Monday, August 31, 2009

Fascinating politics when a senator dies

The Farewell to August weekend is now behind us. It had a very rainy beginning but a beautiful ending. Tropical depression Danny failed to develop any real problems for our immediate area in Southern Maine. It did give a little help to a low pressure system that came in from the west and Saturday began rainy. It rained all day, but by late evening it was out of here.

Sunny was a gorgeous day, even though it was just a little cool on the Gator homestead. We were able to accomplish one unscheduled task, at least unscheduled for last weekend. Gator Daughter was here and helped me power wash our deck and the back of that portion of the house to which the deck is attached. It’s a task we perform only once a year, and I must say, this year needed it desperately.

Today begins a long run of just the kind of weather Gator Wife and I really love. We’ll have sunshine and low humidity with temperatures in the low 70s at least into next weekend; and WCSH6-TV meteorologist Roger Griswold hinted last night that the fine weather could continue into mid-September. We could see a few passing showers along the way, but right now there are none in sight.

Ah, the complexity of Democrat politics. The Democrats will write and rewrite the rules in their favor to promote the Democrat way of life. Take the politics of Massachusetts, for example.

Massachusetts was like most states until 2004 in that if a Congress person left office for any reason, the governor of the state would appoint a replacement to complete the term. That created a problem situation in Massachusetts as the governor was Republican Mitt Romney. Sen. John Kerry had his eyes on the Presidency and he’s a Democrat.

You see, if Kerry had won the Presidency…he, of course, didn’t…Gov. Romney would most likely have appointed a Republican for Kerry’s Senate seat. The Dems couldn’t have that now, could they? So they changed the Massachusetts law. The new Massachusetts law would require the seat to remain vacant until a special election could be held in late January.

Sen. Edward Kennedy lost his battle with brain cancer last week leaving a Senate seat vacant. It is a critical time for the Democrats as they need that D vote to pass over Republican objection several measures now facing them in the Senate, including a health care bill. Massachusetts now does have a Democrat governor, Deval Patrick, and, except for that pesky new law which his own party caused to be changed, he no doubt would have appointed a Democrat. I’m not going to make any speculation here as to whom it might have been.

Sen. Kennedy had accepted his fate last week, and knowing his time was near, urged the Massachusetts legislature to change the law again so an appointment could be made immediately. He, of course, wanted to preserve the support President Obama has for that health care change.

Gov. Patrick favors a temporary change to allow an immediate appointment so the state will have two Democrat senators to preserve the absolute majority in the U.S. Senate. Without that vote, the Republican could form a filibuster to block any law proposals.

The proposed change in the law would only be temporary, though, as the Massachusetts Secretary of State is proposing a vote in late January as required by the present law.

Politics is a fascination. I’ll bet if the Republicans tried some similar shenanigans, there would be that proverbial Hell to pay. But control is absolute.

Farewell to Kennedy comment, I think it was Patrick Kennedy who said, “He even taught me to love…Republicans.”

News comment of the day: Brian Yocono, WCSH6 weekend anchor, reporting on lack of tourists in Old Orchard Beach yesterday: “Vacant parking lots were also empty.”


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Danny Boy, oh Danny Boy didn't quite make it.

The weekend began on a rather wet note. WCSH-TV weatherman Joe Cupo explained to us last night that actually two different storms are affecting our area. Kevin Mannix said Saturday morning the number was four. Surprisingly, Tropical Storm Danny, downgraded to tropical depression Danny, hasn’t developed as much as early indications hinted it would, so its effect on our area is rather minimal.

Another storm coming at us from the west is the main culprit. It arrived in Southern New England late Friday and now, apparently siphoning some energy from Danny, is causing wet weather, possibly up to 4 inches of rain, as it moves into Nova Scotia Sunday.

That leaves an unplanned weekend for the Gator clan. Because of the rainy and windy conditions in our area Saturday, we know Gator Daughter and her dog won’t be visiting us. The forecast indicated we might get some sunshine returning Sunday so that day will be played by ear. In fact Joe Cupo said Friday night the storm should be out of our area by Saturday midnight.

The lawn got its first cut in a couple of weeks Friday so at least that isn’t a chore that needs attention. We were surprised, and pleasantly so, Friday when one full size cucumber and a moderately sized summer squash were found in Gator Wife’s garden. Although still rather small, both green and yellow beans from the second planting are beginning to show some promise. We had believed the gardens were a near total loss a week ago.

Some parts of them are as GW had to pull many plants. Some stuff had spoiled in the August rain and lack of sunshine, and some had suffered from blight. Those plants had been pulled so tomatoes, for example, won’t be with us this year.

We aren’t getting too hopeful, but a little, that some of the other vegetables will present us with at least a little fresh food. If they do, however, it won’t be a lot. After all, one cucumber and two summer squash aren’t very much. But both showed some promise of further development if they survive the weekend weather.

That’s how our weekend looks, one of those day-by-day planners. I’ll try to think of new stuff to present here when I return Monday. I hope your weekend is a good one.


Friday, August 28, 2009

When did the "yield" rule change?

What a difference low humidity makes. I had my regular session at senior fitness yesterday and the time went extremely well. When I left the house, the temperature was just under 60 degrees but the real story was the lack of humidity. It had gone away during Wednesday night.

All those arthritic and rebuilt joints I have didn’t get completely dried out in the short time the humidity left, but without the continued aggravation exercising was much easier. I heard Roger Griswold in Channel Six say yesterday that we had seen the last of the humidity. I wasn’t paying quite enough attention to catch if that were for the rest of the season or just for a few days. It was welcome, though.

The real message of his weather forecast was that we are probably in for another wet, possibly wild weekend, especially the Saturday part. Bill last weekend will be followed this weekend by another potentially bad boy, Danny. If this latest tropical storm follows the path of Bill, we could see more high waves along the coast along with some rain and possibly some wind, but we’ll once again luck out on real damage. Today's forecast indicated what's left of Danny will join with another storm coming in from the West to produce heavy rains tomorrow. Then, perhaps the sun will return Sunday.

Yes, I know some of you are asking how I can say we didn’t have much damage from Bill. Most of the storm problems we had, especially that in inland Western Maine, was the result of a weather front that passed through from the west.

Of course conditions have changed since yesterday, as they often do when dealing with a potential storm, so we must always remember that we won’t know what will happen with the weather until it happens. As the weekend approaches, keep in mind that a storm of some sort is not far away in the Atlantic and watch those skies carefully.

I try to keep up with driving laws, especially new ones, but one must have gotten by me sometime in the last few years. While out yesterday travelling along I-295, at three different interchanges traffic coming up the on-ramp never slowed down to get into a travel lane. One driver even accelerated his car in order to be able to get onto the main road ahead of me.

I guess I missed the change in the yield law that gave ramp traffic the right-of-way.

I also think there’s a possibility I wasn’t paying quite enough attention as I missed whether the drivers in each of the instances even checked to see if there were oncoming traffic. I realize the driver of the car that sped up obviously must have checked because he had to actually accelerate to get ahead of me.

I was too busy keeping track of the traffic to check to see if any of the drivers were using a cell phone at the time, but I wouldn’t take any bets they weren’t. It just occurred to me. I wonder if these drivers that tried to force me into a new car yesterday were the same ones that try to wipe me out by racing through red lights at intersections. Hmmmmm.

Somehow I have a suspicion I will ignore this “law change” and continue to be cautious…and yield…when I’m entering a highway.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

That "change" is very costly.

Today should be a rather nice one except the temperatures and humidity will be much lower than we had for a while. The skies should be mostly sunny, but the temperature may not climb above the low 70s. The National Weather Service said yesterday that tomorrow’s temperature might not even get out of the 60s. All eyes are on the weather charts, though, as a potentially bad boy named Danny could give us some less than nice weather over the weekend. We won’t know that for a little while longer.

I’ve mentioned my last Wednesday of the month lunch meetings with a group of fellow retirees just about every month. Yesterday’s session was super. All but one of us was there and the table was full of laughter. I think there just may be a reason why many tables around us remain empty while we’re there. I really enjoy those sessions.

The news this week is that the nation’s budget deficit will reach 9 trillion dollars over the next ten years because of tax revenue dropping rapidly, record spending by Congress, and a sluggish economy. That projected deficit does not include the proposed government health care reform which would significantly add to it.

American complained mightily about the huge deficits of the Bush Administration, but they pale compared to what’s happening now. There are some people who will try to convince us that the current problems are a direct result of the previous administration; but what they won’t mention is that the spending for the last two years of that administration was controlled by a Democratic Congress, the same group causing the current problems.

