Snow Pool

Feb. 28. 2015

Feb. 28. 2015

Tired of winter? Ready for some fun? Want to make some money?

Well, get into the Snow Pool!

Here’s how it works. You put $3 into a community pool. You then send me an e-mail with your guess about when all the snow in this snow bank will be completely gone. We must see dirt and grass with absolutely no snow.

The person (or persons) who come closest to the date will share all the money collected in the pool.

I will post frequent photo updates of the snow bank, but all entries must be received no later than March 15, 2015.

To get into the fun, click here to go to the DONATE page and click on the “Donate” icon. Make your donation of $3, and then send me an e-mail to randyseaver01@gmail.com with your best guess about the date when this snow bank will be gone for good.

I will track the responses and provide regular updates about the pool amount.

Good luck, and let’s have some fun while we wait for winter to finally take a hike. Think Spring!

(Hints: There is a crab-apple tree buried in this snow bank. The snowbank sits on the northeast corner of my yard in Biddeford, Maine)

RULES:

  • All participants must be 18 years-old or older
  • Void where prohibited
  • One guess per entry
  • Snow must be removed by natural causes (temperature, wind, etc.)

 

Biddeford Council: Old White Guys

Roger Hurtubise

Roger Hurtubise

Critics of the Republican Party often say the GOP is the party of old, white men: a diminishing demographic  in a nation with increasing diversity.

Although I am hesitant to generalize the Republican Party, I can say with confidence that the Biddeford City Council is more white than the Academy Awards or the snow that is piled six-feet high in my front yard.

Furthermore, the council is completely dominated by testosterone-driven men.

You would be hard-pressed to say that the current council truly represents a city that is one of the most diverse communities in southern Maine.

Clement Fleurent

Clement Fleurent

A couple of weeks ago, City Councilor Brad Cote abruptly resigned from the good ol’ boys club.

Thus, Mayor Alan Casavant (another old, white guy) now has a unique opportunity to help diversify the council. By mid-March, Casavant is expected to nominate a replacement for Cote.

From there, the old, white guys on the city council will vote on whether to approve or reject Casavant’s nomination.

Casavant is limited. He must pick a replacement from Ward 3, one of the city’s more affluent neighborhoods (although it has nothing on Ward One, which includes Biddeford Pool and Fortunes Rocks).

John McCurry

John McCurry

But there are plenty of qualified women residing in Ward Three. Off the top of my head, I think of Bonnie Pothier, a former mayor. That said, Casavant told me Pothier has work commitments that preclude her from serving.

Or how about Carrie Varney Pelletier, an outspoken conservative who does not hesitate to offer her views on social media?

Or maybe Valerie Pelletier, who previously served on the airport commission and like Cote had misgivings about the airport?

The point is that the current council could benefit from a woman’s perspective. Women tend to see challenges from a more global viewpoint versus the linear approach of their male counterparts.

There are many fine women in Biddeford (I know because I’m married to one).

The trick for Casavant is finding one who lives in Ward Three and wouldn’t mind spending a lot of time with a lot of old white men.

Signed me,

Another old white guy.

The “fairness” doctrine

protestLately, it seems, American culture and politics are increasingly focused on fairness and equality. We have attempted during the last decade to create several new individual “rights.” The right to healthcare, the right to faster internet speeds, income equality and a whole bunch of other rights that are intended to level the playing field.

I call these “feel good” rights because too often we ignore the fundamental fact that most of these “feel good rights” require the transfer of goods or services from one party to another, but they do make us feel better: more noble, generous and kind.

By contrast, an actual right, such as the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, are universal in nature. They are endowed by our creator (whatever form that takes for you) and they are enforced by law.  Real rights are not created by government, rather merely recognized as an inherent obligation of government.

Life is not fair

In 1978, Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, M.D. published a groundbreaking book that set the bar for so-called self-help books that would follow. The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth became a bestseller published all over the globe.

