300 Words

I write letters to the editor of my local newspaper. The newspaper arbitrarily limits letters to 300 words, and the newspaper web site strictly enforces the word-limit. At first I was annoyed, but annoyance turned to satisfaction when my letters became more concise and more effective.

Some of these letters do not reach a newspaper, but most follow the 300 word limit.

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(micro) Managing and Donald Trump

This essay was posted on 6/7/24.

With guilty verdicts starting, Donald Trump is treating his court trials the same way he treated the 2020 election with one exception. Trump is not blaming the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez for his trial defeats. Instead, he vilifies the judges. He defames the DOJ. And he falsely claims that President Biden is pulling all the strings to get guilty verdicts. Trump is even facing a possible third defamation lawsuit from E. Jean Carroll, because Trump just can’t keep his mouth shut.

I worry about the trials, the verdicts, the sentences, and the ensuing blowback. But mostly I worry about the distraction from all the obsessive rhetoric. I worry that the noise from all of these necessary court trials will make us forget what disaster we would face from a Trump Presidency that spends all its energy gathering up all the decentralized government power into the hands of the chief executive.

Trump is a long-time micro-manager, because he wants total control. Trump tried to micro-manage Federal policy-makers who wouldn’t change existing policies without legislative approval. So, Trump wrote an executive order in 2020 with the intention of firing those so-called ‘deep-state’ bureaucrats. President Biden immediately reversed Trump’s executive order, even for those bureaucrats who were making policy for Federal laws enacted by conservatives.

Trump’s executive order would reestablish the old 19th century federal spoils system with all of its instability and corruption. Our long-term Federal programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security would fluctuate according to the whims of the next administration or just disappear.

Trump’s guilt or innocence in the 2024 election is important, but it should not overshadow the damage he could do to the Federal Government if Trump fired an estimated 50,000 policy makers just because they want to follow existing laws.

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(issue1) Global Warming and Donald Trump

This essay was posted on 5/30/24.

The Presidential election is frustrating at best, because the media and the polling all focus on things that don’t really matter, including; high prices, Trump’s brashness, Biden’s age, Biden’s support of Israel, no interest in Ukraine, and a spike in immigration. These issues are real and they are current, but they are insignificant compared to the catastrophic things that Donald Trump plans to do during his hypothetical future Presidency.

For example, Donald Trump wants to reverse all of the progress we have made to counteract global warming and restore our dependence on fossil fuels. Without US leadership, the rest of the world will most likely follow Trump’s misguided lead. Global warming isn’t just some future event. It is happening now. We have more destructive hurricanes and tornadoes and more wildfires. We have more people coming into the US to escape the unbearable heat in the American tropics.

In the US, our environment is threatened. Whooping cranes are threatened by invasive mangrove trees. Cyprus stands are threatened by rising seawater. Sea turtle shoreline nesting areas are being destroyed by rising seas. Small animals like the pika are running out of ways to escape rising temperatures. Coral reefs that support much of our marine population are dying as the water becomes too hot. An island supporting wild deer is getting smaller as the ocean around it rises.

A Trump Presidency would push the global warming issue down the road for at least four years and leave us with a problem that might be too advanced to fix. On this issue alone, Donald Trump should not be President.

We can fix high prices with salary increases, but fixing global warming needs an overhaul of our energy industry and a real commitment.

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(minwage3) Raising the Minimum Wage

This essay was posted on 5/20/24.

Republicans are against raising the minimum wage. In 2017, Missouri Republicans lowered the St Louis minimum wage from $10 to $7.70. Ohio Republicans are trying to stop a ballot initiative raising the minimum wage from $10.45 to $15. Virginia’s Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin vetoed a bill raising the minimum wage from $12 to $15. In their zeal to keep minimum wage the same, Republicans are defying logic and common sense.

Republicans have claimed for decades without evidence that raising the minimum wage will cause low-wage worker layoffs and threaten small businesses, but Matthew Desmond in his book Poverty, by America says otherwise. In 1992, New Jersey raised the minimum wage, but Pennsylvania didn’t, making a perfect test-case. Data from the two states show that raising the minimum wage has no effect. And other examples show the same thing. Republicans focus on how raising the minimum wage affects businesses, instead of focusing on how keeping the same minimum wage affects workers.

The minimum wage was last raised to $7.25 per hour in 2009. Since 2009, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased 46%. Based on the increase in CPI, the minimum wage should be $10.60, but that doesn’t describe what a worker making $7.25 per hour faces today. Because of inflation, the buying power of $7.25 has decreased to $4.96. So, an hour of work that bought $7.25 worth of goods in 2009 can only buy $4.96 worth of goods in 2024, compared to the market basket value in 2009. The worker lost $2.29 in buying power since 2009. Clearly, minimum wage workers are poorer today while they earn the same amount of money.

We index social security payments on inflation. Federal and State pensions are indexed on inflation. Why not index the minimum wage on inflation? It only makes sense.

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(immunity) The Question of Immunity

This essay was posted on 5/8/24.

Donald Trump is pushing an absolute Presidential immunity defense in his many law suits that he is trying to delay until after the election. Never mind that a lot of the immunity issues came up during the Nixon scandal, and President Ford pardoned Nixon to protect him from potential prosecution. Never mind that most people don’t need a legal verdict, because there is so much information in the public domain. Still, the Supreme Court could rule in Trump’s favor.

