Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Petty Obsession

When not ensconced in Christmas reverie and responsibilies, my guilty pleasure this past week has been indulging an obsession with Peter Bogdanovich's film about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers called "Runnin' Down a Dream."

This four-hour documentary came out about a year ago and it swept me up then. On this year's tour around the Sundance Channel, it held me even tighter, though I watched it in bits and pieces.

I could chalk the film's appeal up to timing, the fact that Petty's first hits occurred as I was graduated from high school and that his music, like oxygen, has been a part of every decade of my life without me making much of an effort to really appreciate or monitor it. Or I could say that I've always had a weakness for cowboys (even wannabe cowboys) with long hair. Maybe I love a musical narrative or Petty's early anti-corporate stance. Frankly, it could be any or all of these or none of them and who cares anyway, really?

Since I had had healthy dose of Bogdanovich's version of Petty, I decided to go looking elsewhere and found Terry Gross's most recent Fresh Air interview with him and one in Rolling Stone where he says it is his last interview for "very long time."

Here's the trailer for the film:



A couple random parts of Bogdanovich's doc:





A panel where Bogdanovich talks about Petty and the film:



And for those even more obsessed than I, here's a link to 125 Tom Petty videos. Oy!

[Update: 1602, the first documentary about an American music icon that caught my attention is "Tom Dowd and the Language of Music." Netflix has it I think.

[Update: (2220) Still on the jag and have to add this Soundstage version of "You Wreck Me"]

New Ground, Sky, Year


Christmas has chewed up more than a week of my life, and I don't mean that in an entirely bad way. Heaven knows I loved cutting the Christmas tree with Eli and Sami; decorating it with ornaments from three generations of my mother's family; weeping at true life stories of redemption and kindnesses; singing Silent Night in a ring of friends holding candles circling a small darkened sanctuary in a church on the east bank of the Sheepscot River; sumptuous, slightly tipsy meals with dear friends; the sensation of sheer cool pouring off my seven year-old as he struts his new black cowboy boots; twinkly lights; visiting a re-urbaned friend in her new city digs; downhill skiing in less than perfect conditions and living to tell the tale; time to stare at the startlingly starry sky last night after tucking my horse in. No, these are not exactly akin to delivering frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child, but these longest, darkest nights afford some introspection for even the most distracted.

How I wish I could say that I have arrived at cogent, universal conclusions. Hardly. Just more reminders of my failings as a human being.

For years I have been neglecting my horse and my friends. After five years, I am still shaking off the isolation of life with my then-husband. So ingrained is this dark, bitter, hard seed that I almost fell into a similar pattern recently with my unwitting beau, Mike.

To my ex-husband, the only social situation worth a damn consisted exclusively of blood relatives. He had 50 within a few miles and some 152 who might drop by at anytime. Since I only have two blood relatives east of the Mississippi and only one in Maine, this considerably shrank my own previously broad and deep society.

Those of us with small families are the outliers at Christmas. It is especially poignant for me and Eli since, partly because of Maine Family Court and partly because of my own wish not to compete with his dad's tribe, I have not awakened on Christmas morning with my son since 2002. I am blessed every holiday, however, with my friend Becca and her crazily extended family. Their acceptance and love has sustained me through some truly dark times.


As I understand it, if Christ said anything, it is that we are all one in love and fellowship, regardless of tribe. As a card-carrying extrovert, this has been reinforced for me over and over. My friends have meant everything to me, especially since my mother died. And the friends who knew and loved my mother, many of whom I see at an annual Christmas party in Wiscasset, hold a special place in my heart.

I will never forget their stalwart support when my ex-husband's family tried to prove that I was unfit to care for my son. In a Rockland courtroom, eight of them stood up to a local criminal defense lawyer famous for crushing witnesses. Sadly, the judge was swayed enough by the pathetic, incompetent, first-timer Guardian ad Litem, Rosemary Fowles who in turn had been swayed by the first GAL, Felicity Myers, who only left the case because a magistrate was about to remove her for bias against me. The judgment left me partly in the same situation I was attempting to escape. That is a story for another day. Suffice to say the false charges my son's father and his family levied were so heinous I certainly would have lost more than I did without the support of those brave enough to tell the truth on the stand.

It would do me well to remember this in every season, not just this one.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

An Internet Phenomenon Explained

In a DailyKos diary today droogie6655321 makes an excellent argument that we Dems, Progressives and Liberals "need more cowbell." As an Internet junkie for nearly five years now, I inferred what he meant because I've seen a teeny video of Will Farrell banging on a cowbell used in various celebratory contexts since I started visiting forums and blogs.

Thing is, I never knew it was Will Farrell and I never understood the context. Until today. Here's a video from Saturday Night Live that makes it all clear. If you ever liked Blue Oyster Cult or Christopher Walken you'll be happy.


Maine Prisons Continue to House the Nation's Mentally Ill

There's much to be said about this. It's why I link to a news feed on prison reform. For now I will only say that Johnny Okie, a profoundly ill young man, was convicted quickly yesterday by a jury of his peers.

According to a Frontline documentary, a quarter (500,000) of the 2 million Americans in prison are mentally ill with 16 percent (320,000) classed as severely mentally ill. Make that 320,001. A young man who was arguably difficult and a drug abuser was driven to murder a friend and his father by insufficiently treated schizophrenia. He will spend the rest of his life in the Maine prison system. Other than adding him to the list of the suffering who are out of sight, out of mind, how is this in any way a good idea?

I cannot begin to say how disappointed I am in my fellow Mainers, nor how sad I am for his mother, Karen.

The whole public broadcasting documentary, "The New Asylums," can be seen online.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Being Jane Goodall

God, I love this story. Apparently some research scientists are feeling guilty about the plummeting wild chimpanzee population and the treatment chimps get in laboratories. Scientists want to do their research in more "free range" circumstances. They would get better data and the apes would get to live their lives, protected. I want to go.

No, it has little to do with Maine or politics, but articles like this are why I link to Wired.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

On Stenography

The coverage of our neighbor Johnny Okie's trial has been grim and lazy in both the local paper and the larger ones. Except for this confusing article in the KJ today, this tragic story has consisted of recounting what happens in the courtroom. Of course this is part of the story.

It's like day by day play by play for a sport, except that people probably know the rules of the sports they watch. Court is different. Without serious, professional attention to context and analysis of court procedure and state law, a play by play article for this kind of trial is destined to be crap. Trouble is, this kind of understanding takes hundreds of hours and reliable sources.

Parachuting in, landing in a community and trying to cover a story cold, as Joel Elliot does in the KJ article linked above, is bound to fail because the reporter has only a slight chance of quickly finding people who are both willing and able to be quoted who have useful and true information.

Two years ago Stephen Colbert called out the Washington Press Corps for its stenographic skills, so it's unsurprising that we in the hinterlands have the same problem. [n.b. the Lincoln County News editorial this week is especially to be avoided. My father the 40-year English teacher would have bled red ink all over it, complaining bitterly of vague generalities and painful banality.]

