New Central Maine Publication

By Staff

Welcome.

Without Apology is a free monthly publication devoted to spreading good ideas throughout the central Maine region.

No idea is so sacred as to deserve unquestioned deference. Indeed, many ideas are just bad. All ideas should be open to criticism.

In this vain, Without Apology is an open-forum, editorial-style format. There is no one agenda for this publication except insofar as a presentation of good ideas is an agenda. And with this non-agenda agenda comes a storm against bad ideas. These are given too much respect all too often.

But there should be no misunderstanding. Without Apology is not out to be disrespectful for the sake of doing so. Sometimes ideas do deserve respect, even if they are pointed in the wrong direction.

But this does not mean all ideas. Do you believe Earth is 6,000 years old? If so, you have utterly silly, inane beliefs which ignore all evidence and deserve nothing but scorn, ridicule, and dismissal. Do you believe it is okay to deny your fellow citizen rights? If so, you’re a bigot, and no one respects a bigot. Do you believe you should treat people like dirt simply because you can? If so, you should be forced to face all the criticism that comes to such demeanors.

Without Apology has no fear in taking a strong tone. It has no fear in telling people when they have bad ideas. It isn’t out to dump all over everyone; It will offer praise when praise is due. But it is not here to coddle. It is not the mainstream media.

So please explore what Without Apology has to offer. Let us know what you think.

Trivial Theology

By Michael Hawkins

It goes without notice when a theologian is asked to appear on television or in print concerning a recent disaster or a current social issue. Media and society turn to these people for answers. Has anyone bothered to ask why?

Theology really has nothing worthwhile to offer. It is a bankrupt field that says nothing true of the real world which is not trifling. Indeed, it is hardly a field at all. If not for prestige by longevity, it could very well be dismissed as little more than literary criticism with a very narrow focus.

What can theologians resolve for the world? Can they offer society any practical information which cannot be discovered otherwise? Beyond this, can theologians even resolve internal issues?

The answer is nothing, no, and no. There is no method by which theology self-corrects. It is a field which is explicitly at the mercy of subjective interpretation which, unsurprisingly, moves with the times (even if it often lags a bit). Should a person ask, “Is the story of Noah’s Ark true?”, theologians have no way to answer that. They must turn to some external source to discover the answer. (It’s “No, because it’s utterly silly to believe in such a fairy tale”, by the way.)

Theology, in fact, is not a way of knowing. It gets touted as such, of course, but no evidence is ever presented to support such a claim. How could there be evidence? Claiming a single book has self-contained answers excludes all drive for verification; it teaches there be no hunger to know beyond its bounds. More importantly, it is an audacious claim on the level of saying The Lord of the Rings must be true, so it needs no outside verification.

All theologians have achieved is a meaningless distinction in society based upon a non-field. They can tell us nothing which is not trivial – and when they try, there’s no way to verify the truth to their claims. They are those among us who happen to use their literacy in devotion to a narrow topic that cannot be resolved through any frivolous knowledge they may have.

Maine Family Policy Council and Evil

This article experienced a printing error which caused several paragraphs to not be printed. A correctional insert should come with all physical copies of the paper. The full version appears here.

By Michael Hawkins

It takes some lingual force to make one’s point crystal clear.

So it is with the point of this article that it begins with succinct force: the Maine Family Policy Council is filled with slime balls.

A quick perusal of their website (http://www.mainefamilypolicycouncil.com/) reveals a slew of articles attempting to disparage every homosexual not only as sexually deviant, but as wholly awful people with evil agendas. They excitedly report on a speaker (that they hired) who is going to speak in Maine next month and “show the horrifying truth about the radical homosexual agenda”. In other articles, they repeatedly disparage same-sex marriage proponents as being deceptive because money from groups outside Maine is being used to support their position. This ignores the fact that 1) both sides are getting outside help and 2) outside help does not make a group deceptive. But who expects logic from this crowd?

But the worst thing of all is the attempt to link murder (or manslaughter, as the case may be) to homosexuality. The MFPC apparently has no moral or logical qualm with trying to link the death of Fred Wilson by a gay man with homosexuality in general.

“One plausible scenario is that the sadomasochistic activity on the night of the killing became more and more depraved until LaValle Davidson [the accused killer] inflicted the greatest possible harm on his victim, that is, death. If the details of the crime come out at trial, the public will see a part of the homosexual lifestyle that is very different from the positive image the gay rights movement is trying to project.”

