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Friday, July 31, 2015

Ebola Vaccine - anti-vaccine zealots are clueless

Thank you to Norway:  Børge Brende foreign minister of Norway.

“This new vaccine, if the results hold up, may be the silver bullet against Ebola, helping to bring the current outbreak to zero and to control future outbreaks of this kind..."

For thousands and thousands of years (in other words for eons), civilization had no idea what caused infectious diseases. Now, because of microbiological research, we know what causes diseases and, oftentimes, how to prevent them from become epidemics. Many infectious diseaes are prventable, because of vaccines. So, why is it that anti-vaxxers want to create fear in the public about an intervention that's proven to prevent deadly diseases? These crazy zealots want to stop Americans from being immunized! Millenniums of civilizations would've given anything to've accessed preventive vaccines. Now, we have these vaccines, while groups of crazy zealots are trying to scare us away from using them. But, now, entering from Africa, is the deadly Ebola virus.

As a professional registered nurse, it's impossible for me to understand how people can object to the proven preventive value  of vaccines. Polio, measles, chicken pox, shingles, pneumonia,  whooping cough, diphtheria and other vaccine preventable diseases are almost unheard of today, because of the ability to prevent them with immunizations.  

Now, we have to add Ebola to this infectious list.

It's probable,  there's now a vaccine to help prevent the deadly Ebola virus from causing the world wide pandemic panic we experienced, when the deadly outbreak was sweeping western Africa. Many dedicated caregivers contracted the deadly virus, including several American medical professionals.

Americans "freaked out" when some of the Ebola infected medical professionals were transported home to US medical facilities, for treatment. 

Yet, taking care of these caregivers, in modern medical centers, protected by infection control procedures, was the absolute right thing to do. Most of the victims,who were cared for in the US, survived, as a result.

If the Ebola vaccine, currently in process of being approved, is available, I suspect all people going to Africa, regardless of their purposes, will be required to have the immunization. There will be no question about whether or not the Ebola vaccines are safe, because even the remote chance of contracting Ebola will be more of a risk than worrying about the safety of the preventive vaccine.

Ebola vaccine trial proves 100% successful in Guinea

Rapid development and testing of drug may bring current epidemic in west Africa to an end and control future outbreaks, experts say.
A vaccine against Ebola has been shown to be 100% successful in trials conducted during the outbreak in Guinea, and is likely to bring the west African epidemic to an end, experts say.

“This new vaccine, if the results hold up, may be the silver bullet against Ebola, helping to bring the current outbreak to zero and to control future outbreaks of this kind. I would like to thank all partners who have contributed to achieve this sensational result, due to an extraordinary and rapid collaborative effort,” he said on Friday.

There have been a total of 27,748 cases of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone up to 26 July, with 11,279 reported deaths, although the outcome of many cases is unknown and the toll will be significantly higher. In the week ending 26 July, there were just four new cases in Guinea and three in Sierra Leone.

Because of the diminishing number of Ebola cases in west Africa and the shifting nature of the epidemic, with many sudden small outbreaks occurring across the region, researchers hit on a novel design for the trial.

The “gold standard” approach would be to take a population at risk of Ebola and vaccinate half of them while giving the other half a placebo. Instead, the researchers used a “ring” design, similar to that which helped prove the smallpox vaccine worked in the 1970s.

When Ebola flared up in a village, researchers vaccinated all the contacts of the sick person who were willing – the family, friends and neighbours – and their immediate contacts. Children, adolescents and pregnant women were excluded because of an absence of safety data for them. In practice about 50% of people in these clusters were vaccinated.

The results of the trials involving 4,000 people are remarkable because of the unprecedented speed with which the development of the vaccine and the testing were carried out.

Scientists, doctors, donors and drug companies collaborated to race the vaccine through a process that usually takes more than a decade in just 12 months.

“Having seen the devastating effects of Ebola on communities and even whole countries, this news is very encouraging," said Børge Brende, the foreign minister of Norway, which helped fund the trial.

I sincerely hope whoever supported the funding of an Ebola vaccine will become the recipient of a Nobel Prize for protecting world health.  Thank you.

