One step closer to renouncing my party affiliation…

I know it’s been a while since I last posted.  Largely, I consider my tiny corner of the world pretty insignificant.  And I often think that much of what I say gets largely ignored anyway…just more internet detritus out there…the continued inane ramblings of yet another internet junky with an opinion that really doesn’t amount to much.  But such times as I do write, it’s as much for me as it is for anyone else.  But I like to think I’m not the ONLY one in the world still sane enough to look objectively at things, has a general moral compass, and can apply a reasonable amount of common sense.  Then again, looking around at everything going on today, maybe we few are a small and dying breed that believe that our political and social leaders should be a model to us rather than a continuing example of duplicity and immorality.

I’m not saying I’m perfect – far from it.  But given the moral high ground that each side seems to take and then it gets shown that neither side has the standing to be able to do so, I become irritated with both parties, but particularly with the Republican party as they base their entire mantra on being the party of strong family morals.  Don’t get me wrong, hypocrisy in any form is annoying to me.  But given my political affiliation, which may be short lived at this point, I expect more of those who say they share my values or like to say that I share theirs.  It makes those of us who actually believe in the tenants that we put forward look bad when cast in the generalized light of those who say one thing and do another.

I’ve had my issues with Judge Moore since before this whole business of his pursuit of young women came out.  I suppose that’s more of the Libertarian in me.  I used to believe that the two parties weren’t that far removed from one another, and perhaps their not, at least not in the timber of their message.  But the more I look around at those who present themselves as social and political leaders, the more disgusted I become with the holier than thou attitude that they push while all the while acting like they are so omnipotent that they can act in any fashion they choose.

I’m as disgusted with the Republican leadership that presents itself as the example of “family values” and yet acts as heinously as they do as I am with the liberals both in politics in the social circles that would use their voice to tell everyone ELSE how to live while they live by a different standard of their own.  And apparently, this has been going on for a very…long…time.

Have I been so blind?  Am I honestly that naive as to have never have seen it?  Or has it just never crossed my mind that perhaps those that say something don’t actually mean it?  To me, my word is my promise.  I act in accordance with my beliefs, which I will admit are fluid in nature, but I remain consistent to my core beliefs that say that we should be able to live and let live, that so long as the pursuit of happiness by one doesn’t directly interfere with that of another, than why would we need to have movements and organizations and rallies and protests to try to make someone else act in accordance with how WE expect them to act?

I guess to that end, that’s part of my problem with both sides of these things.  It’s no longer about how we expect to present ourselves in how WE act.  It’s how THEY expect US to act in accordance with THEIR ideals and beliefs…and all the while, it appears that they don’t believe that way themselves because they sure don’t ACT like it.  And as I said, a special amount of ire is reserved for “my own party” because I expect more of those who either I claim to have something in common with or, conversely, they claim to have in common with me.

Perhaps we would ALL do well to ask ourselves the next time we take up a cause, are we doing this for others?  Or are we doing this for ourselves?  Are we doing this to try to shape the world around us such that others are forced to live as we believe they should?  And beyond that, are we even acting in accordance with the ideals we are trying to make others adhere to?  Because if we aren’t – if THEY aren’t – then perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at who we put forward as leaders, who we consider to be social and political icons and representatives of “good moral virtue”.  So far as I have seen, there seems to be little moral virtue among those, of either particular political or social leaning, that we consider to be icons among those communities.

Credited for Failure

So let me get this straight.  Equifax suffers a security breach.  Up to 150 million people’s personal information, including social security number, date of birth, perhaps even drivers license number, is exposed.  And the best they can offer is a half hearted apology and a “complimentary” one year subscription to THEIR credit monitoring service, a service in which you are asked to explicitly give them the very information (again) that they allowed to be exposed in the first place.  On top of that, by accepting this pittance, the terms of service are such that if you accept this service, you waive your rights to be part of any class action law suit to cover the damages related to their breach.  How very magnanimous.

 

 

Speaking as one of the potentially affected, and yes, I checked, I think I can speak for many when I say I have two words for you… Get bent.

