Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Calls for culture wars are built into the founding documents of our nation:  “All men are created Equal.”  “Promote the General Welfare.”  “Provide for the General Welfare.”  From the beginning these moral promises were problematic.  Women were not even included in the definition of equal;  a  huge part of the economy depended on slavery; only property owners could vote.  Culture wars are responsible for bringing constitutional promises to fruition. The abolition of slavery was a culture war.  All the civil rights movements since are culture wars.  The Labor and Feminist movements are culture wars. 
To restore and protect our environment, to guarantee the promise of equality for all by curbing the greed and power of Wall Street, to protect women’s reproductive rights and the voting rights of all, to find a way in the richest country of the world to provide health care for all—these are some culture wars of our time.

There has never been a time in my life where such wars were more necessary.  In just 2 short years since the 2010 elections, everything I care most about has been under increased threat right here in Maine.  There were early efforts in this administration to restrict women’s reproductive rights.  Workers were publicly insulted by the removal of the mural from the Maine Department of Labor.  The Governor seeks to roll back environmental protections regulations.  An attempt to restrict voting rights had to be defeated by referendum.  Polls show that a majority of Mainers favor equal marriage rights, but a referendum is necessary to get them.  Restrictions to Medicaid and the new health care law are already leaving many people without any financial access to basic health care.  That law is a great benefit to insurance companies, and insurance premiums continue to rise. 
I believe in living within a balanced budget, but it is cruel and abusive to do it by cutting benefits to the poor, sick, and disabled while at the same time giving the kind of tax cuts that have been enacted.  My tax cut will be relatively small, but it would mean a lot more in terms of access to basic necessities such as heating fuel and necessary health care to people in my income bracket than to the wealthiest.  Yet I would gladly turn back my tax cut to restore the benefits taken away.  What I have lost as a retired teacher in pension cuts will likely more than offset my tax cut, and still I would not mind my pension losses so much, either, if the money were going to provide for the general welfare instead of for the welfare of the wealthiest people in our state. 

In as much as I am accused as a liberal of being a cause of culture wars or class warfare such as I am engaged in here, I plead guilty. I am glad to be a soldier in the nonviolent struggles to protect “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all. 
Published The Star Herald, 8-29-2012

Monday, July 2, 2012


Letter to the Editor, The Star Herald, June 27, 2012

On May 8, Mike Willette, candidate for reelection to the Maine House of Representatives, posted on his Facebook page the following:  “I was told by a very, very, very liberal lawyer in town today that she is going to do all she can to make sure I lose my legislative seat in the upcoming election because I support small businesses in our state. The silly season is upon us.”

I don’t know who this lawyer is, but I am a "very, very, very liberal" voter, and I don't know any liberals who do not support small businesses.  I have to ask Mike, “Are you sure you heard right?” As a liberal, I am a strong supporter of local small businesses who hire locally and keep their money circulating through the local economy. But I do not support the greed of so many major corporations who swoop into Maine; hire at minimum wage without any benefits so that their workers must get health care and other basic necessities at tax-payer expense; lobby against organized labor; and sweep up huge profits that go to out-of-state investors, owners, and executives instead of benefiting and improving the local economy.

Some comments to Mike's post criticize Bob Saucier, Mike's opponent for the same legislative seat, as “a big union liberal” and suggest that if you support labor, you must not support business.  But I know Bob, and I know he is very supportive of small businesses and has owned a couple of small businesses himself.  And Dan Levesque, business man and candidate for Maine State Senate District 34, says, “I support corporations and businesses that are good for all of Maine—its communities, its natural resources, and its workers.”

Business and labor need each other.  The best business climate is one in which owners and workers respect and support each other which means one in which workers are allowed to organize and negotiate with owners for mutually beneficial conditions.  Think about this:  Wouldn't it be silly to try to make policy or law that would not allow business owners to organize?  Isn’t it likewise silly to allow owners to organize but not workers?  Not only silly, it is unconstitutional.  Section 8, “Congress shall have the power to . . . provide for the general welfare;” and Amendment 1 of the Bill of Rights, “Congress shall make no law  . . . prohibiting . . . the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition . . . for a redress of grievances.”  It is not only possible to support both business and labor, it is good to do so.  Vote for the candidates who understand and respect this if you want a sustainably prosperous economy for Maine’s businesses and workers.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I recently had an e-mail exchange with my state representative about a bill that, if passed to become law, would eventually provide as much as $21,000 in tax cuts per year to the richest 1%.  In addition, this bill would reduce revenues which would inevitably reduce spending on critical, even life-saving services provided in the social safety net.   Such cuts are already happening.  I recently talked to a local Mother whose son with long-term schizophrenia will no longer receive guardianship services he has been receiving for years that have kept him relatively stable.  As a mother myself of a son disabled with serious and chronic schizo-affective disorder, I know up close the effects of cuts in services to the well-being of these people and their families.   