Justice Samuel Alito suggested that immunity would protect future Presidents from being unjustly prosecuted by their successors. He suggested that acknowledging Presidential immunity might stabilize our democratic institutions. Conservative justices were also inclined to send the issue back to the lower courts to separate official duties from private duties as a determining factor for immunity. Both opinions avoided the legal question in the case.

In the Jan 6 case, Judge Chutkan and the Appeals Court got to the real point. Attempting to stay in power by overturning the election results through subterfuge and violence overrides any presidential immunity issues. Any other legal claim must be judged as one influenced by political loyalties.

If the Supreme Court rules according to suggestions made by the conservative justices, they may be setting a precedent that nails our Democratic Republic into a coffin.

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(npr) NPR and Donald Trump

This essay was posted on 4/16/24.

A recent article by Uri Berliner criticized NPR for being too liberal, so Donald Trump jumped in and bragged that he would cut funding to NPR. As you might guess, Uri Berliner is overly critical and Donald Trump exaggerates Berliner’s article. Nevertheless, Right wing news outlets ran with the story. After all the shouting, there is less to this story than it seems.

First, Berliner is overly critical. Berliner cherry-picks his areas of criticism. Two examples: He calls out NPR for not covering Hunter Biden’s laptop, while the Republican investigation of Hunter Biden found no connection between Hunter Biden and his father, President Biden. Berliner criticizes NPR for not investigating whether there is systemic racism in the US, while the evidence of systemic racism has already been investigated and codified thoroughly. Yes, there is systemic racism all over America.

Second, Trump exaggerates Berliner’s article. Trump claims that NPR is a liberal disinformation machine, so he wants to cut all government funding for NPR. The public news outlet is far from a liberal cog. It is ranked as the third least biased news outlet behind AP and Reuters. Most of NPR funding comes from donations and private grants. Only 4% is from government funding. Trump’s proposed cuts would not cripple NPR, but they might push NPR further to the left.

While NPR is more liberal than in the past, so is its audience. NPR merely reflects the views of its listeners. Trump’s 88 pending criminal charges, his failed attempt to stay in office, and his vicious attacks on Court officials have made Trump an easy target for criticism. Trump’s claims that NPR’s liberal bias is behind attacks on him have a little validity, but Trump’s failure to hold himself accountable for his actions makes his NPR claims only half-truths.

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(verdict) Trying Donald Trump

This essay was posted on 4/2/24.

Microsoft Bing Copilot was used to research this piece.

Donald Trump is paying a lot to delay his trials until after the election and maybe beyond that. With the help of friendly judges and a cooperative Supreme Court, Trump’s strategy is working right now. A lot of people are mad as hell, because there may be no guilty verdict needed to convince them that Trump is unqualified. Satirist Jonathan Swift would have a field day over Trump’s politics.

A lot of well-meaning people want Merrick Garland booted out of office, because he equivocated over a Trump investigation so long that the courts moving at the super-fast rate of an angry sloth simply don’t have enough time. Garland started investigating Trump in July, 2022, and appointed Jack Smith as Special Prosecutor in November. Jack Smith and his team issued indictments in March and July of 2023, about 8 months after starting these investigations. The investigation could have started sooner, but, given the extent that Trump is issuing delaying actions, it is not certain that an earlier start date would have made much of a difference.

There are two irrefutable reasons why the trial verdicts don’t matter, and they are not about the plethora of evidence in the news, including insurrection planning documents, witness testimony, and the total lack of evidence of cheating by Democrats, documented in over 60 trials. The first evidence is Trump’s assertion that the Presidential Records Act gives him the right to retain top secret documents where public exposure would threaten National security. The second evidence is Trump’s defense that he is protected from prosecution because he has total immunity. Both Trump assertions clearly indicate that Trump knowingly committed crimes against the US government. In the court of public opinion, that should be enough to disqualify Trump in the voting booth.

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(center) Recovering America

The content in this story is too big for 300 words. This essay was posted on 3/21/24.

The book That Used to be Us by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum describes the decline of the US as a nation and provides a plan to recover as a nation. The book was written in 2011, but the message in the book is still timely, because the US leaders ignored the book enough to stay on the path of decline at least until now. We have a choice this year, to have a national reset or to fall off the edge of the cliff.

Tom and Mike, as they refer to themselves in the book, build their recovery strategy around two concepts: The US must face and resolve four challenges, and the US must resolve five elements necessary for national prosperity. Remember that these elements apply to 2011.

The four challenges are; rapid globalization, expanding information technology, budget deficits, and addressing global warming. These challenges are external and internal conditions that threaten our country. All four challenges still apply today, and there is a fifth challenge, the resolution of local but deadly wars in Ukraine, Gaza, Sudan, etc. These wars all make the world less stable, and they make fixing the other challenges more difficult.

The five pillars of prosperity are; public education, infrastructure, open immigration, basic research and development, and appropriate regulation. These are basic government functions necessary for a stronger and a more effective nation. Public education builds our work force. Infrastructure promotes commerce. Immigration pumps more workers in a growing economy. Regulations promote safety and competitiveness. These pillars are even more relevant today as our country continues to become more average among the countries around the world.

