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Posts Tagged ‘NH Primary’

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Senators from opposite ends of the political spectrum took to lecterns on opposite ends of Manchester yesterday to test the waters for potential presidential runs.  At the NH Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders engaged in spirited  back-and-forth with 200 progressive activists on topics including campaign finance, excessive military spending, and the need for a “political revolution.”  Meanwhile, the Americans for the Prosperous Foundation and Citizens United hosted a parade of right-wing Senators and others trying out their stuff before an audience of several hundred conservatives at the Executive Court.  2014 04 12 freedom summit 005

Outside the conservative event, progressive activists – mistakenly identified with the Democratic Party by the Concord Monitor – held signs lambasting proposals to weaken retirement security.  

It was perhaps the first in what will soon be a typical day on the trail to the 2016 New Hampshire Presidential Primary.  

The conservative event was tickets-only, but I got my request in early enough to get a seat and hear speeches from leaders of Citizens United and Americans for the Prosperous, followed by NH Senator Kelly Ayotte, Senator Mike Lee, Do2014 04 12 freedom summit 008cropnald Trump, and a couple of local pols.  While Trump was entertaining, audience response to Senatorial speeches about low taxes and the evils of Obamacare drew tepid responses.  The speakers were ushered to the stage from behind a curtain, gave their prepared speeches, and disappeared again behind the curtain without taking any audience questions or comments.  

Senator Kelly Ayotte, who seems to be on lots of lists of potential VPs, quoted former Governor Meldrim Thomson, equated freedom with low taxes, and equated the Affordable Care Act with freedom’s opposite.  Applause were somewhere south of excited. Senator Lee was teacherly and likewise failed to excite the crowd. 

Trump was different.  Speaking without notes – and criticizing politicians who  depend on speech-writers and tele-prompters – Trump wandered from point to 2014 04 12 freedom summit 028 point, some of which departed from standard AFP scripts.  For example, he defended Social Security and Medicare in an apparent dig at proposals coming from Congressman Paul Ryan.  He said we need “to come up with a humane solution” to the country’s immigration system, but then drew applause for ridiculing Jeb Bush’s recent “act of love” statement and said he could build a physical barrier that would keep immigrants out.  Trump said we had spent $2 trillion on the Iraq war, “for what?,” but then implied maybe it would have been worth it if we had taken2014 04 12 freedom summit 020 over the country’s oil. 

With no candidate Q&A, the event was rather boring.  My colleague Addy and I left during the introduction of Congressman Louie Gohmert and headed across town.

Senator Sanders had already finished his speech and was talking about Harry Truman when we arrived at the Institute of Politics.  The mood felt different, and it wasn’t just that we were in politically comfortable surroundings.  The seats were all filled, except for ones emptied by people standing in line to get their turns at microphones on the left and right sides of the stage.  Sanders handled questions comfortably, clearly at home in a town hall meeting environment.  Decrying “a Congress largely dependent on corporate 2014 04 12 bernie sanders nhiop 011 money,” Sanders called for development of a grassroots movement to demand change and then hold politicians accountable.  

Sanders, a socialist who ran as an Independent and caucuses with the Democrats, is giving active consideration to a presidential run without saying whether he would run as an Independent or take the fight inside the Democratic Party.  “Somebody has got to be talking about these issues,” he told a group of labor activists who met with him in a small conference room after the main event. 

We could have returned to the Freedom Summit and perhaps would have been able to hear Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, but I had had enough for one day.  I would have liked to hear Senator Paul criticize corporate welfare at a Koch-fueled forum.  But I’m pretty sure all these wannabe Presidents will be back, as will the progressive protests, grassroots activists, and the reporters who love to take it all in. 

 

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Chuck Collins, whose latest book is 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About it, spoke to the Henniker Peace Community yesterday. 

Chuck Collins didn’t come to Henniker to “foment antagonism or class warfare,” he said, but instead to encourage people to do some “simple math.”  It’s pretty much the same thing.

The richest 44 households in the USA hold more wealth than the poorest 95%, for example.  The wealthiest 1 percent controls 36 percent of US wealth and more than 42 percent of all financial assets. 

It hasn’t always been that bad.  According to Collins, there’s been a “dramatic upward redistribution of wealth” in the past three decades.  That was no accident, but followed policy changes in which the rules of the economy were “rigged” to benefit asset owners over wage earners.  “These are the folks we need to defend ourselves against,” he told an audience of more than fifty people at the Henniker Congregational Church.