In responding to my request that my representative vote "No," he replied, "The argument about tax breaks going dis-proportionally to the wealthy, well that is an argument that is not founded on sound math. It only makes sense that those who pay the lion's share of a tax, get a larger tax break when the time comes for tax breaks, but that is a philosophical difference that I feel we will never be able to overcome."

I am not philosophically opposed to corporations as such, nor profit, nor CEO salaries that reflect ability, knowledge, and hard work.  I am philosophically opposed to greed.  As a teacher, I routinely worked 60 to 80 hours a week when school was in session.  When it was not in session, my time was more relaxed, and I could squeeze in some vacation time some years around course work for recertification,  research to stay up to date, and preparation for the following school session.  Toward the end of full-time teaching, I earned about $40,000 a year, and I felt rich. By "philosophical difference," I hope my representative does not really mean to suggest that he believes a CEO who earns millions every year is worth that much more in salary and thus deserving of that much more in tax breaks than the teacher who teaches his children, or the nurse who cares for him in recovery from open-heart surgery, or the skilled mechanic who keeps his automobiles in top-notch working order, or any other worker who works comparable hours as the CEO and has comparable training, knowledge, and abilities in her own profession.  

I recently reread the U. S. Constitution.  Nowhere in that document, nor in the Declaration of Independence do I find justification for the kind of gap between the rich and the rest of us that we find in our current economic climate.  What I do find are phrases that philosophically support a more equitable distribution of wealth than we have actually ever had:  “All . . . are created equal . . . endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights . . . to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;”  “Promote the general welfare;” “Provide for the general welfare.”   

I have other sources for my opposition to legislative actions such as ME  LD 849 that promotes and enables greed, sources such as literature from major religions of the world.  From http://www.christian-wisdom.com/money/0/quote-category.html "If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered" -Proverbs 21:13.  "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy" -Proverbs 31:8-9.  "No one can serve two masters. . . . You cannot serve both God and Money" -Matthew 6:24. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" -Matthew 19:23-24.  From  http://www.buddhaquotes.co.uk/All-Buddha-Quotes/?keyword=poverty  Buddha Quote #368 - "There can be no peace as long as there is grinding poverty." From Prophet Muhammad, http://www.jubileeusa.org/get-active/jubilee-congregations/islamic-resources/islamic-quotations-on-responding-to-poverty.html:  “He who sleeps on a full stomach whilst his neighbour goes hungry is not one of us.”  "Acknowledge the rights of the poor, neighbors and beggars.”

I think I must be missing something about where my representative is coming from philosophically.  I asked him to please explain. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: On the Occasion of Your Fund Raiser in Maine

March 31, 2012

Dear President Obama,

In the 2008 election, I supported you with the kind of enthusiasm I hadn’t felt since the first vote I cast for president in 1960 for John F. Kennedy.  By the time you came to Maine prior to mid-term elections in 2010, I was spending a great deal of my new retirement time in rallies, marches, letters, and other grunt  work for peace, for the Democratic  Party, and especially for a national single-payer, universal health-care plan.  When it looked like that wasn’t going to happen with the Affordable Health Care Bill, I shifted my activist attention to the public option. 

I received an invitation to attend your appearance in Portland that year.  I didn’t ask for it, wasn’t expecting it, and didn’t greet the prospect with much passion.  It’s a long drive to Portland, but to support the Democratic Party and you, I accepted.  It was a miserable experience.  We got in a line of hundreds and waited, and waited, and waited while others streamed in ahead of us without any wait.  There were some grumblings in the line about the color-coded tickets that allowed this to happen, but for the most part we waited patiently and courteously.  When we did start to move, the line soon stopped leaving most of us unable to get in.  The only explanation we ever got for what happened there was that the president arrived, and the doors had to be locked as soon as he entered the building.  No one ever explained before or after about the color coding of tickets or that many of us were invited without any possibility of getting in.  No one ever apologized.  No one ever confirmed or denied the suspicion that many, if not most, of the people streaming in ahead of the ones who waited were major campaign contributors.

Since that happened, the public option was abandoned; we are still at war; I, a retired teacher, along with all other retired public employees in Maine have seen devastating cuts in human services and our pensions permanently eroded by a COLA freeze while the richest 1% are given ever-increasing tax breaks; the Supreme Court decision that corporations are people and money is speech continues to do its dirty work with our electoral process, and you reap political benefits of that decision.

