Maine Writer

Its about people and issues I care about.

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Location: Topsham, MAINE, United States

My blogs are dedicated to the issues I care about. Thank you to all who take the time to read something I've written.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Syria - Killing Innocents with Weapons of Mass Destruction

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke (1729-97)
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) were non-existent when President George Bush made the decision to invade Iraq on March 1, 2003.   We now know, those Weapons of Mass Destruction didn't exist.

Meanwhile, as a result of American intervention in Iraq, thousands of people were killed, including American military and Iraqi civilians, in Operation Iraqi Freedom

Today, the world has evidence of genocide committed in Syria with President Bashar-al-Assad using the evil terror of deadly gas to murder his country's citizens; but the world seems to be in a state of paralysis about how to respond.  This makes no  sense. If Assad is allowed to kill his own people because he wants to murder future opposition, then all dissenting groups in other countries will be at risk for similar retribution.  Maybe, President Obama should have claimed, as President Bush did, that Assad harbors Weapons of Mass Destruction.  After all, what are gas killing weapons? Deadly weapons that kill innocent people with noxious gas are, in fact, weapons of mass destruction.  

President Obama decided to take the issue of how to respond to the Syrian genocide to the US Congress, for a vote.  He'll seek a Congressional vote before moving forward with an assault against the Assad regime.  If the Congress votes down any military action, the consequences of inaction will be theirs to bear. 

Almost as soon as President Obama announced his decision to procrastinate, the Syrian Government began yet another offensive against rebels.  More Christians will die as a result.

Let me get this right:  Americans invaded Iraq because Hussein was supposed to harbor Weapons of Mass Destruction - except he didn't.  But, America balk rather than retaliate against Assad because he killed thousands of his own people, in the face of President Obama's threat of retaliation.  There was no evidence of the former and plenty of brutal evidence to support the later.  

America invaded Iraq with no evidence; but we're in a delay pattern with Syria, in spite of evidence.

Nevertheless, a reasonable reticent response is understandable.   American intervention in the Middle East has had an overall negative impact. In fact, the Middle East has been in a tailspin ever since 1991, when President George Herbert Walker Bush decided to invade Iraq in Operation Dessert Storm, because Saddam Hussein had invaded the sovereign nation of Kuwait.  

Bush, remembering the lessons of Vietnam, sought public support before the Gulf War. Although there were scant opponents of the conflict, the vast majority of Americans and a narrow majority of the Congress supported the President's actions. When all the forces were in place, the United States issued an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein: leave Kuwait by January 15,1991 or face a full attack by the multinational force.

But, President Bush 1st didn't finish the job after the successful multinational  invasion led by General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr.

Although Schwarzkopf led a brilliant effort, Saddam Hussein remained in charge of Iraq.  

After the war, Saddam Hussein executed a reign terror against the Iraqi groups that assisted the multinationals. The unfinished business after the Gulf War became complicated over time, but ultimately led to the Second Iraq War.  This second invasion was based upon a false premise that Hussein harbored Weapons of Mass Destruction. Tragically, in the aftermath of both wars, the country of Iraq has since broken into civil unrest.

In other words, American intervention in Iraq has not advanced the nation one iota.  

Intervention in Syria will presumably create the same dismal outcome.

But, Syrian President Assad is getting away with genocide; he's murdering his people, including hundreds of children, using Weapons of Mass Destruction!  

Inevitably, civil wars and religious carnage in the Middle East will lead to a confrontation of Apocalyptic proportions. Unspeakable nuclear options are certainly another horrendous threat. The world can't continue to ignore growing instability in the Middle East.  

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke (1729-97)

President Obama told Americans today that he will take action against the Syrian Government - “We cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus,” Obama said during an address at the Rose Garden. “This has implications beyond chemical warfare," he said.

Unfortunately, the implications he spoke of will create more carnage, as Assad sees he's getting away with murder.  It's likely he'll destroy his opposition, most of them Christians, before our gridlocked US Congress reconvenes on September 9th.  

Assad will use more Weapons of Mass Destruction in the process.

Maybe, President Obama's Rose Garden statement today should have included President Bush, the President who used WMD as the premise for the Iraq invasion, standing with Vice President Biden.

So, we've finally found a valid reason to attack a sovereign country, but the weapons of mass destruction we sought in Iraq are being used to kill innocent people in Syria.  Typically, our US Congress will do about as much to help Syrian rebels as they do about immigration reform - ie nothing.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke (1729-97)

Although Americans have every reason to be averse to any wars, the Assad "in you face" actions to deliberately violate international law must be punished.  Syrian people must rise up to initiate a regime change before the entire Middle East turns into the fulfillment of Apocalyptic prophecy; and the weapons of mass destruction used will be more than the world can continue to ignore.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Maine: Becoming a Magnet for the "Anti" Chris Christie Candidate

Maine folklore includes a "Bert and I" story about a doctor who's called to the rural home of a woman delivering a baby in the middle of the night.  As the doctor is about to deliver the baby, he asks the father to hold up the gas lantern, so he can see better.  So, the father puts the lamp close to the point of the delivery.  But, then the doctor says, "Oh my! I see twins coming". So, the father puts the lamp even closer, for the doctor to benefit from more light. Soon, though, the doctor tells the father to put the lamp out.  "Take that light away," says the doctor, "the light's drawin' em!"

