Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ted Cruz for President???

I suppose we ought to thank Ted Cruz for effectively undermining what remains of the ultra-conservative “birther” movement by announcing he’s running for President (of the United States). None of his “red meat” supporters will be likely to do much talking about Kenya any longer, since Canada presents a much more serious issue. Ted Cruz is not (as the Constitution specifies) a “natural born” citizen. Heck, Donald Trump is already yapping about this one. However, this is something for constitutional scholars to debate, and I defer to their judgment.
Meanwhile, California’s iconic governor Jerry Brown has pummeled Cruz over a series of ignorant statements and for falsifying facts pertaining to global warming. Brown concluded by stating “It’s shocking, and I think that man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office.” Climate change, however, is merely the tip of the Cruz iceberg (my apologies).

I would argue that Ted Cruz can, in all fairness, be accused of treason. Among the definitions provided by Merriam Webster: “the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance (presumably not Canada); or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family.”
In fact, Ted Cruz and his cronies recklessly and knowingly pursued an action (shutting down the American government for purely partisan purposes) that inflicted a $24 billion blow to the economy of our country. He chose to do this at a time when the economy remained in a somewhat fragile state, recovering from a devastating recession. His actions could have triggered dire consequences, and Cruz was clearly hoping he could bring the Obama administration to its knees. Fortunately for the rest of us, he achieved little more than to provide both pleasure and solace to the enemies of our republic. Cruz was more than willing to inflict financial pain on his fellow citizens (American, not Canadian) since he enjoys one of the apparent perks of being a Senator; he’s also a millionaire.
Cruz has served as an opportunistic thug in the short time he’s been a Senator. Apart from shutting down the government (alienating members of his own party), his greatest “accomplishments” include: opposing immigration reform, vilifying gay Americans, acting as a lap dog for the gun lobby, opposing aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy, and, in particular, nattering on incessantly about his plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He seems to relish the thought of separating millions of Americans from their newly acquired healthcare coverage. No wonder he’s invited obvious comparisons to the late (though not lamented) Joseph McCarthy—demagogue extraordinaire.

Ted Cruz for President? “Unfit” barely scratches the surface!

Mary Mayhew's Ongoing War Against the Poor and Disenfranchised

Charles Dickens once wrote: “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.”
One might expect that the Commissioner of a state agency named the “Department of Health and Human Services” would exhibit the qualities Dickens mentioned. At the very least, one would hope to see a healthy dose of compassion.
Unfortunately, the state of Maine’s very own Mary Mayhew exhibits none of the above.
After having spent the better part of the past few years on the political defensive, Ms. Mayhew has apparently interpreted the shocking re-election of her mentor, Gov. Paul LePage, as some sort of sign to go on the attack. Unfortunately, she’s attempting to gain political traction at the expense of Maine’s least fortunate citizens; the chronically homeless, those suffering from mental illness, and individuals who are simply “down on their luck”. Mary Mayhew is a strident opponent of anyone who falls into these categories.
It wasn’t enough for Ms. Mayhew to stridently oppose an expansion of Medicaid that would have provided health insurance to more than 60,000 low income residents of our state (with the federal government paying 100% of expansion costs before gradually drawing down to a 90% reimbursement rate). It wasn’t enough for Ms. Mayhew to oversee the move of the DHHS Cumberland County regional office four miles away from the edge of Portland’s downtown to the Jetport—thereby making it more difficult to reach for those seeking state services/assistance. It wasn’t enough for Ms. Mayhew to oversee the botched $28.3 million contract with a Connecticut-based company (CTS) that consistently failed to provide the service for which it was hired—arranging rides for Medicaid patients. Finally, wasn’t it Mary Mayhew who (along with Gov. LePage) happily forked over a million dollars to the Alexander Group for an impartial and partisan PR report on Maine’s Medicaid and welfare programs—only to have the report exposed as a plagiarized sham?
Now we learn that Ms. Mayhew apparently commissioned an audit of Portland’s City shelters and found “irregularities”…as opposed to her own financial failures and shenanigans?
If Ms. Mayhew is (as some have suggested) entertaining the notion of running for Governor in 2016, then it’s time to rein in the flying monkeys, apologize to the city’s shelter staff and residents, and work to build a state government that focuses on the dignity of each and every human being. She should be willing to support a living wage, advocating the building of safe and affordable housing, and working to provide decent medical services, available to all—which should certainly include first class mental health care (no more Riverview fiascos, please) The people of Maine should expect no less from their (barely) re-elected leaders.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Joni Ernst??? Seriously, what's up, Iowa???

