I was delighted to join Peter R. Quinones of The Libertarian Institute on his podcast, Free Man Beyond the Wall, to pimp the great Granite State, and convince more people to move to the Free State of New Hampshire. We talk about how NH consistently ranks best for quality of living, its low taxes environment (no sales or personal income tax), how NH’s business tax rate is declining quarterly, how business-friendly the state generally is, and how Granite Staters recently worked together across the aisle to abolish the death penalty. Take a listen now…
LISTEN NOW… With the advent of the year’s first major snowstorm, we’re taking a break from politics to discuss how to survive and thrive during New Hampshire’s long, cold winters. From recipes and fitness tips to metaphysical speculation, your hosts have some thoughts. Find out what they are on this week’s Told You So! LISTEN NOW…
[PS: This episode could also be called, OMFG, what did I commit to learning to do? Whyyyyyy??? LOL]
Wondering what’s cooking in Hong Kong? Watch the documentary “Rebellion: On the Front Lines of Hong Kong’s Uprising,” available on Amazon. Also check out Netflix’s “Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower,” if you want to feel David vs. Goliath inspired about what your own human action could accomplish if you just got out there and tried.
“Rebellion” covers what began as spontaneous protests against an extradition law to allow suspects to be deported to mainland China, but has now blossomed into a full-blown popular uprising. Why now? Because as the protestors themselves state, they understand they have only one shot, one chance to resist, otherwise Hong Kong will be subsumed by the Chinese Communist Party, and despite what many misinformed Americans think, Hong Kongers know there ain’t no party in the Communist Party.
Just ask this guy, who was recently brought in for questioning by Chinese authorities, placed in some kind of weirdo jail chair, and questioned because of something he posted in a private chat group. Says Canadian Erza Levant:
“China spies on social media conversations. Then they bring dissidents in for a real-life chat. I’d say we’re AT LEAST five years away from that over here, so no worries.”Erza Levant’s Tweet
In “Rebellion,” police and hired thugs, literally the Triad–funny how police worldwide always seem to know where to find helpful criminals, almost like, hmm, never mind–start to escalate the violence, eventually maiming and blinding a lady by shooting her in the eye. This shocks Hong Kongers, who, generally speaking, are a peaceful and polite lot, and brings more ordinary people to the streets in protest against police brutality on top of the demands for political reforms.
The most poignant moment for me is when the movie cuts to street graffiti that simply says (translated):
You have taught us peaceful protest is not enough…Street Art
As a police accountability activist, I have to wonder: When American law enforcement watch the events unfolding in Hong Kong, or watch a documentary like Rebellion, who do they root for? The young, idealistic freedom fighters hoping to keep their quasi-independence from the murderous Commie Motherland, or do American cops now root for “law and order” so hard that they support the vicious, teargassing, bludgeoning police furthering Communist goals and hurting innocent people expressing their right to live free? I’m genuinely curious…
ADDED 12/4/19: Read Pat Buchanan’s take, In Hong Kong, It’s US vs. China Now.
Love learning stuff? Wonder why I think the way I do? Start with these: 7 Documentaries that make you go, “Hmm…”
This week, we fill you in on egregious violations of your Right-to-Know by discussing three current cases in front of the NH Supreme Court (read more here), how use of force compares between law enforcement on the streets of America and soldiers in combat zones (the rules of engagement in war zones are stricter! Wut!?!), the City’s police surveillance cameras are coming, and more!
As many of you know, the ACLU-NH has been fighting on my behalf to try to stop permanent police surveillance cameras from being installed in downtown Manchester. Yesterday, I received a court order denying our request for declaratory and injunctive relief, which in plain English means: the City won this round, the police will likely put up their cameras, our rights will continue to be eroded and disregarded with the full authorization of the Courts, and, apparently, we should just accept the stripping away of more and more of our 4th Amendment rights.
The Court said:
It could be argued that the City’s planned use will enable the government to violate the statute. However, simply because footage generated by the cameras could be used to violate the law does not mean the installation or use of the cameras itself violated the law…
The Court cannot find as a matter of law that the planned use of the surveillance cameras will violate RSA 236:130 [Highway Surveillance Prohibited]. Instead, the Court can only speculate that, once the cameras are installed, a government employee reviewing the footage will be capable of engaging in additional conduct that will violate the statute. Accordingly, plaintiff’s motion for summary judgement is denied.Neal Kurk, et al vs. City of Manchester Docket No. 216-2019-CV-00501
By the Court’s logic, every single current pre-crime statute should be invalidated. You know, the ones where they say you MIGHT do something bad in the future, like crash your car if you’ve been drinking, so we will punish you right NOW, even though you didn’t actually do the thing we’re trying to prevent… Yet. (Or at all.)