So, it seems, Maine's Governor Paul LePage is bringing the spotlight of national media attention to Maine.  Instead of helping the state to grow, however, his "light" is drawing negative publicity.

It's time to remove that spotlight from Governor LePage.  He's drawin' too much negative publicity.   

Governor Paul LePage promotes Maine's slogan to be "open for business". But, our Governor's unpredictable behavior is certainly opening the state up to unnecessary ridicule. Even the Washington Post is hearing the cacophony of misstatements, outrageous statements, racist statements and just plain objectionable statements flowing from Governor Lepage's lexicon of what not to say in public.

Add the Washington Post article to the op-ed by Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz:  Posted:Today
Bill Nemitz: Republican knives out for LePageBy Bill Nemitz
Dear Governor LePage, Hear that sound?

Now I admit I'm not exactly a member of Maine's Republican inner circle – assuming such a thing still exists. In fact, I was halfway around the world last week, attending my son's wedding reception in South Korea, when I read the news – on the New York Times website, no less – of your latest bout of foot-in-mouth disease.

President Obama hates white people. I've got to hand it to you, Big Guy, when it comes to this year's nominations for the Right-Wing Crazy Talk Hall of Fame, it's a dead heat right now between you and that ex-cop in Sabattus who called for shooting the president (actually, he used a racial slur) because he thinks Obama wants to take away his wife's Social Security spousal benefits.

Back to your latest gaffe, which I understand you made at a private fundraiser in Belgrade attended by more than a few pillars of Maine's Republican establishment.

First came the two lawmakers who confirmed, anonymously, to the Press Herald that you made the crack about Obama and white people.  Then came your claim that you never said it and that we media folks "are all about gossip."

Then, when that didn't work, came your usual non-apologetic apology to your fellow Republicans "for any difficulty that remarks recently reported in the press may have caused you."

I love the way you do that: The problem isn't that you made the remarks, but rather that the media reported them and your Republican friends had "difficulty" digesting them. I swear, if you were caught robbing a bank, you'd blame it on the unmarked bills "that recently found their way into my brown paper bag."

Anyway, I'm hearing that your mea culpa, or whatever it was, hasn't gone over too well in Republican land.

The Washington Post adds to the accumulating noise around Govneror LePage's statements.

In Maine, ‘thunder’ from Gov. LePage’s mouth brings rain on reelection prospects- from the August 29, Washington Post by Jason Horowitz

AUGUSTA, Maine — On paper, Paul LePage’s résumé reads like the answer to Republican prayers. A son of laborers, LePage learned English as a second language and fled an abusive father and a family of 17 brothers and sisters. He wound up living on the streets as a child. He worked his way through school with manufacturing jobs and became a self-made businessman, small-town mayor, a husband, father and fiscally conservative governor.

The catch is that he speaks. And when he does, bad things often happen. Earlier this month, he allegedly told a group of Republicans that President Obama “hates white people,” once again putting picturesque Maine in an unflattering spotlight.

“Words to me are like thunder. They make a lot of noise, but they don’t accomplish anything,” LePage said Thursday. “And that’s how I feel. And if that takes me down, it takes me down.”

Unlike Chris Christie, another rotund Republican governor from the Northeast with a reputation for a sharp tongue and short temper, LePage has suffered for his straight talk, with his reelection chances and national standing falling. Democratic and independent challengers — and even Republicans seeking a primary challenger — sense his vulnerability in the 2014 race. This week, an early poll showed LePage behind his likely Democratic opponent.

The 64-year-old descendant of French Canadians sported frameless glasses and a blue shirt and pink tie during an interview in his airy office, where busts of Ronald Reagan and a giant eraser marked “For Big Mistakes” adorned his desk. He said that if the electorate is “concerned with words over actions, I may not run.”

There’s plenty that opponents can seize on to stoke the electorate’s concerns.

In 2011, LePage told members of the NAACP to “kiss my butt.” He called lawmakers “idiots,” compared the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo, and ordered that a mural celebrating workers be peeled off a wall of the state’s Labor Department because it didn’t champion entrepreneurs. In June, he verbally shredded state Sen. Troy Jackson — a Democratic congressional candidate and frequent LePage antagonist — for Jackson’s effort to cut Le­Page’s pension. “Senator Jackson claims to be for the people, but he’s the first one to give it to the people of Maine without providing Vaseline,” the governor said at the time.

Jackson, who roamed the statehouse during a special session on Thursday, complained that Le­Page was “erratic and makes unbelievably insensitive comments all the time.” But the governor didn’t seem entirely repentant.

