Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another day; the wait continues for a resolution.

I believe the report yesterday that September was the wettest month in recorded history here in Maine and that the first nine months of the year were also the wettest. My bones confirm the report. Today was an uncomfortable one at my Senior Fitness session. Every move that involved bones and a joint hurt with each motion. I’m sure it’s the weather as yesterday, when the sun was out for five or ten minutes, I had more ambition than I’ve had for a while. Then the muggies and the cloudiness moved back in and this morning I’m paying for it. Let me quickly point out that even these conditions leading to this complaint is far, far better than the potential alternative.

What could be an interesting Tuesday is underway. Like every day we have no idea how it will end but we do know it will be dominated by the financial market crisis that Congress is debating. A plan voted on by the House of Representatives yesterday was defeated. Naturally the Democrats are blaming the Republicans for the defeat, but as many Democrats as Republicans voted against it.

Some blame a speech by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just before the vote for the defeat. While calling upon Congressmen to pass the bill, she lambasted the ones she most needed for support. I read one report that said many “yes” votes turned to “no” during that speech. Maine’s two Congressmen, Tom Allen and Mike Michaud, split with Allen voting to support the plan.

President Bush continues to take the biggest blame for the mess as he has done for virtually everything that has happened in the U.S. for the past seven years. Notably absent from the debate is a call from Congress for an investigation into the cause. I wonder if that could be because the Democrat controlled Congress doesn’t want people to know that it all started under Democrats who on at least two occasions passed either Executive Orders or laws that required financial institutions to diversify their lending practices to include low income people, most of whom would never be able to repay their loans.

If they told the people that President Bush began warning of this impending crisis when he was first elected and tried several times to get Congress, both Republican and Democrat controlled sessions, to reform the credit industry, they’d lose their whipping post. Therefore, so far we haven’t seen that clamor for an investigation. What we are seeing is the group responsible for the mess blaming the President, the institutions required to make the bad loans, and the people who haven’t paid them back. And we’re expecting this group to resolve the problem.

We’ll see what comes forth today although I believe the House won’t debate anew until Thursday.


Monday, September 29, 2008

The storm that wasn't!

That didn’t turn out to be too bad. The weekend that featured Hurricane Kyle, I mean. We had expected one mighty lousy weekend; but as weekends go, it just wasn’t sunny. We did get a bunch of rain yesterday as Kyle, downgraded to a tropical storm, passed well out to sea from us here In Southern Maine and Friday night as the first storm went by.

My weather station did record a good amount for the two storms that hit us this weekend. Between the Friday night one and Kyle I recorded 4.15 inches of water split about evenly between the dual events. I had anticipated watching my anemometer going wild with the wind speed and direction. It didn’t. In fact the wind was mostly calm at my house all weekend.

Because of an easterly turn, even the Downeast sections of Maine were spared much, if any, significant damage from Kyle. Along the Maine coast, Kyle took a sharp turn out to sea before returning to its projected course through the Maritimes and Canadian provinces. There was considerable damage on Nova Scotia. But Maine was spared, and for us, that was a good thing.

Today will be an interesting day as Gator Wife begins her new part time work schedule. She asked for and received fewer hours on her schedule. She told her bosses that she was continuously tired and, as she gets a little older, she wanted to cut back. They like her work ethic well enough that they granted her request easily. She retired from a full time position as an office manager several years ago.

I suspect the next 36 days will speed by as we’re almost in the final push for the November elections. I suspect that if we think we’ve seen some negative advertising during the last few weeks, it’s going to get downright nasty as we approach November 4th. I’ve said it in the past and I’ll repeat here that I honestly would like candidates to tell me what they can do for Maine and our citizens rather than what the opponent has or has not done.

So far, my prejudiced opinion is that Susan Collins, the Republican seeking to retain her U.S. Senate seat, is doing the better job of promoting herself. Her “attack” ads seem to be mainly about refuting the claims made by Tomas Allen, the Democrat about-to-be former Congressman seeking her seat. Polls, and we got a great demonstration following the Presidential debate last week how accurate they are, indicated Collins has at least a 16 point lead over Allen.

Allen, on the other hand, seems to me to be attacking in a move of desperation. He won’t quit, though, as he used a similar tactic in past elections to pull out a win. Those attacks may not work this time.

The TV news this morning indicated that Congress has reached a compromise agreement on the bailout of financial institutions to help resolve the current financial crisis. We’ll learn more of the plan as the day moves along. It is expected that the House will debate and vote today with the Senate to follow later this week after the House makes its decision. There also appears to be much disagreement among Congressional Republicans about the plan.

Since I haven’t taken the time yet this morning to research the plan, I can’t make comment on how I feel about it. My first reaction is that mortgage lenders were a force in getting us into this mess, they should bear the brunt of getting us out of it. Then I remember it was the insistence of the Clinton Administration in the early 1990s that lenders equalize loans among qualified and unqualified borrowers. As those unqualified borrowers demonstrated what everyone should have known, they couldn’t pay their mortgages, and now the proverbial mess has hit the fan.

Of course the Democrats have very successfully transferred any blame there may be on President Bush and the Republicans. They’ve had lots of help from the news media.

Speaking of the news media, I can’t wait for news outlets in our state to start reporting on the non-medical expenses of the Dirigo health plan. When that begins, if that begins, Mainers will truly understand why Dirigo is a costly disaster.

Getting back to the weekend’s non-hurricane for a moment, I will never, ever again buy a house within five miles of an oak tree. We didn’t get the wind here, but what rain we got caused two and a half billion acorns to fall on my driveway. I haven’t counted ‘em, but it is an impossibility to walk safely anywhere out there. I guess I know where GW’s and my efforts will be placed once she gets home today.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Just another simple weekend!

I have nothing to say. The weekend has arrived and the weather is now and will be just about all weekend so dismal that there’s precious little we can do here in my little piece of the world. Saturday morning broke with a little lull in the weather, but the weather folk on TV say Saturday afternoon will bring another inch or so. It’s early Saturday morning as I write this and about two and a quarter inches of rain has entered my little weather station rain gauge. Between the rest of Saturday and the passing of Kyle on Sunday we might get another couple of inches.

Nothing was going to happen in our yard this weekend, not because of the weather but because my gals finished it all up last weekend. There was a chance I’d ride around the lawn, but that trip isn’t critical this weekend and the weather has canceled any chance of it happening. We won’t be seeing our daughter and her dog this weekend. The girl doesn’t like to have the two dogs romping around in the wet and then romping around in the house getting the inside wet. We don’t blame her for her decision, but we do miss her coming.

Sports will not include baseball this weekend. Oh, there’ll be games on but it appears the Red Sox conceded first place in the American League East to Tampa Bay last night. It was inevitable this season, anyway. The Sox had to win all three games against the Yankees and the Rays had to lose all three games against Detroit this weekend. If the Sox won both remaining games and the Rays lost theirs now, the Rays still would win the division on the basis of season records against each other. The Sox will be facing the Los Angeles Angels in the first round of the playoffs next week in Los Angeles.

There will be sports to watch on TV beside baseball. Saturday is college football day and there’ll be several games from which to choose. Unfortunately, the Gators won’t be one of them. The football changes to the pros Sunday as the NFL takes to the air. This is a bye week for the Patriots, but there will be games to see. And there’ll be auto racing both days. So sports fans will have stuff to watch this weekend.

I didn’t watch the debate between John McCain and Barack Obama Friday night. A couple of polls I checked Saturday morning were divided. One had McCain winning big; the other, Obama. About all that shows is that pollsters can get the results they want according to their own persuasion. Knocks the devil out of the reliability of political polls.

I hope you will have a safe and dry weekend and get accomplished that which you must. We’ll be back Monday.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Looks like a doozy of weekend ahead!

It would appear this weekend, actually beginning today, will be a proverbial pip. We could see some weather like we haven’t had around here for several years. According to the weatherman on Ch. 6 this morning, three to five inches of rain, possibly even more depending on Kyle’s ultimate track, could hit here by Monday morning.

Kyle, as I’m sure you all now know, is a tropical storm way down in Southern waters but projected to pass either through or extremely close to Maine sometime Sunday. Between today and when it arrives here, it could even become a class 1 hurricane. Rain from part one of this weekend’s double blast, this one not connected to Kyle, will strike Southern Maine today. Somehow I don’t think this weekend will be a pleasant experience.

The Red Sox won, the Tampa Bay Rays lost so the Sox are now just two games out of first place with three games remaining. The magic number, though, remains at just one. In these three games, any Sox loss or any win by the Rays completes their bid for first place in the American League East. Both teams, however, will be in the post season play which begins next week. The Rays are in Detroit so they shouldn’t have any trouble playing their games, but the Sox are at Fenway in Boston. It’ll be fascinating to see how this weekend’s weather affects those games against the Yankees. If the Rays win tonight, the Sox games won’t matter. But in the extremely unlikely chance the Rays lose all three, any Sox rained out games will have to be made up.

So much is going on in Washington about the financial crisis that I hesitate to mention it this morning. What had been billed yesterday as an agreement wasn’t. Senate Republicans blocked President Bush’s proposal to spend $700 million to bail out failing financial institutions. They called the plan far too expensive for American taxpayers and put the long arms of government too deep into the control of businesses. Negotiations should be continuing today and by the time you read this, who knows where those negotiations will be. So I’ll just stop this one right here.

