Orange Crush

donald-trumpThere is no doubt in my mind that this blog post is going to cost me some friends.

In fact, it may cost me some other things too, but I can’t sit here and be silent.

I am watching as my country is gripped in fear. I am watching as politicians scream about safety. I am watching and listening to heated debates among my friends about the Paris terror attacks, the Syrian refugee crisis and the role of Muslims in the United States of America.

It is like a nightmare, and I wonder: has everyone forgotten their history?

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said philosopher George Santayana.


Most of us are too young to remember the horrors of WWII, when millions of Jewish refugees fled Germany during the rise of the Nazi Party.
Then, under the authority of the Third Reich, Jews were required to register with the government and to report their movements and whereabouts.
Eventually, Jews were rounded up and sent to prison camps. They were systematically executed during Hitler’s reign of terror.
How could this horror take place? What gave rise to the Nazis? How could Hitler lead an entire nation into a campaign of loathing that eventually turned into mass murder and one of the most significant atrocities in human history?
The answers are difficult to imagine, but it was an incremental process. Germany was reeling financially and on the brink of hyper-inflation fueled by crushing debt that stemmed from their obligations for reparations after World War I.
So, Germany’s economy was in rough shape. But beyond their terrible economy Germans were also concerned about the growing threat of communism in their country. They needed some scapegoats to blame this on.
Hitler came onto the political scene as a magnetic and charismatic speaker. He promised the German people safety and security. He had a stunning ability to whip up the masses with his rhetoric. He delivered scapegoats in the form of Jewish financiers who he blamed for the country’s economic woes.
Sound familiar?
The German people were complicit, either by their silence or by their support of Hitler and the Nazis.
Polls taken in 1938 and 1939 found that the majority of American citizens did not want the government to allow Jewish refugees from Europe to settle in the United States.
A couple of decades later, another gifted and charismatic speaker came onto the political scene; this time in the United States.
Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy led America through the “Red Scare” of the 1950s.
McCarthy spent nearly five years trying to expose communists and other left-wing “loyalty risks” in the U.S. government during the early 1950s, at the height of the Cold War against Russia.
Even mere insinuations of disloyalty by McCarthy were enough to convince many Americans that their government was packed with traitors and spies. McCarthy’s accusations were so intimidating that few people dared to speak out against him.
But Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith, a fellow Republican to McCarthy, did stand up to him with her Declaration of Conscience speech. One part of that speech that I find especially relevant today is this:
“The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny –Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.”


Donald Trump, so far the leading candidate for the GOP nomination in 2016, endorsed the idea for a database to collect information about Muslims living in the United States. At a campaign event in  Newton, Iowa, NBC asked [Trump] whether there should be a database to track Muslims. “There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems,” he said, according to The Atlantic. “We’re going to have to—we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We’re going to have to look at the mosques,” Trump added. “We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”

When challenged to explain how his policy ideas differed from those used in Nazi Germany, Trump’s only response was ” You tell me. You tell me.”

What scares the bejesus outta me is that Trump’s leading poll numbers surged again this morning, fewer than 24 hours after he refused to elaborate on how his policy idea differentiated from those used by the Nazis.

What scares me more?

So many of my friends really like Trump.

“He (Trump) says what I’m thinking, but what political correctness won’t allow me to say,” said one friend, adding that safety is the most important thing a politician can do for the nation.

But should we sacrifice liberty and American ideals for safety?

I always thought this was the land of the free and of the brave, not the land of bigotry and fear.

What was it that Ben Franklin said?

“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”



Je suis navré

eifelOver the last 24 hours, many of my Facebook friends changed their profile pictures with a backdrop of the French flag.

I did not.

I have no criticism for my friends who did this, I can only explain why I did not.

What happened in Paris last night was an outrage. Those were cowardly acts perpetrated by cowardly people. Of course, we should stand in solidarity with our fellow men, women and children in Paris. We want to show that we are united.  There is nothing wrong with that.

We are saddened. We are outraged. And yes, we are afraid that this form of terror will soon land again on own shores.

Paris was not the first attack coordinated by ISIS. The loose-knit terror organization has struck other nations, albeit not members of Western Civilization.