“When you come from the streets — okay? — you develop sort of a mechanism inside of you, which is to protect what’s yours,” LePage said. “What he didn’t realize is that I take care of my sick mother-in-law and a wife. And when he made that attack [on my pension], that was against them. You can do anything to me, but don’t touch my family.”

But it is August that has proved the most thunderous month. A few weeks ago, LePage sat in a F-35 cockpit simulator for a photo op. “The demonstrator says to me, ‘Governor, what do you want to blow up this morning?’ And I said, ‘How about the [Portland] Press Herald.’ Next thing you know, they call the FBI!”

And on Aug. 12, LePage addressed about 60 Republican supporters at a fundraiser in Belgrade, a town north of Augusta. According to a report in the Press Herald, which cited anonymous sources, LePage told attendees that Obama could have been the best president ever if he had highlighted his biracial heritage, but that didn’t happen because he “hates white people.”

“I did not say it, not in the context in which it was reported,” said LePage, who has helped raise a Jamaican-born child as his own. “I never said hate.” He said that he simply stated that the president, being half black and half white, had a unique opportunity to bring people together. “But I said, ‘I guess he doesn’t like me’ ” — a gibe, he said, that they turned into, “Oh, he hates white people.”

The larger problem, he said, is the press, and specifically the (Portland) Press Herald, which, like several other Maine outlets, is “essentially owned by a congress lady of the opposing party.” The papers are owned by Donald Sussman, a billionaire hedge fund manager who is married to Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat.

“That’s his way of deflection,” Pingree said. “And to me, it was sort of like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ ” She said that the reporters at the Press Herald would “be insulted” if people thought she gave them marching orders and that “my husband doesn’t influence the newspaper. He just happens to own it.”

Whether it is LePage’s political clumsiness or, as he would have it, press bias, the result is that his biography is eclipsed on the national stage by his inclination toward invective. He grew up in the part of the state called Little Canada, to parents who spoke nary a word of English. LePage was the oldest of 18 children in a troubled family (“some of my brothers have been guests of the state”). His father beat him so badly that he left home at 11.

“You live in cellars, hallways, brothels, wherever it’s warm in the winter, under the stars in the summer,” he said. “I’ve had to eat cat food to survive.” He was taken in for a time as a teenager by the family of the husband of former Republican senator Olympia Snowe and got his life on track. “If you ever saw the movie ‘The Blind Side,’ you’re looking at him,” Le­Page said, referring to the story of a talented but wayward young future NFL player taken in by a wealthy family.

LePage became a successful businessman and turnaround consultant for Maine businesses, including one that he said is “now one of the major manufacturers of drumsticks and world-class pepper mills for some of the best chefs in the world.” He became mayor of Waterville in 2003 and then benefited from tea party support and a three-way race to win the governorship in 2010.
Now, with reelection in doubt, he is trying his best to make something positive out of all the negative coverage. “Frankly, sometimes the distractions that the press creates allow me to do the work that I need to do,” he said. “So there’s a plus side. I get cover. The sad thing is it is going to hurt during the reelection because the opposition is going to make me look like a bad guy.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the leading candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Mike Michaud, stood facing fog-shrouded Casco Bay as he waited for a ferry to Peaks Island for a meeting at an American Legion Post and a lobster bake fund­raiser.

A six-term congressman and the ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee who previously served as the president of the Maine Senate, Michaud speaks haltingly, adding to the 58-year-old’s unassuming aura. Michaud, who was born into a Franco-American family, went from high school to “the college of hard knocks,” punching a clock in the Great Northern Paper mills — a life story that cuts into some of LePage’s tough-guy appeal. Le­Page’s associates describe Michaud as a lifelong politician and an empty suit, but he is leading in the most recent polls.

On the ferry, Michaud wore a checked Brooks Brothers shirt, khakis and customized New Balance sneakers (made in Maine) that read “Michaud 2014” on the back. He described LePage as a loose cannon who “doesn’t set Maine in a good light around the country — quite frankly, around the world.”

When Michaud walked into the American Legion, which housed an old Newport cigarette machine and tarp-covered pool table, he asked Paul Landry, a 79-year-old vet at the end of the bar, how he had been.

“Things will be better when we have a new governor,” Landry said.

In an interview, Michaud conceded that “definitely it would be easier” to have a head-to-head contest with LePage rather than a three-way race that includes Eliot Cutler, an independent. “Eliot’s going to have to come to his own conclusions, what he is going to do or not do. 2014 is a different election than 2010,” he said.

Cutler, 67, lost by less than two percentage points to LePage in 2010. He sees an opening and a chance at redemption through an independent, ideas-based candidacy. Of starkly different pedigree from the other two would-be governors — Harvard/Georgetown Law/aide to the late Sen. Edmund Muskie/official in the Carter administration — the Bangor-born environmental lawyer bristles at the notion that he could be the spoiler.