Nine Trillion Dollars sure does sound like a lot of money, but have you noticed how many people aren’t making any noise against it? I suspect that most Americans have no concept of $9,000,000,000,000. I don’t. It is a number that very few of us have ever seen, even in some of those ridiculous math problems we encountered in school.

I’m not sure this will help, but let’s give it a try. In July, 2008, a year ago, the last population figure I could find, the population of the United States was 304,059,724. It, of course, has grown since then. Since we citizens are the ones responsible to pay back that debt, dividing that population into the rounded off $9-trillion tells us that each and every one of us will have to give the federal government more than $29,500 just to repay the debt. That doesn’t include what we will have to give just to maintain the government and the services it provides.

Since not all of those 304-million people pay taxes, partially because a goodly number of them are children or we’re providing them with welfare, that nearly $30-thousand is actually significantly higher.
Our children and grandchildren will be stuck with this debt, most of which is now unavoidable no matter what we do to elect new people to Congress.

Speaking of taxes, does anyone really believe that taxes won’t be increased to pay for all this debt? Way back when all this started, I said here that we cannot borrow ourselves into prosperity. Each passing day shows the truthfulness of that feeling. I read one report yesterday that participants in a forum hosted by Sen. Collins yesterday agreed the tax rate will reach 60% in just a few years.

America is changing, but I’m not sure it’s a change which is good for America. It was the hard work and getting the rewards, capitalism, system that made us what we are. We need to get back on that track. I absolutely don’t understand how people can look at other countries in the world and even consider that they might have a better system than what made this country great.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fixed Income

If one believes the weather people, today is going to be a warm one. Some forecasters say somewhere in Maine could even get a shower or thunder shower before the day is over. The heat will leave us for a while after today. Tomorrow should reach only the low 70s. That could be a shock to the system.

It’s only the 26th of the month and we still have another five days; but another month is about to part from our lives forever. Of course this significance of this last Wednesday of August is it is the day that a group of us retired folk get together for a nice lunch. I look forward to these short sessions because they give me, and the rest of us, a chance to hash over the month’s events.

The food where we eat isn’t the best in the land, but it certainly is adequate for our needs. After all, we have this little get-together to be with friends once again, not because we want gourmet food. Besides, the price is right for people on a “fixed” income.

That “fixed income” business has always been a fascination to me. There really aren’t many who aren’t on a fixed income, or at least an income dependent on the whim, or prosperity, of someone else. When I worked I received the same basic salary each payday. Sure, we all hoped that at least once a year, and that’s usually all it ever was, we’d get some sort of “thank you” for our year’s accomplishments.

That “fixed” part could be changed a variety of ways. For example as I mentioned the other day, I began my work life in Maine with part time jobs which gave me a little extra from the fixed part of my income. My work didn’t offer any overtime so from that standpoint, my regular income was fixed. We did get a raise each year. It was the extra things, for some the overtime and for others a part time extra job, that added to that money.

I’ve heard the older people complain about trying to live on their fixed income. Now I’m one of them. It is true that my present income is much less than that I earned while working. But is it fixed? Only to the extent I make it so. This is the first year since I retired I won’t be getting at least a cost of living raise in my Social Security. The SSA has decided the cost of living hasn’t increased so we’re told that the COLA (cost of living adjustment) won’t be given at the end of this year or for next year.

Actually, if I were on the SSA drug plan, the cost of drugs would actually cause me to get less. If the Part B insurance premium increases, I will not get as much next year. And, naturally, if my secondary coverage (Medigap) increases, I’ll make less. Putting all the increases and decreases, small as they may be, together sort of cancels the “fixed” business.

All of that, however, even though I am retired doesn’t mean I have to have fixed income. What I earn is my choice. I could become a greeter at Wal-Mart and other stores also have people in that position. Of course the position isn’t so much to make customers feel welcome, but to maintain control of what comes in and goes out stores.

I’ve never checked, but perhaps there’s work at a call center I could do. Probably since I’ve been a computer network administrator and designer (was never what Novell would call a Certified Engineer) and have repaired computers and fixed software problems, I could start my own small business. I’m not going to make a long list here of all the things, considering my limited mobility, I could do. What I am trying to do is show that I have control over my income. I could settle, as I have, to simply live on my retirement incomes.

Gator Wife is a good example of how retired folk can manage their income. She retired a few years ago from a very good position as an office manager and earned a reasonably good wage. But she didn’t want to just sit around and do nothing, so she got an entry level pay part time job at a supermarket. The income helps but her being able to keep busy helps her even more.

So today a bunch of us on a “fixed” income will meet, solve the world and Red Sox problems, laugh over things now taking place in our former workplace, catch up on each other’s lives, and just have some good conversation. All that will make the food taste really good, too.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Oh, those cell phones

The weather people tell us our weather should be on the rather nice side today with the heat and humidity returning briefly tomorrow followed by a real drop in those temperatures. We did get some rain, quite a lot actually, yesterday afternoon, but the day wasn't too bad for the most part.

Now I have to take this old body and all the humidity, or is dew point the more "in" word these days?, and see how the recent weather translates into activity at my senior fitness session. I'm going there with some mixed emotions; but if the last session is any indication, all will be just fine.

I have had a cell phone for several years, as have many people. I had no use for one until I had my health episodes back in 2001 when our family decided to get one “just in case” we have an emergency. I picked up a family plan for the three of us who live in Maine. None of us uses the phones very often. In fact, the family plan I bought gave us just 300 minutes a month to split among us. My guess would be we haven’t used a total of 300 minutes since we first signed up. Heavy phone users we are not.

Shortly after we got the phones, I was heading from my home to Gator Daughter’s home. I wanted to give the phone a try so shortly after getting on the Scarborough Connector to I-295, I called her. We had a nice conversation but I remember absolutely nothing of the ride. I don’t remember leaving the Connector for the main highway. I have no recollection of leaving the highway on the Washington Avenue exit ramp. I don’t remember turning into GD’s driveway. I shut down the phone after I had arrived and sat there for a few moments wondering, “How did I get here?” I was, apparently, a distracted driver and could have put many people in jeopardy.

Although I always have my phone with me when I’m away from home, since that day early in my having one I have never talked on it while my car is moving. Whenever one of those very few times comes I need to make a call, the car is parked on the side of the road or in a parking lot. The phone is only on when I’m initiating a call so I never received an incoming one. In fact, I think only two people outside my family even know the number.

There’s a control light at the intersection where I enter the main road and when the light turns green, no one moves until all main traffic has come to a halt. I’ve counted as many as 5 or 6 cars roaring through after their light has turned red. Almost all have a telephone coming out of their ear. Riding down any road always amazes me as I observe the number of cars with cell phones in use.

I’d like to be able to say they’re all teenagers, or women, or old guys like me, or any other stereotype. That’s not possible as cell phone use in cars seems to be a universal phenomenon. Digressing just a bit, it also seems that cell phone usage dominates just about everywhere there are humans. Walking down the street, restaurants, super markets, department stores, you name it; someone will be busy yakking on a cell phone totally ignoring anyone else around. How in the world did we ever get along before these extremely expensive toys became so necessary?

One hasn’t become a Gator family necessity. As I said before, ours are only turned on to make a quickie call. One thing Gator Wife and I have grown accustomed to doing is making a 30 second call if our plans change or one of us will be late home. That’s particularly important because of my health issues. It’s going to be a long time before that original 300 minutes gets used.

There’s a purpose behind all this, but it only refers to drivers. Beginning next month Maine’s new distracted driver law goes into effect. The law says that anyone who is distracted by any device or activity in a moving vehicle may be summoned to court for driving while distracted.

As best as I can tell, the new law doesn’t specifically prohibit the use of cell phones, but anyone who does could be cited by the police, especially if that person is involved in a dangerous driving situation, involved in an accident while distracted, or commits another traffic crime.

It’ll be interesting to see how the police enforce this new law. If you’d like to read it, it can be found on the State of Maine website. Search for Public Law, Chapter 446 LD 6.


Monday, August 24, 2009

The final push is on. Can you help?

The hurricane which passed well to the east of us didn’t really materialize on our neck of the woods. A passing cold front did cause a tornado inland and that did considerable damage. The coast received some rather heavy and beautiful waves, and Downeast some storm watchers were washed into the ocean. A seven-year-old girl did not survive.

Actually both Saturday and most of Sunday were pretty darn nice days on the Gator’s place. I understand some nearby areas did get rain. Gator Daughter said it was pouring at her home in Portland and my Fearless Friend said his neighborhood also got some rain. Our home was relatively spared until late yesterday afternoon when some real gully washers passed by.

Today's weather forecast indicated today might be pretty much a copy of yesterday, but any storms probably won’t be as severe.

