The role of optimism in development

Yesterday, Mayor-elect Bob MacDonald of Lewiston apologized for his divisive comments after winning the election by 70 votes. This represented an about-face as just about everyone in town anticipated him announcing some sort of litigation against Paradis' election team for spreading rumors about his wife during the campaign. Of more interest to me is MacDonald's continuing yammering about Lewiston's reputation.

Sure. Growing up in Bath, everyone referred to Lewiston (and to a lesser degree Auburn) as the "arm-pit" of Maine. Like the smaller mill-towns in our state, Lewiston became a hole of poverty when manufacturing jobs fled south and then overseas. The crime rate was high. The flat-rooved French-Canadian architecture doesn't help our image either.


LePage masquerades as pro-business

When asked at a Colby College event where the governor stands on the casino referendum questions, LePage stated he doesn't think Maine's population can support five casinos and that he encourages voting No.


Random tidbits

- The Portland Press Herald has doubts regarding the effectiveness of the Occupy Wall Street protests. While I sympathize with protesters, I'm inclined to agree with the more pragmatic view of the PPH.

- A Maine Heritage Policy Center study challenges same day registration by highlighting there are 1452 active registrants who are 211 years old. Because dead voters - who haven't voted in over a century - are a serious threat. Eliminating same day registration does nothing to correct any of MHPC's concerns.

Steve Jobs' death is a sad reminder for all of us that voodoo therapies don't work.

- The picture is my dog, Balloo, drying off after taking a cool dip in September ocean waters.

Profiteers are spying on you! At least that's the way it's being spun. I have to admit, the idea of Facebook or my cable company tracking my habits was initially jarring. But the more I think about, the less I care. I mean, most of the monitoring is entirely automated. No one at Time Warner Cable really cares about what I, Jeremy, am doing. Ultimately, the quid pro quo is fairly nice. The idea of a world - at least beginning with advertisments - that's customized for me is a bit exciting.

I think society in general has just been moving more and more towards interdependence (by extension increased trust). (See: Nonzero by Robert Wright) It must have taken a leap of trust for the humans making the first trades between tribes. Likewise, it took a leap for people to begin trusting banks with their money. I imagine this is just another step towards increased interdependence and cooperation. That initial discomfort isn't because I have anything to hide, or I'm embarrassed or anything. New founded trust is never comfortable.

Open Letter to Roxanne Quimby: Privatize

Dear Ms. Quimby,

Congratulations are in order for your admirable efforts in conserving land and forging a path for the creation of a new and massive national park in the state of Maine. In terms of vistas and outdoors recreational opportunities, we have a lot to offer Mainers and our friends "from away." I am confident that preserving land for public use will be a boon to Maine's economy. Capitalizing on our natural resources must be one of many strategies we employ to further progress our state.

However, political dialog has spiraled towards conversations about the very efficacy of government as a major actor in our world. Whether we agree with the message or not, that's the environment we live in. Consistently, government programs are at risk of being chopped. The National Park Service is not immune. We already face challenges from both our Senators, the Governor and the Maine State Legislature - a daunting political opposition. I have serious doubts about the sustainability of a new public park. Even if you are successful in passing ownership of your land over to the public - why run the risk of the park being closed and sold based on the whims of our finicky electorate?

I'd like to offer an alternative strategy in reaching you're ultimate goals of conservation, stewardship and invigorating our economy.



In 2007 I spent a semester in France. I sat in on an international economics class conducted in French even though I could barely understand the language when spoken. Despite my handicap, I distinctly recollect the professor hassling her other students about the fact that this American who couldn't yet speak a second language knew more about their European Union history than they did. I've always found all things Europe to be interesting. I even began reading books like the United States of Europe as early as seventh grade.

I love Europe and you should too.

Via Matt Yglesias I was reminded of the importance of happenings in Europe and just how much the economy across the pond affects ours. Meanwhile, our extraordinary (expensive) endeavors in the deserts of Iraq, Afghanistan and other unmentionable nations ultimately yield very little in terms of standards of living or security. In fact the impact is arguably negative.


Probe finds no voter fraud

According to the Sun Journal, voter fraud investigations in Maine have uncovered no cases of wrong doing, but Republican leaders are still challenging that the system is ripe for abuse.
"Our election system is long overdue for a comprehensive reexamination of our methodologies and ways in which we govern our elections," Secretary of State Charlie Summers said during a news conference in his office. "We're still operating on an 1820 law, but this is 2011."
Usually if there are loop holes that can be exploited and have existed even for a relatively small period of time - they get filled pretty quick by the exploiters. If we're following 1820 laws and can still find no examples of abuse, that in and of itself speaks volumes regarding the efficacy of the voting system. I think it's safe to say that there are people out there that would practice voter fraud if they could. But they don't because they can't.


SMCC confirms need for investment in higher ed

Monday I wrote about my feelings regarding efforts in Maine to retain dying industries. As an alternative, I touched on the need for human capital formation to build a work force compatible with industries the US has a comparative advantage with in the global market. This morning, Portland Press Herald published a jobs skills analysis conducted by Southern Maine Community College that further confirms the need.