“Mike Michaud would beat Paul LePage. Eliot Cutler would beat Paul LePage,” he said, adding that three-way races are common in Maine and that the real choice for the next governor is probably “between Cutler and Michaud.”

Win or lose, one thing seems for sure for Paul LePage: He will not challenge Christie as the Republican Party’s tough-talking standard-bearer. And that’s apparently fine by him.

“I don’t want to be a star,” Le­Page said, exasperated. “I’m just not interested in the limelight. I just want to do a good job and see my kids stay in Maine, earn a living in Maine, raise their family in Maine so I don’t have to travel to see my grandkids.”

From my experience:  Governor LePage supporters often say they appreciate a plain spoken leader. Unfortunately, being plain spoken doesn't excuse the mispoken comments that offend the office of the Governor and Maine people.  
Moreover, Governor LePage is not the "ying" of Governor Chris Christie's "yang", or visa versa.  Although Governor Christie is often plain spoken, his self deprecating behavior softens his cutting delivery.  If Governor LePage is being compared to Governor Christie, then he should find somebody to teach him how to be plain spoken without painfully speaking.

Governor Lepage must quickly change his rough and plain speaking style before the unintended consequence results in Maine people closing down on his entire agenda and administration.

It's time to remove that spotlight from Governor LePage.  He's drawin' too much negative publicity.  

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

March on Washington - Listen Up Republicans: President Abraham Lincoln Was One of You

At the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, celebrated in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, this week- no Republicans from Lincoln's own political party, spoke at this momentous and historically commemorative event.

"...the closest thing to a member of the GOP to address the crowd was Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)..."

"Tim Scott, the only African American and a Republican, currently serving in the U.S. Senate, was only invited to attend as a spectator." President Obama paid tribute to Black political leaders in his speech. I'm confident Senator Scott was a consideration in the President's comments.  Be a grown up, Senator sad that you did not attend.

"House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor both had scheduling conflicts..."  (Shame on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, especially when President Obama acknowledged the Holocaust in his eloquent speech - I'm so embarrassed for you, Congressman Cantor...)
The speakers at the 50th anniversary commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington were uniformly left-of-center, reports The Daily Beast.  

The lack of Republican speakers has stirred comment across the political spectrum. 

King's son, Martin Luther King III, was disappointed that "we didn't have bipartisanship," while Fox News' Bill O'Reilly raged at what he called the exclusion of "black Republicans and other conservatives."

Too bad O'Reilly.  What goes around comes around.

If Republicans were really political leaders, this snub didn't have to happen in front of the international media- because they could have claimed the event for themselves.  They must forget.  Abraham Lincoln was a Republican president and the leader who signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Why should obstructive Republicans be invited to the Lincoln Memorial?  Their obstructive policies would only desecrate the leader who was martyred on behalf of giving Negroes and Black Americans their freedom from slavery.

Would you invite people to your parents 50th anniversary celebration if they were the people who tried to dismantle your family's unity?  I don't think so.

Republicans want to dismantle our nation's progress on income security and human rights.  They use their Congressional majority to stop (a) voting rights (b) immigration reform (c) President Obama's American Jobs Act (d) Health Care Reform (e) womens reproductive rights (f)  the lifting of the stupid budget sequester and (g) taxation reform (whereby the rich pay their fair share). Republicans are intent on obstructing progressive public policies. Probably, the only policies Republicans support are the Grover Norquist anti-tax pledge and unlimited Second Amendment rights, in spite of the thousands of innocent people who are killed by preventable gun violence.  

The boldface names at the March on Washington event were all Democrats: Barack Obama and former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter spoke. It was impressive to see two Southern state presidents standing proudly in the shadow of President Abraham Lincoln's enormous likeness.

While a number of Democratic elected officials spoke, including Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), as well as officials from groups closely tied to the Democratic Party, such as labor unions, there was not a single Republican who addressed the crowd, let alone a representative of the business community. In fact, the closest thing to a member of the GOP to address the crowd was Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) who isn't a Democrat, he just caucuses with them.

Some Republicans were invited, although, both George H.W. and George W. Bush declined to attend because of health issues and Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor both had scheduling conflicts. (Speaker Boehner did speak at a congressional commemoration of the march.) 

In addition CQ/Roll Call reported that John McCain and Jeb Bush were invited to speak but that Tim Scott, the only African American currently serving in the U.S. Senate, was only invited to attend as a spectator

It does not appear that the march's organizers were intentionally snubbing Republicans, but the lack of political diversity on the stage added unnecessary and unfortunate controversy to what should have been a celebration of the legacy of the civil-rights movement. 

Nevertheless, as far as I can see, if Republicans are upset because they weren't invited to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, it's because they have not earned the right to be there.

The weather was drizzly in the shadow President Abraham Lincoln, contributing to the appropriately solemn mood of the occasion.  

It was perfect weather to  underscore the reality that, in fact, there's not a lot to celebrate about racial equality in America, even 150 years after Abraham Lincoln singed the Emancipation Proclamation.  