Speaking of today’s events, the first Presidential debate between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama is scheduled for tonight in Mississippi. It is a debate that may or may not take place. McCain says being in Washington working on the crisis facing America is more important. Obama says the people need to know how leaders will lead. I think this just might be an indication. One candidate is attempting to work on the problem in the Senate, and after all, both are U.S. Senators, where voters in Arizona sent him to work for them. The other candidate wants to tell us how he would lead if elected. McCain says he’ll be in Mississippi if conditions in Washington take shape. Obama, who was elected by voters in Illinois, says he’ll be at the debate anyway. That says a lot to me about how each will face crises. One will meet them head on; the other will tell us what he is going to do. Of course, there’s always the possibility McCain will bend and go so his opponent won’t get advertising material.

UPDATE: Republican John McCain has now said he will attend tonight's debate in Mississippi. He said there has been significant movement in the financial crisis so he will meet with Democrat Barack Obama for the debate and then return immediately to Washington to continue work on the financial situation.

As if we don’t have enough taxes already, the Cumberland County Commissioners are looking at a proposal by one of their own to establish a one cent sales tax in Cumberland County to finance a new Cumberland County Civic Center. If one is ever built, it’ll probably have a new name. The current facility is growing quite old and it is small. I’m sure a new facility is needed. Paying for it is another story. I wouldn’t support another tax for our already overtaxed people. The proposal probably won’t make it to this year’s general election ballot as lots of study and planning will need to be done. That’ll give us time to hone our feelings and recommendations for a new county tax.

It appears we’ll have to wait a while longer to get our roads and bridges fixed. The state has been unable to sell bonds to pay for the improvements. Financial institutions tell the state the time isn’t ripe for making big investments like the state’s bonds.

A few days ago I had a post about cruise ships coming to Portland. Six of them are scheduled to be in Portland next week. These giants are really spectacular as they sit along the Portland waterfront. If you’ve never seen one, take a ride to the Commercial Street end of the Franklin Arterial. You’ll be amazed at the size of these beauties from the outside as they tower over much of the waterfront. You’ll just have to take my word for the insides being just as spectacular.

We’re in for a fun time for the next few days. Unless the storms deprive me of electricity, we’ll be here tomorrow for our weekend edition. I hope you are able to stay safe and dry through this stormy period.



Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is it time to reconsider Dirigo health?

Thursday. Senior Fitness day at a local physical therapy center is one of the highlights of my Thursdays. Tuesdays, too. We had a fun beginning today as a little fun was poked around waiting for an authoritative person to arrive and let us into the gym area. It always amazes me when we can sit in the waiting room waiting and talking about everything and anything that comes to mind, and, like today, even poke some friendly fun at each other and then head into the gym area and the workout becomes serious. We have a mighty fine group of seniors doing this thing.

The Red Sox’s regular season is all but over. They did win last night, but so did Tampa Bay, the division leaders. The Rays’ magic number is now one. Any Sox loss or Rays win puts Tampa Bay into a place they’ve never before been. The Sox will play the Angels in the first round of the World Series playoffs.

It might appear that the state’s foray into universal health care insurance may be on the skids. We won’t really know the fate of the Dirigo health plan until the Legislature meets next year, but the Dirigo light may be dimming. The state’s insurance commissioner Mila Kofman set the Savings Offset Payment (SOP) at $48.7 million. That’s two-thirds less than requested by the Dirigo board but 50 percent higher than last year.

The SOP is theoretically the amount of money Mainers saved as a result of Dirigo. I use the word “theoretically” simply because very few people know how the figure is determined, where the savings allegedly came from, or how a plan that serves only eleven thousand people could generate that many savings. Now I’m sure that somewhere out there in that vast emptiness we call cyber space where all the information ever uttered or known to man floats aimlessly there is something that might explain just exactly what the SOP has accomplished. I haven’t been privy to it, yet.

In my opinion Dirigo has been a disaster ever since it was hatched by Governor Baldacci more than five years ago. By the fifth year the plan was suppose to be insuring 150 thousand previously uninsured Mainers. Five years after its inception, it’s insuring 11 thousand five hundred, most of whom were previously insured with private insurance. The program was supposed to be self-sustaining but several hundred million of our dollars has been poured into Dirigo, some from premiums, some from grants, some from taxes, and some from diverting funds from other programs.

The SOP itself is a tax as a 1.8 percent surcharge is paid by insurance companies on paid claims. Who is naïve enough to believe that cost isn’t passed on to rate payers? Dirigo also borrowed several million dollars from the general fund which it says it will pay back. During a very late night session as the last Legislature came to a close, the Democrats, along with one or two Republicans passed a 75-million dollar tax on most beverages Mainers consume and on paid insurance claims.

Mainers rebelled. A citizens’ petition drive to get that tax on the November ballot succeeded by a huge margin. The people didn’t want more taxes, especially after the Legislature and governor had promised there wouldn’t be any. With many Mainers concerned about winter heat and car gasoline as well as food and other items rising in prices, they simply didn’t want more taxes. The money crisis has grown with the financial institutions problems.

Because of the likelihood of the tax increased being repealed by the referendum, Dirigo funding will continue with the SOP. But there’s even a chance that will once again be challenged in court.

What’s the answer to the manmade disaster called Dirigo and the high cost of insurance to Mainers which Dirigo didn’t help? First, Dirigo should be permanently mothballed. Most of the people who have stuck it out with Dirigo could return to the private plan they previously held. The Legislature should look to states all around us and all over the country that have competitive insurance companies without the massive restrictions put on companies in Maine to see why their insurance costs are so low. Folks in New Hampshire, for example, pay about half what Mainers pay.

Insurance companies must be allowed to become competitive. It was the “reforms” back in the early ‘90s that drove all but two companies that offer private insurance out of the state. Without competition and with many mandates, prices in Maine rose beyond affordability. Universal single payer health care has only been marginally successful in countries where it has been tried. People who don’t get sick love it; people on months-long waiting lists for care hate it.

Some Democrats in the Legislature are now privately saying it’s time to pull the Dirigo plug. Most Republicans want to see it disappear. Perhaps the time has come to end this very expensive experiment.

I’ve only touched upon a small part of the Dirigo situation as I see it. The best way to understand it is for you to do your own research into the program. No doubt it’ll get another mention here sometime in the future.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sox in! Oil drilling OK! Lunch day!

The last Wednesday of the month is here again already. I love this particular monthly day as it signals a group of retirees that it is time to meet once again for some fine conversation and reasonably good food. But, golly, it seems like it was only yesterday when we had the last end of the month get-together. I’d guess because this is an early date is the reason the time went so fast.

Finally, the Red Sox have made it to the playoffs. They beat Cleveland last night and that shut out the Yankees or anyone else from overtaking them. It is the Wild Card spot, but the Sox have won it all from that position before. They trail Tampa Bay (which plays in St. Petersburg, the GiM’s old stomping ground) by three games with that magic number now at two. Not much chance for the Sox to catch them in the season so I agree with my Fearless Friend that it might be time to accept the wild card and rest the team to prepare for the playoffs. I wonder how the Steinbrenners are feeling today after they fired their manager last year. Joe Torre went to the Dodgers. Now, let’s see. Where are the Dodgers in the NL West standings? It’s the first time 1995 the Yankees won’t be playing in October. Great decision, Steinbrenner family

The drilling debate appears to be over. The Democrats in Congress have decided to allow a drilling ban along the coastal waters to expire. The ban had been in effect for a quarter of a century. The decision in effect concedes victory to the Republicans who have opposed the ban this session in light of the huge increases in heating oil and gasoline. President Bush had indicated he would veto any bill containing a renewal of the ban. The Democrats in the House had passed a bill that allowed some drilling at least 50 miles off shore if the various states gave their permission.

You can read the story here.

Some people who should be in the know estimate that most of the drillable off shore oil is inside the 50 mile limit the House put in their bill. This, of course, doesn’t mean we’ll instantly be able to free ourselves from foreign oil interests as it will take quite a while to get rigs made and into position to get the oil. More modern refineries will also probably be needed. But at long last it’s a start to solving our energy crisis. Now let’s hope that this is also an impetus to get long range research started to find a long term alternative energy source or how to harness and utilize more effectively some of those alternative sources already developed.

The issue isn’t over in Congress. What it does do is give a temporary reprieve to the energy problem allowing Congress to put off any meaningful solution until they can work on it again after the elections. By then, there may be some fresh faces in Washington with different ideas and a potentially less combative House and Senate. Note that “Potentially.” There will also shortly into the New Year be a new President living in the White House. But allowing the drilling ban to expire, Congress was once again able to avoid having to make a decision to get the energy situation resolved.

Congress still hopes to recess later this week for the election season. There is, however, a very contentious crisis they are trying to solve. That, of course, is the financial meltdown facing the country. Our legislators will be working on it all day today and possibly longer. A possible plan was put on the floor but Congress critters from both parties aren’t exactly popping the champagne with happiness over it. We’ll see what happens today, but one thing we do know, it’s going to cost us a lot of money, pushing a trillion dollars, for the government to resolve it. There are some who say, “The market got us into this mess. Let the market get us out.”

As I was finishing this up this morning, word was released that the Dirigo Savings Offset Payment (SOP) has been set at $48.7 million for next year. That’s a 50 percent increase over last year’s. That means that everyone in Maine who pays for their own insurance will see an increase in premiums to pay for Dirigo. The tax will be imposed if the so-called beverage tax is repealed by citizen’s vote in November. I haven’t had any time to evaluate this latest news from the Dirigo disaster so you can expect that tomorrow’s post might be dedicated to Dirigo, the state’s massive, expensive failure into socialistic universal healthcare.

