Shiny, happy people

The 19th Century French novelist Romain Rolland once opined that “we are reckless in our use of the lovely word, friend.”  Nowhere is that more true than on Facebook and other social media platforms.

As an example, as of today, I have 1,202 “friends” on Facebook. Really? Do I have more than a thousand people who would loan me $20, help me with a home repair project or drive me to and from a doctor’s appointment?

Probably not. Because when you look deeper into my life you will see that I am actually blessed with close to 20 real friends. These people do not judge me, but will also share their honest opinions if asked.

In a few weeks, one of my real friends will get out of bed at 6 a.m. in order to pick me up at my home, drive me to Sanford for an ECT treatment and wait roughly two hours before he can drive me home with zero compensation. Now, that is a friend.

What about all those other “friends” on social media? Well, for starters, they are better described as contacts in a very large and fluid Rolodex.

Sure, social media can be fun, interesting and sometimes informative, but it’s important to remember that, for the most part, you are looking through a carefully controlled lens as you scroll through the posts on your social media page. Few of us would go to the grocery store wearing only our underwear. (Some things are best left to the imagination.)

When you see a friend’s post on social media, more often than not you are seeing only what they want you to see: their happy family, pictures of their vacation or beloved pets, etc.  What you rarely, if ever, see, is someone posting that they will need to file bankruptcy or facing divorce because of infidelity.

Instead, you are seeing only the beautiful posts, which can lead to feelings of envy and inferiority, especially among young people.

Teenage Wasteland

According to studies by the Pew Research Center and the Mayo Clinic, teenagers’ use of social media “allows teens to create online identities, communicate with others and build social networks. These networks can provide teens with valuable support, especially helping those who experience exclusion or have disabilities or chronic illnesses.”

“But social media use can also negatively affect teens, according to the 2018 study. Social media can distract them, disrupt their sleep, and expose them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people’s lives and peer pressure.”

The risks might be related to how much social media teens use. A 2019 study of more than 6,500 12- to 15-year-olds in the U.S. found that those who spent more than three hours a day using social media might be at heightened risk for mental health problems. Another 2019 study of more than 12,000 13- to 16-year-olds in England found that using social media more than three times a day predicted poor mental health and well-being in teens.

Other studies also have observed links between high levels of social media use and depression or anxiety symptoms.

As a strategic communications consultant, I can tell you that maintaining your own online reputation is very important. Nothing is ever truly “erased” on the Web. Businesses and political campaigns need to be fully aware and consent to everything they post in the digital town square.

Remember: it is often better to just scroll on by posts that seem like “click-bait,” otherwise choose your words and images carefully. Because, whether you like it, people will judge you by the words you use.

Originally published on the Saco Bay News website.

Gimme Shelter

There is no question that downtown Biddeford is going through a renaissance. From a run-down and neglected corridor of assorted and vacant mill buildings to one of the most desirable places for young people to live in southern Maine.

Suddenly, without warning, downtown Biddeford became hip.

Today, long-since abandoned textile mills in the downtown area have been redeveloped into high end housing stock, surrounded by small and eclectic restaurants, shops, a parking garage and a proposed downtown hotel with a rooftop pool.

How did this happen? And are there any drawbacks to this fast-paced revitalization of the city’s core: The Heart of Biddeford?

Let’s begin with the factors that began a little more than 10 years ago.

A group of citizens from both Biddeford and Saco became activists and they began pushing city leaders to close the controversial MERC facility, a downtown trash incinerator that served several surrounding communities but left its putrid stench in downtown Biddeford.

It took vision to close that plant because it was one of the city’s biggest taxpayers. That vision came into focus when Alan Casavant was elected to his first term as the city’s mayor.

Casavant pledged to close the plant and he won his first term by a healthy margin over incumbent Joanne Twomey, who said closing MERC would likely never happen and focused her attention instead on developing a racino on the outskirts of town.

(Disclosure) I was Casavant’s campaign manager.

Although closing MERC was likely the impetus of Biddeford’s revitalization, there were many other factors taking place.

First, rising real estate and rental values in Portland forced many residents to seek more affordable housing elsewhere. They could keep their Portland-based jobs with only a 20-minute commute from Biddeford.

