Maine: The Way Life Could Be

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This past week our fearful French bowling ball of a governor spoke at the Maine Office of Tourism Governor’s Conference. The event was held in Newry, at Sunday River and had way more than 350 people from Maine’s preeminent businesses attending. Glasses were polished, silverware was rolled, and glasses were filled. Everybody in the hotel was ready. Everybody except for the governor, who arrived twenty minutes late in the middle of lunch. To make up for his tardiness the governor reminded the dignified members of the audience that the Tourist industry is of vital importance to the Maine economy…three times in the same speech. No one would argue that fact but some may think to avoid over mentioning it to a group of people whose lives and jobs depend on it already. The event somehow managed to be both insightful and ridiculous.

The Tourist industry in Maine provided 98,932 jobs (15% of the workforce) and more than $5.6 Billion in direct expenditures last year according to their annual report. People across the world come to Vacationland and are greeted with friendly smiles and great service (when it is deserved). We have so many service workers to thank for keeping that money coming to the state year after year. However, it may not be enough to improve Maine’s economy. It has already been pointed out that the state’s decrease in unemployment is actually a forewarning of a decrease in the labor force. And if that isn’t enough jobs are still being lost. In manufacturing and the paper industry people are being let go in the thousands.

While some may have expected LePage to give praise to the tourist industry for being there for Maine in a time of economic hardship or thank them for dealing with the mob of tourists that crash on our beaches and lakes every summer, this is not what happened.

LePage used his time at the mike to attack Bernie Sanders supporters for almost no reason. It is a stretch, even with the guy currently running for president. What does the Presidential race have to do with our successful pioneers in the tourist industry? Apparently, the man is just so enraged with lefty politics that every time someone puts a microphone in front of him he has to attack them. That is a serious dose of fear causing him to froth at the mouth. He continued on to explain why better and more affordable social programs will put us all so deep in taxes the American dream will be lost. Forever. Again. He then went on to another classic conservative trope; it shouldn’t be a crime to be successful. Well, yes, that would be quite ridiculous. What should be a crime though is when the unregulated excess of successfulness starts to boil over with no end in sight like some sort of sick invisible Deep Water Horizon and starts poisoning our shared water, air, and food.

Yet, if we try to fix these things and still allow people to be successful and make money the Governor calls out EVIL REDISTRIBUTION. Which is just such a sad lack of understanding for the basic English term. It is not a big red and scary government roaming around with hammer and sickle taking your belongings and giving them to someone less deserving. Redistribution is a question that every generation, every country, and every person must figure out. How do we split up the pie? How do we distribute wealth? Rick Grimes doesn’t have time to think about that but we do. Capitalism is itself a form of redistribution and the Republicans love certain subsidies, if that’s not redistribution of wealth I don’t know what is. That is an active attempt to alter the magnificent will of the free hand of the market. So when anyone says that socialism is bad or class warfare is wrong, remember there is more to it than that, and whoever said that has no idea what they are talking about. These are punchlines for a public that has a 30 second attention span. Unfortunately, people will say whatever they can to get what they want no matter how close to reality it is. Consequently, it lands on us to communicate and redistribute fairly together.

Still not sure about this crazy redistribution word? Let’s use an example. During his speech LePage mentioned his rags to riches story of how he used to eat cat food because it was cheaper than tuna. Now, if you pay your taxes those taxes will pay for maintaining the government and the governor’s office and salary. So your tax dollars are being redistributed so that Paul doesn’t have to eat cat food any more. Your welcome, Paul.

After his speech he stood awkwardly by and shook the hands of all the award winners. Among them were Greg Dugal for Tourism Excellence, Captain John Nicolai for Marketing and Promotion, The Nonantum Resort for Leadership and Growth, Eastport Pirate Festival for Innovation and Creativity, and the Castine Historical Society for Originality. Great people and great places to visit not just for outta statahs but for Mainers too. Sadly, instead of staying for the lunch, LePage then promptly left out the back door as soon as he wasn’t needed. No reason to schmooze there I guess.

In the end perhaps he attacked Bernie because of the recent win in Maine and he figured since most of the state didn’t even vote for him why not just piss everyone off. It wouldn’t be the first time he has tried to cause trouble for no reason. He has consistently tried to create a divide between rural North and barely urban South, suggesting that economic success is somehow directed more towards the south by…who exactly? Democrats, I guess? The whole thing is ridiculous. I grew up and lived in both parts of our vast state and houses are surely nicer on the Golden Coast but let’s face it once you are on the other side of the turnpike surrounded by the forest and hidden drives it looks the same as everywhere else in Maine. What I mean to say is that there are rural economic hardships in the South just as much as there are in the North. LePage and the North do not have a monopoly on economic suffering. At best its fear mongering but to me it is just a limp unimaginative lie.