 

 

Most of us you kindly refer to as “consumers” of yours are such by no choice of our own.  You are one of the leading three industries that collects our information in order to provide services to the lending institutions we do business with even if we may or may not take out lines of credit.  I trust my credit union.  I *don’t* trust you and never have, and most especially so now.  I know that it is only by virtue of tacit complicity in that I do business with banks as a matter of necessity that you have my information in the first place.  You have it because I *have* to do business with banks.  But as this information is *mine*, not yours and you, having positioned yourself as you have, have been afforded access to that information, it strikes me that there is a measure of additional responsibility that YOU have in safeguarding that information.  And in such an epic failure, a half hearted apology and a coupon for free service for a year doesn’t cut it.

 

 

To put this in perspective, if I brought my car to the dealer to be serviced and, because of their incompetence, it caught fire, no, fair compensation would NOT be a “year supply of free gas”.  That is insulting, both in terms of the insignificance of the gesture and in so thinking that we, the unwilling consumers of your services, are so unintelligent as to believe that this is a good deal.  This is your cock up.  You own it.  And now you expect me to take a nod and a handshake and think everything is okay; it’s not.  And I say to you once more on behalf of all the 145 million or more that you’ve screwed and to whom this is the best you can offer the same two words I’d stated above…

 

 

GET BENT!!

Clowns to the LEFT of me, Jokers to the RIGHT…

I’ve tried to stay out of the political fracas associated with all of the recent events, but it’s hard not to.  This fervor that people are displaying is now getting to absurd proportions on both sides as they crouch in defense mode each blaming the “other sides’ extreme groups”, specifically referring to ANTIFA and other groups on the left and the KKK, Aryan Nation and “Nazis” on the right.  But why s it we must say that one or the other side “owns” either or any of these groups.  Is it not so difficult to roundly condemn either set of groups as all of them advocate violence as a mechanism for change?

And are we so far removed from reason and logical thought that we cannot see reason or even look more deeply than to believe exactly what is handed to us by our platform?  This is what I’ve feared for years, that we would move away from arguing principles as we instead argue platform or party.  We blithely accept whatever it is handed to us as the “truth”.  Yet there are falsehoods (and some truth) spoken by both.  To say that the KKK and other groups like it are violent is not a discriminator that presents the counterpoint that groups like ANTIFA isn’t.  Conversely, neither is saying that ANTIFA is violent an automatic pass for the three most prominent groups, the KKK, Aryan Nation and the neo-Nazis saying that they’re not violent.  Both are violent, extreme and should each be given no credence and have no place in a civilized society.

Yet we are so beguiled by the fervor of our particular political party that we would rather ignorantly insult one another than to even look to reason.  And this is only complicated by a “news media” that omits key facts.  For instance, the “Free Speech” march in Boston that was countered with as many as 40k people, those people all indicating that it was actually a march of Nazis and white supremacists.  Was it?  I’ll let you be the judge…

 

I’ve seen too much fighting going on.  And I’ve watched it pull at the people I love and care about.  I’ve watched it pull at my friends as they feel the draw of radical political affiliation call for them to take a side.  And perhaps the radical side of either affiliation isn’t something that we should want to be a part of.  Our country was founded on individual liberty and, to my mind, neither of these extreme sets of groups speaks to liberty.  They speak to oppression, suppression of rights, and a subversion of our founding principles.  I don’t think, if we sat down with one another, researched things, read and most especially cast a dim view on the media as it spoon feeds us this hyper-agitating garbage, and most importantly talk to one another, we’d find that we are so different from one another.

There is *no* place for violence in this debate as it will only draw more violence.  It’s time we educated ourselves.  It’s time we stopped believing that only one mindset is right or wrong.  It’s time to understand that subjectively deciding what is right or wrong, on either front, is to the detriment of us all as it precludes the ability for one to openly and honestly speak and exchange pertinent ideas and principles.  At the end of the day, there may be those with whom you cannot see eye to eye.  And that’s fine.  You gracefully agree to disagree and you move on.  But at the very least, if you’re going to bring a charge of racism, bigotry and various and sundry other vile charges against one side or the other, you should be prepared to *at least* investigate and affirm that what you’re protesting is truly what you say it is.  Otherwise, you’re not part of the solution…you *are* the problem.

