Category: current events

On the CMP Corridor

This post might be a fair bit shorter than many of you might expect. I haven’t said anything about the CMP corridor, despite it being pretty big news here in my home in western Maine. For those of you outside the state, it boils down to this: there’s an effort to bring Canadian power down to New England, and to make it happen, it has to go through Maine. That much is established fact. What’s far from established is what all of that means. To illustrate, allow me to quote the summaries that supporters and objectors are using for the project. Guess who says what.

First:

The New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) is Central Maine Power’s proposed 145-mile long corridor of thousands of high-voltage megatowers cut through the Maine woods. CMP’s corridor would be as wide as the New Jersey Turnpike, and the towers each as large as the Eastland Hotel in Portland. This corridor would be cut through pristine Maine wilderness in order to bring electricity from Canada to Massachusetts, with no stops in between.

Second:

Why do so many people support New England Clean Energy Connect? Because it will create jobs, revenue and economic opportunity for Maine residents and cleaner air throughout New England at no cost to Maine residents.

To say there are strong feelings around this project would be a severe understatement. But it’s also far from as straightforward as either side would have you believe. How can you know that? Well, it’s a project that received support from both our Trump-lite former governor Paul Le Page and our staunch Democrat new governor Janet Mills. (Though they supported it for different reasons.)

Of course, some would say that’s just a sign of our politicians selling out to big business, but I need a few more facts before I decide to whip out the old tinfoil hat, and I tend to think many “conspiracies” are nothing more than people choosing to read the facts in a certain light.

So where do I fall in all of this?

Nowhere. I have been unable to find reliable information sources that convince me one way or another. At this point, big money has entered the picture on both sides of the argument, and both sides are using the exact same arguments. If you love the environment, then you either hate this project for slicing up our pristine woodlands, or you love it for bringing clean energy and cleaner air to all. If you’re about economic development, you either want Canada to take its power and go home, or you want all these jobs that will come to Maine.

Frankly, the arguments all make good points. (At least as far as I’ve studied them, which is admittedly not extensively.) And I have heard no argument strong enough to persuade me to get off the fence where it’s nice and comfy. At this point, it feels like they’re all talking around in circles, and so I stop really caring what decision they come up with and just wish they’d come up with a decision. Either way, we’re still going to have both the end of the world and a bright new ecological utopia, so just pick one.

If I had to vote one way or another, then I would vote in favor of the corridor. Why? Because people I know and respect have heard the arguments far better than I could, and they’ve come to decide that’s the best choice. I don’t personally know Governor Mills, but I have friends who do. I don’t believe she’d fold to corruption in the few months she’s been in office. I think she heard the arguments, for and against, given by experts, and she reached a conclusion.

Fair enough.

But that’s only if I were forced to vote. In reality, I’m not, and so I won’t. Not even to advocate that you support or reject the corridor. (Though I’ll likely get friends telling me I’m wrong no matter what.) In an ideal world, we’d have more time, hire some independent analysts, and really get a handle on what the impact of all of this will be. But it appears we don’t have time, so . . .

Whatever?

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What, Exactly, Did You Expect the Mueller Report To Do?

Ever since Mueller began investigating Trump and the 2016 election, the whole effort seemed to snowball in importance. More and more people began to talk about what the report was going to do. We all watched it develop, and some read so much into the slightest bits of news that would come out. The argument was Mueller was a genius, and he was going to prove once and for all that Trump was crooked. It was all one big masterplan, and once it was complete, the world would know at long last all the Truth about what really happened.

At least, that’s what people came to believe, it seemed. And now the report is finished, and Trump’s Attorney General read it and assured us all that it cleared Trump of any wrong doing. (In other news, Cruella DeVille’s lawyer read over the independent investigator’s report into a string of dognappings and assured the public Ms. DeVille was totally exonerated by its findings, though maybe the report wasn’t ever going to be released to the public . . .)

Of course there’s no small amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth, but I’m left wondering what, exactly, people expected to get out of this report. Yes, I realize it was the mythical silver bullet that was going to Solve Everything, but anyone who believes that somehow still believes the problem lies solely with Trump. That if we could just get him out of office, then all would be well with the country again.

As I’ve said before, President Trump is really just a symptom of deep seated problems in America. 90% of Republicans think he’s doing a swell job. 1 in 3 independents think the same thing. Heck, even 4% of Democrats like what he’s up to. Yes, he’s able to cause all sorts of problems from his seat in the Oval Office, but the continued tolerance for him and his approach to politics and life in general isn’t going to go away with the wave of a wand or the lines of a report.

Imagine, for a moment, that the report said Trump was 100% guilty of collusion. That he’d personally called Putin up on the phone and asked him to help win him the election. Imagine that phone recordings of the conversation were even included, complete with a Dr. Evil-style laugh fest at the end of the talk, as they all contemplated how awesome this plan was going to be.