Anti-vaxxers, on the other hand, are clearly clueless zealots.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Governor Paul LePage - two BDN points of view

A letter writer complains to the Bangor Daily News (BDN) about unfair press treatment of Maine's Governor LePage. Although the author of the letter points fingers at Maine media, the writer doesn't take into account the national coverage.  As a matter of fact, it's not just the Maine media who're labeling Governor LePage with uncomplimentary adjectives.  Unfortunately, the author of this defense letter about the Governor doesn't explain how it's somehow unfair for the media to ignore comments like telling the NAACP to "kiss my ass", because he didn't want to attend the Martin Luther King breakfast in Portland; or to tell a legislator how he'd "given it to the people without vasoline", because Senator Troy Jackson didn't support his tax plan. In fact, this is what the governor said, later in the same interview: LePage said, “Dammit, that comment (i.e. 'without Vasoline') is not politically correct. But we’ve got to understand who this man (i.e. Jackson) is. This man is a bad person. He not only doesn’t have a brain, he has a black heart. And so does the leadership” in the Legislature.

So, to dear writer Jane Newcomb of Owls Head Maine - "what goes around comes around". Your defense of Governor LePage is truly without merit. There simply is not enough evidence to support your point of view.

Meanwhile, in the same letters to the editor feature, another writer complains about Governor LePage acting, more or less, like a dictator, because he'll oppose his own Republican party legislative candidates, unless they support his plan to eliminate the state's income tax.

Here's the defense position, from Jane Newcomb, who writes in the BDN:

Unfair to LePage

I like what Gov. Paul LePage is doing in Augusta. All I read is a litany of disparaging remarks from the BDN, the “liberal” Courier Gazette and the Portland Press Herald. Media have been bullying LePage insidiously and outwardly for years, the latest being the unfair accusation that he has bashed his beloved French culture of which he is so proud.

For the media to jump on his off-hand attempt to be funny and self-effacing is silly, and to blow it way out of proportion and carry on about it, only to ruffle feathers and stir up trouble, is mean spirited.
How about a more balanced approach from the press? Perhaps tell about some of the wonderful things he’s done for our state?
I learned long ago not to believe anything, except from the horse’s mouth; no gossip, no hearsay or secondhand stories. I challenge the press to attempt to hear LePage speak, perhaps at a meeting or on the radio.

I understand his heart, and he cares for the whole state. LePage has the ability to get things done, looks to the future of Maine and keeps plugging away, despite the constant barrage of negative comments from the media.

Our so-called “wild and out of control governor” is so much more than we read about. I challenge the press to get the whole story.
Jane Newcomb
Owls Head

And here's another point of view from Steven Calhoun, from Addison:

LePage’s mistaken policy

Unfortunately, it is apparent to me Gov. Paul LePage is mistaken on one central point of his administration’s public policy. Just one.

According to news reports, LePage has made it clear he would not support members of his own party in their re-election bid if they do not support his position on eliminating state income taxes. What a devastating loss. The good governor seems to say, in effect, it’s my way or the highway.

Even if we disregard this blatant attempt to widen the political gulf among Maine voters, we must ask ourselves what it is that motivates a legislator’s votes — that is, is it his or her personal belief, his or her constituents’ wishes or blind adherence to party doctrine?

There can be no doubt that representatives in Augusta are more in touch with how the constituents in their districts feel, so their votes ought to reflect their conscience, which is a manner of their neighbors’ faith in them. That is the basic nature of democracy.
Maine is not a dictatorship in which the man at the top tells everyone not only how they must act and vote but what they should believe, the will of the people be damned.
Steve Colhoun

Maine Writer cannot find any credibility in Jane Newcomb's letter. Indeed, if Jane knows the Governor's heart, she needs to provide more evidence of his sincerity, to help all Maine people, than what we've seen from his management style including firing people and name calling others.

As for Steve Colhoun, it seems to me a leader who acts in the style of a dictator, is insecure. 

Regardless of how some people continue to (try to) support Governor LePage's bursts of unpredictability, the fact is, his unorthodox behaviors have brought more unfavorable publicity to Maine than any other politician has, in recent history.

And worse. There's been no apologies. Therefore, the Governor has failed as a role model for civil behavior and polite discourse.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Donald Trump "the chump" and Ambition 101

Politicians are driven by passion and ambition. 

