Monday, March 31, 2008

No budget yet (5:45), but interesting day!

Edited Tues. A.M.: Maine has a new balanced budget, all signed, sealed and delivered. The Legislature then pulled the gimmick I mentioned a few days ago and adjourned. The governor is calling them back into Special Session this morning. More later. G.D.

Before this is done, I might be able to tell you the final outcome of the state’s race with the clock to close a nearly 200-million dollar revenue shortfall in its budget. The two parties and both houses on the Legislature were at an impasse when the Legislature shut down for the weekend. Early reports today indicated a new deal had been crafted and is being debated in both houses today. If a compromise isn’t completed today, Gov. John Baldacci will put in place spending restrictions of his own.

Added just before posting: The Maine House hasn’t yet completed its work on the budget and then it has to go back to the Senate. Observers believe it will be passed by midnight so that Governor can’t get his hands on it. No matter what happens, this revised budget is nothing more than a massive April Fool’s Joke. If passage takes place before I head off for the night, I’ll update this; otherwise, I’ll have some of my reaction tomorrow.

This has been one of those “hurry up and wait” days for me. The main event on the schedule was my annual CT scan to make sure the numerous stents that have been implanted in me weren’t leaking and to be sure I haven’t developed any new little bubbles like the aneurysm that burst a few years ago.

The scan itself doesn’t take too long, but this year there was a little twist. Blood work last week indicated that my kidney function was decreasing so my neurologist didn’t want to take any chances with the CT Scan. You see, they inject a dye type substance during the test and it relies on the kidneys to flush it out. Less than normal kidneys don’t like the job.

So, I had to have an hour’s worth of IV therapy before the Scan and another hour’s worth after the Scan to do the flushing. Sometimes an hour lasts only 60 minutes. Today it was much more than that, I think. At least the therapy place has a TV in each of its stations and I had taken a book to read. Nevertheless, the hour seemed endless.

Then I had to go to another part of the medical complex for the Scan. One thing about the scan is that stuff that gets injected. It creates a very warm and fuzzy feeling in certain parts of the body.

After the scan I had to return to the IV section for another hour of injections. That hour was about twice as long as the first one.

All this stuff is rather routine. But there’s one little aspect that adds some drama to it. You see, I take what I affectionately call, a pee pill each day. Especially in the morning, I need to visit a little relief room about every half hour or 45 minutes. Between a required 20 ounces of water and being hydrated by IV was a very interesting, sometime painful, sometimes “Ahhhhh” for three and a half hours or so. Thankfully, the medical complex had nearby “service stations.”

I must say, every staff member in the IV Therapy section and every staff member in the radiology section of the Maine Medical Center Scarborough Campus was a super person. And today’s IV needle person was absolutely one of the best. I never once felt that needle, even when it was breaking through my skin.

Now I’m waiting for next week when I have a day with the neurologist to learn how it all came out.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

I'm learning a new trick!

This is just a test to see how including pictures works in blog. I've never tried it before so I asked a really good person who unwittingly led me to this blog business. Since I have a picture here, it's easy to say Sheepish Annie is a good teacher. Thanks, SA.
The scene you're looking at (Oh, yea, she's a teacher -- The scene at which you're looking) was taken during a spring storm yesterday. I probably should take another shot as it looks today because all the snow clinging to the trees is gone and much of it on the ground has also disappeared. But SA told me it was really easy to include pictures and she was correct.
Obviously I still have a few little kinks to work out, like sizing, placing it later in the post, perhaps a cute caption. And, I guess, how to double space between paragraphs.
Back in December when I started posting with some regularity, SA sent me a note that said I should include pictures and some other stuff (some of which is now on the page) as pictures make a post a lot more interesting. Now, I guess, I've got to find some interesting stuff to photograph.
Our Maine legislature is in recess for the weekend. I suspect some committees of both the Maine House and Senate, especially the appropriations and taxation committees, are working this weekend trying to work out some kinks in their respective plans as they must be unified before passage. Both are Democrat plans. Republican plans have been rejected. The Democrats control both houses as well as the governor's office.
It's looking like the budgets to fix a 200-million-dollar revenue shortfall will be passed April First. Neither of House nor the Senate plan deals with the spending and revenue problems that have led to the shortfall. And many legislative observers have said the shortfall will grow even more.
I can't think of a better day, April Fools' Day, for final action on this fiasco.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A weekend begins again!

Another Friday. The beginning of another weekend. So what happens in Maine? It snows. Yep, here we are almost at the end of March, 28th to be exact, spring has sprung, and it’s snowing. The temperature in my little plot of Maine is above the freezing mark, and was when we got up this morning. It took a while for the falling snow to get the roadways cold enough to support snow, so it was a while before the ground turned white.

In fact in some places, like my driveway, the black continues. There is a little slush out there, but I’m not planning on having to machine clean it. The warmer weather tomorrow and Sunday will finish what remains after today.

Because the temperatures were near or above the freezing mark, the snow was wet and heavy. It created a beautiful sight as it clung to trees and overhead wires. This is one of those times I wish I knew how to post pictures here so I could show you the prettiness outside my home. Perhaps that day of knowledge will come.

Not much new on the Maine budget fiasco. The Senate debated change proposals today and sent its recommendations over to the House. They aren’t expected to be adopted as there so committees, perhaps the full legislature, will work through the weekend. They are on a March 31st, or is it April 1st, deadline. If they miss the date, then the budget can’t go into effect until after the next fiscal year begins.

In any case, because the Democrat proposal is primarily a band aid approach to fixing the revenue shortfall and not addressing the ridiculous spending that got us into this mess, the Democrats will have to take full credit for more mess which probably will start April 15th. I’ve seen some estimates that the final deficit will be from 350 to 600 million dollars, not the 200 million it is now.

My son called yesterday to let us know he was safely home. He had left here Wednesday morning to return to the West Coast. I don’t know what happened, but he was a little later getting to his airport destination than anticipated. He flew to Boston in a direct flight on Alaska Air in five hours. His return on Delta with a layover in New York took 11 hours. He didn’t get home until after one a.m.

I had told him snow had been predicted for today here. I have a picture taken in front of my house which I just decided to email to him. I thought he might like to see what he missed. There’s very little snow where he lives and I think he had been hoping to see some falling here.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

A little of this; A little of that - End is best!

The Maine Legislature continues to debate a budget proposal to eliminate a $200 million shortfall in revenue. There were two proposals before the Maine House today, one from the Democrats and one from the Republicans. The Democrat plan passed handily, as expected, but then the House entered into an amendment phase. The last I heard, that was still going on.

The Senate also must work on the budget and then there could be a session to reconcile any differences. The Legislature is expected to work into or through the weekend to resolve the budget so the governor can sign it into law before April 1st.

So far, at least at last report, the Republicans were standing together to oppose the budget. Five Democrats also voted against it. The revised budget does not really deal with the budgetary woes of the state as no substantial spending changes were made. This leaves the potential for even further problems next year, and possibly before this one is over.

One thing we probably should point out after all these budget posts about a shortfall. The state’s income did increase this year. The shortfall came from the failure of estimates in several areas, such as sales tax, to come as expected. Also the state made some very creative income estimates that had no chance of success, such as calling unused gift cards as unclaimed property and asking issuers to send the money to the state.