A couple essential questions I want answered, yet no one, as far as I can tell has broached:

I wish someone could explain why is this trial is taking up taxpayers' money, money that could be better spent on mental health training and care for public safety workers.

Why did six days pass and a second murder before the police effectively intervened?

My bias is upfront. John Okie was a friend. He died in a manner so tragic most of us cannot comprehend it. Karen Okie is a friend. Though I've come up short in every measure of that word, the least I can do is lobby for decent reporting of these terrible days.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Fragile Mind Meets Blunt Object In Court

Weighted words dominated most press accounts of Johnny Okie’s first trial day Monday. AJ Higgins at MPBN called him a college dropout; the MaineToday site has him “butchering” his victims. What is happening to journalism when we have to go to the television, WCSH6 for a reasoned account of what happened?

There one could find that his lawyers signal that they will have to bludgeon the jury with the level and duration of his mental illness. Apparently it is not enough that Johnny and his family suffered this tragedy for the better part of a decade. He must be shown to have been deeply ill in the days leading up to the murders. A lawyer I know says, “Courts don’t do nuance.”

Saturday I’ll attend the annual party in Wiscasset where Johnny’s father, John Okie, told me five or six years ago how ill Johnny was, how worried John and his wife Karen were, and described the measures they were taking to address Johnny’s behavior.

That fall John and Karen enrolled Johnny in Kents Hill, a prep school northwest of Augusta. They drove to school better than an hour every weekend and, as I recall, sometimes during the workweek. I remember thinking how they passed my house every time and wished they would stop in, knowing well that their errand proved too serious for a chat and a cookie. Their lives were consumed by Johnny’s mental illness, his behavior and his education.

I’m guessing John felt comfortable talking with me about mental illness because he had been privy to our family’s experience with my dad’s bipolar disorder and had seen us survive relatively unscathed. John may have said schizophrenia, I don’t remember, but I know that John and Karen felt burdened by not knowing whether they were doing the right thing.

John Okie had been a family friend since my parents, sister and I moved to Wiscasset in 1972. I worked as a clerk in a pottery/used bookshop he and Peter Green shared on Main Street. John lived across the street. In those early days, John’s dog Wally and my sister’s used to disappear on days long jaunts, probably running deer, and come back gimpy and whipped by brambles.

That horrible summer day in ’07 when it became clear that John had been killed, I had just started a job as assistant newspaper editor for the Lincoln County News. During those early days in the newsroom we didn’t know Johnny’s connection to Aleigh and only had rumors about his whereabouts the night John was killed. As the police let us in on the facts, they confounded us. Why had Johnny been free for six days? How was the accident on the Wiscasset Bridge in the days before Aleigh’s death connected? What clues did it offer to Johnny’s deteriorating condition?

Now that nearly a year and a half has gone by, I believe the exercise taking place in court and in the press this week and next is a kind of torture for all concerned with no redeeming feature.

The trial certainly gives the pro-death penalty contingent something to rant about—hardly a productive use of taxpayer dollars. Johnny is nightmarishly ill and has been for at least half his life. Punishment will make no difference to him and I have to believe Aleigh Mills’ parents cannot have vengeance on their minds, despite the brutality of their daughter’s end.

If there is any justice this young man will live in a hospital for the rest of his life, safe in a place where he can hurt no one else, medicated against the demons that led him to kill those he loved.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Stutter Stepping

Our blog to share the Rev. Judith Robbins' incisive intellect with the planet has been put on hold, open only to authors, Judith, Mike and me.

I feel responsible. I should have known and warned Judith that those who don't live in this medium worry about it in ways those of us who do can hardly comprehend. I should have realized she is part of a larger house, the church, the congregation, and that they could have used some education and information before we launched immediate access to their singular pastor's singular sermons.

This is simply to say Sheepscot Bridges is on hold until the board can get their heads around the notion. It does seem strange putting the term "board" and the notion of blogging in the same space, whether in my brain or on this digital page. Nevertheless, I have faith our goals will be achieved and members of the congregation and everyone else will be able to hear the Rev. Robbins sometime in the New Year.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A New Bridge to Sheepscot

Those who know me and Mike well at all might guess that we are a somewhat unlikely pair. He, a devoted believer; I, a truth seeker fully engaged in the journey. One of the many things that binds us tightly is the Sheepscott Community Church, a tiny two-church congregation headed by the Rev. Judith Robbins.

Every week, she speaks of the intellectual and the soulful, the mundane and the vaulted. Her rich education, writing skill and fervent speaking engage and feed us with stories of writers, poets, saints and sinners.

Eli loves the time in church devoted to children and Chrissy Wagers' Sunday School. Judith provides the children's lessons and they have ranged from a travelogue inspired by a Siberian Russian Orthodox Church to discussions of the connotations of the color purple. When I announced in church that Eli had won some ribbons at a dog trial early this fall, I thought he would burst with pride. He showed similar enthusiasm last Sunday. All the older children were absent and he got to be an acolyte, lighting the candles, including one in the Advent wreath, wielding the long brass lighter like a fishing gaff. He loves fire.

For reasons I don't entirely understand we meet in the "Valley" church near the Sheepscot River in Sheepscott (actually Newcastle) in the winter and the "Hill" church, in the summer. Well, actually I do understand. The Valley church has running water and a good heater and the Hill church is an old Congregational meeting house with plain glass--though I would hardly call the abstract patterns thrown by the sun through those ancient poured glass panes plain--windows or seriously minimalist decor reeking of old New England.

Today, with Judith's blessing, Mike and I started a new blog called Sheepscot Bridges as a place to put recordings of Judith's sermons online. We're using Gcast, a website designed for GarageBand users like us.

Sermons, even good ones like Judith's, aren't for everyone. Podcasts make them phenomenally convenient, though. And if you've been pining for some smart talk about things I make no claim to fully understand, have a listen.

Friday, November 21, 2008

How Can This Be True in Obamaland?

According to Wired.com a poll by Zogby and IFC says Americans trust the New York Times, Fox News and Rush Limbaugh more than any other comparable news sources.

Anyone who's seen the film Outfoxed will be as stunned by this news as I am.

Signs of the Times

The deflation trend is being led by gasoline, at least in this part of the country. Gas! Get your gas! Regular gas is now $1.99 at Citgo and Shell in Warren Maine.
NYU economics guru Nouriel Roubini said in a recent e-newsletter that rallies in the stock market are sucker rallies.
According to Roubini in this Bloomberg News video, financial markets are like jungles. Prudent regulations could have kept the nation from having to wrestle with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Indicators show the market destined to drop at least another 15 percent as people stop buying and investors bail. Credit remains difficult to obtain. Banks and financial management houses have not yet owned up to all their losses, as might be surmised from the huge drop in Citibank stock yesterday.
The photo to the left was found on Flickr, part of a pool of photos taken by a group monitoring gas price signs.

Back Amongst the Living

For the first time in three weeks I can taste my tea. I slept through the night, except for the cat needing to be thrown out at 0200, for the first time in a month. Nothing hurts. And I've only coughed three times in the last hour. It feels like a November miracle.

Of course, I have a doctor's appointment this morning. Oy. I am wicked thankful I have a job with health insurance. Too bad I have to give it one second's thought.

