Hell—Mandatory? Or Optional?

Dear Editor:

There is a saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Unfortunately, the Republicans led by Donald Trump are leading America to hell on a road paved with their evil Fascist intentions, and they are openly and blazingly advertising them.

In a recent speech in New Hampshire, Trump stated that he plans to “Root out the Communists, Marxists, Racists and Radical left Thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.” He followed this up with “We will throw off the sick political class that hates our country, we will rout the Fake News Media.”

Mike Davis, a leading candidate to be Trump’s next Attorney General, stated that he would “unleash hell on Washington, D.C. We’re going to put kids in cages. It’s gonna be glorious. We’re gonna detain a lot of people in the D.C. gulag and Gitmo.”

And even more ominous, if that is possible, is the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 manifesto whose objectives, as reported by the New Hampshire Gazette, include, “tearing down the wall between church and state, eliminating the IRS, gutting Social Security, [and] tightening voting restrictions…to create an explicitly reactionary state.”

Getting to hell on a road paved by either good or evil intentions still puts you in hell. However, when those evil intentions are advertised in advance, we have the opportunity to reject that road, and work together to translate good intentions into real policies for the common good. We may not create a utopia, but what we can create will be a great improvement over hell.

Rich DiPentima

Portsmouth, N.H.

Rich:

Your letter tempts us to put on our crank cap and lament the passing of the good old days. At least Newt Gingrich and his generation of wingnuts had the decency to lie to us. Their savage and draconian policies would usher in a better life for all!

Nowadays they’re just promising to be savage and draconian. The Gingrich Generation did its work so well, though, that in the present judged-up, gerrymandered environment, this current crop of goons may succeed.

The Editor

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Gov. Plays Dodge ’Em with School Funding

To the Editor:

On November 20th, the Superior Court again ruled that New Hampshire does not provide sufficient funds to school districts to ensure that all students have the opportunity for an adequate education as required by the state’s constitution. It also ruled that the administration of the Statewide Education Property Tax (SWEPT) does not meet the constitutional requirement that all taxes for a state purpose be equal in rate throughout the state.

Governor Sununu’s response to this was to state “New Hampshire currently spends among the most per capita on public education than nearly any other state.”

The Governor is correct. But that is not the issue. The plaintiffs in both court cases could concede that. The Governor did not address the fact that the State itself funds its schools at a lower rate than any other state. In doing so, it pushes the burden onto real estate owners to fund 70 percent of the total, resulting in highly unequal property tax rates among the towns.

The question that Governor Sununu and all candidates for governor should be asked is “How will you ensure that students in every zip code in New Hampshire receive an adequate education that is funded only by taxes with equal rates throughout the state?”

Governor Sununu also commented “Today’s decision is deeply concerning and an overreach into a decades-long precedent appropriately placed in the hands of our elected representatives in Concord.” The plaintiffs have sought relief from the court because no “decades-long precedent” can trump the state’s constitution. The constitution appropriately places constraints on what elected representatives can and cannot do and they have chosen not to comply with those constraints. That is very scary.

Douglas Hall

Chichester, N.H.

Douglas:

Governor Glib always has an answer. In this case, as in so many others, his answer does not address the question.

Spending the most per capita on public education could easily be seen as a sign of failure. Look at U.S. healthcare. Our spending is off the charts. Our outcomes, though, are dismal.

Like the Governor, we, too, have an answer: an income tax. Adequate school funding, property tax relief, and a reduction in economic inequality.

The Editor

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A Republican Surprise Party?

To the Editor:

What if the Godzilla-of-Mar-A-Lago’s Revenge Tour fails to launch because he’s disqualified, flips out, or lands in the pokey? Should that happen, none of the political pan scrapings currently vying for his frontrunner slot would stand a prayer in the general election. Joe Biden would win.

Unless… .

What if the Republicans held a brokered convention and allowed a new face to emerge. Suppose that face is young, familiar, wildly popular with the MAGA base—a proven crowd pleaser with sky-high TV ratings? And let’s say he’s smart, articulate, ultra-conservative, Wonder Bread white, schooled in the art of rhetorical deception, and happily married to his high school sweetheart? And, what if he’s searching for a new gig after being unceremoniously sacked by his former employer while at the pinnacle of his broadcasting career?

Yes, it’s Tucker Carlson! And even though he professes to loath politics and politicians, many believe he views the Presidency as his last-ditch opportunity to advance his career and save America from the scourge of freeloading liberal scum.

