Thursday, October 27, 2016

Tarsal Target Practice

New Hampshire is experiencing the worst drought in 35 years. In the southern part of the state some communities instituted a ban on watering lawns. Residents were asked to take shorter showers. A number of NH dairy farms have stopped selling milk. The drought affected haying, so farmers are going into winter with little feed, and the feed growers were also hard hit by the drought.

 I drove to northern Maine over the weekend, and it was disturbing to see how low the water levels are in the top half of our state. The Androscoggin, Lake Umbagog, the Magalloway River, Richardson Lake, Rangeley Lake, Flagstaff Lake – all were low. Some swamps were dry, and ponds have become puddles. Wells are going dry in the Conway area – and still our “good neighbors” over at Poland Spring in Fryeburg are mining about 600,000 gallons a day.

Maine, too, is experiencing serious drought. According to an October 5 story in the Portland Press Herald, Poland Spring/Nestle is withdrawing less from their Hollis and Poland sites, but more from wells in Dallas Plantation and Pierce Pond Township, both near Flagstaff Lake. Flagstaff Lake is very low.

They have not changed their mining practices in Fryeburg. The big straw is still in place, sucking up the water. Does that water understand the state border?

Nestle is an international corporation with a proven record of non-existent ethics. It’s time for Maine (and NH) to stand up and protect their water, before Nestle sucks the state dry -and then sells the water back to residents at a huge profit.

You may have heard that November 8 is Election Day. You’ve already heard too much about the presidential election, plenty about the US Senate race in our state, and not much else. There is still time to research the candidates for Congress, Governor, Executive Council, the NH State House, the NH Senate, for county races, and local races. It’s important to do your homework, since the media has been in thrall to Trump and little else. My advice is this: vote from the bottom up on your ballot. The people you send to Concord and to town hall have a far greater impact on your daily life than whichever unacceptable candidate goes to the White House. 

This newspaper endorsed the so-called independent candidate running for Congress in District One. Shawn O’ Connor has had quite a metamorphosis:  from Republican, to Democrat, to independent. (Libertarian will surely be next.) The millionaire moved to NH a few years ago with the intention of running against Kelly Ayotte. It would require a lot of work from a guy with zero name recognition and there would be accusations of carpetbagging. (This was before Scott Brown) O’Connor backed off. What he didn’t do was get involved with the Democratic Party. He didn’t get to know people. He did spend a bunch of money on high priced consultants, and decided that Congress was the way to go.

Over the summer of 2015, he made a big announcement that he was gay and had been in an abusive relationship. When that didn’t get him the kind of attention he wanted, he accused Carol Shea- Porter’s campaign of waging a whisper campaign behind his back, threatened a lawsuit, threatened to sue the NH Democratic Party, and claimed there were rats in the kitchen at the Puritan Back Room in Manchester. None of the threatened lawsuits have been filed, because he lacks any proof of his preposterous claims. He jumped on the Bernie bandwagon, and became a populist when Bernie’s campaign was on fire in NH.

It’s worth noting that all of the higher ups in Bernie’s NH campaign have endorsed Shea-Porter, including the staffer that O’Connor says solicited his endorsement of Bernie. It’s also worth noting that a vote for O’Connor is a vote for Guinta – and that is exactly what he’s hoping for. He’s a mess. And he will write a letter to the editor calling me a liar.

I was at the gubernatorial debate at New England College that was televised by NECN. At that debate Chris Sununu announced that The Pledge was not enough, that it must be expanded to include all fee increases. The GOP labors under the fiction that the state can run on fumes, while making business tax cuts to ensure no money comes in. This is why you stand in line at the DMV long enough to hit retirement age. If you call in, you’re on hold for hours. I’m not exaggerating; a family member calling from out of state was on hold for 2 hours. We do not raise sufficient revenue to staff and run any of our state agencies properly, and then when complaints arise, it’s dismissed as bad gummint, and blamed on organized labor.  

There was no mention of infrastructure in the debate, though three questions were asked about guns. NH still has the 11th worst infrastructure in the nation, and some of the least restrictive gun laws. Sununu opposes even having a minimum wage. He’s boasted of creating numerous good paying jobs at Waterville Valley Ski Area. Anyone who has ever worked at a ski area knows better. At the debate Sununu said he’d just bought some workforce housing, which means he isn’t paying workers enough so that they can afford housing.  The fact that NH has both a housing shortage and a serious affordability problem was not addressed at this debate. It was more important to ask 3 questions about guns.

As for the local races – when you send most local Republicans to Concord, you are voting for obstruction and delay. Libertea Republicans get a yellow sheet handed to them every Wednesday on their way in to the House session. The “Gold Standard” is issued by the NH Liberty Alliance, and tells recipients how to vote on so-called “liberty” issues. No need for any work, research, or even any thought. (Kinda like taking The Pledge)  Sending Free Staters and John Birchers to Concord means that what you’ll get are knee jerk reactionaries who want to ensure that nothing gets done, other than MOAR GUNZ! At least 4 gun bills have already been filed for 2017, along with 4 bills intended to restrict voting. These are the GOP priorities for our state. Ponder that, as you drive over East Conway Road.

The NH legislature has been failing to invest in our state for decades. A pity we can’t shoot our way into good roads and bridges. Instead, we seem doomed to continue to shoot ourselves in the foot.