Republicans cannot expect to be invited to events to celebrate freedom and equality when they work obsessively to prevent these human rights conditions from improving.  Rather, their obstruction continues to denigrate the human condition.

Perhaps the saddest take away  from the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington is that Republicans shunned the leadership of their own President Abraham Lincoln.

Organizers of the 50th anniversary event have nothing to apologize for.  Just because Republicans, like O'Reilly, whine about not being invited, doesn't mean they should have been invited to the solemn celebration.  It's hypocritical for Republicans to participate in an event to celebrate racial emancipation and equality, when they don't support policies to improve the human condition.  Republicans can't expect to just show up, for the purpose of being seen, at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.  Quite frankly, they would have spoiled the party.

Republican snubs of Lincoln and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech is a classic, "what goes around" event.  

Their snub will come around again at the voting booths, regardless of how long Black Americans must stand in line to cast their ballots.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

President Obama Advances the Dream - Dr. Martin Luther King's Vision Moves Forward

"With the few dollars they scrimped from their labor, some bought tickets and boarded buses, even if they couldn't always sit where they wanted to sit. Those with less money hitchhiked, or walked. They were seamstresses, and steelworkers, and students, and teachers, maids and pullman porters. They shared simple meals and bunked together on floors,"  President Barack Obama, describing the August 28, 1963, "Let Freedom Ring", March on Washington.

Freedom's bell clearly rang today as the nation commemorated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's Dream Speech, during the March on Washington DC.  Dr. King's vision was advanced today during an emotional commemoration of the March on Washington, when, in 1963, over 250,000 people peacefully demonstrated for the Civil Rights of millions of Black American citizens.  

None of us who experienced the magnitude of Dr. King's speech in 1963, could have seen the future he dreamed of, where equality for all people would be fulfilled as he articulated:  "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

President Obama advanced Dr. King's vision in the speech he gave in the very same location where the Dream Speech was so magnificently articulated, 50 years ago.  

Yet, let's not allow the spotlight of the 50th remembrances to blind us to the martyrs who lost their lives as a result of supporting Civil Rights and the equality of all people.  

We must remember the brutal history that subsequently led to the fulfillment of Dr. King's vision.  

President Obama remembered those martyrs today:

President Abraham Lincoln:  Martyred on April 15, 1865, in Ford's Theater, in Washington DC, because he led the Civil War (1860-65) and defeated the Southern Confederate states, after singing the Emancipation Proclamation, later ratified by Congress, thus freeing the African Negro slaves, as a result.

President John F.  Kennedy: Martyred in Dallas Texas November 22, 1963.  He was President during the original March on Washington who hosted the organizers at the White House following the success of the March on Washington.

Senator Robert F. Kennedy: Martyred in Los Angeles California on June 6, 1966, brother of President Kennedy and his brother's Attorney General during the Civil Rights movement.

Dr. Martin Luther King: Martyred April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, author of "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", written while he was in prison because of his Civil Rights activities; murdered following his charismatic and inspiring "I Have a Dream Speech", given to a throng of 250,000 people, on August 28, 1963, at the foot of the statue of Abraham Lincoln.  

Additionally, let's never forget the martyred children, who were killed following the enormous success of the March on Washington. This Birmingham, Alabama church bombing occurred on September 15, 1963, just a few weeks after Dr. King's Dream Speech.  At 10:22 a.m. on the morning of September 15, 1963, some 200 church members were in the building--many attending Sunday school classes before the start of the 11 am service--when the bomb detonated on the church's east side, spraying mortar and bricks from the front of the church and caving in its interior walls. Most parishioners were able to evacuate the building as it filled with smoke, but the bodies of four young girls (14-year-old Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson and 11-year-old Denise McNair) were found beneath the rubble in a basement restroom. Ten-year-old Sarah Collins, who was also in the restroom at the time of the explosion, lost her right eye, and more than 20 other people were injured in the blast.

Today, the "Let Freedom Ring" bell, a relic from the Birmingham Church bombing, rang out to remember the past and symbolically advance Dr. King's dream. 

Dr. King's dream was proudly advanced by our African American President Barack Obama, who focused on the economic equality envisioned in the Dream speech (text below): 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
In 1963, almost 200 years after those words were set to paper, a full century after a great war was fought and emancipation proclaimed, that promise, those truths remained unmet. And so they came by the thousands, from every corner of our country -- men and women, young and old, blacks who longed for freedom and whites who could no longer accept freedom for themselves while witnessing the subjugation of others. 

Across the land, congregations sent them off with food and with prayer. In the middle of the night, entire blocks of Harlem came out to wish them well.

With the few dollars they scrimped from their labor, some bought tickets and boarded buses, even if they couldn't always sit where they wanted to sit. Those with less money hitchhiked, or walked. They were seamstresses, and steelworkers, and students, and teachers, maids and pullman porters. They shared simple meals and bunked together on floors.

