Opinion – Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com Thu, 21 Sep 2017 19:10:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Dana Milbank: In Trump’s world, rampant sexism is simply par for the course http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/21/in-trumps-world-rampant-sexism-is-simply-par-for-the-course/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/21/in-trumps-world-rampant-sexism-is-simply-par-for-the-course/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1258455 Over the weekend, the president of the United States retweeted to his 38 million Twitter followers a video clip doctored to show him driving a golf ball off the tee and between the shoulder blades of Hillary Clinton – “CrookedHillary” in the tweet – knocking the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee to the ground.

Eighty-four thousand people “liked” this violent takedown of Trump’s former opponent.

A woman has been speaker of the House (and proved substantially more effective than the two men who succeeded her), another came within a whisker of the presidency, and others (Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine) wield the decisive votes on health-care and other legislation. But recent events make it feel as if we’re in an earlier time, when a woman’s job in politics was simple: Sit down and shut up. This no doubt is the work of a president who, by word and deed, made sexism safe again, giving license to shed “political correctness” and blame troubles on minorities, immigrants and women.

Trump’s golf tweet no doubt was inspired by the attention Clinton has gotten for her new book, which has been met with a predictable response: wishing the woman who won the popular vote would “shut up and go away” – as Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld put it. Many reviewers and commentators said similar.

The public disagrees; the book is a No. 1 best-seller.

Clinton isn’t the only woman being told lately to shut up. When Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) rose on the House floor this month to oppose an amendment by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), Young twice called Jayapal, 51, a “young lady,” and said she “doesn’t know a damn thing.” (Young later apologized.)

This brought to mind Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s infamous silencing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on the Senate floor in February when she read a letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing Jeff Sessions: “She was warned. … Nevertheless, she persisted.” Male senators reading the letter received no rebuke.

Another new book by another strong woman, NBC’s Katy Tur, recalls the abuse she suffered during the campaign when Trump taunted “Little Katy” and ordered her to “be quiet” during a news conference. Tur describes him kissing her before a TV appearance: “Before I know what’s happening, his hands are on my shoulders and his lips are on my cheek.” Of course, Trump has done worse, boasting about grabbing women by the genitals, bragging publicly about his penis size, and more.

Alas, it’s not just words. The latest Senate attempt at Obamacare repeal, drafted by four men, would eliminate Obamacare’s requirement that insurers cover maternity care and funding for Planned Parenthood, one of the largest providers of women’s health care. Tweeted Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “A group of men wrote a devastating health care bill & are now trying to push it through w/o debate. It’s almost like we’ve been here before.”

In the White House last week, Trump was meeting with advisers and lawmakers when, as The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker and others recounted, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the only woman in a room with 10 men, twice tried to answer a question. Both times, she was spoken over. Finally, the former speaker of the House broke through. “Does anybody listen to women when they speak around here?” she asked.

Apparently not.

Pelosi described that memorable encounter to me on Friday, when I saw her in New Haven, Conn., at the wake for Luisa DeLauro, the longest serving alderman in the city’s history and mother of Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). To me, Luisa DeLauro, who died last week at 103, was “Grandma Louise,” because I’m married to Rosa’s stepdaughter, Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg.

The funeral for Luisa, a pioneering woman in politics, juxtaposed with the outrageous treatment Pelosi endured in the White House days earlier, left me with an unwelcome realization about the persistence of sexism in this business. Grandma Louise was born on Christmas Eve in 1913, seven years before women won the right to vote. As a young woman of 19, serving as the secretary of the 10th Ward Democratic Club, Luisa was optimistic as she exhorted women to engage in politics in a 1933 article. Rosa read Luisa’s words from long ago at the funeral: “We have gradually taken our place in every phase of human endeavor, and even in the heretofore stronghold of the male sex: politics. … Come on, girls, let’s make ourselves heard.”

The “girls” are speaking, loudly. But does anybody listen to women when they speak around here?

Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

dana.milbank@washpost.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/21/in-trumps-world-rampant-sexism-is-simply-par-for-the-course/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1254540_Trump_US_Malaysia_19917.j2.jpgPresident Trump speaks during Tuesday meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in the Cabinet Room of the White House.Thu, 21 Sep 2017 10:16:54 +0000
Maine Voices: Collins could further raise her stature by admitting previous mistakes http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/21/maine-voices-collins-could-further-raise-her-stature-by-admitting-previous-mistakes/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/21/maine-voices-collins-could-further-raise-her-stature-by-admitting-previous-mistakes/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1258469 BIDDEFORD — Before the Senate’s August recess, Sen. Susan Collins was riding high. She was a celebrated national figure thanks to her central role in killing unpopular and ill-considered health care legislation. On returning to Maine, she was greeted by spontaneous applause in the airport terminal. She deserved it.