Tom and Mike blame the inability of Congress to compromise as a major problem that needs to be fixed. They say that both parties have abandoned the political center that is the essential place where compromise is possible. But if you define the center as having success in the nine essential components defined by Tom and Mike, then Republicans are the ones who won’t compromise. They won’t fix global warming. They fail in budget deficits by refusing to raise taxes. They fail in Ukraine by holding up funding. They want to reduce Federal funding in education. They want to stop immigration. They want to cut all regulations, including the good ones. Republicans can’t compromise until they accept that Tom and Mike’s four challenges and five pillars are real problems.

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(prequel) The Fascist Interference

This essay was posted on 3/4/24.

In her book, Prequel, Rachel Maddow tells the story of how German Fascists spread propaganda in the US during the 1930’s. The primary goal was to keep the US out of an impending European war that Germany was planning from the beginning. Germany also wanted to insert division and chaos into the US political landscape.

The Germans nearly succeeded. Their plan included enlisting the help of at least 20 conservative members of Congress, who would provide a level of credibility to the propaganda. The scheme used Congressional franking privileges to distribute anti-Semitic and anti-immigration material that also encouraged the overthrow of the FDR administration. The plot also included the formation of militia groups that were armed with munitions obtained from cooperating National Guard units.

Ironically, the plot fell apart after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and forced America into the war.

The obvious parallels between Russian interference with our politics, now and German interference, then makes this compelling. Russians, like the Germans, interfered in our elections. Like the Germans, they compromised American members of Congress. Like the Germans, they created division in our politics. And they enlisted a Militia to overthrow an election. I encourage you to read Prequel.

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(coup2) The Peaceful Coup

This essay was posted on 2/25/24.

After fumbling an attempt to steal the election on Jan 6, the MAGA Republicans in the House of Representatives under the leadership of Mike Johnson and the direction of private citizen Donald Trump have found a way to paralyze the Legislative Branch so that nothing of value is accomplished. The much-needed military aid package and the immigration reform bill are both dead on arrival. Work on funding the government after March 1 is stalled by a House recess. The MAGA Republicans seem to be more interested in making President Biden look bad than in governing. If the MAGAs in Congress continue to govern by creating chaos without consequences, they could accomplish what they failed to do on Jan 6.

The problem is simple. The checks and balances designed to maintain the democratic elements of our government don’t work when a government branch chooses to fail instead of governing. With an election nine months away, it might be too late to save the dysfunctional mess in the House of Representatives under the spell of Donald Trump and, by implication, Vladimir Putin. Face it, in a government as divided as Washington is today, checks and balances don’t work.

President Biden needs to stay within the rules of governing, because any departure from the rules just perpetuates a broken Washington. The only way to repair the breaks is by a bipartisan choice to govern around the MAGA Republicans at least until Washington is working again. How far along is that discharge petition?

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(balance) The Unbalanced House

This essay was posted on 2/16/24.

The writers of the US Constitution inserted many checks and balances to protect against the collapse of our government into autocracy. The checks and balances deter one branch of government from abusing its power over the other. If Congress passes bad bills, the President can veto it, but Congress can override the veto, for example. The checks provide a way for the Federal government to retain its democratic spirit through self-enforcement.

The current state of our government clearly shows that checks and balances, by themselves, prevent nothing. Checks and balances don’t work when members of two branches collude. For example, Senate Republicans wouldn’t convict Donald Trump in two impeachment trials, so Trump was free to spend unauthorized funds on a border wall. Trump also openly organized fake electors and a Jan 6 riot in a failed attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Collusion for the sake of power leads to corruption. An example is the current House of Representatives. With a large contingent of Republicans and Mike Johnson all getting their marching orders from Donald Trump, the House is dysfunctional. It threatens US credibility in the international arena by withholding aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, and it threatens US security by refusing to pass an immigration bill that resolves most of Republican demands for handling border crossings. The House Republicans are acting like a group of autocratic dictators.

President Biden is in a corner. If he stays within the Constitutional rules, he is accused of being too weak. If he takes any unauthorized action, he is accused of being a Fascist dictator. Meanwhile, Ukraine still needs military help to defeat Russia’s widely condemned invasion, and migrants will continue to cross our border largely unchecked. And Gregg Abbott’s lethal wire barrier will remain in place.

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(food) The Price of Food

The content in this story is too big for 300 words. This essay was posted on 2/5/24.

Google and Microsoft Bing Copilot were used to research this piece.

A Washington Post article about the cost of food had some very misleading statements about the price of food. The article implied that, while inflation was lower, the price of food had not returned to normal. The implication needs a rebuttal.

Lower inflation doesn’t necessarily mean lower prices. Inflation is the percent increase in prices over last year. As long as inflation is positive, then prices will be higher than last year even when inflation drops. That means overall prices are higher than last year’s high prices, not lower. Overall prices get lower when inflation is negative, and negative inflation usually comes from a recession or economic downturn. Nobody wants that. In the last 75 years, only three years experienced negative inflation. It is safe to say that prices, in general, go up.

While overall prices tend to go up, individual items and groups of items will fluctuate, because of unusual market conditions. Some items actually get cheaper over time. Technological improvements have made televisions cheaper even while the cost of the overall market goes up. The cost of milk, bread, and broccoli have fluctuated over time but the long-term trend has been upward for all three. Expecting the price of food to go down, because inflation drops to a more normal 3.5% is unrealistic.

A big contributor to the price of food staying persistently high are the higher wages paid to farm workers, food packagers, warehouse workers, truck drivers, local distributors, super marker personnel, etc. Food-handling is labor intensive, and a lot of those food handlers got raises, because inflation often leads to higher wages.