This morning’s weather forecast for our area doesn’t look too great. It looks like we’ll be getting our share of water beginning Friday into Sunday. Oh, Joy!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mainers to decide on more gambling

After a rough sleeping night and I don’t know why, working at the Senior Fitness program was not easy this morning. Whatever it was that caused me a rough night also gave problems to one of my fellow seniors. She had such a rough night she didn’t even come. On the plus side, and I’ll rub a little in here, today’s session seemed to just fly by. The fitness place, which is normally a physical therapy establishment, is about to move. When it does, the owner says he’s considering expanding our senior program. If that comes about, I’ll let you know here and maybe I can help the expansion.

The Sox didn’t do it last night. The magic number remains at one with just six more games to go.

My wife and I are not gamblers. That’s not to say we’ve never put any money in a slot machine. We have. We sailed from Portland to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on the old Prince of Fundy ship. I’m not sure if the Prince of Fundy was a cruise ship or a ferry since it transported vehicles to the Canadian province. We’ve been to Las Vegas twice and the Alaska cruise ships we rode on during our big vacation three years ago had slots but none got any of our money. And we drove through Atlantic City, N.J., once. Several other small communities which housed our motels on various road trips also had slots, but we never participated.

On the trip to Nova Scotia and for our two trips to Las Vegas, we included in our cost of entertainment one ten dollar roll of quarters with the idea that if they were depleted, that part of our entertainment would end. Ten bucks for an evening’s entertainment didn’t seem outrageous to us. Our first venture into gambling, if one can call it that since gambling assumes there’ll be winners, was on the Prince of Fundy.

Gator Wife took her half of the roll of quarters, settled in to a slot machine and dropped one in. Four came back to her. That was a very long time ago and my memory of the exact payoffs is fuzzy at best, but I think her second quarter yielded a return of 12. So far, that was four dollars for a fifty cent investment. And it kept up. At her highest point, GW had something slightly more than a hundred quarters. She proceeded to put them along with the rest of her five dollars back into the slot machines. She had a really fun evening and all it cost her was five dollars. If my memory serves me even remotely correctly, the most I ever had over my ‘investment’ was four quarters, but I too put all of mine into the machines.

We had similar experiences in Las Vegas, except we did use about half of our money as nickels to stretch out the excitement. There was one difference in Las Vegas. All around us we heard and saw machines paying off huge, sometimes into the hundreds of dollars, amounts of money. People quite gleefully scooped all their money, many times dollar or higher coins, into buckets similar to popcorn buckets. “Why can’t we do that?” we asked each other. Then, by pure accident, as I was looking around to see others collecting the big bucks, I saw two of the ‘winners’ disappear with their buckets through a door that was marked, “Private.” I wondered how many other big winners also reported to someone in that private place. After all, the slots are controlled by computers.

But they had done their job. “Why can’t we do that?” echoed in my ears. And I immediately discovered how the masses get hooked. One could see the patrons flocking to the machines or area now vacated by the ‘winners’ and money poured into the machines. Our first trip to Las Vegas resulted in our total ten dollar roll being spent. It was our entertainment. But we spent not one penny more except on shows we also went to see. We did not put all our ten dollars into the machines during our second visit and came away with some change. We claim we beat the slots. We watched many other games, roulette, various forms of poker, dice, etc., while there, but none got any of our money.

Our drive through of Atlantic City was eye opening. The driver (me) took a wrong turn as we approached the beach area. We drove through some of the worst poverty stricken places we’ve ever seen. That was several years ago so I can’t say it’s still that way, but it was an eye opener to what the gambling industry can produce. We did park and walk around for a while, but neither of us could get excited about being there. So we continued our leisurely trip to Florida.

I believe the casino operators have those machines rigged so that they do occasionally pay off to get many folk asking, “Why can’t we do that?” The patron stays a little longer, returns the winnings to the machine along with a lot more. And the casino operators have, in losing a little, won big once again. According to a group opposing slot machines in Maine, No Slots For Me, a report in August, 2008, said gamblers at Hollywood Slots in Bangor are losing at an annual rate of $68 million per year. And the group says 95% of the gamblers are from Maine. Can Mainers afford this?

There are many interesting facts on their web site and the media coordinator of the group, Douglas Muir, had an interesting guest editorial recently in the Portland Press Herald about slots and crime. You might want to look that up, too.

In any case, I’ll be among the “NO” votes on Question 2 in November. That referendum question is so flawed that even the originators say the Legislature will have to make many adjustments if it passes. I see no reason to pass a law that even proponents say is flawed. Vote NO on Question 2. And while you’re at it and if you live in Scarborough, vote “NO” on the Scarborough Downs proposal to bring slots to Scarborough. Those proponents have promised pie in the sky “millions and millions” of tax dollars to the town. I’ll have more thoughts on this one later.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Fall is in the air; so are interesting news items.

Another weekend has come and gone. That weekend went exactly as we had thought it would. Well, perhaps not quite “exactly.” We didn’t think the Patriots would lose to the Dolphins. But, on the good side, the Red Sox won two out of three against the Blue Jays and have tied for at least the wild card spot in the playoffs. It would take a total meltdown by Boston not to get into the playoffs. The Yankees won their final game at Yankee Stadium last night to stay alive, so the “magic number” remains at one. A Sox win tonight against Cleveland gets them in. And the mighty Florida Gators whomped bitter rival Tennessee.

It was a good weekend on the home front, too. With the exception of a couple, maybe three, more mowings and spreading the winter fertilizer late next month, we are coloring the outside activities done. Gator Wife and Gator Daughter finished taking care of all the gardens for this season. We have two vegetable gardens, a two-tier flower garden, a big circle garden, and gardens along all four sides of the house. I also did mow the yard so that’s a task I won’t worry about for at least another week. And, as I said, finishing up the lawn season is all that’s left. If you feel that fall is in the air, it is. Fall, autumn if you prefer, begins today.

GW took a big personal step Saturday. As you’ve read on many occasions, she has worked at a part time job since she retired from office work six years ago. Saturday she asked that her three eight-hour days be cut to five hours each. She says she’ll work this schedule for a while to get used to being home more, then either cut more hours or give it up all together. She was asked why she made the request and told them simply that she was tired, getting older, and it was approaching time to relax. I not only agree with her decision but also support it completely.

It will be interesting here at home to see how she takes spending all that time with me. Shucks, it’ll be interesting to see how I take spending all that time with her. We’re almost to the beginning of our 48th year together so I’ve got a little feeling it might work out. There’s no question I’ll do all I can to make life easy for her when that final retirement comes. She’s my rock. If it weren’t for GW when I had my little fun time a few years ago, GiM wouldn’t be here today.

Let’s get off the maudlin stuff. Seems to me this is the final week of Congress before it breaks for the election season. Since all the House seats and a third of the Senate seats are up for election, it is understandable why they take this time off. They need it to convince the voters of all good stuff they’ve accomplished. It will be a difficult task for the Democrats, so they’ll spend their time convincing the voters that President Bush prevented them from doing much.

There are a couple of major, really major, items Congress should attempt to resolve this week, but the trademark of the Democrats is not to do that. This country is in the midst of two crises, the financial meltdown and the lack of a viable energy plan. The financial one is in the middle of the blame game which never resolves issues. This is one time when both parties must come together to find a solution. I might be among those that believe bailout isn’t the answer. They very well could go into recess without taking any meaningful action of oil drilling, also. I think the falling price of oil is lulling Congress into believing that crisis is over. History tells us it isn’t, but who believes history?

We have stuff facing us here in Maine, too. The financially troubled Dirigo health plan is falling deeper and deeper into debt, more proof the state should bite the bullet and admit its social program doesn’t work. The state is also facing another vote on allowing gambling in Maine. A Las Vegas firm has taken over the promotion for a casino in Oxford County. And Scarborough voters will decide if Scarborough Downs can get slots when the Town votes in November.

We’re in for an interesting five weeks, and that hints of a busy blog period. It’ll all begin tomorrow.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Another weekend is upon us!

I’ve mentioned in past posts just how fast I’m finding the weeks pass, but I think the one just ending was among the fastest. Perhaps it was the visit with the hygienist at the dentist’s office that broke up the week to help it move as quickly as it did. But sometimes I’m not sure childhood when time just crawls along may have been better. No, as I think about what a wonderful life I’ve had, with just a few potholes in the road, I’m pretty happy where I am. But this is a weekend, so we’ll forego the politics and heavy stuff.

I’ve heard on the television weather reports that the growing season has ended in some parts of the state. Places in the southern half of Maine will continue to allow some growth, but those areas probably will dwindle as the next several days pass. We have ended all vegetable garden activities at our home. Gator Daughter will be over Sunday to help her mother end the work in the flower gardens for the season.

They already did the weeding and mulching in most of the gardens. The one major one remaining is where they have lots of bulbs that need their annual shot of bulb booster, then they’ll mulch and that should do it. Oh, a whole lot of new bulbs arrived last week and they’ll need planting, too. They had planned on doing it last weekend, but the weather caused the postponement to this week.

The weekend started with a Saturday morning visit to the hazardous waste disposal center. This is our one opportunity to rid the household of some stuff that could cause some trouble. This was the one time of the year when we can dispose of such things as non-latex paint, various kinds of oil, pesticides, fluorescent bulbs, and most other household hazard waste material. The best part is it’s free. I understand from others that similar disposal activities are happening in many communities this weekend.