Paper Mills don't present a sustainable solution for Maine

The Portland Press Herald recently published an Op-Ed lauding Gov. LePage's decision to have the state take over a leaky landfill in Millinocket. The move has opened the door for a NH based company to buy and reopen the mills, salvaging at least 200 jobs.

I'm elated for the hundreds of people up north that will benefit, but I don't share the Press Herald's enthusiasm about the deal. They highlight the seemingly daunting alternative:
The mills would have only drawn interest from firms that wanted to dismantle them and send the papermaking machines to India or China. The jobs would have gone with them, and neither would have ever come back.
However, the state's decision amounts to no more than a last ditched effort to save a dying industry. While the machinery and the jobs that go with them won't leave us this year, they'll end up in India or China (or Africa) eventually anyways.


Auburn's November Candidacies

As I mentioned in my previous post regarding my resignation from the MGIP Steering Committee, I have been appointed to the Planning Board of Auburn. It's a great opportunity, leaping into municipal politics.

I've also been looking at the slate of city council candidates for November and am excited to see such a youthful line of pretenders.

ME GOP Chairman wrong about students' rights

Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster was quoted in a Portland Press Herald article saying:
“I get tired of talking about this because the law is clear,” Webster said this week. “If I want to vote, I need to establish residency. I need to register my car and pay taxes in that community. You can’t just become a student and vote wherever you want."
He's correct about needing to establish residency. That is one of three requirements to vote - the other two being citizenship and age. However registering your car is one of several ways to establish residency and paying taxes has nothing to do with it.


Dear Green Party...

This is something I've been thinking about for a while now and unfortunately it may come as a surprise to some of my colleagues, but I hope not to too many. Below is my resignation letter to the Steering Committee of the Maine Green Independent Party submitted yesterday.


Meta: Busy

I'd like to apologize for the lack of posts of late. When I began my blog last October I said that my intentions are to highlight the problem of sub-nationalism in America and have conversations about solutions that find a common ground or balance between competing political and religious ideologies and values. Fostering constructive political discourse is something I care very much about as I believe most conflict is derived from misunderstandings between players and not innate hatreds.

I've also said that this is my sixth attempt at maintaining a blog and the past few months have not been very constructive. There are two reasons why I've been absent. The first is that, like in the many blogs of the past, I've hamstrung myself by setting limitations on myself regarding what I can and should write about. In my opinion, there is little room for blogging about my dogs on a political blog, even though they may be what is capturing my attention at the time. I'm also interested in taking a step back from the world of politics, mostly because of everything else going on in my life I'll talk about below. So I'm thinking about expanding the scope of my blog - truly making it personal - and writing about whatever the hell I want. I will still occasionally contribute my thoughts on politics, but I want room to write about other things.


Smith on unions

With the craziness in Wisconsin going on, one might be inclined to ask: Where does Adam Smith, the "father of modern economics and capitalism." stand on the issues of labor and unions?

From Smith's "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations" (via The American Conservative):


I think it's time to leave Fairpoint

Ok - I might actually be the last off that burning bandwagon. Fairpoint Communications has been on the thorn of many Mainers' sides for a long time - especially those in rural areas where Fairpoint holds a monopoly on the delivery of phone/internet services. Suffice to say, I think it's time for me to choose a new provider.


Primer on "localism"

Michael Hartwell at Young, Hip and Conservative has just published a great introduction to the economic problems behind the idea of "buying local" at IndieSkeptics.

As a liberal fresh out of college, I was drinking the "localism" koolaid. It just seemed to make sense that eating local/organic food and enjoying locally produced goods was more efficient and better for the environment. It's also very romantic to think about supporting small local farmers who live near you. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.


Private dinner hosted by promoters of transparency

via Portland Press Herald
Does anyone else find it ironic that Tarren Bragdon, CEO of the Maine Heritage Policy Center will be hosting a private dinner to lobby legislators and refuses to register as a lobbiest while at the same time MHPC authored legislation to improve transparency in government?

Bragdon, assisting Commissioner Mary Mayhew of DHHS will be giving a presentation on a welfare reform proposal. I'm next to positive these types of presentations are suppose to be conducted at a committee hearing.

I sure wish I could afford a grand dinner to woo my representatives. I'm lucky if they even respond to an email of mine - and I'm chairman of a political party on the ballot in Maine!


Oh good grief, are we going to (another) war?

Two US warships have been deployed to the coast of Libya. Apparently we've also already landed troops with Britain (and possibly France) on Libyan soil. Didn't I just say that the last thing we should be doing is military intervention in Libya?


Painful, but not destructive

The birth of democracy is a beautiful thing. I've been waiting to weigh in on the developments in Egypt. Suffice to say I think it's really exciting. I want to be cautious and skeptical, but I can't help but think we're on the verge of something amazing.


Mother of Exiles

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she ' With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Written by Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) and inscribed on a blonze plaque with the Statue of Liberty:

In an opinion piece of the Portland Press Herald a while ago (sorry, lost the link), a trustee from a prominent nonprofit was defending his organization's work to aid refugees from an onslaught of negative comments in response to articles online. Like all expressions of apathy and hate, many locals' responses to the influx of refugees is based entirely on ignorance. The trustee dutifully debunked a number of myths about refugees in our country.