I’m just a little embarrassed I forgot about the WCSH-TV Sidewalk Art Festival last Saturday. No, I don’t attend the thing, but I wrote here about the possibility of Saturday being a wet day with storms passing all around us. “All around us” is the key phrase because many areas in Southern Maine did get some wet weather Saturday. And, yes, there was a shower or two in the Greater Portland area. But for the most part, Saturday was a beautiful, sunny day. As it always is for the Sidewalk Art Festival.

It’s sometimes amazing what we remember when age begins to take over our minds, but I remember way back when the Art Festival got its beginning, the two men responsible for it did research on years and years of weather. They discovered that the summer day with the least chance of rain was the third Saturday of August; and it has been that way ever since.

Because I’m not associated with the Festival, I’m not 100% sure of this, but I can only remember one Saturday, and there may have been two, when the Festival was postponed because of rain. So, in spite of the weather cautions, I should have pointed out this little piece of information in my weekend post and simply pooh-poohed the weather people with their possible rain forecast.

I received an email over the weekend that might be of interest.

Jack Wibby, a founder of Maine Taxpayers United, sent a message that the Still Fed Up with Taxes PAC, which he has been strongly supporting, has reported to him that it now believes it will be able to present petitions containing the required just over 55-thousand signatures to force a referendum on repealing the tax increase passed by the last legislature.

However, according to the email, State Senator David Trahan, a leader in the PAC, said it would be close and they would like another few thousand signatures to give them the cushion they need as some of the signatures may be rejected by the Secretary of State’s office. The petitions are due in that office early in September.

Wibby is asking anyone willing to form a team to canvas various neighborhoods, specifically in the communities around Portland and Westbrook, to contact him. (807-8631) He also will be traveling to Gray, Yarmouth and other communities this week collecting signatures.

If you haven’t yet signed the petition seeking a ballot question to repeal LD1495and wish to sign it, or if you can give some of your time to help this final push for signatures, you can contact Wibby.

LD 1495 is what the Democrats are calling a revenue neutral tax reform for Maine, but in effect it will add to your taxes, both sales and income. That promised 2% reduction in the top income tax rate is what the Democrats are saying will get you a reduction. But it deletes deductions so the new lower rate will be paid on a higher income for most. Some people will get a household tax credit.

And I hope the straits in which the Red Sox find themselves this morning aren't as dire as they sure do look.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

A wet weekend, but maybe little or no Bill

I guess this will be a wet, somewhat windy weekend as Hurricane Bill ambles by out to sea. Although it doesn’t look like we will get a major punch, the weekend has a potential of being just a little wild. I must admit I’m a little happier about the potential with the current (Friday) forecast for the weekend. The Weather Channel early Saturday seemed to indicate we'd probably miss just about all of the storm, except for some thundershowers.

We did have a little blip Friday evening. One of my first jobs when I returned to Maine in 1960 was as what the television people call a stringer. It was only part time, but I was the one who got called out after normal hours to take TV film of any breaking major event, such as a big fire, a major traffic accident, a crime, and the like.

The only connection of those early days and today is that I got into the habit of listening to a police radio so I’d know when to head out. Although it’s been since the 1970s since I’ve filmed events, that habit has never left me and I still monitor police calls even though modern police equipment and old monitors don’t communicate very well any more. Friday evening I did pick up a call on the Scarborough frequency that caused me to open my eyes to the world around me a little more.

We were under a tornado watch.

Gator Wife and I looked out windows all around our house, but we didn’t spot anything resembling a tornado. It was extremely dark to the northwest of us and those black, threatening clouds seemed to be heading right at our neighborhood. Indeed some very black ones did pass over. We saw one lightning flash and heard one thunder clap. Little or no wind accompanied it although we did get a light shower.

I don’t know if any part of Scarborough got anything major or not; but by 6:30 Friday evening, the time the watch was scheduled to expire, the skies had begun to lighten and we were apparently out of any danger.

We did see something in Gator Golden we've never seen before. She had had her evening meal and needed to make her visit outside. We held off until after it appeared the storm had passed and the opened the door for her. She stood on the porch, looked to the sky, stuck her nose up and took a couple sniffs, then immediately turned around to come back in. She obviously didn't like what was happening. Later she did get her needs resolved.

It was a scary time, though. Probably the vast majority of town's people never even knew the watch was in effect.

The Gator Clan doesn’t have too much planned for this weekend. Too much? Shucks, nothing. Because of the storm which has been in the forecast for about a week now, we had already decided we’d just ride it out. With rain and potential wind, Gator Daughter probably will keep her dog home, too.

Gator Wife is taking advantage of the forecast to put in a few extra hours at her part time work place. Because of vacations and the departure of some personnel, the company is a little short on help, GW volunteered to work her short shift both weekend days.

That’s going to leave the old Gator Dude all alone to watch the weather outside. Of course, this is the weekend of the Little League World Series, which I’ll watch, weather permitting. And I think there might be a little American League baseball series taking place, again weather permitting. Might even have a chance to watch some cars or trucks running around in circles.

I can also spend a few minutes thinking about which to write during next week. Gosh! It could be busier than I think. I hope your homesteads and families remain safe, and don’t forget to check on your elderly neighbors or family members from time to time. We’ll be back Monday morning.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Those "shocking" pictures

The wait is underway. WCSH-TV weather man Roger Griswold said this morning it now looks like it won’t be until Sunday morning before Hurricane Bill passes by. He added Bill is expected to remain off shore, but there is always the chance we’ll get some rather heavy rain, I’ve seen estimates of up to three inches, along with potentially very strong winds. Hurricanes, however, are really very unpredictable and in spite of the weather people’s best guesses, we won’t know what, if anything, we’ll get here in Southern Coastal Maine until the storm gets here.

So, the wait continues.

There must be something really wrong with being an old codger. The internet and the news media have been abuzz for the last few days over some shorts that Michelle Obama wore while vacationing with her kids visiting national parks. Just about every forum and news source I read has had either still pictures or video of the First Lady’s “shocking” clothing.

I suspect most anyone who reads these posts here know exactly where I stand on the Obamas. My objections are solely on the policies of the administration, not the people themselves. I don’t know them and have never met them. Probably a half decent chance I never will. So my comments on these posts are only about what I perceive as a very wrong change taking place in America.

So I look at the pictures of Mrs. Obama in those shorts and have to wonder what all the hullabaloo is about. The shorts certainly aren’t too short or too tight. They aren’t designed to raise any prurient interests. They appear to be rather conservative.

Her outfit appears to me to be exactly what a young mother would wear while accompanying her children and husband on a visit to a place like the Grand Canyon. Or Yellowstone. Or Yosemite. She’s probably overdressed for Old Orchard. I know when Gator Wife and I visited those places along with many more, GW always dressed comfortably and decently.

Me? I only have one set of clothing. I wear my polo shirt, chinos and sneakers to funerals, weddings, and every place in between.

For once I’m not going to join the race to condemn; in fact, I salute Mrs. Obama, the mother, for dressing appropriately with her children in visiting vacation and recreational places. It’s a very proper parental role.

Now about her husband’s policies . . .

One of those policies is the Cash for Clunkers campaign. The government announced yesterday that it will end Monday. Therefore, if you’ve been on the hill about trading your older car, you’re running out of time…again.

The billion dollar stimulus project ran out of that billion in the first week so Congress, with the urging of the President, pumped another two billion dollars into it. That’s almost gone and is expected to be gone by 8 PM Monday.

Of course finding a dealer to sell you one might be a problem as many dealers have withdrawn from the program. I haven’t read of any from Southern Maine that have withdrawn. The problem is getting the money from the federal government. According to reports, only about three percent of the new car deals have been reimbursed so far by the government leaving, says a national dealers’ group, the sellers being owed more than a billion dollars. Some dealers say they can’t afford it any longer and no longer will participate.

Federal officials say they were caught off guard by the speed and success of the program but now have enough people on hand to process the claims. They assure the auto dealers that all valid claims will be paid. Of course we know how well government tends to pay its obligations.

In any event, the program will close Monday so you have just a couple more days to get your deal. If you’re wondering, I’m not looking.

And the Wall Street Journal on-line has a story of just how well we can expect the national drive for health care reform can work. And it's about the Public Option in Maine.

Keep your eye out on that hurricane wandering in our general direction and be sure you’re prepared for anything. I won’t be disappointed if like winter snow storms, it doesn’t materialize here.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nice day today, but on the horizon . . .

We have mixed emotion about this day. The temperature and the humidity might be among the best we’ve had recently as neither is expected to be as high as they’ve been for the last five days. That is good. But the good news gets tempered by an approaching hurricane and rains into Sunday morning.
That is not good.

