Entries Filed in 'Neil Rolde'
History in Politics: The Squeeze by Neil Rolde
In 1990, when I was the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate running against the incumbent Republican William Cohen, the main issue I became known for was the need to have Universal Health Care in the United States. My so-called political gurus had warned me against using this theme on the grounds that no one was interested. But I insisted and to my surprise – and no doubt more so to theirs – the exact opposite proved to be true. It lifted what had been deemed my “sacrificial race” into a potentially competitive battle. Then, some in the media began to call me a “one issue” candidate, ignoring all the materials I’d sent them of my views on other issues.
However, I did have a second major concern that I focused on in the latter part of the campaign. I called it “The Middle Class Squeeze.” Even back 24 years ago, the handwriting began appearing on the wall. My staff went ahead without telling me and produced a campaign button on the subject. To my consternation, once I saw it, they had omitted MIDDLE CLASS and printed the utterly baffling motto “STOP THE SQUEEZE.” I felt I would only look silly using such pins. So the Middle Class Squeeze, at least in my campaign, gained no traction.
Be that as it may, my reason for recalling this incident was to show how far back it was evident that what is a front page issue today – the decline of America’s formerly all-ubiquitous middle class – was beginning to rear its ugly head, finally leading to the world’s worst INEQUALITY in a major Capitalist democracy.
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The recent upheavals in the Ukraine have shown a new squirt of Russian imperialism at work in Eastern Europe. History has revealed a number of Russian expansions and subsequent contractions of its territory and spheres of influence. The most recent of these, of course, is the rise and fall of the Soviet Union.
During the period of the Brezhnev ascendancy and just prior to the USSR collapse and just afterward, I went on three separate trips behind the Iron Curtain. All three visits – in 1977, 1989 and 1992 – traversed this 20th century period of Russia’s traditional patterns.
When in the late 1977’s, I toured with my wife and youngest daughter Danielle, then five years old, through the Soviet Empire, we did a circuit of the mostly non-Russian parts of that gigantic entity. My secret intent was to see what was happening in the countries that the Russians had forcibly incorporated into Stalin’s behemoth of a Communist state. So in addition to the core Russian component, we spent time in the Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia and Latvia. It should be understood that all of these and other “Republics” were run from Moscow by puppet governments, totally subservient to the Kremlin. In addition, former independent countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Bulgaria, had also been brought in under the Russian thumb.
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One of the phenomena in today’s political scene is a shadowy organization that calls itself the “Club For Growth.” It is ultra right wing in its politics and funded by mega wealthy tycoons who prefer to remain anonymous.
Its use of the seductive word “Growth” in its title hides its real agenda. Or rather, what these people mean by Growth is opening the floodgates against restraint to the big business community. No laws against polluting, insider trading, cooking the books in financial ratings, starvation wages for workers, preventing unionization, no responsibility for on the job accidents or deaths due to company negligence and, oh, yes, no allowing taxes on anyone except the poor and the middle class. In the eyes of these Club for Growth royalists, they are the new nobility (mistakenly called “job creators”) and, like the aristocracy of old, should be supported in their posh lifestyles by their inferiors.
Their collaborators in the endeavor I call the Club For No Growth are, of course, the Republican Party Obstructionists in Congress, notably the Republicans in the House of Representatives, who are exercising an ability to gum up the governmental work of doing the people’s business. Any action they can take to slow down the return to prosperity for the vast majority of Americans injured by the Bush Recession they will take, no matter how damaging. Any program that will increase the buying power of the poor and middle class is, as the Germans say, streng verboten, strictly forbidden. They revel in the rise of unemployment figures. See, they say, you have elected and re-elected a President who is not only black but liberal and what a terrible job he is doing. By skewing the flow of taxpayer funds back into the hands of the very rich through manipulation of the tax code – and even trying to block their paying a fraction more – they argue they will be inducing the alleged “job creators” to invest in the U.S. economy. In reality, they use the tax breaks they receive to shift their funds overseas, like Governor Romney did his nest egg in the Cayman Islands. The Club for Growth’s is plainly not for growth of American jobs, but the growth of obscene profits for an ever more privileged few to pocket.
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Tags: Republican extremists
Several weeks ago, I wrote about Governor Paul Le Page’s vulgar and even pornographic blast at a Democratic State Senator. More recently, I was to hear from one of my sons-in-law, married to my oldest daughter and on a visit to Maine from their home in California, that he was shocked to read in a California paper what our Maine Chief Executive said. My son-in-law, born and raised in Utah, is an Evangelical Christian and although we never talk politics, I presume a Republican. The bad press that Maine has received from our Governor travels far and wide, it seems, and does us no good.
So what does this have to do with another of our Governors, Ken Curtis – a much, much different person and Chief Executive than the ex-Mayor of Waterville who presently holds the position.
It’s no secret that I worked for Ken for six years before being elected to the Maine Legislature from York. Well, recently I received an invitation to join Ken and his wife Polly at a reunion of ex-staffers and also a request to prepare some personal
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Not many Americans could point out Bangladesh on a world map. Fewer still know that it was once a part of Pakistan and was called East Bengal, or that it is separated from Pakistan by 1,500 miles of intervening India. Its main reputation in the U.S. is that it is a place where clothes are made cheaply and find numerous buyers here. Lately, though, the textile industry in Bangladesh has suffered several serious disasters, culminating in the deaths of workers who were turning out those products.
The most serious disaster was the Rana Plaza collapse on April 24, 2013 of an eight story commercial building. The fatalities reached a horrendous toll of 1,127, mostly of garment workers who were ordered to work on the premises after warnings had been issued because of cracks discovered in the structure. Thus, “the deadliest garment factory accident in history” took place . More than twice as many people – 2,500 – were injured.