Historically, Collins said Americans have been comfortable with wealth and income inequality as long as they thought the rules were fair.  But that has shifted since the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.  Now, 70 percent of Americans believe extreme henniker 11-3-13 005 inequality is a problem.

It’s a problem that can be addressed with three types of policy changes:

1) “Raise the floor,” through a higher minimum wage and a stronger safety net;

2) “Level the playing field,” through reforms of the political process, such as overturning the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision; and

3) “Break up concentrations of wealth and power.” 

It’s that third point that would meet the most resistance from the natural persons, organizations, and corporations where power and wealth are unfairly concentrated.  But there are specific steps to advocate, such as restoring the progressivity of US income taxes, raising the estate tax, closing loopholes that enable corporations to evade taxes by assigning profits to overseas subsidiaries, breaking up the megabanks, and imposing a tax on financial transactions.    Some of the One Percenters even agree.

One place we can take this message is into the presidential campaign, now warming up in both major parties.  New Hampshire and Iowa may soon be awash in candidates.  Let’s tell them what we think.

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“Mic check,” shouts a young man.

Mic check,” several dozen people respond responsively.IMAG0383

“We have four pizzas coming.”

“We have four pizzas coming.”

“Two cheese.”

“Two cheese.”

“Two pepperoni.”

Two Pepperoni.”

Thus ended the “Occupy the New Hampshire Primary” project at a party downstairs at McNeil’s Banquet Facility on the west side of Manchester Tuesday night.  While the votes were being counted, the candidates were giving speeches, and their supporters were faithfully cheering them on to their ultimate victories, Occupy activists chatted, sang, played guitars, and swapped stories of what they had accomplished over the previous five days.

Barbara feels great that she had been able to host ten visitors from Occupy Wall Street, and said she enjoyed working in the kitchen at St. Augustin Church, which had invited the movement to use its parish hall for a few hours each afternoon.  Barbara also accompanied the OWS group to a Romney event, where they were able to engage him about the2012 01 08 machester occupy the primary 027 role of money in politics. She hands me a leaflet about “Grey Heat on K Street,” a demonstration planned for April 21 to expose corporate lobbyists. 

Getting money out of politics was a popular theme among the activists.  It didn’t  hurt that Brett and Alex had produced a large number impressive signs and banners that were convenient to carry.  “We owned the narrative,” Brett says, emphasizing that it is important to go after the Democrats, too. 

“Mic check,” Alex shouts. 

“Mic check,” everyone responds.

“We are going to the Romney event,” Alex says.”

“We are going to the Romney event.”

“We would really like to have a massive presence.”

“We would really like to have a massive presence.”

Alex and Brett head for Southern New Hampshire University, where Romney’s victory party is underway.

Katie, one of the main organizers, says she is pretty positive about what they had accomplished.  “It was the circus I was hoping for,” she says.  While it wasn’t as planned as it might have been, “everything fell into place.”  She says the highlight was Saturday night’s Funeral Procession for the Middle Class, especially when supporters of GOP candidates joined the Occupiers chanting “Hey Hey Ho Ho Corporate Greed Has Got To Go.”

Jerry, from Occupy Nashua, went to a Gingrich “town hall meeting” intending to try to ask a question.  He didn’t get called on, but still feels like he had picked up useful political skills. 

Darius, from Occupy Providence, tells me he mic checked Rick Santorum at a tow2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 054 n hall meeting in Hollis, where he was impressed with a young man who challenged the candidate opposition to gay rights. 

One activist tells me he voted for Jon Huntsman, a candidate he “could live with.”  Another tells me she voted for Vermin Supreme, the only candidate who showed up for the Occupy party. Vermin placed third in the Democratic race, with 831 votes (though nearly 6000 people wrote in candidates whose names will never get reported).

“Mic check,” a young woman yells.

“Mic check,” everyone yells back. 

“Who took my Ron Paul pin?”

“Who took my Ron Paul pin.”

Two visiting activists from Massachusetts tell me they met Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, in the bar at the Radisson.  Steele told them the Occupy movements speaks to “people’s frustration with the way government operates.”

“That’s the only way the system’s going to change, by what you do,” he told them.  Steele parted ways on whether bankers who raked in millions should be prosecuted and jailed. 