The exact path of Hurricane Bill is not truly known and we probably won’t know exactly what the path is until it passes. At least it has calmed down somewhat from its roam through the mid-Atlantic Ocean and there is a good chance the most we’ll get is some heavy rain and, possibly, some wind. Of course that weather ridge out there could miss Bill and let it come either a lot closer or even into Maine.

I don’t mean to sound like an alarmist which, I suspect, is close to be the result of what I just said. We do, however, have to remain alert and prepared for the weather. We do need the rain if it comes, at all indications are we’ll get at least rain. The Gator yard is bone dry.

Gator Wife has remained optimistic that we’ll still get some vegetables from our garden, but the ground there is bone dry, even though we have irrigated them each night. She knows we won’t get much, if anything, as some of her plants, including the tomatoes, had to be pulled early due to blight. We thought we had lost the summer squash and cucumbers, but the combination of sun and irrigation has brought forth some blossoms and even tiny, very tiny so far, vegetable growth. Hopes are up for at least at saving a little bit of the crop.

Today, of course, is Thursday, the second day of my twice weekly visit to the senior fitness place. As I’ve said earlier, Tuesday wasn’t the best of days there as it was simply too darn hot and humid for great success. I’m not sure just what I did later Tuesday, but I was helping Gator Wife in the kitchen, emptying the dishwasher, I think, and turned wrong. I felt a sharp pain in my hip and it has hurt ever since.

I suspect I irritated a muscle as I’m not incapacitated, just a little sore. We’ll have to see what happens this morning when I get to the machines to learn if that will interfere or if the arthritis has calmed down from the humidity and is sufficiently gone to get back to a normal routine.

The heat has been keeping me from getting heated up on the political front. The debate continues to rage on a number of fronts, including national health care, the tax reform referendum in Maine, the Maine gay marriage referendum, and the previously approved ballot questions of Tabor II and excise tax reduction.

The only one so far that is not on the ballot, and I don’t think there’s any time left for it be there in the November elections, is the tax reform question which would ask voters if they want to repeal a significant increase in sales taxes and a relatively minor reduction in income tax rates passed by the last legislature.

Officially, the state says the income tax rate is major, a full two percent from the current 8.5% to 6.5% at the top level. I say a minor reduction because the new rate applies to all income so some will be paying more while others will be paying less. Also, deductions have been eliminated in favor of household credits. What it simply boils down to is paying a lower rate on a higher base income.

I honestly have no idea where that goal is in collecting the 55-thousand plus signatures needed to get it on the ballot. It has already passed the deadline to get it on the November ballot, but organizers of the petition drive, primarily the Republican Party, hope to submit enough signatures to get it on the June ballot next year. If they succeed, the new law scheduled to go into effect in September will be put on hold until the balloting.

But will they succeed? I really don’t know. They have been really quiet on just how many signatures have been collected so far and they’re calling in the petitions next week. After they have had a chance to count them, then I suspect we’ll know.

I’m personally against the so called reform as I believe it’s going to cost us a lot more in taxation.

The other drives have been completed and are already ballot questions. As we close in on November, I’ll give my opinions, if you don’t already know them, on what I hope those outcomes will be. I wonder if the state will let me use my rubber stamp “yes” on a ballot.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's just been too hot to even think.

It simply has been too darn hot for the last few days.

We’re told that we may see some of the humidity begin to leave the area today, but it will still be warm and muggy for most of it. A cold front approaching tomorrow, or as WCSH-TV meteorologist Roger Griswold called it yesterday “really just dry air,” should finally give the humidity a knockout punch. Unfortunately, though, it won’t be down for the ten count as it will return Friday.

We first began to feel this heat way back last Saturday. The official temperature for the area was only in the mid to upper 80s, but the thermometer in a protected area outside my house said we were in the low 90s. It takes three consecutive days of 90+ readings for a span to be called a heat wave. We had the same type of readings Sunday so Greater Portland was short of its heat wave.

Not my yard. We have crossed that 90 number each day, including yesterday so as far as I’m concerned, official or unofficial, the Gator homestead had a heat wave.

Yesterday was by far the worst of the four days. I have no idea where Google gets its temperature reading in our area. If I had to guess, my guess would be the Jetport. (Does any other municipal airport in the nation call itself a “jetport?”?) Yesterday, about two o’clock the temperature thing I use on my Google toolbar said it was 94 degrees. My own weather station said in my yard it was 95.3. That’s close enough to assume both were working correctly.

The weekend heat didn’t stop our work around the house. The Saturday chore was in the basement where it really was nice and comfortable. Sunday’s ride around the yard on the lawn mower wasn’t nice and comfortable.

After the heat was in full control Monday, neither Gator Wife nor it expended much energy. Yesterday, we did even less, although I did start out the day as I always do on Tuesdays with a trip to my senior fitness session. The heat and humidity, however, had gotten to a very vulnerable hip with is screwed together and a vulnerable back with a fusing backbone.

Don’t read bad stuff into that. I only have one condition that I use to judge my day. Any day I put my feet on the floor is a good day. But, oh, brother, it sure was hot.

It was also one of the poorer attempts at exercise at the senior fitness place than I’ve had recently. As I told my Fearless Friend, about all I did was touch each of the machines I use in my scheduled routine. At least I attempted something. My ride on the stationary bike lasted only about 15 minutes.

We’re not sure what the heat will bring today, but there is a good chance the unofficial heat wave on the Gatorland is over. That could make a very nice day.

As I began, it simply has been too darn hot for the last few days. One of my fellow senior fitness participants said yesterday, “Just wait until January. We’ll be longing for the ‘good old days of last summer.’”

Oh. The answer to my question is, “Yes.” Naples, Florida, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, come to mind, and there are others.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why special treatment for athletes?

Today will not be a good day at my senior fitness session. I feel O.K., but this heat and humidity does not work very well with my old body. I suspect it isn’t exactly welcome even to younger ones. I’m not sure just how much it will help, except possibly make the air even moister, but we do have some possible showers or thunder showers in the forecast. They’re mostly a long way from my home in Southern Maine, but sometimes they drive away the humid weather.

I expect my unofficial thermometer will hit the 90 mark again today making it four in a row on the Gator homestead. Officially, we haven’t met the requirements for a heat wave, but my yard certainly has. I don’t think I like it. A heat wave is three or more consecutive days with the temperature above 90.

I find myself in a rather contradictory situation concerning my opinion of Michael Vick. Vick committed a crime. I can make that statement because he was convicted in a court of law and has served a sentence in a prison.

You may wonder why that last sentence is important. I have always believed in the maxim that proclaims a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. I still believe that.

It was back in the early 1970s that the news media proclaimed themselves to be the determiners of guilt. Probably the perceived role of the press began earlier than that during the Vietnam War, and possibly the true roots can date back to the Korean Conflict.

It was, however, in 1974 when the big change was completed. The news media led the public in proclaiming President Richard Nixon guilty of the break-in at the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate complex. He had not been arrested. He had not faced a jury, in a President’s case Congress, he had not been found guilty.

But Guilty he was, said the news media and then echoed by the public.

Whenever anyone attempted to discuss the situation with me, I took the stand I wasn’t there and didn’t know. I had not heard a formal presentation of the facts and as far as I was concerned, Nixon was innocent until proven guilty in formal circumstances.

He changed that for me by his admissions and resignation. I was then able to accept the guilt of his involvement.

I continued my beliefs and still believe a person is innocent until proven guilty. I found myself in the same defensive position in the O.J. Simpson situation in the 1990s. Even today I would point out that he was found Not Guilty in a court of law. I wasn’t there to know the facts, only the facts that the news media wanted me to know.

There have been many trials right here in Maine where a person was convicted by the media. I’ve never changed my stance of not having been present when the crime was committed so as far as I’ve been concerned, innocent until proven guilty.

And that brings me back to Michael Vick. He was charged and found guilty by a court of law and he did pay the penalty society decided was fitting for his crime. He did it; he paid for it; and now he should be able to resume his life.

And that’s where my conflict comes. I think of the hundreds, yea thousands, of doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, coaches, administrators, ordinary folk, and the list goes on and on, who society has said can no longer can work in their chosen profession or way of life, either legally or by innuendo. Some of those people still haven’t faced a jury of their peers, yet the conviction stands.

Why, then, do we accept, cheer, the return of Vick to professional football as a potential hero? My initial reaction was in line with my beliefs. He was convicted and paid his penalty so his life should resume. Then Gator Wife reminded me of a couple of people we’ve known over the years who also were convicted of a crime and not allowed to return to their former lives. For most, it was not law that prevented their return to normal life.