Click here for The “Evil Nazi Free Speech Event” as was not covered by the media…

 

God By Any Other Name

So as I follow George Takei on Facebook, simply as a matter of liking him as an actor and somewhat as a person although I find him to be somewhat idealistic, he happened to put an article up about why people are or are not religious (see link below).

http://www.knowable.com/a/t1/people-share-why-they-are-or-arent-religious?utm_content=inf_10_3136_2&tse_id=INF_c11ba860759d11e785e8bfcdfe5d7856

 

You know the problem with this kind of article? It, like so many other articles relating to different philosophies, fails to take into consideration the difference between personal belief or spirituality and the organized group mentality of religion (or political party or philosophical group or what have you).

 

I see from the responses that it’s still a lost art to be able to define oneself individually over collectively. And therein lies the failure of any kind of philosophical belief when it’s bound to a group. Somehow by virtue of the fact that a collective body all believes similarly, it somehow becomes truth. But truth where spirituality is concerned is individual and speculative. The prospect of group mentality actually is to the detriment of individual spirituality and freedom of thought and belief, largely because it relies on “well, it has to be true because everyone says so”. And this isn’t something that Christians have a monopoly on. Those that rail against Christianity are every bit as guilty of being dogmatic AND WRONG as are the Christians that hold their own counter views of OTHER people’s spiritual beliefs.

 

I have gone from Christian to agnostic to Pagan back to Agnostic and finally to what I consider to be an extraordinarily unorthodox Christian. And the reason largely is because any time large groups of people interact with one another, they decide on a set of rules…and those rules force people into a smaller and smaller box so that “everyone accepts them”. This hurts the truest expression of spiritual growth. One cannot grow outside of the confines of the rules that are dictated to them by the collective.

 

If one were to read the various non-canonized gospels of Christ, they’d find that there is a litany of information there relating to “thinking outside the box”. In those books, Jesus was clearly trying to get people to develop a PERSONAL relationship with God, in whatever means best suited them. This could include the fact that the way in which I envision God is different than yours, if you have any vision of God at all. But the principle on which it is based, on which any spiritual pursuit should be based, is that it is an individual journey and that wherever it takes you is up to YOU to decide, nobody else. No one has the authority or position to say that any other pursuit of individual spirituality is wrong unless that pursuit directly interferes with another’s

Political Bravado at the People’s Expense

So it appears that a Maine State Government shutdown is imminent.  While I try not to be quick to cast judgement, I recently watched he interview given by Governor LePage about what’s to be funded in the event an agreement is not reached.  I also saw that if an agreement IS reached, that if it isn’t to his liking, he’ll veto it…and that’s fine, I suppose, provided it’s for the right reasons.  But what bothered me was that he further stated that not only would he veto the proposal, but he’d wait the full ten days to “make them feel what a shut down is like”.  I have a problem with that – a real problem.

Beyond that, I sometimes think that peoples’ referendums should be extremely limited for a number of reasons.  Sometimes, watching the comments, that reason could be often found in that the people making the statements are so woefully uninformed as to what the consequences of certain legislation or governmental events could have not just at that level, but across the board.  So to those who would so stalwartly stand on one side or the other without knowing the full impact of the decision made as to whether or not to shut down the state government, let me reiterate a message I posted earlier…

Having followed this closely, let me begin by saying, as I said elsewhere, be careful before you yell “yes” or “no” on this bill as both have significant impacts that reach beyond the state government level.

For those saying, “shut it down”, I want you to remember that, due to the insidious creep of governmental control by the state government, they now have their hands in the education system, county correctional facilities, municipal general assistance and many other functions that are typically run and partially funded by government OUTSIDE of the state government. Beyond that, unlike state government, county and municipal government can’t run at a deficit on a whim like the state can. So when the money that the state is obligated, by their own statutes, to fund such things as part of the education budget, part of the municipal general assistance fund and a large portion of the county jails, those things will go UNPAID.