After COVID most countries around the world experienced inflation, and the US got inflation under control faster than most. COVID caused the inflation, and the Biden administration dealt with it within their limited powers to influence the economy. To anyone disgruntled over the high cost of food: Instead of blaming President Biden, ask your boss why you are not getting an inflation adjustment in your salary.

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(drone2) The Drone War

This essay was posted on 1/24/24.

Google and Microsoft Bing Copilot were used to research this piece.

With the land-war at a standstill, Ukraine is switching to sling-shot stones thrown at the Russian Goliath. The stones are in the form of small, off-the-shelf drones designed and manufactured in Ukraine.

The Use of military equipment from the West by Ukraine is limited to defensive purposes within the Ukraine borders. The purpose of limiting the use of Western weapons is to limit Russia’s plans for expanding the war into Western Europe and beyond. The home-grown drones give Ukraine the military option to attack military targets in St Petersburg and Moscow, for example. Ukraine is taking advantage of this option. Some drones travel 750 miles to their targets in Russia.

Ukraine is attacking Russian military assets in the occupied territories and in the Black Sea. A large drone strike occurred in Crimea while the Russians were attacking the city of Avdiivka. A large explosion occurred at an electric generation facility in the Donetsk region. Russian Naval vessels in the Black Sea have been attacked by sea-drones. Ukraine is inflicting pain on Russia in ways not anticipated at the beginning of the war.

Russia is retaliating against drone attacks. Russia recently launched over 100 missiles and many drones of their own in one night against various targets in Ukraine. Most of the missiles were intercepted by Ukraine’s air defense systems, but there was still significant damage.

The outcome of the drone war is still not known. There is evidence, however that many people in Russia want the war to end. A Russian soldier’s wife asked an official when would her husband come home.

Maria said, "When they're brought back with no arms and legs? When they can't do anything at all because they're just vegetables? Or do we have to wait for them to be sent back in zinc coffins?"

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(oath) 2024 and the Constitution

This essay was posted on 1/16/24.

The 2024 election will be remembered as the time when the Constitution is on the ballot, but it’s not about the electoral college or abortion rights or the voting rights act or Citizen’s United. It is about whether government officials respect their oaths of office enough to retain our democratic values enshrined in the Constitution. Will the members of Congress respect their duty to put politics aside? Will the members of Congress put the needs of their constituents over the marching orders of one individual? It might depend on which party has control.

The 1974 resignation of Richard Nixon can help us in deciding how we vote this year. Articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon were adopted but never approved by Congress. Republican Senators, led by Barry Goldwater, urged Nixon to resign rather than face a certain guilty verdict during the impeachment trial. Nixon chose to resign. Goldwater and his fellow Republicans made a choice to put their Constitutional duty over Party loyalty, because the evidence against Nixon merited removal from office, in their opinion.

The 2021 impeachment trial of Donald Trump is a stark contrast to the Nixon departure. While many Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, acknowledged that Trump was guilty, they voted to acquit because Trump was no longer President when the trial began. As a result, Trump avoided being banned from the Presidency. Trump’s actions leading up to and including Jan. 6 were arguably at least as serious as Nixon’s obstruction of a crime and abuse of power against US citizens and merited a guilty vote. Republicans who protected Trump seemingly forgot their oath to protect the Constitution. They should have followed Goldwater’s example, and they have not learned from their mistake.

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(peace) Ukraine and the EU

The content in this story is too big for 300 words. This essay was posted on 1/7/24.

Microsoft Bing Copilot was used to research this piece.

Something awakened the US and Europe after Vladimir Putin’s all-out military invasion of Ukraine. It could have been Putin’s veiled threat of nuclear retaliation if the West overreacted. It could have been Putin’s violation of the UN Charter and international law. It could have been Putin’s apparent designs on controlling Eastern Europe. History will give us answers, but one lesson is clear. The pattern of military attacks on sovereign nations in our interconnected and very fragile world needs to stop.

The UN was formed after World War II with the purpose of bringing peace and stability between nations. The UN is often ineffective, especially when a permanent member-nation with veto power is involved. Removing veto power from China, Russia, and the US might be too difficult, so conflicts like the Ukraine war play out with little help from the UN.

An alternative solution is a relatively new concept. The European Union (EU} applies a set of social and political ideals that support a democratic government and a federated infrastructure that can monitor the member countries and help them when problems arise. For example, the EU has helped Greece and Italy overcome financial problems and refugee issues. While the assistance is not a cure, the political tension in Italy and Greece has moderated. The regional aspects and the ability to take direct action makes the EU an effective force for peace.

Ironically, Ukraine’s effort to seek rapprochement with the EU and NATO threatened Russia and led to the military invasion of Ukraine. The invasion led to military aid from Europe and the US to help Ukraine just as EU nations would help each other in a time of crisis. The military aid is helping Ukraine to keep the Russian bear at bay, but Ukraine clearly needs more help.

The Ukraine war tests the efficacy of the EU approach to manifesting peace in a hostile environment. While this test is inexact, it measures the resolve needed to solve a complex problem. If the US and the European countries back out of their commitments to Ukraine, they will raise questions about the level of commitment member nations have in the EU.

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(polls) The Real Ukraine Aid Question

This essay was posted on 12/28/23.

Microsoft Bing Copilot was used to research this piece.