Real estate developers saw a golden opportunity, and they began investing in neglected and crumbling mill buildings. More than a century ago, young workers from away flocked to Biddeford in search of jobs in the city’s textile and shoe mills.

Today, it is young renters and home-buyers flocking to Biddeford. For those already living in the downtown area, rental costs began to soar, forcing them out of the city to places like Sanford and Westbrook.

A classic example of gentrification.

Our house, in the middle of our street

Rising real-estate values have also had a significant effect on homeowners who have seen their property values climb at a phenomenal pace.

For example, Laura and I purchased a modest, working-class home not far away from the downtown area. Our neighborhood was created for the hundreds of baby-boomers returning from WWII and raising families.

We purchased this home in 2004. Today, based on real-estate comps in our neighborhood, our home has more than doubled in value. Yes, we made several improvements but not enough to explain such a dramatic increase.

Today, it is almost impossible for first-time homebuyers to find an affordable home for working-class families.

All of this may explain why there has been a lot of chatter on social media about establishing the concept of “rent-control” in Biddeford.

Let me be clear. Rent-control is a bad idea. Fostering the development of affordable housing, however, is a good idea. Relinquishing more power to government will likely stagnate growth and hinder new opportunities and investments.

While many people blame city leaders for the problem, their frustration is understandable but misplaced. Late last year, the city of Biddeford tackled the subject of affordable housing. Over the next five years, the city will work toward a goal of creating at least 90 units of affordable housing per year.

“This is a statewide issue especially in coastal communities,” said Mayor Alan Casavant. “There are limitations on what the city can do regarding private developers. Our tool box is limited,” he said.

Casavant says that many once worn down and unsightly apartment buildings are now being renovated by earnest landlords who want to increase the value of their properties. “They (landlords and developers) have a right to recoup their investments in our community.”

According to Guy Gagnon of the Biddeford Housing Authority, his agency calculates Fair Market Rent for various apartments every year. “The rapid rise in rent prices has outpaced the standard averages,” Gagnon says. “The real problem is a basic economic principle of supply and demand. We need much more supply of all types of affordable rentals and homes in southern Maine before the curve can be bent back in the right direction.”

Gagnon agrees that goal will be hard to reach as long as the real estate market is continuing to rise and he is worried about the plight of existing and long-time residents.  “All these changes, improvements are great, fantastic and amazing,” he wrote on one of his Facebook posts. “It’s especially important to be able to keep our children from having to move away for affordable housing. It is very, very, very important that the change in buildings does not change the fabric of our community.”

I agree with Gagnon’s concerns, but as I said before: rent control will do little to nothing to solve the problem.

Originally published on the Saco Bay News site.

I’m a boy and I’m a man

Ralph Waldo Emerson once quipped that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” This week, I offer a solid example in which society is best served from at least a little bit of consistency.

State Rep. Maggie O’Neil (D-Saco) has introduced a bill (LD 706) to lower the voting age in Maine from 18 to 16. No other state allows 16 year-olds to vote in general elections. In fairness, several states do allow 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register but those states also require voters in a general election to be at least 18 years of age.

In North Dakota, however, there is no need register to vote.

Do you remember when you were 16? I do. I had black-light posters, a crush on Farrah Fawcett and I listened to AC/DC on an 8-track player. I was also a political junkie who watched Nixon resign and board a helicopter on the White House lawn when I was 10.

When I was 12, I got to shake President Carter’s hand when he made a campaign stop in Biddeford. When I was 16, my father volunteered for Ted Kennedy’s failed presidential run in 1980.

Subsequently, without thought or curiosity, I became an ardent and passionate Democrat.

Today, I have had the experience of raising two 16-year–old boys. I love my boys and they both turned into fine young men, but there was no way that they were ready to vote back then.

Old enough to die; old enough to vote

In 1971, Congress overwhelmingly voted in favor of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the minimum voting age from 21 to 18. That amendment was fueled in part by the Vietnam War and the compulsory draft of 18-year-old into military service.

The 26th Amendment set up its own range of inconsistencies. For example, at 18 you are old enough to join the military but not old enough to purchase alcohol.

O’Neil’s bill, however, is riddled with many more inconsistencies. 16-year-olds are rarely, if ever, tried in criminal court for a criminal offense; instead they are tried in juvenile court and sentenced to a juvenile detention facility if found guilty.