I really wish I hadn’t had to hear all those things come out of his mouth. But that is the way the world is. I have to respect the Democratic process that put him in the chair and made him my governor. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t switch to ranked choice voting in the future. Democracy is adaptable to the challenges at hand. Fun fact: Republican nominees for governor in Maine have failed to win a majority of the vote in 12 consecutive cycles over the last 50+ years – the longest Republican streak in the nation. Dirigo, baby! And no governor has been popularly elected with less than 40 percent of the vote in two consecutive cycles in U.S. history until LePage showed up.

Now I could keep going on reasons why I don’t agree with the road block GOP establishment but I want to talk about Tourism and how it is going to help Maine. While the tourism industry may be doing well and is a crucial part of any economy it should not be a main focus. It cannot be the industry we entrust our quality of life, health, and education to. I mean I know the place is called Vacationland but I don’t want to imagine what the thought of 50% of our work force cleaning dishes and tables. The good part is we don’t have to rely solely on this industry but we do need this industry to thrive and help with the transition to a healthier economy that can be sustainable. Tourism may be our white knight, or at least one of them.

What we need is to get people to come and help with our worker shortage in Maine and find productive work. To do that we need to recognize the importance of productive work, creative leisure and educational betterment. This was pointed out decades ago by political scientist Abraham Kaplan.

Thanks to our awesome businesses in Maine we already have the creative leisure part down. The Maine Office of Tourism has shown this and helped to improve on it. However, our productive work is deteriorating, people are losing jobs and are leaving the state. One way to attract people, especially young able bodied workers, is to provide quality affordable education, which is convenient because educational betterment is the next prerequisite for the trifecta of an equal society. We lose these three things if we give into LePage’s fear and we have to remind ourselves of that every day while working toward achieving them.

Killer Cups

Keurig-SaleI try to recycle, be aware of the products I’m buying, what companies I give money to, and notice my ecological footprint a little better. Why? Well, besides the fact that I live on this expletive planet, I can’t really think of anything. That being said, I don’t think my acts of personal ecological pride will accumulate too much. While this may sound hypocritical, why don’t you wash your hands before you start pointing fingers? We are all raised to be hypocrites, and whether it is more nature or nurture is moot. Every day is a constant battle with hypocrisy. Take for example John Sylvan, inventor of the Keurig disposable coffee cup. While many see it as another huge waste of plastic, he saw need for an improvement in the office coffee drinking business. Now he holds his invention in regret. After selling the idea to Green Mountain they have turned it into a cigarette for coffee and they have ignored any of Sylvan’s suggestions to improve it.

Now you may, and by may I mean probably most definitely have, seen one of these things. My parents just bought two and I almost flipped my shit until they busted out the reusable cup for instant coffee. Now it’s just a fancy water heater so I can enjoy my perfectly fine instant coffee. Still anytime I want hot water I need to take out one of those little plastic cups. And every time I find myself wondering if it matters? Is all this plastic waste really hurting? Yes, and No… it’s complicated. Have a coffee.

For many the plastic waste is irrelevant because the machine itself saves on power and water use over time. But this seems like trading one pollutant for another, like instead of throwing my burger wrapper out the left side of the car, I will throw my soda cup out the right side. It is still a waste one way or another however you look at it. You may be saving on electricity but then you have an entire trash barrel full of Keurig cups at the end of the week. The cups themselves are technically recyclable, but only if you take the time to get the metal lid off the plastic and if you had to do that it would completely defeat the purpose of saving time with a coffee machine. Again the Keurig is trading pollution for time. You get an extra few minutes to add to your day plus a coffee boost, but those minutes had to come from somewhere. And in the great universal churn of energy and matter nothing is free.

It was Egg Studios in Canada that made a viral video pointing out the K-cup plastic pollution that they have seen in their work place. Plastic pollution, especially including micro-plastics in the environment are going to be around for a very long time. We need to start actively lessening our plastic use. It will take more than socially responsible individuals. It will take globally responsible corporations and governments as well. There is a massive ecological debt being piled up and we may soon find ourselves on the bottom of it. Recently, the city of Hamburg in Germany decided to ban the product entirely and get a head start on a plastic free future.