Otherwise, their egos would be unable to defend them against the inevitable personal attacks they can expect as they pursue their goals of winning elections and serving their constituency - of course, assuming they really care about their constituents.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump, the multi billionaire "chump" who's trying to win the Republican nomination for president of the United States, is positively consumed by ego. I believe "Trump the Chump" has an ego bigger than the planet Jupiter. As a result, he's blinded by his ego and simply can't conceptualize his vision for America or how he intends to govern (assuming Americans are sucked into his sphere of gravity and votes for him).

Americans were diligent about watching William Jefferson Clinton for mistakes of passion. Imagine what the White House will become if "Trump the Chump" happens to be elected to live there. In my opinion, the Playboy Mansion might be considered G rated if Trump the Chump takes over residence of the White House.
Talk about a real estate mogul? Trump the Chump, as (God forbid) chief executive of the government, can declare his personal residence to be a condo or a haunted house on Halloween. After all, it would be his house.

Donald Trump the Chump can't run for president with just his name recognition and inflated ego. Although he'll have ample money to self fund his ambitious campaign, his limited energy will eventually wear down and he'll have to collapse under the weight of his own ego. Remember, Mr. Trump the Chump, you can't delegate the job of running for president of the United States. You have to show up.

Unfortunately, Trump the Chump seems to focus his ambition; he's apparently more strategic right now than his "clown car" of competitors, who are vying for the nomination he's seeking. 

Scott Walker is like Howdy Doody without Buffalo Bob; Jeb! the Bushy-Boy is acting like the retired Phillips Exeter Academy development director - just show him the moneeeee! Huckabee-wannabee is preaching like an Old Testament Prophet - the ones nobody ever listened to. Rand Paul has become too myopic to see where his political campaign is going. Perry is like the rodeo clown, trying to draw attention away from the charging bulls to save himself. Yawn...are we having fun yet?  (Wait! This political show doesn't end until the last lady sings.....) Yet, the audience is getting agitated and Donald Trump the Chump is, at least, entertaining the crowds. Unfortunately, Trump's one man comedy act isn't raising any money for the Grumpy Old Party faithful but he's getting all the laughs.

Therefore, maybe Donald Trump the Chump may have all it takes to win the Republican nomination. He has the money, the ambition, the name recognition and a natural ability to do stand up comedy.

Yet, in "ambition 101" class, Trump the Chump's ego doesn't seem to need any education. Of course, when it comes to political substance, we'll see Trump the Chump asking himself all the policy questions, so he can answer only what he chooses.  

Unfortunately, none of Trump the Chump's competitors have egos the size of Jupiter (maybe Mars, but not Jupiter); nor do they have the money needed to independently fuel their political ambition. 

As a result, Trump the Chump is a dangerous politician who has aced the ambition 101 class and, worse, has the capacity to give a failing grade to all of his competitors.

Unless, of course, Americans stop laughing and start paying attention to the dangers of a Donald Trump the Chump potential (gulp) administration. Our White House might as well consider what color of red or purple it will become if, God Forbid, we see a Donald Trump the Chump as.....well, occupant.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Dear "Jeb!"- "Don't Touch our Medicare!"

Americans must stop Bushy-Boy from promoting "coupon medicine" by advocating for a Medicare voucher system.

It's impossible to understand how "Jeb!" i.e., "Bushy-Boy", could gain political traction, in his struggling attempt to build a campaign voters can identity with, by criticizing Medicare as being "unsustainable".  

Dear "Bushy-Boy", your brother's failed Operation Iraqi Freedom was an unsustainable war, but we're still pouring money into this decade long struggle. There's always "sustainable" funds found someplace for war and defense contracts. Therefore, there must be enough money to care for Americans who have contributed to Medicare and deserve the insurance coverage they've paid into.

Moreover, Americans also deserve "Medicare for All". In other words, when a worker has paid 40 quarters into the program, the beneficiary should be able to access and receive the coverage.

(CNN- reports) On July 30, 1965, 50 years ago this coming Thursday, President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law, creating some of the biggest changes in social programs in America's history.