I honestly don’t think even that would have moved the needle enough to do anything other than further divide the country. Yes, it likely would have persuaded more independents, but in this day of Deepfakes and altered media, it’s too easy to dismiss anything. You’d have Republicans claiming the tape was doctored, and they’d trot out evidence of it, then all assure each other that evidence should be believed.

If you think I’m dreaming, then consider for a moment the response by some to the shootings in New Zealand. Livestreamed on Facebook. Manifesto published by the killer online. And yet you still have people claiming it was all done by actors. That it’s one big conspiracy. (I’m not going to link to any of it, and I don’t recommend any of you check out the idiotic arguments. They’re not worth the digital bits they occupy on a hard drive.) Never mind the countless witnesses. The law enforcement. The hospital workers. The news coverage. These people are fully ready to dismiss all of that as a conspiracy.

I understand the hope. The thought that somehow the general public will come to its senses and give Trump the boot. But it’s not going to happen through a Report. Trump’s power is rooted in fear. In making people afraid of people who are different than they are. That the country is changing, and that we are under attack. The only real way to combat that is either to somehow get those people who are afraid to overcome their fear, or to wait for those people who are afraid to be drowned out by people who don’t share that sentiment.

I don’t have solutions in this post. I know yelling at Republicans and calling them names won’t solve anything. The same is true for putting all your faith in Democrats, as if they’re the morally superior party. I personally believe the best shot we have at getting out of this is by breaking out of the two party system and the lie we’ve agreed to believe that one side is Right and the other side is Wrong. But one thing I’m sure of is that it’s going to take a whole lot more than a Report to make all of this go away.

We’ll have another presidential election in 2020. And we’ll see how the country’s feeling at that point. But it can’t be a “right vs. wrong” mentality that gets us out of this. Republicans aren’t 100% wrong, and Democrats aren’t 100% right, or vice versa. If you believe they are, then I’d argue you’re part of the problem too. Dismissing Republicans as “evil” or “bigots” is just another flavor of dismissing the Other.

But at this point, I feel like I’m just turning preachy. My apologies. It’s Monday, and no Report is going to solve any of my problems today, it seems.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Danger of Easy Information

When I was on my way to work this morning, I was listening to a story NPR had done on the recent pair of Boeing airline crashes that both involved the same model of plane. They were interviewing passengers in airports to find out what they thought of them and to see if they felt safe on those planes. One interview in particular stood out to me, where a woman said she was going to go do a bunch of research before she made up her mind.

On the one hand, part of me wants to applaud the sentiment. Yay for wanting to research things out to come to a well-reasoned opinion. As a librarian, that’s what I want, isn’t it? But at the same time, I couldn’t help but cringe inside when I heard the quote.

These days, you can find just about anything you want to online. If there’s an opinion you have that you want to confirm is right, you can and will find someone saying just how right you are, whether it’s if the earth is round or flat, what vaccines do, or what really happened on 9/11. Access to tons of information is all fine and good, but I’ve noticed more and more many people struggling to sift through that information to be able to tell what’s worthwhile and what isn’t.

Let’s call it MCSP: Medical Cancer Search Phenomenon. Whenever I get sick, I start looking up symptoms to see what it is I might have. Typically, those symptoms end up describing any number of things. Most of them are lethal forms of cancer. So why in the world do I still bother trying to Google my way to a cure for my sniffles? Why can’t I learn that it takes a trained physician to be able to look at a person, evaluate their condition, and come up with a likely prognosis.

The same thing happened with my car battery a few months ago. (No, not cancer, but me searching for a solution to a problem I was noticing.) The car had trouble starting a couple of times, so I turned to Google. I became convinced the car battery was dying and that I needed to replace it. I blamed this for dip in my gas mileage as well, as some internet sleuths had found a connection and talked about it on a message board.

My mechanic thought I was crazy. He took a look at things and told me I shouldn’t worry for now, but I insisted he check the battery. It was fine. All my Googling had done nothing by alarm me.

Will an internet search tell this woman whether Boeing planes are safe or not? I highly doubt it, though I’m sure it will leave her with the impression that she’s well informed about the matter, regardless of whether that’s true or not. In some cases, I suppose that’s worth something by itself. You can sleep easy at night, feeling like you found The Answer.

But in cases of measles outbreaks, where someone’s random internet conspiracy ends up endangering the lives of thousands? That same “I’ll Google the answer” tendency can become deadly. And don’t get me started on climate change, a thing that might once have been debatable but which now has become almost incontrovertible as more evidence has piled up, regardless of what politicians and pundits might wish to believe.