Published as an op-ed in the October 28, 2016 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Addiction on Trial

Addiction on Trial: Tragedy in Downeast Maine, with Steven Kassels

Thursday, October 27th, 2016, 5:30 p.m.
Addiction and Emergency Medicine physician and internationally acclaimed author, Dr. Steven Kassels, will discuss his book Addiction on Trial: Tragedy in Downeast Maine, and his medical experiences. He will also discuss the reasons why we are experiencing a heroin/opioid epidemic and possible solutions.
Q & A to follow.
About the author: Doctor Steven Kassels has had the privilege of treating patients from all walks of life during his years of practice in both Emergency Medicine and Addiction Medicine. He believes that everyone deserves compassion and access to medical care regardless of the nature of the illness. He wrote Addiction on Trial to both entertain and educate, and to depict the struggles of addiction for an audience of avid readers who may expand their understanding of addiction on the basis of evidence. Doctor Kassels lives in Downeast Maine and Massachusetts with his wife, Ali; and enjoys spending time with their four children and life partners; and four delightful grandchildren. Dedicated to his work in Addiction Medicine, he is also passionate about tennis, backcountry skiing, biking, music, and the Boston Red Sox.
Dr. Kassels will be donating his author proceeds to the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness
Event date: 
Thursday, October 27, 2016 - 5:30pm
Event address: 
45 South Main St
ConcordNH 03301

Dr. Kassels was a guest on The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen on October 14. It was an important and enlightening discussion - and we urge you to attend his author event. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

It Starts Early for Girls

It starts early for girls. Most of us have the experience of being grabbed and manhandled by some adult man before we’re old enough to vote. Possibly before we reach puberty. It might be a stranger, or a family friend. It might be a family member. It might happen on the job, especially if that first job is in food service. Restaurants do not pay waitresses. They subcontract that duty out to customers. Young women learn early that they must be pleasing and flirtatious, and tolerate unacceptable behavior with a smile if they want to be paid. It provides excellent early training for young women in what they can expect for the rest of their lives. That early grooming may be one reason we see some women defending Trump.

By now you’ve heard Donald Trump boasting on tape about how celebrity status means you can kiss and grab women, in the crudest of terms, to his giggling, testosterone fueled fratboy buddy, one of the lesser Bushes. Trump was 60 years old at the time. His wife was pregnant. For me the worst part of the whole tape was the way he referred to the actress that he and Fratboy Bush were about to glom onto as “it” - as in “it looks good.” Women aren’t actually people to Trump, they are objects. If they look good, they are objects that Trump is entitled to. If he doesn’t find them attractive, they are objects for public ridicule.

To dismiss this as “locker room talk” is not only insulting to women, it’s insulting to all of the decent men in the world who would never dream of speaking or acting that way. It’s a way of slapping the old “boys will be boys” label on this mess, as if we should tolerate and expect this behavior from boys, even when the boys in question are nearly old enough to collect Social Security.

This has created a big problem for the GOP, who weren’t all that popular with women to begin with. The recent émigrés to the Trump bandwagon are in a real predicament. In February, John Sununu Pere wrote an editorial piece for the Union Leader and urged people not to drink the “Trump Kool-Aid.” Recently we learned he’d been guzzling that particular beverage, presumably in the hopes that his son would be able to ride Trump’s coattails to the governor’s mansion. Chris Sununu isn’t backing down. He’s blithely giving Trump a pass, something his daughter may have a few things to say about in the future.

Speaking of daughters, imagine being one of Trump’s daughters, hearing that tape of their father discussing how he grabs women by the genitals, and “they let him”. The night of the debate, his younger daughter engaged in what appeared to be a very practiced maneuver to avoid being kissed by her father. One of my friends sent me the clip. He’s disgusted that we live in a world where girls learn how to do this.

Since this big revelation, we’ve seen a lot of reactions. Some Republicans have washed their hands of Trump. Senator Kelly Ayotte was engaging in a curious kind of dance, where she said she was supporting Trump but not endorsing him. She wanted to show her support for the GOP ideology without taking any kind of principled stand against Trump. She’s been freed to ditch him. Serial liar Frank Guinta once hoped to ride the Trumptails back to Congress, and now has to contend with not only the withering contempt of the NH Union Leader (the GOP’s statewide newsletter) but also with the fleas he’s picking up from lying down with that particular dog. Guinta also has a daughter. How proud she must be.

There is a certain irony in the fact that Trump started off by demonizing Mexicans, then moved on to all-purpose xenophobia by demonizing all immigrants, Muslims, and mocked a reporter with a disability. By far and away, though, the majority of his contempt throughout the years has been for women. His bizarre obsession with Rosie O’Donnell comes to mind. Once you have a billion dollars, and build yourself a tacky gilded palace complete with gold plated plumbing fixtures, one appears to have a lot of time on one’s hands for celebrity feuds and beauty pageants. The way he spoke about Miss Universe is certainly a lesson in perceived ownership, racism and contempt.

This is what a big chunk of the electorate wants to elevate to the highest office in our land. A morally bankrupt individual who loudly bellows ignorant proclamations, engages in rambling, sniffly speeches, promises to fix things but has no actual plan for anything, other than yonking down a tic-tac and kissing some women and grabbing them. Our country is sick. Trump isn’t the disease, but he’s the loudest and orangest symptom of it.

The disease is the contempt for government that the Republican Party began to nurture during the Reagan administration. They said gummint was the problem, and went on to elect a host of folks who did their level best to prove it. That was further fed by the Citizens United decision that unleashed unrestricted cash in the service of electing more terrible people. Tea Party ideologues have taken root and worked hard to obstruct in Congress, in the US Senate, and in state legislatures throughout the land, including New Hampshire.

This election cycle has cheapened the process so much that I don’t see how we can ever recover. Whatever happens in the general election – the aftermath is going to be ugly.

Trump has provided us with a barometer. Those who are supporting him despite recent revelations have made an illustrative choice. They may say that Trump’s commentary was offensive, give it the locker-room whitewash, and label it a distraction – but the fact that they’ve chosen to continue to support him means that they have just as much contempt for women and even more contempt for the process than their candidate.   

It starts early for girls. There’s no end in sight.