GD was here to help me in the morning. She went home when we finish to return later in the afternoon for a cookout. Gator Wife went to her part time work place this morning. I’ve mentioned in the past she has a particular talent her bosses like and so when the company gets special orders that utilize that talent, they ask her to oblige. Once the job was accomplished, she came home.

Can you believe this summer is just about history? Fall, or as some prefer autumn, begins next week. With the arrival of autumn can the foliage season be far behind? GW and I haven’t taken a leaf-peeping trip for several years. This year, however, we’ve decided to include a ride through western Maine and possibly into New Hampshire in our plans since we didn’t take a summer vacation trip this year. A one day trip can’t replace our former annual long trips, but we’ll enjoy seeing the sights that are created this time of year.

I’ll be glad the girls’ plans have planned outside work this weekend. That lets me get to enjoy college football Saturday and NFL Sunday. And Saturday’s highlight will be a team called the Gators on CBS. That’s a name that’s very familiar to me. I hope you enjoy your weekend and we’ll be back Monday.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Some more financial crisis thoughts

Only a few more days of astrological summer remain and we awoke this morning with a strong hint of what’s to come. Although the temperature at my home, and in coastal Southern Maine, didn’t get quite as low as the forecast yesterday hinted it would be, I consider 40 degrees to be cold. Now let’s be fair about that; in a few months we’ll be saying, “Wow! 40 degrees! Boy that warmth feels nice.” But that’s not today. Today it’s cold.

A couple of measures in Washington might be worth mentioning. The news this morning reported that Congress met well into the night last night trying to find a solution to the financial crisis facing this country. I discussed that a little yesterday (see the post below). I don’t think any conclusions were reached, but a draft of something could be ready by later today with debate next week.

I like a comment made a couple days ago by House leader Pelosi. She said the Democrats had nothing to do with the crisis. I guess she forgot the Fannie Mae, which was created way back in the 1930s, was established by Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. It started out as a safety net for housing loans guaranteed by the government. Later, it, along with its later developed cousin Freddie Mac, was then given to a private group to administer. The government’s involvement in protecting the financial institutions making loans continued to evolve, mostly under Democrats.

One of the biggest changes was in the late 1970s when a law was enacted not only allowing but urging financial institutions to open up home mortgages to more and more financially risky home buyers. That was under Democrat Jimmy Carter. In the 1990s, a Presidential Order set in motion a flurry of home building and the expected risky loans that the law allowed. That was an order by Democrat Bill Clinton.

My Fearless Friend, a retired real estate agent, pointed out to me yesterday in an e-mail that the order was very much abused by both low income loans and speculators alike. He feels without any substantiation that many of the speculators did their business and then simply walked away from the risky investments. (Hmmmm! This just popped into my head: FF helped me buy my home here on the South Side of Route 1 and he introduced me to a loan person. Did I do business with a speculator in the mid 1990s? Naw! That person was representing a respectable company. I think. In any case, GW and I paid off our loan very early so we weren’t caught up in this current mess.)

And finally on this one. A couple of years ago a bill was worked through Congress that took some time away from corporations filing for bankruptcy. It was that law that prevented AIG, and probably others, from having enough time to attempt to internally resolve their plight without having to go belly up. Who led that charge through Congress? Does the name Democrat vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden ring a bell?

So, Mrs. Pelosi, proclaim innocence all you want. History does not support your claim.

The other item is oil drilling. Maine’s Tom Allen and Mike Michaud both voted favorably for a late night partial lifting of a ban on off-shore oil drilling by the House of Representatives. I believe Sen. Collins, part of her desire to appease the Democrats, will vote in favor when the measure hits the Senate. President Bush says he will veto the bill. A couple of features bother the President. The ban on near-off-shore drilling remains and it gives states, not the federal government, the option of allowing drilling.

The price of oil, controlled by countries other than the United State, is a national problem, not just a state one. It is believed that the more American oil we use, the lower the cost and thus energy cost will be. This one isn’t over yet and there’s a good chance Congress will adjourn for the elections next week without doing anything, a Democrat controlled Congress trademark.

The weekend is coming. We’ll have a chance to give the old “Phew!” a chance to renew our thoughts.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Who caused the need for a bailout?

Thursday has come. Even though I had checked the temperature before I left for Senior Fitness this morning, it was a surprise when I got outdoors. Definitely not short sleeve weather at that time so I had to resort to a jacket. From what I understand, it’s going to be really cold tonight. At least the weather allowed a more active exercise this morning, but I came home with a very sore back.

Why is the federal government trying to rescue foolish people and business from the foolishness the government created? I probably have answered my own question in the question. The government created the foolishness in the first place. I feel badly for the people and business that got sucked in, but they took chances and now it is they who should be paying for those chances. Not me.

Congress began this financial crisis way back in 1977 when it passed the Community Redevelopment Act which urged lending institutions to lower their standards for loans. Let’s see. Who was the President back then? Why! It was Democrat Jimmy Carter. Fannie Mae, I believe, actually dates back to FDR in the 1930s. There have been several additions and modifications to the various laws since then which, at least in part, have led to the current meltdown. All this so everyone could have a chance at the American Dream.

In the 1980s as mortgage lenders, now by law, began to diversify their mortgages throughout all risks in communities, the building boom began. Many people who otherwise would never have been able to obtain a mortgage loan now were getting them, regardless of the ability to pay. The boom continued to grow and more risky mortgages were written. The burst was inevitable. And I’m sure you’re familiar with the events of the last several days.

I can’t help but wonder why I, you, we should have to pay for what I consider mismanagement of the mortgage companies. The obvious answer is the government started it by urging lending institutions to make questionable loans. While the bubble was growing, those banks and mortgage companies wrote more and more questionable loans. But then, other economic factors started to cause more and more people who had taken mortgages way beyond their ability to pay to lose their ability to make payments. Foreclosures soon were rampant. The building boom burst. The lending institutions were left holding the bag.

The government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which it had created in the first place. After they created them, the government then made them quasi-governmental and run by private enterprise. It worked behind the scenes to find a buyer for one institution. Work continues in solving the problem of another. And now the nation’s largest insurance company is on the verge of bankruptcy. The government is providing a huge loan to save it and we’re told the loan will be repaid in two years. Sure!

Partially at least on that last action, the stock market has fallen by almost five hundred points twice this week. That will affect nearly every American who has any kind of investment, including retirement accounts. Many of us who received some of our retirement income from those investment plans will get slightly smaller checks this month.

I thought I was a conservative believing in the free enterprise system. Now I guess I’m just a little jealous of those corporate executives reeling in those multi-million dollar bonuses each year. One just retired with a 12-million dollar bonus as his company was among those going belly up.

Our government gave the authority and ability and, in some cases, the insurance backing for the lending institutions to get themselves and us into this mess we now find ourselves. The road to that American Dream began 70 years ago. Now, like the real roads in Maine, the cost to repair it is astronomical. We all, Republicans and Democrats alike, along with people taking out mortgages way over their income heads and the lenders who sold those mortgages, share in this fall. And we’re all going to pay for it.

Of course it’s fun to poke just a little bit of blame. When that first financial institution, Bear Stern I think it was, folded, the Democrat controlled Congress should have know something had to be done. When the Democrats took over Congress two years ago, our financial being was in pretty good shape. Consumer confidence was pretty high. Energy costs were in line with the economy. Houses were still being sold. Two years later after no action by the Democrat controlled Congress, look where we are.

They have been excellent at one thing, though, and that’s pointing all the blame at President Bush and so the electorate will send them back in November to continue the free fall.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thoughts for the middle of the week

Hump day, the middle of the week, it’s Wednesday. The weather sure did take an interesting turn. We like the low humidity; we don’t like the cooling temperatures. Of course we expect the weather to get colder as, after all, we are in the bottom half of September. But I’m not happy at having to start thinking of giving up my short sleeves for another season.

This day brings along some random thoughts of news items that affect us, or have the potential of affecting us.

First, I’m not sure I’m happy with my Junior Senator today. News reports indicate she’s has joined a coalition of 20 Republicans and Democrats to support a measure that would give states the option of allowing off-shore oil drilling rather than having the federal government make the call. It would appear that Sen. Susan Collins is being consistent with her re-election bid advertisements saying she’s in favor of working with the Democrats in a bipartisan manner. She also has said she opposes drilling off the Maine coast and this would be one way for the state to protect the area.

This country must break away from its dependence on foreign oil for its existence. I agree that we need to develop alternative sources of energy but those alternatives are years away from being developed, years away from conversion to new sources. It will also take years to get new refineries to process our own oil, too, but the rest of the infrastructure is in place to use it as it gets refined. And the Canadians are already getting oil in Canadian waters just north of Maine. It would appear that Sen. Collins is making a political decision rather than a rational one to help Mainers. This could hurt her a little in November.

Second, since Hurricane Ike headed for the Texas coast, gas prices in Maine have been on a roller coaster ride. I first noticed the changes last Friday when I drove past a small station on Route 1 in Scarborough near the I-295 Connector. I was heading to Portland on an errand and just happened to notice the price at the station: $3.55.6/gal. I got into the habit of checking this station’s prices many years ago when it sold about the lowest priced gasoline in the area.

As is my habit, a half hour or 45 minutes after I passed, I returned and again glanced at the price. Holy Cow! In less than an hour it had jumped to $3.69.9/gal. That was an unbelievable hike. When I got home that day, I began checking the news on the Internet. Prices were spiking in much of the country as the word had come out that the refineries in the Houston/Galveston area of Texas were flooding and out of commission.