Anyone else been dancing with death this fall? Honestly, if I lived in a fireplace heated, 18th century house in Maine undergoing this grippe, I don't know what wouldhave happened. How did our ancestors do it?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Constitutional Scholar in the White House. Just Think.

A quick look at the Obama transition website reveals a conservative truth about the president elect. He signals what would appear to be a dramatic reversal in the way we can expect government to function. Click on "Organizational Chart" on the left hand menu, then notice the place of the U.S. Constitution in the flow chart.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sheepscot Son Faces Double Murder Charge In Early December

The law is perhaps as much of a blunt instrument as any murder weapon.

According the the Waterville Morning Sentinel, Newcastle native John Okie, 21, goes to trial in Augusta Dec. 8 for the 2007 double murder of his father, John Okie, and a former Kents Hill classmate, Alexandra "Aleigh" Mills. The Kennebec County Superior Court jury is expected to hear defense arguments centered on Okie's long-documented mental health problems.

Re-dubbing, Scrubbing

Mike and I have been told that the name of this blog is, well, less than worthy. We take it as a compliment that our snarky little allusion to the ancient weekly newspaper we abandoned, The Lincoln County Snooze News is beneath the pieces we've been posting, and have been tossing around some ideas for another banner. This week even the allusion seems ridiculous when their biggest story--according to their online front page all weekend--the disappearance of a Wiscasset woman Thursday, Nov. 6, was solved on Saturday the 8th. She showed up unharmed at a relative's home early that morning. The LCN posted this "breaking" story two days later on the 10th.

The most misleading part is the LCN scrubbed their wrong-for-three-days story by editing it instead of adding the new news. This violates web protocol, long established by the universities who developed the Internet. Scrubbing the news is at worst Orwellian, at best unprofessional. It uses the web's power for damage control instead of for archiving and organizing.

As for archiving, the web geniuses at the LCN have evaporated nearly five years of reporters' work previously available on the old site's archive search, effectively flouting the opportunity for research and responsible citizenship. This confirms the paper's total misunderstanding of the web.

In an effort to dispense with this allusion to the local paper, which seemed a good joke at one time, we would like a new name. Some have said we could use our video production name, Lacunae. Mike and I like the idea of including an old fashioned newspaper moniker like the Citizen or Herald with an updated modifier.

We'll keep you posted on any keepers. Ideas? Click comments below.

[Updated to edit for snark control at 0925; and again for clarity at 1030.]

Monday, November 10, 2008

In Case Rahm Emanuel is New to You

Here's a taste of President-elect Obama's attitude toward his new chief of staff. Keep in mind this is a roast.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Local Woman Not Murdered by Boyfriend

A Wiscasset woman, Jessica Norris, 38, who had been missing since Thursday afternoon, showed up this morning. She told police she had left in the manner she did because she was trying to end her relationship with her fiance, Russell Anderson.

Initial reports, including a tale of her fiance driving to New Hampshire and returning to his West Alna Road home with a rented car, pointed in a much more sinister direction.

This shouldn't have to be the way news works. In Maine, however, when women disappear lately it's forever, and way, way too often the culprit is a lover.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Free At Last


Gail is a beautiful, smart, kind widow whose husband, a lovely, peaceful, generous Episcopal clergyman, died way too young. She runs a totally groovy kitchen equipment store on Route One between Nobleboro and Waldoboro, called the Well Tempered Kitchen. [n.b. if you're in the mood for shopping, either visit scenic Waldoboro or pray the online store reopens quickly.]

At the driveway entrance stands a sign usually reserved for sale info and cooking class times.

This morning, the day after we elected Barack Obama to the presidency, as I was driving to Thomaston and my first day of work as an Ed Tech--after six months of seeking a teaching job--I saw this sign and started to cry. I could hear MLK as if he were coming out of my car radio.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Globe Updates Boothbay Wave Story

Gee, it's great when media outlets call around, take pictures, talk to experts and interview witnesses. See for yourself.
Jeesh.
My favorite quotations:
The cause of it is a mystery. But it's not mysterious that it happened.
National Weather Service meteorologist John Jensenius [charter member of the Master of the Bloody Obvious Club]

It felt like somebody took the plug out somewhere. It felt like there must have been water missing in the ocean someplace.
McSeagull's waitress Elena Smith

Friday, October 31, 2008

Boothbay Harbor Tidal Surge Mystifies Meteorologists


View Larger Map

Tuesday the tide went wacky in Boothbay Harbor. I heard about it on our local public radio station that day and took note because I live about 13 miles up the Sheepscot River from where it empties into the harbor. From my house, the river loops around in away that I have to cross it to get pretty much anywhere, whether at scenic Sheepscot Village, North Whitefield or Wiscasset. The reporter Tuesday attributed the changes to a storm offshore. I thought, the few times I went across the bridge that day, the river seemed awfully high for a long time, and have seen the river looking high for a moon in mid-cycle a couple times since.

What MPBN failed to report was that the tide was high, then low, then high, etc. and continued switching "six or seven times" according to reports given to the Boston Globe. This recent article says meteorologists have no clear explanation for this kooky tidal activity.

What's equally kooky to me is that none of the local papers seems to have heard about this story. I mean, do they not listen to public radio or take a Globe newsfeed at their desks? Or perhaps even take the occasional walk, in the case of the Boothbay Register, down to the harbor? [Edit: I was wrong. The Lincoln County News paper edition does have a seven inch story on page 11. For some reason the powers that be at the LCN think it prudent to run different editions on paper and in cyberspace. I think it's confusing.]

This is when I wish my readers were mad on commenting. So I'll simply beg. Please, if anyone knows anyone who lives in Boothbay (otherwise known 'round here as "the harbor") and can offer any insight into this phenomenon, not necessarily the cause, rather how it was manifest, I would be grateful if you would forward this story to him or her in hopes of a comment or two.

Commenters who denigrate some harbor denizens' relative blood alcohol level and consequent unreliability in the realm of strange phenomenon can expect flogging.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Support Your Local Post Office


And now a word about the federal government:

My Alna P.O. is teeny, with less floor space in the lobby than my horse’s stall. Mike’s Walpole P.O. is about the same size. Granted, I rarely mail anything anymore and may have an OCD issue with opening mail—I don’t, if I can possibly avoid it. That doesn’t mean I don’t cherish the personal and tactile experience of receiving and sending cards and letters. Eli’s boxes of goodies from his Florida grandfather create a excitement like little else around here. [n.b.--the image is Alna's Meeting House. About four Alna Post Offices would fit inside it. Incidentally, I am recently of the opinion that Alna was named for a Norwegian town on the outskirts of Oslo.]

Mike has more to say about the USPS.

The handwritten scrawl of a person you know, love, or perhaps despise lies before you, like an uninvited guest or a birthday present. Your name on the oblong square of an envelope, you rip open the glued flap, stopping on your way to glance at W. E. B. DuBois, Ida Tarbell, Superman or other icon of civilized life framed neatly in the world of a stamp. Inside, in uneven curls and crosses, words flow across the page you are about to unfold. With the ongoing surge in electronic communication, the United States Postal Service could become a relic sooner than we think.