So what does that mean. That means that in order to make up for the shortfall while the state pulls their heads out of their collective rear ends that the counties and municipalities are going to do the only thing they CAN do to make up for the temporary shortfall. Their going to impose a freeze on any other spending such as capital projects, including local street repair and perhaps other services, renewing infrastructure and equipment at their level, etc., foregoing certain programs and so on as they are forced to divert those monies into areas that were previously funded by the state.

I just watched his interview a few minutes ago and, speaking as a republican ABOUT a republican, it’s one thing to say he’s going to veto. But for him to say that he’s going to wait the full ten days before he vetoes the bill and sends it back just to “make them feel what a shut down is like”? I’m sorry, now you’re just being petty to the detriment of the citizens of Maine. That’s petulant and childish behavior. If you’re going to veto it, veto it and fast. Get it back to them for markups and resolution. Better still sit down with all of them and ALL THREE bodies work this out, house, senate and executive branch. This is your baby, too. If you not only veto it but wait ten days just to make them squirm, you’re doing it at the expense of the citizens of Maine and you’re no better than they are.

Now, that being said, for those that say, “pass the bill”, remember this. We already have had a couple of tax increases in the last couple of years. The sales tax has increased, on some services or goods as much as 2 to 3 percent. So it’s not as if we haven’t been increasing taxes. And per capita, Maine is one of the more highly taxed states in the union. Given that we tout ourselves as “vacationland”, it seems a little inhospitable to tourists to have to come up here and pay an ever increasing amount of taxes. Just sayin’. Kind of cutting off our nose to spite our collective faces, don’tcha think? Considering our main industries here are all but dead, there isn’t a ton of revenue coming in from businesses. Tourist trade is about all we have. And if we sabotage that, what’s left?

Oh, and those evil ne’er-do-wells that make so much money that you’re talking about? That’s $300k annually. Let’s put that in perspective. Those are the successful business owners like that guy that owns the shop where you get your car fixed. Or the guy that owns the plumbing business that reams out your line when it backs up. Or the guy that owns the tree and landscaping business that took down that enormous tree in your back yard that threatened to squash your house, chipped it up and hauled away the brush. Those are a lot of the “evil” people you’re talking about who “aren’t paying their fair share”.

And at the end of the day, this whole budget hinges on the money that would go to education. We spend more per capita on education per student than most other places in the United States and yet our graduation rate isn’t that much better. Our student population is actually decreasing and we’re going to spend more money on it? Somehow that doesn’t make sense. One thing I can say with clarity is that you can have he best schools in the country, hell, in the world if you want. You can have the best education plan, the most technology, the best teachers, the best of everything…and if the kid isn’t inclined to learn when they get there, they won’t. Trust me. Speaking as one who was originally a D average student at one was (at the time) arguably the best funded and most well rounded high schools in the state, it wasn’t the fault of the school that my grade average was what it was. I hated school and there was no amount of technology or money you could throw at it that was going to make me think otherwise. Strange how that works. Want to know what would raise my grade? Fear of a significant whooping of certain parts of my anatomy that would otherwise preferred to go untouched, thank you very much. Also strange how THAT works. That was motivation enough for me to at least bring it up to a C average.

But I’ve ranted enough. Just remember, folks, at the end of the day, it’s not all black and white. There’s a lot of grey in there and the consequences are far more reaching than just those down in Augusta. It should never have reached this level. And one MIGHT think that at this level calmer, saner heads would prevail. Apparently, however, Maine must not work well under pressure because it appears, to me at least, that all of the wonky, head-strong crap comes out when we can least afford to have everyone in Augusta showing their political bravado.

That’s my two cents plus inflation. Take it for what it’s worth.

ACA, AHCA, ABCDEFG…Healthcare in a bucket

Most Recently, Mr. Rand Paul, a senator I respect a great deal, spoke to various news outlets about a proposal regarding the Senate healthcare bill, which looks destined to fail as they cannot get those few moderate or deeply conservative republicans to come to agreement enough to make up the 50 (+1) votes necessary to pass the bill.  But what Mr. Paul has proposed is somewhat frightening to me, both in terms of the place it takes us with regard to healthcare AND what it might mean for the future of the Republican Party.  The problem we face is we keep getting drawn into this conversation regarding health insurance, not health CARE and there’s an important distinction.