She withstood a great deal of pressure from her party and the president. Of the three Republican senators who opposed the final “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”), she was the earliest, the most consistent and the most articulate in stating her objections. And Collins did it for the right reasons – to prevent partisan pursuits from harming some of the most vulnerable citizens in her state and the nation. Well done.

Is there a deeper lesson that Collins can draw from this experience? One thing Collins did not do during the health care debate was admit to making a mistake: voting against the Affordable Care Act in the first place.

Her words and votes these last few weeks reveal that she does think her original “no” vote was wrong: Obamacare has succeeded in many of its most important goals, and improved the lives of millions. A repeal would be disastrous. But for Collins to say so clearly could have real political value, both in the continuing fight over health care, which could culminate in another high-stakes vote next week, and with other issues of importance.

The successes of Obamacare are something that Collins, an expert in health insurance, probably expected back in 2010 when she voted against it. Obamacare included many conservative ideas – in fact it was built on a “market-based” scheme developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation and enacted in Massachusetts under its Republican governor, Mitt Romney. Collins probably had a few ideas to make it even better, and she was invited to offer them.

But Collins was under partisan pressure back then, too. Knowing that the Democrats had 60 votes to pass the bill, she was persuaded to vote “no,” thus giving Republicans the cudgel they so desperately wanted: the chance to say that the bill passed without a single Republican vote. In helping provide opponents of Obamacare with one of their favorite talking points, she helped endanger the very law she rescued last month.

In these different political times, a simple and clear statement that “I was wrong, we Republicans were wrong – Obamacare was a step in the right direction” would go a long way in helping Obamacare survive the next wave of efforts to undermine or repeal it.

Other important initiatives from the last eight years are under attack, and a similar approach from Collins might be effective. One example is the international agreement to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. That deal has worked. Inspectors and the international community have confirmed and certified that Iran is holding up its end of the bargain. And like Obamacare, the international accord on Iran is endangered under Trump. In his speech to the United Nations this week, he strongly implied that the U.S. would abandon the deal, despite the evidence of Iran’s compliance.

The Iran deal is another case where Collins opposed an initiative led by Barack Obama (she condemned the agreement on the floor of the Senate in 2015), along with the rest of her party, knowing her vote would not change the outcome. And it is another case where the new political circumstances offer a drastic change of perspective.

Collins has shown that she can sway the debate regarding highly partisan issues, no matter her previous votes. A clear defense of the Iran agreement could, as her defense of Obamacare did, change the national debate and avoid a move that could trigger a crisis – in this case, a race toward a nuclear standoff in the Middle East.

It is not fun to admit to mistakes. But a blind loyalty to votes that made some sense under the previous administration can lead to real disasters in the new state of politics today.

Partisan loyalty held sway for Collins over the eight years of the Obama administration, in part because partisan votes could “send a message” without having tangible outcomes. In the recent Obamacare debates she was right to think differently now that her words and her vote are so much more consequential. It has enhanced her stature and reputation. She should keep it up.

 

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Commentary: Vietnam’s eventual peace never had to be washed with American blood http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/21/vietnams-eventual-peace-never-had-to-be-washed-with-american-blood/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/21/vietnams-eventual-peace-never-had-to-be-washed-with-american-blood/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1258441 There are two good ways America’s post-Vietnam War generations can learn the lessons we must never forget about how the world’s greatest superpower could send 58,000 of its own to die in a war that was not going to be won.

The best way is to watch all of Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s compelling, comprehensive 10-part documentary series now running nightly on PBS.

The second-best (but certainly faster) way is to discover the lessons revealed in two concise, frustrating and ultimately infuriating happenings that aren’t really detailed in that excellent and massive PBS documentary. And we’re sharing them both today.

The two events occurred when there were no U.S. combat troops in Vietnam – one before they arrived, the other after they were gone. Together, the two tales spotlight the inescapable futility of policies that sent hundreds of thousands of young Americans to fight for a cause policymakers always understood but never made clear to the trusting youths they sent to war.

Our noble cause in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s was that we were fighting for democracy. Fighting to preserve it in South Vietnam. Fighting to prevent the Communist regime of North Vietnam’s leader, Ho Chi Minh, from wiping it away.

Ho Chi Minh’s troops had defeated France’s colonial occupying forces in the mid-1950s. The United States had supported the French. And our first tale starts with President Dwight Eisenhower’s administration trying to figure out what to do about South Vietnam after the defeated French colonials went home.