Some prices in Maine were already back over four dollars a gallon and they were rising dramatically throughout the state. They seem to be heading back down now. Yesterday on my way to my Senior Fitness session, the price at that Scarborough station had dropped to $3.67.9. On my way home, the price had dropped again to $3.59.9/gal. On the futures market the price of oil has been dropping equally as dramatically for the last few days and that’s continued in spite of Ike. I haven’t been out since I got home yesterday, so I haven’t gone by the station to see where that price is today.

And third,the casino wars are about to heat up. A Las Vegas casino group, The Olympia Group (not to be confused with the local Olympia Construction preparing to rebuild the Maine State Pier complex in Portland), has taken over the push for a major casino in Oxford County. We can’t name the place yet as it hasn’t been determined. The proponents of that casino want it to go way beyond a slots palace and offer all kinds of gambling. There is one provision in the referendum question facing statewide voters in November that might cause some confusion in Scarborough where Scarborough Downs and the Cabela store want to establish their own slot palace.

The part that could cause the problem is a provision in the statewide referendum that prohibits any other new slot palace for ten years. I haven’t seen anything that says what would happen to the Scarborough proposal if voters approve that referendum. Meanwhile, the Scarborough group has collected enough signatures to have their proposal put on the November local ballot. Town voters have already voted against the Downs development in a previous election. I agree with the Portland Press Herald’s editorial this morning that calls for the Scarborough defeat. You can read it on MaineToday.com. I would support the defeat of the Oxford County proposal, too.

We’ll have more on these proposals and other election stuff as the heat up continues toward the November chance for us to express our views.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another trip down Memory Lane

It’s a Tuesday so it must be Senior Fitness Day. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one of my better showings. Oh, there’s nothing radically wrong, just yesterday’s weather. Although today is cooler and certainly much less humid, it will take a couple of days for my old bones to dry out, I think. The lower joints and my back all held long conversations with me during the workout. Now that I’m home, I know Gator Wife will take pity and not get me to do too many things. I suspect you know how funny that statement is.

Portland gets several of those big cruise ships visiting each year. There are three of them bringing a lot of passengers into the city this week alone. One has already come and gone. The Carnival Victory spent all day in port yesterday at the Portland Ocean Terminal. The ship made its second of four visits this year. I haven’t seen the list of possible events for the nearly three thousand visitors, but you can bet there was a pretty good mix of activities from which they could choose.

Reading about the ships in port this week (scroll down) on MaineToday.com brought back some memories of a cruise GW and I took three years ago. Good memories they are, too. We really took a fantastic vacation after she had put aside just about all her part time job earnings for more than a year. A super person at the AAA Travel Agency in South Portland helped us put together a month long trip of our lifetime.

My dream of at least part of this trip began way back in the early 1970s when a whole bunch of us, all members and officers of an organization, took a train to Portland, Oregon, for a convention. We had a blast on that ride and I was especially impressed with the scenery over the Rocky Mountains. GW was unable to go with us as she elected to stay home with our babes. When I got home, I told her of the sights and promised that one day we would take the ride together.

It took more than 30 years but I kept my promise. We took a train to Seattle and then another one to Vancouver, B.C. Getting from Boston to Chicago was an adventure from Hell, but the trip from Chicago to Seattle was every bit as spectacular as I had promised her. If you’ve ever seen the Great Train Rides series on the Travel Channel, you’ve probably seen the trip of Amtrak’s Empire Builder. That’s the one we were on.

Within an hour of arriving in Vancouver, we were on our cruise ship. The cruise to Skagway, Alaska, and then from Anchorage back to Vancouver was simply a wonderful time. We had traveled by bus and train inland through a piece of Canada to Fairbanks then to Denali National Park featuring Mt. McKinley on a train between the cruise ports.

That brings me back to cruise ships. I think the ratio was close to one crew person for each three passengers. To say we were well taken care of would be an understatement. I’m not going to go into all the food, entertainment, just plain fun that was available. Each of the several ports of call had pre-arranged activity choices, for an additional cost I might add, from which we could choose. The number of activities depended on the length of stay.

Most stays in Portland are usually 10 to 12 hours. Think of all the choices the people get here. I’d bet there’s a bus to L.L. Bean’s in Freeport. Of course there’s shopping in the Old Port. And lobster. Can you imagine visiting Portland, Maine, and not indulging in a lobster dinner? Too bad the passengers coming this week aren’t just a couple weeks later when a foliage trip probably would be included. I’ve never visited Portland as part of a cruise so I can’t even begin to list the possibilities. But you can bet those passengers who choose to come ashore will have a memorable experience.

The other ships coming this week are the American Glory and the Grandeur of the Seas. The first will arrive Thursday night and leave Friday morning; the second will spend Saturday in the Port of Portland.

Thanks for indulging me with this little trip down memory lane. I can only add that if you haven’t already had one and you get the chance, a cruise on one of the many cruise ships would be an experience you’d never forget. Cruises are not cheap, but the grand vacation was, to me, worth the expense.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday thoughts

This Monday did not start off in typical fashion. The passing of Ike mostly through Canada near our border is bringing an unusually windy, very warm and humid day to our region. Kevin Mannix, the weather guy on WCSH, says this is just what to expect by passing hurricanes. He pointed out that when Hannah passed, it was just out to sea and we were on the other side of it, the side that brought a lot of rain and some wind.

This will not last long, I gather, as we should be settling into more normal mid-September weather before the day is over; and by the end of the week we could be getting some rather cool weather.

The weekend went by just about as we had expected. Those pictures out of the Gulf Coast area, especially Houston, showed how extremely devastating hurricane Ike was. It will be at least several weeks before possibly millions of people will be able to return to a somewhat normal life. As I said over the weekend, we feel sorry for the folks down there but equally glad we live here in Maine. We do get our share of disastrous occasions, but they don’t seem to be quite as awful as those in the wake of a hurricane or tornado.

On another note, I’ve been wondering what would happen if the Republicans told of the background of Barack Obama to the extent the Democrats are digging into Sarah Palin. I guess that wouldn’t happen, though, as the Republicans will tell you they don’t want to fall to that level. But as I watch this election season unfold, I continuously wonder how terribly we the people will be treated after the election.

The advertising for the bottle and insurance tax increase repeal has begun. We’ll be seeing a lot of ads in the coming weeks urging people to vote YES to repeal the midnight tax passed by the Democrats as the last Legislature was coming to a close. I suspect it won’t be long before the pro-tax folk begin their campaign, too.

I saw one complaint that wondered why it took a YES vote to block the tax. Some people were thinking that perhaps it should have been NO for No Tax. But as I understand the state law, and I’m about as far from being an attorney as you can get so don’t hold this as authoritative, the wording on the ballot question must have the results the petitioners wanted as the default answer. The question asks if we favor repeal of the tax, so the YES vote passes the question, repealing the tax.

Speaking of advertising, there is what appears to be a dumb ad by one of the local TV stations being broadcast. The station says it switched to digital broadcasting and ended analog broadcasting earlier this month. The ad then points out that Federal law requires the switch in February, but that station switched early. That part’s just fine, but it urges anyone who is still watching on an analog TV via any kind of an antenna to either buy a converter box or switch to cable or satellite reception. All over-the-air stations must make a similar announcement several times daily.

So, if they’re required to do it, why do you call it dumb, you ask? Simple. If they are already only broadcasting with a digital signal, who is seeing the ad on an analog only TV? In defense of the TV station, they probably have no choice but to make the announcement under FCC rules or law.

It’s probably all in my head, but I think I’m already feeling the humidity as it moves through our area. I don’t like humidity.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

It's another weekend

A little rain Friday evening brought some wet grass Saturday morning. Clouds and then possible sunshine Saturday afternoon and the some more showers possible Sunday all make me very happy I got my mowing done Thursday.

The sights and sounds out of Houston Saturday morning on The Weather Channel sure painted a powerful picture of wind and destruction. The city had been mostly evacuated, but there were still several thousand residents who ignored the warnings. We didn’t know as those pictures were shown how they fared. One Weather Channel meteorologist/reporter interviewed one resident who had to swim out of his house and then to safety before he could walk. He said the water was right up to the top of his house when the eye came. That calm gave him a chance to escape. He said he was the only one in his neighborhood “foolish enough” to stay.

Another picture you don’t see very often was that of another meteorologist/reporter trying to tell us about conditions where he was. A strong gust came up and blew him back a few feet, then down, then along the ground for a very short distance before he was able to stand again and regain his balance. He was a true reporter, though, in that he quickly recovered his wits and picked up his story right where he had left off.

The eye was just passing the city as I began watching. The rains and winds were devastating a large part of the area and it was one of those sights that, although we have lots of sympathy for anyone left there and for the folks who will return to destruction, make us glad we live here in Maine. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers all go out to the good people all along the Southwest Gulf Coast.

That storm was expected to lose its ‘hurricane’ strength during the day Saturday, but the resulting storm will move along a front from Texas to Chicago and then follow a low pressure front into Maine. I probably don’t have all my weather terms correct, but then I’m not a meteorologist. In any event, we just might see some wet remnants of the storm Sunday night or Monday.

Gator Wife went to her part time job Saturday morning. She has particular talents that occasionally cause her bosses to ask her to work a little extra. She got there at 5:30 and would remain until her project is complete. Gator Daughter and her dog will spend some time here Saturday but Sunday will be determined by the weather.