 

Where Mr. Paul’s proposal is to split the bill going first after a repeal of the existing (and failing) ACA, that much I can understand.  But then to present a second part that speaks to putting together a NEW spending plan that takes the place of the existing ACA, that’s a bit more difficult to swallow.

 

So to Mr. Paul, I would say this…

I don’t know, Mr. Rand Paul but I’d disagree. The measure to repeal the ACA may be approved, but I think there is sufficient support between moderate republicans and the rank and file democrats that they could pass something equally abhorrent as the ACA and we’d be in no better position than we are now.

It goes without saying that the present ACA is imploding as more and more health insurance providers decide to retreat from the exchanges. In my mind, as painful as this might sound, it might be best to leave the thing to its own demise and let it fall apart naturally. The downside to that, of course, is that with a republican controlled house, senate and white house that the blame will fall on you for not having averted it. But as it stands, the ball (or more appropriately analogized as a hand grenade) is in the republicans’ court regardless, unfortunately.  No matter what gets done, there is no “good solution”.  Anything is going to be painful.

That said, I also have believed since the inception of the ACA that the federal government has been handling healthcare altogether incorrectly. There are only one of two possibilities that I see that can “correct” the issue with medical care. Either it has to be a completely hands off capitalist market in which they will price themselves out of business and NEW providers will come up to deliver the same services without government intervention at a better cost OR the entire market, including pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment companies and medical service providers will have to be federalized, like other such necessary services, and everyone will be subject to whatever standard of care it delivers AND the tax that goes with it to fund it. I don’t see anything that isn’t messy that falls in between.

Either way, there isn’t a good answer. If you federalize healthcare, you stifle that which is most frequently bred from capitalism – innovation. There’s no incentive to build the next miracle cure or medical solution. However, in a purely capitalist model, it fails to take into consideration greed…but a true capitalist model accounts for that in that greed will drive prices beyond reach and eventually it will collapse in on itself as a result of unreachable and unreasonable prices.

Neither solution is elegant or pretty. And both will be painful. But what we cannot do, going back to my original point, is continue to spend half again as much as we’re taking in in taxes at a federal level. Despite the circular theories of Keyensian economics, which is rather like a perpetual motion machine, there is no such thing as “free stimulus”. That money, much like energy, comes from somewhere else. Depreciate the amount of money in one area, i.e. taxes, and it’s going to have a broader impact in that less disposable income of the consumer is going to be available to put back into the market. Contrary to popular belief on Capital Hill, money is linear in nature, not necessarily circular. We can pretend that we can borrow our way out of this all day long, but at some point, the United States creditors are going to ask for their money back. And when they do, the whole ponzi scheme will collapse.

The REAL Trickle Down Effect

I’ve watched as our state government through obstinance and partisan bullshit bring us to the brink of a government shutdown.  And until now, I hadn’t realized how extensive such inane antics actually are.  And I’ve watched as the arguments in each side among the masses unfolded and, knowing as I do now the impact this has, I thought it prudent to put my thoughts it there.

 

I’dl like to take a moment to enlighten all you out there that are somewhat uninformed and yell yes or no so blithely. Remember that our state government has had a nasty habit of creeping into areas outside of their purview. So it isn’t just state services that are going to take a hit because of the irresponsibility of our lawmakers. Because of the Maine state legislature’s foray into education, county jails, municipal general assistance and so much more, municipalities and counties are also going to take a hit due to Augusta’s malfeasance. As they now control jail budgets, corrections officer and the expenses of day to day operations for jails will go unpaid by the state forcing spending moritotiums at a county level as they divert funds that would ordinarily be used on capital projects and services they provide in order to cover the funding that the state is required by statute to pay, statute that THEY wrote incidentally, and won’t be paying. Cities and towns will have similar situations as monies guaranteed to them from the state under similar circumstances, such as the school consolidation program implemented by the state a few years ago and obligations towns and cities have under general assistance, also driven by state statute, go unpaid. So here in Bangor, for instance, our city government can look forward to perhaps having to delay capital projects like street repairs or other services in order to cover for the lack of funds that the state had, through their insipid creep, said they’ll pay as they mandate how county and local government operate…with their generous, if sometimes spotty, assistance, of course. Same holds true at the county level. So consider that before you run out and shout “yes” or “no”.