I found the opening line of that book jarring in its brutal honesty. Peck’s book begins with the statement “Life is difficult.” From there, he goes into great detail talking about the four major disciplines he saw as a path from mental and spiritual illness toward mental and spiritual health.

No matter what we wish, no matter what we desire, we cannot escape the fact that Peck’s assertion is succinctly and brilliantly accurate: Life is difficult. But I would add to that.

Life is not fair.

In fact, life is only fair in fairy tales. But in reality, life is a crap shoot. There are winners and losers. Is it fair that one person is diagnosed with cancer and another is not? Is it fair that one person loses a limb and another does not? Is it fair that one person is born into royalty and another was born into poverty with alcoholic and abusive parents? Of course not.

While we all certainly make our fair share of stupid decisions that carry with them consequences, there are many other things  life throws at us that are not only difficult but patently unfair. These things are most often unavoidable and beyond our control.

It is not the appropriate role of government to make life fair. That is an impossible task that would bankrupt any nation.

But what about equality?

All things being equal

By definition, equality is another fruitless task because true equality is impossible. Unlike the concept of fairness, however, government does have an appropriate role to play in the sphere of equality.

Our Constitution declares that all men (people) are created equal under the law. Think about this for a moment. Our founding fathers knew that life was not fair and that is impossible for all men to be born equally, but under the law, every citizen is the same, regardless of their differences.

As I pointed out above, the reality of true equality is a stretch. According to my dictionary, equal (as an adjective) is defined as “being the same in quantity, size, degree, or value.”

If I weigh more than you, we are not equal. If I am taller than you, we are not equal. If you have hair, and I do not, we are not equal. You get the point.

However, when we look at equal as a noun, it is described as follows: “a person or thing considered to be the same as another in status or quality.”

Our system of laws is not perfect. OJ Simpson could still afford a better defense attorney than me. While we are both equal under the law in that we are entitled to a defense, we are certainly not equal.

By the order of natural law, true equality is virtually non-existent.

Remember the words of George Orwell in the book Animal Farm? Some animals are more equal than other animals. I know it may seem unfair, but it is true.

Tom Brady and I are never going to be true “equals.”

If we are going to have a rational discussion about fairness or equality, we must recognize that government simply cannot make something fair or equal.

What we can do, however, is treat each other as equals, despite our inherent inequality.

But no matter how many laws we create; no matter how many taxes we raise, life will always be unfair. And it will always be difficult.

 

 

 

 

 

Why I am a Republican

Republicanlogo_svgFrom time to time, my friends on the other side of the political aisle ask me why I choose to be a registered Republican.

As the 114th Congress begins to ramp up, and because the debate between “true conservatives” and “mainstream moderates’ in the Republican Party once again manifested itself during the selection of House Speaker John Boehner a few days ago, I thought this would be a good time to explain why I am a Republican.

My friends in the Democratic Party do not understand my political preference. Republicans, they say, favor corporate interest over the individual. Republicans, they say, are opposed to marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose.

Because I am a moderate who supports both marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose, some of my friends (on both sides of the political aisle) wonder why I would choose to be a member of the Grand Old Party (GOP).

Before we proceed, please note that this post is entitled: Why I am a Republican, not why you should be a Republican.

It should also be noted that I do not speak for my party, and I acknowledge that my views often cause other Republicans to label me as a RINO (Republican In Name Only).

Maybe it’s because I am stubborn, or maybe it’s because I am a born contrarian, but I really think my allegiance to the Republican Party (although at times embarrassing) has to do with some fundamental core differences between Republicans and Democrats.

I am also emboldened by the statements and core beliefs of President Ronald Reagan that “there is room in our tent for many views.”

Generally speaking, Republicans believe that each person is responsible for his or her own place in society, while Democrats believe it is the responsibility of government to care for all individuals, even if it means giving up some individual rights.