We don’t have a lot of plans for this weekend. The weather will probably take care of any outdoor work. Early last summer GW took advantage of a really good offer from a national bulb company and bought several to plant in one of her gardens. Of course I’m talking about the flowering kind, not the lighting kind. One of the features of the purchase was the company would send them at the proper time for Fall planting. They came Friday.

GW has a couple of sections marked out and I think the ladies had planned on planting them this weekend. My best guess is that activity will wait for another week. I’ve been tempted to get one of those Awesome Auger things you see advertised frequently on the TV. With several packages of those bulbs awaiting action, I would think the device would be handy. GW rejects the idea as she says she had a manual bulb hole digger and it works just fine.

Speaking of those things we see advertised on TV, you know, the ones not available anywhere in stores, I’ve wondered why they aren’t available in stores. I keep thinking a lot more of them might get sold if they were, so I wonder about the quality of the items. Then I discover that the “not available” is not exactly true. Depending on the item, at least one of the area’s shopping club stores sells them and other items are on “As seen on TV” sections in many other stores. If you get those mail order catalogs, you’ve seen many of the items in them. More often than not, when I see the item up close, my suspicions are about right.

I passed a little gas station on Route1 in Scarborough near the Connector about ten o’clock Friday morning. The gas price was 3.56 a gallon (the 9/10ths rounded). When I passed it returning about a half hour later, that price had changed to 3.70. I understand increases in other parts of the country were even much more dramatic. I hope this is just a short “correction.” The news says it’s because of Ike.

I do think the weather gods have fooled the forecasters just a little bit. It was supposed to get rather cold Friday night, but by Saturday morning, the temperature at our house was 60. We got about a quarter inch of rain overnight, and the sun was shining by 7:15 Saturday morning. It’ll be interesting to see just how this weekend turns out. I hope you have a good one and we’ll be back Monday.


Friday, September 12, 2008

The dirt continues!

A long way south of us, a big hurricane is getting ready to ravage the Texas coast. Ike is heading for landfall very late tonight or early tomorrow morning. The forecast, though, says that even though right now Ike is heading west, it probably will swing around and head northeast, straight into Maine. Of course it won’t be a hurricane, probably not even a tropical storm, when it gets here sometime between late Sunday and Tuesday. But we could get some rain out of it.

Meanwhile today, the clouds have already begun to gather over my little spot south of Route 1. The weather people say that northern Maine and the mountains could begin seeing showers this afternoon but here in southern Maine the showers should hold off until later this evening.

Gator Wife has gone to her part time job this morning. She and I spent a goodly portion of yesterday late morning into mid afternoon on outside activities. Among them, I mowed most of the lawn using the tractor with the bagger attached while she used her walk-behind mower to take care of a couple hills we have on the property. With a lawn tractor I had before this green and yellow one, I mowed the hills. That machine felt extremely secure as long as I followed good safety rules about riding up and down and not along the side of a hill. I have a hard time feeling secure with the current one on even ground. And I won’t even go near a hill.

On now to political comments we go, but they’re very mild today. The Republicans sure did open up a huge can of worms when they nominated Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for the Vice President’s seat. The Democrats have unleashed a fury of negative comments about the lady. Those comments certainly do have an impact for the first few hours, but then various news outlets, including some that are Democrat sympathizers, soon debunk the stories. That doesn’t stop the Dems, though, as before the debunking is complete, they’re out with another one. Such wonderful people in that Democrat hierarchy!

I’m not going to reiterate all the stories here nor am I going to refute any of them. But there was one that I almost chuckled at. A professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School wrote that Palin’s greatest hypocrisy is her pretense that she is a woman. But that’s just one of hundreds of claims, mostly false, that have been promoted against the Alaska governor.

We said a few days ago that this would be a dirty race. I thank both parties for keeping me an honest man.

Did you see on the news the number of Maine children receiving their immunization shots through MaineCare, the state’s welfare health plan? I don’t remember the number right now, but it was in the thousands. When one looks at number of Mainers receiving welfare benefits in health care, housing, food, everyday living, and other benefits, one can only shake a head thinking that no wonder we’re in such a dire financial strait in this state. We have no jobs, say the welfare organizers and recipients. I say look at the want ads. There are jobs for just about anyone who wants to work. But why work when one can get more money and benefits for doing nothing?

I don’t put any faith at all into political polls. Or any kind of poll, for that matter. They can be skewed to reach the results the pollster wants. But when the supporters of a particular party and candidate release a poll that shows their own person is trailing, I find it interesting. The Daily Koz conducted a poll in Maine that showed that incumbent Sen. Susan Collins has a rather large lead (57-38) over her opponent, Cong. Tom Allen.

The weekend is ahead of us. I guess some of it could be wet, but that should stop too many of us from having a nice one. At least I won’t have to mow my lawn.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Day for Remembering

Today is the anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States. Terrorist hijackers commandeered four passenger airliners and deliberately crashed them, killing all those on board, including the hijackers, and nearly three thousand in the buildings. Two planes destroyed the two World Trade Center buildings in New York City, one plane attempted to destroy the Pentagon, and the fourth was forced down when passengers overpowered the terrorists. Unfortunately, their heroics came too late to prevent a crash.

I’ll bet all of us know where we were and what we were doing on that fateful day. On this day let’s all spend just a moment or two reflecting on that day and paying a little tribute to all those who were taken from us.

We should also give thanks to our President and government for taking the necessary actions, both within our country and abroad, that has prevented any further attacks.

I fear that with potential new leadership next year and with changes in philosophy the chances to continue to be safe may be in jeopardy. I pray I am wrong.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Disheartening education, Part II

Gator Wife has gone to work this beautiful Wednesday morning. She had taken Monday off because she felt poorly, but spent yesterday in relative ease to prepare for her part time job today. So she’s off. I mentioned a beautiful Wednesday morning because it is one. The weather people tell us it’s going to be a great day.

I discussed yesterday some of my thoughts on a couple of disturbing items from the Maine Department of Education. The DOE, as reported in several Maine newspapers and on several radio and TV stations, announced the nearly 80% of eighth graders did so poorly on last year’s writing prompt on the Learning Results test that it is being tossed out. Students in the fourth, eighth and eleventh grades are tested on a variety of subjects each year to be sure they are meeting standards set by the state and the federal No Child Left Behind act. Those reports also indicated that nearly 38% of our schools are deficient in various educational categories.

I offered some personal observations yesterday on the math and English portion of the test. You can read about those observations in the post right below this one. Today I have a few more thoughts.

When most of us were in school, we were taught literary classics, those pieces of work that have withstood the test of time and teach a truth about life. I must admit that when I was forced to read works by Shakespeare, Dickens, Aristotle, Chaucer, the Brontés, and a whole host of others too numerous to name here, I hated every minute. I saw absolutely no relationship between Shakespeare and my current life. To quote the Bard in Julius Caesar, “It was Greek to me.” Once I got out of school, or perhaps once I got a little age on me, I re-read many of the stories and this time they really came to life. I found that previously missing relationship. I could now enjoy them only because a caring teacher had taken the time introduce me to them earlier.

I understand those classics are no longer required in many schools. What a loss to our students! Rather teachers are picking stories they like about current issues. I can’t name any of the authors or stories as they simply won’t last. “What about Stephen King?” some will ask believing they’re putting me on the spot. They won’t be. Fifty years from now, perhaps even as soon as 25, the answer will be, “Stephen who?”

By not reading the classics, today’s students are being deprived of learning about universal life truths.

I wonder how many of today’s students have read the Constitution of the United States. I wonder how many have been taught or understand the Bill of Rights. Or even what the Bill of Rights is. It’s been more than a half century since I learned, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish . . .,” but I bet I could come darn close to reciting the whole sentence. Do today’s school children even know what it is?

Can today’s students explain the Emancipation Proclamation? “Four score and seven years ago, our forefather brought forth, on this continent, a new nation . . .” is what famous speech? How about the purpose of the Monroe Doctrine? Just how much American history do they study today, including causes and effects of such events as the American Revolution, the Civil War, the two World Wars? Do they know honest facts about the history of this country? Or even the world? Or our place in the world?

Simple geography is also unknown knowledge to today’s youth. There are many who live in this state who cannot point out Maine on a map. Even many of those who can would be hard pressed to find, say, Kansas. How about Zimbabwe? (Hint: it’s not in the United States.)

And whatever happened to teaching kids how to fix a lawn mower or build a box? This little piece could go on seemingly forever and I’ve not included so much more than I’ve said here that I should be ashamed. But an end must come.

Can all this be changed? Yes. One thing is the simple solution that no one will want to read: return education to “the good old days” when teachers really taught and students were held accountable. The banner was set high and both our teachers and parents simply expected us to reach it. No longer. Children can do no wrong. So-called self esteem which parents want for the children comes from accomplishment, not pandering. Make those Learning Result tests meaningful. Make school promotion and graduation dependent on proof of accomplishment.

There’s a lot more to my solutions, but I suspect you get the idea, just as I think you get the idea of my perception of the problem facing education. Just pouring more money into education isn’t the answer as year after year the system itself proves that money isn’t the answer. Resolving what I might call this education crisis requires accountability for everyone connected with education. That includes students, teachers, administrators, and school boards, and the Department of Education alike.

