sings, "Just As I Am."  

Thank you,

Gene, Amarillo