This week the Washington Post reported that the USPS could be in its death throes.

The warning comes from William Burrus, president of the American Postal Workers Union, addressed to Postmaster General John Potter. Given a projected 9 billion drop in pieces of mail delivered in fiscal year 2008, Burrus said unless something dramatic happens, the postal service faces its “demise” on Potter’s watch.

Among the factors accounting for the drop in traffic – ten times the 902 million drop in pieces of mail handled during the previous fiscal year – are a surge in the use of email replacing letters, and a drop in real estate and financial market advertising.

Handwritten words, like body language, communicate something about the sender. I remember the hastily penciled letters a friend showed me, written by his father from behind French hedgerows in World War Two. I see also in mind’s eye my grandmother’s shaky handwritten notes before she was diagnosed with dementia, the drunken loops of a father reporting golf statistics on the occasion of having golfed more than 188 times during the year, and the all seeing eyes and smiley faces my mother sometimes draws at the bottom of her letters, usually before some personal hurricane rips across the landscape of her life.

Instant messages, on the other hand, sentences marshaled in straight lines, text charged with cyber slang, lack the tangibles of a handwritten letter. And by it, something familiar slips out of this world.

According to Wikipedia, the USPS is the third largest employer after the Department of Defense and Wal-Mart. While cruise missiles and cheap Chinese shirts might serve a purpose, however dubious, I submit that handwritten letters would better guarantee the peace and the economy.

Founded in 1775 by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia following the Second Continental Congress, the post office has been a staple of American life, as empowered by Article One of the Constitution. These days, with unwarranted wiretaps, unlawful searches and seizures and the establishment of a private militia on American soil (Blackwater), the constitution appears to be no guarantee.

Take a few minutes to set pen to paper this week. For 42 cents a handwritten letter would not only to encourage a friend, it might also preserve a venerable institution.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Yo Thomaston P.D.! You've Got Crime



Dear Thomaston Police Department:

When are you planning to stop the crime against our free speech occurring on the median strip at the intersection of Routes 1 and 131?

According to a sign there now, five Obama-Biden signs have been stolen from this public space. As a member of the public I ask you to put up a camera in the vicinity and keep the peace on this little political island.

I am certain you are busy with other mischief. Stealing political signs is not mischief; it is criminal. The thief (thieves?) of free speech has five times operated with impunity in your town. Are you not embarrassed?

With Election Day just over a week away emotions have grown strong. The fearmongering and inciting perpetrated by the McCain-Palin camp have pushed otherwise good people to conduct themselves shamefully.

You have the power to limit this behavior. Please do so. Want to borrow my video camera?

Yours truly,

Leola Roberts
Alna
(with family in Tenants Harbor)

Friday, October 24, 2008

An Open Letter to AM Radio Programmers

Dear Mr. Jeff Wade:

As program manager you must have some say over who you hand your airwaves to every day. As a devoted radio fan who grew up with Wolfman Jack and KRLA and, because my dad was stationed in the U.K. briefly, matured to the BBC, I have despaired of American radio for the last 20 years, ever since Limbaugh first went national. Talk radio had real potential before hate mongers and propagandists like Limbaugh were given free rein. Now it is nothing more than a draining sewer.

Is this national election and the economic disaster not enough for you to see that Limbaugh and his ilk are King Wrong in the Land of the Wrong People? It has been a national travesty that your station and others like it have not had the anatomy to stand up to the lying liars who lie at the helm of this ideological nightmare that has become public media policy in this country.

Time is now officially up. With the Dow in free fall, Milton Friedmanesque economists heading for the hills in disrepute, Republicans afraid to admit they ever voted for any Bush ever, and the best investment in the Maine economy likely to be canning jars, you, yes you, Mr. Wade, must make a decision. Do you want your radio station to circle the drain with the rest of the sewer dwellers? Do you want to continue to supply disinformation to your unsuspecting, deluded and duped listeners? Stop it. If you say you have no control over the programming and are of the Nuremberg breed, quit and join the thousands of those unemployed because of the venal tax polices supported by Limbaugh and his followers.

We are going to need real information in these next months and years, facts, economic education, advice and above all compassion. Not propaganda from greedy, self-interested bloviators.

With hope for the future of radio,

Lee Roberts
Mike Colbert

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Vote Barack a la Venga Productions

The pair who brought us the living room tune about Sarah Palin has a high energy and amusing vid encouraging us to Vote Barack. Hat tip to local Democratic state senate candidate Peter Drum.



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Horse Barn of a Different Color

So, I am painting my horse barn purple. Well, actually, according to the California Historic Paints Collection chip chart, it’s Muted Mulberry.
There are no other purple barns on my road. Red or white barns figure highly in the decorating schemes of most of the farmers on the Alna Road, otherwise known as Route 218, that slices north from Wiscasset, the “Prettiest Village in Maine,” along the Sheepscot River to its source in Palermo. Maybe I’ve never seen a purple barn until now. [I'll upload a photo once I get a couple sides finished.]

When my bemused, far-more-artistic-than-I, somewhat conservative sweetheart asked me what the color connoted to me, I answered, “Fall, shadow, history, depth, desert flowers…” and something else I cannot now remember. When he arrived, on his way to his bagpipe class—yes, one can learn bagpiping in Newcastle, Maine—for inspection, I’d already painted most of one side. He tilted his ball cap at a decided angle trying to see what I see, to no apparent avail.

After six hours of painting, the pigment had lost its blue and red hue to me, and took on a rich, deep grey and charcoal look. To Mike, it looked like some hippies’ décor choice for their basement apartment in the mid-1970s, replete with blacklights and Peter Max posters.

This new barn, put up in the fall of 2007, had no paint on it until the painting and snowboarding savant Cody Drever climbed his extension ladder this summer and painted the peaks a flaming orange stain. I’d asked him to get the peaks since I had no ladder that would reach, and I left the color to him since I was too distracted at the time to care. By what, I cannot now recall, but when I saw the orange stain, I blanched.

Cody is one of the kindest, most generous young men I have ever met. A gifted, even a little famous, snowboarder, he comes to Saddleback with me and my son, now seven, and snowboards with him virtually all day. Cody won’t take more than a lift ticket and maybe lunch in payment. The thought of rejecting our friend’s stain choice made me blanch again.

I tried to reach him and tell him that the color made me a little crazy and that I didn’t know what to do next, but only managed to get his voicemail. We’ve not spoken since and I pray that he is generous enough to forgive my caprice.

So, with both peaks stained orange and the rest of the barn awaiting color, I went yesterday to the paint store. The mom of one of my high school students helped me consider colors. She had also put up some wallpaper for me years ago and knew my neighborhood. She told me about the colors she, another horse woman, was using and they sounded familiar and interesting.

Long story short, I liked Standish Blue until it started to look like too grey like dull maritime deck paint.I liked the buttery yellows and the adobe pinks.And I loved the purples. All of them. As I watched Mike try to untilt his ball cap, I said, offering what comfort I could muster, “Hey, I could have gone with Concord Grape or Beauport Aubergine."

The barn’s metal roof is a muted green that I also love. It reminds of the sagebrush and other dusty desert plants I grew up with in California.

Despite a degree in dance, I lack confidence in the visual and painterly arts. Give me a studio and some bodies and I can weave some understanding. A canvas or the side of a barn? Not so much. I understand almost any other kind of metaphor better than color, and have always sought copious counsel or left it to another to choose, so this decision is a radical leap.

Maybe this leap is a sign that I am coming to terms with my rapidly receding extremely advanced youth and putting weight on the foot destined to hold me up through the middle years. What more can I hope for than, rich color, depth, desert flowers and an understanding of my shadow?

I can’t wait to see what it looks like in the snow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And Now a Word or Two From Billie Holiday





Remember to love.

If this were a truly groovy blog, our myriad readers could talk amongst themselves and treat this as an Open Thread. Ah well, Billie Holiday's more than enough.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What Would Frances Perkins Do? Who?


Working Americans in recent weeks awakened to the reality of a devastated American economy suffering damage wrought by decades of policies aimed at enriching the rich. Today, Paul Krugman, the most widely read American economist, and an unabashed supporter of a “new New Deal,” was made a Nobel Laureate for Economics. Franklin Roosevelt’s reinvention under similar circumstances of this country’s economy and society suddenly looms large.

While we remember those who have gone before us with similar economic and political woes, how many remember accurately who actually devised the New Deal? Here’s a hint: it was not FDR. Rather, it was his Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, an introverted, religious, de facto single mother, and scholar who became, according to Kirstin Downey, Perkins’ biographer, FDR’s “moral conscience.” This Sunday in Newcastle, Maine, near the Perkins’ family homestead, a steering committee met to begin the process of turning her family home and grounds into a think tank policy center with an eye toward continuing her legacy and attending to her unfinished agenda. This followed Saturday’s slide show with a cappella accompaniment by Annie Valliere of Woolwich, and a talk by Downey about her soon-to-be-published book and Perkins’ legacy. [n.b. One of the most emotional moments of what may come to be known locally as the Frances Perkins Weekend was when Saturday’s crowd of some 160 mostly grey-headed attendees joined Valliere in “Solidarity Forever” and “The Union Maid.” Strong voices pealed out, “Oh you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union, I’m sticking to the union…”]

Perkins, born in 1880, was the visionary who created Social Security, unemployment insurance and a wide variety of worker protection laws a reality. Given Wall Street’s current economic meltdown, 47 million Americans without health care coverage and decades of trickle-up tax policies, the challenge to continue Frances Perkins’ work could not be more timely. Universal health care coverage was one of the few visions Perkins failed to reify during her years in office. Health care for all could catalyze scholars and policy makers to carry on her vision. [Obama policy wonks, are you out there?]

In 1932, Frances Perkins might have preferred to be at home monogramming towels. This chemistry ad physics scholar had found herself the family breadwinner due to her husband’s mental illness. Galvanized to workers’ causes and social justice when she witnessed the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City where 146 young women died, Perkins eventually became the Commissioner of Labor under then New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Shortly after his election to the presidency, he asked her to head the nation’s Labor Department. This intensely private woman agreed, then went home and sobbed so loudly her teenaged daughter Susannah grew alarmed. Perkins knew that her life would no longer be her own, especially as she was about to be named America’s first female cabinet member.

Her name is not one that readily rolls off the lips of school children reciting names of public figures who shaped the destiny of our nation. Robert Reich, labor secretary under President Clinton, found her portrait in the back of a housekeeping closet. He restored it to a place of honor, on the wall behind his desk. According to Downey, Reich wrote that when he had difficult decisions to make, he closed the door of his office and referred to “Saint” Frances.

In addition to major social changes that became part of the New Deal under President Roosevelt, Perkins’ work is visible in hundreds of everyday ways. The fact that trash is routinely removed from work premises is a result of Perkins insistence on fire safety measures protecting workers. In 1933, her first act as Labor Secretary was to desegregate the cafeteria where she and other cabinet members took their lunch.

Her influence extended well beyond Washington. According to Downey, Perkins’ modus operandi was always to work on three levels at once – state, federal and international. Her theory apparently that when one thread in the braid frayed, the other two would hold the weight. Her international influence started early. In 1933, moments after FDR’s inauguration, in a time of 30 percent unemployment intense anti-immigration phobia bordering on xenophobia, she was able to massage immigration laws enough to save academics, artists, Jews and others at risk from Nazi Germany’s persecution and allow them into the U.S.

Besides seeing necessary change and visionary potential politically, her gift operated on a personal level as well. Among her finds was a red haired gawky writer whom she encouraged to press forward. That man, Upton Sinclair, went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. An advocate for social justice in his own right, Sinclair wrote The Jungle and published over 90 books during his lifetime,

Frances Perkins’ family homesteaded in the 1740s on the west side of the Damariscotta River in Newcastle Maine, where her grandson Tomlin Coggeshall lives still. Coggeshall has recently chosen to devote the rest of his life and the considerable acreage and buildings on the homestead to his grandmother’s memory and legacy. He hopes the Frances Perkins Center, to be located in the Perkins family home, will eventually serve to honor her work and help policy makers and scholars move the nation forward along the visionary lines drawn by his grandmother. [n.b. The center is in the first phase of fund raising, with Maine Initiatives acting as interim not-for-profit umbrella. I encourage those interested in Perkins' legacy to click on the center's "Donate" link and forward a check.]
video
Kirstin Downey, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on the Virginia Tech shooting, reported for the Washington Post for 20 years. She recently left her job there to finish and promote her biography of Perkins. The Woman Behind the New Deal comes out in March 2009 and is available for pre-order now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

DRA Harvests Historic Habits

video
Given the economy’s downward spiral as financial markets screeched to another halt at the sound of the bell last night, we all might take a lesson from Bill Grogan. Thanks to the Damariscotta River Association and Grogan’s handcrafted scythe, centuries past live in Midcoast Maine. In Alna at the corner of Rte. 218 and Cross Road Tuesday Grogan, who lives in Pemaquid and works at the Carpenters Boat Shop, cut the specially planted canary grass with a steady sweep, an arced blade taking the legs out from under the grass with a ringing ticking sound familiar to our forefathers and utterly foreign to our modern ears. [In the video the ring is all but drowned out by one of the ubiquitous gravel trucks roaring south from the Crooker gravel pit.]

A gray haired man in a beard and ponytail from another era, Grogan moves deliberately through the waist high green. Shorter than last year’s grass for reasons he couldn't explain, it is still long enough for school children to use it to thatch the roofs of the Damariscotta River Association's Native American village exhibit along the Damariscotta River in Damariscotta.


Grogan built the scythe he wields. The snath, the long straight wooden shaft is made of alder, while the smooth worn handles are made from apple. The blade, called an Austrian blade, differs from the typical European blade because it is pounded and forged by a blacksmith, then sharpened with a whetstone. Other blades are stamped by machinery and sharpened with a file. "American" scythe snaths curve around the body.