Some other fascinating news about the state today. The personal income of Mainers grew 5.3 percent over last year. The national average increase was 6.2 percent. Maine is among the 10 states with the slowest income growth for the second year in a row.

Maine dropped four spots in the Most Livable State Awards to 20th. For the fifth straight year, New Hampshire is number one.

This is one of my favorite items of the day. The Legislature would like Maine to become the first state to adopt universal health care. This state currently is the one with the second highest insurance rates in the nation. A couple of years ago, the Legislature established the state’s own Dirigo Insurance plan as a first step in universal care. It is extremely costly to the state and since its creation, only about 15 thousand people have joined. The debate in the state is raging on whether Dirigo is a success or failure and even if it should be continued. Today, the Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee unanimously voted against a proposal to switched legislators from the more generous state employee health plan to Dirigo Choice. They rejected the plan they created to be the savior of universal health care in Maine.

Don’t you just love it?


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The family visit has ended!

The visit has ended. Our son and granddaughter left for Boston this morning to catch a flight back to their home on the West Coast. Our daughter-in-law had left Monday to deliver two kittens to a buyer in Pennsylvania.

Today began with a huge breakfast. Our daughter came over to join us and it was a very pleasant way to end a wonderful visit we had thought might never happen. The house cleared out about 10 this morning as the son, his daughter, and his sister all headed for their respective homes. Once again my wife and I were alone.

The reason we hadn’t seen our son in all these years is complex, but the short of it is he began communicating with a girl he met on line. He had just graduated from college. He had taken various jobs trying to get on his feet and set down some roots of his own. After a few months of communicating with the on-line friend, he told us he was heading west to meet her in person.

When he came home, he announced he was going back to marry her. He did. They’ve been married ever since and, of course, have a wonderful little girl. But money they didn’t have and so haven’t been able to come visit. He taught school for a while before he entered a University in his new state to earn his Masters Degree. He also began working on his Ph.D. but gave that up when he couldn’t tolerate the political requirements of his instructors.

His wife, meanwhile, entered college on her own; and attending mostly part-time for a while, she eventually earned her bachelor’s. She is now working toward her Masters. He’s working full time and he told us for the first time they had some disposable income and chose to visit us.

The week is now over. His wife is winging home from Pennsylvania while he and his daughter are on a slightly different course, but heading to the same place. And our extremely happy and wonderful visit with them has come to an end. They say they’ll return as soon as they can.

There are probably a few of you wondering why they have to come here. Why we don’t go there. It’s called health. MGD and I took our last major trip a few years ago, and now deterioration limits our travel plans. So we’re already in the anxious to see them again stage and waiting for their next visit.

I’ll get back to my ranting and raving tomorrow after I’ve learned something about the beginning of the budget debate over Maine’s spending today. It should be an interesting discussion.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A very deep hole!

This is the last full day my son and granddaughter will be in Maine so I have only a brief comment for today. They will be at our home tomorrow morning for breakfast before they leave for Logan Airport.

Tomorrow will be an interesting day for Republicans. The debate on the state budget adjustments begins. There are enough Democrats to pass the budget without any Republican votes so most observers think a trick used a couple of times in recent years has a chance of being pulled again. Vote their budget so the Governor can sign it before the month’s end and then adjourn. That will allow the revised budget to go into effect June 1st. Otherwise, it’ll be three months after adjournment before the budget can become law.

Once the adjournment takes place, the governor will immediately call the Legislature back into session to complete its work. It’s a scummy trick.

I hope the Republicans in the Legislature will stand together and not participate in any way if it appears this will be the case. The Democrats then will completely own the disaster that’s about to hit Maine. Their budget does not address any of the underlying problems with finance; it only is a band aid fix that will cause the budget to be in even worse shape next year, or more likely, before this year is done.

I think the Republicans should remain mute in the special session. The Democrats have dug the financial hole this state is in; they should have to be the ones to answer for it come November.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Budget cuts pay back?

Another weekend has passed, but it was an unusual one. We didn’t have a storm. I can’t recall the last time a weekend was without some form of precipitation this winter. I have mentioned that Joe Cupo, the chief meteorologist at Portland TV station WCSH, said a few weeks ago that this winter has been marked by a storm just about every Wednesday and weekend this winter. Apparently that won’t change this week, either, in spite of the stormless weekend that just passed. Snow to rain is forecast for Wednesday and that chance of something happening this weekend has reached the weathercasts.

Considering weekends we’ve had, my son and his wife and daughter picked a reasonably great weekend to visit us here in Maine. They live in a West Coast state and arrived here Thursday after a flight to Boston and a rented car ride to here. They raise and sell cats and the daughter-in-law left this morning for Pennsylvania to deliver two kittens there. Our son and granddaughter will be here until Wednesday when they head back the West Coast.

It’s been a great visit so far. We’ve spent more time with them than we’ve spent in the last 15 years combined. And we have a little more time to spend. But I hate to admit that we old folk are getting just a little bit tired. It’s all worth it and we’ll be very happy if we have a chance to do it again.

The family visit has made following our Legislature just a little difficult. Not much happens in Augusta on Mondays. Nor Fridays for that matter. I’m not sure much happens in Augusta anytime. Gov. Baldacci signed one piece of legislation into law today that bans the sale of any type of toy shaped or novelty lighters. Some are joking about the legislation, but you won’t see any fun poked at it here. Those little gadgets, some shaped like toy cars, some like baseball bats, some like flashlights, too darn many shapes to include them all here, could do serious harm to a small child as it did one boy, burning much of his face, and prompting the law.

Last Thursday, the Democrat members of the appropriations and taxation committees reached an agreement with Gov. Baldacci on a proposal to cut nearly $200 million from the state budget to solve a shortfall in revenue problem. The governor had called in a bi-partisan resolution, but the Republicans had ended the participation earlier in the day.

One of the provisions of the Democrat plan, sometime around midnight, was to eliminate a Republican popular part of Legislative action, a committee best known as OPEGA, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability. Looks to me like the Democrats don’t want to be held accountable. The editor of a popular Maine Internet Forum, As Maine Goes, revealed that a state legislator said the cut of OPEGA was Pay Back. That could end up raising the hair on the necks of a few Republican legislators.

The full Legislature probably will begin discussing the cuts Wednesday.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

We're let down again!

Although the state budget crisis isn’t technically over, it appears the Democrats have stuck it to us again. Working closely with the Democrat governor, the appropriations committee has approved a 190-million dollar adjustment to the state budget, an amount that will close the projected budget gap. Republicans were not involved.

I see the problem as its being temporary. No structural changes in actual spending were made and without those changes, we will be facing more crises, possibly as early as next month. For example, our Medicaid (known as MaineCare in this state) payments are among the highest in the country. We have something like one quarter of all Mainers eligible for MaineCare. The Republicans wanted to tighten eligibility requirements so that not as many would be eligible, bring the requirements closer in line to the requirements of other states. The Democrats wanted nothing to do with that, so although they have shifted some of the cost, the underlying problem remains.

The Republicans wanted some changes in benefits to state legislative workers. Right now Maine taxpayers pay 100% of insurance costs for state workers. Most businesses in Maine pay a portion of those costs and the Republicans believe that’s the way it should be for state workers as well. They proposed requiring those state workers working for the Legislature pay 10% of the cost. They also want those workers to take three unpaid holidays during the year. It doesn’t surprise me the workers objected, and the Democrats agreed with the workers.