I said yesterday that I have no studies to which to point to back up my statements. I have only my personal observations and feelings. I suspect my solution, or any honest solution, will still be being sought long after I’ve left this Earth.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Disheartening educational news

As the day dawned, Tuesday was starting out like much of the weather recently, as a very nice day. The weather forecast does say that by this afternoon, there’ll be a change that could bring some windy rain, possibly thunder, to some areas. As that old forecast goes quite frequently lately, not all cities and towns will get any. I’m hoping my place is among those that the storms miss.

Gator Wife spent yesterday taking it easy. She did not go to the doctor after calling out sick at her part time job, a rare event for her. But she was feeling better and getting better rapidly as the day wore on. She now believes she must watch more closely what she eats. She says she can trace both this latest experience as well as the one a few weeks ago directly to diet. So she’ll watch what she eats and keep track of it so that if another occurrence happens, she’ll be able to isolate at least some food causing her problem.

We’re still going to take any easy day today just to be sure so she’ll be comfortable tomorrow when she returns to the work place.

I mentioned yesterday that the newspaper, and so now radio and TV, reported that the State Department of Education has tossed out the results of one of its Learning Results tests because 80% of the eighth graders who took it last spring failed. Because all those youngsters didn’t pass it, the DOE has proclaimed the test invalid. Of course, it was the test and not the way school is taught today. I was shocked at what passes today as a book report, for example; it can be a post card with a picture drawn on one side and a sentence on the other. Now that’s writing preparation.

To make matters worse, today’s Press Herald reported that more than a third of Maine schools failed to make progress on the No Child Left Behind Act last year. Maine determines its growth by using the Learning Results tests and SAT scores. The DOE says that there was minimal improvement in a couple of areas, but not the kind of improvement they had wanted. As a result, progress in Maine’s educational system continues to fall short.

I think without any thing substantial except personal observation that modern technology is hurting the growth of our children. Schools may have gone overboard on the use of modern technology to substitute for basic learning. Although extremely useful and necessary in our world today, computers and cell phones may be among the leading problems.

We need to be able to use computers to exist in this modern world, and I use one several times daily even though I’m retired. I do not use a cell phone, although I have one, enough even to be put in the seldom category. For some reason, many in our educational community feel that the computers have to be introduced early is school so the youngsters will be prepared to exist in the so-called outside world.

In math, the times tables need to be emphasized again, along with simple, with some complex, computations in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I’m asked why do students need to know those things when a calculator will take a lot of time and tediousness from the process. I think it’s simple: in order to get correct results easily with a calculator, and yes, I use one, one needs to first know what to input and why the correct input is necessary.

I’ve mentioned many times watching today’s young people working a cash register at a store. Get just one little step out of the expected, and the clerk gets extremely frustrated. I watched one break into tears once when she told a customer a price. The customer gave the clerk a bill slightly higher and the clerk could handle that easily. Punch in the size of the bill, subtract the cost and read the change on the screen. But in this instance, the customer changed her mind and gave the clerk the larger bill and then added the exact change. The clerk broke into tears and had to call a supervisor because she didn’t know what to do.

How can we expect youngsters to grow up being able to express themselves in writing if we don’t have them write? The computer is not the answer. Every time I make a mistake here, for example, I get either a red squiggly line indicating a spelling error or a green one hinting a possible grammar mistake. I don’t have to think about it. But I learned to write many, many years ago. A friend of mine told me about a student passing in a term paper. The student never wrote one but rather either got one free or bought one on the Internet and passed it in as original. It is important to be able to express oneself in the written word, but if the basics of writing are not taught, and the grammar of writing is not taught, then failure will be the result.

Perhaps one of the worst inventions is the text message on a cell phone. I heard of, but have no specific source, teachers who allow the shortcuts used in text messaging to filter into classroom work and home work. What’s the lesson learned here? They weren’t texting, but on my way to Senior Fitness this morning, I saw three teenagers walking side by side. All three had a cell phone to their ears. I thought it was so sad that three people couldn’t walk together in conversation without having to use that cell phone. Perhaps the schools, and our society today, haven’t taught them how to have a simple conversation.

I’m getting way too long here but there’s so much more in so many more subjects that another day will be needed. Meanwhile, perhaps, just perhaps, the need to return to the basics, as trite as that is, is something that must be considered if we are to change the directions of the state’s Learning Results.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Not a nice Monday!

As Mondays go, this isn’t a very nice one. Gator Wife is home from her part time job today because she is not feeling well. She went to bed last night shortly after six after spending much of the afternoon lying on the couch mostly sleeping. It’s an extreme rarity for GW to call in to her work place with that ‘won’t be in today’ message. So when she makes that call, I know she’s really not feeling well.

She says she’ll call her doctor later today to see if she can get in to that office today. I’ve got to tell you, that call is as rare as her calling in sick. I think it all probably started a few weeks ago when another very rare event happened; she came home in the middle of her shift feeling poorly. She called her doctor that time, too. She says her condition today is similar. She said if she had one, she'd think it was a gall bladder problem.

I’ll take care of the house today and let her take it as easy as she can. I am encouraging her to make that phone call this morning.

Tropical storm Hannah has come and gone. If you read my weekend post, you know I put my faith in the Channel 6 weather gal. That was a mistake as the storm came through here almost unnoticed. Now that probably wasn’t the way it was in all of Maine. In fact it looked like Down East sections really got clobbered. Especially with rain.

During the day on Saturday when we were supposed to get drenched, the storm passed our part of the state well out to sea. My little plot of soil barely got wet and we even got some sunshine. What wind there was hardly moved the trees. Gator daughter and her dog came over and hers and ours played outside most of the time they were here. I’m not calling it a disappointment as anytime once can miss much of a major storm is a good time.

Saturday night was a slightly different story. My rain gauge said four and three quarters inches of rain fell. It started after dark and by the time we got up yesterday morning, the storm had passed. I would say the little culvert between our house and that of our neighbor did get rather full. I had said I’d try to get pictures to post here today, but it was all back to normal by the time we got up. So, no pictures.

The high water mark on the other side does indicate in may have overflowed the little bridge we have between the properties. But without wind, Hannah passed without any damage in our neighborhood. I did see on the television that some areas experienced power outages, though.

Did you see in yesterday’s paper that the State Department of Education is throwing out the results of a writing test it gives as part of the state’s Learning Results battery of tests? Seems 78% of the eighth graders who took the test failed to meet standards. That doesn’t surprise me after reading in the same article what teachers are calling writing these days. A book report, for example, consisted of one picture and a simple sentence. That leaves a question or two: Who failed? The DOE, the curriculum,the teachers, or the kids? The DOE will never admit failure. Teachers generally teach the prescribed curriculum. It’s hard to blame the kids for failing something they’re not taught how to do, isn’t it?

My wife is more important to me today than this post is, so I’m cutting it short. I want to be at her call if she needs me. And I think I’ll know better than she will admit as the day progresses.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

The makings of a wild, wet weekend

We’re told this could be a wild and wooly weekend in Maine and along the East Coast, for that matter. Tropical storm Hannah is on the fast track heading in this direction. The weather forecast says that we could have some shower activity just about any time during the day on Saturday, but the heavy stuff, two to four inches of rain along with some rather strong winds, will not hit here until late Saturday evening. By midday Sunday our little section of Maine should have seen it pass and the sun could be shining.

The weather person on Channel 6 Saturday morning said the morning portion of the activity could leave about an inch or so in Southern Maine. On the other hand, the Weather Channel indicated only light rain would pass by through tomorrow with an inch of rain. The Ch. 6 person, Kelly LaBrecque, has been pretty accurate, so for this weekend I’ll go along with what she says.

The actual track of the storm has it off the Maine coast but coastal sections will get the rain and wind while inland sections might never leave the sun. One forecast called for 2-4 inches in the storm area, but as much as five inches might drench the immediate coast in places. One forecast said Friday that culverts and open drains along the roadways could rise considerably and cause some minor flooding and Saturday morning a flash flood watch had been posted.

That will make the little canal, actually a drainage ditch between my house and my neighbor’s overflow once again. You may recall earlier this year I had some pictures to show the flood between us. Monday might be an opportunity to see some more.

There is a possibility we’ll see a little sun by mid to late Sunday as Hannah is a quick mover and could be out of here by then.

Meanwhile, Gator Daughter and her dog are on a “let’s see what happens” mode as whether or not they come one or both days will be decided each day. We have nothing really urgent planned so the “play it by ear” decision will only change lunch plans. We’ll be ready for any decision. With the morning forecast as it is, we might be surprised if the family comes Saturday.

I am working on a computer project or two. I’ve installed Google’s new browser Chrome and learning it. Actually it is rather simple, but its speed gets a Wow! as it loads site pages. There is a small learning curve, but once one gets by that initial look, that curve gets smaller and smaller. It has some neat features I like, such as an “incognito” mode which blocks sites from following your web activity. I don’t visit places that are objectionable, but most all commercial sites do like to follow visitors so they can get addresses to send advertisements, etc. My first impression of Chrome is rather favorable.

I’m also cleaning very old, unused files, in fact some that go with long gone computers, to make room for some new backups on my external hard drive. I found a bunch of files I couldn’t even open to make sure I didn’t want them because they were attached to programs that I no longer even have. Well, I do have the original disks but I’ll be darned if I’m going to put a program on a computer just to see if files dated 2001 and not opened since are something I might want.