As President Biden runs out of money for Ukraine aid, it seems that he is losing public support. The latest Pew poll shows that only 39% approve of Biden’s handling of the Ukraine war, and 41% disapprove. While the poll most likely reflects the popular view of the conflict in Ukraine, it should not mean that the US should abandon Ukraine.

Making the Ukraine war a pure popularity contest is black or white logic in which there are only two options, stay or go. This kind of logic always leads to poor decisions, and the Ukraine conflict is a good example.

Using a qualitative method that offers a fuller spectrum of options is a better choice. Instead of asking if the US should help or not help Ukraine, a more interesting question is: Should there be more aid, the same amount of aid, or less aid? A Pew research poll showed that 42% wanted more aid, 32% felt the aid was about right, and only 7% wanted less aid. 74% of Americans, according to a Pew poll, want the aid to continue or even increase, and only 7% want the aid reduced.

The two polls imply that a large percentage of the people disapprove of how the US handles aid to Ukraine because Biden’s aid packages are too small. The press and the politicians could be misreading the mood of the voters. Republicans in the House, for example, may be paving the way for major losses in November if they continue to pursue politics of obstruction over aid to Ukraine.

Both polls are true reflections of the public sentiment, but one poll may be a more accurate reflection of the public than the other.

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(price) Cheaper Electricity

This essay was posted on 12/20/23.

Microsoft Bing Copilot was used to research this piece.

Next year, electric rates will be lower for most Mainers, because electric generation costs for the two major providers will drop about 30%. The electric companies attribute lower natural gas prices as the reason for the rate decrease, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Lower natural gas prices are a reality. They fell in 2023 and are projected to fall again in 2024. Prices don’t decline arbitrarily. Supply and demand are the economic forces that drive natural gas prices. Lower prices come from a rise in supply or a fall in demand. It turns out that both conditions apply to natural gas.

Natural gas production is increasing and is projected to increase again in 2024, but demand is going down. The increase in demand started when electric generators switched from dirty coal to cleaner natural gas. The gas producers aren’t taking current drops in demand seriously. They should.

Lower demand comes from at least two obvious sources. Warmer weather may create a higher need for air-conditioning, but it also reduces the need to heat buildings. Warmer weather lowers demand, at least in Maine. And the switch from natural gas to renewables in electric generation is beginning to have an impact on natural gas consumption.

Natural gas consumption will continue its downward trend as long as renewable energy production continues to expand and replace natural gas fueled electric generation. Even the oil producers acknowledge the changing horizon by building wind farms and investing in carbon capture technologies.

Ironically, global warming and the switch to renewable energy has combined to drive down the price of natural gas and the price of electricity. It might even lower the price of food at your favorite restaurant.

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(latvia) Putin's Pattern

This essay was posted on 12/10/23 and appeared in the Portland Sunday Telegram on 12/24/23.

Microsoft Bing Copilot was used to research this piece.

In 1999, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin blamed Chechnya for an attack on a Russian apartment building. Putin followed up with a military invasion of Chechnya. The matter of actual Chechnyan involvement in the terrorist attack is still unresolved.

In 2008, Putin accused Georgia of genocide and other crimes. Putin followed up with a military invasion of Georgia.

In 2012, Putin claimed that Ukrainian extremists were harming ethnic Russians in Crimea. Putin followed up by using a covert military operation to annex Crimea.

In 2022, Putin claimed that the Ukrainian government was rife with radical Nazis. Putin followed up with a military invasion of Ukraine. The fighting in Ukraine is still ongoing with the help of military aid from the US and other NATO countries.

Now, Putin is accusing Latvia of mistreating ethnic Russians living in Latvia. Putin is following up his claims against Latvia with extra troop movements near the Latvian border, reminiscent of troop movements near the Ukraine border before the Russian invasion.

The pattern is clear. Putin is using fake claims and military power to bring former Soviet Republics back under Russian control. With Putin’s arguably illegal attacks on sovereign nations, this is not the time to cut off military aid to Ukraine. If we want to avoid a full-blown European war, the pattern of Putin’s military style diplomacy must be broken.

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(2025) The 2025 Project

This essay was posted on 11/30/23.

The idea for this essay came from a posting on Twitter, currently known as X. Microsoft Bing Copilot was used to research this piece.

Heritage Foundation’s 2025 Project contains an action plan for the next Republican President that they hope will be elected in 2024. The plan contains a number of troubling goals. The Project calls for firing up to 50,000 federal workers over politics. The Project advocates increasing the power of the President based on the controversial unitary executive theory. The Project intends to roll back climate change policies. The Project calls for using the military to squash public protests and for using the DOJ to arrest and prosecute political rivals. This is a plan that should have bipartisan condemnation, but a surprisingly high number of Republicans are silent.

By their actions, 3 Republican Senators are not silent. Tommy Tuberville is holding up the nominations of too many Military promotions to make a point about abortions. Ted Cruz is holding up State Department nominations to make a point about a Russian pipeline. And Rand Paul is holding up more State Department nominations over COVID-19 origins. These Senators are not winning any concessions and don’t seem to care. So, what is the point?

While there is no specific connection between the 2025 Project and these Senatorial holds, there is an obvious benefit to them in keeping these key government positions vacant until a new President is elected, if the President is a Republican. The actions of Tuberville, Cruz, and Paul are a stark reminder of the Merrick Garland hold that led to a new, conservative Justice on the Supreme Court. Imagine hundreds of key government positions filled by conservatives who are loyal to a President guided by the 2025 Project.