I hope you can understand why I believe that the people who have any significant access or influence to our leadership, whether Republican or Democratic, are the 1% with greed for profit as their only interest.  I hope you can understand why I am protesting your current appearance in Maine where you openly court the 1% and where the Democratic Party that I have been loyal to all of my adult life openly enables and celebrates that courtship.  While I will likely vote for you in November—I certainly won’t vote Republican—I hope you can understand why I will be turning my major attention away from the current political system that has become so morally bankrupt and so dependent on Corporate greed and toward the Occupy movement that is the only hope I can see on the horizon.  I write this not because I expect you to listen to one lone voice, but because I hope you will understand that there are millions of us—and our numbers are growing—who are looking and working for justice and sustainable alternatives for all the people.

Alice Bolstridge

Zachary Lowry

Friday, March 9, 2012


Today, not without some trepidation, I am sounding off with very little of the research I usually do when putting on my self-styled cultural-critic hat.  As an English major, I don’t have official credentials for this hat; and I haven’t, until this last week, paid much attention to Rush Limbaugh.  It took his insults of Sandra Fluke’s testimony to get me fired up enough about his behavior to visit the web site of WEGP Radio which features his broadcasts in our area.

Every day except Sunday for three hours--18 hours a week, 936 hours a year--Rush Limbaugh broadcasts on our local Fox radio station.  A college credit course is only 15 hours a semester.  You can get official credentials, all the way to the 7-year Ph.D., for many fewer hours than Limbaugh broadcasts in one year.  Even if you study the recommended 3 hours for every 1 hour of class time, you still put in only about 2/3 the amount of time for a Ph. D. that Limbaugh is on WEGP in one year.  That is a lot of influence on the public.   I have a healthy and defensive respect for that kind of influence. 

I do pay daily attention to my Facebook account, to PBS, and to local TV news, and I do know from that something about Glenn Beck who is scheduled for 15 hours a week on WEGP.  I don’t remember ever hearing about Howie Carr and Dave Ramsey who take up 37 hours a week between them.  Though I am an authentic local, I’m really ignorant about this side of local life, so I have plenty of research to do to find out more about these broadcasters and what kind of influence this one radio station has on our small rural communities here.

In the meantime, I have some suspicions.  From glancing down a list of Limbaugh’s advertising sponsors, I suspect that very powerful high-profit corporate interests, national and international, have been sponsoring this type of broadcasting all across the nation for a long time; Limbaugh has been on WEGP for 15 years.  According to some study I heard about, people who get most of their “news” from Fox are more misinformed than people who don’t listen to any news, must have been a liberal study.  I suspect the relationship among these broadcasters, their sponsors, and their misinformed listeners links directly to the economic crash 99% of us are still reeling from.  I suspect that our economy, politics, cultural interests, and moral values here and across the nation are shaped by these forces that favor the interests of the super-rich 1% at the expense of the rest of us.

Finally, though this may be merely a cry of hope and faith, I suspect that the outpouring of support for women’s contraceptive access is only one spark that is igniting another flame in the fire of growing opposition to the control of moneyed interests in our lives.  

Monday, February 20, 2012


In 2011 there were 12,633 registered lobbyists in Washington who spent $3.30 billion to lobby congress.  The top spender is the US Chamber of Commerce at more than $805 million.  Among the top 7 spenders are 4 national associations representing health-care industries.  Together, they outspent the Chamber of Commerce by almost $70 million.  That money adds to the total costs of health care.  We now have so many people who can’t afford health insurance that our Maine governor and state legislature says we can no longer afford to provide services to all of them.
More than that, the Citizens United decision has inspired a campaign-spending frenzy by the top 1%.  President Obama has joined it.  His campaign is expected to reach $1 billion dollar.  Very expensive speech, definitely not free.  Senator Snow has raised more than $1 million from sources outside of Maine, more than 3 times as much as from inside.  Billions to the so-called “job creators,” but those funds won’t be creating sustainable jobs in local communities that could prevent the problems of poverty.  And that money won’t be paying down the national debt either.
The economic gap between the top 1% and the rest of us has been widening at an accelerating pace for at least 30 years.  We have to turn the tide, and tides do not turn easily.  It requires the kind of effort on many fronts at once that it took to beat back voting rights restrictions here in Maine.   It looks like it requires more effort than we can manage on a piece-meal basis, one issue at a time.  It requires a total transformation of cultural values about economic justice, like the transformations still in progress about race and gender equality.
Our whole culture, including the 99%, is occupied by the love of money.  We are trained to it. It’s the American dream, and it’s an addictive love.  To recover, we all need to give up the dream and abstain from compulsive allegiance to wealth.  It is neither morally right nor economically sustainable that the CEO of WalMart earns $16000 an hour while the typical WalMart associate earns only $10 and is advised to go to Maine Care for health insurance.  I urge you to join the Occupy Movement. Take to the streets with us. Go viral on social media.  Let’s claim our rights to free speech and infuse ourselves and our economic and political systems with the spirit of righteous justice for all.

See The Occupy Maine TV show