Marianne tells me about a woman in Nashua who lost her job due to cancer treatments, and then lost her home to the mortgage company. Marianne and I discuss whether it might be possible to re-occupy the now vacant home. 

Krista has a Masters degree in civil and environmental engineering, but can’t find a job.  She had a position in her field for ten months, funded by the Obama “stimulus” program, but the job ended when the ARRA funds ran out.  “We were told to beg, borrow, or steal to go to college,” she says.  Now she and her husband, also an engineer, are $90,000 in debt.  He’s joined the Army Reserves.  Employers don’t want to hire entry level people who need training, she says.  Krista hasn’t been very involved with Occupy NH, but she did go to Occupy the Capitol in Washington.  2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 109

Mitt Romney, who is getting heat because he made a fortune at Bain Capital from taking over and shutting down companies, tells his fans that they should avoid “the bitter politics of envy.”  Romney (spelled “Rmoney” in one Occupy video I watched) warns against “resentment of success” in his victory speech. 

One success of Occupy the NH Primary is that it brought together activists from all over New Hampshire plus several other northeast states for five days of action.  While the initial schedule focused on events scheduled for Veterans Park or the Unitarian Church, the Occupiers figured out pretty quickly that they could take their message directly to the candidates, who were cris-crossing southern New Hampshire.  By Tuesday evening, many of them have headed home. 

“I miss the New York people already,” someone says.

Paul is one of the New York people who hasn’t left yet.  He’s impressed by the success of Occupy the NH Primary in reaching candidates, the media, and the people with its message about inequality, corporate power, and the corrosive effect of money on democracy.   He arrives late for the Victory Party.  “I spent the day trying to organize South Carolina,” he says. 

 

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The day before the New Hampshire Primary is typically a busy one for candidates, who rush from rally to rally in order to inspire their followers and reach the last few undecided voters.  Newt Gingrich was planning a 6 PM stop at his own downtown Manchester campaign office, in between a 4 PM “town hall meeting” in Hudson and an 8 PM visit to a Concord sports bar.  By 5:45, the sidewalk in front of the 2012 01 09 machester occupy the primary 033 crop office was crowded with Occupy activists carrying “money out of politics” signs and Ron Paul supporters, plus reporters and Gingrich campaign workers.   That late in a busy, daylong schedule, it’s normal for candidates to be late, so Vermin Supreme, the provocateur clown candidate who promises everyone will get a free pony if he is elected, had a perfect stage for his performance. 

Inside the campaign office, it also grew crowded with Newt fans and reporters.  I took off my 99% pin and slipped in, finding a spot at the back of the room near the reception desk.  I was hoping for a chance to ask Gingrich how he would address the corrupting influence of the country’s widening wealth disparities.  The only spot in the room where there was room for Newt was behind the reception desk, so I thought I’d be literally in his2012 01 09 machester occupy the primary 038 face.  While I waited I had a friendly talk with Rhonda and Grace, both local Republicans.   (Rhonda and I agreed “Medicare for All” would be a good way to settle  the health care debate.)  Outside, Occupiers decided to split their ranks between the front and back doors to the building. 

At about 7 PM, reporters started to leave.  New Hampshire campaign manager, Andrew Hemingway, worked the room and told disappointed Newt fans that the former Speaker was not coming, apparently due to security issues created by protesters.

As the New York Times reported, “His campaign’s security team pulled the plug on the event after determining that the front and back entrances to the office were unsafe for Mr. Gingrich and his wife to enter, said R.C. Hammond, the campaign spokesman.”

2012 01 09 machester occupy the primary 039 Occupiers marched off to Jillian’s, a mill district restaurant where Rick Santorum had a 7:15 PM event, hoping to repeat their performance.  Needless to say, I missed my chance to have a chat with Newt.

Republicans weren’t the only ones to get the Occupy treatment yesterday.  A couple dozen Occupy activists, from several northeastern states, shut down the Obama campaign office in Manchester for more than an hour, demanding an end to the “cozy relationship between Wall Street and Corporations and the White House and Congress.”

