Friday, December 14, 2012

The Politics of Selfishness

In another crass classic column in the Kennebec Journal by M.D. Harmon titled, “If more murder victims had guns, maybe they wouldn't be killed,” he engages in an outrageous blame the victim screed:

 “…if Kasandra Perkins had a gun, that is what could have helped her be alive today. But she was defenseless against an [sic] violent man's rage, and so she died.”

Pushing Harmon’s wild-west, everybody-packing, shoot-em-up, and dangerous gun fantasy aside for the time being, one must wonder what prompts such a blatant and boorish blame the victim stance. There is a straightforward unstated motivation - responsibility avoidance.

Stating that a woman victim died in a horrible murder because she did not have a gun, Harmon pushes the blame for what occurred onto the victim. He and therefore society is not responsible. Sound laws to reduce gun violence that society could enact are unnecessary because the victim had a less government intrusiveness recourse available and did not take personal responsibility for her own defense. ‘It was her problem, not mine’ is the implication.

The proceeding convoluted inane formula forms the core of much of the mindset currently expressed in the right wing’s “politics of selfishness.”
  • Individuals languish in poverty because they are completely responsible for their own position in life; governments bear no responsibility to provide any services.
  • Elderly individuals had a lifetime to save for retirement; Social Security and Medicare actually encourage an abdication of responsibility.
  • The responsibility for environment degradation lies with individual litterers and consumers not packagers and manufacturers.
  • Clean elections funding violates individual (i.e. corporate too) power regardless of any suggested common level playing field good.
  • The safety of food and medicine is best determined by individual consumers doing their own research not some regulator or government researcher.
  • Banking and finance practices are best left to wonders of the free market where individuals will win or lose according to their own wits.
  • The idea of a good well funded public education available for all should be replaced by individuals buying the educations they can afford.
On and on the “politics of selfishness” goes, destroying what we hold in common care and concern as society. The worshipers of the "politics of selfishness” are a large and wide alliance of so called “liberty” libertarian leaning Republicans, anti-any-tax tea partiers, corporate GOP profits before people operatives, and the audiences and purveyors of the talk radio and faux news entertainment industry. The “politics of selfishness” absolves its adherents of societal commitments made through just taxation, recognizing regulatory realities, and far more philosophically important - citizenship responsibility.

To paraphrase a worn out gun quote: ‘Taxes, protecting people, and shared responsibility doesn’t kill societies; the "politics of selfishness” does.’

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Dinner with Paul

Senate President Justin Alfond can’t seem to get a meeting with Governor Paul LePage despite the current critical budget concerns afflicting the state. So with all good intent, Senator Alfond has extended an invitation to the Governor and his wife to break bread. It’s a start to building a relationship that the people of Maine need to have for the wheels of governance and political cooperation, consensus, and compromise to turn in the direction of solutions and progress.

Now Senator Alfond has basically said that the dinner can be anywhere the Governor chooses to dine. My suggestion is that ought to be at a private residence or even the Blaine House which belongs to the people of Maine. While some might think it would be best to serve a large helping of crow and a fat slice of humble pie to Paul LePage, I’ll risk proposing a menu.

First there ought to be no neckties and formalities along with a comfortable sit down to a long pre-meal get-to-know-you chat with simple hors d'oeuvres and a couple craft beers from Bayside Bowl. Dinner probably ought to be of the meat/seafood and Maine potatoes kind but the talk-no-politics-at-dinner rule should be shucked. After all that is precisely why we need you guys to get together. Dessert hopefully will be a lingering affair with maybe coffee or an after dinner nightcap occurring because it’s hard to end the conversation.

Dinner invitations can always present the tricky little problem of how you return the favor once the meal has been concluded. Do you extend an invite to dine again or what? I’d offer that if Governor LePage followed up by inviting Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Laura Eves to dinner or even a good hearty breakfast that Maine people would breath a sigh of relief and gain some confidence that the wheels of governance have not ground to a halt because of any one person.

Let’s hope the dinner offer is not spurned and pushed aside with other excuses. Without doubt, Governor LePage, the people of Maine do expect you to accept President Alfond’s courteous invitation. There’s really no downside to dinner. It will be private, you can be you, and we all have to nourish ourselves and our important relationships.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Didn't the Maine GOP get the memo?

Two op-ed columns in the Kennebec Journal this week advise the new Democratic landslide legislature to essentially focus on Republican priorities and to approach lawmaking with Republican ingredients. Didn’t they get the memo? It was from Maine voters who overwhelmingly turned over both houses of the legislature delivering strong majorities to Maine Democrats.

The Maine public rejected the wild ride to the right and heartless policies of both the Republican legislature in the last two years and the arrogant service slashing and reset of government priorities from serving people to serving Governor Paul LePage’s corporate friends, moneyed interests, and ego.