The politics surrounding Medicare and Medicaid remain contentious. Several red states are still refusing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), claiming it constitutes yet another excessive expansion of government. (Meanwhile, deserving Americans are denied coverage available under the ACA but their states are blocking their access!)

While Republicans backed away from Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to radically overhaul Medicare, GOP candidate Jeb Bush just brought the issue right back into the campaign by telling a Koch brothers event in New Hampshire that Congress should phase out the program. What Bushy-Boy is calling for is "coupon medicine", in other words, "vouchers".

"We need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits," he said, "that are receiving the benefits. But we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something, because they're not going to have anything."

Faced with an immediate backlash that he was veering far right, Bush backed off and said his statement was taken out of context.

Well, Bushy-Boy should never go there.  It didn't work for Congressman Ryan and it sure won't work for Busy-Boy, either.

Bushy-Boy was picking up on Ryan's claim that Medicare won't have enough money to pay for benefits by 2026, which ignores the fact that adjustments can be made to the revenue stream of the program that would keep it solvent (there have been many times since 1965 when projections indicated a shortfall and Congress and the president resolved the problem through adjustments to taxes and benefits, such as when Ronald Reagan was president in 1983).

It also ignores the fact that the recent report by trustees of Medicare includes much more favorable projections than the one on which Bush and Ryan are relying. Whereas in 2005 they projected that spending on Medicare would increase to 13% of gross domestic product by 2080, now, as a result of a number of factors including Obamacare, the projections are down to 6% of GDP in 2090.

On the anniversary, Americans should take this moment to look at some lessons from the history of those policies.

Fifty years ago, liberals were optimistic the passage of Medicare and Medicaid would transform health care. The program's founders hoped to end one of the biggest policy problems of the post-World War II period: the fact that, as health care costs started to skyrocket for older Americans with advances in medicine and technology, a huge percentage of the elderly lacked access to adequate insurance.

Medicare works! Therefore, it's impossible to understand why rich Republicans like "Bushy-Boy" want to deny Americans their right to access a health insurance benefit they've paid into for 50 years!


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cigna plus Aetna equals profits

Although Americans spend uncounted millions, probably billions, for health care coverage, we as a nation know very little about what we're paying for;  and it may get worse.  

In other words, we're paying for insurance to help us stay well while the companies who take our premiums want to be gatekeepers for the coverage we need when we're sick.

Health insurance profits are targeted towards to keeping people well, while collecting their (our) premiums. Contracts are signed with physicians and managed care groups who are given incentives for keeping "well" people among their beneficiaries. When people get sick, on the other hand, the plans kick in to case manage the care provided. As a result, many people who pay for wellness care find they're at a disadvantage when sickness care is needed and they're prevented from having access to high cost curative therapies. Did you ever see a health insurance advertisement featuring sick people speaking about how much they love their plans? Of course not.

On the other hand, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare subsidies will pay for people who are sick and enter the plans without regard for pre-existing conditions, like diabetes.  

Now, we see where Cigna and Aetna, two big for profit health insurers, want to merge to create even more profit from providing wellness care. In other words, the plans collect your premiums for keeping you well and parcel out the coverage when you get sick.

Here's my crystal ball prediction. People who have complained about Obamacare, because they wrongly see it as government run healthcare, haven't experienced the consequences of profit driven "Aetna plus Cigna equals profits" coverage.

When health insurance companies like Aetna and Cigna are controlling the market place of coverage provided, they will destroy their competition including those plans subsidized by the Obamacare plans.  Health insurance rates will increasingly be driven by profits, rather than by patient care needs, even more so than now.

What America needs is Medicare for All. At least, in Medicare plans, the beneficiaries are given access to government websites that given them a quality analysis of their medical providers. Medicare also has public data to show the trends in health care utilization. 

In other words, a Medicare beneficiary can find out what their premiums are paying for and about the comparative quality of their providers. On the other hand, Aetna and Cigna will report some data in retrospective time of their choosing and only using their sanitized data.