While 16 is the minimum age of consent, they cannot act in pornographic movies and are too young to buy a pack of cigarettes. At 16, society says that you cannot sign a legal and binding contract, including marriage without parental consent. I could keep going, but you probably get my point.

When it comes to minimum age requirements, Congress mandates that you must be at least 25 to serve in the House of Representatives; 30 to serve in the Senate and 35 to be elected president.

While O’Neil acknowledged those inconsistencies, she also says her bill is designed to address some other inconsistencies.

Reaching the age of 18 is a big milestone in all of our lives,” O’Neil says. “But the truth is [turning 18] does not signify some seismic shift in an individual’s ability to participate in society or civic life.  At the age of 16, young people are working under our employment laws, paying taxes, and driving on roads. They are attending school–there’s no one more in touch with our education system than students and educators who are in school every day.”

O’Neil says she was motivated to submit the bill after working with several juvenile supporters during her campaign for office, specifically pointing to her campaign manager, 16-year-old Cole Cochrane, a sophomore at Thornton Academy.

Cochrane says “we don’t need to just focus about current responsibilities for 16 year olds, but about how we contribute and the ultimate outcome.”

 According to Cochrane, lowering the voting age has proven to increase voter turnout rate in countries like Austria, and even in some American cities. “One must consider the contributions we make to society.  We are foundations of campaigns, go to schools that are run by the government, and take on jobs that support our economy. Although we may be considered children by law, it is time to consider us voters as well.”

While many scientists and neurologists say that a brain is not fully developed until one turns 25, both Cochrane and O’Neil point to other studies that say 16-year-olds are fully capable of making decisions and critical thinking.

I already consider this argument somewhat irrelevant given this data point.” Cochrane says. “Decision making capabilities are developed by 16 years of age, indicating that we are able to make decisions despite these concerns.”

Overall, there are multiple benefits to lowering the voting age, Cochrane says. “From validation of millions of voices, to strengthening our democracy. It is time to act now, for the betterment of our state.”

O’Neil readily admits that her bill (currently stuck in committee) faces a “steep hill to climb to send the bill out to voters.”

“No matter what the outcome is, these young people have led an important conversation in the legislature,” O’Neil said. “I’m proud of the work they have done. Their voices are so important, and the legislature needs their perspective.”

Video killed the radio star

As we continue our march through the 21st Century, there are still a great many people who are less than pleased about the various advances of technology and about how the so-called charge into a brave new world is affecting their lives and their nostalgic memories.

Henry Thoreau opined that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” This is especially true when it comes to the Baby Boomer generation that is constantly trying to catchup with Gen X and Millennials on the technology choo-choo train.

Facebook is full of memes that disparage overweight, poorly dressed or otherwise ‘redneck’ people who shop at Wal-Mart.

Twitter or Facebook will not suspend your account if you share photos of a fat lady using a motorized cart while buying Twinkies and a case of Coca-Cola at Wal-Mart.

Boomers are those who write a check for their purchases at the supermarket. The ones who still pay cash for their Turnpike tolls. I’m not necessarily suggesting that all Boomers are a bunch of troglodytes, but if the shoe fits . . .

In a world where people are increasingly offended or feel marginalized, it is still acceptable to look down upon those who shop at Wal-Mart.

For all of its successes, Wal-Mart faces steep criticism from the pretty people who gladly shop at Target or Whole Foods.

Wal-Mart does not need me to defend it from gross mischaracterizations. (But if someone from their corporate headquarters wants to talk about public relations, please send me an email.)

Now, back to the talk of technology. We carry mini-computers in our back pocket. We have robots to clean the floors in our homes. We use Alexa for everything, ranging from setting the thermostat to maintaining a shopping list. Many people have satellite dishes on their roofs and satellite radio and GPS units in their cars.

In 1985, MTV only showed music videos. My girlfriend at that time said MTV wouldn’t last long because people would get “bored” watching videos. I wonder what she would say today about You-Tube? Today, MTV broadcasts “reality” shows such as “Jersey Shore” and “Sixteen and Pregnant.”

Would you like to join me and invest in opening a new Block-Buster store? Things change. And that’s not always such a bad thing.

Now back to Wal-Mart bashing.

