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This week’s edition!

Griffiths on Flat Toothpicks, The Economy and Libya

By Dave Griffiths

TCT Columnist

Greetings. It’s been a few months. I can’t think of any excuse for the long hiatus, so I’ll quit trying.

Anyway, I saw Twin City TIMES Editor Peter Steele at a Chamber function recently and told him I was excited about submitting another column. The reason? New developments in the way my life’s journey continues to intersect with toothpicks.

As you may recall, I’ve written often and passionately about my disdain for flat toothpicks. (What good are they? How can they possibly be any more useful than cylindrical—stronger—toothpicks?).

Well, I can now reveal that toothpicks have helped me discover my inner Good Samaritan. Allow me to explain. For years, I’ve been carrying toothpicks in a pocket of my wallet. The obvious purpose is instant dental hygiene, particularly since I often have an apple or two stashed in the old Buick to dampen mid-morning or mid-afternoon hunger when I’m on the road (my favorite varieties, Fuji and Gala, have skins that seem to fit right into a gap in a couple molars widened slightly during a visit to the dentist).

Of course, any toothpicks in my wallet are for one picker only: me. You can hardly stick your fingers in there, pluck one out and hand it to a companion. But my dear sister-in-law solved that by gifting me with a box full of individually wrapped toothpicks. Suddenly I’ve discovered a deep well of generosity and selflessness, which was on full display recently at a fundraiser up in Sunday River for the estimable Maine Handicapped Skiing organization.

After a full morning of skiing some of the finest March snow I’ve ever seen, a hotel ballroom full of us were wolfing down sandwiches, chips, pickles, granola, a particularly pulpy orange juice and cookies the size of small Frisbees. As we sat back to talk about the snow and belch and tell a few skiing lies, I offered my tablemates wrapped, clean toothpicks. The looks on their faces said it all. I must say it was quite an emotional moment.

So how about our governor? I was actually hoping that he’d waltz into the Blaine House and start acting like a moderate—along the lines of our very own Olympia and Susan—instead of a whacked-out, raw-meat Tea Partier.

After all, somewhere around the middle of the political spectrum is where so many successful chief executives govern. To wit, Reagan raised taxes 11 times; Nixon signed off on the creation of EPA and OSHA and opened the door to Communist China; Bill Clinton worked with the GOP to reform welfare; and George W. Bush … uh, never mind.

But no, now we’ve got Jon Stewart and the like laughing at our beloved state at a time when LePage says he’s trying mightily to attract business to Maine. Removing a labor mural from a public office building? Does he actually think that will have CEOs flying their private jets into Portland or Augusta?

I’ve got a theory about why LePage and some 60 to 80 Tea Partiers new to the House of Representatives got all those votes. “IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID,” as the signs posted all over Clinton campaign headquarters shouted during the 1992 campaign. That’s it. Nothing moves voters likes pocketbook issues.

And lest we forget, our severe recession predates the White House incumbent. (Of course, more recently elected officeholders such as LePage will take credit as the economy continues to rebound, but that’s politics.)

Meanwhile, there’s a good chance that Republicans will capture the Senate in 2012. And that may be just what this country needs. If Obama wins (so far, the GOP candidates look pretty weak), that would leave the White House in the hands of one party and Congress locked up by the other.

What better time to actually do something about cutting entitlements? That way, the necessary pain is split equally and we get real leadership, not just partisan bickering.

Finally, it’s been entertaining to watch Republicans find ways to attack Obama for the Libyan dust-up. No one knows exactly how this is going to shake out, but American KIAs just didn’t happen. Qaddafi will eventually leave and NATO’s role as a military alliance will be confirmed once again.

Funny how the same sort of thing happened in the Balkans in the 1990s—under another Democratic president.

That’s enough.

Dave Griffiths is a free-lance writer and editor who teaches writing and media relations and presentation skills to businesses, government agencies and nonprofits all over the United States. He lives in Mechanic Falls and can be reached at 345-9835 or

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