I did not change my Facebook profile when ISIS beheaded journalists. I did not change my Facebook profile when ISIS attacked a hotel in Tunisia. I did not change my Facebook profile when ISIS attacked a French Gas plant or when they attacked and killed people in Kobane or Hasakah in Syria; or in Libya or Egypt.

I was a newspaper editor when the 9-11 attacks on the United States took place. Shortly after those attacks, my publisher and I had a lengthy conversation about whether to place an American flag symbol on the top of the front page. Another local paper had made that move, but we decided not to. It was a difficult decision, but I think we both realized that we were dealing with raw emotion, rather than sound logic.

For example, how long would the flag symbol appear on the front page? Would it be like a Christmas tree, which should be taken down after six weeks? Were we suddenly becoming patriotic because we were attacked? Why didn’t we have the flag on the front page on September 10, 2001?

To us, it seemed like being exploitative in the days following a horrific attack on our nation.

As could have been predicted, that other newspaper stopped with printing the flag on their front page long before the end of the year.

Social media is different, however. I see nothing wrong with wanting to show solidarity. I see nothing wrong with wanting to affirm our common connection to the human experience, including its shock, grief and outrage.

I just fear that we are dealing with something so much larger than what we can comprehend; a force of evil that we cannot imagine.

Some say the United States is unable or unwilling to face this latest form of human terror. Some say we are complacent, self-absorbed and don’t have the will to fight any enemy like ISIS. Some even criticize western leaders like President Obama for being “weak” on terrorism.

To those people, I say you are wrong. The same things were said about America and her president on December 6, 1941. We proved the world wrong, if only reluctantly and waiting until we were attacked.

People have criticized Generation X, yet Armed Forces recruiting stations were filled in the days after Sept. 11, 2001.

America has what it takes to confront ISIS, but this will need to be much more than a social media campaign of altered Facebook profile pictures. This will need to be a worldwide effort, and it will require both resources and tremendous sacrifice.

I am not a foreign policy expert, and more than likely, neither are you. I do not know how to bring the world together on this issue, but I do know that it will require much more than symbolic gestures.

We stand with Paris. But we must also stand with Berlin, Tunisia, Prague, Beirut and people of every stripe across the globe, not just the ones who look like us.




Giving a voice to your adversary?

static1.squarespace.comImagine this: A plaintiff(s) has filed a civil lawsuit against you and they are seeking compensatory damages.

Now imagine allowing an organization that openly and staunchly supports these plaintiffs to attend a dinner party at your home.

Seems unfathomable, right?

Not necessarily in the city of Biddeford.

A few weeks ago, two plaintiffs jointly filed civil lawsuits against the city of Biddeford and other defendants. Read more here.

Stand Up 4 ME, a non-profit organization that vocally and rigorously supports these plaintiffs and other alleged victims of sexual abuse by two former police officers, was organized earlier this year, and now they want to make a formal, public presentation at the November 17 city council meeting.

To me, this seems like a stark conflict of interest. Consider the following:

According to its web site, Stand Up 4 ME is seeking public assistance and fundraising to augment further punitive action against the city:

Resources are needed right now for legal and investigative support to build an unquestionable case for federal and state officials to act in Biddeford,” reads a section of the web site.

Even more disturbing is the content of a November 6 e-mail that was sent from Stand Up 4 ME to several recipients including Biddeford’s mayor, the city manager, the city council president, one of the plaintiffs who is suing the city and the attorney who represents both of the plaintiffs that are suing the city.

The content of that e-mail is posted below. (Because it was sent to public officials and not an attorney-client correspondence it is a matter of public record) Bold emphasis added by me.

From: Melissa Bednarowski <<>>
Date: November 6, 2015 at 9:25:05 AM EST
To: Matt Lauzon <<>>
Cc: “Casavant, Alan” <<>>, “Bennett, James” <<>>, “McCurry, John” <<>>, “Beaupre, Roger” <<>>, “<>” <<>>
Subject: Fwd: FW: Following up

Good Morning Matt,

As you are aware, there is no governing body or entity thereof, in the City of Biddeford that has or will take responsibility for the supervision and/or management of the Biddeford Police Department. Because of this, Stand Up 4 ME conducted its own fact finding process to determine who was in fact responsible for following you on Twitter. It is without doubt that the user who followed you was Chief Roger Beaupre.