Generally speaking, Democrats favor the centralization of power in Washington, D.C., while Republicans hold dear the 10th Amendment, which calls for limited federal authority and rights not specified in the Constitution be reserved for the states.

On these two core values, I strongly side with the GOP. While I believe some measure of federal regulation, whether it’s the FAA or even meat inspectors at the FDA, is absolutely necessary for the common good, I also believe in the virtue of a limited federal government and the decentralization of power.

In a true Democracy, the majority trumps the minority. In a Constitutional republic, the rights of the individual, even in the minority, cannot be trumped by the majority. In the United States, we adhere a to a delicate balance between these two types of government. (The latter being intended to thwart tyranny, which can include government overreach.)

The case for and against the GOP

Of course, there are times when I find myself at odds with my own party, but after reviewing the 2014 Maine GOP Party platform, it became quickly evident that I more often side with Republicans than Democrats.

For example, one tenet of the Maine GOP platform addresses immigration, saying we “Support the assimilation of legal immigrants into Maine society.”

Another: “The profits of an individual’s efforts and accumulation of private property belong to the individual.”

More:  “Implement a comprehensive energy policy that removes government obstacles and reduces the cost of energy for Maine families and businesses.”

“Welfare is a safety-net for Maine’s most vulnerable”

“Parents – not government – are most capable and responsible to make decisions in the best interest of their minor children, including medical, disciplinary and educational decision.”

There are many others, and you can read the full text here.

Although I agree with the majority of the Maine GOP’s platform, there some key places where we part ways, including language regarding abortion, the definition of marriage and calling for the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act, among a few others.

The case for and against Democrats

In fairness, I also reviewed the Maine Democratic Party’s 2014 platform.  2014 MDP Platform

I found myself at odds with a majority of the tenets contained in that platform, including the nice-sounding but ill-advised “livable wage,” and increasing the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage does not, in my opinion, “lift people out of poverty” rather it simply adjusts the height of the floor and removes incentive to advance.

The Maine Democratic Party believes that health care is a “fundamental human right.’ this logic is flawed because a “right” is not something that must be provided by obligation from another person or entity. “Rights” do not come with costs, and someone has to be paid to provide healthcare, whether it’s skilled nursing, facilities or medical equipment. For more of my thoughts on this topic, go here.

Democrats also support the ill-advised concept of so-called “net neutrality,” as if the government needs to be involved in regulating the internet. For more of my thoughts on this topic, go here.

The Maine Democratic Party opposes tort reform, a giant gift to trial lawyers and a sure-fire way to drive up costs in the private sector.

The Democrats also favor increasing the number of terms that a legislator can serve. Frankly, I think eight years is plenty and we don’t need professional politicians in Augusta.

The opposing party also opposes the Keystone XL pipeline, a project I vigorously support. (Pipelines are much safer than trains; and that oil will be shipped one way or another)

The Democrats also believe that a greater portion of tax revenues should come from the income tax, calling sales taxes regressive. I believe the exact opposite.

Democrats believe it is “appropriate to impose higher taxes on sin taxes. I smoke cigarettes and drink beer. Enough said.

Among many other things, Democrats believe that government pensions should be exempt from income taxes. As the spouse of a government worker, I concede that my opposition to this is not self-serving. Then again, I think we should all strive to be a bit less “self-serving.”

Now, I do find myself in agreement with many of the Democrats core principles, but I am also wary of the feel-good language and the dangers of good intentions. Democrats support workplace safety, a strong education system, marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose.

So, in the end there are inherent strengths and weaknesses in each party.

But when I do the math, it turn out that I am a Republican, even if in name only.

 

 

 

 

 

Ginger or Mary Ann?

Gilligan's Island (US TV Series)It’s become an age-old question: Ginger or Mary Ann?

And more often than not, men between the ages of 40 and 60 do not hesitate with their response.