Sick for the cure in America

So I recently heard of our senators responses to the newly proposed Senate healthcare bill.  And even more disturbing was watching the general public define the battle lines strictly on party lines and certainly NOT with any due deference to logic or reason.  “Don’t bother me with facts; I’ve already made up my mind.”

 

 

For your edification, and as usual, I’ve included one of the many articles here…

 

 

Here’s a thought.

 

 

 

There isn’t a lawmaker on Capital Hill, Republican or Democrat, that is worth their salt. While we’re all down here quibbling over who gets covered by insurance and who isn’t, who qualifies for Medicaid and who doesn’t, all by their design, not one of them has given thought or effort to actually address the real problem, just throw more (or less) money at the insurance companies. No movement has been made to ask the pertinent questions as to WHY the cost of the SERVICES AND PRODUCTS of healthcare have risen so astronomically. While the average wage is only increasing at no more that about 1 to 1.5% annually, lower even than the rate of inflation, medical service and product costs are going up exponentially faster with no question as to why. And those rare instances in which the medical industry is brought to task, they provide nebulous answers of no real substance and no real reason for such expensive increases. Particularly insideously apparent as an example are the pharmaceutical companies astronomical hike in their prices, including in those things that were licensed decades ago and inexpensive that they were allowed to relicense through the FDA. And our government does little or nothing to bring due pressure on the medical service and product industry. It’s just easier to spend our money to line the pockets of those they define as winners or losers as defined by governmental interference and regulation.

 

 

So go ahead. Keep arguing about what is or isn’t compassionate. Keep arguing among yourselves about who should or shouldn’t be qualified for subsidies or Medicaid. Republicans, keep calling the other side “snowflakes” and Democrats, keep calling the other side “bigoted deplorables”, while everyone ignores the obvious. Just give me a few minutes because my tea is still brewing…

 

 

‘Cause that’s none of my business…

 

 

meme-kermit-drinking-tea-but-thats-none-of-business

The Greater Issue

So recently, a friend of mine presented an article from the Huffington Post, a place I rarely frequent because of its obviously political/social bent, in which they cited Trevor Noah’s monologue on the recent police involved shooting in St. Paul.

For the sake of ensuring that I’ve referenced it correctly, I’ve linked to the article here for any reference…

 

Let me begin by saying I think the officer in question should have been found guilty of manslaughter, period. There was no justification of the shooting. But this isn’t about a black man or a white man. This was about a piss poor reaction by an officer of the law because the person he was detaining at the time had a weapon. His actions were wrong, but I doubt very much based on everything I’ve seen that this was at all about race, but about that gun and the officer’s shitty reaction.

If we’re going to turn this into a “white/black” thing, while Trevor’s quick to point out that the NRA is silent on the subject and points to Wayne LaPierre, and I agree they shouldn’t be, this is far from a black person/white person issue in this case. Even more closely to the point, the officer in question *wasn’t white*. That should be enough to say that a closer inspection of the rhetoric that is being pushed by either side in the media needs to be more closely scrutinized.

As far as “gun control” and the second amendment is concerned, this is EXACTLY why the second amendment was founded, if we’re to assume that we are in jeopardy of losing our rights, property or life in the face of an oppressive government. Strip the right of the individual to carry a firearm and they are at the mercy of those who, by their station, are armed to begin with.

I am *not* advocating that everyone should own a gun or, like some of the more loopy gun owners out there, “prepare for civil war”. But if ever there was a case to be made for the second amendment and why it exists and in its present form, this, like many other examples, is it.