Over the past year or so, dozens of social media memes have popped up, decrying the advance of the self-checkout lane option at Wal-Mart. They argue that this trend is poised to exterminate the need for cashiers. Really?

What other national retailer pays someone to simply greet and welcome you to the store?

Other memes include quips such as “when is Wal-Mart going to send me W2s if they expect me to work there?” Another meme: “if I wanted to self-checkout, I would stay at home and shop at Amazon.”

That last one leaves me scratching my bald head. Amazon is the epitome of technology and consumer trends. If you use Amazon, why are you bitching about Wal-Mart and its self-checkout option?

And why is Wal-Mart singled out for providing a self-check-out option? Hannaford grocery stores have self-checkout lanes. Target stores also have self-checkout options and even Whole Foods (gasp) is experimenting with a self-checkout option for its customers.

I went to Market Basket today. I only had a few items in my cart yet it took 11 minutes for me to get through the traditional checkout lane. Market Basket does not offer a self-checkout option (at least not at its Biddeford store.)

There is an old saying that time is money. If I have just a few items in my cart, I breeze through the self-checkout lane in less than three minutes, saving roughly eight minutes for me to do something else instead of waiting in line to buy a six-pack, a loaf of bread and a box of Twinkies.

To add insult to injury, I get on the Turnpike without stopping to pay a toll, simply by using my EZ pass device. I have to guess that EZ Pass is more profitable for our friends at the Maine Turnpike Authority because these devices decrease the need for human toll booth attendants.

When I was a young child, I remember that my father had a night job pumping gas at the Top Gas station in Saco. He would wash your windshield, check your oil, or inflate your tires upon request.

Today? There are no gas station attendants. Welcome to the jungle. At some point, the machines are going to become self-aware; and we all know what happens then. In the meantime: Thanks for reading! See you next week.

Originally published in Saco Bay News on May 13, 2021

One by one, until we’re done

It started with an e-mail I received Friday afternoon. It was sent to me by Marty Grohman, the man who sponsored my recent membership into the Biddeford-Saco Rotary Club.

Marty was looking for volunteers who would be willing to give up a few hours to help FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) at its Mobile Vaccination Unit (MVU), which is at Biddeford High School this week and ending on Wednesday evening.

There is an old saying: Many hands make light work. I joined Rotary because I wanted an opportunity to give back to my community, to the people who live, work and play in my hometown.

Photo by Marty Grohman

I signed myself up for three five-hour shifts, starting Monday and ending Wednesday. I finished my first shift this morning. When I first arrived I was warmly greeted by one of the many FEMA staff members. The gym became a giant, yet effective maze as people are screened, tested and then remained sitting at least 15 minutes before going on their way.

No appointment is required to receive the vaccine, which is the Johnson & Johnson version, commonly known as the “one and done” vaccine.

A FEMA staffer told me that they very much appreciated the presence and assistance from community volunteers, allowing them to focus on data collection and other tasks. I actually had a blast because I got to interact with just about every newly-vaccinated person. I manned the check-out station, collecting the data sheets and then informing patients that we would like them to hang out for 15 minutes. (By far, the longest part of the vaccination process.)

We averaged about 70 vaccinations per hour, more than one person every minute; and the process was stunning in its efficiency and design.

People came from all over, from Fryeburg to Sanford and from Turner to South Portland. I also saw a lot of familiar local faces and it was good to see them again. Everyone, it seemed, was in a good mood; happy to scratch the vaccine off their to-do list.

Some people are always quick to gripe or tell horror tales of bloated government bureaucracy. But what I saw this morning was a finely tuned model of efficiency and ease.

The object of Rotary is to “encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise.” I want to thank Marty and all the members of Rotary Clubs around the world (Yes, it’s a global organization.)

I know some people think that COVID-19 is a hoax, others say it is a tool of a tyrannical government. Those voices can yammer away all they want.

What I witnessed this morning was nothing short of a mosaic of humanity: young and old. Men and women, people of color and differing sexual orientation. And guess what? They all smiled today.

And for me, that was a beautiful thing. I got way more than I gave.

If you want a vaccination, they are free and available without an appointment. So, go ahead do your part: roll up your sleeve and take another bite out of this global killer.

Originally posted in Saco Bay News.April 26. 2021

When Irish eyes are smiling

Damn! I remember it like it was yesterday, but actually it was about a quarter century ago when I first met Vincent Keely and his son, Brian.