The city’s organizational chart contradicts the city’s charter in regards to the responsibility of the Chief and the Police Department. I therefore, suggest to you that you add the Twitter activity incident of September 3, 2015 and the blatant lack of accountability within the city to your evidence for your civil suit against Chief Beaupre and the City of Biddeford, exemplifying intimidation by the Chief and negligence of the City.

Stand Up 4 ME will have representation at the Charter Revision Committee meetings to communicate to the commission the importance of clearly defining the chain of command within the city structure. We cannot undo what has been done and we cannot force someone to apologize for their wrong doing, Stand Up 4 ME’s focus is and will remain to be stopping the behaviors and fixing the systems that perpetuate abuse.

We, as an organization, are empathetic to your situation and express our deepest concern for you as a victim, and leader, that has inspired our organizations mission to end the sexual abuse of Maine’s children. Our approach will be persistent, proper, and professional.  Our responses will be thoughtful and timely. If I can answer anything further for you, please contact me directly.

With Sincere Regards,

Melissa L. Bednarowski
Stand Up 4 ME
PO Box 51
Biddeford, ME 04005

What are the implications?

Let’s take a moment to summarize before moving further.

  1. An organization that is vocally supporting individuals who have filed lawsuits against the city of Biddeford now wants public air time at an upcoming city council meeting.
  2. This non-profit organization is seeking funding to continue investigations against the city.
  3. This non-profit organization has publicly stated in an e-mail that it “has representation” within an elected board of the city (Charter Commission).
  4. The organization’s president is advising a plaintiff about further action he can take against the city.
  5. The organization conducted an “investigation” of city officials.

There are more than just a few red flags here.

Under federal law, non-profit organizations that seek tax-exempt status (501c(3))are not supposed to engage in political activity. While it is unclear whether Stand Up 4 Me has filed for tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service — a process that can take several months — it does describe itself as a non-profit.

According to its web site, Stand Up 4 Me has so far raised more than $21,500.

Melissa Bednarowski is the president of Stand Up 4 Me.

Bednarowski, a former, one-term city councilor, lost her latest bid for elected office, finishing fourth in a five-way race for two at-large seat seats on the Biddeford City Council. (Disclosure: My wife, Laura Seaver, and incumbent Marc Lessard won those two seats in the Nov. 3 election)

Bednarowski, by her own words, wants political influence in city government. She also wants to be the president of a non-profit that has raised several thousand dollars in just the last few months to fight the city.

Based on her November 6 e-mail to city officials, it looks like the city is lucky that she lost her latest political bid.

It’s no coincidence that Bednarowski did not publicly talk about her investigation of the city until 72 hours after losing her campaign to represent the city.

Now, I have no problem if Bednarowski or anyone else wants to speak in front of the city council for 5 minutes during the “Public Addressing the Council” portion of the meeting.

But I have a serious problem if the city council allows Bednarowski aka Stand Up 4 Me to conduct a formal presentation regarding its organization at a city council meeting.

The conflict of interest here could not be any more clear.

Trick or Treat

DSCN1136Tempus fugit, the Romans would say.

Time flies.

Another Halloween is upon us, and once again I am reminded how quickly the days go by.

I miss those days of watching the boys assemble their costumes. I miss escorting them through our neighborhood in Old Orchard Beach as they collected sacks full of candy. The skies were dark, and the air was crisp.

I miss the hay rides, and watching them climb narrow ladders to pick apples at the orchard.

It seems like so long ago, and yet it feels like yesterday.

Our boys are now young adults. There will be no costumes or patrolling the neighborhood for candy. In fact, both boys have their own plans tonight; and even Laura won’t be home this evening.

So, I will carry on a tradition that I have done for the past 10 years or so. I will move our fire pit to the front yard; I will load a cooler of beverages and snacks; and invite some friends to join me to hand out treats to the neighborhood kids.

I will pass out candy and treats and take photos of the little ghosts, goblins, princesses and witches that stop by in search of candy.

I will relish the time spent with friends, and the magic of the evening while sitting by a warm fire.

But still, I will think back to the days that seemed to fly by so quickly.

The point?

Cherish the moment that is right in front of you. Don’t fret the future, it will come regardless. Do not count the days in anticipation because they will slip through your fingers and be lost forever. You never get those days back.