So as we watch Hannah pass and keep an eye on the next storm, Hurricane Ike which has a current course that probably will keep far away from New England, it looks like this will be a rather quiet, easy, lazy weekend. I’ll add that by 7:15 Saturday morning, the rains had already begun on the South Side of Route 1. Edited 9:15 Sat. AM: The weather radar shows a monstrous slug of rain has passed Southern Maine but it stayed way off the coast. That same radar hints a quiet spell is approaching. Edited again, 3:15 PM Sat.: It has been a relatively quiet day here. We even had some sun, but that's now gone and a fairly good slug of rain is heading this way, but the track on the Accuweather Radar hints it won't be too bad here. But we did miss the day portion of the forecast big storm.

Final add for Saturday, 9 PM: We've been in the storm for a while now, but the latest radar indicates that it might be close to being about over for our area.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend and stay dry and safe; and we’ll see you again Monday.


Friday, September 5, 2008

That pesky inspection sticker!

This week has just flown by here in Gatorland. I guess when one keeps busy, the time really passes very quickly. And we’ve been busy this week. A goodly portion of Tuesday and Wednesday was devoted to a painting project. We didn’t paint yesterday, but there was a lot of activity as Gator wife took her car for an inspection sticker. She knew when she headed out she probably needed new tires. After all, the ones on the eight year old car were original equipment. And she drives on Maine roads.

She was right. But she wasn’t prepared for the rest of the eleven hundred dollar estimate. She asked just what was needed to get the sticker. Only the tires. But, the order writer at this new-to-us place she took the car tried desperately to convince her she should have it all done. She told the company to put the tires and sticker on the car and she’d consider the rest at a later day. She didn’t make the company happy. They didn’t beat a near 70-year-old woman down.

A few minutes later, the tire guy came to her and told her they didn’t have the tires but they had sent for them. She waited. She said other customers came, had their service, and left. She waited. Then she was told they could take care of the rest of the work while they waited for the tires. I wasn’t there as I had left for my Senior Fitness class as she left home with her car, so I didn’t hear exactly what she said to the service guy.

A moment or two later, the tires appeared. More than four hours after she arrived for her inspection sticker, she drove away. The project should have taken about 20 minutes, or maybe an hour and a half with the tires. That’s a generous estimate. She’s not considering that other work. She says she’ll find another place before she even considers returning to that place.

She’s off to her part time job today. My Fearless Friend will be here for a while this morning before he heads out with former office buddies for some good, Maine ‘chowdah.’ We’ll get most of the world problems solved and probably spend a moment or two talking about John McCain and Sarah Palin. There are a couple of computer situations we each have that will probably be mentioned, also.

Speaking of John McCain, I did not watch last night’s closing events of the Republican National Convention. After staying up late for Gov. Palin’s speech Wednesday, this old body simply wouldn’t let me repeat. Since I didn’t see the speech and will spend some time today reading about it, I can’t say too much. There’s always next week. And the next eight weeks. But the reviews generally say it was a good speech and was favorably received by the conventioneers. On the other hand, the Democrats are saying it offered no solutions. They shouldn’t complain about that if it is true. Neither have they offered any.

The weather people say today will see the end of our wonderful weather. We’ll have nice weather today with pleasant temperatures, unlike the record setting 88 we had yesterday. But we could be in for some fun weather this weekend. Showers will begin either tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon, perhaps tomorrow evening. I don’t read those “computer models” but that very specific forecast is what I heard this morning.

The real rain resulting from the remnants of Hannah passing by offshore should begin late tomorrow night and continue into Sunday morning. It could be windy, too. But I guess it all depends on which one of those “models” pass by. In any case, I’ll have later information on my weekend post tomorrow.

If we miss each other tomorrow, I hope you have a safe and dry weekend.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

And I even watched!

Another day of exercise with my Senior Fitness group has ended. I’m home once again, but today I came home to a wifeless house. Gator Wife, who’s usually home Tuesdays and Thursdays, has taken her car to the inspection place for its annual Maine inspection. She doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the car but took the checkbook anyway.

It’s getting harder for Mainers to escape expensive inspections since the law passed that required a failed car to have its old sticker cut in half. If the owner wants a second opinion, that sticker puts the second place on notice that it has failed once. Most places are honest and don’t take advantage but our former place is no more so she’s taking it to a new one today. We’ll see if it’s a onetime deal or not. If all goes well, we’ll know before I’m finished with this.

And now the November presidential ballot is complete. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accepted the Republican vice presidential nomination last night and Sen. John McCain will accept the nomination for the top spot tonight. That sets officially what everyone has known for a while: McCain will face Dem. Barack Obama for President. Along for the ride are the two vice presidential candidates, Gov. Palin and Sen. Joe Biden.

My prejudicial view is that the nomination of Gov. Palin has given the Democrats a wedgy. They’ve already unleashed the vicious, dirt slinging attacks and there’s much evidence the Republicans are about to do the same. This has the makings of being one of the dirtiest Presidential campaigns in history. When it’s over, we just may be wishing neither had won.

The difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull: Lipstick. That was an ad-lib line tossed out by Gov. Palin last night as she looked over a sea of signs all hailing her being a hockey mom. Yes, I broke my own word and did watch the speech. This was the first convention activity I’ve seen in several years as I don’t like listening to rhetoric that will never come to pass from either side. Somehow the electricity of all that I’ve read about Gov. Palin drew me in. I surprised even myself that I watched. GW had gone to bed but got up to see what I was doing. She didn’t believe it, either.

I found her speech to be riveting. And she pulled no punches in discussing her critics and her opposition. By now you’ve read the important quotes either on line or in the newspaper or heard them on TV so I won’t try to quote them again here. But I was mildly surprised at the way she compared the McCain/Palin team to the Obama/Biden one. This does have the makings of being a lively race, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s going to be very nasty.

The Republicans, naturally, feel she has energized the party membership. Perhaps. There are still a couple months until the election, and unless it has energized the party here in Maine, her presence won’t mean much if the status quo here remains.

Maine desperately needs a similar energizing force to replace the tax and spend people now in Augusta. Let me echo a local radio talk host, as friends and neighbors most of those we elect are really good people. Something happens to them when they cross into Augusta. Unfortunately for those good people when they’re local, they lost their prospective when they are in the State House.

And now it’s after nine and GW isn’t home. That can only mean one thing: The inspection has gone as planned. Oh, boy! I wonder what this is going to cost me.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wednesday and some midweek thoughts

When Monday is a holiday, hump day gets here in a hurry. Here it is Wednesday already. The Maine weather continues to make us very happy and will apparently do so right into Saturday. From what Kevin Mannix, the weather guy on NewsCenter 6 in the morning, says, it could get a little dicey here Saturday afternoon as the remnants of Hannah passes through.

But that’s still a few days away and a lot can happen in a few days. Yesterday was a busy one around Gatorland. We set out to paint Gator Wife’s bathroom and paint we did. We got the walls completed and will do the trim this morning. That won’t take very long. Putting up that blue tape will take longer than slapping on some white paint around the window and door.

Did I mention that GW is taking a day off today? As anyone who reads this with any regularity knows, she works a part time job three days a week, including Wednesdays, but not today. The company for which she works has a different way of figuring vacations and sick leave. Earned vacation and sick days are lumped together as personal time days under various names. Workers can use these days any way they wish, but when they’re gone, they’re gone. This seems to be a growing trend. GW is using one of hers today. Why? Because she wants to.

Yesterday afternoon GW and I were driving to our daughter’s house in Portland. That route takes us through the city on I-295 from the Scarborough Connector to Tukey’s Bridge. The speed limit on the highway through Portland is 50, but few drivers follow that speed. Most people continue the 55 they’re going as they cross the Portland/South Portland line. I usually am among those, and we are speeding. Yesterday a long line of cars were maintaining that speed when along came a Brunswick Police cruiser.

It was heading, apparently, back to Brunswick probably after making a deposit at the Cumberland County Jail just off I-295. Both those facts are speculation, but that cruiser passed all of us going considerably faster than the posted 50 MPH and considerably faster than the 55 most of us were travelling. The cars in the left lane were squeezing into the right lane causing potential problems because they saw a police car with its unlit light bar the only way it could be identified screaming up behind them.

That Brunswick Police car was not using its lights or siren; it was just speeding home. We see this type of police driving frequently. It is my thought that a police officer should be setting an example of proper driving not an example of illegal driving. There were no local nor State Police along that portion of the highway we travelled so the speeding was not stopped. I doubt it would have been even if he passed a local or state cruiser. And we wonder why we regular drivers have such disdain for traffic laws.

The Republican Convention sort of got back on track yesterday. Speeches last night were designed to rally the faithful. The highlight of the speeches tonight will be that of vice presidential nominee-to-be Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. It appears her selection has gotten the Democrats into a tizzy. The reaction and the innuendos being passed along by them gives an indication to me that they are now truly worried about the coronation of their Messiah.

Have you seen the published reports that Dirigo Health, which was supposed to be self-sustaining with no tax funding, is now 20-million dollars in debt? That debt, according to the reports, began last November or earlier. Yet the state told us it ended the year with a surplus. Interesting, isn’t it?

Hurricane Gustav was about as powerful as had been forecast, but the destruction appears to be considerably less than expected. Of course any destruction is terrible, but this one could have been worse. And there are at least three more tropical storms roaming around the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Hannah, soon-to-be one Ike, and another, Josephine, with much potential are all eyeing the United States, but on the East Coast. I think Kevin this morning said there was still another disturbance off the Africa coast trying to decide what to do.

As I said, GW is home today and there’s some more painting to do. She’ll probably do most of it, but she needs some help putting up the masking tape. So, it’s off to the chores. You enjoy your day.