While I concur that the NRA should be saying something about this, at the same time, I think that, between pointing a finger at the NRA or making this a “black versus white” issue, you detract from the larger problem, that this is not a gun rights issue. It’s not a black versus white issue. It’s not even truly a policing issue in and of itself. It speaks to a larger issue that is multifaceted that we are failing to address.

First and foremost, it becomes a people versus government issue. Why are we *all* now in such a place as to fear the government? Why is the government now feeling compelled to more greatly infringe on our rights to privacy, property ownership, and even our right to survive? Why are we in a place where civility has been lost and we are now arguing among ourselves about whether or not it’s tied to racism, social class division, or even a growing divide and breakdown of trust between civilians and government and a growing resentment?

To answer some of those questions is to breed more questions. Some answers might be best phrased on other questions. How have we come to a place where we are so uncivil to ONE ANOTHER, let along police officers? Why has our crime rate, regardless of social class or race, increased so dramatically? When did we become so savage as a nation as to warrant the extra scrutiny of the government, which further causes resentment between the civilian populous and governmental law enforcement agencies?

There are reasons that the police are on edge, which of itself lends them to making piss poor decisions in heightened tension situations. When every day you get up knowing that you could be killed in the line of duty, it tends to automatically put you on your guard. But I can first attest that, contrary to popular belief, first responders don’t have inordinate amounts of time to make life or death decisions. And where law enforcement is concerned, it really comes down to a split second – shoot or don’t. People tend to think they have time to think about it and mull over all the possibilities. They don’t. Second, given the nature of the nation we have become, the growing rate of violent crime, the ever increasing risk that law enforcement, and indeed pretty much all first responders, now have to face, it can lend itself to being an incredibly stressful environment in which you are constantly on your guard.

Look today at the airport security officer that was stabbed in the neck out of the blue simply because he was wearing a uniform. THIS is the threat that they live with every day, that by virtue of their uniform, they are a target. You have to think that makes you edgy.

Did this officer fail in his duties? Abso-freakin-lutely. And in epic fashion. But walk a mile in his shoes for a moment. He *does* have a right to be nervous when confronting anyone, regardless of race, creed, religion or social status, who is armed. He handled it completely wrong. And in my mind, he committed manslaughter. That should have stuck. My only caveat to that would be, what version did they bring against him? Another issue with the way in which charges are brought is that they are VERY specific. Without knowing the formal charges brought against Jeronimo Yanez, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the reason that he was acquitted is as a result of the charges brought had very specific definitions and the jury couldn’t match the action with the specifications of the crime charged against him. And in many cases, the jury isn’t allowed to look at other possible charges – that can be done, but often isn’t. For instance, even if charge of murder are brought against someone, in some cases the jury can choose to forego the murder charge for a lesser charge that better fits the crime. I don’t know the specifics of this particular instance, but there’s enough here to say that if it was manslaughter they brought before the jury, that *should* have stuck, at least from what I’ve seen and read.

But I digress. My issue with Trevor’s thoughts and those like him is that, in making this a “black versus white” issue, as is inferred by invoking Mr. LaPierre’s name in the conversation, or making this a class issue or any other divisive issue, it does a disservice to the actual issue, which is broader in scope and only diminished when you ignore all aspects of it. Trevor’s rhetoric only serves to inflame, not solve, the situation. To solve it, we have to dig deeper than skin color or social class. And to lay blame at the feet of any one group or any one person is patently wrong. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and some of it can be found by simply looking in the mirror.

Step over a dollar to pick up a dime

So in local politics today, I have to take particular note of a failure in logic that appears to have manifested itself within the city council chambers here in my home town.  Now as a rule, I don’t have a lot to say about local politics – they are what they are.  But I do take issue with them when they begin to act like the pinheads in Washington.  Specifically, I take issue when they take for granted the needs of their constituents while pondering the possibilities of using our tax dollars to fund some sort of nebulous concept.  I’m a creature of pragmatism.  If you say you can’t afford the bricks and mortar, then you can’t afford the frills.  That’s just common sense.