With the passing yesterday of Donna Douglas (Elly Mae Clampett), I once again started thinking about the television shows of my youth. And more than any other popular show of that genre (The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, The Beverly Hillbillies or Room 222), Gilligan’s Island has achieved iconic status in the world of pop culture and recently celebrated its 50th birthday.

Gilligan’s Island ran between 1964 and 1967 on the CBS network.

We all know the plot and the premise of Gilligan’s Island, but let’s save the critiques for later.

Mary Ann (Dawn Wells)

Mary Ann (Dawn Wells)

Of the two single women stranded on the tropical island (Mrs. Howell was taken), if you put farm girl Mary Ann Summers up against Hollywood movie starlet Ginger Grant, Mary Ann almost invariably trumps her much more curvaceous, sexpot co-star, among both men and women.

Why?

I’m not entirely sure, but I have a theory.

It’s because Mary Ann was the essence of innocence. She was nurturing (forever making coconut cream pies for her fellow islanders) She was modest, honest and just a little bit sassy.

On the other hand, Ginger was narcissistic, insecure and rather one-dimensional.

Men, more often than not, choose Mary Ann because of deeper instincts than sexual desire. Would you want Ginger to be the mother of your children? Would Ginger nurture you when you were sick with island fever? Probably not.

Men may choose Ginger for a night, but Mary Ann was a keeper.

Women choose Mary Ann, I think, because she embodies a better reality about women. Women are tired of the images of female body perfection that has been forced on them through media for generations.

But let’s not dance around the also obvious.

Mary Ann was smoking hot in her own right. Her shorts were always short and tight. She may have worn a farm girl’s checkered shirt, but even in the early 1960s, Mary Ann was not afraid to expose her midriff, tying that symbolic shirt of innocence around her waist.

That’s my theory about why Mary Ann trumps Ginger, despite the latter’s overt sex appeal.

In the end, virtue always wins, and Mary Ann managed to stay on the right side of that line for three years, and in our minds for 50 years thereafter.

I close by asking you to take a simple poll: Ginger or Mary Ann?

 

Looking ahead: 2015

What's ahead for 2015?

What’s ahead for 2015?

Will the Patriots win the Superbowl? Will racial tensions in the United States escalate? Will the economy boom or bust? What stories will dominate news headlines in 2015?

Every year, I ask my friends to make predictions about what will transpire in the coming year. Their answers are often funny, sometimes insightful and always appreciated.

In reviewing last year’s predictions for 2014, my friend Bob Mentzinger offered the most accurate predictions.

Although Mentzinger inaccurately predicted that George Zimmerman will kill again (Strike One), he was one of only two friends who predicted that Maine Governor Paul LePage would be re-elected. He also opined that the Carolina Panthers will win the Super Bowl, and that it will snow through April (Two more strikes) but he accurately predicted that the Dow would hit 18,000 in 2014.

So what do my friends have to say about 2015?

My friend Bob Meyers offered a dire prediction related to last year’s bear hunting referendum:

“The last of the polar ice cap will finally melt off and the resuling rise in sea levels will flood the major cities along the East Coast. Some polar bears will manage to swim to high ground in Maine where biologists will discover to their horror that they don’t like donuts.”

My friend Gina Hamilton focused her prognostication skills on international events:

 “It will come out in February, after Russia rises up and overthrows Vladamir Putin, that the U.S. was in cahoots with the Saudis and Kuwaitis to drive down oil prices to harm Russia’s economy. The side effect, harming U.S. oil interests, was somehow not considered.”

My friend Val Brikates Kennedy offered two predictions:

“1.We’ll find out that Lindsay Lohan is the real Sony hacker because she’s still pissed that James Franco won’t admit he had sex with her. 2. Bruce Jenner becomes Brenda Jenner.”

My friend Daniel Parenteau was a bit more somber with his predictions:

 “1. The FCC will block the Comcast / Time Warner merger and approve the AT&T / DIRECTV deal. Both events will set sizeable rate hikes in motion as a growing number of Cord-Cutters will embrace both over-the-air and webstreaming as their news and entertainment sources.