The trust had been broken. The positive role model had been broken. The reputation has been lost. It would take a very long time and a lot of very hard work to regain their former lives. Even then the questions would be there.

Why do we let a professional athlete off that hook? And we all know Michael Vick isn’t alone.


Monday, August 17, 2009

The health care reform debate roars on!

The weather forecasters seem to think we have at least today and possibly tomorrow of more of the absolutely grand weather we’ve been having. The weather service says the temperatures in our area didn’t hit 90 Saturday or yesterday so the chance of having an official heat wave is rather slim. That’s not the case on the Gator homestead, though. My thermometer did get into the 90s both days and could again today. That translates into an unofficial heat wave in my book.

Also, let me remind you that in these extremely hot days that your elderly neighbors and relatives should be checked occasionally. And be sure to keep hydrated with preferably water but not alcoholic or caffeine laced beverages.

In spite of the heat we successfully completed the tasks we set out to do over the weekend. First, thanks my super neighbor and his nifty tools, Gator Daughter and I got the baseboard attached to the basement walls. I’ve never used one of those miter saws before so my early corners are a little bit rough. We’re not complaining; after all, it is the basement.

I also had never used a pneumatic nail gun before, either. That thing takes just about all work out of nailing boards. It is fast, neat, and easy to use.

Now there are two tools I’d like to add to my rather meager collection of tools. I won’t because I’m cheap. Also, this was the first time I’ve wanted to use that type of tool and thinking back over the last seventy plus years and how many times I would have used them, I won’t get my own. But they sure are nifty tools.

We also wanted to mow our rather large lawn. It was very uncomfortably hot outside. But the lawn did get mowed; so for us it was a very successful weekend.

Speaking of heat, heat of not-the-weather-kind is building up in the Obama health care initiative. Republicans have unleashed a series of ads opposing the plans currently before Congress. I’ve read the Democrats have purchased millions of dollars of air time to support the plans. I have a sneaky suspicion that I’ll be completely sick and tired of the ads by the time any health reform becomes law.

As much as I hope the Republicans are able to stop the proposals, I have to be a little critical of the current ads. They tell us how bad those proposed plans will be for us and some Republicans are critical of President Obama for what they say is the lack of any plans by him. I would agree with those criticisms as the President hasn’t actually released a plan, only wishes. It is difficult to debate something that doesn’t exist.

Getting back to those Republican ads, they end with a statement something like, “Urge Congress to slow down on health care reforms so we can do it the right way.” Well, fellow R’s, just what is that “right way?” You are lacking anything specific, too, or any real plan just as you accuse the President of doing.

At least there has been some good come out of not getting a bill passed in the President’s time frame. Congress people have been facing their constituents and they haven’t been pleasant meetings. Some Democrats may have even seen the real problems with their options for reform and are having a change of heart.

The President has also been on the campaign stump, too, but his meetings have been carefully orchestrated. And he still hasn’t given anything specific on reform.

And another good thing is the Senate has now said it will not support any so-called death panel or require end-of-life counseling by doctors. They remain in the House versions of the bills, however. That was brought to the public’s attention by former Alaskan Governor and former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Of course President Obama has denied this provision exists and cited the death of his own grandmother to demonstrate how he understands end-of-life. I guess he hasn’t read pages 225 to 230 of HR 3200, the House health reform bill. I wonder if he’s read any of it.

Late yesterday some Senators said and told the President that any health reform containing a public insurance option had no chance of passing. The President is reported to have said he would like the public option, but reforming the cost of health care is more important. The saga continues.

And over the weekend Senator Snowe’s office released a memo that said the Maine Senator did not support a public option in the reform package. The release added that the Senator did support a public option safety net. Curious. Seems to me a public option is a public option.

Get yourself prepared for the onslaught of ads both promoting and criticizing the Democrat health care reforms. And, methinks ads for and against the repeal of the gay marriage bill will be right up there, too.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

A hot, working weekend

The weekend has arrived once again, and this one promises to be a “Pip.” The weather reports say both days will be extremely nice, except there will be some humidity along with the high temperatures. We could hit the 90s this weekend, even getting a full-blown heat wave with three consecutive days in the 90s.

That’s not going to stop the work around the homestead, however. Gator Daughter will be here Saturday morning and we’re going to put some new baseboards around our ‘family’ room in the cellar. A few weeks back we had a critter build a nest in a drainpipe which caused water to get into our cellar.

As a result, a carpet in that room had to be eliminated and the water marks were also visible on the baseboards. We took all those down a couple of weeks ago and have spent a lot of time down there cleaning the place and getting it usable once again.

We have arranged for a new carpet to be installed in a couple of weeks, and now we’re ready to replace the baseboards with new ones. I have already stained them. The only real obstacle is my hammering ability. It doesn’t exist. I could easily just get some finish nails and drive them in with the hammer, but then I’d have the most decorated baseboard with little, round indentations in Southern Maine.

I have this super neighbor who takes pity on me occasionally. He brought his finish nail pneumatic hammer over or us to use and he included a very fancy saw so I could cut angles for corners and make all the other cuts nice and neat. I’ve never used either.

My fellow senior fitness attendee, who knew I was getting the nailing device and does use such things, said only that I need to be careful. “Don’t just pull the trigger to see how far you can shoot nails,” he cautioned.

One thing we won’t be doing, or I should say Gator Wife and Gator Daughter won’t be doing, is working in the veggie gardens. As I said yesterday, they virtually no longer exist.

But we do have a rather large lawn and between us, GD and I will probably reduce its grass length sometime this weekend.

I hope you have a great time enjoying this fine, summer, Maine weather we’ll experience both days and I’ll return Monday.


Friday, August 14, 2009

The weather has done in our veggies!

Another week is drawing to a close. The weather, according to the weather gurus, should be an improvement over the humid weather we’ve had most of this week. One weather person said that summer at last has arrived. We’ve heard that a couple times before this year but that arrival was always very short-lived.

A beautiful weekend, which is the forecast for the coming two days, would be very welcome, even though the Gator Clan will be working during it.

We haven’t had a particularly nice summer. The statistics from the National Weather Service in Gray a couple days ago showed that July was a very wet month, and June wasn’t much better. The July statistics showed that the month was among the top wet ones since the weather service began keeping records.

We didn’t have much sunshine, either. If my memory is working, there were only about nine days during July when it we weren’t wet. Seems to me there was only about 38% of potential sunshine.

Back in the day when we were young and had young children, GW and I rented places on Sebago Lake each summer. We have always wished we could have afforded more than a week, but at lakeside rental prices, we were pushing that week. They were times we’ll never forget and I suspect our kids won’t either.

During those weeks, I only remember one time when we had lousy weather, which was remarkable considering the rental had to be made a year in advance. More than one time this summer we’ve mentioned those weeks as we thought about all the people who had put out probably much more money than we for a brief moment on the lake.

Good vacation weeks have been far and few between this season. There haven’t been a whole lot of good vacations days, either. I know we would have been very unhappy to have put out all that money and then be stuck inside most of the time.

Perhaps for this summer’s visitors, this weekend can make up for some of the bad weather.

Gator Golden's favorite chair. This is where she naps during
the day. She likes it because it is in the breezeway of our
home. It's a very narrow room and from this chair, GG can
watch the driveway out the front window and what's going
on in the complex behind the house out the rear window.

I mentioned a while back that this would be a working weekend at the Gator homestead. Part of that work won’t include our vegetable gardens.

GW has all but given up any hope we’ll get anything this season except for some green beans and some yellow beans. In fact, we’ve already had some meals which included our own beans. But apparently that’s where it’ll all end.

I probably should known her gardens were in trouble. First to go were her tomatoes. She will have none this year and the plants have already been pulled. She had to put them in plastic bags and put them out with the rubbish. That infection you’ve probably heard about on TV or perhaps read about in the newspaper hit her tomatoes. They fit all the published descriptions. I think this will be the first year we haven’t had our own fresh tomatoes.
I should mention she did not buy her plants in one of those Big Box Stores which drew most of the warnings.

A critter or a family of critters made short work of our beets and beet greens way back at the beginning of summer. The cukes, green peppers, summer squash, spinach, and all the other veggies she and Gator Daughter planted have been the victims of the rainy, sunshineless weather. She hasn’t pulled them yet holding out a little hope. But she’ll tell you we won’t be eating fresh.

We did visit a couple farm markets in our town this week. Their bins and shelves are all but bare, too. I’m thinking this is one year I’m glad I don’t depend on summer crops for a living and really feel sorry for those who do.

I hope you have a great weekend just beginning and can take advantage of perhaps the best one of the year.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Educate yourself; and 230 miles per gallon?