Whatever you’re doing tonight, whatever you plans . . . cherish the moment and have a safe and happy Halloween.

Down to the wire

DSCN4034I am so ready for this to be over. I have been counting the hours for the past two weeks.

As of this writing, we have 199 hours, four minutes and 54 seconds to go before the 2015 Biddeford Municipal Elections are over.

Nearly 200 hours before we know the results; nearly two hundred more hours of speculation about what will happen when the polls close.

We are down to the wire, with a little more than a week to go, and I can’t wait for it to be over.

Historically, fewer than 50 percent of Biddeford voters cast ballots in the municipal elections. The low point was two years ago when little more than 30 percent of registered voters opted to cast ballots.

The results of this year’s elections depend on how many people vote.

Just like the old days, slates of council and school committee members have lined up behind the two mayoral candidates. And this year, more than any other I can remember, has been especially vicious and vitriolic. You can blame the advent of social media if you want, but the sheer hatred and demagoguery goes well beyond the plethora of Facebook pages that have been created and then quickly deleted.

Most of these Facebook pages have been set up anonymously with the author unknown. When anyone attempts to post a contrary comment or different opinion, such posts are quickly deleted. These actions come from those who claim “transparency” and “accountability” is missing in local government. Yeah, right.

I have been covering Biddeford politics for nearly two decades, and I cannot remember a more nasty, vicious campaign cycle, replete with innuendo, rhetoric and half-truths, most of which is directed at Mayor Alan Casavant and some of which is directed at me.

Make no mistake: The driving force behind this campaign of hate and loathing is a man who has been working for several months to be a disruptor; a narcissistic malcontent with a penchant for slinging mud and hell-bent on destroying anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him.

The good news?

But there is some good news. Over the past few days, more and more community leaders (not elected officials) have been speaking up, calling out the anonymous coward whose sole purpose is to divide and spread hatred.

People like Joe LeBlond, a driving organizer of the city’s LaKermesse Festival; and Kenneth Farley, a past president of the Biddeford-Saco Rotary Club, have demonstrated courage and conviction in calling out this school-yard behavior, which is spurred on by a couple dozen of other malcontents.

I am increasingly optimistic that the voters of Biddeford will see through this cloud of smoke and mirrors. A vast majority of residents have had enough of the school-yard games.

A call for leadership

And I have more good news: the city’s two mayoral candidates (and most of the city council candidates) have stayed above the fray. Alan Casavant is hoping for a third term; and Daniel Parenteau is challenging him in the most professional manner. Parenteau has reached out to me privately to share his disgust and disdain for what some of his supporters have said and done to Casavant and to my family.

My only wish is that Parenteau would show real leadership and publicly admonish the tactics used by some of his supporters.

Where it gets personal

As I have previously detailed on these pages, the same narcissistic, juvenile prankster has gone after me and my family. He has threatened us with an “iron-clad” civil lawsuit; he has tried to get my wife fired from her job; he has made baseless, derogatory remarks about my son with fabricated tales of criminal activity. This man (and I use the term loosely) is a venomous leech with no moral compass or sense or self-control. This has been going for months. Read more here

You would think my family would retreat; that we would be intimidated or shy away from the public arena. Not quite.

My wife decided that the city needed other voices to step forward in this year’s election cycle. She asked my opinion about running for a seat on the city council; and I advised her against the idea.

“Why would you want to do that?” I asked. “We don’t need the aggravation. Serving on the council is an incredible time commitment. There is no money, no glory and it is a thankless job that only opens you to criticism. There are better uses for your time,” I reasoned.

But Laura was convinced, and called me later in the day to inform me that she had taken out nomination papers.

At that point, I was all in. I was going to support my wife’s decision 110 percent. I am a professional campaign consultant. I was suddenly in it to win it; and I watched my wife begin her campaign. She collected more signatures than she needed; she began raising money, designed her campaign signs and set up social media accounts. My advice was more often rebuked than accepted.

If there is one thing you should know about my wife, she is fiercely independent (and I would say stubborn). She began visiting various neighborhoods across the city, trekking alone and knocking on doors to meet residents and explain her campaign. She has been fearless and relentless.