It was Halloween day and I had just started my new job as a reporter for the Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier.

Back then, the Courier office was located on Washington Street in Biddeford, directly across the street from the Wonderbar restaurant.

At that time, the Wonderbar (as I would soon find out) was a political and social epicenter, where everyone felt comfortable knowing that their conversations were confidential, off-the-record and checked at the door. It was also a comfortable haven for those of Irish descent.

The Wonderbar restaurant 0n Washington Street in Biddeford

It was a place where political deals were struck, but more importantly it was a place where everybody knew your name, comforting and familiar, sort of like the television show Cheers.

And now it is for sale.

Back to Halloween 1998.

I left the office to pursue a feature story about downtown merchants handing out candy and other goodies to small children. Brian Keely was standing in the middle of the road, wearing a chef’s apron and clutching a rubber chicken in one hand and a toy axe in the other.

I had no way of knowing back then that Brian Keely and I would become close friends.

I soon became a regular at the Wonderbar. I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in my veins, but the Wonderbar became my home away from home.

I would marvel at the way that Mr. Keely — with his mischievous grin and a sparkle in his eyes — poured a pint of Guinness, forming a shamrock in the foam of the beer. That was a trademark of the Wonderbar that I have not seen since.

Every time, I met a new woman to date, I would bring her first to the Wonderbar for a drink. Following my date, Brian, Vincent and other regular customers would rate those women, always with a chuckle.

I recall late nights hanging out with former school superintendent Kent Webster and some members of the school board after school board meetings, and I remember watching Super Bowl games from my favorite seat at the bar.

Soon after my first date with my wife, Laura, I brought her to the Wonderbar for inspection and evaluation. On the next day, I got a unanimous thumbs up from Vince, Brian and some regular patrons. Who knew then that I would eventually become married to that woman?

My friendship with Brian Keely grew stronger with each passing day. We started a call-in political “talk show” on Biddeford’s public access television channel and later served together on Biddeford’s Downtown Development Commission.

I asked Brian to be the best man at my wedding. He readily agreed.

Laura and I held our wedding reception in a function room above the bar and restaurant.

The Wonderbar was and remains as an intrinsic part of my life. And although now it is for sale, I hope that my memories of the iconic business will endure.

I spoke by telephone with Mr. Keely a few days ago. He told me that he purchased the Wonderbar nearly 30 years ago in 1992 from Edward “Ted” Truman.

I asked why he was selling the business.

“It was a matter of time,” he said. “Covid didn’t help matters any.”

Keely will soon be celebrating his 87th birthday. He said he routinely has back pain and often feels weak when standing too long.

“I didn’t get any help from the city, the state or anyone else,” he said with a tone of frustration.

He said he has had several calls from potential buyers, but most of them were “tire-kickers.”

For me, the Wonderbar was always so much more than an Irish bar and pub. It was my home.

To Vincent and Brian, I offer this Irish blessing “May the road rise to meet you; May the wind be ever at your back; May the sunshine warm upon your face; And the rain fall soft upon your fields; And until we meet again; May God hold you in the palm of his hand.”

Slainte.

Originally published on March 24, 2021 in the Saco Bay News

Local water rates set to increase

Public water consumers in the Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach area will soon see a moderate spike in their monthly water bills.

According to Maine Water, a rate increase of 77 percent will be spread out over a three-year period and be used to help fund the upgrade of existing infrastructure and build a new treatment plant on outer South Street in Biddeford.

Rick Knowlton, president of Maine Water, said the typical residential water bill will increase about 20 cents per day in each of the next three years, roughly $5 to $6 per month in each of the three steps proposed. When the full rate increase process is complete, water service will cost about a penny per gallon.

“We understand this rate increase is significant,” Knowlton said. “There is never a good time to increase water bills. The project to replace the water treatment facility began years ago and construction is nearing completion. We delayed our rate filing for as long as we could in hopes of some relief from the pandemic. Filing now allows our customers the opportunity to phase in this increase gradually over three years. Delaying the filing further would increase water bills even more.”

In addition to assistance from local and state agencies, Maine Water has financial assistance available for customers that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, Knowlton said.