Some humidity continues in our weather. I mentioned Tuesday that the weather would affect my ability to perform at my senior fitness session. It did. Although I did most of it, when I stopped I was hurting and limped home. I say “most” because I didn’t add any time or reps to anything. My routine of late has attempted to do that.

I’m not sure what the humidity will do today, but I’ll head over to the session in total optimism.

I didn’t mention President Obama’s health care visit to New Hampshire yesterday. I have read various articles, blogs and forums about the visit. The President was certainly not agreeing with much I’ve written here which leads me to wonder if he has read any of the bills now before Congress or is simply relying on what his advisors tell him.

I’m not going to spend any space contradicting the President this morning; all I will do is ask you to get a copy and read it for yourself. I believe the number is up to five proposed bills and they are available at congressional websites. Don’t listen to me; don’t listen to either opponents or proponents. Form your own opinion with your own honest reading of just what the bills say. Speeches and various interpretations according to one’s political persuasion are easy. Reading the actual words reveals the truths.

Once you’ve started doing that, you might want to consider reading the Constitution carefully. That document isn’t too long. Only then can you decide on whether what is happening in the government today is truly allowed in that founding document.

I am intrigued by House Speaker Pelosi’s and other Democrat leaders’ proclamations that the current protests at various forums are Republican orchestrated un-American mobs. I don’t recall them calling the demonstrations against President Bush orchestrated by Democrats, most notably and ACORN, as being un-American mobs.

It’s all perspective and that’s why actually reading the documents to form your own opinions is so important.

I think a lot of these thoughts could also apply to Maine’s government. Like on the national scene, we are not being told total truths, truths that can be learned by looking over the documents themselves.

Gator Golden wonders if a treat might be in the offering.

Did you see on the TV or read in the paper yesterday about that new car, the Volt, that General Motors is planning to market next year? According to GM, the car can get 230 miles per gallon of gas. The car is electric which can go 40 miles on a charge and then a small electric engine takes over to add a little charge to the batteries and propel the car.

The car needs to be plugged for charging overnight. I gather that its prime purpose would be to provide commuter transportation as most people could get to and from work on one charge.

That all sounds really great, but the early announcements indicate it will have a 40-thousand dollar price tag. That seems like an awful lot of money for a simple commuter car. I’d think most folks would need at least a second car for real trips.

I’d admit a commuter car would handle my needs now as I rarely drive more than 40 miles in a day. It wouldn’t be a commuter car for me as I’m retired, but getting to the local stores, mall, senior fitness, etc., all would easily fit into 40 miles. Perhaps all that fits into the definition of “commuter.” But, it would be a cold day in that place down below before I’d spend $40K for a car, even one that could take me across the country. That projected cost might be the downfall of the Volt.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A very light Wednesday

We’re told that before this day is over, the humidity may have begun to be washed out of our area albeit for a brief period. That would be nice. Once today’s weather, along with the humidity, is over, there’s a chance we’re going to return to honest summer weather once again. My favorite summer weather includes sunny skies with, perhaps, a passing white cloud or two, temperatures in the mid, perhaps upper, seventies, and a nice gentle sea breeze.

Tomorrow could be a return to the lawn. If not, it’ll wait until the weekend. It seems to me that this year those twice a week mowing are lasting long into the summer. Usually by mid-July the chore is down to once a week. Here it is approaching mid-August and my darn lawn continues to require attention every five or six days or so.

Gator Wife is outside and being followed very carfully.
That's where Gator Golden thinks she should be, too.

The job isn’t too bad when we have nice weather. My machine does a reasonably nice job, but it is time consuming. It does require relatively dry weather in order to use the bagging attachment. Every year I threaten to buy a set of mulching blades so that most of the clippings are returned to the earth. But it isn’t an easy chore to swap blades on a lawn tractor deck so I continue to just vacuum the clippings.

I will point out, though, that the clippings don’t get thrown away. We have a rather good size chunk of unusable property in one corner. We use the area as a compost area for the grass. A good portion of that area has now turned to dirt and we can easily move around on it. I think Wife Gator plans to use it as a garden in another couple of years.

Fourteen or fifteen years ago when we first moved to our current home, we bought a super machine to handle trimming and general brush cutting around our yard, including that in the compost area. The brand is DR Trimmer and Mower. We bought it for its string trimming feature because we have some hills and gullies that my limited mobility makes difficult to walk with a gas trimmer. The yard is too large for an electric one.

The DR with the mowing ball on the front.

We later added some more components to the DR, including a tiller attachment, a small tree/brush circular blade with teeth like a chain saw, and an edger. It is a super machine and we use all the attachments which are easily changed. Gator Wife and Gator Daughter take full advantage of the tiller attachment and that is what they use in our vegetable gardens.

I’ll bet you haven’t guessed I don’t have a whole lot for you this Wednesday. It’s simply too darn humid for this getting older brain to work through. On the positive side, at least it still works a little as it moves through its seventies, and I think these little missives help.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A return to real journalism??

One thing, I guess, about rain is that it sometimes knocks a front out of the way and brings about lower humidity. That’s sometimes. After a nice but oppressingly humid day yesterday and the wet air we awoke to this morning, I’m not sure my visit to the senior fitness place is going to be very nice. My back has told me it won’t cooperate with my attempts at exercise.

Gator Golden has nothing to do with today's comment,
I just think she's a cute, active almost six year old pup.

I don’t read the Lewiston Sun-Journal very often, but after reading a truly investigative piece in the weekend edition, I just might visit it more often. The story itself doesn’t affect me in any way as it’s a totally Lewiston story, but the investigative part just plain intrigued me. I don’t get to read many such stories very often these days.

Written by regional editor Scott Thistle, the story was about how some members of the Lewiston City Council attempt to influence various city departments well beyond the scope of their Council duties. It’s Thistle’s and the Sun-Journal’s copyrighted story so I won’t give the details here, but if you want to read it, it was available on line on Sunday and you may still be able to read it here.

What I liked about the story was that it was real journalism. The reporter did his homework and, through a court request for the e-mails, put together a piece that will give those Lewiston readers a good look at how the Council perhaps meddles into the working of the government beyond the duties usually established for city councils.

Newspapers have been failing all across the country and even the Portland newspapers were on the verge before they finally were sold. I believe that part of what has led to the problems is the lack of such coverage as provided by the Lewiston paper, pointing out potential problems in government.

We can get the instant news almost instantly through radio, TV, and the Internet. But it is the story behind the news that we’ve sorely lacked for several years. All too often the media has simply accepted the handouts of “news” makers and accepted the words of politicians without ever challenging the “facts” contained within.

After all, reporting the entire story would require some extra work, work that appears to be sorely lacking in today’s news. In order to ask the tough questions and demanding the correct answers, the reporter would first have to have done some work. Would the reporters, for example, accept as fact the word of our elected Congress people if they took the time to actually read the currently proposed health care bill? I guess they figure if the congress folk don’t have to read the bill, they don’t, either.

I remember a while back that several million dollars were missing from one of the state’s major departments. Did our reporters ever do any real investigative reporting to see what happened to that money? If they did, I guess I must have missed it and apologize.

Have our reporters done any investigative reporting on the tax reform passed by the last legislature? I’ve seen many reports on what the elected folks say, but an actual look at the facts and figures to see if they really add up as we’re told has missed my eye.

So it is that solid piece of investigative reporting by Mr. Thistle and the Lewiston Sun-Journal that has raised my hopes that the news media may at last be returning to its mission of keeping government as honest as it can. Until it does, we’ll continue down that awful road we’ve seemed to be riding for the past several years and which has intensified since January.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Is Ortiz paying an unfair price?

Wasn’t Saturday just one heckuva day? Beautiful! The sun was bright; the sky did have some passing clouds, but it was mostly blue; and we didn’t get any rain. The temperature was in the 70s and my little piece of the world had a beautiful sea breeze that kept the humidity way down. Don’t get the wrong idea; I don’t live on the ocean, actually several miles from it, but we are on the south side of Route One yet close enough to the Atlantic to get that sea breeze.

Sunday wasn’t bad, either, even though the milky clouds began appearing in the morning. Wet weather could begin arriving here later today and we'll have some extremely unnice with either some showers or humidity keeping us wet, possibly into Wednesday.

I think my Fearless Friend would tell me that if I don’t feel comfortable writing about something, don’t write about it. Well, I feel uncomfortable about writing about the Big Papi situation, so I’m going to write something about it. Let me preface this with I’m writing only from personal feelings and not from any position of expertise. And I think I’m just reiterating something I may have written earlier. That said:

The news media and I, as well as many of us, have been too quick to judge the David Ortiz (Big Papi) situation concerning the use of drugs. I won’t say he’s innocent here; I simply don’t know and his “news” conference held Saturday didn’t say much of anything. Both he and an accompanying lawyer from the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA) were generally silenced by court order. Of course that same court order didn’t stop “anonymous lawyers connected with the cases” from naming names.