Watching the “official” Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address left me with a question that keeps gnawing at my gut: what the heck is wrong with Iowa?
Joni Ernst, the freshman senator from that state read off the response (watching her eyes follow the teleprompter became fairly distracting; she possesses a certain Bachmannesque quality whereby you expect a counter-clockwise movement to develop at any moment), and she nearly drowned in her own sea of platitudes before the first few minutes had passed. She’s a mother, she’s a soldier; she came from poverty, not privilege. She shared her story of plowing the fields, working construction, and owning only one pair of shoes. You would think we’d be safe in assuming that here is a legislator with genuine empathy, and perhaps an understanding of income inequality.
Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. In doing a little research into her record, it became obvious that Iowa replaced Senator Tom Harkin with a right-wing extremist. What’s up, Iowa?

Ernst talked about stagnant wages, but she vehemently opposes any increase in the federal minimum wage. She talks about the virtue of being raised to live simply, but demonstrates a fanatic allegiance to the 1% by opposing any tax increases that could affect them adversely – even if it means enacting a series of proposals to benefit the Middle class: universal free community college, guaranteed paid sick leave time, cutting mortgage costs, and tripling the childcare tax credit. Ernst is so determined to gut the Affordable Care Act that it sounds as though she’s perfectly likely willing to sacrifice the insurance policies acquired over the past two years by over 10 million previously uninsured Americans. What’s up, Iowa?

Ernst is an anti-choice extremist who supports fetal “personhood”. Ernst is an avowed opponent of same-sex marriage. Ernst has consistently called for state nullification of federal laws, even as the courts consistently rule this unconstitutional. Ernst recklessly called for President Obama’s impeachment and referred to him as a dictator. It’s clear she has no real understanding of our nation as a whole, of its checks and balances, and of due process. In her extremism she’s called for the elimination of the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency (a fierce opponent of Clean Water legislation), and the IRS (given their popularity this is a brave stance indeed!). What’s up, Iowa?

One thing Joni Ernst does love is guns; here, there, and everywhere. No questions asked.
Tom Harkin was such a thoughtful Senator… what’s up, Iowa?

Monday, October 6, 2014

DEAR ELIOT



November 4th is fast approaching, and, with all due respect, I find myself
hoping you’ll withdraw from the race. Frankly, I had hoped that Libby Mitchell
would withdraw from the race in 2010, and officially endorse you. Yes, I was one
36.5% of Maine voters who supported your candidacy for Governor the last time
around. In fact, I have a long history of supporting 3rd parties/independents—specifically, the Green Independent Party. However, there comes a time when
imminent danger forces practical decisions. Governor LePage is that imminent
danger, and the state of Maine simply can’t afford to be saddled with four more years
of his failed and divisive policies. The damage he’s inflicted goes hand in hand
with the embarrassment he’s caused.
You’re clearly a very intelligent man, so it must be apparent that Mike Michaud
is a much more formidable candidate that Libby Mitchell proved to be. His support
will not be evaporating as hers so dramatically did. I derive no satisfaction in pointing this out, but it’s actually your poll numbers that appear to be steadily declining; from 20% in a March 31-April 5th Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll to 15% in a June 12th-18th Portland Press Herald poll. The most recent (Portland Press Herald) numbers show your support at 12%.
It’s impossible not to respect your very early support for Maine’s Marriage Equality,
not to mention your consistent pro-choice position. In fact, I find myself in agreement
with you on a variety of issues/goals:
Investing in Maine’s infrastructure
Modernizing/upgrading our communications networks
Restarting the Job Training Initiative (that LePage gutted)
Regulation reform
Growing Maine’s farms & fisheries
Offering assistance to distressed communities
Offering tax credit for repayment of student loans
Branding & promoting Maine