For the pessemists who say our addiction is too great, there may be an alternative drug to ween ourselves off of plastic. Hemp plastic and other materials are being designed as eco-safe alternatives to plastic. And who knows what other scientific discoveries may help us in the near future?

Until then, reuse, recycle, and research how to keep plastic use down.

 

Beware of Bernie’s Army

The revolution will not be televised; it will be streaming…live.

“You turn on the TV and watch politicians talk about unleashing the power of the free market, that’s absurd,” Shaw says. “The American public is being denied a free market, being denied competition.”

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Thomas Shaw’s story was finally heard last fall. His struggle with corporate America has shown us the character of what David Dayen referred to as the new predatory era in the country. The real division in the USA is not between race or religion, though some may spin it that way; it is strictly and unfortunately monetary. While some cry ‘class warfare’ we know the problem is more serious and wont be solved by brushing it under the rug with a catchy punch line for a misinformed public. Today there are entities, masquerading as people with a democratic voice (thanks to Citizens United), they are too big to jail or even outspend. Then there are people; real people, being stopped, frisked, and murdered across the country who have yet to see justice. Everybody knows things are bad. They don’t want you to think so.

This mysterious media ‘they’, the men and women behind the static, behind the oblong box in the corner of every room, they have one message; the revolution is not coming, it is time to be pragmatic, it is time to consume ceaselessly. Don’t worry about Burger King moving its HQ to Canada, they have hotdogs now. Don’t be a settler; buy, buy, buy.

It is the same message that is getting Hilary through the nomination against Bernie Sanders. The revolution has been talked down by the political wizards and prophetary pundits. They talk about the magical youth vote and how much impact it will or won’t have. When comparing twitter accounts Sanders had 89% real followers against Hilary Clinton’s 59%. Most Millennials don’t even have a television, so it makes sense that this generation would not stop to believe the nay-sayers. The only option opponents have then is to make Bernie’s message as unrealistic as possible.

For the true blue Democrats, Hilary offers a more viable path, one that adds to Obamas accomplishments and doesn’t rock the boat. But the boat desperately needs to be rocked. Through ridiculous loopholes we have seen our democracy crumble, from gerrymandering to Citizens United. We are no longer a country of equals. Sanders aims to change that. Even if he cannot gain the nomination, his running has brought together an amazing collection of likeminded people who may likely come to shape America in the future. He has inspired a wave of SuperPacless representatives to run for office across the country in an attempt to finally get money out of politics. Some have come to refer to these progressives running for seats in congress as Bernie’s Army, almost reminiscent of Dumbledore’s Army. Now, while I don’t exactly like to throw around the idea of organized armed violence, the movement itself is not a bad idea.

One of the biggest challenges that will face Sanders when he wins will be working with the House and Senate. These are two places where Bernie has a lot of experience. If you are someone who sees this man as unable to deal with a hostile Republican party, how much better do you think Hilary can do? Bernie continues to work for laws even while campaigning. He has continued to fight for his constituents while Hilary is seen as having fought mostly for her career. Robert Reich has pointed out that; “If both house of Congress remain in Republican hands, no Democrat will be able to get much legislation through Congress, and will have to rely instead on executive orders and regulations. But there’s a higher likelihood of kicking Republicans out if Bernie’s “political revolution” continues to surge around America, bringing with it millions of young people and other voters, and keeping them politically engaged.”

Sander’s has laid the ground work for a future where America works for the health and education of people first instead of corporate interests. A decentralized, more local, reactive, and participatory government is not only achievable it is necessary for a healthy democracy. In Maine the democratic caucus broke records this past March and Bernie won it easily 64% to 36%. We need to see more of this kind of involvement around the country. We need people to stop being afraid to talk about politics or our continued misrepresentation is inevitable.

I would point out that I am not trying to attack all corporations; like people some are worse than others. However, it is much easier and more dangerous for an MNC to do bad than it is for a single person. The discrepancy between what a person and what an MNC can get away with is an embarrassment to our country and to human rights. I am sure Clinton will be a fine first female president; and who won’t love our first First Man? But for many Millennials and others, change will be that much less unlikely under Clinton.

So fuck the revolution, this is an intervention, to restructure our corroded democratic institutions.