The Republicans proposed other cuts in the state budget, too; but they also were rejected by the Democrats even though the proposals left aid to neediest in our state intact.

It was interesting that during the committee deliberations, the Republicans and Democrats seemed to reach some agreement on some items. Thursday the gap began to widen and the Republicans declared they no longer could participate. Thursday night the committee met with the governor to iron out some final details. From news articles I’ve read, Republicans did not participate. When that meeting ended after midnight, the governor announced to the world that a bipartisan budget had been successfully completed. The bipartisanship was based on the earlier participation of the Republicans in the committee hearings and meetings.

Perhaps one big change the Democrats made in that midnight meeting and real sore point for Republicans was the elimination of a committee called OPEGA which is the Legislative watchdog committee on government spending. It was truly bipartisan as it was comprised of six Republicans and six Democrats. One Republican legislator has promised to seek a “people’s veto” if that cut isn’t restored.

My observations are the result of reading and listening to various news organizations and I’ll admit I have biased eye. But all I see is basically a cut in some spending for this year but no program changes to assure that the overspending in our state isn’t stopped. We are the highest taxed state perhaps it’s the second, in the nation and the only way to help us out is to make real cuts. That has not happened in spite of a recent poll that said more than three-quarters of the state’s residents want tax cuts. The governor says the budget now approved by the committee at least doesn’t raise broad based taxes. That’s an interesting phrase, wouldn’t you say.

And wait until tax day, April 15th. It’ll be interesting to see just how much higher the shortfall actually is and how the state handles it. Even the governor has said the worse is yet to come.


Friday, March 21, 2008

A great first day!

The glorious day finally arrived about suppertime last night. Our son and his family arrived for a visit. If you’ve read this spot for any time, you know my wife and I have been looking forward to this visit since January. We hadn’t seen our son or his family for several years. They live in a west coast state, but now he’s here.

It just occurred to me the irony of his arriving at suppertime. Imagine. A son arriving home in time for supper. I think that had happened a few times over the years until he left Maine some 15 years ago.

It was about 3 o’clock yesterday when we got a call from Boston. The group was on the shuttle heading to the rental car lot. The anticipation here grew exponentially. It seemed like ten hours later when MGD announced they’re were in the driveway. It really wasn’t that long, of course.

After a normal welcome and greeting, the hugs, kisses, etc., our dog decided to join the fun. It had to be one of the funniest sights I’ve seen concerning that dog. Until now, she had been hiding behind MGD, which in itself was unusual as she’s generally a hyped up little girl who wants to kiss everyone. She took a couple of steps toward these strangers, stopped, literally backed up, and hid behind us.

We suspect why, but really don’t know. The westerners live on a farm and have horses, goats and other animals, including cats. They deal in cats. They had two kittens with them, but not physically at the welcoming session. They’re going to be stopping in another state on the way home to deliver the kittens to their new owners. We think our dog spelled mostly the kittens but also other animals on their clothes and timidity set in.

Throughout the evening the dog would move to within a couple feet of the family, the quickly back away. MGD even tried to coax the dog, but that didn’t work either. So far, our dog has not accepted my son and his family.

A nice visit catching up on years of happenings and then we had our meal. More great conversation. But the little family was totally exhausted from the long plane trip to Boston and then the drive to Maine, so we all recognized they needed some sleep and off they went to their motel. Our dog hid behind us as she watched them depart.

Now we’ll have a few days to get reacquainted and to get to know our young granddaughter. And, as that oft-quoted advertisement says, these days will be priceless.


Back to my favorite rant these days, the Maine budget crisis. The Democrat governor, the Democrat legislative leaders, the Democrat members of the committees, all met into the night last night and crafted a budget to present to the full Legislature next week. Although the Democrats are calling it bi-partisan effort because Republicans had been involved in some of the deliberations in committee, several reports have stated that the Republicans had not participated in the final preparations last night. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next week when the full legislative battle gets under way. I might have more ranting on this one tomorrow.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Frivolous lawsuit?

There are some things that I think are just plain insane. I have great respect for most lawyers and if I were ever in trouble, the first person I’d seek for help would be an attorney. Yet the law profession is the butt of many jokes and, in general, has a bad name.

Now along come a lawyer in Bangor and one in Philadelphia who are taking the profession’s good name to new lows. They’re filing multi-million dollar lawsuits the Hannaford Brothers food market chain over the breach of security in allowing credit/debit card information to be stolen. Hannaford announced earlier this week that at least four million credit cards have had their numbers stolen during transactions at various Hannaford stores, associate stores, and at least one sister chain.

So far about 1800 unauthorized uses of the various cards have been reported. One of my physical therapists got a call the other night from her credit card bank. The bank had noticed some unusual activity on her account and, protecting her interests, called her to ask if purchases of more than 500 dollars in New Jersey and Pennsylvania were her purchases. I wasn’t at her home when the call came, but from what she said, I’d say she got a little excited. The bank cleared the charges. She told me that at no time did the bank ask her for any personal information, which a real bank never does.

I have two debit cards I use. My wife has a debit card she uses at, yes, Hannaford super market. So I’ve called my issuers and canceled our debit accounts and requested new cards with new numbers. So far, I have not been compromised but if the cards remain live, the unauthorized use could take place years down the road. Now our cards are closed. Both issuers were extremely helpful in the procedure and both said I was doing the right thing. I should have my new cards in a few days. Until then I’ll be a cash carrier.

So what’s all this got to do with lawyers? The Bangor Daily News reports that a Bangor attorney has filed a class action lawsuit against Hannaford for an unspecified amount, but suggests it’s in the $5 million range. He filed it on behalf of a woman.

The BDN article says (using the names of the complainant and attorney), “(The woman) has not been the victim of credit card fraud, (the lawyer) said Wednesday, or had purchases that she did not authorize charged to her debit or charge cards as a result of the breach. The lawsuit is seeking compensation for the breach itself, he said.”

The woman had not been a victim and had no purchases she did not authorize charged to her cards. And we wonder why attorneys get bad names.

Meanwhile, a large law firm in Philadelphia has also filed a class action suit against Hannaford in U.S. District Court in Portland. The suits are similar except this one is on behalf of customers whose card data was stolen.

If the lawsuits are successful, the winners are the lawyers who will undoubtedly get a least a third of any settlement and possibly a lot more. The losers would be you and me as we watch grocery prices go out of sight.

And, as I said earlier, lawyers wonder why they have such a reputation.

I have nothing to report yet on the arrival of my son and his family. They’re expected here early this evening. It’s been a long time so these are anxious moments. As I finish this for today, the boy just called and is on his way from Boston to here. We’re really getting excited now.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Anticipating a Great Day tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the day wife and I have been looking forward to for a couple months. Our son, his wife, and our granddaughter will be arriving for a week’s visit. MGD and I have been very busy preparing our house for their arrival. I’m not sure just how important it really is, but it’s important to MGD that the house is spotless. What’s important to her is important to me, too, but I’m not sure it’s the condition of the house the kids (son is 40) are coming for or to see us.