Before, and please note that “before” part, the use of steroids and other substances were outlawed by Major League Baseball (MLB), many players used supplements, and yes, some used steroids to enhance their performances. Performance enhancing drugs, they were called. Before 2003, with the urging and threats of Congress to do something about those drugs, MLB attempted to negotiate with the MLBPA banning their use and formulating a testing program. That program was put into effect in 2003 to see how extensive the problem was and if such a testing program were needed.

The players tested were supposed to have been kept anonymous, but we all know how that works. Personal vendettas always have a way of breaking anonymity. Apparently, most of the tested players tested positive which then led to the formation of a new policy.

Big Papi was among those tested, as were other Red Sox or former Red Sox players such as Manny Ramirez and Roger Clemens (then long gone from Boston). Other notable players, including but not limited to Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Barry Bonds, and many others also apparently tested positive.

Let’s get something very clear here. The use of those performance enhancing drugs in 2003 were not illegal; disturbing perhaps, creating an unfair competition perhaps, personally abhorrent perhaps, but not illegal.

Ortiz says he did not buy or knowingly use steroids but he did admit to using supplements. And a few days ago, The New York Times and those “anonymous lawyers connected to the case” decided it was time to destroy him. His name, along with Ramirez, was revealed.

Has Ortiz used illegal, yes, now illegal drugs since 2003? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else for sure except the player himself. But the news media and many fans have judged him guilty and his reputation is paying for a very unfair treatment led by the press.

It is true that some of those named are facing possible court trials. There is a difference. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are in deep legal trouble not for using the drugs but rather for lying about it to Congress. It is the lie that has brought troubles to them.

Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez freely admitted using them, in fact called them steroids, and now are continuing their careers with the forgiveness of their fans. On the other hand, Ramirez tested positive earlier this season and paid a 50-game penalty. He didn’t complain about it and accepted his fate. He is now back in the loving graces of Los Angeles.

Ortiz has freely admitted using supplements saying he didn’t know they were steroids and is being raked over the coals. It simply isn’t fair.

And speaking of the Red Sox… Well, not much good news there so instead let's mention that the NFL Pre-Season Football began last night with the Hall of Fame game. It might be a welcome change.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

A "real" summer weekend

This weekend is ending a great weather week but beginning one with some wet weather in the forecast. Saturday should be the better of the two days as it will be mostly sunny and nice. As they did just a week ago, clouds will probably start moving in and we could see some shower activity by day’s end Sunday. If those showers and thunder showers do develop, there’s a good chance they’ll carry into Monday. At least that’s the way it was in Friday’s forecasts.

The Gator Clan will have a good weekend. Gator Daughter and her pup will be here Saturday afternoon and Gator Wife has informed us that steaks will be cooked on the grill outside. That, of course, means the Old Dude will have to make his world famous onion rings. We’ve sort of gotten into equating a grilled steak meal with onion rings.

I guess it would only be fair to limit that “world famous” part to the little corner of the world we call the Gator home.

Saturday will also be a day when I get to ride around my lawn with a two-fold purpose. Partly I want to vacuum up the grass clippings I left earlier this week because the lawn was so long and thick and damp my machine wouldn’t touch it. At the same time, I’ll give it a nice, even clip so that it will then be done for another week. I’m rapidly reaching that time of year when mowing the lawn is beginning to become a chore.

I’ll also be looking for some opportunities to get a whole bunch of pictures of Gator Golden and perhaps her sister. If those opportunities do present themselves, we’ll be able to return next week with some fresh shots of our little Golden gem.

I suspect Sunday will be a day of rest for all of us. If that expected rain materializes, it definitely will be. I’ll be able to spend some time giving some thoughts to another week, but with both Congress and Maine’s legislature idle, it will be a challenge. I hope you’re enjoying your weekend and we’ll be back Monday.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Weather Station ordeal short-lived

The really nice weather seems to be continuing. Even the slight threat of some shower activity, mostly at night, can’t slow down this perhaps best week/weekend of the season so far.

I had thought about going out yesterday and vacuuming up my grass clippings, but Gator Wife and I got caught up in a whole bunch of other things. The lawn can wait until the weekend, and while I'm doing the grass sucking, I can give it a trim which should put it into next weekend before I’ll have to do it again.

I’ve been feeling sorry for myself the last couple of days because my weather station had conked out. GW and I found one almost exactly like it at an outdoor store located in Scarborough. It was the same make as the one that died and now it’s already part of the Gator homestead.

I had a chance to get an upgrade, for twice the price, of course, which would interface with my computer system. I kept asking myself why I would need that and ultimately my needs and wants didn’t quite get together.

I think I had mentioned I thought it was the sensor/sending unit that had died. It was. As soon as I put batteries, the same ones I took out of the dead unit, into the new one, it came to life. My station, GW’s station, and even my old station all are now giving me the readings. There is one difference as the new unit’s rain gauge has its own transmitter and is no longer wired to the base station.

So the saga of the weather station came to a very quick end. It’s amazing just how much one gets to sort of depend on something like that. It’s like leaving home without a watch. One can go hours, even days, without looking at the watch. Leave it home and the wrist gets scrutinized about every five minutes.

Our four Congress people, Repub. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins along with Dem. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Michael Michaud, are apparently not going to hold “public forums” to get constituent views on various items before Congress during the Congressional Recess. Democrat leaders are suggesting that such forums not be held.

Mob Rule is what they say the forums are. They are organized by Republicans, according to the Democrats, to prevent the elected officials from passing along the Congressional party lines on health reform, cash for clunkers, stimulus, and other items. There are numerous videos on "YouTube" showing what has happened so far in some such forums. It isn't pretty.

There was an interesting article on Foxnews the other day that sort of took the Democrats to task for not listening to constituents, saying millions of Americans are crying to be heard as they are against the plans.

The Maine GOP, meanwhile, in an e-mail has told Maine’s Republicans that it is in fact the Democrats who are organizing demonstrations to fight against the ordinary citizens trying to get the truth about the proposed new laws. They cite several sources to back up their claim.

I hope the Maine delegation has a change of mind and does meet with their constituents. I realize they probably won’t like what they hear and will ignore the people’s urging anyway, but they do work for us and they should be willing to hold those forums. People have a way of remembering such sleights in election years.

I can’t leave today without mentioning baseball. After all, THE series is on now between the Red Sox and Yankees. After the Yankees ended Boston's season domination of them last night and after the Tampa Bay Rays sweep of the Sox, the evidence is growing that Boston is in dire need of pitching. I haven't seen the stories yet this morning, but I wonder if Red Sox Manager Terry Francona called last night's start by John Smoltz "a quality start."

And finally, my favorite sport got underway yesterday. The Florida Gators held their first training session of the year getting ready to defend their college football National Championship and have all the guns to repeat. I’m sure you know why I like the Gators. “Gator in Maine.” Get it?


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Finally! The lawn is mowed!

Senior Fitness should be interesting this morning. You may recall that I didn’t go Tuesday because I accompanied Gator Wife to an appointment. Then Tuesday’s humidity did a real number on the unexercised body. Even though we have our sessions only twice a week, I have learned that missing just one of those sessions can make the return a real chore.

So this morning I’ll head back to the physical therapy center’s gym where a group of us seniors put our bodies through various paces every Tuesday and Thursday. I don’t expect to increase anything; but if I just maintain what I did a week ago, I’ll be very satisfied.

My weather station has died. It stopped working over the weekend and I was sure that if I just changed the batteries, it would be a happy little device once again. It wasn’t. There are very explicit instructions on what to do to change the batteries and even more on what to do if the readings don’t return. I followed them all several times. I even resorted to starting from page one, the original setting up of the device. Nothing. All I get each time is a beep which says it’s working, and the blinking icons on both of my receivers tell me there’s activity. Only a flat line shows on the displays of both.

Both my receiver stations are indicating they’re trying to find a signal by their blinking icons so my educated guess is that the sending station has expired. I’ll miss my little weather station as both Gator Wife and I kept close track on the weather. It has become a habit. I’ve also used some of its readings to show what’s happening on the Gator Homestead. I guess they’ll end, too, since I have nothing to read.

I’ve been looking for a new one on the Internet, but the ones with all the functions I had and want are little more expensive than I want to pay. GW hopes I’ll find one as she already misses her station. She does a better job predicting the weather than the TV people.