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Tags: Civil Rights·Government transparency·History in Politics·Maine History·unions
Governor Paul LePage of Maine courtesy photo
The latest verbal rampage by the man currently in the Blaine House sent shock waves through various segments of Maine society. Not only was this latest of outrageous statements from Governor Le Page rude, mean-spirited and ignorant but it was also “dirty.” At least that’s what we kids would have called it when I was growing up in its references to Vaseline and how it is used in certain intimate circumstances.
Governor Le Page started off on his latest round of “did he really say that” barbs when he told the NAACP to “kiss my butt” when they complained of how crassly he had rejected an invitation to their annual convention. Since then, he has been telling other groups in Maine he dislikes, if not in those exact words, to do the same.
Now, in his recent slam at Democratic State Senator Troy Jackson from northern Maine (Allagash), he has out done himself. It seems he has issued a blanket condemnation of the majority of folks in his supposed stronghold of the Second Congressional District as “brainless” and “ignorant.” I wish my good friend, the late State Representative Don Hall from tiny Sangerville in Piscataquis County, a woodsman and tree grower, were alive today. Hallsey would have used one of those colorful backwoods expressions for he which he was known and so dearly loved. Representative Hall would have referred to the Governor as “numb as a pounded thumb.”
While we are now edging our way back into Maine history, the question naturally occurs: “Has the Pine Tree State ever experienced a Chief Executive like Paul Le Page?” Has anyone else in our highest office ever mouthed off like he has?
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Tags: History in Politics
The US Capitol. Today the House is controlled by Republicans and the Senate has a majority of Democrats
For a while after the 2012 Presidential Election, there were stories in the newspapers that a movement had started in Texas to have the Lone Star State secede from the United States. More than 100,000 Texans had signed a petition to force the Federal Government to cut Texas loose. Texas, of course, for a brief time in the 19th century had been a Republic that had won its independence by breaking away from Mexico.
This latter day secession effort won headlines and had imitators in a number of existing States.
Today, we don’t hear anything more about it.
Another throwback to pre-Civil War conditions has Governors of certain States trying to nullify laws passed by the Federal Government and signed by the President. When Andrew Jackson became President, he put a quick stop to that unconstitutional nullification effort.
Again, we don’t see much discussion these days about a nullification revival. Indeed, in some instances in States with Republican Governors (among whom most of such chatter has been going on) these defiant chief executives have publicly supported an expansion of Medicaid due to the Federal money they will receive.
The structure of our Federal Government as conceived by our ‘founding fathers” still remains strong despite these secessionist/ nullificationist moves in the 21st century.
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Tags: History in Politics·Maine History
Distilling in Maine, the illegal way.
Governor Paul Le Page has stated that he wants to pay down the State’s debt to Maine hospitals by using the proceeds from liquor sales. The hospitals are owed $186 million.
Once again, the spotlight will be on the sales of alcoholic beverages down east and – to a lesser degree – what we’re doing to contain its harmful effects.
The Pine Tree State’s experiences with the “Demon Rum” goes back a long way. How many Mainers know that we were the first State in the Union to institute a prohibition law [done in 1856]? Neal Dow is a name most Maine people have forgotten, but this former Portland fire fighter, State Representative and Civil War general was the spark plug that ignited the State and eventually the entire nation and world to ban all alcohol consumption [including beer and wine]. The legislation Dow pushed was from then on, all over the country, was known as “the Maine Law.
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By Neil Rolde
Cartoon of Grover Norquist
To put together Grover Norquist, the Republican anti-tax champion, and the late Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attack on the U.S., the truth lies in their common attitude toward the American federal government. Norquist famously said he wanted to shrink our Washington, DC-based national government to a size where he could “drown it in the bathtub.” Osama Bin Laden, who hated our American government with as much fervor as Grover Norquist, described his 9/11 attack as the “conquest of the U.S.A.” Both these men had the same goal: destroy America’s ability to govern itself.
Some people are asking if Norquist’s philosophy of starving the U.S. government is not an incitement to treason. Bin Laden paid with his life for his murder of more than 3,000 Americans. Norquist, with his anti-tax “pledge,” although diminished in support to an extent, is still maintaining his un-American wish to overthrow the U.S. Constitution.
The adoption of our Constitution is generally seen, for those who know American history, as the cement that has kept Americans together since we gained our freedom from Great Britain. It was not easily passed. There was significant opposition to having a strong government, and in ratification conventions, state by state, the measure often just squeaked by. Massachusetts was a case in point. The Constitution was adopted there by a plurality of only 19 votes.
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Neil Rolde, outside the Capitol in Augusta in 2011. Rolde’s been involved in state politics for over forty years, has written extensively about Maine, is a philanthropist, a Renaissance man, and a gentleman. photo by Ramona du Houx
“I always wanted to be a writer from the very start. When I was eight, I think, I said I wanted to go to Columbia Journalism School, and strangely enough I ended up there,” said Neil Rolde, who is a prize-winning historian, prolific Maine writer, philanthropist, community activist, Renaissance man, former Maine State Representative, political activist and theorist.
Most of Rolde’s 15 books involve the history of Maine — the state he loves deeply — and its people. With his wealth of historical knowledge about politics, the author recently has turned his skill and wit to highlighting political incidents that happen today in a historical context. The results are thought-provoking blog narratives that strike the cord of humanity in us all.
The last blog in his History in Today’s Politics series is entitled: “LePage’s Research and Development Bond Veto Says, ‘High Tech Industries Keep Out.’”
“History is an amazing thing and teaches us all something, if we give it time,” said Rolde. “What happens today has happened — in a different incarnation — in the past. Giving today’s events a historical context can allow us to understand them better.”
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