Bernie Sanders for ME

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At the bottom of a TIME’s article about Tulsi Gabbard, Democratic National Convention VP who quit her job to endorse Sanders, you will find a link to Hilary Clinton’s “decisive win” in SC and on Super Tuesday. The page also produces, perhaps randomly, a link to state your support for Hilary on another ‘I’m with her’ website or whatever. I find it odd that in an article describing the Democratic Party’s VP quitting to support Sanders, after having been thoroughly warned by the party, would have no link to a support Bernie page or a ‘hey Bernie is doing alright too’ page. I find it harder and harder not to believe there is a Bernie media blackout.

This Sunday Maine will hopefully show their independent thinking as a state and elect a man who is ready to flip America on its head. Sanders is picking up key endorsements left and right but many of them are not being connected or mentioned well enough. This recent move by Hawaiian representative Gabbard is an interesting one. Democratic party members are literally jumping ship. They don’t care what the odds are of winning in a corrupt system, they simply, and perhaps rightly, don’t want to be standing there after having won that way.

This is one of those precious few moments in modern American history where we have the chance, yet again, to make a bold change in direction and spirit. Since 1972 Democrats have been acting like Republicans, subjecting themselves to the philosophy of ‘All for the glorious Party’. And for some reason to many Americans this seems less like Soviet Style Communism and more like Democracy. It was when McGovern lost to Nixon in 72’ that we lost another one of those rare opportunities. Fred Dutton wrote in his book Changing Sources of Power: American Politics in the 1970s, that the decade would create a cornerstone and a major historical watershed in American Politics. The 70s provided an opportunity for people to come together or be frightened and scattered. We know Nixon and his cronies thwarted that dream and began a legal/illegal proxy war against the American left that continued on into the 21st Century.

For me, 2016 is another one of these cornerstone generation moments. One of the few human waves of possible consequence. A bi-polar party system and our last missed opportunity has brought us into a Citizens United world, but now we have the chance again to get out, to give everyone the health care and education they deserve and have been robbed of. If you have been raised to think that nothing is free and that free health care and education in a capitalism society is a fantasy, it is because we live in a world where Multinational Corporations (MNCs) are people and are given priority above citizens. Just ask Fryeburg, Maine. What is radical here is not our Vermont Senator asking for some basic human dignity in the world’s richest country, it is the fact that people are voting on the opposite side of the political spectrum for a proven moron and racist. After Super Tuesday’s Republican results it is no wonder the google search for ‘move to Canada’ hit a spike in traffic. As for Clinton, I whole hardheartedly respect her supporters’ opinions. We need the pragmatists and the realist thinkers of the left as well, but again this is not the time for idle hands. This is not the time to play it safe. Americans have been retreating into perceived safety for the past 30-40 years but it has only dragged the whole country further to the political right. Around the world we are a laughing stock, they expect us to vote in a Simpsons Schwarzenegger anytime now. Some say Bernie is too far left, when for me he is dead center, balanced, and fair.

When one considers this fact, that we live in a post-Citizens United world, it is not hard to argue that Bernie Sanders is actually winning this election. From states results to polls Sanders has been right there, neck and neck fighting with Hilary for votes. He has easily beaten other Democratic candidates and he has done all of this without a Super Pac. If we were to take away Hilary’s Super Pac from the start I think it is obvious who would be winning this race. He is not paying for votes he is earning them. He is doing something no candidate has been able to do for decades, run an actual grass-roots campaign for the presidency, one that realizes that in any country in the world health comes before wealth and not the other way around. Some will say that Drumpf and Sanders success is just an angry electorate upset on both sides with the status-quo. I would say good, get MAD, but make sure you know who to get mad at.

I will not say anything negative about Clinton, though I easily could and want to. Instead I will merely state that I have personally met people directly affected by her follies, not just in America but from several nations around the world. I will say that with any Republican or Clinton we will see more of what we have seen before, which is economic depression after depression. Some are already predicting the next crash will be sooner than previously thought. And I’m sitting here thinking ‘why haven’t we been able to avoid this disastrous cycle for the past 100 odd years’. We think that the USA is infallible and we trudge on ahead with the same policies and programs that got us into this mess.  I should mention that the free hand of the market is no deity of mine. There is no such thing as true communism or capitalism, only the impressions we make in between.

It will be interesting to see how a President Sanders will tackle his future challenges. How will his tenure in the House and Senate affect his relationship with those institutions? Will he be able to do anything with a brain-drain supported Congress? Either way we need to try. That is why I hope Maine will vote for Bernie, a proven environmental activist, an earnest representative, and exactly what this state and country needs. A healthy wake up call and a hopefully a change in political character.