And then, on a hot summer day, they assembled here, in our nation's capital, under the shadow of the great emancipator, to offer testimony of injustice, to petition their government for redress and to awaken America's long-slumbering conscience.

We rightly and best remember Dr. King's soaring oratory that day, how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions, how he offered a salvation path for oppressed and oppressors alike. His words belong to the ages, possessing a power and prophecy unmatched in our time.

But we would do well to recall that day itself also belonged to those ordinary people whose names never appeared in the history books, never got on TV.

Many had gone to segregated schools and sat at segregated lunch counters, had lived in towns where they couldn't vote, in cities where their votes didn't matter. There were couples in love who couldn't marry, soldiers who fought for freedom abroad that they found denied to them at home. They had seen loved ones beaten and children fire- hosed. And they had every reason to lash out in anger or resign themselves to a bitter fate.

And yet they chose a different path.

In the face of hatred, they prayed for their tormentors. In the face of violence, they stood up and sat in with the moral force of nonviolence. Willingly, they went to jail to protest unjust laws, their cells swelling with the sound of freedom songs. A lifetime of indignities had taught them that no man can take away the dignity and grace that God grants us.

They had learned through hard experience what Frederick Douglas once taught: that freedom is not given; it must be won through struggle and discipline, persistence and faith.

That was the spirit they brought here that day.

That was the spirit young people like John Lewis brought that day. That was the spirit that they carried with them like a torch back to their cities and their neighborhoods, that steady flame of conscience and courage that would sustain them through the campaigns to come, through boycotts and voter registration drives and smaller marches, far from the spotlight, through the loss of four little girls in Birmingham, the carnage of Edmund Pettus Bridge (in Selma Alabama). and the agony of Dallas (Nov. 22, 1963), California (June 6 1966), Memphis (April 4, 1968). Through setbacks and heartbreaks and gnawing doubt, that flame of justice flickered and never died.And because they kept marching, America changed. Because they marched, the civil rights law was passed. Because they marched, the voting rights law was signed. Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else's laundry or shining somebody else's shoes.

Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislatures changed and Congress changed and, yes, eventually the White House changed
Because they marched, America became more free and more fair, not just for African-Americans but for women and Latinos, Asians and Native Americans, for Catholics, Jews and Muslims, for gays, for Americans with disabilities.

America changed for you and for me.

And the entire world drew strength from that example, whether it be young people who watched from the other side of an Iron Curtain and would eventually tear down that wall, or the young people inside South Africa who would eventually end the scourge of apartheid.

Those are the victories they won, with iron wills and hope in their hearts. That is the transformation that they wrought with each step of their well-worn shoes. That's the depth that I and millions of Americans owe those maids, those laborers, those porters, those secretaries -- folks who could have run a company, maybe, if they had ever had a chance; those white students who put themselves in harm's way even though they didn't have to -- those Japanese- Americans who recalled their own interment, those Jewish Americans who had survived the Holocaust, people who could have given up and given in but kept on keeping on, knowing that weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning --  on the battlefield of justice, men and women without rank or wealth or title or fame would liberate us all, in ways that our children now take for granted as people of all colors and creeds live together and learn together and walk together, and fight alongside one another and love one another, and judge one another by the content of our character in this greatest nation on Earth.

To dismiss the magnitude of this progress, to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed -- that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years. Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Martin Luther King Jr., they did not die in vain. Their victory was great.  

But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete. The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn't bend on its own.

To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency. Whether it's by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote or ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all in the criminal justice system and not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails -- it requires vigilance.
And we'll suffer the occasional setback. But we will win these fights. This country has changed too much. People of good will, regardless of party, are too plentiful for those with ill will to change history's currents.

In some ways, though, the securing of civil rights, voting rights, the eradication of legalized discrimination -- the very significance of these victories may have obscured a second goal of the march, for the men and women who gathered 50 years ago were not there in search of some abstract idea.

They were there seeking jobs as well as justice -- not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity.
For what does it profit a man, Dr. King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can't afford the meal?

This idea that -- that one's liberty is linked to one's livelihood, that the pursuit of happiness requires the dignity of work, the skills to find work, decent pay, some measure of material security -- this idea was not new.Lincoln himself understood the Declaration of Independence in such terms, as a promise that in due time, the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men and that all should have an equal chance.

Dr. King explained that the goals of African-Americans were identical to working people of all races: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures -- conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community.
What King was describing has been the dream of every American. It's what's lured for centuries new arrivals to our shores. And it's along this second dimension of economic opportunity, the chance through honest toil to advance one's station in life, that the goals of 50 years ago have fallen most short.

Yes, there have been examples of success within black America that would have been unimaginable a half-century ago. But as has already been noted, black unemployment has remained almost twice as high as white employment (sic), Latino unemployment close behind. 

The gap in wealth between races has not lessened, it's grown.

As President Clinton indicated, the position of all working Americans, regardless of color, has eroded, making the dream Dr. King described even more elusive.