“2. The GDP will top and stay at 3+ percent while unemployment continues its downward trend to 5 percent. Wages will realize very modest gains across the board and the Fed will raise interest rates as the Dollar remains strong. China’s economy will continue to slow and Russia is in real trouble both economically and militarily – expect a stronger Russian/Chinese Alliance and strategy that will challenge the West.

“3. Locally, Biddeford’s economic landscape will grow in 2015 with the development of commercial properties and business, but there will be an infusion of small businesses that will feature specialty goods and services that will draw consumers regionally. The city will continue to grow as a food mecca that will be a heavy draw. Some guy I know may even try his hand at bringing an eaterie featuring some of his historical and cultural heritage to the mix. 2015 will be an epic year!”

My friend Gary Aldrich offered an even more somber prediction for 2015:

“We will lose one of the former Presidents this year…either Carter or the elder Bush….will bring the country together briefly for this moment.”

My friend John Day let his political leanings show with his predictions for 2015:

“The US Supreme Court will throw Obamacare into turmoil by ruling that federal tax subsidies in state exchanges are unconstitutional and the High Court fires another cannon ball across Obama’s bow by agreeing to take up the law suit filed by 22 states claiming Obama’s executive memorandum granting amnesty to 5 million illegals overstepped presidential powers.”

And finally, last year’s winner, Bob Mentzinger, took another stab at making predictions for the year ahead:

“1) Dow 19,000; Obama still “socialist”
2) China’s real estate bubble pops; oil goes to $40
3) House GOP drafts articles of impeachment
4) Bernie Sanders into presidential race as an independent
5) Major U.S. power grid or other infrastructure (bridge, e.g.) failure
6) Warmest year on record.”

But what about my predictions?

1.)  I will go out on a limb and say that the following individuals will all announce that they will seek the presidency: Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

2.) I predict the Denver Broncos will win the Superbowl; and sadly,

3.) I predict that racial tensions will continue to escalate as the gap of income disparity continues to widen, despite record market gains.

 

So, there you have it. It looks like 2015 will be an interesting and offbeat year. Happy New Year to you and yours, and may the coming year bring you good health, joy and prosperity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Tis the Season

Another Christmas is right around the corner, and this holiday feels different from so many others that have come and gone.

I suspect some of you may be feeling the same way, considering the stress that too often accompanies the holiday season.

christmas-tree1I’m not sure why I am having a harder time getting into the spirit of the season this year. The awful part of this is that there is no good reason for my absence of holiday cheer. I am incredibly blessed; more than I should be.

I have a loving, beautiful and supportive wife (Don’t ask me how I pulled this off, because I have no clue).

I have two healthy, wonderful step children, a beautiful home, modern appliances and a good job with benefits, funny co-workers and a flexible boss.

I have two dogs that love me unconditionally and two cats that keep me on my toes.

I have an extended family that is more supportive than dysfunctional. Heck, I even have new tires on my truck, not to mention access to health care and a set of tools that I don’t know how to use.

So, why shouldn’t I feel jolly and bright as this holiday approaches? What has me feeling cynical and ready to scream, “Bah Humbug” at random strangers?

Maybe, just maybe, I have too much. Maybe, just maybe, I have forgotten why we celebrate this holiday.

This realization came to me as I began to reflect on Christmases past; on Christmas celebrations that did not come with so many expectations of the so-called perfect holiday.

As I contemplated these ghosts of Christmases past, it occurred to me that two particular Christmas holidays stood out as my favorites.

1.) Homefries with paprika

It was the Christmas of 1997, and I was 33 years old, virtually unemployed and living with three roommates on the third-floor of a Munjoy Hill apartment in Portland that was much closer to the bottom of the hill. I did not own a car, nor did I have a girlfriend.

I was, in every sense of the word, a loser.  At least, that was my opinion of myself back then.