“[Scything]’s incredible exercise,” says Grogan taking a break to chat with passersby. He describes the organic rhythm of scything, noting that as the swath is cut and the blade dulls, the scyther fatigues and perhaps gets thirsty. “So I stop and get a drink and sharpen the blade,” he says.

Apparently the trick is to only take a little at a time, though it seemed only a matter of moments before Grogan and his blade had cut several square yards of reed.
The scythe subculture in Maine centers in Perry and can be found, anachronistically enough, at Scythesupply.com. Grogan rattled off several people he knows who scythe and said he himself has given workshops in the skill.

Canary grass, actually a reed, is far from the only medium used as thatch. Grogan said Norfolk reed is more usually grown for this purpose in this country.

Keeping alive the skills of our forefathers could represent more than a quaint touch in the current economic meltdown. As people along the Maine coast ready in time-honored ways for this historically uncertain winter, cutting wood and canning garden produce, it’s hard not to want to revive some other tenets of our forefathers upon which the country was founded.

Ben Thompson of Damar-iscotta and Bill Bellows of Newcastle pause for a photo after loading the canary grass thatch into a trailer. They then carted it to a site alongside the Damariscotta, where local school children will roof the Native American Village with it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Maine's Electoral Votes May Be Split; Note to 2nd Dist. Dems: Volunteer


Thanks to a Lewiston Sun Journal article today, I am reminded that though Maine may well go Blue in the presidential race, only Maine and Nebraska are allowed to split their electoral votes according to district. Two of our four will go to the winner and there's never been any real doubt that, barring epic disaster, Obama will take those two. The other two are can be awarded according to the votes in each of our two congressional districts.

The Sun Journal's Rebekah Metzler writes that as of Thursday [the day McCain decided to bail in Michigan] resources are available to solidify McCain voters in places like our Second District. So, I am appealing to my Second District friends, please give some time, take a pizza, make some phone calls or knock on some neighbors' doors for the local Dem office and/or the Obama office.

n.b.: I was contacted tonight at 8:15 by the Obama campaign in Farmington, a Western Maine town a solid 65 miles away from my little coastal plain hamlet. Some young whippersnapper called and asked me to volunteer. I told him I was already giving two to six hours per week at the Lincoln County office. Nonplussed, he suggested I call the Waterville, yes Virginia Waterville, office to get my marching orders. When I suggested that Brunswick was much closer, he didn't have the phone number. Hmmmmm.

Also when I told him he had awakened my son, young Obama operative "Ian" never so much as said, "I'm sorry." When I politely suggested that 8:15 in the evening was too late to be calling people in rural Maine, again I got crickets.

So when I suggest, my Northern Tier friends, that you volunteer for Obama, I mean it. They need some people with a few Maine-centric people skills in those offices as soon as possible.

Thanks in advance. Let's keep that fourth electoral vote for Barack Obama.

Contact your town or county committee and someone should be able to direct you to some work that needs doing. Penobscot County Dems; Maine County Committees;

News You Can Use; Gratuitous Palin Vid

First, some local information for those in the Midcoast that will put some jingle in your jeans. The Citgo station on Route 1 in Warren was selling regular gasoline yesterday for $3.39. Anyone seen it cheaper? I'm wearing a Jetta-sized groove in Route 1 from Rockland to Wiscasset and haven't seen a better price. Anyone? Anyone?

Next. If you think the winking nincompoop version of Sarah Palin is irritating, try the defensive, excuse-ridden, sanctimonious Sarah Palin:



I hope someone asks her where the Economist is published sometime.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Five Minute Posting

Don't know about you, but I've been immersed in the vagaries of our economy's meltdown. It's hard to follow all the unraveling threads.
From Bernanke's panicky proclamations to Paulson's shaking left hand to the NPR reporter's description of the three-page proposal for redemption as "the financial Patriot Act," not a damn one of them is making me think anyone knows what to do.
The most cogent thing I've heard yet was my former English teacher Jon Robbins comment about where all the money in the investment banks' lousy, corrupt and insolvent hidey holes originated. He reminded me that it was George Bush's tax cuts for the uber wealthy that sent them hunting for interests bearing mattresses where they could stuff their windfalls. I have to keep reminding myself and anyone who will listen that under Dwight Eisenhower the top tax bracket was 91 percent. Were that true today, I guarantee we would not be in this particular fix.
On another front, with only the most oblique transition since this is a speedy post, check out the Midcoast Green Collaborative. Here are some local people doing yeoman's labor on the green energy front.
Hope you're all well stocked in canning jars, flour, sugar, coffee, cordwood and seed. It could be a long road to spring.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Gauntlet: Can Anyone Argue Fallows' Point?

I've loved reading the Atlantic Monthly for nearly 30 years, largely because of James Fallows. He writes succinctly and with facility as an American with an international point of view. In his most recent column he uses Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin's response to a question about the Bush Doctrine as further proof of her utter unsuitability for the job McCain has assigned her. He also speaks pointedly to the judgment of anyone who would put her in such a position.
Fallows' overarching point is that Palin simply hasn't been interested in foreign policy:
What Sarah Palin revealed is that she has not been interested enough in world affairs to become minimally conversant with the issues. Many people in our great land might have difficulty defining the "Bush Doctrine" exactly. But not to recognize the name, as obviously was the case for Palin, indicates not a failure of last-minute cramming but a lack of attention to any foreign-policy discussion whatsoever in the last seven years.



The most compelling thing here is that Fallows isn't attacking her intelligence, competence, patriotism or enthusiasm for the job. He's stating the obvious. Anyone who has paid any attention to foreign affairs for the last seven years would have been able to identify, if not aptly define, the Bush Doctrine. Palin's blank look and defensiveness, particularly her apparent wish to make Gibson into the bad guy, tell everything necessary.

And the rush of words, oy, she's like one of my high school juniors (not the AP group) answering an essay question on a story she never even heard of let alone read.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Maine's WCSH 207 Host Rob Caldwell Interviews McCain

Caldwell is polite and works hard to keep McCain on task, without a whole lot of luck.
Notice how McCain doesn't know how many days have passed since he announced his VP pick. [Video replaced with link because WCSH's code automatically started the vid playing as soon as the front page opened. Annoying.]

Quick Props to Glenn Greenwald

If you think Afghanistan remains a problem and/or, like me and my sister, have a friend serving there, today's Glenn Greenwald column is a must read. He explicates recent reporting about the attacks on Afghan civilians, nailing down the Ollie North-Fox News responsibility for the ruse.
Putting. Greenwald. On. My. Blogroll. Now.

Voting: Our Sacred Right

Craig Ferguson, a righteous Scotsman who just became an American citizen, calls out the non-voters in this country. (I've loved this guy's work for years.) Crossposted with bonus rant at Lacunae Productions.

Susan Collins, Ugh 2.0

Only seem to have time for video posting lately. Luckily there are some good ones around. It's an uphill battle to get Tom Allen into the Senate. Dems are voting for Collins in droves according to my unscientific poll as a phonebanker. Last night I noticed a slight shift toward Allen, though. Maybe this ad will help.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Dollars, Maybe a Vote or Two

From the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center.