For over a decade, working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate. Even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes, inequality has steadily risen over the decades. Upward mobility has become harder. In too many communities across this country in cities and suburbs and rural hamlets, the shadow of poverty casts a pall over our youth, their lives a fortress of substandard schools and diminished prospects, inadequate health care and perennial violence.

And so as we mark this anniversary, we must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks had joined the ranks of millionaires; it was whether this country would admit all people who were willing to work hard, regardless of race, into the ranks of a middle-class life. (Applause.) The test was not and never has been whether the doors of opportunity are cracked a bit wider for a few. It was whether our economic system provides a fair shot for the many, for the black custodian and the white steelworker, the immigrant dishwasher and the Native American veteran. To win that battle, to answer that call -- this remains our great unfinished business.

We shouldn't fool ourselves. The task will not be easy. Since 1963 the economy's changed.

The twin forces of technology and global competition have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class, reduced the bargaining power of American workers.

And our politics has suffered. Entrenched interests -- those who benefit from an unjust status quo resisted any government efforts to give working families a fair deal, marshaling an army of lobbyists and opinion makers to argue that minimum wage increases or stronger labor laws or taxes on the wealthy who could afford it just to fund crumbling schools -- that all these things violated sound economic principles.

We'd be told that growing inequality was the price for a growing economy, a measure of the free market -- that greed was good and compassion ineffective, and those without jobs or health care had only themselves to blame.

And then there were those elected officials who found it useful to practice the old politics of division, doing their best to convince middle-class Americans of a great untruth, that government was somehow itself to blame for their growing economic insecurity -- that distant bureaucrats were taking their hard-earned dollars to benefit the welfare cheat or the illegal immigrant.

And then, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us, claiming to push for change, lost our way. The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots.

Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse- making for criminal behavior. Racial politics could cut both ways as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support, as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself. All of that history is how progress stalled. That's how hope was diverted. It's how our country remained divided.

But the good news is, just as was true in 1963, we now have a choice. We can continue down our current path in which the gears of this great democracy grind to a halt and our children accept a life of lower expectations, where politics is a zero-sum game, where a few do very well while struggling families of every race fight over a shrinking economic pie. 

That's one path. Or we can have the courage to change.

The March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history, that we are masters of our fate.

But it also teaches us that the promise of this nation will only be kept when we work together. We'll have to reignite the embers of empathy and fellow feeling, the coalition of conscience that found expression in this place 50 years ago.

And I believe that spirit is there, that true force inside each of us. 

I see it when a white mother recognizes her own daughter in the face of a poor black child. I see it when the black youth thinks of his own grandfather in the dignified steps of an elderly white man. It's there when the native born recognizing that striving spirit of a new immigrant, when the interracial couple connects the pain of a gay couple who were discriminated against and understands it as their own. That's where courage comes from, when we turn not from each other or on each other but towards one another, and we find that we do not walk alone. That's where courage comes from. And with that courage, we can stand together for good jobs and just wages. With that courage, we can stand together for the right to health care in the richest nation on earth for every person.

With that courage, we can stand together for the right of every child, from the corners of Anacostia to the hills of Appalachia, to get an education that stirs the mind and captures the spirit and prepares them for the world that awaits them. 

With that courage, we can feed the hungry and house the homeless and transform bleak wastelands of poverty into fields of commerce and promise.

America, I know the road will be long, but I know we can get there. Yes, we will stumble, but I know we'll get back up. That's how a movement happens. That's how history bends. That's how, when somebody is faint of heart, somebody else brings them along and says, come on, we're marching.

There's a reason why so many who marched that day and in the days to come were young, for the young are unconstrained by habits of fear, unconstrained by the conventions of what is. 
They dared to dream different and to imagine something better. And I am convinced that same imagination, the same hunger of purpose serves in this generation.
We might not face the same dangers as 1963, but the fierce urgency of now remains. We may never duplicate the swelling crowds and dazzling processions of that day so long ago, no one can match King's brilliance, but the same flames that lit the heart of all who are willing to take a first step for justice, I know that flame remains. That tireless teacher who gets to class early and stays late and dips into her own pocket to buy supplies because she believes that every child is her charge -- she's marching. 

That successful businessman who doesn't have to, but pays his workers a fair wage and then offers a shot to a man, maybe an ex-con, who's down on his luck -- he's marching.

The mother who pours her love into her daughter so that she grows up with the confidence to walk through the same doors as anybody's son -- she's marching. The father who realizes the most important job he'll ever have is raising his boy right, even if he didn't have a father, especially if he didn't have a father at home -- he's marching. 

The battle-scarred veterans who devote themselves not only to helping their fellow warriors stand again and walk again and run again, but to keep serving their country when they come home -- they are marching.  Everyone who realizes what those glorious patriots knew on that day, that change does not come from Washington but to Washington, that change has always been built on our willingness, we, the people, to take on the mantle of citizenship -- you are marching.