Yet now we get advice like this from the “Naive” Conservative George Smith:
“The smart move would be to out-Republican the Republicans and to recognize that Maine people want bipartisanship and collaboration among legislators, and public officials who can lower their tax burden and expand their economy.
“Make those your themes and stick to them in 2013. Put on Republican clothing, no matter how ill-fitting and uncomfortable, and you'll emerge at the end of this session with the support and thanks of all Maine people (well, almost all Maine people).”
Excuse me, we won by a landslide of 89-58-4 in the House and a decisive turnaround of 19-15-1 in the Senate by campaigning on Democratic issues and concerns and should now govern on Republican themes? Most mind-boggling is that Smith believes doing so would lead to the gratitude of Maine voters because we chose to ignore their Election Day message which was specifically and overwhelmingly not the Republican one they rejected.

Then we have the rambling wishful thoughts and chiding of Representative Deborah Sanderson (R-Chelsea) that the legislature should focus on GOP priorities:
“In the upcoming session, the Legislature should pass more bills that offer career-specific training to our students in high-demand fields such as computer science, health care and building trades. “
“Second, I would like to see more government reform to cut costs and improve the efficiency of services to Mainers.”
“Third, we need to work with the governor to reduce our electricity costs, which are the 12th highest in the nation.”
“For the first campaign season in years, Democrats didn’t run on extreme environmentalism, probably because they realized that jobs should come first.”
There is a certain amount that may be accomplished in the areas Sanderson notes but the Democrats were elected by big majorities to do big things. She certainly should champion her issues but drop the expectation that a GOP-lite agenda is just what voters statewide ordered. It wasn’t by a long shot.

Democrats will be extending the hand across the aisle to Republicans but it will be to work on a robust agenda to serve all Maine people. Whether the GOP chooses to be attuned to it or not, a large part of the Republican defeat is due to their own legislative overreach in the last two years and acquiescing to Governor Paul LePage’s plurality tea party and the Maine Heritage Policy Center’s agenda of effectively, ‘people last.’

So if Republicans missed the memo, here it is again:

You are decidedly not in the majority any more, you will be respected, but Democrats have much repair and new work to do on behalf of the voters who overwhelmingly chose them to lead and to serve. Compromises must be true to the voters’ democratic and Democratic message.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Time to Build

With the elections behind the Democratic Party, both nationally and in Maine, it is now time to build our operational capability, add understandable structure to our core beliefs and philosophy, and enhance our ability to communicate effectively with voters. Yes, we won a significant electoral sweep, especially in Maine. However, in addition to the excellent ground work that made it possible, candidates who carried the day on issues, and leadership focused on taking back the Maine legislature, we need to assume that some part of our victory was based on a reaction to Republican overreach and that party’s current inability to connect on matters of issue currency within the 2012 public’s mind in this past election. We ought not to assume our accomplishment is trend or permanent.

The determination to press on with party building for future success is essential. We need to in particular create a conscious public association directly with Democratic Party identity. We should focus on connections not only regarding specific issues but especially developing a trust to reliably govern well in the best interests of Maine citizens. And we must understand that we will not know we have accomplished that task until the public tells us the trust exists. Elections are one measure of trust but we need to pursue a common agreement with the general public that we carry that trust everyday. Becoming “of the people” to reinforce “for the people” is key.

The effort to become a reliable spokesperson for the interests of Maine people and develop a public conviction that our approaches to issues that exist now, those unspoken, and ones that will arise ought to be a central goal. While I believe our core approach to governance connects well to the aspirations of Maine citizens, that understanding needs to flow both ways. Striving between elections to achieve the objective of having voters, far more than activists and issue focused groups but yet including all, being able to articulate an understanding of what the Democratic Party stands for in the context of a positive embrace of the future should be the measurement of our goal. I want to sit in that coffee shop, walk on our Main Streets, and work beside people who can easily define us in straightforward terms and most of all answer that “yes of course” they trust us.

With that accomplished, we might once again see campaign signs that say “_________, Democrat for” Governor, Senator, Legislature because we will have transformed the Democratic Party into an emblem of aspiration and a badge of trust.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Re-elect Craig Hickman

I am urging voters in Readfield and Winthrop to join me in re-electing Craig Hickman to the Maine House in 2014.

In order to do so, you would want to reflect on a term of service that included his continued dedication to the needs of all people in our community, a record of assisting the educational aspirations of all students and their families, positive actions to assist our small businesses based on his direct experience, wise stewardship of Maine’s precious natural resources, and applied practical use of his experiences as a farmer to grow our local food, economy, and middle class. You would want to feel that Craig Hickman put the words ‘public servant’ into action as your representative, never left you or your neighbor behind no matter his or her station in life, and always studied and listened about every issue with an open mind to find effective solutions to meet the challenges we share.