The daily General Assembly was a short visit from Captain Robert Cunha of the Manchester Police Department, who commended the activists for “cooperation at the Obama office.”  He noted that conflicts between law enforcement and the Occupy movement, which he called “bumps in the road,” are likely to take place, but stressed that “cooperation goes a long way.”  Local activists expressed their interest 2012 01 09 machester occupy the primary 017 in continuing to have open communication with the police, and re-stated that there are no plans to interfere with voting today.   Captain Cunha also said an investigation is underway following an alleged assault by a campaign worker against an Occupier the previous day, apparently during Newt Gingrich’s visit to the Don Quijote restaurant.  

Occupy the NH Primary will wrap up at MacNeil’s Banquet Facility, 837 Second St. on the West Side of Manchester, from 4:30 to 8:30 pm today.  “The McNeil’s have offered their banquet room to Occupy NH without charge. We have to bring our own food. We can potluck, order BBQ from KC’s rib shack, etc.  Bring some $$ for beer/wine/soda,” says the OccupyNH web page.

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Populist Republican Staying in the Race

Buddy Roemer, a former governor and former member of Congress whose populist campaign for the GOP presidential nomination has been largely ignored by voters, the news media, and campaign donors, defiantly announced this afternoon that he is…staying in the race for the presidency.   

2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 106 Speaking to a roomful of reporters and supporters at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester, Roemer’s big announcement was that “I will not suspend my campaign.”

Roemer has set a $100 maximum on campaign contributions, a pledge that matched his anti-big business platform.  No surprise, the bucks have not been rolling in.  Shut out of the debates by the major media organizations, despite poll numbers he says are as good as those of Rick Perry, Roemer has had a hard time getting his message to GOP voters.

He has been visiting the Occupy NH activists, though.  “I’m with the young people,” he said.  “Occupy is not right in many things, but they’re right in one thing,” he said, “They smell corruption.”

Roemer said he’ll keep up the fight against government corruption, even if he has to be “a thorn in the side of the Republican Party.”

 

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Rick Santorum was scheduled to canvass a Manchester neighborhood this morning, and Occupy activists, still fresh from last night’s bird-dog training, were there to greet him.  But the former Senator, now leading 2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 027 the not-Mitt bloc of GOP voters, never showed.  The activists, some who had come up from Occupy Wall Street in New York, headed for the Homestead Deli in Hollis, where the former Senator was supposed to show up at 12:30.

With some Occupiers out bird-dogging candidates and others scattered around Veterans Park, marching around downtown Manchester, and waving signs along the street, it’s hard to tell how many people are “2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 036occupying the New Hampshire Primary.”  But the weather is fine, spirits are still  good, and more people are arriving.   “Canada!,” shouted one woman, who had been keeping track of where participants were from.  Occupy activists from Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut are well represented.  There are plenty of cameras, many from activist journalists, some from professional reporters covering the Primary.

Approaching the park this morning I met a local Pepsi employee, Greg Salts, who was interested in telling the Occupy community about the multi-national’s plan to lay off 4000 workers and end corporate contributions to workers’ 401-2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 047k retirement plans.  The CEO, Indra Nooyi, has spoken out for “capitalism with a conscience,” Salts said, but the reality is “the exact opposite of what he preaches.”  The New York Post refers to the executive as “embattled,” but she is said to take in $19 million a year, so I’d propose an alternate adjective.

 Creativity is on display in banners, signs, and even condoms with stickers reading “you know the politicians are going to screw you.  may as well use 2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 012protection.”  A gay rights march is planned for 2:30 PM, with a “funeral procession for the  American Dream” before tonight’s debate at St. Anselm College.

Another debate is on tap for morning, at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, sponsored by NBC, Facebook, and the New Hampshire Union Leader.   Since the newspaper’s owners are dealing badly with the union representing the paper’s employees, a union picket is planned for 8 AM.  

  

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The air was chilly but spirits were strong among the dozens of activists at the launch of Occupy the New Hampshire Primary in Manchester’s Veterans Park this evening.  Local organizers have been at work for weeks arranging schedules of events, finding volunteers for a variety of tasks, getting out publicity, raising money for portable toilets, collecting donations, meeting with police, and more.  Banners and tents were visible at the park entrance across Elm Street from the Radisson Hotel, a major center for reporters covering the campaign leading up to next Tuesday’s Primary election. 