Maine Water purchased the Biddeford-Saco Water Company in 2012. Knowlton said his company knew that the existing treatment facility and water delivery systems would need significant upgrades.

The current treatment facility was built in 1884, and renovations to that facility were last made in 1936 in order to keep up with the growing demands of a robust manufacturing sector on the banks of the Saco River.

Knowlton said Maine Water hired an engineering firm to evaluate the company’s infrastructure in 2013. According to Knowlton, that report detailed a laundry list of needed improvements in order for the company to keep providing clean and safe drinking water.

Construction of the $53 million project began in 2020.  The new facility will be in service in the spring of 2022.

“With 40,000 people relying on one source of drinking water every day, we have to have the facilities in place that can deliver,” Knowlton said. “This project will provide reliable, resilient and efficient water service for decades to come.”

The new facility will produce high quality water more consistently, Knowlton said, pointing to the fact that the river water quality does change with the seasons and with storm events. He said the new facility will be better equipped to handle those natural variations. The new facility will be more efficient and use less labor, less power and less chemical to produce a gallon of drinking water than is used today.

Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant said that he and other municipal officials from Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach took a tour of the plant four years ago.

“I was shocked by what I saw,” Casavant said. “There was no question, whatsoever, that the plant was near the end of its useful operation.”

Casavant said the municipalities will not be making the decision about whether to approve the rate increase.

The rate increase proposal is now being reviewed by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Maine Water serves more than 40,000 people in Biddeford, Saco, OOB and the Pine Point area of Scarborough and the company employs 45 people in the Biddeford-Saco area.

Originally published in Saco Bay News

Joe Biden: The Comeback Kid?

A few days ago, I was drawn into yet another Facebook political debate. I can’t help it. I’m a political junkie and off my meds.

The debate was about the 2020 presidential campaign, and I made the comment that I identify as a “right-leaning moderate”

Within a few seconds after writing that post, some guy (a “friend of a friend” ) attacked me and said I was not a moderate . . .blah, blah, blah.  . . .because I am not a big fan of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential bid.

At first I thought that I should just move on. I don’t know the guy and we had never met or interacted before. But I could not help myself. I decided to defend my position and my lack of enthusiasm for Joe Biden.

In summary, I posted that I was indeed a moderate Republican — to the left of people such as Sean Hannity, former Maine governor Paul LePage and President Trump (even though I did vote for Trump in 2016). Before my ardent friends on the left hyperventilate, I will not be supporting Trump’s re-election campaign.

I voted twice for George W. Bush. I also voted for the John McCain/Sarah Palin ticket in 2008. I  posted that I identify with other moderate Republicans such as Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense (and former Maine Senator) William Cohen.

I voted for Barack Obama in 2012, yet I  still considered myself to be a so-called “moderate,” steering left of hyper conservatives such as Mitch  McConnell, Lindsay Graham and Rush Limbaugh, but  to the right of outspoken liberals, such as Rachel Maddow, Jimmy Kimmel and Chuck Schumer.

This year, I will hold my nose and cast my vote for Biden. But I am worried about his mental health and his ability to execute the duties of the president.

>>>>>>>

Jolting Joe has left and gone away

Joe Biden is all but assured to be the Democrats’ choice to prevent another four years of Donald Trump.

But is Biden really the best candidate for Democrats? After almost four years of the Trump Administration, the Democrats throw Biden into the ring to take down Trump? Really? That’s the best they got?

I have my own theory about why Biden came out on top: he is not an extremist. He is experienced and he is likable. But most of all, he is a moderate and may also be able to pull some fence-sitting, moderate Republicans like me: RINOs (Republicans In Name Only).

And here’s a conspiracy theory I have heard about:  The Democratic Party is banking on the probability that Biden (if elected) won’t be able to finish his first term; thus his vice presidential pick is critical — not to mention the need to fire up the Dems and increase voter turnout from younger voters who may otherwise stay at home on Election Day.

Several weeks ago there was an op-ed published in the Washington Post   that details several examples of behavior and missteps that lead to a troubling possibility: Biden may have some serious cognitive issues.

In fairness, the op-ed penned by Marc A. Thiessen also reminds us that President Reagan had his own cognitive issues.