And that's the lesson of our past, that's the promise of tomorrow, that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it. And when millions of Americans of every race and every region, every faith and every station can join together in a spirit of brotherhood, then those mountains will be made low, and those rough places will be made plain, and those crooked places, they straighten out towards grace, and we will vindicate the faith of those who sacrificed so much and live up to the true meaning of our creed as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

"Let Freedom Ring"

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Maine Voters Congratulate State Senator Elect Eloise Vitelli - Harbinger for Republicans

A blog written a few weeks ago was a prognosticator of the Maine special election for State Senate Seat 19 in Sagadohoc County - Democrat Eloise Vitelli defeated a seasoned Republican and lovely lady, former State Senator Paula Benoit. This election is the fulfillment of my August 1st blog.

Congratulations State Senator Elect Eloise Vitelli!  

This election victory is the harbinger of an upcoming Gubernatorial Election in 2014, putting the incumbent Republican Governor Paul LePage against a popular challenger Democrat Congressman Mike Michaud.  From our house in Topsham, in Sagadahoc County, where we voted for Ms. Vitelli, the Benoit campaign was a formidable challenge for the SD19 seat vacated by former State Senator Seth Goodall, Democrat of Richmond.  

Although I'm just a blogger, not a political analyst, I saw this key Republican defeat before it happened, because of the split in the GOP.  This outcome was evident because of a conversation I had with the Independent candidate Stromgren, who would not identify himself as a Republican, although he, apparently, is one.  

In fact, the Independent candidate Stromgren, who said he was a Green candidate, acknowledged to me that the Tea Party supported him. He actually took just enough votes away from Republican Benoit to prevent her victory.  So, hurray (!) the ultra right wing Tea Party is finally good for something, after all.  They effectively assisted a Democratic victory for State Senator elect Vitelli!  Yeah!

MUNICIPALITYBenoit (R)Stromgren (G)Vitelli (D)Total
West Bath31322275

Nevertheless, the underlying story in this well deserved Democratic victory is in showing the damaging split in the Republican party. Assuming Stromgren is a Republican in Green clothing, he contributed to a Democratic victory.

This small special election in Sagadahoc County, Maine, might well be the political Canary in the Coal Mine example of how the Republican Party is in a survival mode, seeking the oxygen required to control its own messaging and vision.  

Republicans must shed the right wing extremist element if the GOP intends to grow and, ultimately, survive.

Moreover, the Maine Democrats have a political opportunity to regain control of the Augusta state house, with Congressman Mike Michaud's campaign gaining momentum following Vitelli's victory.  

Today is a good day for Maine Democrats and a harbinger for both political parties.  "As Maine Goes" is an old slogan, but with Vitelli's victory, the saying may have grown new legs.  


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Corporations Supporting Obamacare - Thank you Starbucks

Shame on companies that cut employee hours and, thereby, their pay because the corporations won't comply with health care reform or the Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare".

Starbucks, thankfully, is a refreshingly ethical exception.

Corporate officers in big businesses continue to receive stock options for bonuses. Certainly, they must remember the people who earn the corporation's financial successes.  

Management earns very little of the money corporations pay their executives.  Rather, the big corporate salaries, bonuses and generous benefits, including executive health insurance, are earned by hard working hourly employees, for management to reap.  It's hard working personnel who earn the benefits the corporate executives see in their salaries.

Obviously, hourly workers deserve health insurance coverage, regardless of how many hours they work.

Employees certainly don't deserve to have hours and pay cut because of health care reform, especially when management keeps their bonuses and benefits. 

It's an understatement to accuse corporations that cut employee hours and, therefore, pay, because they won't comply with Obamacare, as acting selfishly.

Rather than cut employee hours, somebody should recommend cutting executive salaries for those in management who refuse to comply with health care reform.

Employers around the country, from fast-food franchises to colleges,  told NBC News they will be cut workers' hours below 30 a week because they can't afford to offer the health insurance mandated by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

But, Starbucks, the popular coffee dynasty, won't cut worker hours or benefits ahead of Obamacare says the CEO.

When Starbucks Corporation stands up in support of employee health insurance benefits under Obamacare, then other companies can do the same thing. 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Starbucks Coffee Co will not follow the lead of some other companies (like Subway) that are cutting health insurance benefits or reducing hours for employees in anticipation of the U.S. Affordable Care Act, the coffee shop chain's CEO Howard Schultz told Reuters on Monday.

"Other companies have announced that they won't provide coverage for spouses; others are lobbying for the cut-off to be at 40 hours. But Starbucks will continue maintaining benefits for partners and won't use the new law as excuse to cut benefits or lower benefits for its workers," Schultz said in a telephone interview.

The 2010 healthcare reform law, often called Obamacare, requires companies with more than 50 employees to offer health insurance for employees who work 30 hours a week or more. Starbucks currently provides healthcare to part-timers who work 20 hours a week or more.

And, therefore, all other companies with 50 or more employees can and should follow the Starbucks lead. 

For my part, Starbucks is a now a preferred coffee company.

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