Heck, it’s all good stuff, but I can’t imagine Gov. LePage opting to support a single one of the proposals or programs that you hold dear. What it all boils down to is that Paul LePage must go. We can’t risk another four years of his temper tantrums or his stagnant economy. We deserve batter than crumbling infrastructure and broken dreams.
All the numbers suggest that Mike Michaud is the candidate most likely to topple this failed governor. I hope you’ll seriously consider the possibility of withdrawing from the race, thereby guaranteeing a Michaud victory on November 4th. I believe you and Mr. Michaud actually share a good deal of common ground—and I don’t think the same can be said about you and Mr. LePage. Please don’t gamble with Maine’s future, Mr. Cutler, the stakes are much too high.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Remembrance of Paul LePage


In hindsight, we probably should have seen it coming, but it all seems so surreal now. He had been elected Governor with roughly 38% of the vote, fueled by the self-proclaimed Tea Party, a demoralized Democratic state party that many feared was intent on shooting itself in the foot, and an independent whose outsized ego was not yet readily apparent.
The warning signs were immediate, and all too frequent. Given the state’s economic malaise, Governor LePage somehow determined that his first act of any consequence ought to involve abducting a mural (under cover of darkness) from the Department of Labor—ostensibly because one of his supporters astutely recognized it as an example of North Korean-style propaganda (not for what it actually was—a depiction of labor history). While the 62% of Maine voters who’d opposed him did their best to ignore him, the Governor nevertheless provided comedic relief to a country in need of a good laugh.
Unfortunately for Maine’s hard-working people, and anyone interested in constructive and civil political dialogue, it became increasingly difficult to keep his irrational pronouncements and occasional tantrums out of the hands of the media. After all, if a good story proves elusive elsewhere, it’s tough to ignore the one that drops right into your lap.
While on the campaign trail, he assured his supporters he’d tell President Obama to go to hell. Once in the Blaine House, he assured anyone who’d listen that the President hated white people. This was undoubtedly around the same time he was telling the NAACP they could “kiss his butt” for daring to question his decision not to attend Martin Luther King Jr. Day events in Bangor and Portland. Donald Trump’s notoriously thin skin resembled elephant hide when contrasted with that of former Governor LePage.
It wasn’t long before major policy failures such as completely bungling a deal with Kestral Aviation that would have brought up to 600 new jobs to the Brunswick area (apparently Maine was not “open for business”) became lost in a sad circus sideshow.
In response to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection banning BPA (and its link to numerous health issues in young children and fetuses) in all reusable food and beverage containers sold in the state, LePage rejected the science and suggested the worst that could happen was that “some women may have little beards”.
One could assume there are many ways to take on the IRS without offending millions of other people, but Governor LePage had clearly eluded his handlers yet again when he likened the IRS to the Gestapo. He was allegedly discussing that agency’s role in enforcing the Affordable Care Act that had just been upheld by the Supreme Court, but who can be certain?
Who can forget his comment regarding Vaseline, or the lack thereof, in criticizing Democratic State Senator Troy Jackson during deadlocked budget negotiations?
His words and deeds had pretty much warned us the day was coming. He told us his greatest fear in the state of Maine was newspapers, and while sitting in a fighter jet simulator he wistfully expressed the desire to find the Press Herald building “and blow it up”. His aides maintained he was “clearly joking”.
But then along came Sovereign Citizens. The FBI still considers them a domestic terrorist organization that (among other things) believes the government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, the Sandy Hook school shootings, and is plotting a Christian holocaust via mass collection of firearms. So, why did Governor LePage choose to meet with this group? His handlers maintained it was reasonable to expect he’d meet with a wide range of constituents. They offered no explanation, however, as to why he then met with them eight times.
Mike Tipping, author of “As Maine Went: Governor Paul LePage & the Tea Party Takeover of Maine” revealed LePage bought into several of the Sovereign Citizen conspiracy theories, had a sheriff look into a number of their demands, and had his legal staff draft an opinion on the group’s contention that Democratic leaders of the state legislature should be arrested and executed (for “treason”, naturally).