Americans have little knowledge about what their health insurance premiums are providing for their benefits.  Although it's nearly impossible to educate everybody about the fine print in our health insurance laws and the coverage provided, we can at least demand that mega mergers, like what's proposed by Aetna and Cigna, be stopped. What we want are the assurances of knowing there will be competition in the health insurance industry. Most important, we need to know that those who pay the providers for the coverage we receive are looking out for out best interests rather than profits.

Medicare for All - we pay for it, we deserve it.  Stop mega mergers by "Aetna plus Cigna equals profits".


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Maine Public Radio account by AJ Higgins ref World Acadian Congress

Yesterday, I posted a blog with news from the Bangor Daily News "Tipping Point" blog about how Governor LePage is reported to have leveraged the resignation of respected community leader Jason Parent, as the Maine chairman of the World Acadian Congress (Mondial), in 2013. He reportedly did this by threatening to withhold money from the festival.

Today, July 25, A.J. Higgins reported on this story on Maine Public Broadcasting Network radio's "Weekend Edition". 

LePage Accused of Threatening Group to Fire Director in 2013

Jason Parent

It's evident to me, the reticence of those involved in this report about the Governor threatening to withhold funds from the Congress unless Jason Parent was fired is related to their fear of political retribution. In fact, if the story had any misleading or erroneous information, those involved would've quickly challenged this report. There has been no challenge to the Bangor Daily News article, except from the office of Governor LePage, where the response was that the threat didn't happen.  

In fact, if Governor LePage had actually withheld money from the World Acadian Congress, this promised allocation would've made him look very bad with his colleagues, in New Brunswick and Quebec, that were the festival's partners in Canada. 

Nevertheless, those who know Jason Parent would unanimously testify to his extraordinary integrity. If the report about Governor LePage threatening to withhold World Acadian Congress monies were NOT true, I am confident Jason Parent, himself, would've already challenged with a public response to this story. He hasn't responded to my email query, either, and he has always done so in the past. Therefore, I firmly believe his reticence is an affirmation about the veracity of The Tipping Point blog in the Bangor Daily News (BDN).

If this story were an isolated incident, or if Jason Parent were other than a well known and respected leader, this story would never have been allowed to fester for two years.  It's because the information reports the leveraging of another high level resignation and the target was such a highly respected community leader, that's kept this story alive. It's another black ink blot to, unfortunately, tarnish Governor LePage's vengeful management style.

A.J. Higgins reports:

AUGUSTA, Maine — A threat allegedly made two years ago by Gov. Paul LePage to a group known as the World Acadian Congress is generating more scrutiny about the governor's use of power.

Several board members have confirmed to a political blogger that LePage threatened to withhold funding for their organization unless they fired their director.

The LePage administration says the accusation is false.

Some of the messages are mixed and some of the messengers are not exactly unbiased, but the revelations of yet another alleged threat by the governor to withhold state funding from an organization unless he got his way is raising eyebrows around the State House.

Former Democratic state Sen. Judy Paradis says she's not surprised that it took two years for word to leak out that LePage had threatened to withhold a $1 million payment to the World Acadian Congress unless its board agreed to fire its then director Jason Parent.

"They circled the wagons and they just said, 'Mums the word,' and there's a fall guy involved and — too bad," Paradis says. "It left a bad taste in everybody's mouth."

MPBN's efforts to reach the fall guy, Jason Parent, were unsuccessful, but Mike Tipping of the progressive Maine People's Alliance first announced in his Bangor Daily News blog that he had spoken with Parent.

Tipping says Parent confirmed that in the spring of 2013 a representative of the LePage administration had pressured the Acadian board to fire him as Maine president of the Congress or the state would withhold the first installment of a $1 million payment to the organization.

Anne Roy, a board member and director of the Acadian Village Museum in the Aroostook County town of Van Buren, says she was told LePage wanted Parent gone and that Parent ultimately resigned from the organization.

"That if we did not make Jason Parent step down, that we were going to lose our million dollars to be able to do the World Acadian Congress here in the St. John Valley," Roy says.

Maine's St. John Valley joined a partnership with New Brunswick and Quebec to host the 2014 World Acadian Congress, a two-week festival that unites Francos from Maritime Canada, Quebec, Maine, Louisiana and across the world.

The event, held every five years, brings together tens of thousands of Acadian descendants.