Something is not right

You've probably heard about the leaked memo from Dan Demeritt, Governor LePage's spokesman. There are a lot of people upset by the prospect of the Governor "putting 11000 Maine bureaucrats to work electing Republicans." Ethical concerns aside, I have another reason to be upset about this.

This memo was written in December before LePage was even inaugurated. I understand the importance for a political party to think strategically (I should!) but considering the dire circumstances LePage has to deal with as governor of our state, it seems highly inappropriate to be thinking about the next election before you've even begun your responsibility as Governor. That's the job of the Steering Committees of the respective parties. This is irrefutable proof that a primary reason to seek election is for the sake of merely cementing your own party's power and not necessarily acting in the interests of the electorate.


Whoopie vs. Blueberry

There's a debate brewing in Augusta that some might say is a waste of time, but I find fun and fascinating none the less. Some days ago Rep. Paul Davis of Sangerville submitted a bill to make the whoopie pie Maine’s official state dessert.

This proposal has actually drawn out considerable opposition and a counter-proposal to crown wild blueberry pie as the official state dessert has emerged. The Boston Globe has done a good job covering the conflict.


A role for government

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." What a lousy quote. It excludes the possibility that you might need to do both or that there may not be any fish to catch at all.

I've been surprising a lot of liberal friends lately with my enthusiasm for free-trade, my lack of enthusiasm for localism, and tolerating political gaffs by right-wing leaders, etc. It might be time I repent by explaining how I fall on the "left" side of the aisle.

Poverty, like most things we deplore, is a seriously misunderstood societal malady. Its affects reach beyond the homes of those who suffer its grasp. Poverty is a common prerequisite for crime. Poverty spreads squalor in our streets. Poverty breeds more poverty by passing on poor circumstances to later innocent generations. While I feel it's important to bring people up out of poverty - it's more important (and more practical) to prevent people from being sucked into it. I work at a private food-bank out of compassion for the down-trodden, it is for the rest of us and society as a whole that I advocate a government role in minimizing poverty.


Dear Senator

I recently learned of legislation that is making its way through Augusta to change the law that allows officers to pull people over for not wearing a seat belt. Honestly, if someone is foolish enough to not wear one, I agree with most libertarians that there's no need to waste a police officer's time by enabling them to pull people over because of it. But I don't care (well, I do, but... ) about the adult driver. This law does however protect innocent children from negligent parents.

My senator, Lois Snowe-Mello (R), is a co-sponsor of the bill. I sent her the following message:


United we boo (err... stand)

In response to the assassination attempt against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, some members of Congress have proposed that congressional leaders sit together regardless of party during the 2011 State of the Union address. It's been a tradition - though not a rule - that members sit apart during the speech and it's always highlighted partisan division as one party applauds loudly and the other sits in quiet protest (usually.)


Green Chairship

It's been a bit of a drawn out affair due to my inability to attend the last two meetings, but I've been officially selected to serve the rest of this term (till May 1) as Chair of the Maine Green Independent Party Steering Committee. Former chair and legislative candidate Anna Trevorrow was elected to replace my seat as secretary.


Liberals in Maine can "kiss my butt" (PS I am a Liberal)

Alternative title: I'm not making any friends today.

Are liberals and democrats angry for the right reason? Honestly - had Governor Paul LePage said "kiss my butt" to George W. Bush instead of the NAACP, Democrats wouldn't be freaking out. In fact, they'd probably be praising him for speaking publicly what many of them have felt for years.

It has angered most people simply because he was so rude to an organization they support, not just uncivil in general. That doesn't excuse LePage from what he said. His behavior was uncouth and hope his economics makes up for it. A short note to the NAACP respectfully declining their invitation and apologizing for having too big of a work load (uh, taking over the governorship ain't a walk in the park) would have sufficed. It's one thing to speak candidly as a private citizen, it's another to serve as governor - as a role model for aspiring politicians. In office he sets a precedence.


Hey big spendah!

According to Governor LePage's inaugural address he would like to add a fifth year of high school for students in Maine with an emphasis on vocational training. Education spending is on par with military expenditure, and while I'm not against investing a lot of money on education, after pontificating throughout his campaign about the need to reduce spending in Augusta, this move seems antithetic.


Hello 2011

I feel good. I feel optimistic. I think 2011 is going to be a good year. It's just a hunch tickling me in the gut. No particular reason or evidence - just a supposition.

2010 was an interesting year for me. I got a new job (at the same organization.) I was elected to the State Steering Committee of the Maine Green Independent Party - and subsequently elected as committee Secretary. I lost about 50 pounds (and plateaued a bit, I need a new infusion of fitness in my life.) I've unfortunately, practically abandoned MaineWebAid.org, due to lack of time and energy. I lost a cat, and gained a kitten. I began my experiments with vegetarianism and can count on one hand the times I ate meat this year - a success, I think. Oh, and I started this blog.