How many people are aware of this offensive rubbish? The Kennebec Journal and other major outlets in the state often allow representatives from the MFPC have a voice. Do they recognize the utter inanity these people believe?

In another article, the MFPC tries to connect Senator Larry Bliss of South Portland to the killing. In their wondrous display of utter slime ball-ness, they note that one group supporting same-sex marriage in Maine is based in Southern California. They then point out that Bliss was raised in the same general area. Finally, they think they’ve really nailed down the coffin by observing that Wilson and Davidson are also from Southern California AND that Bliss lived half a mile from Wilson in South Portland.

This is utterly loony.

The website calls this connection a “mysterious one”. Without Apology calls it inane, illogical, dubious, stupid, dishonest, a hallmark of being crackpots, obvious defamation of character, and above all horribly immoral. At no point should people who peddle this sort of, to be frank, complete crap be given any sort of respect or special outlet through the dominant media.

The Maine Family Policy Council has fallen far, far into sin. It is a disreputable organization that no serious thinking person can take seriously. It offends not only common sense, but common decency as well. It is a source of evil for which there is little immediate remedy. The best chance for Maine to show that it shuns such embarrassment in the short run is to vote “No” on Question 1 come November.

Doing Away with Fear and Paranoia

Without Apology does not encourage anonymity, but this is a special case. Due to the nature of this piece, misinterpretations and overreactions are ripe for the happening. As always, there is no vouching for the opinions of others at this publication, but there is vouching for the factual claims being made. The writer does work for a company which caters to the needs of the mentally ill and mentally retarded and his of an incident there is true.

By Anonymous

I work for a company that labors to rehabilitate and mentor people with mental disabilities and illnesses. Our most significant goal for each person is to increase their self-sufficiency and help them become more productive members of society, thus giving them richer and fuller lives. I believe whole heartedly in this mission. It is a noble cause to raise up an individual and give him a greater sense of dignity and self-respect, to show him a world of wider possibilities and expand the future before him.

But guiding a person towards these goals is a difficult task. For many, too little faith has been invested in their potential and sadly they believe in the doubts this implies. As a result their days are spent in idleness, not reaching for what they can become. This boredom often leads to contentious behavior which creates endless cycles of power struggles and petty dramas.

What’s worse is we as staff cannot say so much as boo to them because of the hysterical hypersensitivities that permeate the air – sensitivities rooted in our guilty from past historical abuses. Now we disable them with our pity.

We give them food, shelter, money, activities, privileges and ask for nothing in return from them. This gives them a false impression of how life works and we do them a disservice for it. What incentive is there to achieve anything when reward comes before effort?

Discipline is necessary for any person to succeed and it must be implemented in the lives of these ‘clients’ for them to mature. Yet we as staff are powerless to this end. We are handcuffed by blind regulations and a lack of consideration for the true needs of these people. From what I see, many workers and agencies are too preoccupied with protecting themselves from potential legal and social persecution to serve their clients effectively.

I recall when a client came to me asking for me to mop the bathroom floor after he had spilled water on it. I told him I would get the mop and bucket but that he was capable of cleaning his own mess. A week or two later I was called into the office and questioned about this matter.

I ask, must we excuse these perfectly capable people of all responsibility?

We are there to help them when they need help, but we are not there to coddle them into atrophy. If our goal is truly to help the mentally disabled become more productive, self-sufficient members of society, then we must change our current course. Society must acknowledge the reality of their disabilities while not denying the existence of their capabilities.

Let us do away with our fear and paranoia, and let us focus on what these people really need: discipline, encouragement, genuine concern, and a little faith.

Why You May Be a Bigot

By Michael Hawkins

In the time since Governor Baldacci signed the same-sex marriage bill there has been much made of the word “bigot”. Those in favor of securing civil rights have deemed their opponents to be worthy of such a term. Naturally, those opponents balk at such an insult. So let’s take a closer look at the term.

The dictionary definition leaves a bit to be desired: “a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion”. If this is the only definition of “bigot”, then most people who offer any certainty in their beliefs could fall under its umbrella. But the word clearly must have a better distinction than that.

It is actions on which the term turns. Thomas Jefferson noted in his Letter to the Danbury Baptists that “government [can] reach actions only, and not opinions”. Even if one wishes to abuse the word to include beliefs of certainty, it is not important here. Action matters.

And so it is the action of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other religious groups (and a majority of conservatives) to deny civil rights to a group of people. This is bigotry by definition. There is no way to get around this, no matter how offended one might be by the label.