Roy says the reason LePage wanted Parent out of the Maine coordinating effort stems from a fairly innocuous event.

The group was selling World Acadian Congress vanity license plates back in 2013 to raise money for the celebration and had decided to present one of the plates to each of the state's top elected officials. Then-U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud happened to be in the area, so the group gave its first one to him.

Although Michaud had not yet announced a run for governor, Roy says LePage was insulted by the group's decision.

"Because Mike Michaud received the plates before the governor, the governor got all huffy and puffy and threatened to withhold our money if we didn't make Jason step down," Roy says.

Roy acknowledges that she never heard anyone from the LePage administration make that threat directly. She says the information was conveyed to her by other board members.

But in his blog, Tipping says unnamed members of the board had assured him the funding threat and firing order was delivered.

Efforts by MPBN to reach some of the board members for comment were unsuccessful, but Roy says that since Tipping's blog post, the board members are now saying that Parent's resignation was sought for performance issues.

"I think it's just a way of covering up what took place, everybody is in some way tied to the governor in wages and jobs and they don't want to be involved," Roy says.

Tipping says that despite what the board members are saying now, he knows what they told him.

"All of the people I talked to in my notes and recordings confirmed that was the issue of discussion around Jason Parent's resignation," Tipping says.

In a written statement, Peter Steele, the governor's communications director, denies that the governor had ever sought any retribution against Parent or threatened anyone.

He says both Roy and Parent are Democratic operatives. He's also described Paradis in similar terms.

Instead of threatening to withhold funding for the organization, Steele says LePage actually rescued the $1 million in funding for the World Acadian Congress.

(Maine Writer says the funding of $1 million was likely in response to requests made to the Governor from his colleagues in New Brunswick and in Quebec, who had already put up quite a bit of provincial money to support this international event.)

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Governor LePage litany of "your fired!" and the French Acadian Congress

It's impossible to get through a news cycle in Maine this summer without hearing a cacophy of damaging information about Governor Paul LePage.

Jason Parent did not deny reports by the Bangor Daily News that he left his job at CMA because of funding threats by Governor LePage

Besides being called the nation's craziest governor and referred to as "tete du merde" by an blogger, the fact is, the governor doesn't stop causing negative news.

In addition to bringing the Maine legislature to the brink of launching impeachment proceedings against him, for conduct currently under investigation, he boldly led a litany of caustic personal actions. His list of "do it because I can"in your face actions are enough to make any reasonable person want to physically vomit from fear of wondering "what's next?".

There's no doubt about it, in case anyone happens to still be wondering. Maine's Governor LePage has an emotionally labile personality. He is subject to rapid, often. exaggerated changes in mood. When he gets riled up, he fires people without cause, which is often. Moreover, it's impossible to say when his mood swings will wane. Therefore, people in his circle of whatever we choose to call them, i.e., "colleagues" "appointments" "friends?" or "networks", are likely fearful for their professional lives about being next on the governor's list for revenge.

Nevertheless, the governor's colleagues received a bonus pay raise this summer, while many others were brutally fired.  

While cost of living adjustments for nearly all people who survive on Social Security or other retirement income is less than 3 percent, if that, the governor LePage "good" list received a 4 percent across the board increase in salary. 

Meanwhile, Governor LePage is against a minimum wage increase for ordinary people who sometimes work three jobs to make ends meet and he disapproves of a Medicaid expansion to help provide health care coverage for 70,000 uninsured Maine people. 

How selfish can one publicly elected person get?  For Governor LePage, it turns out, he is "very selfish". Unfortunately, the people who voted for Governor LePage are largely the same who're hardest hit by his selfish bully politics.  (I recall how the Governor's wife Ann LePage  told WCSH6 - TV news man Don Carrigan, in an interview, how her husband will always look out for the underdog. Is that so, Mrs. LePage? If minimum wage earners, who are deserving to receive a pay increase, aren't "underdogs", than who does qualify?)

As though the 4 percent pay increases to his cronies weren't enough controversy, it turned out yet another well respected Franco-American was revealed to be another victim of loosing his job because Governor LePage didn't happen to like something he did. Jason Parent left his job as president of the CMA, because he presented a French Acadian celebration license plate to Congressman Mike Michaud. OMG!