Yesterday passed and I still haven’t found the weather station I want. It’s out there, somewhere, and I’ll find it soon. A national outdoor store in Scarborough has weather stations. I had planned to visit it yesterday to see if the “right” one were there.

Another chore demanded my attention, however, and it took precedent. After almost two weeks my foot high lawn finally got mowed. It was so tall, though, that it still hadn’t completely dried out and a combination of the bulk and wetness of the grass prevented me from using my bagging attachment.

Even as the hay lies there drying, the lawn looks much better than it did earlier in the day. Today isn’t forecast to be as warm as yesterday, but if that hay dries by early afternoon, I’ll be outside vacuuming it up. I’ll leave the mowing deck in the mowing position to also finish off some strips that didn’t come clean because of the piles of grass.

If all goes well, I’ll visit that outdoor store today. It will be my first trip there.

I’ve stayed away from the political stuff today. I’m not sure what else I can say about the national debt, the clunkers car program, health care, stimulus spending, etc. They’re all going to be disastrous. My own experience has taught me one undeniable truth: One cannot borrow oneself out of debt and into prosperity.

There’s also growing evidence that the American people are beginning to feel the pinch of what’s happening, too. The protests are growing louder and louder. Unfortunately, the critters in Congress have their minds made up and want to spend their way into elective oblivion. We’ll have to pay now, but their time will come, and then we’ll see how happy they are.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tolls, Taxes, Health Care

Some places could have a little shower or thundershower activity today, but this generally good week continues. This is the kind of week that folks who have rented a camp or camping area for a week or so really get lucky in getting. There have been precious few of these weeks this summer.

Gator Wife’s procedure went exactly as we hope all such procedures go for everyone. She’s good for another five years. As she said, that is a good sign when they tell a patient that the next appointment will be in five years. Sort of gives a little hope one will be around at least that long, doesn’t it?

While sitting in the waiting room yesterday for GW to complete her adventure, I got a chance to read the “New” Portland Press Herald, literally from cover to cover. It was a very small paper, but it had decent content. The actual news content was mostly that: news. It wasn’t laced with reporters’ personal feelings. I disagreed with the editorial page yesterday, but that’s OK. Opinion pieces and columns are clearly marked and we can accept or reject the opinions according to our own feelings and interpretations of the evidence.

One thing I read was a story about the Maine Turnpike Authority putting off its planned widening of the Pike from Scarborough to Falmouth. There’ll be no new interchanges, but feasibility studies for connectors to Gorham and Sanford will continue.

The most interesting part of the story was what I thought it didn’t say. The story pointed out that revenues are down on the Turnpike and blamed high gas prices and the recession. What it seemed to omit was a reference to recent toll increases. I’d suspect those increases might be playing a part in the reduced revenue. I know it is in my own situation. I now find alternate routes most of the time to avoid the increases. With nothing to back up my opinion, I’d bet others have done the same thing.

Tolls are sort of like taxes in raising money. Several government administrations since JFK have lowered taxes, at least for a while. In every case, government revenue increased substantially during that time. Our federal government is now spending money at record clips leading to what some administration officials say will bring a need for tax increases. Right now, the government’s revenue has declined dramatically.

Maine’s taxes have been going up steadily for the past several years. Maine is facing revenue shortfalls in the millions, yea a hundred million, of dollars. The state’s answer: raise taxes even though the governor says he won’t allow it. How many times has he said that before?

So, the MTA raises tolls on the Maine Turnpike and, predictably, revenues drop. But let’s blame high gas prices and the recession. That way we don’t have to look into our own practices. It’s always easier to blame something or someone else rather than admit that just perhaps we may have goofed.

I’ve written a lot about my feelings on the government’s creation of a universal health care system, even though the government denies it is a universal socialistic system. The bill itself sure does create doubt in the credibility of various statements from those government people, including the Congress Critters.

I’ve urged people who doubt what I say to read the bill themselves but haven’t given a clue where they can do that. So here is the place you can find it. Be fairly warned, it’s 1017 pages long. House Bill H.R. 3200.

You know one of the many places I read daily is the political forum As Maine Goes. There is a letter from one person, a Maine mother, that has experienced the evils of government health care personally. If you’d like to read one woman’s experiences, you can find it here on AMG.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Taking a vacation day

There are simply times when one’s mind doesn’t want to cooperate and put words together to form a writable thought. This is one of those times.

I’m busy this morning making sure my wife is as comfortable as possible and attending to her needs. They began yesterday afternoon, so I wasn’t in a writing mood then, either.

Therefore, the Old Gator Dude is taking a vacation day. I’ll try to get back into the groove tomorrow.


Monday, August 3, 2009

A Monday Ramble

I goofed this past weekend. I’d like to say miscalculated, or misled by the weather people, but I’m the one who “put off until tomorrow” what I should have done Saturday.

My lawn is almost ready for the sheep. I’d guess the grass is four to six inches or longer in places. I had planned to mow it during the weekend. The weather reports I saw said Saturday would be a gorgeous day, a little warm and humid but sunny. It was. Those same reports I thought said Sunday morning would be nice, too, with sunshine giving way to clouds later on and rain arriving late afternoon. I decided to mow Sunday morning.

I must have missed something. Sunday dawned cloud, drizzly, foggy, dank, just plain crummy. On my little piece of the earth it never changed. I think we got some very light showers during the day, too. My lawn didn’t get touched and it still needs me to go out, possibly this afternoon, to do the chore. That, too, may be postponed so I can be with Gator Wife as she goes through an uncomfortable experience.

You see, tomorrow she’s having a routine procedure so when she gets home from her part time job around noontime today, she’ll begin the evacuation routine preparing for tomorrow. I can’t do anything to help her except simply being at her side whenever she needs me. If you’ve never had one of these procedures, you don’t know that it’s not the highlight of a fun time.

It was interesting following the news over the weekend. President Obama alternately was praised and condemned for his “Beer Summit” and his “teachable moment.” The beer fest was held Thursday night and about all that came out of it was Police Sgt. Crowley and Harvard Professor Gates agreeing to disagree. They mentioned meeting again. The party was held because the police officer arrested the professor for misconduct as the officer was investigating a reported break in at the professor’s house.

The President got into the fray because he called the police department’s action stupid even though he said he didn’t know the facts.

I don’t know how much beer was drunk.

Is there no end to the runaway spending in Washington? Already deeper in debt than all previous administrations in history, the House has called for an additional two billion dollars for the “Cash for Clunkers” program. Actually, the House wants the money transferred from another stimulus program which makes one wonder if it were important in the first place.

“Cash for Clunkers” gives people up to $4500 to trade in old, inefficient cars for new ones which give improved gas mileage and less emission pollution. Congress had allocated one billion dollars for the program, but it ran out of money in the first week. Now there’s an effort to add another two billion so the program can continue. It also puts people deeper into debt to pay for those new cars.

There is a small possibility the Senate will not go along with the plan.

I saw a question asked somewhere that was interesting. How can we possibly expect the government to fix the health care costs without more huge debts since it couldn’t even run a good “Cash for Cars” program? Good question. The health care program is going to cost into the trillions of dollars and the care we receive will be terrible with long lines and selective care.

Doubt me? Read the proposed bill.

Lawmakers are now back in their districts to get the people to back them. The problem is, people are beginning to realize just how bad this health care legislation is. If numerous clips on “YouTube” are any indication, the congress critters are in for a rough time trying to defend another huge spending program they haven’t even read. The “YouTube” clips are showing a very disgruntled populace.

How many of you have noticed over the weekend that President Obama insiders are now talking openly about the need for tax increases to start paying back the money they’ve spent with no apparent plan to pay for it. Tax increase is, after all, the only Democratic solution to the problems they create.

And finally today, I applaud the Stand for Marriage Maine coalition for collecting more than 100-thousand signatures in a petition drive to force to referendum the question of marriage rights for gay couples. The Legislature passed and the governor signed a law changing the definition of marriage to include same sex couples. If the People’s Veto is successful in the November elections, that law will be overturned.

What pleases me is that all the people of Maine will be deciding if the concept of marriage should be changed. No matter how we feel about the law, it is one that should be decided by everyone and not just a special interest influenced legislature.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

A nice, easy weekend

The nice weather folk tell us this could be a pretty good weekend. The sun should break out and make Saturday a very good day. Around my part of Maine Sunday should be good, also, but there are showers forecast for places in northern Maine.

Gator Daughter and her dog will be here at least Saturday for lunch. I don’t know of any particular activities scheduled for this weekend, except the lawn is in dire need for a mowing. The pups will have a good time outside.

Gator Golden looks for her playmate.

I think I’ll just enjoy this weekend and whatever it brings. I hope you enjoy yours, too, and come back for another visit Monday morning.