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.

Friday, August 8, 2008

U.S. Leaders Part of An Interesting Family


Cato Institute researcher Will Wilkinson interviews Rolling Stone writer and NYU religion scholar Jeff Sharlet about his new book "The Family."

I won't say much about this longish interview except to say, though it's not exactly local news, this is essential information about a loose knit group of powerful men who appear to exert an important influence on our national leaders.

[Update] Ah, nearly forgot. The heroes of this group include Hitler and Pol Pot. Nuff sed?



Monday, August 4, 2008

It's Not Right


Whether the latest news about Blethen possibly closing the Portland Press Herald, the Waterville Sentinel and the KJ are some kind of threat designed to make Bill Cohen et al cough up a little more cash for the alleged newspaper deal is hard to tell. In any case it would be a hell of a note for nearly half the state to be without a daily newspaper.

Granted the Press Herald, like many papers these days is a newsletter compared to its former robust, if not exactly newsy, self, so losing it is hardly the disaster it once might have been. Nevertheless, the loss of all three would be really jarring, especially for the people who work there, not to mention several I know there and a few I've worked with at other papers.

That a paper like the Washington Times can go on hiring idiot columnists and selling ads at a loss makes the evaporation of these three regionals all the more criminal. I am embarrassed to say I didn't know until about a month ago that Sun Myung Moon ran the WT at a loss. I knew he owned it and I knew people on Fox News and shrieking hate-filled AM talk radio were the only people who ever quoted its writers, but I had no idea it had never, that's right, never, ever turned a profit until I saw Jeff Gorenfeld on C-SPAN. His book Bad Moon Rising, which apparently gives a comprehensive history of Moon and his influence--including jaunts with the Presidents Bush. Gorenfeld's abbreviated tale for the teevee was horrid enough for now. I'd like to read the book after W's out of office.

Well, actually that makes the WT a newsletter. Yes, the PPH has struggled to keep its page numbers up, but that the Washington Times has never come close to paying its own way is a definite sign of flak, PR and spin. Hell, even The Nation is in the black, if only barely. The WT has lost billions, that's billions of dollars since its inception in 1982. If the arbiters of the free market would only come clean about their favorite print megaphone, the laughter would blot out the sun--umm, well you know what I mean.

Anyway, it's simply not fair that three papers serving decent people who need information may go tits up as the WT fishwrap of a rag continues to feed the poison spewing right wing echo chamber on the crazy Moony's tab.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Do It Because Josh Marshall Says To

Today on Talking Points Memo, Marshall posted his daily Must Read, accompanied by the phrase, "Stop what you're doing and read this article." I did. I hope you do too.

And to those who think the blogosphere is too self-referential, tough. TPM is probably one of the five best sources of factual information on the Web.