Here's the story from the Tipping Point, on the Bangor Daily News (BDN) news site:

Acadian Congress board members allege that Governor LePage forced (the CMA) - President’s resignation:

If there’s a charity event or service organization in Aroostook County, there’s a pretty good chance that Jason Parent has had a hand in running it.

He has served as president of the Greater Fort Kent Area Chamber of Commerce, the United Way of Aroostook and the Maine Acadian Heritage Council. He has served on the board of directors of the Presque Isle Rotary Club, Momentum Aroostook and Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development and has helped organize Aroostook Idol (now Northern Star) and the World Junior Biathlon Championship.

His day jobs, formerly at Northern Maine Community College and now at The Aroostook (Maine) Medical Center are also focused on community engagement and fundraising. Googling his name brings up a long list of awards and honors for successful civic pursuits.

In short, Jason Parent is known for getting things done for his community. (He's definitely not a quitter.)

Therefore, many were surprised (including Maine Writer) in April, 2013, when Parent announced he was stepping down as Maine International President and member of the board of the international governing organization of the 2014 World Acadian Congress. He cited “recent exciting changes and advancement in my professional career, and the realization that my young family is seeing less and less of me” as the reasons for his decision ina letter to friends and the local media.

The World Acadian Congress (commonly known by its French acronym, CMA) was a project that Parent was organizing and had been leading for four and a half years. In fact, the project had a huge number of moving parts. The massive celebration, which unites Acadian communities from Maritime Canada, Quebec, Maine, Louisiana and across the world, is held every five years and brings together tens of thousands of Acadian descendents dispersed by the British military during the Great Expulsion of 1755-1764.

Parent had been part of the organizing committee that helped win the hosting bid for Acadia of the Lands and Forests, a region including Northern Maine as well as parts of New Brunswick and Quebec. The two-week bash would eventually feature parades, concerts, traditional food and games and more than 120 family reunions. Everyone involved seems to agree that it provided a huge cultural and economic boost for the St. John Valley and Northern Maine.

Now that the Congress is in the rearview mirror, however, members of the Maine organizing board have begun to provide more context to Parent’s departure. They allege that Parent resigned not just because of the reasons in his letter, but primarily because of a threat by Maine Governor Paul LePage to withhold $500,000 in state funding for the Congress unless Parent was removed.

“What I was told is it was either get rid of Jason Parent or you lose your funding,” said Anne Roy, a board member and director of the Acadian Village Museum “He was a very good manager. There was no reason to bamboozle him the way he got bamboozled.”

According Roy and six other members of the board who confirmed her account, some only willing to speak on background, Governor LePage’s displeasure was the result of an incident involving the presentation of a CMA-branded license plate to then-Congressman Mike Michaud.

The plates were the product of a bill passed by the State Legislature to honor the Congress and provide a fundraising tool, with part of the proceeds from sales of the plates going to fund the CMA.

The plan, according to board members, was to publicly present the plates to all of Maine’s congressional delegation, as well as to Governor LePage, as a way of drawing attention to the fundraiser and the Congress.

LePage apparently felt that Michaud receiving his plate first and in a very public way (it took place on stage at the Northern Star singing competition) was a political affront. Michaud was not yet a declared candidate for governor, but it was rumored that he was likely to run against LePage. According to the board members, LePage’s displeasure was communicated through a member of his administration.

George [Dumond] and Lorraine [Pelletier] got the threat. It came through Danny Deveau, one of men who works for LePage. He’s the Maine-Canadian ombudsman,” said Roy.

Daniel Deveau was an early political ally of the governor. He made financial and in-kind contributions to LePage during both the primary and general election campaigns in 2010, while also running as the Republican candidate for the District 35 State Senate seat in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat incumbent Democrat Troy Jackson.

In 2012, LePage appointed Deveau as Maine-Canadian Trade Ombudsman, a position under the purview of the governor’s office that was first created in 2001, but had never before been filled. He was confirmed to the $60,000-a-year position by a 26 to 6, bi-partisan vote in the Maine Senate.