The Court also failed to fully consider the legislative history, which you may recall, included this testimony from Dpt. of Safety Assistant Commissioner, Earl Sweeney in 2006, that the law would ban a police department from “setting up cameras to monitor, for example, the downtown business district to detect or deter burglaries, vandalism, drug dealing,” and, “Some police departments set up cameras to monitor downtown businesses… we do not believe that this usage would be allowed in NH without specific legislation at a future time legalizing it.”
Given this, it is safe to say we should no longer rely on the truthfulness of testimony given by government agents during the legislative process. Along the same vein, we should also not trust the MPD’s contention that they will not use facial recognition software or license plate scanners. I am willing to bet any comers they will secretly start using this technology in the future, and if the cameras go up, I encourage anyone who is in a vehicle and issued a citation or arrested in the vicinity of the cameras on Elm Street, to contact me.
While this case revolved around a narrow point of law relating to a specific statute, 82% of Granite Staters voted last year to increase our privacy rights, which tells me this matter isn’t over by a long shot.
Right of Privacy: An individual’s right to live free from governmental intrusion in private or personal information is natural, essential, and inherent.Article 2-b, New Hampshire Constitution, December 5, 2018
I’ll conclude with the following: If you believe government can solve problems by restricting more and more of our rights and making us less free in the name of “security,” why do all stories set in the future revolve around people fighting their dystopian overlords? If the future is so bright in this Brave New World, where are the depictions of their promised land? Where is this awesome future society where, by “giving up liberty for security,” things turn out to be oh-so great for us plebs?
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: When you watch futuristic movies, who are you rooting for? In the Matrix, are you rooting for Neo or Agent Smith? In the Hunger Games, Team Katniss, or District 1 of the Capitol? Because, right now, if you aren’t on my side, you are rooting for tyranny, and it is NOT going to end well. Free people move freely. Free people certainly move freely without being surveilled by a group of people who claim to work for us while also keeping a secret list of their worst people from us.
Want to learn more? Read the backstory here, here, here, and here. Listen to my podcasts on this topic, Living with Lockdowns, Big Brother is Watching, and You Don’t Need to See This List of Bad Cops, Citizen.
Art.] 8. [Accountability of Magistrates and Officers; Public’s Right to Know.] All power residing originally in, and being derived from, the people, all the magistrates and officers of government are their substitutes and agents, and at all times accountable to them. Government, therefore, should be open, accessible, accountable and responsive. To that end, the public’s right of access to governmental proceedings and records shall not be unreasonably restricted. The public also has a right to an orderly, lawful, and accountable government. Therefore, any individual taxpayer eligible to vote in the State, shall have standing to petition the Superior Court to declare whether the State or political subdivision in which the taxpayer resides has spent, or has approved spending, public funds in violation of a law, ordinance, or constitutional provision. In such a case, the taxpayer shall not have to demonstrate that his or her personal rights were impaired or prejudiced beyond his or her status as a taxpayer. However, this right shall not apply when the challenged governmental action is the subject of a judicial or administrative decision from which there is a right of appeal by statute or otherwise by the parties to that proceeding.
June 2, 1784
Amended 1976 by providing right of access to governmental proceedings and records
Amended 2018 by providing that taxpayers have standing to bring actions against the government
Three important Right-to-Know cases were heard yesterday at the NH Supreme Court. You can read Mark Hayward of the Union Leader’s take here, Justices Review Law that Keeps Records of Official Misconduct Secret, the Monitor here, and In-Depth NH here, but basically, in all three cases, the government argues they have the right to hide personnel misconduct from the public.
They base their arguments on the 1993 case, Union Leader vs. Fenniman, which all open government proponents believe was wrongly decided, and which is now being used to shield legitimate information pertaining to government employees from the public eye. To put that in context, yesterday, the government lawyers went so far as to argue there is no public interest in knowing *who individuals* accused of misconduct are…
This is particularly galling when you consider that one of the profound challenges we face in holding public officials accountable is when, by some miracle, shady public employees are removed from one jurisdiction, they often resurface to continue their malfeasance elsewhere. How do we protect our cities, towns, and villages from these repeat offenders? How do you hold someone accountable if you don’t know who they are?
Just ask Laurie Ortolano of Nashua, who spent more than $1,000 to determine the Nashua tax assessor wasn’t doing his job. She built such a strong case that this assessor was forced to leave his position in Nashua, only to… dundundun… resurface in… Hooksett (sorry to inform you, Hooksett taxpayers). This is just one example of why knowing who the individual is, not simply hiding behind an anonymous monolithic facade called “the state,” is so important.