A couple dozen Occupiers went cross town to the Unitarian Church for a workshop2012 01 06 machester occupy the primary 013 on bird-dogging the candidates.  A series of discussions and exercises and , including interactions with faux candidates Jefferson Lincoln and Rosie Roosevelt, helped participants learn how to hone their message for the coming 3 days of Town Hall Meetings, meet-and-greets, and other chances to interact with Newt, Mitt, and the rest of the GOP gang.  

Some bird-dogging success is already evident: Mark Provost’s question to Mitt Romney about abusive corporations at a Town Hall meeting Wednesday at Central High School received international media attention.  

Tomorrow’s schedule includes a gay rights march through the streets of Manchester and a Funeral for the American Dream outside the Dana Center at St. Anselm College, where the candidates will debate Saturday evening.  Members of the Granite State Organizing Project, NH Citizens Alliance, and the Alliance for Retired Americans, bolstered by visiting members of the United Auto Workers, will be there, too, with messages about strengthening retirement security. 

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Several dozen Occupy activists from several New Hampshire communities, joined by visitors from New York, Boston, and San Diego, discussed plans to “Occupy the New Hampshire Primary” at a statewide meeting in Manchester today.    Plans statewide GA 2011 12 26 004

thus far include a “Funeral Procession for the American Dream” outside the site of the GOP candidate debate, Saturday, January 7, at St. Anselm College, a gay pride march through downtown Manchester the same day, discussions of US militarism, skills workshops, films, and whatever happens at daily General Assemblies.  Veterans Park in downtown Manchester will be the center of the action.

Activists are also planning a “Marriage to a Corporation” to lampoon the notion of corporate personhood.  Personally, I’d prefer a divorce.   

I hope Occupiers also plan visits to events sponsored by the candidates themselves, and those to which the candidates have been invited, so that they can deliver a direct message about the ways in which extreme inequality threatens to undermine democracy and prosperity both.   The Hillsborough County GOP’s fundraising dinner in Nashua, January 6, where NH Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien will receive an award, would be a good candidate.  (Rick Santorum plans to be there.)  Another place to be would be the NBC/Facebook debate in Concord, January 8, at the Capitol Center for Arts. (See the NH Citizens Alliance for Action Bird-Dog Calendar for up-to-date information on the likely whereabouts of the candidates.)

The meeting also took up a number of practical issues, such as how and where to house and feed visitors to Manchester.  Reports from friendly discussions with Manchester and Goffstown police were also shared.  

Uncertainties facing organizers include the number and interests of out-of-state activists who have been invited to attend, and of course, the weather.  So far New Hampshire has had a mild winter, and today’s 10-day forecast is for daytime temperatures above freezing and only light precipitation.  But that can change in a hurry. 

Participants from Occupy groups in Manchester, Conway, Plymouth, Durham, Nashua, and Concord gave reports on local activities, as did out-of-state visitors.  Several groups are already looking to the January 21 anniversary of the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, which further enshrined the legal rights of corporation, as a date to “Occupy the Courts.”

Occupy the New Hampshire Primary runs from January 6 through Primary Day, January 10.  If all goes well, accessible information to help visitors find their way to Manchester-based activities will be posted soon on the Occupy NH web-page.  In the meantime, look for Occupy the New Hampshire Primary on Facebook for schedules and other details.    

 

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OCCUPY THE NH PRIMARY

In case you’re looking, right now the best source of information about plans for Jan. 6 to 10 is to search for “Occupy the New Hampshire Primary” on facebook.

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Fresh from signing official candidacy papers for New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary, Gov. Rick Perry waded through a couple dozen anti-death penalty activists rick perry 10-28-11 004on his way to a reception across the street from the New Hampshire State House.

The Texas governor declined an invitation to speak with the group.

The NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty holds a vigil on the fourth Friday of  every month.  In that sense, the Coalition’s presence was a coincidence.  But the group has recently started a project to raise concerns about the death penalty with presidential candidates, many of whom spend a considerable amount of time in the state.

According to Barbara Keshen, the Coalition’s chairperson, states spend ten times  more on homicide cases in which execution is possible than rick perry 10-28-11 006they do if life imprisonment is the most severe punishment.  That’s why it’s so hypocritical for candidates such as Perry, who claim they believe in fiscal responsibility and limited government, to be such avid death penalty supporters.

Anti-death penalty vigilers shared the sidewalk with others focused on saving Social Security. Both groups chatted with reporters, from as far away as Switzerland, who were covering the event.

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