“I heard at the meeting that Governor LePage through Danny Deveau said he was not happy that Jason presented it to Mike,” said board member Linda Cyr, referring to a meeting of the board in April, 2013 at which Jason’s resignation was decided. “There was concern expressed about funding from the state.”

“Like all the others I was told so but I don’t know it for a fact,” said board member Don Levesque when asked if Deveau had expressed those concerns on behalf of the governor.

When first asked about the issue, Dumond and Pelletier both denied that they had spoken to Deveau or that such a threat was discussed by the board, but Deveau himself wasn’t quite as reticent.

“I expressed my concerns that the former president was acting without direction from the board and bringing his own personal politics into the World Acadian Congress,” wrote Deveau by email.

When asked by phone if he had threatened to withhold state funding for the Congress, Deveau refused to answer and abruptly ended the conversation. He also did not respond to further questions in writing.

Once Pelletier and Dumond knew that other members of the board and Deveau had spoken publicly about the issue, they acknowledged that the conversations had in fact taken place.

“There was of course a comment that was made [by Deveau] about an article that Jason put in the paper,” said Pelletier. “He said the governor wasn’t happy.”

“Danny Deveau did bring those issues to me, and I brought them to the board,” said Dumond. He declined to answer when asked to confirm that Deveau had made a specific threat about funding for the Congress.

According to Roy, the reticence by some board members to discuss the issue and the reason it hasn’t surfaced until now, two years later, is that the board as a group, including Parent, decided to keep the matter under wraps for the good of the Congress.

“It was kept quiet. There was no reason to wake up the dead. It’s a done deal.” said Roy. “George Dumond was a good leader and Lorraine was a good office person. I don’t think any of us was happy with what had taken place, but we didn’t have a choice. This was not pennies we were talking about, this was a million dollars.”

The state funding for the event, which LePage had promised to deliver during his 2010 election campaign, came through the Maine Office of Tourism, with some involvement by the Department of Economic Development. A bill to require the funding by statute submitted by Sen. Jackson was voted down by the Appropriations Committee in 2012, but it’s not clear what discretion LePage had over the funding that was eventually allocated. At that point in 2013, $500,000 had already been disbursed to the CMA.

The state’s million dollars, spread out over four years, was the major source of funding for the Maine section of the CMA, after a $1 million federal appropriation supported by Representative Michaud and Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe failed to make its way through the U.S. Congress.

“I can tell you that LePage was responsible for the only government funding we got. I can tell you that was much appreciated. We would not have been able to participate in the Congress without LePage’s support and you’re going to be hard pressed to find me, probably, wanting to talk bad about Governor LePage for any other reason,” said Dumond.

LePage was a prominent fixture at the Congress when it was held, the August before his 2014, re-election. He participated in ceremonies and events with other regional leaders and was featured in local and regional media coverage.(Unfortuantely, several other Democratic candidates running for Second District Congress and for Governor, did not participate in events.)  A candidate (at the time) Bruce Poliquin, did attend some of the CMA celebrations.

Jason Parent, for his part, hopes to put the whole issue behind him. He declined to give details of the events leading to his resignation on the record, saying he didn’t want to risk the matter further affecting his life and career.

When asked if the allegations that financial threats from Governor LePage forced him from his role as President were true, Parent said simply “I can confirm that is the case.”

LePage’s alleged actions with the CMA board seem to mirror other times that the governor has financially threatened independent organizations and bodies that don’t normally fall under the governor’s direct authority.

Earlier this year, LePage withheld funding from the Maine Human Rights Commission, over a ruling regarding religious discrimination with which he disagreed. 

In January, LePage forced the resignation of John Fitzsimmons, President of the Maine Community College System, through the use of financial threats, telling trustees that they would “feel the wrath” if they didn’t oust him. 

Last month, LePage forced Good Will-Hinckley to fire newly-hired House Speaker Mark Eves from a position as President there by threatening to withhold state funding meant for a school for at-risk children.

“What happened to Jason is the very same thing that happened to Eves,” said Roy. “It’s not right. It’s not the way America was meant to operate.”

One difference between Parent’s case and Eves’, aside from LePage having confirmed himself that he made financial threats to Good Will-Hinckley, is that the matter with the CMA seems to have turned on an issue of electoral politics, rather than policy or ideological disagreement.

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