Half the country thinks Obama's tax plan will raise their taxes. They're wrong. Please tell them.

Do you know any millionaires who need tax cuts? The handful I know well are old enough to remember the 90-something rates of Dwight Eisenhower. Also, McCain's plan loses revenue for the U.S. Shrinking government to aid billionaires. Great. Just great.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Samantha Bee Loves Palin's Gynecology


The Daily Show simply can't be beat. BTW, if this fails to buffer properly, go to Sam Bee's cast page and click on the video. For whatever reason the Comedy Central site runs the clips without a hitch.

McCain: Perspective, Pathos


During my phone canvassing shift last night I had a conversation with the Bolducs of Edgecomb, a self-described "military family" voting for McCain in November. I wish they could see this video.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The One School in McCain's Speech


Yes, yes, I know I promised local news. How did I know Palinmania would strike and that McCain's campaign would be exposed as so doltish?
The latest example of incompetence came in the first minutes of his acceptance speech last night. In the first minutes the Big Brother screen behind him showed a picture of a mansionesque building that some apparently mistook for one of his homes.
Turns out it is Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, California. Apparently, McCain's people meant to show Walter Reed Hospital and failed to gather the right image from cyberspace.
Talking Points Memo exposed this gaffe this morning and it's been picked up by ABC at minimum.
Turns out this is the only time a school of any kind showed up in his long and mostly soporific speech.

The Cayman Islands of Lobbying

With both conventions behind us, the opportunity for the secret, i.e. out of journalists' view, lavish massaging of politicians has come to an end. Watch Matt Taibbi call out the corporate arm twisters and the sham of the "free speech zones" at both conventions on Bill Maher's HBO's Real Time on 29.Aug.08.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Your Weekly John McCain Video

Yes, it's edited; yes, the voice over is over the top; yes, it demonstrates that McCain's characteristic objectification of women could sink him.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Why I Read DailyKos

Lithium Cola has written the best analysis of the Palin pick I've seen or heard--and I've been obsessed with her since early Friday morning. In it, LC compellingly describes this presidential election's unfortunate similarity to the last two, as well as one remarkable difference, Barack Obama.
Here's just one of the starkly resonant paragraphs.
Pluralists do not want to address metaphysical questions on the public-political stage. This is not because they think they cannot win but because they think they should not win. Religio-philosophical victory in a political -- as opposed to dinner-table -- setting has, pluralists think, no upside. We get along as a people in the first place because we first agreed that religio-philosophical issues are not something we need to agree upon. We don't debate those matters at the ballot box. Rather, we need only agree on the best ways to further our society to the benefit of all, so that we may in our own ways address questions of purpose and meaning at home.

As of 0717 Sunday there are over 450 comments. Many of them are worth reading. I'm off to Corrie's triathlon in Rockport. More on that later.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Maine RedState

Just re-acquainted myself with As Maine Goes. Though I said I was deep in recreation mode, as I looked for facts on the opposition to Dirigo this morning, I fell into this forum run by Scott K. Fish. Our local Representative Jon McKane (R-Damariscotta) comments there frequently and is not all that popular there, at least not with some who objected to McKane's response to a conservative state radio program being downsized.
I'd been there before following McKane's and others' comments.
Like RedState and other conservative cyber spots the membership is either limited or monitored like a hawk. However, Gerald at Turn Maine Blue says he posts on AMG with impunity, so far. I think he must have a cloaking mechanism.
All I can say is when they circle the wagons and shoot inward, they're better shots than us liberals. Jeez, they're downright mean.
[Update: 2030 24.Aug -- This just in: Thanks to AMG, Snoozette's visitor index has jumped the shark. I am honored by the attention.
Since I have not recently presented my case to the Caesar of the AMG forum, Scott K. Fish, I cannot express my gratitude to AMGers directly.
The process of making a comment would require me seeking Fish's approval. Sadly, I can't remember if I once had his blessing and didn't use it enough or if he turned me down. Nevertheless, this is hardly the open style of civic debate one might expect in the internet age. My blog is open for any to comment, yet over 70 AMGers have visited with not a peep. Of course there are two pages of comments from those protected behind the walls erected by Mr. Fish.
Were I able to get a word in edgewise amongst all the backslapping and congratulations, I might join in. Gerald is indeed reasonable and it's reasonable that he would be allowed to comment on AMG. My point in this original post, apparently unclear to most who have commented over on Fish's forum, was that participants who seem mostly to agree with each other are needlessly nasty to each other as a matter of course. Far be it for me to defend Jon McKane, but this message from MGReilly
"And still crickets from Mr. McKane.....thinking up some new taxes to vote for....you horses [sic] behind....." criticizes McKane for silence.
If some, as on the AMG thread dedicated to my post, would like to debate the relative toughness of liberals vs. conservatives, o.k., but that really wasn't my initial issue.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Recreation Central; the Real McCain

These are the last days of Eli's summer with me before we re-enter the school treadmill--insert long story of domestic violence, Maine family court, incompetent guardians ad litem, etc.--so am in major recreation mode. We're headed to Alna Dem's house for kayaking and swimming today and to the beach with Andrea and her children. (Yes, all my friends are bloggers.)
I plan, when I get back to the business of blogging, to write about Damariscotta's Miles Memorial Hospital bucking the trend shown in a new national study that says only 36 percent of women who start breastfeeding their babies are still doing so six months later. The numbers for exclusive b'feeding are even worse.
Mike and I are looking at CSA vs. grocery store numbers for a story on the local effects of high food prices. We also would like to show exactly how the attempt at a "People's Veto" of the latest effort to fund Dirigo Health Care is actually a corporate veto. Wouldn't it be rich if Anthem were funding it?
'Til we get rolling again, watch this latest filmmaker Robert Greenwald--of Outfoxed fame--video. It's especially poignant in light of McCain's statement this week that he didn't know exactly how many homes he owned. Yo John! You own 10 homes. That's 10 more than the tens of thousands of people losing their homes because of immoral, unethical banking practices brought to you by Republican-blessed, corporate lobbyist-driven deregulation.
Eli and I are Oscar Mike.
[Post swim and kayak update: McCainś people say he can´t remember how many houses he has because he was a prisoner of war.]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dirigo Threatened by So-Called People's Veto