I believe based on Craig Hickman’s current dedication and tireless giving, casting your vote in this 2012 election for him will most certainly reap a record we can be proud of and support continuing two years from now. I strongly support him because I care a great deal about both the immediate and long term future of all us and I know he does as well.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Chellie Pingree, Thank You for Representing Us

While controversy swirls around Governor LePage’s “Gestapo” comments and his subsequent digging a deeper hole for his poor reputation, some may think that his attacks on First Congressional District United States Representative Chellie Pingree might be his way of trying to divert attention from himself. It is doubtful that is the case. Instead, while the Governor has a great deal of attention, he has decided to strut his negative stuff in an egotistical bid for even more notice.

Paul LePage has littered his letters and press releases with the following invectives in the past few days:

“Pingree has made it crystal clear that she’s siding with the Obama Administration over the people of Maine.”

“She’s part of big bloated government…”

…you have become part of the jet-setting Washington culture…

“Your title says that you are a Representative from Maine, but apparently you prefer to represent the power of bureaucrats…”

“…you sing from the same old songbook…”

“I write to ensure you that her [Rep. Pingree] position does not represent the State of Maine…”

The Governor’s case against Chellie Pingree rests completely on the matter of representation. He believes that stripping Maine residents of health care access protections is his mandate; Representative Pingree believes Maine residents deserve those protections in today’s fragile economy.

It is a tragic travesty that Paul LePage with his 38% plurality, strong arm tactics in getting his way with a deeply divided State Legislature, and anger driven agenda believes that lecturing one of our United States Representatives in his bullying manner carries more weight in representing Maine people than Chellie Pingree’s 55% majority in her contest and the genuine concerns she has expressed. The Governor also said that “the government closest to the people is the one that governs best.” While he was obviously attempting to set up a typical right wing divisive state versus federal government argument, it is actually Representative Chellie Pingree who in this case embodies the “government” closest to the people and is acting in their best interests.

Paul LePage, by virtue of being the Governor with the loudest disrespectful and crass words does not represent all of the people of Maine and his approval numbers have certainly indicated that he does not even represent a majority. Chellie Pingree is working very hard at actual real representation to address real needs and concerns.

Thank you Chellie for representing Maine.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tax Boogeyman for President!

Mitt Romney and all those running down ballot in the Republican column are convincing themselves that the upholding of the Affordable Care Act has a poisonous silver lining: taxes.
Supreme Court Justice John Roberts decided that the penalties for not purchasing mandated health insurance coverage are a tax and therefore Constitutional. After Republicans thrashed Roberts verbally and even pushed their shrill rhetoric to include one of their favorite wind-up toys, high crimes and misdemeanors free impeachment, they got back to their cynical and selfish selves to reframe the battle for health care to be all about taxes. The bottom line for the GOP on health care is neither solutions that extend coverage for the US population nor an alternative vision of true affordability and access, especially for the poor.
Maine Republican Chair Charlie “bus-watcher” Webster was quick out of the gate with the newly improved GOP attack-du-jour:
“I thought Obama said he would never raise taxes on the middle class. Well, this is obviously another bait and switch tactic the Democrats used to push their tax, borrow, and spend agenda on the American people, when all along they said this was ‘not a tax’.”
Will voters fall for an anti-tax line again?
Frankly it remains to be seen since Citizens United basically allows unlimited money to pour into our politics. Even should there be widespread support for the Affordable Care Act, it’s just from mere people not the self-important elitist financial interests with the most cash. And cash spends pretty easy and with more pronounced results tearing down something as a tax versus making an articulated case for fulfilling a genuine need in our society that requires fair investment support.
However, at the very core of this debate, one thing is visibly lacking: a viable Republican alternative. Anyone giving reasoned review to the GOP mantra about competition knows that it just leads to the high deductable, low benefit equation that benefits insurance interests’ bottom lines and only results in competition for the largest chunk of poor and middle class’s wallets in their struggle to avoid the gambling chance of medical bankruptcy. And the other GOP standard fencepost, competition between the states, is really about being able to buy into the worse levels of regulation from states that care less about their citizens and are more in political pocket of big insurance.
The bitter truth is that health care is not really a Republican priority; it neither fits with their market worship of picking winners and losers nor their “got mine, you’re on your own” attitude of class warfare. The anti-tax party is exposed once again as the anti-people party. We have not seen anything creative dedicated to health care delivery since the 2006 “Act Providing Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care” in Massachusetts under then Governor Mitt Romney. But, hey, why go there?