The question is, how would the Democratic Party counter a Carlson bid? Do the “Dems” have a similar rabbit to pull out of their hat? Food for thought as the Democratic Convention approaches.

Rick Littlefield

Barrington, N.H.

Rick:

This possibility, though utterly revolting, may not be all that far-fetched. Carlson already has a leg up. The big guy announced last month that he “like[s] Tucker a lot,” and would consider him as a running mate.

This may seem strange, since Carlson is known to have written, in a text message about Trump, “I hate him passionately.” The apparent dissonance here can best be resolved by remembering that neither of these charlatans has even a nodding acquaintance with the truth.

The Editor

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Will Decency Do the Job?

To the Editor:

Barring some catastrophic health or legal event, the voters in the 2024 election will be choosing between two elderly men for president of the United States. Though both are at an advanced age their characters, ethics, and motivations are very different.

Biden is a decent man—mature, responsible, wise, and with a lifetime of public service. He is managing his job as president with a steady hand and within the parameters of a democracy. He has guided the U.S. economic recovery after the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic to a 4.9 percent growth rate in the last quarter, with record low unemployment and dramatic wage gains. His Inflation Reduction Act has created more than 170,000 clean energy jobs.

Trump appears to be functioning at a level somewhere between that of a grade school playground bully and that of a spoiled, whiny adolescent. Being the subject of four indictments with a total of 91 felony charges, his focus is on staying out of jail. He has called for termination of the constitution and, if elected, has promised to use the Justice Department to get revenge on his enemies. He would replace competent career employees in government with hacks who are loyal to him rather than the constitution so that he can “do whatever I want as president.”

Our county’s future depends on responsible voters making the right choice.

Cynthia Muse

Rye, N.H.

Cynthia:

You are right, of course. It will be necessary for responsible voters to make the right choice if we are to avoid an utter catastrophe.

That may not be sufficient, though. We do not live in an abstract world where the will of the electoral majority automatically carries the day.

The Editor

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That Famous First Casualty

To the Editor:

“In war, the first casualty is truth” is a quote generally attributed to Aeschylus. A corollary is that in war, rationality is driven out by ideology and dogma. The Israel-Hamas conflict and the war of words in the U.S. between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups exemplifies the truth of these statements.

Some pro-Palestinian advocacy groups speaking from university campuses have praised the Hamas attack that killed 1200 Israeli citizens as warranted resistance against a hated oppressor. Others justified the attackers as anti-colonial “freedom fighters” and brave Jihadis. These views are a manifestation of the identity-based ideology prevalent on many college campuses known as postcolonialism. Advocates of this view interpret the events in Gaza in terms of a struggle between oppressed Palestinians and their colonial Israeli oppressors. Although spurred by a desire for social justice, Postcolonialism is a narrowly dualistic philosophy that defines Israelis as evil and Palestinians as good. It admits no complexity nor nuance and consequently denies the humanity of the murdered Israelis. Let’s be clear. A slaughter of innocents is not praiseworthy. The Oct. 7th attack was not carried out by brave freedom fighters nor selfless Jihadis. Unsuspecting civilian victims were indiscriminately cut down, women were raped then shot and innocent children were murdered. The attackers were brutal butchers who showed no mercy to helpless victims. Their mission was extermination not liberation. It is disturbing that the pampered professors and students at elite universities who praised the Hamas attack are so wrapped in a simplistic ideology that they cannot share a common humanity with massacred innocents.

Supporters of Israel are not immune to dogmatic interpretations. Many fall back on Cold War rhetoric contending that the U.S. needs to support Israel because it is an outpost of Western democracy among the autocratic regimes of the Middle East. This position, of course, ignores that Israel provides the full panel of civil rights only to its Jewish citizens. Muslim Palestinians are denied many basic rights and are treated as an underclass. In this regard, Israel resembles a theocracy as much as a Westernized democracy. The massive military response to the Hamas attack has been defended as Israel’s right to defend itself. Yet, it has been estimated that the Israeli air force has dropped so many bombs on Gaza City that their firepower exceeds the destructive power of two nuclear weapons. Much of Gaza City has been reduced to rubble. Over 11,000 innocent Gazan civilians have been killed, many of them children. Is this a reasonable price of self-defense? The IDF makes the ludicrous claim that they do not target civilians, but they know full well that the toll of the warfare they are conducting includes civilian carnage (collateral damage in the euphemism of modern warfare). Are the lives of innocent Gazans worth so much less than the lives of innocent Israelis?