We haven’t seen them for several years. They live in a west coast state and travel is expensive. We’ve reached an age where health determines travel ability, and for us retired folks, it’s also expensive. Seeing the lad, talking with him, hugging him is going to make us very happy. Add to that the chance to hold our granddaughter will be a wonderful experience we have only had one time before. And, of course, we’re looking forward to visiting with our daughter-in-law, too.

Getting back to today, it’s Wednesday. All this winter Wednesday in Maine has meant just one thing: a storm. Yup! It’s snowing right now. The weatherman says, however, that this snow in our part of the state will be short-lived and will shortly turn to rain. The rain will be heavy at times right through tomorrow morning. Then clearing will begin and our family should arrive in good, but windy and cold weather. Other parts of the state won’t be so lucky. Folk in far northern Maine will be getting plowable snow.

Maine budget crisis continues. The Appropriations and Taxation committees who held public hearings last week on Governor’s proposed cuts continue to want to restore some. It hasn’t announced alternative methods to reduce the budget except mention the possibility of “revenue enhancements,” otherwise known as tax and fee increases. The debate continues. Republicans announced a plan that would reduce the eligibility for MaineCare, this state’s name for Medicaid, to bring it in line with Federal guidelines. It also called for state workers and legislators themselves to pay a portion of their own now-free to them health insurance. It might be safe to say the proposal was not too well received.

The speaker of the Maine House raised a few eyebrows over the weekend. In the middle of a crisis of a revenue shortfall, Glenn Cummings authorized the expenditure of $40 thousand to buy ten computers for legislators. Cummings wants to demonstrate that using computers could be more beneficial and cost effective eventually leading to the purchase of computers for all legislators. Some folks have indicated that the money could have gone toward reducing some of the cuts the legislators want saved or possibly to buying many families oil as art of the Liheap program.

Meanwhile, on another front, yesterday the chairman of the Maine Republican Party presented an Internet conducted petition to legislative leaders. The petition called for cutting spending to balance the budget and raise no taxes or fees. In less than two days Mark Ellis gathered over a thousand electronic signatures. When I last checked yesterday, the count was climbing close to 15-hundred.

Today is March 19th. The Legislature is trying to get the budget work completed by March 31st. The debate continues as Time marches by.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What a Day!

This has been one very problem solving day. As a result, we are unable this evening to give my thoughts on what happened today regarding the state budget. I don’t know. I haven’t had access to the Internet all day so haven’t been able to follow the events at all.

Today has been all about me. Yesterday around five o’clock my network went South. Nothing. No net connections, no e-mail, no nothing involving cyber space. I’ve been having home network problems for several weeks, but nothing like the total meltdown that happened last night. I have four active computers and a home network that allows me to use them in any room.

Today I switched to a wireless network.

My day started off with nothing to do with computers. Tuesdays and Thursdays are scheduled Senior Fitness days at my physical therapist’s office. There’s a great small group of guys and gals that meet regularly for some individually prescribed exercise routines that fit each person’s needs. When I got home my wife was busy doing things to get our house ready for the son’s and his family’s visit beginning Thursday. So, being the great guy I am, I joined in her efforts and helped.

I used to help folk set up computers, networks, software, etc. Although I don’t do that anymore, when one of my former clients called for help, I naturally put him on my schedule. From the time I finished helping MGD and the scheduled arrival, I went to the store to begin work on my own network.

First question: Is it me or is it Road Runner? So I called and a very nice young lady told me they were having no problems in my town. She offered to run a test on my modem which I accepted. The test showed both RR and my modem were working perfectly. She then offered to run a test on my router. When she came back with there was no connection between RR and my router, using the routers brand name, I knew it was fried.

Off to the computer stores. I first visited Staples where I got absolutely no assistance. As I looked around the store, it appeared that the number of “associates” had dramatically diminished. No one came to the computer section to assist customers. My guess could only be than they didn’t have an “associate” (remember when they were clerks?) who was qualified for that department. I waited patiently for 20 minutes. Please understand, I’m not the size guy anyone could miss. I left.

I went next to Best Buy. I was there about three minutes when an “associate” offered his help. I asked him a series of questions about a device I had chosen. When I asked my last question (to him) he said he was getting in over his head. I absolutely admire and respect any sales person who can admit that. He suggested I visit the Geek Squad with my questions. The Geeks at the Best Buy in South Portland, Maine, are great people. They not only answered my questions but also offered suggestions on the best way to make the change. They even said I could bring my computer and the new device to them and they’d set it all up at no charge. I like the Geek Squad and highly recommend them.

But as I said earlier, I used to help people set up networks, so I didn’t expect to take my stuff back to the store. I came home, had lunch, and then my former client arrived. We spent a couple hours, but I won’t embarrass him with the problem.

Another short diversion: My wife and I visited our dentist last week. I got a “Look, Ma!” result of the cleaning. She didn’t. She got on a call list to get to the dentist for a fix. That call came today. So while my client was here, she headed to the dentist. My client left and I waited until she got home to help me move a wire around and set up the new device.

By late afternoon, I was a happy camper. My new combination router, access point, switch worked perfectly. After we ran the wire from the new device to the cable modem, we were back alive. And once again A Gator in Maine can rant and rave about things that interest him. We’ll probably have a few thoughts on the Maine State Budget tomorrow.

Thanks for bearing with me.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Broken hardware

My health has improved. My computer has close to died. I cannot post today. RAD, more probably won't be until tomorrow. This ROTS!!!!!!


Saturday, March 15, 2008

One more day!

Ditto yesterday. See below. I should be back Monday.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Darn cold shuts my mind down!

I’m simply not feeling too well today and I really don’t have much to discuss here. So, this is another of those rare days when you just might want to move on.

I’m reasonably sure it’s just a common cold that has me down today. My wife has had one for a little more than a week so I guess she gave it to me. I literally mean “gave.” Yesterday she was feeling better while I was hacking away. Yesterday she was anxious to do things while I needed a nap.

This morning, she was just about over hers. I’m feeling sorry for myself. I mentioned to her just a few minutes ago that I thought she had given me her cold. “Good,” said she. “I’m really feeling great. Thanks for taking it.”

I guess helping each other out in these times of illness is just part of more than 45 years of marriage. All this breaks down to one simple thing. It’ll be easy to do some recuperating tomorrow; the weatherman says we’re going to get four to seven inches of new snow. Nevertheless, I don’t want to write today because my mind only wants to nap. If you’re still here, thanks for bearing with me.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

A few more thoughts on The Budget

As I listen to radio reports, TV reports and the newspapers, it’s becoming apparent that my assessment of state budget cuts was correct. I made two particularly appropriate comments over the past few weeks. First I said that the proposed cuts were designed to do one thing: get the neediest and poorest folk out to protest; then I said the hearings would be held when most Mainers, at least the ones who have to foot the state spending bill, would have to be on the job and could not attend hearings. I suggested the purpose was to give the Legislature an excuse to raise taxes and fees.

Yesterday, the neediest and the poorest among us indeed descended on Augusta to protest the cuts. Various agencies paraded a long line of mentally handicapped, abused people, physically handicapped, and just about anyone else you can think of before the legislative committees holding public hearings on Governor Baldacci’s proposals for cuts. We people who pay for all the welfare benefits and educational follies in this state generally weren’t represented. One group, however, offered suggestions for budget reductions that wouldn’t affect any of the people there.