After the outcry surrounding this particular story, things seemed to plummet downhill quickly for the former Governor. He turned up one morning outside the headquarters of the Maine Army National Guard in an agitated state, red-faced and furiously chain-smoking Camels. No one present could fully understand his rather incoherent demands, but he apparently believed he had the authority to issue arrest warrants for Justin Alfond, Mark Eves, and a host of other political opponents. He clearly expected the National Guard to carry out these arrests. It will always be remembered as a very sad moment by all who witnessed it as the former Governor and a handful of hardcore supporters were corralled and gently led away.
In hindsight, it was a very good thing that Governor LePage made sure the hospitals in Maine were paid the money they’d been owed. As a result, we can all be sure he’s getting the excellent care, and rest, he so clearly deserved. One thing’s for sure, things have certainly been much quieter since Governor Michaud was elected back in 2014.

I.M. Muhral
Somewhere in Maine
August, 2017

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Unassuming Hero: Maine's Adam Cote

Among the primary definitions of “hero”, according to Merriam-Webster, you’ll find “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities; a person who is greatly admired”. Personally, I believe “hero” has become one of the most over-used words in the English language—more often than not being applied to this or that sports or entertainment figure. I would argue that hitting a come-from-behind grand slam home run in the bottom of the ninth, or tossing a game-winning touchdown pass in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter do not define “heroic” actions. And while there may be a handful of truly talented actors, musicians, or artists whose work has the ability to touch or impact our lives in some fashion, would anyone argue that this would qualify them as “heroes”?
In recent years, I’ve asked myself if I’d even be able to recognize a genuine hero if I came face to face with one. In spite of a certain level of caution and cynicism on my part, I’m happy to say that the answer to that question is “yes”...right here in Maine, and a Democrat to boot!
Adam Cote grew up in a working class family in Sanford. He attended Colby College and shortly after graduation he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves. He served as a military policeman in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Bosnia from October, 1997 to April, 1998. That brutal conflict claimed over 100,000 lives and devastated the country. In the face of the deprivation faced particularly by the children, Adam organized a program in his platoon to provide toys and candy for local kids. He noted that while the program wasn’t life changing, “M&Ms and comic books really make their day”. He also worked at establishing scholarship opportunities for college-aged students who had the skills to study in the U.S., but lacked the funds.
After returning from Bosnia, Adam received his law degree (cum laude) from the University of Maine School of Law, and began practicing with Pierce Atwood LLP in Portland. His focus was on real estate law, as well as domestic and international energy policy—with an emphasis on renewable energy.
From March 2004 until March 2005, Adam’s unit (Maine Army Guard’s 133rd Engineer Battalion) was deployed to serve in Iraq. As a platoon leader, Adam led over 100 convoys and oversaw numerous reconstruction efforts—including the construction of schools and clinics. He created and spearheaded the “Adopt an Iraqi Village” program, which distributed school supplies and other items to destitute Iraqis. On December 21, 2004, Adam was in the mess hall on the U.S. base in Mosul when a suicide bomber walked in and blew himself up—killing or wounding over one hundred soldiers and civilians. Adam was awarded an Army Commendation Medal for his leadership during this attack.
Upon his return from Iraq, Adam resumed his law practice. In 2008, he joined Global Relief Technologies, serving as Senior Vice President. His responsibilities included managing, overseeing and building upon GRTs’ local, state and federal emergency management initiatives. He worked closely with the American Red Cross, the National Guard, and numerous emergency management related organizations throughout the country. Adam was at the forefront of the company’s response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2009, using satellite-linked handheld computers to gather information on amputees for Healing Hands for Haiti and Handicap International.
Adam was a Democratic candidate in Maine’s 1st congressional district 2008 race. He sought the nomination to replace the incumbent, Tom Allen, who was running for the Senate. In a field of six, Adam Cote finished a strong second to eventual winner Chellie Pingree. Soon after this foray into public service, Adam and business partners founded Thermal Energy Storage of Maine. The company sells electric thermal storage furnaces and room heaters that allow users to purchase less-expensive electricity at off-peak hours and store it for later use. Adam notes that “Maine is number one in the country for home heating oil… we’re not even close to being second. And of course we get hit every time there’s a crisis in the Middle East, every time there’s a shortage, every time there’s an executive driving up the price—we get hit the worst in Maine.” Adam is determined to do something that helps Maine become more energy independent, and his efforts were recently acknowledged by the White House when Adam was honored on November 13, 2013 as one of 12 Veterans advancing Clean Energy and Climate Security. He was acknowledged as a “Champion of Change”. Unfortunately, Adam was unable to receive this honor in person since the 133rd Engineer Battalion had deployed to Afghanistan in the fall of 2013. Adam participated in the ceremony via Skype.
When I first began blogging, it provided an outlet for the frustration I was feeling. Like many others, I was appalled at the gridlock in Washington, and found myself especially disgusted by Tea Party extremists who view compromise as some form of treason. Additionally, I was mortified at having been thoroughly conned by Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards; and my anger towards myself persists to this day. I was, as the name I chose for my blog indicates, “Missing Mister Smith”. I never expected to recapture the sense that we as individuals could make a difference, and I certainly never thought I'd believe once more that someone running for office might actually encompass the values I had been raised with. It's clear there is far more to Adam Cote than any blog posting might convey, but if you get a sense of his decency, pragmatism,and work ethic, then I’ve at least accomplished something! I hope that at some point Adam will share his amazing story in greater detail; it’s very much the “American life” we used to read about.
Shortly before the Maine 133rd Engineering Battalion safely returned home(thank God)this past month, Captain Cote had organized--and run--a "shadow " Boston Marathon with eight others to honor the victims of last year's tragic events. I was moved, but hardly surprised as I read the story. Adam's good karma apparently only continues to accumulate.
I owe Adam Cote a major debt of gratitude for restoring my faith in the decency and potential of people, and in recognizing that there are still flesh and blood heroes among us. Somewhere down the road, when he's had ample time--and then a little bit more--to reconnect with his wife and five children, I hope to have the opportunity to shake his hand, and simply say "thank you".