Let’s clear away the sophistries of both sides and recognize that a human tragedy is being played out in Gaza. It is a repetitive chapter in the saga of ancient atavistic hatred between tribes that has been a part of Middle Eastern history for thousands of years. Modern political and religious ideologies provide no reasonable justification for the inhumane actions of both sides. For many Israelis, the conflict is Joshua razing Jericho using modern tanks rather than Shofars. It is the IDF following an Old Testament imperative to exterminate the Canaanites to preserve the purity of Israelites. For the Palestinians, it is the defense of a sacred land unjustly taken from them by an ancient, hated invader. Neither muddled modern ideology nor religious mythology are adequate for either explaining or resolving these timeless conflicts. I opened this letter with a quote from Aeschylus. I close with lyrics written by 60’s peace activist Pete Seeger. “Oh, when will you ever learn? Oh, when will you ever learn?”

Robert D. Russell

Harrisburg, Pa.

Robert:

You have brought up many a thorny issue here. These are bloody times, so let’s grab a few.

You write of “pro-Palestinian advocacy groups” praising “the Hamas attack as warranted resistance.” We’ll not deny that such groups exist. By focusing on them, though, are we not ignoring the middle ground occupied by those who abhore both the Hamas attack and illegal Israeli settlements? The side with power sets the terms—and condemns the powerless when they resist.

Speaking of the powerless, what of the Israelis who oppose the settlements? It seems to us there is a striking parallel here: both Israel and the U.S.—its No. 1 sponsor—have largely been driven for forty years by an increasingly demented right wing ideology. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that both Netanyahu and Trump are corrupt bullies, dictators desperately hoping to avoid conviction.

Now that we’re all scratched up and bloody, let’s pick some nits. You suggest Aeschylus as the source of that memorable phrase. We checked it out. Nothing personal, that’s our job.

According to QuoteInvestigator.com [QI], whom we hold as authoritative, your Greek pal wrote, “God is not averse to deceit in a just cause.” It seems to us that the “just cause” stipulation would render the aphorism inapplicable in many recent cases.

The earliest use QI could find was in July, 1915. The San Diego [Calif.] Union quoted Ethel Annakin, the wife of the British politician Philip Snowden, saying “Someone has said that ‘truth is the first casualty of warfare….’”

The most accurate use of the expression can be found on a t-shirt: “The first casualty of war is truth. The rest are mostly civilians.”

The Editor

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Get Out the Ouija Board

Dear Editor:

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (ratified in 1868, shortly after the Civil War) was intended to be an authoritative definition of what it means to be a citizen of the United States and to guarantee equal treatment to all persons under the law by requiring the states to abide by the Bill of Rights. Ironically, it wasn’t until nearly 100 years later (in the 1960’s) that most of the civil liberties outlined in the Bill of Rights were applied to the states.

The XIV Amendment has been contentious from the beginning. The first conflict occurred in 1896 when the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson decision asserted that “equal but separate accommodations” for blacks on railroad cars did not violate the “equal protection under the laws” clause. By defending the constitutionality of racial segregation, the Court paved the way for the repressive Jim Crow laws of the south.

Then there was Gideon v. Wainwright in 1963, having to do with “due process.” Then, in 1996, in the United States v. Virginia, policies regarding women serving in the military were changed. Remaining unresolved, however, a woman’s right to register for Selective Service.

Presently another constitutional crisis looms large on the framework of U.S. law and order in regard to the far-reaching XIV Amendment, which states very clearly in Section 3: “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or gives aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

This is the “Disqualification Clause” and, as Judge Sarah Wallace has ruled former President Donald Trump guilty of insurrection, in that he actively primed the anger of his supporters on January 6th, 2021 with the clear intent to incite political violence, and specifically directed that brute force at the Capital of the United States with the transparent and precise intent to overturn an election he knew he’d lost. That act renders Donald Trump explicitly ineligible to hold office under the XIV Amendment.

However, even though the XIV Amendment appears crystal-clear, indisputably plain and the disqualifying clause seemingly specifically written to prevent men like Donald Trump from gaining power and dominance in a democratic form of government, a glitch exists (according to Judge Wallace) having to do with Trump being a former president.

We should view Donald Trump, not as a former president but in a simpler form as an ordinary citizen, a voter, an “elector,” like you, like me. As such, under the conditions set forth in the XIV Amendment Section 3, Donald John Trump (an insurrectionist) is unqualified to hold any public office.

David L. Snell

Franklin, N.C.