Furthermore, Biden’s age could be another chink in his political armor. Thiessen points out the following:

“Joe Biden is 77, four years older than Reagan was during the 1984 campaign. If Biden is elected, he’ll be older on the day he takes office than Reagan was on the day he left office. So yes, his mental fitness is a legitimate issue.”

As I pointed out in my aforementioned Facebook post. I am a political junkie and a second-rate pundit with an internet connection and a keyboard.  But, over the course of my  professional roles (journalist, public policy and political consultant,) I know it is critically important to remember that voters are more likely drawn to voting FOR a candidate as opposed to voting AGAINST a candidate.

Then again, tapping Sarah Palin as a running mate didn’t accomplish much for John McCain. Why? Because voters were electrified by Barack Obama and his charisma. Obama could have picked Vito Corleone as his running mate and still would have won the race by a landslide.

In summary? Biden’s choice of a running mate is of paramount importance.

Joe Biden is no Barack Obama. He needs to widen his base, including young voters, progressives, the LGBTQ community and yes — even moderate Republicans like me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outrageous Fortune

Noam Galai | Getty ImagesEvery time I start to feel a bit of optimism about the future, the reality hammer drops on my head.

Today, we learned that restaurants in southern Maine will not be able to re-open as originally scheduled  because of ongoing concerns about the Cov-19 epidemic.

The social media reaction to this news has been swift from both sides of the political aisle, Republicans blame Janet Mills and Democrats blame President Trump.

There are posts calling for an armed revolution to overthrown Maine Governor Janet Mills.  “. . .Open up anyways and bring your guns!!! ,” wrote one poster on Facebook.

In the Shakespearean play Hamlet, the young prince contemplates suicide, best referenced within this famous soliloquy: To Be or Not to Be.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.
People on the right are still referencing mask wearers as “sheep,” unable to discern the truth.
People on the left use terms like “mouth breather,” to describe conservatives.
There doesn’t seem that there is any middle ground.
And now the news released today by the governor: dine-in restaurants in southern Maine will need to remain closed until further notice, as opposed to a cautious opening date of June 1.
Think of all those businesses that purchased food and supplies as they geared up for June 1. Think about the employees called back to work. What does the future hold?
From my perspective, the future looks pretty grim, so I have designed my own plan for businesses that want to open on June 1:
  • Let the restaurant owners decide if they want to open or not.
  • Let customers decide on whether they want to frequent these establishments
  • Let the employees decide whether they want to work.
  • For people who have a weakened immune system (like my wife) stay at home.
  • For people who do not want go to public places, do not go there. You can order groceries and food online.
This my five-point plan. What do you think?

 

The war of the words

I am 56 years-old. I am a white man. I live in the suburbs. I have two healthy sons and an amazing wife.

I have nothing to complain about. But still I have a knack for finding political fights on social media platforms.

I used to be a journalist, and then a columnist. I put food on my family’s table by sharing my opinions every week.

Please, however, make no mistake, I am today a little more than a second-rate pundit with a boatload of opinions, a keyboard and an internet connection. Sadly, a lot of other people I know are in the same boat.

When I was growing up, I was taught that voting, and politics were private things. That’s why we have curtains at the voting booth: to keep our choices private. Back then, however, we didn’t have an internet and access to so many people.

According to Facebook, I have more than 1,100 “friends.” Let’s get real. I can count the number of my friends on two hands,

“We are reckless in our use of the lovely word friend,” or so wrote French author Romain Rolland in 1913.

I am guilty of being a political monger, easily sucked into meaningless debates on Facebook and Twitter. But I also like to think I am a political centrist, and that it would be difficult to discern my political orientation based on my social media postings.

Maybe I am kidding myself. Maybe not.

I find it curious that so many people spend so much time engaged in political debates on social media outlets, some of which become quite heated as these amateur pundits duke it out on the world-wide web.

Both Democrats and Republicans (in almost equal measure) line up in their own turf and pontificate why their points are absolute truth. Are these people trying to recruit more members? Are they hoping to influence our nation’s political discourse?

Following my career in journalism, I accepted a job as a public relations professional. Yes, social media is a powerful communications tool in today’s world of political engagement, but every PR pro knows that it must be handled with precision.

Do you really think that name calling, badgering and screeching hardcore positions will “convert” someone from a different camp?

How much time do you spend on social media platforms, engaged in political debates?

Is it worth it?