Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Can't we all just get along? No, seriously...

I've been gone for a bit, and with good reason.  With the weather warming, albeit just slightly, we've been trying to get the house presentable for the summer.  The gardens are cleaned out and ready for planting, assuming this rain ever stops, and I've been mowing in between downpours.  We've got our big, annual Memorial Day / my birthday party coming up in about a week and a half, so we are plugging away.  In addition to all that, I've got my name on the ballot for the Board of Selectmen in New Gloucester.  With this has come lots of meetings and reading, in an effort to prepare myself for the election in mid June.  As is fairly obvious, I'm pretty passionate about a variety of political issues, and I've expressed my opinion on a pretty regular basis.  Some people tend to think I'm extremely left wing, and I guess that may be true on some issues that I find very important.  However, I feel there are some issues that I'm very down the middle, and that is what brought me back to these pages today. 

There is a lot going on in politics, not just in Maine, but in the United States.  Budget talks are taking up most of the time, but many other subjects of interest are popping up every day.  Two of the bigger hot button issues in Maine over the past couple of weeks have been the health care overhaul that was just signed into law by Governor Paul LePage, and the defunding of Maine Public Broadcasting.  I'll start by discussing the health care overhaul, move on to MPBN, and then close with some over arching issues I have with people, at least the loudest ones.

The Obama administration, not all that long ago, signed into law a landmark piece of legislation regarding a health care overall for this country.  This has been hotly contested by those on the right as a "gigantic failure that was rammed down our throats without any input from Republicans".  First of all, this may be true, or, more likely, it's partially true.  It was done quickly, with very little input from Republicans, that much I agree with.  However, I think it is too early to tell if it is a gigantic failure.  Most of it hasn't even gone into affect yet.  That being said, I'm not encouraged by the growing number of companies that are being exempted from the plan.  However, I'm willing to give it time to be successful, or flop, before I pass too much judgement.  Now, in Maine, over the course of just a few days, Republicans have passed a landmark piece of legislation regarding a corresponding overhaul.  In much the same manner that was highly scrutinized when they did it in Washington, this was done with very little input, and very quickly.  First of all, I'm not sure why it was alright this time, but not the first time.  Again, I'm hearing very different stories from each side of the aisle, but I'm willing to wait until it is all up and running before I deem it good or bad for Mainers.  The idea of more companies offering insurance, competition if you will, sounds like a good idea, at least on paper.  I do fear that people in rural areas will be adversely affected by this, and with Maine being so large and spread out, that could be very bad.  Either way, let's all wait and see what happens before passing too much judgement.

The other item being discussed all over the state is the defunding of MPBN.  The idea of this bothers me for several reasons.  Governor LePage wants to stop the $2 million a year payment to subsidize MPBN in an attempt to balance the budget.  The $2 million represents 20% of MPBN's overall budget.  This change would not make MPBN cease to exist, but lets look at the facts.  By Federal law, MPBN is not allowed to have advertisers in the same way private radio stations are.  They are allowed to have support in the form of "underwriters".  Therefore, you aren't going to have a flood of small business owners looking to throw money at them, since they won't get the same bang for their buck as the do on private television and radio.  Another thing about this that bothers me is that it was framed as "we either need to stop funding MPBN or get rid of the Clean Elections".  This is silly and untrue.  In a $6.1 BILLION budget, $2 million is nothing, it's a drop in a bucket.  This money could easily be made up by, gasp, not giving tax breaks, or even just giving a smaller tax break.  I think that this is another freshman Republican governor going after public broadcasting, which we have seen in other states, and nationally in the past 6 months or so.  I'm hopeful that Governor LePage reconsiders this, but I don't expect him too.  I would hate to see any of the programming change at MPBN.  My daughter enjoyed a number of the programs when she was younger, and the High School Basketball Tournament coverage is incredible, not to mention the many great programs on the radio station that I listen to every day, from Maine Things Considered to Car Talk on Saturday mornings.

My last point today is about people that comment on stories posted on the Portland Press Herald, and other online editions of local newspapers.  You people, for the most part, are vile.  This doesn't mean everyone that comments, as there do appear to be some level headed folks out there.  However, there are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle that have lost their collective minds.  I'd like to offer some advice to right wing commenters, if any of you are listening.  If you thing that the Portland Press Herald is so biased and unreadable, simply stop reading and move on with your lives.  I would also like to mention that when Governor LePage does something negative, it isn't the PPH spinning it to fit their narrative, it is actually that the governor did something negative.  Also, you don't always have to defend him, nobody is going to think less of you.  Now, for the folks on the left, I am not letting you off the hook.  Please stop crying racism any time you don't agree, it's not a one size fits all thing.  I know that we are bummed that LePage won the election, but we are stuck with him for 4 years.  Let's practice a little patience and do the right thing in the next election cycle.  Now, a note to both sides.  Please, do me, you and everyone else a favor, and stick to the topic.  You spend half of your energy, and apparently your day (at least with some frequent posters), ripping on each other.  Please stop using the words socialist and moonbat.  Please stop accusing fellow posters of not working, since you are all spending half of your day commenting.  I know, deep down, you are all better than that.

Ultimately, I would love to see people try on a little civility, just to see how it fits.  On Monday night, Nichole and I watched Jon Stewart on the O'Reilly Factor on Fox News.  Jon and Bill were debating the invite of rapper Common to the White House for a poetry reading event.  They had a nice, civil debate on the subject.  I would like to see more of this sort of thing.  Too often on these "news" shows invite only people that agree with them, but it's nice to see a good back and forth, allowing equal time to both sides of a particular issue.  Heck, that is one of the reasons I so love to talk about politics on this blog, knowing it will spark some back and forth with some people.  I'm not expecting everyone to agree with me, that isn't possible.  I mean, I wish everyone did, but seeing different answers to these situations helps the world go around, and I'm hopeful that we can some day tone down the hate and the anger to those that disagree with us.  At the end of the day, we all want a better state, country and ultimately, world.  Let's all come to the table and offer something positive to the debate about how to get there.  I'm just saying...