The reports I’ve heard today seem to indicate the show of misery had an effect on the legislators on the committee. One said something to the effect that after seeing these people and hearing the testimony most if not all of the proposed cuts cannot take place. Have you read that outcome before? On the other hand, a different legislator was quoted as saying the proposed cuts were like a school superintendent cutting football, advanced academic courses, and music from a school budget when told to reduce his budget. You may have read that somewhere before, too.

The “one group” I mentioned above is the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a Maine think tank. In a press release it released today, it said that the chief executive officer of the MHPC, Tarren Bragdon, “presented seven specific budget areas where Maine spends significantly more than other states for similar programs.”

"The seven proposals identify reasonable, targeted changes that would save $217 million in this budget cycle and at the same time, keep Maine focused on providing a safety net for the poor, elderly and disabled. Maine is not a wealthy state, yet our enrollment parameters are far above the national averages on many programs - which create unsustainable spending levels which Maine taxpayers cannot afford," said Mr. Bragdon.

The press release adds, “J.Scott Moody, vice president of policy and chief economist at The Maine Heritage Policy Center, notes ‘Tax collections in Maine are up 36% since fiscal year 2002, a time when inflation grew by 14.4 percent and population by only 2.4 percent. Maine people are highly taxed already, so state spending must be reduced. Our seven recommendations include items like reducing the state bureaucracy and reviewing the health benefits for state employees, who currently have no out-of-pocket costs.’””

The cost of education was also addressed in the report. According to the press release, ‘"Education spending is another area where Maine taxpayers spend too much," said Stephen Bowen, the director of education policy at The Maine Heritage Policy Center. "Maine has the nation's highest ratio of non-instructional employees in our higher education system. Another way to make Maine education more efficient is to adopt the changes to the Pupil/Teacher Ratio as recently recommended by Governor Baldacci."’

The release concludes, “The seven recommendations could save approximately $217 million in the current budget cycle. An executive summary of these is included on the second page of this release. Each recommendation is detailed in the March 12, 2008 edition of The Maine View (Vol 6, No 1), which accompanies this document and is available at The Maine Heritage Policy Center's website.”

The report entitled $217 Million in Reasonable Spending Cuts to Close Budget Gap is available online at Maine Policy Heritage Center.

Tomorrow is Friday. In Maine. Guess what’s heading our way?


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Don't know what happened, but I have a suggestion.

If you’re visiting here to get my take on today’s state budget cut hearings, you’re in for a disappointment. I don’t know what happened there. Now I probably could wait until after the six o’clock news to form my opinions, but I don’t choose to do that. So I’ll just offer a couple uninformed opinions.

I do know from news reports that as I predicted last night hundreds of people crowded through the capitol buildings’ hallways today pressing the legislatures to keep the budgets of many, many programs, mostly educational and welfare, intact. The news reports say those protestors suggested that the cuts be found elsewhere or that taxes be raised.

We are already the second highest taxed state in the nation and many people say they simply can’t pay any more. The governor has told the Legislature that Mainers have reached the saturation point and he won’t support tax increases. The solution to our budget crisis is simple. But cutting the budget in the face of all the protestors will take a whole lot more intestinal fortitude than I suspect our legislators have.

Maine has one of the most generous welfare programs in the country. It may be the most generous. Several studies have indicated that if the state would just make eligibility requirements more in line with the requirements of the federal government, hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved. It is true that many of those benefitting from the state’s generosity would be affected, but by lowering those standards some reports say the neediest among us could continue to get help.

I would guess that changing the rules right now might be impossible so such a change would have little or no effect on the $95 million shortfall in the first, this current, year of the two-year budget cycle, but if the decision were made reasonably soon and the state had a couple months to plan and implement the changes, it would have a dramatic effect on the second year of the cycle. To this overly simplistic mind, such a change makes sense.

But I’m not a legislator and did not participate in the creation of the crisis. I don’t recall a single legislator asking me how to spend my tax money. Therefore, I do not expect any legislator would consider these thoughts, either, if these ideas were read by one. Of course I do not take the credit for this particular solution to the budget problem. All I have done is form my opinion from a variety of sources that have been reported in the last several days.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hearings won't change the need to CUT the budget!

Today and tomorrow are days I almost wish I could be in Augusta. The state’s Appropriations Committee is holding two days of public hearings into the proposed cuts in Maine’s budget to make up for a shortfall in revenue. The budget revisions were recommended by Governor Baldacci.

Today’s hearings were for proposed cuts on various educational programs and, from what I’ve heard, the hearings didn’t last a long time.

Tomorrow’s hearings, though, have the potential of being a different story. The Committee will hear discussions on cuts to various programs in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). A group is attempting to organize a rally at the State House and is getting people affected by the cuts to plead to keep the programs intact.

My guess is that the huge majority of hard working Mainers who pay the nation’s second highest tax burden to pay for the welfare others receive will be on job tomorrow and unable to attend the hearings. Therefore, they probably won’t have much if any representation.

The hearings will be well-orchestrated. We’ll hear case after case of how an individual has been “saved” by a particular program and how desperately needed the program is. In fact, with the help of Maine’s newspapers and TV stations, the tearing at the heartstrings has already begun.

I told you a few days ago that the scene we’ll see tomorrow was designed to give the Democrat controlled legislature a reason to raise taxes and fees to reduce the size of the cuts. The Republicans have resolved to fight the efforts and, perhaps, demand even deeper reductions. Governor Baldacci has publicly stated that he understands that Mainers have reached the limits of what they can take out of their pockets and will fight an attempt to raise taxes. He also says the cutting isn’t over as more cuts will be needed.

It’s too bad the policies of the state have put us in this position. We’ve been under Democrat rule for 30 years so it’s easy to blame the Democrats for the situation we face today, but the reality of it is the Republicans in Augusta have put up extremely little resistance and many of them joined in the creation of the crisis.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I say it again. The money crisis in the State of Maine was created by the series of Maine governors, and there were some in that group who were not Democrats, and the Legislatures where the Democrats have controlled the House for 30 years, but it’s been much closer for the Republicans in the Senate. They are the ones who turned Maine into a welfare state, a state where one statistic released a couple months ago indicated that about one quarter of all our people are on one form of welfare or another. They are the ones who must resolve the crisis.

And now, with a declining economy and revenue projections, some of which were foolish from the beginning, falling short, we are faced with a crisis. The one fact we all know, taxing us more will only make the problem worse. Cuts, and some very deep cuts, must be made in state spending. Tomorrow we’ll be seeing and hearing why the taxpayers should simply dig a little deeper.


Monday, March 10, 2008

The Stimulus Payment Letter

I can hardly wait for the payment to come. But I have no idea what I’m going to do with the money, but according to a letter I received, I bet many of us received, today in May I may be getting a check for up to 1200 dollars. That is based on my wife’s and my filing a joint return. If we had filed separately or were not married, the stimulus payment would be $600. We have no children living at home so we won’t be getting up to 300 for each of those.

According to the letter, the money will be a stimulus payment and does not mention that it may be a rebate. In fact the letter points out what we all already knew, one didn’t even have to pay any taxes to get a stimulus payment. It has been called a rebate in various news media, on several radio/TV talk shows, and political forums on the Internet. We now know it isn’t a rebate but rather a stimulus payment.