Preparations for the 2025 Project are already underway. And the project is much bigger than just Donald Trump.

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(roevwade) The Danger of Success

This essay was posted on 11/19/23.

Republicans used the Roe v Wade decision to win over Evangelical Christians in 1980 when they made the abortion ban a major plank in their platform. Over the next 40 years, the Republicans have held onto their evangelical political base by leveraging abortion and LGBTQ issues. But the politics of abortion are changing.

Over the next 40 years after 1980, the abortion rate has steadily decreased. The decrease has occurred under Democratic and Republican administrations, suggesting that the rate of decrease is not political. A lower pregnancy rate and the availability of contraceptives have also contributed to the decrease in the abortion rate.

Roe v Wade was overturned in 2022, after the Republicans managed to get 3 new, conservative Justices on the Supreme Court. Since that decision, Republicans have taken a beating in most elections and especially in abortion related referenda. Abortion votes is Kentucky, Montana, Kansas, and Ohio is especially noteworthy. Anti-abortion advocates lost in all 4 referenda. What changed?

The only change was the status of Roe v Wade. In the red state anti-abortion defeats, a significant number of conservatives voted to preserve abortion rights. These conservative voters probably did not change their minds after the end of Roe v Wade. They wanted an abortion option regardless of their personal beliefs. When Roe v Wade was in effect, voting for Republicans was safe.

Now that Roe v Wade no longer applies, and voting for anti-abortion Republicans is not as safe, a significant number of conservatives are seeking other candidates. Recent Republican defeats point to more Republican losses, until Republican candidates soften their position on abortion.

After more than 40 years of trying, Republicans succeeded in curtailing abortion rights. I wonder, will success spoil the Republican Party?

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(gaza) The Endless War

This essay was posted on 11/7/23.

The Middle East area once called Palestine has had many rulers. Before the Jewish state of Israel was established, the British Empire controlled Palestine, and before that, the Ottoman Empire controlled Palestine. When Israel was formed, the Palestinians were indigenous to the region without sovereign control. The UN plan called for the Palestinian area to be divided into two states; one for the indigenous Palestinians, and one for the Jewish settlers. The UN plan fell apart when the Arab leadership boycotted the proceedings and argued that the indigenous Palestinians should chart their own path, as was their right according to the UN Charter.

The original partitioning issue remains unresolved at least among the Palestinians and their neighbors. Since 1947, there have been at least 7 distinct conflicts that could be bundled into a 76-year war. It is safe to say that warfare isn’t working towards any meaningful resolution.

Israel’s current plan to batter the Gaza Strip until the hostages are released won’t work for Israel or Hamas and the Palestinians. If Israel totally demolishes Gaza, Iran will move in to rebuild a new, weaponized Hamas, and if Hamas continues to resist, Israel will continue to pound and kill Palestinians. This pattern has played out before with the same unresolved outcome.

The only way to end 76 years of war is to start over. From zero. Forget about all the injustices. Forget about all the needless deaths. Forget about all the things that have perpetuated 76 years of unresolved conflict. Both sides must come together without outside interference and decide for themselves how they will move forward together in a mutually respectful way. It can all start with a simple gesture.

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(johnson) The Broken House

This essay was posted on 10/29/23.

The new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson has been called, “Jim Jordan in a jacket with a smile.” Johnson’s resume is as radical as Jordan’s. He had a key role in the Jan 6 attempt to overthrow the 2020 election. He is critical of more Ukraine aid. He is strongly against abortions. He wants to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Johnson is against immigration and pro-wall. Johnson wants to curb our asylum policies. The only way you can distinguish Johnson from Jordan is with wardrobe preferences.

Mike Johnson and Jim Jordan are the same, politically. Why then would Republicans soundly reject Jordan and then throw unanimous support to Johnson? Apparently, moderate Republicans would rather support a Jordan lookalike than make a deal with Democrats, knowing that the MAGA agenda of Jordan and Johnson would go to the Senate and die. The odds that Congress will remain paralyzed are high.

In his public statements, President Biden has been optimistic about working with Johnson and the Republicans for the benefit of the people. Johnson may not welcome Biden’s gesture. The new Speaker will either implement the radical MAGA spending cuts and plunge the country into a recession or he will be fired for trying to accommodate Biden’s priorities, all because the Republicans are united at the hip of Donald Trump. There is no good ending for Johnson.

The election of Johnson as House Speaker did not inspire the stock market. The Dow Jones average fell almost 400 points in the two days after Johnson was named.

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(speaker) The Speaker Bottleneck

This essay was posted on 10/19/23.

Jim Jordan’s second attempt at gaining the Speaker of the House position failed spectacularly, and the Republican caucus rejected a plan to give interim Speaker Patrick McHenry enough powers to resume legislating. As a result, the House doesn’t have a speaker, and with no clear path towards resolving the problem, the House can’t conduct business. There will be no aid to Israel, no aid to Ukraine, and no resolution to the impending shutdown until the Speaker fiasco is resolved.

The Republican caucus in the House is so divided that it can’t even pick a leader. The MAGA Republicans want a leader that will let their minority control all legislation. The moderates want the House to be more productive than doing absolutely nothing. The largest group of Republicans are in the middle, extremely hesitant about taking sides.