 

To set the timber of the rant I’m about to make, I invite you to read the Bangor Daily News story with reference to the city council deciding against the further funding of four positions within the Bangor Fire Department.

So following that line, I was greeted with two articles back to back.  The first was an article noting that the Bangor City Council had voted against funding four fire fighters’ positions at the Bangor City Fire Department.  Originally, the chief had funded these through the procurement of a grant.  That’s not something I’m typically in favor of.  The idea of funding an ongoing cost initially through a one time appropriation is an unwise idea for exactly the reason noted above.  That being said, I can also easily understand why he might have done it considering the council’s reluctance to fund these positions, which essentially would have amounted to a 5% increase in personnel (roughly speaking) from 18 on shift to 19 on shift.  It doesn’t sound like a big deal.  And to that end, the City Manager, Cathy Conlow, had even said in a rather flippant statement that “The positions gave the fire crews ‘the cushion of additional folks’ when responding to a call and aren’t necessary to respond to an emergency”.  To put this in perspective, the ongoing costs to maintain these positions would be approximately $250k annually.  And, as I mentioned, it would make for around a 5% increase in personnel, an increase in personnel that they haven’t seen in many years.  However, I can attest to the fact that the call volume of our fire department has increased dramatically.  The Bangor Fire Department now receives roughly 10k calls annually.  That’s 27 calls a day.  Given, not all of them are serious, but a good number are.  Chief Higgins makes mention of the fact that the call volume has increased over 25% in the last decade.  Without immediately pulling statistics, I would venture a guess that his estimates are modest and that they’ve probably increase their call volume by that much in as little as the last FOUR years.  And I don’t see that reducing anytime soon.  Point of fact, I see that INCREASING.  Let’s not also forget that many of these firefighters are also EMTs.  And with the growing opioid epidemic, the number of calls related to overdose have risen exponentially in the last couple of years.  The burden this places on our local resources cannot be ignored.  This is a brick and mortar need no less important than our streets, sanitation, and other related public services.  This is not a nebulous concept – this has real time affects on the residents of this city.  And Ms. Conlow describes it as a “cushion”.  I’m sorry, if my house is on fire or I or one of my family are having an acute medical issue, to me that’s not a cushion…that’s a NEED.

 

So, with that being said, let me clarify that if this were the only decision made and only story I read, I may think it unwise, but I’d leave it to the discretion of the Bangor City Council and the City Manager.  They’re supposed to be the logical, civicly minded individuals who are looking out for the interests of the citizens of our city, right?

 

But then I’m confronted with this…and again I invite you to read the article, also at the Bangor Daily News, about the proposal by the same council to assist the University of Maine, Augusta, Bangor Campus to fund the personnel (an ongoing cost) for a Multiculture Center/Immigrant Center.

 

Look, I have nothing against the idea of an “Immigration Center” or “Multicultural Center”.  What I do have an issue with, however, is the lack of justification and funding.  This is the same city council that, during last winter’s last few snow storms, said that “due to diminishing funds” that they were contemplating foregoing any further snow removal from the sidewalks.  This is the same city council that, as noted above, said that due to budget restraints that they couldn’t justify these four positions that would put ONE extra person on staff per shift.  But they can find funding to provide a gift of $100k of Bangor citizens’ taxpayer dollars for some loosely formed concept – an idea – in an effort to stave off a diminishing youth population that they believe are needed to fill jobs in Maine?  An idea, I might add, which may or may not bear fruit and certainly won’t in at least a decade.  We can’t afford the bricks and mortar, the things this city needs.  We’re struggling to keep streets paved.  We’re struggling to remove snow in the winter.  We’re struggling to ensure our first responders have the staffing necessary to do their job and protect the lives and property of the citizens in Bangor.  But we can find it somewhere in our budget to provide $100k in funding to the University of Maine to fund an Immigration Center.  I dunno, but does that seem wrong to anyone but me?  It seems to me that this council has forgotten who their constituency is and that it’s their obligation to see to the needs of THIS community before any other.  And such needs dictate that before we put up fancy windows in our house, perhaps we should make sure the foundation, walls and roof are in good repair first.