The stimulus payment for people who don’t pay income taxes will be made only to people who file a tax return and have at least three thousand dollars in earned income, Social Security benefits, and/or certain veterans’ payments. These people may receive a payment of $300 or $600 if filing jointly. The notice I received today also listed several situations in which no payment will be made.

Here’s a big kicker, those of you whose adjusted gross income is more than $75 thousand or $150 thousand for joint filers will get reduced payments or have them phased out entirely. Doesn’t that seem fair to the nation’s highest taxpayers, the ones most likely to stimulate the economy anyway?

The part of the letter you really want to read is the back page. I’m not really sure what it says. It tells us how to determine our stimulus payment. Don’t get too excited; after reading it you won’t have a clue. Well, actually you might now that I’ve warned you about it. It’s a sort of chart with three columns that tells you how much you will receive if your net income tax liability is more than zero dollars or zero dollars and your qualifying income is at least $3,000 or under $3,000.

That back page also tells you that if your qualifying income is under $3,000 what the gross income must be, $8,750 for single filer for example, in various categories to qualify for the stimulus payment.

I’ve said in the past here that this whole thing is a big sham, an election year ploy to make voters think they’re getting something from their government to help stimulate the economy. But the government is borrowing that money and it will have to be paid back. By whom, you ask? Guess!

It’s supposed to stimulate the economy as the recipients run out and buy new things, like a new HDTV, or household goods, or a host of other durable items. My guess is that most people, especially those in the $3,000 to $75,000 income range category will use the money to buy some groceries for their home, catch up on oil payments, fill the gas tank a couple of times. The stimulus payment isn’t coming until May so it’ll miss the April 15th deadline for making tax payments.

I haven’t decided what I’ll do with mine. I might just put it in savings for my kids when the ultimate happens. Or, more likely, I’ll put it toward my pre-pay oil for next year. I might come close to using it for what it’s intended and put it toward a new roof. In any event, not being an economist, it’s hard for me to fathom how a payment using borrowed money which will have to be paid back by the government using the tax money it takes from us will be a real stimulant.

But like many people, I’ll be anxiously waiting for it to come and will probably celebrate its arrival in May. Maybe I will stimulate the economy a little; there’s this little hamburger stand in Falmouth my wife and I just love. Or it could provide enough extra for us to be able to take a trip to Auburn where’s there’s another super hamburger stand.


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Another year has begun!

As predicted our little part of Maine got a good dose of rain overnight, but by morning it was over. I guess some places had some sleet and freezing rain, but the temperatures stayed relatively up so we apparently didn’t have too many problems.

After a short visit by the sun this morning, clouds began rolling back in for part two of this weekend’s storm and by two o’clock this afternoon the rains had returned. The weather folk say this part of the weekender will be just a little more severe and the National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for a goodly portion of the state, especially away from the coast. We could get about two inches of water with this rain. Snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain, that infamous wintry mix, will pummel other parts of the state.

Because the sun came out this morning, our daughter brought her pup over to play with ours for a while. Both needed and seemed to enjoy letting off some pent up energy. After an hour or two, they both were trying to take a nap in our living room while neither really wanted to give up. Then the rains started and it was a good excuse to end their visit.

Since it’s a Saturday, I don’t much of the state government mischief to talk about. Some of the Democrats are being very critical of Governor Baldacci’s second round of budget cuts which are needed for the state to make up a revenue shortfall. While the Democrat legislators are saying the state cannot get along with the proposals, the governor is saying the revenue shortfall will grow even more over the next few weeks. He says he’s now preparing even more cuts. Next week will be an interesting one.

There’s been much discussion lately in various news media about the so-called Federal identification program called Real ID. The Feds want states to standardize their drivers’ licenses and the issuance of drivers’ licenses. That’s an oversimplification but the idea is to have it act like an in-country passport. States have only until the end of this month to apply for an extension to explain how they will implement the Real ID and, I think it’s only 4 or 5 which haven’t yet made that application.

Maine is one of them. The Maine government has said it will not comply with Read ID as it says the ID is too intrusive. The ID will be required for travel on planes, trains, boats, etc., within the US. The feds say not having the ID won’t necessarily ban travel, but it will slow down Mainers trying to fly, or go through any other screening. Mainers will have to go through more extensive, I think it’s called something like enhanced, screening and background checks. So far Maine has shown no inclination to relent.

Daylight savings begins tonight. The twice a year ritual means the trip around the house to be sure that the clocks have been set ahead one hour. Most of the time the loss of an hour’s worth of sleep isn’t too bad as we can sleep in Sunday morning to make up for it. But for Mrs. G.D., it’s going to be a rough one. She accepted a manager’s request to change the price tags in the department of the supermarket in which she works tomorrow morning. That was before she realized it was DST change weekend. By today’s time standards even though the clock will say “4” when she gets up, her body will still think it’s “3.”

When I woke up this morning, it was a new beginning as another chapter in my life was underway. I am very thankful that I have been blessed with still another extension.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Another weekend; another storm

I’m beginning to think that there just might be one good thing resulting from all the storms we’ve had here in Southern Maine this winter. It gives fools like me who think they can come up with something to say something to say. No different today, either. I haven’t really given a lot of thought to what I would write about tonight because I foolishly allowed Mr. Norton (Symantec Software) to upgrade his program on one of my computers. I’ve spend most of this day trying to get the thing to work the way I want it to work and not the way Mr. Norton thinks is best for me.

So, we have another in our continuing every other day winter storms heading our way for tonight. It’ll be a double hit as just about as soon as it moves out tomorrow morning, another will have us in its sights for tomorrow night and Sunday morning. But this is March and here along the coast daytime temperatures are reaching into the 40s. Simply put, that means we’ll have mostly rain in this part of the state. The overnight temperatures will drop below freezing so we will get a little sleet and some icing, but folks way up on the northern corner of our state are facing another foot and a half of snow.

We seem to get our share of these storms on weekends which really disrupts out visits with our daughter. Our Golden also will be looking for her sister, the daughter’s Golden, beginning about 11 o’clock tomorrow morning. I have no idea how dogs know days of the week and time of day, but our little girl will start watching out the window just about 11 tomorrow morning, and again Sunday looking for her sister. She doesn’t assume that pose any other time unless we specifically tell her she’s going to have company.

If the weather folk are correct, there’s a good chance we will have visitors at least one of the days. Rain usually doesn’t leave bad driving conditions, just wet ones. So we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what these storms bring.

My friend who’s in Florida for the winter and I seem to be having an “I can outdo you” contest over the weather. The weather seems to be just a little more active this season than in past. While we are getting snow/sleet/rain just about every other day, he’s getting severe wind, heavy rain, and almost daily tornado warnings. I’ve never seen a tornado, except on television, and I don’t think one has actually touched down in my friend’s winter home area. I do, however, think that I’d rather have the snow and the wintry mix that we get than a tornado. I lived year round in that state back in the 50s and I can’t remember even hearing of a warning.

If we do have a wet weekend as predicted, I still have a project on which to work. I need more work with Mr. Norton’s abomination, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if a very long friendship and trust in a product doesn’t come to an end sometime very soon.