It should be noted here that Laura’s four opponents (Marc Lessard, Doris McAuliffe, Joanne Twomey and Melissa Bednarowski) have run clean, honorable campaigns. There have been no smear tactics, just differences of opinion. The way it should be.

Two different perspectives

So, in 200 hours or so it will all be over. Laura is prepared and ready for a win or a loss. Regardless of the outcome, she is going to celebrate and breathe a sigh of relief. Although she is competitive, she is also relaxed and confident; comfortable in her own skin.

Me? Not so much. I am on pins and needles. I am fully vested in the outcome, but not just for Laura’s race: for all the races. I want to win. It’s part ego, and it’s part my competitive nature. I can admit that I don’t think I will handle a loss as graciously as Laura would in that event.

I want to win as a way to show the world that smear tactics and demagoguery don’t work.

I want to see Laura win because she is my wife. I want to see others win because they are my friends. I am tired of the innuendo, the hatred and the distortions by those (not most of the candidates) who have been invested in Biddeford’s future for less than 180 days.

I applaud Joe Leblond, Kenneth Farley and all the others who have taken a leadership position on social media and elsewhere.

Biddeford has many good leaders. It’s time for them to step up, too.

200 more hours; and I can’t wait for it to be over.

So proud of my wife

Running for elected office is not easy; not by a long shot.

But I am so proud of my wife; proud of her courage, her determination and her fiercely independent spirit.

It’s the two-week stretch, and no matter the outcome, I have enjoyed watching Laura grow and face her challenges head-on. She’ll make one hell of a city councilor.


Teacher, teacher

They say if you stand in one place long enough, the entire world will pass you by.

That’s how if feels at the Fryeburg Fair, where every single night I run into someone I know or someone I used to know.

Such was the case last night when I almost literally bumped into Peter Scontras and his wife at the fair.

Mr. Scontras was my eighth-grade English teacher at Saco Middle School, and despite my often asinine behavior in his class, he had a profound effect on my life that lingers to this very day.

Whatever failing can be found in my written words, it is certainly not the fault of Mr. Scontras. It’s more than likely that I was not paying close enough attention when he was talking about gerunds, split infinitives and serial commas.

Today, Mr. Scontras is happily retired, and he owns and operates one of the most interesting businesses in this area: The Way Way Store on Rte. 112 in Saco. If you have not been to the Way-Way store, you are missing out on adventure, a magical journey back in time.

I was surprised that Mr. Scontras would remember me.  I was even more surprised when he told me that he was a regular reader of this blog.

“You have a gift,” he said.

Words simply cannot describe how it felt to hear those words. (Example of a split infinitive).

A couple of nights ago, I posted on Facebook that I may have missed my calling. I speculated that I would enjoy teaching because I love interacting with kids at the fair.

Mr. Scontras replied to that post, reminding me that we are all teachers, and we all have lessons to share.

I come from a long line of teachers, and their students often tell me warm and fuzzy stories about the people I know as family.

My father was a teacher. He taught severely disabled students at the Cerebral Palsy Center. My grandfather was a teacher, teaching English and history at Biddeford High School. My grandmother was an elementary school teacher in Saco. Her former students invariably talk about Charlotte’s Web and E.B. White.

Today, my sister is a teacher, and she is married to a teacher. Thus, I am the proverbial black sheep in my family. I am not a teacher. But Mr. Scontras would argue that point. (Starting a sentence with a conjunction is a no-no, but is becoming common practice.)

Just the other day, one of my favorite teachers — Mrs. Loughlin (third-grade) — wrote on my Facebook page, telling me she was proud of me and my previous blog post. Her late husband, Tim Loughlin, was one of only two math teachers that I enjoyed. He had a special knack in connecting with students. Math was always tough for me, and his patience was limitless.

My late uncle, Leonard, was the director of student teaching at the University of Maine in Farmington.

He always told his students that you only need to two things to be a great teacher: 10 percent common sense, and 90 percent love of kids.

My uncle taught me more in one day than I learned during an entire year of high school. He did not teach me geometry, chemistry or how to memorize Whitman.

He taught me about hard work, honesty, compassion and generosity. Life lessons.

Sometimes I fail at those lessons, but the trick is to remain open to the learning process.

If you bump into a teacher, please do me a favor: say thank you.

My apologies in advance to Mr. Scontras for butchering the English language on a regular basis.