The problem is simple. The Speaker of the House needs a simple majority of the entire House, including Republicans and Democrats. Because of the divisions in the House, the Republican candidates have failed to garner the near unanimous Republican vote needed to overcome the Democrats who have been supporting their leader, Hakeem Jeffries.

The solution is obvious if hard to swallow. The Democrats and a small group of Republicans need to choose a bipartisan candidate that both sides can trust. Democrats have said they can work with Patrick McHenry, for example. If the chosen candidate is nominated by a member of the opposing party, then the notion of bipartisanship would be clear.

After all, isn’t the ultimate goal to make bipartisan legislation?

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(pinetree2) Pine Tree Politics

This essay was posted on 10/11/23.

In the current campaign to form a public non-profit power company in Maine, the private power companies aren’t going to make an ad saying, “We charge more so we can cover the profits to our foreign owners.” Instead, they are making attack ads. When a side relies solely on attack ads, don’t believe them.

Case 1: While Pine Tree Power must pay the existing power company owners about $13.5 Billion for their distribution business, it will not put a big tax burden on the State and it won’t happen all at once. The plan is to pay for the business over a period of about 9 years by adding a small charge to the electric bills. Big users will pay more, and small users will pay less. Some of the debt will be covered by the income to private owners that Pine Tree Power will not be paying.

Case 2: While Long Island Light and Power Authority (LIPA) still has issues, there is more to tell. LIPA is an unusual public company that pays an outside, privately owned firm to handle the day-to-day operations. LIPA’s public-private model is not working, and a process to change the model has been started. Pine Tree does not plan to use the LIPA model. Instead, Pine Tree plans to take over existing operations while encouraging current workers to stay. LIPA’s issues are not relevant.

Meanwhile, customer satisfaction in CMP and Versant is still low. Maybe it is time for a change.

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(light) The Legacy of Lincoln

This essay was posted on 10/4/23.

Jon Mecham’s book And There Was Light recounts the life of Abraham Lincoln, focusing on the National struggle between slavery and freedom. The political division in the 1850’s echoes the political divisions in the US today. From 1850 until he was assassinated, Lincoln’s views on slavery evolved until he eventually made the end of slavery a necessary condition for ending the Civil War.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was a turning point for Lincoln, according to Mecham, because Lincoln referred to the Declaration of Independence and not the US Constitution. Four score and seven years ago made 1776 the important date to remember. The Declaration bases everything on the equality of men. Lincoln saw the Declaration as describing the aspirations of the new nation, and he grew to understand that those aspirations would not be achieved unless the Constitution was amended to make Black slaves free and equal.

The 1864 election was a referendum on slavery. A vote for the Republican Lincoln was a vote for abolition. A vote for the Democrat McClellan was a vote for slavery. 120 years later the 2024 election is a referendum on democracy. A vote for the Democrat Biden will be a vote to preserve our democratic republic. A vote for the Republican candidate presumed to be Trump is a vote to repeat the excesses of Jan 6 and move us closer to a dictatorship where a vote doesn’t matter without regard to the color of one’s skin.

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(trust) The Value of Treaties

This essay was posted on 9/27/23.

Before Donald Trump was President there was a policy in place to honor the international agreements of prior Presidents to maintain the reputation of the US as a credible and dependable leader in international affairs.

Trump changed the policy when he pulled out of the Paris Accords and the Iran Nuclear Arms Deal. President Biden has recovered a lot of ground by reestablishing our role in Climate Change and by taking a major leadership role in supporting Ukraine in its war with Russia. What would happen if history repeated itself?

Currently, Trump promises to end the Ukraine war in 24 hours. Ukraine won’t stop the war unless the Russians leave entirely, and Putin won’t stop unless he wins. Trump’s claim depends on stopping all military aid to Ukraine and forcing President Zelenskyy to capitulate. Based on the current Republican push to cut Ukraine aid, abandoning Ukraine is a virtual certainty in a hypothetical Trump Presidency.

Trump’s plans for global warming issues are well documented in the conservative Project 2025 document. The plan calls for gutting all efforts to fight global warming, and for resurrecting fossil fuel generated energy. Goodbye to Paris Accords and to our current leadership role in reducing greenhouse gases. Trump’s energy plan comes at the worst time because the growth in CO2 emissions is slowing down, an indication that global efforts are turning the corner.

The disastrous effects of Trump’s planned initiatives are only part of the problem. Big reversals in our international policies like this destroy our reputation as a consistent leader in world affairs. When we abandon countries that depend on us, our reputation and our influence diminish. When we abandon countries twice in a decade, our influence evaporates. Trump’s plan will bankrupt the US just like Trump bankrupted his casinos.

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(shift) Stopping Global Warming

This essay was posted on 9/17/23.

With more powerful hurricanes, more punishing droughts, disastrous fires, and more desperate migrants, the festering problem of global warming is coming to roost. When the oceans die from overheating, and the whales die from ingesting plastic. And New York is underwater, we will still be bickering about windmills killing too many sea gulls. After years of neglect, the earth’s health is bad in 6 out of 9 key measurements.

We have made a lot of mistakes. We waited too long before taking action. Many countries, including the US, have been inconsistent in their contributions. Wars and global politics too often take precedence. There have been significant efforts by some countries, but overall, there is no progress and our environment is getting worse.