Edited at 7:30 to add a response from my friend in Florida: He says about 10 years ago a tornado actually touched down in his Central Florida area near a ball park where one of the major league teams holds its spring training program. He said the Tornado actually moved several trailers in a nearby park onto the Florida Turnpike and raised a lot of havoc around the park. My friend was at his home in Maine when all this happened and his mother was living in the house he now uses for his winter vacations. He said he called her and she was O.K., but rather shaken at the storm. Thought you might like to know.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A chance meeting; a new relationship

We awoke to some frozen slush and a little ice around my home. We live on the south side of Route 1 which only means we live on the south side of Route 1. As far as the weather is concerned, we live in the main section of the state that rains fall when the weather is predicted to be a wintry mix. We may see some sleet under those conditions, but we get a lot of rain in the winter.

It rained yesterday. When the temperatures fell during the night to below freezing, the rain turned to sleet and then slush. It then froze. So this morning we had some frozen slush, but the sun was blazing away and that frozen slush quickly became just wet. By 7:15 this morning I left for my bi-weekly visit to my physical therapy group. As I backed out of my garage, I wasn’t sure what I’d find on my driveway. From my window it had looked like some ice was there. There wasn’t. It was just wet. Once onto the treated city streets, all I faced was the morning commute traffic.

A few months ago, we found a long lost cousin of mine. Actually, she wasn’t lost at all, but I hadn’t seen this woman since 1953 or perhaps earlier. We were teenagers in high school then, but it was that year my parents moved to Florida. They left me behind to live with my grandmother to be able to graduate with my friends from the school system I had been in all my school life. For some reason I never associated with my cousin again.

Until a chance meeting that I suspect no one ever anticipated. I had a workman from a local business come to the house to fix something. He ended up being a few years older than I and I learned he had retired from this particular business but was helping out during a busy season. As he finished up, he looked at me, stared would be a better word. Finally he asked if a certain name was familiar to me. “Yes,” I answered, “he was my father. How do you know him?” He responded, “You look exactly like him.” (I know this isn’t correct form, but it’ll do for this post.) This guy was another cousin, but we’re far apart in ages that we really didn’t have contact with one another. Once he told me his name, I knew instantly who he was and a new connection was made.

We asked about members of each other’s family. He knew my brother had passed and, of course, my parents were also gone. So most of the conversation was about his family. His brother, older than all of us still around, lives just a few blocks from me. His sister, the one my age and the one my wife went to lunch with, he said worked part time at a local supermarket. Oh, My Goodness! That’s the same place M.G.D. works part time.

Did someone sometime say we live in a really small world?

M.D.G. looked at name tags on people at work. Because they’re both part time, their paths didn’t cross very often, but one day there she was, my cousin wearing her name tag. M.D.G. was tempted to speak to her, but didn’t. The next day we both went to the store and my cousin was working. I walked over to her and said simply, “Hi. I’m G.D.” A big hug cemented right there the renewal of a long lost relationship. She said her brother had mentioned his surprise meeting with me, but she had no idea who at the store was related to me.

Since then this one and her husband and I and my wife have become friends again. Except for that one encounter with her brother, the men side of her family and I haven’t yet renewed. She and I are within a year of each other, the others aren’t. One, in fact, the oldest, may not even remember our family.

So today, my wife and “favorite” cousin had lunch together. It’s not the first time. But I’m happy that the past and the present have become linked.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Governor releases new list of proposed budget cuts

Maine Gov. John Baldacci revealed his suggestions today on ways to further reduce the state’s ailing budget. Maine has a nearly $200 million income shortfall for its current budget. Now the governor and the state Legislature is seeking ways to resolve the problem.

Like he did in his first suggestions, the governor has chosen areas that will bring about emotional responses rather than areas that probably could stand some cutting and no one would notice. The governor’s office released his complete statement today. The new proposed cuts would reduce some funding for local school districts, the University of Maine, the community college system and the Maine Maritime Academy although leaving an increase of a lesser amount in each. Baldacci also proposes additional cuts to the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The governor blamed the national economy for the problem. He said, “But the same factors are also hurting Maine families and businesses. Now is not the time to add to their burdens. We must prioritize State spending, restructure government and make sure that our State is on firm financial footing going forward.”

“The temptation is to rush forward, use our reserves now and avoid the toughest choices,” Governor Baldacci said. “We can’t do that. We don’t know how long the current economic trends will continue, and we won’t know until April just how bad circumstances are. Things could still get worse.”

The report continued, “The budget revisions include a reorganization of the Department of Health and Human Services, changes to Medicaid and job reductions. Slightly more than 71 State government positions will be cut, including 20 as part of the DHHS reorganization.

“Every State department and agency was required to make reductions. Efforts were made to limit the impact of cuts to health and human services, to protect Maine’s poorest, oldest and sickest, and to reduce the effects on local school districts.”

Baldacci kept at least part of his promise to Mainers by not including any tax increases in his savings plan, but he failed the taxpayers in raising some fees. Among them would be an increase in the cost for criminal background checks and fees that out-of-state liquor companies pay. He also continued his earlier promise not to raid the state’s “rainy day” fund.

The Legislature will now hold hearings on the proposals. When it held its hearings on earlier suggested cuts, people receiving services in some of the areas went to Augusta to attend them. Naturally, they appealed to what they called the unfairness of the cuts and urged lawmakers to keep those budgets intact. The current suggestions are of the same type, I think designed to elicit strong protests.

The government folk want a hue and cry so it will have a false reason to eventually raise taxes. If they do go that route, and most observers feel they will because they don’t have the courage to face the reality that real spending cuts are needed, then they will be flying in the face of a poll released Monday (see my Monday post below) that showed 8 out of 10 Mainers oppose any tax increases and most Mainers want the Legislature to cut spending. You can also read that poll here.

There are many of us in this state that believe there are layers of mid-management positions that could easily be eliminated. But now that I’ve said that, I’m beginning to think it’s not the middle management, the people who actually do the work, but perhaps the political appointed department leaders, some of whom are just that, political appointments and not necessarily qualified for the positions.

Perhaps raising taxes would help the problem in the short term, but I seriously doubt it, in the long term it could exacerbate the problem. The nation’s highest taxes now are part of the problem now. It is partially the incorrect tax revenue projections that are a factor in the shortfall. Raise those taxes even more and the state could find itself in an even bigger shortfall.

At some point in time, the people who put us into this situation with voodoo economics are the only people who can get us out of it. Remember, as I said a few days ago, we the people didn’t create the problem and we have no power (except at the ballot box next November) to do anything about it. Only the Legislature and governor who created the financial crisis have the power to fix it.

I would also remind those of you who would ask me where I would cut, what I could live without, that you didn’t ask me where I would spend the money when the outrageous budge was created. Therefore, you alone own the problem.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Gas prices causes us to stay home

I’m not sure how most people are handling the expenses in today’s living, but I think I’ve changed some habits just a bit. My wife and I, for example, are not taking an annual vacation trip to Pennsylvania because of the price of gas, and other elements of the trip, like food. We have enjoyed long summer vacations, usually a trip to Lancaster, PA, where there are three different theaters we enjoy, and another to some other part of the country.

Occasionally we go to Florida. I have a need to visit the Pinellas County area once in a while to visit my parents who are buried there. Besides, I like Florida. It has changed just a wee bit since I lived there in the 1950s; but while I was there, I had the chance to attend the University of Florida where I became a Gator. I enjoy many of the places in the state. I love visiting Cape Canaveral, Orlando, The Keys, and, of course, the West Coast, primarily the St. Petersburg area.