If you are against homosexuality, you may be a bigot. It isn’t important to settle that issue right now. But if you are against allowing homosexuals civil rights you would otherwise readily grant to another group? Well, sir, that makes you a bigot.

The very idea of rights is that they are to be granted to anyone and everyone so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others. It must be shown that granting all of Maine’s citizens (it doesn’t just apply to homosexuals) the right to marry a person of the same gender will be somehow harmful if one wishes to outlaw it. No such case has been made. No such case could be made. Homosexuality offers no threat to any individual’s or group’s welfare, property, or rightful pursuit of happiness. But denying rights to an entire group for no good reason? That does violate the concept of rights espoused by so many philosophers, professors, rational thinkers, and the founding fathers. It runs counter to what it means to be a fair and good and moral human being.

Lead us not into bigotry but deliver us from evil.

McCamish Rectifies Officer’s Error

By Michael Hawkins

Lt. J. Christopher Read has been doing his job for close to 20 years. He knows how the Augusta Police Department works. In fact, he knows how the law works better than most. At least, he knows it better than I do. He told me so.

Let me bring everything up to date.

It began with a parking ticket in high school from Officer Richard Dubois. I was illegally parked, but Officer Dubois made the citation out incorrectly. I unofficially contested the ticket. Stubbornness ensued.

Officer Dubois wouldn’t take the ticket back despite the clarity of his error. (He wrote that I was parked on the sidewalk. I was actually on the yellow diagonal lines seen at the end of parking spaces. These lines cannot be placed on the sidewalk, nor are they ever put there.) I was guilty of a $15 crime and would have simply paid the fine had Dubois not made a silly mistake. But if anything, the law is full of technicalities. I saw no reason to not use that to my advantage.

Long story short, I went to great lengths to definitively prove the lack of validity to the ticket (and absolutely did so), but ended up paying it anyway. Okay, whatever. It’s $15.

But then came a great opportunity.

For a journalism course I had to use the Maine Freedom of Information Access Act (FOIA) to obtain some sort of information from a government entity. Inspired by the Boston Globe’s use of the Massachusetts version of the act to uncover the disciplinary record of a State Trooper, I requested the same record for Officer Dubois’.

Okay, I admit it. His stubbornness got to me. Maybe I’m arrogant. Maybe I’m cocky. I’ll accept those descriptions as long as I can still say I was right about that little ticket. I’ll sacrifice image for principle any day.

But whatever the reason for my actions, I requested Officer Dubois’ record. And I had a right to it. The Maine FOIA says so: “… if disciplinary action is taken, the final written decision relating to that action is no longer confidential…”

The language is clear. It’s unambiguous. The disciplinary records of municipal, county, and state employees are not confidential.

Lt. Read was confused on the issue.

I approached the Lt. on a Monday with my request. He informed me that personnel records are confidential. For the most part, yes, they certainly are. I know because the act states this immediately before naming a particular exception.

But I hadn’t read the Maine FOIA carefully at this point. I was turned away, no records in hand. I soon began my research.

Upon discovering that Lt. Read had made an error, I returned two days later. I gave the man the benefit of the doubt. Hell, I could see myself making a mistake like that.

“I think there may have been a misunderstanding. I’m looking for Officer Dubois’ disciplinary record, not his entire personnel record.”

Lt. Read held his ground. It was here that I read him, verbatim, what the law actually states. Remember, the language is abundantly clear.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years; I know how it works…That’s your interpretation.”

I persisted, explaining in the simplest terms possible why he was wrong. It was to no avail.

Realizing the brick wall in front of me, I decided to finish up by reminding Lt. Read that he needs to give me a written response explaining his denial of my request within 5 business days. (I’ve heard it may be 10 business days, though I’ve only read “5”. Regardless, a response is required.)

Looking me dead in the eye, no sign of a smirk, no twitch of laughter, he delivers his line.

“I’m not going to do that.”

I’m dumbfounded. I gave this man the benefit of the doubt. I read him the act. Twice. I interpreted it for him clearly. Yet here I was.

I reminded Augusta’s finest of the $500 fine that comes with a violation of this law. He was wasn’t fazed.

Going a step further with the overly-nice guy routine, I even offered Lt. Read a copy of my written request. I figured he may realize he’s wrong somewhere in the next few days. He’d need my contact information.

He refused it.

It was at this point in my mind that I questioned the honesty of the officer. I believe him when he says he’s been in law enforcement for 20 years. But I draw the line when he claims he knows how this law works. He had no idea that the disciplinary records were not confidential. He had no idea he was required to give me a written response. He didn’t seem to realize there was a fine associated with his bungling of the situation. “Liar” may be a strong word here, but it can’t be too far off the mark.