David:

Should anyone happen to ask, we’ll happily inform them as to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

However, we are not even going to pretend we understand a ruling which held that President Trump took part in an insurrection but would not have been “an officer of the government” in the eyes of the framers of the 14th Amendment.

The Editor

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Presidential Descendants’ Crime Wave

Dear Editor:

A recent headline reads: “Ivanka Denies Knowing About Documents.” Once Presidents were so young their kids were kids. George W. Bush’s and Laura’s twin daughters—one more than the other—did naughty teen stuff, escaping security details. Pre-teen Chelsea Clinton yawned at onstage ballet. A camera caught it. Now, elderly Donald Trump has adult kids answering in court to shady financial dealings, with a preponderance of evidence. (All non-Fox coverage of Republicans’ efforts to destroy Pres. Biden, via his son, ends with “no evidence has emerged to prove… .”)

Our world heats up, smokes with fires, runs out of potable water, sees species diminish and die. (Lobster lovers—be concerned.) So welcome, then, new candidates on the scene, raising climate change / global warming and homelessness as problems to solve. A world at war is a huge challenge.

I’m a grandmother with a family I want to have a chance, aware of our world’s families, whatever continent or skin color or religion, deserving their chance. Be responsible, adults, sent to Washington to work for the people, and sweat over real problems! Of-age citizens, be sure to vote, lest we slip into not-a-democracy.

Lynn Rudmin Chong

Sanbornton, N.H.

Lynn:

This so-called issue began when a blind computer repairman told noted drunkard Rudy Giuliani that he thinks it was Hunter Biden who dropped off the laptop in question… .

Obviously this country learned nothing from Whitewater. That farce began with a real estate venture that went bust. By the time it was over, Bill & Hill were behind a death squad. Except there was no evidence, and there were no convictions.

Meanwhile, Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington—an entirely reputable outfit—says that in 2017, the “Department of Justice reversed decades of precedent to grant President Trump’s wish to have his children work in the White House. While taking on enormous responsibilities that they were unqualified to carry out, and debasing their positions with constant ethics scandals, they likely made hundreds of millions of dollars from questionable sources.”

That convenient ruling was issued the Friday before the inauguration. Once ensconced, Jared and Ivanka raked in between $172 million and $640 million in outside income while working in the White House, according to an analysis of financial disclosures by CREW. And that doesn’t even get into a $2 billion investment from the Saudis.

Once again, Wilhoit’s Law proves useful: “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”

The Editor

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Oligarchy or Democracy?

Dear Editor:

John Adams wrote in his A Defence of the Constitution of the United States in 1787: “In every society known to man, an aristocracy has risen up in the course of time, consisting of a few rich and honorable families who have united with each other against both the people and the first magistrate.” Adams’ skepticism about the stability of direct democracies led him to join in the effort to create a republic with protections against the excesses of the citizenry as well as their political leaders: three branches of government, a bicameral and representational Congress, a free press, etc. But, as the above quotation suggests, he feared most the capture of our republic by an oligarchy.

That same year in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Adams wrote, “You are afraid of the one, I, of the few.” It was not monarchy our democracy has to fear, he was telling Jefferson, so much as oligarchy. (Adams didn’t live to witness our American mega-corporations, who are now, according to SCOTUS, “people” who are free to hire more lobbyists than we have senators and congressmen, or surely, Adams would have mentioned them as well).

Have we arrived at our oligarchic crisis? Or has the crisis passed: is the entrenched system of our political institutions no longer willing or capable of dismantling the American oligarchy? Can a single presidential candidate once in office successfully instigate the dismantling? We and the representatives we keep electing seem to have been so concerned with the welfare of the rich that it is hard to imagine our turning around at this late date and resetting a just balance. I’m a skeptic about our potential to begin to reset the balance toward dismantling the oligarchy, probably a project of 25 or more years of creative and brilliant work. But I hope the next decade or so (starting in November of 2024) proves me wrong.

’Umble Servant,

Bob Begiebing

Newfields, N.H.

Bob:

“We and the representatives we keep electing seem…” Yes, exactly.

Today’s oligarchy carefully provides abundant distractions as an essential part of a much grander propaganda regime. We’re talking about think tanks, astroturf, and the like. By thus creating an elaborate charade—and relying on the political inertia of an overworked working class—the oligarchy does seem to have the upper hand.

Germany’s industrialists thought they could control Hitler. What this bunch of mugs believes, we have no idea.

We’ll see how it all shakes out next November.

The Editor

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