If we want to come out of this challenge in a better place, then we must start with a global paradigm shift. World War II provides a model. Imagine what would have happened to the Allies if each country controlled their respective armies independently. Hitler would have won. The Allies recognized that a cooperative plan under consolidated leadership was necessary. The same applies to the war on global warming. While there is a great deal of talking, the level of cooperation has not translated well enough to action. This fight needs consolidated leadership to drive energy policy on a global scale.

All countries must agree to relinquish some control to a task force with the job of managing the containment of global warming on an international level. This model will only succeed if the task force can hold a country to its commitment over multiple administrations.

The shift to a limited world government needed to manage this task force won’t happen overnight, but we should take some real, tangible steps in this direction.

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(happy) The Rich and the Poor

The content in this story is too big for 300 words. This essay was posted on 9/6/23.

Healthy, working economies need rich people and the poor. The rich convert new innovations into commercial products that change and hopefully improve our lives. Rich entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs developed a unique, hand-held computer AKA a smart phone. The smart phone enriched Apple and made the smart phone an indispensable tool for many of us. And the poor carry out the basic functions, sometimes invisibly, that we absolutely need.

But how can we tell who is too poor or too rich. The people who are too poor are too easy to identify. They are the homeless tenting in our parks. They are the jobless who can’t find work for both good and bad reasons. They are the addicts. They are single mothers with too many children and too few job skills. The ones who are too poor are the ones needing the most help and the ones who drag down the economy.

The poorest Countries have struggling economies. Their governments can’t extract enough revenue from their economies to do the necessary things and also feed the poor. Countries in Africa and South America often lack the cash needed to help the poor, so poverty thrives in an unhealthy way.

When a country has a healthy economy that can feed and shelter everyone, then the government can choose to make it happen. Many European countries have made the choice to invest more in the poor. Countries like Sweden and France invest in their poor through government run welfare programs. They use socialist concepts within the context of providing forms of welfare insurance to the poor and the rich.

The US economy is big enough and active enough to also provide universal welfare insurance as well, but the US welfare system leaves too many without coverage. The naysayers don’t want to turn the US into a socialist state, and they don’t want to be overtaxed.

Sweden is a good counter example to the fear of socialism in the US. True, Sweden has socialized its welfare system that provides universal coverage, and Sweden has a high tax rate. Sweden supports the welfare system with a free-market capitalist economy.

Sweden’s social democracy works. Sweden is the 7th happiest country. The rich are not too rich, but they are rich enough, and the poor are not too poor. In 16th place, the US is a very happy country but not as happy as the Swedes. The US doesn’t need to copy Sweden exactly, but raising the tax rate in the higher brackets and making our existing welfare truly universal might make everyone just as happy as the Swedes.

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(ev) EV Mandates

This essay was posted on 8/24/23.

editorial in the local paper said that government mandates shouldn’t drive the switch to EV’s citing EV cost issues, individual rights, and what cold Maine winters will do to electric vehicles. Nickerson, an acknowledged EV fan, has turned the EV issue upside down.

The cost issues: The price of an EV is higher than the price of a gas-powered car, but that is not the whole picture. The cost of owning a car is the purchase price, maintenance costs, and gas costs less the resale value. Current comparisons show that the cost of ownership is about the same between gas-powered vehicles and EV’s. Over time, as the technology improves, the cost of EV’s will go down.

Maine winters: As battery technology improves, batteries will be better suited to Maine winters. And don’t forget that Maine winters are becoming milder as we continue to pump more greenhouse gases into the air. Maine winters are a problem now and an achievable goal for the future.

Individual rights: The question of rights violations depends on the reality of a government mandate, but the current plans don’t support it. Ford plans to be totally converted to EV’s by 2030. GM plans to build only EV’s by 2035. Chrysler plans to be all-electric by 2028. The EV-mandate will be market driven, not government driven. Furthermore, mandates allow people to keep their gas-powered vehicle, and anyone can buy a used car that is gas-powered. The conversion to EV’s has already begun and is too far along to be stopped.

Governor Mills’s mandate isn’t directed to car buyers. It is directed to charging station installers, electricity generators, and other industry providers that you’d better be ready and provide a smooth conversion to EV technology, because it is coming.

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(doi) The Declaration of Independence

This essay was posted on 8/13/23.

Social media comments have derided Trump attorney John Eastman for using the Declaration of Independence (DOI) as a legal justification for the failed attempt to overthrow the 2020 election on Jan 6. Detractors mistakenly think Eastman is confusing the DOI with the Constitution. Eastman is not confused, and there is more to the Declaration than meets the eye.

The DOI argues that England’s powers over the colonies have led to intolerable abuses that can only be resolved with a revolution. The DOI lays out a case for the colonies to break away from England and steer their own course.

What if the colonists lost the war with England. Would the DOI provide enough legal cover to protect the founding fathers? By fulfilling King George’s promise to carry out a fitting punishment on the revolution’s leaders, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others would be hanged summarily. The DOI would carry no weight.

As important as the DOI is to our Nation’s values and traditions, it is not a legal document, and the DOI’s predilection to revolution is not supported by our Nation’s laws. Eastman is grasping at legal straws, because our laws and our Constitution do not favor the overthrow of our governing process.

In fact, Eastman goes too far into uncharted territory. By relying on the pro-revolutionary text of the DOI, Eastman acknowledges that Trump’s purpose in Jan 6 is the illegal overthrow of the election process. He puts the label of insurrectionist squarely on Donald Trump’s shoulders.