At the Lincoln County Dems' Lobster Feast Sunday afternoon, I asked House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree what had happened to her bill that deftly solves many of the financing problems for Dirigo, Maine's beleaguered attempt to bring health care to all that state's citizens.
Dirigo is meant to help fill the abyss between MaineCare's straight-up poor and those who have private insurance. In 2005, according to the Urban Institute's study linked below, there were more than 124,000 uninsured in this state. Does anyone think that number has dropped? According to the 2,000 census posted at Maine.gov there were 1,274,923 people in the state. (These numbers seem screwy to me. Way more than 10 percent of the people I know have no health care coverage.)
Pingree explained that the legislature had passed her bill in April, but that a People's Veto of the bill would be on the November ballot.
People's Veto, my wooden clog-encased foot. It will not be the people paying for the zillion dollar campaign sure to confuse and misrepresent the issues. Those hefty advertising bills will be covered by insurance companies, small business organizations and their lobbies, though I suppose the people will eventually pay and pay dearly.
The leader's bill asks for taxes on soda, beer, wine and privately paid health insurance (including employer paid insurance) to fill the gaps between the whining Anthem's foot-dragging support for the program and the discounted premiums Dirigo offers. Though any increase in the cost of private insurance is a problem pill, and taxes on soda, beer and wine are hardly progressive, the options for this program are limited. The logic, if I understand correctly, is that the pool is so small right now that costs are prohibitive, and if the pool could really embrace ALL those who need it--count me as one of these--the program would be much closer to self supporting.
The Sun-Journal has a wishy washy editorial about the referendum written before the signatures for inclusion on the ballot had been finalized yesterday.
The complexity of Maine's health insurance picture is laid out in a recent study by the Urban Institute. There's no doubt that available funds are not being accessed by those who need them.
Beyond the magnitude of the estimates, perhaps the major point to take away from this report is that the presence of large numbers of uninsured people and their inevitable need to receive health care has resulted in a complex mosaic of government programs and private initiatives to defray the costs of that care. In the absence of large public hospitals or subsidies to offset the costs of care to uninsured Mainers (such as those often provided as Medicaid DSH payments), understanding how providers in Maine serve uninsured patients will require further study.
Committing to a single gap-filling program--still making three programs, MaineCare, Dirigo and private insurance--would go far to simplifying this picture.
We can bet that the insurance companies, the Chamber of Commerce, restaurant lobbies and all manner of business organizations will support this so-called People's Veto--an ironic euphemism disguising a corporate veto of the peoples' best interests.
In the far corner, the Maine People's Alliance is gearing up to push for universal health care when they might be bailing Dirigo's boat to keep it afloat. In the other corner, the corporate wave. As this tsunami washes over the state of Maine, I wonder if the people will pull together to beat the tide?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Net Neutrality Equals (Net) Freedom

Here's a column I wish I'd written about the future of the Internets. Though he doesn't quite say it, columnist Michael Janover alludes to the importance of free access to the "tubes" as integral to our democracy. I would add that this becomes more and more critical as newspapers fold around us.
My favorite line concerns television's eight gazillion channels controlled by a handful of corporations:
Too much creative control is in the hands of too few people who aren't creative.
(HBO and other paid cable channels are the obvious exceptions.)
When you hear wonkie types blithering on about Net Neutrality, try not to tune them out, unless of course we want the telecoms in charge of where and when we travel these cyber roads.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Susan Collins, Ugh

If you've had your breakfast, go to TPM and click on the Susan Collins video. She runs the gamut from the Edwards scandal to hypocrisy about oil company profits. Yecchh!
The radio hosts are godawful, too.

Boothbay Attorney Resigns Under Cloud

Franklin A. Poe, not a lawyer I know, allegedly stole $70,000 from a trust he managed. In a quick Google, the first reference that pops up is a Findlaw entry that notes his specialty as an estate lawyer. He also represented the famous Brud of Brud's Hot Dogs when Boothbay Harbor neighbors wanted to shut him down.
From the Press Herald via Downeast Law:
Poe was an attorney for Josephine Davis Day, who owned the Trailing Yew boarding home on Monhegan Island from the 1920s until her death in 1996, at age 99.

Poe prepared Day’s will and a trust that provided for the continuing operation of the Trailing Yew Inn. As the sole trustee, Poe was supposed to pay for the inn’s expenses, then divvy up profits to several beneficiaries. Instead, Poe was allegedly siphoning off profits for himself, and he stopped sending out payments entirely in 2003, according to court documents.

The state ethics board is recommending Poe be disbarred.
Anyone know this guy? Or does anyone know the Trailing Yew? [Insert small bitter complaint from long story for another time: though I was married to a lobsterman with a gigantic boat, I have never been to Monhegan.]

Two Pieces of Good News

Number One: Despite claims to the contrary, Mainers are not the most taxed humans on earth. A newly released study by The Tax Foundation says we are a long way from holding that place and we never have. In fact we've been as low as 35th and has high as 6th, and currently hold 15th place some 3/10s of a percent from dead average.
How the drama queens in the Republican Party and the Chamber of Commerce have managed to make this lie into their mantra is a sad mystery to me. Did no one actually check their numbers? The pity party is over though. Spread the word friends. Turn Maine Blue is. Maine's plain ol' in the middle as far as taxes go. Maybe instead of whining about taxes we ought to demand that we get something in return for them other than the privilege of living in the least evolved industrialized nation.
This brings me to the second bit of good news. Nearly all the 357 inhabitants of two islands in Penobscot Bay, Vinalhaven and North Haven, voted almost unanimously late last month to go completely to wind power. They own their power company in a quasi-public deal and they get to make decisions like that. Amazing, huh?
Of course it helps that they live in one of the windiest spots in America. This kind of good sense is astonishing these days, however.
Apparently the biggest snag is obtaining the turbines. There's some ungodly wait time for the equipment needed to make the change. Paging University of Maine and Southern Maine Vocational--think you could train some wind engineer and installer types in a big hurry, please?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Milestones

Though this may seem like small beans to many of you blogomaniacs, I had to note our 100th visitor this morning. As I write this, we're up to 102. Since as yet only the faithful and funny Alna Dem has seen fit to comment, and I'm not the NSA so I can't track down ISP numbers, I don't know who all is reading. Regardless, I'm grateful. Thanks for stopping in. I hope this place provides something useful and/or interesting.

I use the plural form milestones because today Mike created a blog for our documentary company, Lacunae Productions. There we'll be articulating some of our projects in preparation for fund raising and would be grateful for input. Please visit if you're interested in civics, justice and art of any ilk.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Surprise, Surprise--Anthem's Been Crying Wolf


Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has balked at every step of Maine's attempt to provide health care for those who fall between the cracks of MaineCare and the purchase of some of the most expensive health insurance in America. Turns out Anthem executives have not wanted to jeopardize their 89 percent increase in profits since 2004.

The insurance company and the Chamber of Commerce have been able to convince Republicans and many Democrats that it's not possible to provide health care to the whole state. The legislature has cooperated by designating the chief fox as hen house watcher. They appointed Anthem--who would much rather sell its own policies--to market Dirigo. I don't know five people who could tell you anything about Dirigo except that it is a failure. Pretty poor marketing, in my book.

Anecdotally, I tried to get Dirigo in 2006. I'm pretty savvy online and arguably even better on the phone, yet I couldn't even get them to send me a packet in less than seven weeks. By the time I got the packet, I'd gotten a promotion at work and didn't need it. Every other time I've ever purchased insurance it's been practically an instantaneous deal. Thing is, in these other instances the insurers seemed to want my money.

Now I see there is a discount calculator to help figure what premium discount Dirigo can provide. Now that I'm currently self-employed, I pay in the neighborhood of $2400 per annum for the world's crappiest coverage--i.e. none, until I reach a $5,000 deductible. According to the calculator I'd get a nearly $2000 discount.

Think I'll apply and see what happens.