You may have noticed that information all included a lot of “I.” Simply and kindly, my wife hates the state. She knows, however, I need to go there occasionally and is very sympathetic to my needs.

We have travelled in every state except Hawaii, and it looks like our chances of being able to say, “We’ve been in every state.” is slipping away. We’ve had two trips that tie for “favorite.” One was a National Parks tour in the Western states, and the other was a cruise/land tour of Alaska.

We have none of those kind of trips planned for this year; and so for the first time in many years, we’re staying home. We will have one difference this year: our son and his wife and daughter will be visiting us here. Our decision to stay home is based solely on the increased costs. I suspect the lesson we’ll learn is that one must recreate to maintain happiness and some sanity.

But motor trips around the country aren’t the only way we’ve changed our habits. Our cars remain garaged as much as possible. About all MGD uses hers for is to go to her part time job three days a week. Mine stays home except for some occasional shopping. Even then, though, we have a list, including our stops, and rarely vary from it. There is an exception to that…we have a monthly trip to Harmon’s for hamburgers. And I go monthly to a meeting with a bunch of fellow retired folk.

Six months ago I had my oil changed in my car. The company put a little sticker thing on my windshield that told me when to return along with the mileage. I have driven 3100 of the 5000 miles so far. As you can see, I’m not kidding about having changed my driving habits. I am getting just a little tired of being more or less housebound.

Not much here today, but I avoided discussing the horrendous weather expected tonight and tomorrow.


Monday, March 3, 2008

A little weather; And, Watch out for new taxes!

Seems to me like I mention the weather just about every other day. Today won’t be different, just a little less weather as I’m going to catch up on an observation about our state budget crisis.

First, the weather: We don’t have a winter storm today in most of Maine, at least. Our next storm will be moving into Southern Maine tomorrow into Wednesday. This time, though, in our region the weather folk aren’t even talking snow; they’re saying this one will be rain, heavy at times. Rain in itself isn’t bad. But because of the nighttime temperatures the next few nights, we’ll be getting a dose of ice. That is bad. It has the potential to make travel treacherous and difficult, to cause ice-laden branches and trees to tumble, and bring about some power outages. We’ll have an off day Thursday before another round of stuff rolls in Friday into Saturday. Will this winter ever end?

I sure do hope it will. Our son, his wife, and our granddaughter are now just three weeks away from visiting us. We haven’t seen them in several years so the visit is our anticipated highlight of the year. I’d love to have some decent weather so they can enjoy their vacation.

Now on to another item: Our state Legislature is setting itself up to totally fail the Maine citizens. By now you know we have a budget shortfall in the $200 million range so far, and some expect it to climb even higher. By nearly all non-legislator accounts, the only way to resolve the problem is the cut state spending. It’s beginning to appear as if our Democrat controlled body doesn’t have the courage to face the situation it created and cut. Cuts are needed to get Maine back into the national median spending in virtually every category. Right now we are in the top two or three in taxation and spending.

We said it before: Mainers simply cannot afford more taxation, yet Democrat leaders in both the House and Senate are on record favoring increasing revenue to solve the problem. Increased revenue translates into more taxes. The senate president says in a guest newspaper column that Mainers are committed to helping Mainers (read that as increasing the public dole) and the Legislature has over the past seven years has cut to the bare bones. The Speaker of the House has scheduled budget debate to effectively cut off any Republican input and pass the budget as the Democrats envision it.

Meanwhile, a Market Decisions report released today shows that the big majority of Mainers do not want any tax increases to solve the budget crisis but believe that consolidation of spending and cuts should be used.

Edited after publishing: More explanation of the report was issued today by the Republican party. This terrific information can be found on AMG. (You'll need to scroll down a bit.)

Both linked reports were reported today in the Public Square forum of As Maine Goes by its editor.

Meanwhile, the Democrats continue to blame everyone but themselves for our crisis and are following the House Speaker’s Talking Points we mentioned a few days ago. It’s the national economy and some federal Medicaid rules changes that are causing our problems, they say. They conveniently don’t recognize their own ridiculous income projections, bad investments, and creation of rules making us the #1 welfare state in the nation. The national economy is an element of the problem, but the feds tell us that the rules changes are a result of overspending and reporting by the State.

This is an election year. It’ll be interesting to watch this play out. My guess would be that when Mainers begin to feel the full impact of the Legislature’s actions, there could be a voter rebellion. Then, maybe not. Mainers seem to like being poor.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

At last...Beautiful Black!

Yesterday I was patiently waiting for the arrival of what local weather forecasters called a massive winter storm expected to dump from 6 to 10 inches of snow on our area. Today I’m still waiting. Oh, my little section of Maine did get some winter weather, but in my yard the depth was closer to two and a half inches than six. That’s being kind. The weather folk did say there was a chance the snow might turn to rain along the coast, and they were right about that part. By 10 o’clock this morning, it was raining.

Before the rain came and before the snow had a chance to get too wet for my snow blower to handle, I went out about nine. I mentioned yesterday I have a very friendly neighbor who takes good care of me with his plow. His very long driveway joins mine to make one about 250 feet from our houses. But this morning with so little snow on the ground, I didn’t wait for him and headed outside myself.

If you’ve read any past posts, you know I haven’t had too many good words to say for my lawn tractor equipped with a snow blower for the winter. I once told you of a friend of mine who lives in Florida and talked me through adjusting the machine. Well, today I got the full happiness of that work. I can’t tell you why, but I treasure a black driveway in the winter. By the same token I treasure a fairly well manicured lawn in the summer. That’s a different story.

I first shoveled the two porches and moved the snow away from them and from in front of our garage doors so the snow blower could get it all cleared. Doing that work showed me that the snow, although not deep, already had begun to get saturated and was getting heavier and heavier. That didn’t stop my, though, and I drove slowly to the garage door when I dropped the blower. My tractor and I headed across the parking area and, much to my surprise, the path was wiped absolutely clean. Naturally it was wet, but there wasn’t a bit of snow on it.

Another pass. Same results. I had my hopes up as I slowly cleared all the snow from our black top. I drove down the walkway to the front door. I haven’t gotten it that black on one pass for a couple of years, actually since I bought this new tractor. But the snow was now just sort of dribbling out the chute. And it was raining rather hard. My time was about to expire, and it did. For one last pass, I had to use the machine as a plow to get the last remaining white out of the way.

My goal had been achieved for the first time in three winters. There was one small difference this day than from the last storm when I achieved limited success. I did get some black then, but places where my wife’s car and the neighbor’s plow truck had driven had packed the snow and the machine didn’t like to scrape. Today I got out before any other vehicle had violated my driveway. During previous cleanups for the past three years, the blower simply rode up over the snow always leaving a pile of shoveling and scraping behind. Not today. I had a black driveway. And the wait for this storm is officially over. As I looked out my window a moment ago, patches of blue sky and the sun was attempting to show as it began to set in the west.

I guess my friend taught me a couple of things this winter. One shouldn’t give up on a what should have been (and now I know is) a quality machine. But more importantly, with a little patience an old dog can be taught new tricks.

By the way, if you’d like to read some funny winter snow adventures, you should visit Sheepish Annie and scroll through stories of her adventures with her truck and the parking lot notices.