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Is Senator Ted Cruz a Traitor?

Full Definition of  TREASON:

1)  the betrayal of a trust : treachery.

2)  the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance, or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family.

If these are accepted definitions, courtesy of Merriam-Webster, I wonder if Ted Cruz could be viewed as a traitor?
Cruz advocated for the shutdown of the government of the United States; it would seem like a fine line between overthrowing and shutting down a government. One can argue it was his goal to remove, or eliminate the government of the nation to which he owes his allegiance (not Canada in this instance).
In addition, he knowingly advocated an action he recognized would cause great financial harm to the Republic—and to its citizens. Among the many voices calling on Cruz and his cronies not to pursue this course of action was the editorial page of “The Wall Street Journal”—hardly a mainstay of liberal ideology. Yet Cruz recklessly and knowingly pursued actions that delivered a $24 billion dollar blow to our nation; certainly weakening us in the eyes of potential enemies.
Given the fact that his net worth is estimated between $204,951 (hardly plausible) to $3,526.994, Cruz certainly wouldn't feel the economic pain he’s more than willing to inflict on his fellow citizens.

Ted Cruz has clearly established his reputation as an opportunistic bully—opposing aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, taking an incredibly hypocritical stand on immigration reform (this native of Canada opposes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and urges construction of a massive border wall—while still failing to prove his U.S. citizenship), lobbying for the gun industry, and vilifying gay Americans. He also made the outrageous comment that Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Sec. of Defense was “celebrated by the Iranian government”. In fact, his behavior and line of questioning throughout these hearings drew widespread condemnation and fitting comparisons with Joseph McCarthy.
Even if one were able to set aside these and other “highlights” of his short reign of terror in the Senate, the question remains… has Ted Cruz engaged in treasonous acts against the United States of America?