The world is, after all, made up of INDIVIDUALS doing good and bad things. If you work for the state, and you do bad things, you don’t get to hide behind the cloak of the state: we have a right-to-know who and what YOU are, what YOU are doing. Because, in the end, what do you think creates better incentives for better behavior over time: A system that says, “We’ll cover (and cover, and cover) for you when you do something wrong,” or a system that says, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”?
In response to Ortolano’s experience, Democrat Representative Jan Schmidt from Nashua is proposing several amendments to the current RSA 91-A law. Schmidt and Ortolano both attended a meeting on Saturday with Right-to-Know NH, a nonpartisan coalition of open government advocates.
At this meeting, Schmidt claimed her proposed amendments will help citizens like Ortolano. Schmidt is either woefully misinformed, or lying, because it is simply impossible to interpret her proposed amendments as favorable to open and transparent government. In fact, one proposed amendment strikes a roll call requirement (our only way to know who voted for what), and another adds thousands of dollars in taxpayer fees to the RTK process.
“We are totally opposed to it,” David Saad, president of RTKNH, said on Wednesday. “Part of our mission is to have more open and transparent government. What we have been fighting for since 2013 is to make minor changes to the law so that everyone has a right to inspect records at no cost. “Once you create a financial barrier to an individual to view public records and charge them in any way to view those records, you are creating a financial barrier which is going to be used maliciously by some public officials to thwart the public’s right to know,” said Saad. Schmidt did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment on the bill.Union Leader
The main thrust of questioning by the Justices yesterday had to do with Fenniman, with most of the judges asking what would happen if this decision was overruled. As a lawyer, I empathize when judges have to overrule a previous decision, but just as you need sunlight for disinfectant, you need to be open to the fact that sometimes, you get it wrong, suck it up, and do the right thing. And with Fenniman, it is crystal clear that the unintended and damaging consequences to government accountability and transparency far outweigh sticking to stare decisis.
“We believe that this position is deeply harmful to government accountability and is inconsistent with Chapter 91-A’s presumption in favor of disclosure,” Bissonnette said. “It’s crystallized to me when I think about the examples of documents that would be categorically excluded under Fenniman. Number one, an internal report documenting a school district’s potential failures in investigating sexual misconduct against students by a teacher.”From Concord Monitor
The Court’s best bet for a good outcome for the people of New Hampshire is to overturn Fenniman and apply a balancing act when considering what information, if any, should be redacted from public record requests. As Greg Sullivan, attorney for the Union Leader, who also argued Fenniman in 1993, said yesterday to laughs all round: “I’m here to blame the court… Fenniman… was wrong then. It’s wrong now.”
The Justices have an opportunity to right a serious wrong. I hope they have the courage to do what’s right for our Right-to-Know, and stand with the people for open, accessible, accountable and responsive government.
LISTEN NOW… Twitter is banning political ads, Facebook will drop the ban hammer on a whim, and YouTube has been booting creators left and right in pursuit of a less volatile political brew – but does that mean that free speech is under fire? Dive into the complexities of deplatforming and what it means for the First Amendment with your hosts on this week’s Told You So! LISTEN NOW…
Income Tax Proponent Weirdly Explains She is Not Libertarian… Umm, Yeah, Your Awful Voting Record Lets Us Know…
A New Hampshire Democrat Senator recently penned an opinion piece entitled, “Why I’m Not Libertarian.” Since NO ONE would mistake Jeanne Dietsch’s positions, like her desire to implement an income tax or her anti-freedom voting record, for anything other than socialism, it seems like an odd title for an essay, but, then again, maybe she knows libertarianism, the quaint notion that you own yourself, is a hot topic and she wanted to get in on the action?!? For me, every media mention of “libertarianism” is a win, even when someone gets it as wrong as she does. To set the record straight, here are a few rebuttals from people who actually understand what libertarianism is…
…libertarians would never force their will upon others. That would be aggression. I can’t speak for every libertarian, big or small L, but I can say that the principle of non-aggression extends to the limits of the Government. For if I can not use force to extort another, the Government shall not be able to either.Chris Maidment for Granite Grok
Foremost, it means a limited government. That is not the same as no government. I fully support a smaller government. However, there are many appropriate areas for the government to be involved in. The first might be to protect property rights. Of those property rights, I should own my own body. Slavery, is the complete opposite of a libertarian government…Dan Hynes for Granite Grok
Dietsch is correct on one point: “Is government always done right? Of course not.” Lets start to right our wrongs, and vote for a smaller government senator, and not a socialist nanny. That’s why I’m not a socialist.
Today’s episode is a feisty one! I call out the Union Leader for their lack of leadership on government- and police accountability issues, we recap the situation one Nashua taxpayer finds herself in after filing Right-to-Know requests and then being issued a “verbal restraining order” by police for her efforts, why “free staters” are just like everyone else (but better :P), why a “ski tax” is a terrible idea, and more!