These aforementioned roommates of mine were unruly slobs who liked to drink, stay up late and delighted in terrorizing my cat. They were lovable guys, actually; but it grew wearisome picking up after them and tolerating their frat-boy behaviors. On the other hand, they were covering my portion of the rent. So, there’s that.

Luckily, my three roommates were all headed to their respective homes for the holidays, and I was not. To me, this was the ultimate Christmas gift: I would have the entire apartment all to myself for a few days. I spent almost an entire day cleaning the place, lit some candles and then planned what I would do on my solitary Christmas.

Only a few weeks before, my sister gave birth to my oldest niece, Kaitlyn.  I had a little more than $20 in my pocket, so my Christmas shopping was going to be limited. So, on December 24, I trudged down Congress Street and stopped at the CVS store. I bought a rather inexpensive frame and some parchment paper; and then trudged down the hill toward the Hannaford store, where I bought a thick ham-steak, half-dozen eggs and some egg nog before heading home.

I loaded my word-processor with the parchment paper and drafted a poem for my niece; a poem to celebrate her first Christmas. Satisfied with the third version, I placed it in the frame and wrapped it.

I opted to attend Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and by the time I walked back home, a quiet peace and serenity enveloped me. I was exhausted, but content.

I fell asleep reading Ben Bradlee’s autobiography and awoke on Christmas morning happier than I could recall. I boiled some potatoes, setting them in a skillet with globs of butter, chopped onions and doused with paprika. In a separate skillet, I fried that ham-steak, while working to scramble some eggs and coordinate the timing of my toast.

It was a kick-ass breakfast that I washed down with a quart of egg-nog. I fell asleep again in front of the television, with my cat curled on my chest.

I had not only survived a solitary Christmas; I relished it.

2.) Reindeer tracks

It was the  Christmas of 2001. A few weeks prior, I met Laura Kidman and we began dating on a regular basis. She owned a small home in Old Orchard Beach and had two young sons that I had met just a couple of weeks before Christmas. I was the editor of a small, local newspaper. I drove a 1993 Ford Escort wagon with a really bad exhaust,

Between us, Laura and I did not have two nickels to spare, but I remember how warm and cozy her house felt when she invited me over on Christmas Eve. Looking back, the “cozy” feeling probably had something to do with the house being 550-square-feet.

The boys were still young enough to believe in Santa Claus. Tim was six, and Matt was four. I bought them each several presents, which were wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree after they went to bed. Laura’s sister had helped me pick out a necklace, which I would give to my future wife on Christmas morning. But as midnight, approached, I opted to give Laura a more significant gift.

A few years earlier, my mother had given me the Nativity set that I had grown up with. From that Nativity set, I removed the Joseph figurine and wrapped it carefully. When I gave Laura that gift, I explained that I would do my best to match Joseph’s love for a child that was not his own.

Before driving home, I went out to the front porch and leaned over with a broom to create reindeer tracks in the snow.

I went back to Laura’s home on Christmas morning to watch the kids open their presents and to point out that the reindeer had landed in the front yard. They believed it for a little while, but were relentless in interrogating me about it. It was a magical day, and I felt as if I had truly turned some kind of corner that could never be reversed.

Neither of these stories are intended to diminish the wonderful and magical Christmases of my youth. My parents outdid themselves at Christmas. We decorated the tree as a family, listening to Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis sing about the magic of the season. There was always, and I mean always, a giant orange tucked in the bottom of our stockings; my sister and I were often given matching pajamas on Christmas eve. We each had our favorite ornaments to hang on the tree. Fond memories, that must adapt to changing realities.

And what I realized today is that the more I have; the more comfortable I am, the more the magic and splendor of Christmas escapes me.

Because Christmas is not about stuff, credit-card balances, news headlines or any of the other things that can weigh us down throughout the rest of the year.

Christmas is a reprieve for those who choose to accept it.

No matter where you are, no matter your circumstance or fortune, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas