Friday, July 22, 2011

Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Roxanne Quimby is offering everyone in the world thousands of acres of pristine wilderness, and offering a hurting community the opportunity to realize the American Dream. Hopefully she will throw in an all-natural potion that can replenish the hair we are pulling out in frustration with government leaders here in Maine.

Unemployment is hovering around 20% in the Millinocket area. The paper mills are closed or about to close, store-fronts are shuttered, schools and roads are deteriorating, and homes are for sale. One sad little place I saw there last week had a hand-scribbled sign taped to the door that said, “home for sale by owner, $25,000 or best offer.”

Quimby wants to give 70,000 acres of wilderness to create a national park adjacent to Baxter State Park. The Millinocket region will be the “gateway community” to the park under her plan. She will also chip in a $40 million endowment for maintenance, and is considering also donating a large parcel for hunters and other sportsmen to use next door. Quimby says she is motivated by her passion for the outdoors, her desire to share her good fortune, and her wish to give kids a place to explore the wilderness.

The national park will attract hundreds of thousands of people to the area, increase real estate values, create jobs, grow income and a declining population, and greatly expand the local tax base. People who lost their job at the mills will have the opportunity to start or work for a business that will support the park. Restaurants, lodging, service stations, and retail stores will be needed. Housing will be built. There will be a demand for professional services.

No wonder the Katahdin Region Chamber of Commerce, Millinocket Downtown Revitalization Committee, Friends of Baxter State Park, Medway School Board, and the Katahdin Area Rotary Club all support a feasibility study that will determine whether such an audacious and bold vision for their community is realistic.

The mountains, rivers, waterfalls and bogs in this so-called East Branch Region were Henry David Thoreau’s stomping ground in the 1850’s and close to where he wrote The Maine Woods. Here is where Maine Governor Percival P. Baxter camped and hung out in the 1920’s before he had his vision for Baxter State Park.

The East Branch Region is now home to rare plants such as blueberry lichen, purple clematis, fragrant ferns and orchids. Trees of every kind imaginable live here. Exotic dragonflies, butterflies, moose, deer and Canada Lynx keep each other company. Trout and salmon swim in the rivers. It’s therefore no surprise that one of Maine’s most recognized and respected sportsman supports studying the feasibility of making this spectacular biodiversity a national park for everyone to enjoy.

No one seriously disputes that Quimby’s park plan could boost the Millinocket area’s economy, while generously bestowing on the people of this country and the world a precious gift. And Roxanne Quimby and her company, Elliotsville Plantation, Inc., bring considerable business acumen to the table.

Anybody who has ever purchased a Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer will yell you this lady knows what she is talking about. Hugely respected Maine visionary Daniel O'Leary has this to say about Quimby:

"She is the first person I have ever known who is fully aware of the deep solidarity among the different facets of life in Maine," he said. "She understands the linkage among the family farms, the importance of preserving wilderness, the value of the arts, the role of the creative economy, and how all of those things working together lead to job creation."

So what’s the problem?

Politics are coming before We the People of Maine.

The Maine Senate President, in the final hot days of the recent legislative session, ramrodded a Joint Resolution opposing not only the park, but studying the feasibility of a national park through the Maine Legislature.

The resolution opposing the park was likely engineered in a back room by an anti-government Tea Partier, or a corporate special interest group.

Part of the resolution reads:

“federal ownership or control of the north woods would create many problems including limitations on timber supply to the forest products industry, reduced recreational access and loss of local and state control of these areas.”

Really? Says who?

Governor LePage, whose legislative agenda has been written by corporate lobbyists, had this to say about Quimby’s proposal for a national park, "our forest needs to be a working forest. I'm all for conservation. I'm against preservation."

Something is wrong with this picture. Why is the Governor of Maine against preserving this privately owned land for public access? This is where Thoreau and Baxter wandered around contemplating the enormous benefits of being in the wilderness, for heaven’s sake.

An equally perplexing question is how Quimby maintains her patience and composure in the face of fear, ignorance and cronyism, but she does. Maybe it’s the Peppermint Foot Lotion.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Irony of Maine's All-Male Media

Sitting in his ivory tower reserved for men only in Portland, Maine, M.D. Harmon lectures readers about the myriad uses of irony while blaming “feminists” for a world where boys are valued much higher than girls. 

And the irony apparently escapes him.
It’s 2011 and there is not a single female political commentator employed by the so-called “liberal media” in Maine. Sure, publications feature national syndicates, but all politics are local.
Here in Maine, as elsewhere, talk radio is dominated by angry obese men who lecture about personal responsibility. Here local television trots out the same two guys, an insurance salesman and an education professional, to serve as our only “senior political analysts.” 
And here the newspapers are saturated with written opinions of male editors, economists, businessmen, and conservative curmudgeons like Harmon, an editorial writer for the Portland Press Herald. 
In Harmon’s recent article, he accuses feminists “in Western cultures” for the aimlessness and violent behavior of men. From the comforts of his echo-chamber, Harmon “discovered” his opinion by reading articles written by other conservative men about a certain provocative book written by a woman. 
Mara Hvistendahl’s wrote Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, which is about the consequences of “sex selection” of babies in certain parts of the world, and the complicity of Western culture’s technology and government policy initiatives. There are a lot more baby boys being born in these places than baby girls, and this fact has causes and effects that are complicated, and include abortion. 
Harmon and the men he parrots convince themselves that this book, about societies that choose boys over girls, is proof that pro-choice women are to blame for the violence men commit and the wars they start. He connects a bunch of dots and worries about all the poor young men who won’t have wives. 
Never does Harmon question why it is in the first place that so many more boys are allowed to live while girls are aborted. 
The fixation of Harmon and his writer-guy pals who dominate the op-ed pages of newspapers is on abortion, of course, and the “immorality” of the women who fight to protect their right to choose, instead of the reasons women might make these difficult decisions.  
In this recent piece, for instance, Harmon goes on and on about irony.
The irony? Abortion, which feminists in Western cultures see as a basic liberty (a woman can't be equal to a man if she is chained to children), has resulted in the deaths of far more girls than boys.” 
Harmon’s indictment of women, however, based on this book as interpreted by a bunch of men, and his “pro-life” blame of women for violence and wars that kill children is the ultimate irony. 
Millions of women and children have been and are being raped and killed because of wars started by men. 
Is it immoral for a child-victim of war rape to have an abortion?
Marcy Darnovsky Ph.D., is the Associate Executive Director at the Center for Genetics and Society, a Berkeley, California. She reviewed Hvistendahl’s book, and said this about it:
“Selecting for sons is growing not just in South and East Asia, but also in the Caucasus and the Balkans, as well as among some Asian communities in the US. Its consequences are anything but abstract in the regions of South and East Asia where the wildly skewed sex ratio among the generation now coming of age is associated with an upsurge in trafficking of women for sex and for marriage–to the extent that some poor villages are empty of young women. And some of the most alarming sex ratios are in affluent areas; economic and technological developments are in fact driving sex selection rather than discouraging it by encouraging smaller families, which leads people who value sons to do whatever is required to ensure one. Widely available and relatively cheap ultrasound tests, followed by abortion if the fetus is female, provide the means. Sex-selective abortion is seen as a “cleaner and less ethically fraught” alternative to the deep-rooted practice of female infanticide.
Are pro-choice Western women to blame for the deep-rooted practice of female infanticide and trafficking of women for sex in South and East Asia, too?
Harmon is a man who plays God by judging women for playing God. 
What would you call this?