I’m still going to search the internet for questions I have. I don’t think it’s possible for me to resist the urge. But I’ll also try to keep in mind that my fifteen minutes of internet searching might feel quite “thorough” to me, but it doesn’t make my results have the same weight as someone who’s an actual trained expert.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Need for National Humility

On a personal level, I think most people can identify when someone has a problem with self-esteem in either direction. There’s the people who are always down on themselves, no matter what. You want to pick them up and tell them everything’s going to be okay. That they should go easier on themselves. Chin up!

But then there’s the people who are so full of themselves, they have a hard time recognizing anything they do wrong. They’re so prideful it damages their relationships, and handling them is a big pain in the patootie.

As I was thinking about the (many) political issues we’re having as Americans these days, one thought drifted to the surface: many of those problems could be handled with more national humility. Excessive pride is seen by many as a character flaw on an individual level; why can’t we recognize it as a problem on a national level as well?

I don’t mean to say we can’t be “proud to be American,” and I’m sure that’s where many might want to take my argument as soon as they hear it. I love my country, and I think we have a lot of wonderful things we do. But I also think it’s important to be able to take a frank look at yourself and realize there are areas that need improvement. Change.

Trump’s “Make American Great Again” slogan has played entirely into this nationalistic pride vein, fanning the flames of pride to a point that’s not just delusional, it’s unsafe for the global political landscape. Yet I can understand why so many people fall for it. We have a tendency, as a country, to constantly tell ourselves how wonderful we are, even when we’re not. We’ll talk about how our health care is the best. Our education is the best. Our freedoms are the best. Our sports are the best. And never mind any actual data that might get in the way of our opinions.

When you think you’re the absolute best at something, you have no incentive to improve. There’s no need to look to anyone else for an example. No need to consider alternative solutions to a problem. You can just say “I’m the best,” and ignore the rest, which is something Trump has built his entire life around.

Not that this is a problem isolated to one man, though he’s certainly an outgrowth of it. A natural result of decades of an absence of humility on a national level. After all, our nation elected the man. Yes, the election was influenced in various ways, but to me that’s sort of like complaining about the end result of a football game because of some very questionable calls by the refs. You might have a wonderful point, but in the end, it’s not going to change the scoreboard. And if your team was so mighty to begin with, how did they get in a position where one or two boneheaded calls cost them the game?

Trump has already begun to lay the foundation for an argument if he loses the election in 2020. Essentially, he’s telling his adherents the only way he *can* lose is if the Democrats cheat. If they have millions of people vote illegally. And there’s a huge problem with this argument if people believe it. The next natural step is to say, “I don’t have to step down as President, because I actually won.” And if enough people believe that’s true, bad things happen. Civil wars. Just because it hasn’t happened in America in over a hundred years doesn’t mean it can’t happen again.

And the sad thing is I’m not sure the Republican party wouldn’t support his claim. They’ve already shown a readiness to embrace Trump’s rhetoric and ideologies as long as it gets them what they want. “The end justifies the means” seems to have become the rallying cry for many of my fair-minded Republican friends. “What what he does, not what he says” is another one.

But in the end, it’s not worth it to me. I will not support someone who says and acts like Trump, just because some of his professed beliefs or goals might overlap with mine.

My hope is that we can begin to have more national humility. That we can recognize our flaws and stop plugging our ears and shouting about how wonderful we are in every way. If we can do that, as Republicans and Democrats and Independents, then we have a chance of righting the ship and making America nice again. Compassionate again. And maybe even great again.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.



On Michael Cohen

I’ve watched some of the Cohen proceedings while I’ve been at home sick (again!), and I’m not really sure what to say, except how disappointed I continue to be by our government. That we ever got to this point is such a sad state of affairs. That the President’s personal lawyer has admitted to lying to congress. That he’s now accusing the President of all sort of terrible things, and that a large portion of the country believes him.

That instead of handling this in a way even remotely resembling adults, our leading politicians choose instead to spend their time grandstanding, playing to the people at home who either wish Cohen would bring this whole presidency toppling to the ground or wish all those smarmy Democrats would finally be put in their place.

In the end, I just turned it off. As much as I’m against Trump, I don’t believe anything Michael Cohen says under “oath” will have any sort of an impact on the end result. It’s possible, of course, that some of the documents he produces might, if they can be verified, but even they will be tarnished goods, open to skepticism.

The fact that the “hearings” are going on for so long is even more depressing, as each politician wants his or her chance to bloviate into a microphone for their allotted time, until they’re cut off and have to cede the floor to the next chest thumper.

There are so many important things happening in the world. The fact that we have a President who’s acted in a way that set the stage for all of this to happen is disgusting. And that we continue to have a vast majority of Republicans supporting him is even more discouraging. (Currently 89% of Republicans approve. 38% of Independents, and 5% of Democrats.) So of course Republican politicians are all too eager to show how they support Trump as well.

No. Watching the Cohen hearings is a waste of time, giving the people involved exactly what they so acutely desire: a microphone, a platform, and a sea of listening ears.

Depressing.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.



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