I let Lt. Read know I was going to see City Manager William Bridgeo with an identical letter. He had every chance to correct himself.

Bridgeo was in a meeting, but a clerk took down my whole story alongside copies of my letter and a printout of the relevant section of the law. She said the manager would get back to me.

And get back to me he did.

Within a couple days, I received a letter from Bridgeo. Perhaps the nicest man in Augusta, he praised my efforts (yay me!) while also informing me that Officer Dubois had no disciplinary record in the past two years (records are not kept longer than that, with exception for repeat offenses).

In other words, the records are public information. Great. Tickets made in error aside, Officer Dubois seems to be on the up-and-up. This is far more satisfying than finding an officer riddled with reprimands and suspensions.

But the story doesn’t end there.

A few days later I received another letter. This one was from Police Chief Wayne McCamish.

“I must apologize that as you are aware, should there be a final written decision relating to a disciplinary action taken against an employee, that information is not confidential and you would have a right to access of that information.”

He goes on to explain that as a result of Lt. Read’s handling of the situation, “[a]ll Police Supervisors are to review our Standard Operating Procedure, Public Access to Records, to ensure that a request for information is handled properly…I am truly sorry for the inconvenience you have experienced.”

Twenty years is a long time, but it doesn’t hold up against the law. But maybe that’s just my interpretation.

Bad Behavior and T's Golf

By Michael Hawkins

We shouldn’t have to accept bad behavior.

We all see it. We’re waiting in line at the check-out and there’s that person. (In an effort to avoid politically correct grammar, let’s say it’s a guy.) The cashier double-scanned something. Or an item isn’t priced correctly. Or there’s an unexpected fee. Whatever it is, that guy is there. You can see the anger in his eyes. He’s been waiting all day to lash out at someone, and this particular $8-an-hour employee is the unlucky victim.

No one says anything because, hey, who wants to join the public scene? It’s awkward. But is that so acceptable? I don’t think so.

Society has become accustomed to allowing people to act out like this. It happens every day, from Wal-Mart to Shaw’s to convenience stores to delis to restaurants. People love to treat each other like crap. Let’s get one voice together and just say ‘no’ to that sort of behavior.

Okay, that item didn’t scan in correctly and it’s taking awhile for someone to get you the right price. At no point does it logically follow that you should offer up a dish of immaturity topped with pettiness. Most of us get that, but too many have no concept of what kindness means.

And this is a two-way street. It’s usually customers treating low-level employees like hell (mostly because they can), but it comes the other way. Have I ever got the example of the century for you.

I recently went to T’s Golf in Manchester to try out a new club. I wanted to literally hit 4 balls into an empty field, using an empty tee, at a business that had literally no other customers. It didn’t take long for the owners to come out an give me an earful.

Rawn and Judy Torrington ripped into me, telling me I “should know better”, yelling at the person with me who wasn’t even playing, whining with fists clenched that I had such audacity to hit free balls into a field.

Okay, they aren’t giving things away for free. Fair enough. But let’s grow up a bit. First of all, these people charge for use of their buckets of balls, not their range. They weren’t even aware of the policies they put in place. Second, while they have an argument that I shouldn’t hit 4 balls into their empty field at their commonly empty place of business, my actions were not so unreasonable. But third, even if they were, it doesn’t matter. That sort of behavior is unacceptable. It’s a demonstration of selfishness, greed, bad behavior, horrible business sense, and immaturity. We should never accept any part of that list.

Fortunately, there’s always All-Steak Hamburger on Hospital Street, not to mention a dozen other places run by good people more than willing to take the business Rawn and Judy Torrington, in their self-centered, greedy little world, don’t seem to want (or know how to keep).

But this isn’t about my bad experience with a couple bad apples. This is about ALL the rotten trees ruining the otherwise healthy orchard.

We can solve some of our problems with businesses by not going to them (and literally every person with whom I’ve spoken refuses to go to T’s Golf). But that doesn’t solve the deeper issue. People still behave badly. Let’s stop accepting that.

If you see that guy in the supermarket or at the deli or in the retail store, don’t let him get away with it. Let him know, sans the anger he displays, that it isn’t the end of the world. He’s making an inconvenient situation into a debacle. He’s encouraging and spreading disease throughout the orchard. He’s making the world a worse place.

Let’s not accept bad behavior.