In Geneva, an international conference brokered a peace that divided Vietnam in two: a communist North and a non-communist South. But the Geneva pact also called for a democratic election in Vietnam in 1956 to determine who would rule a re-unified nation.

And here is where the Pentagon Papers (the U.S. government’s secret history of Vietnam decision-making, leaked to the American public in 1971) revealed what I have always considered the least understood truth about America’s true intentions. The Eisenhower administration was opposed to allowing South Vietnam to democratically decide its fate.

July 7, 1954: In a secret cable, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles wrote (in the cablese of that era) that it was “undoubtedly true that elections might eventually mean unification Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh.” Dulles urged delaying a democratic election as long as possible.

Indeed, it never happened. As Eisenhower wrote in his memoir, “Mandate for Change”: “It was generally conceded that had an election been held, Ho Chi Minh would have been elected Premier.”

Fast-forward to December 1974: I am Newsday’s Washington Bureau chief but I am nowhere near Washington. I’m in South Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, reporting on whether South Vietnam can indeed survive militarily – and whether the sacrifice of all those American troops and their loved ones back home had been worthwhile. The CIA’s man at the U.S. embassy had warned me that Route 4 was “Condition Red” as newly fortified Viet Cong forces were swarming in the delta, mining the roads, blowing up concrete utility poles.

At a government irrigation project, I interview ditch-diggers. Nguyen Van Bay, 42, father of nine, tells me he knows all about “The Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam,” Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s handiwork that was signed in Paris two years ago.

But that was just paper and Bay says what is real is that the Viet Cong soldiers have been warning workers to stop digging. He says they are in the jungle, watching us now, and they come out at night and threaten them with harm.

“We are afraid,” Bay says. But he cannot stop working because the government won’t pay them until each man digs 500 square meters – and each man can only dig seven square meters a day.

“I really do not care who wins the war,” Bay tells me. “It does not matter for me who wins. I will still be here doing the same thing. My life will not change. I just want peace.”

Today, families like Bay’s have peace. They live in a unified Vietnam, a communist Vietnam. Precisely the outcome Eisenhower and Dulles feared when they prevented the election. Just before America sent hundreds of thousands of young, trusting patriots to fight for democracy in South Vietnam.

— Tribune News Service

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/21/vietnams-eventual-peace-never-had-to-be-washed-with-american-blood/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1240937_962485-Vietnam10.jpgThis photo, used in the upcoming PBS series "The Vietnam War," shows a 173rd Airborne Brigade paratrooper after an early morning firefight on July 14, 1966. Maine Public will hold advance screenings of highlights from the series, with panel discussions in August. The series will be on TV in September.Wed, 20 Sep 2017 18:44:41 +0000
Our View: In youth football, little collisions really add up http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/21/our-view-in-youth-football-little-collisions-really-add-up/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/21/our-view-in-youth-football-little-collisions-really-add-up/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1258449 After Mike Webster, Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, after “League of Denial” and “Concussion,” football players at the highest level are counting their concussions and deciding whether it is a good idea to keep playing, while officials are ordered to look out for wobbly legs on the field, a sign of possible brain injury.

But more and more it looks like those risks are not limited to the professionals – to the biggest and strongest who play the game for money – nor is it as simple as watching out for concussions. That should have every parent and youth coach concerned, and ready to take action to keep kids safe.

The latest bit of worrisome research comes from Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalophy Center, well known for testing the brains of former NFL players for CTE, a degenerative brain disease that is found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma, and which can only be diagnosed posthumously.

Of the 111 NFL players tested at the center, 110 have tested positive for CTE. In addition, seven of eight players from the Canadian Football League tested positive, as did nine of 14 semipro players, 48 of 53 college players, and three of 14 high-school athletes.

As those results suggest, size, speed and duration of play were commonly seen as factors in developing long-term problems from playing football. But that’s not the whole story.

In a study published this week, researchers at the center say it may not be so much how long you play, or how hard, but when. The developing brains of adolescents, they argue, are particularly vulnerable to injury, even from relatively minor collisions, and the effects can last a lifetime.

The study shows that children who played tackle football before the age of 12 double their risk of developing mood and behavioral problems. They also triple their chance of depression as adults and have a greater risk of having difficulty with problem-solving and organizing. Those effects are not tied to the number of concussions, either – they are from the kind of repetitive, non-concussive hits that happen dozens of times to each player every game.

Those hits, another study shows, are associated with the alteration of the brain’s white matter, and can occur even after as little as one season of youth football.

The timing of those changes is evident even in professional football players, another study showed, with players who started before age 12 noticeably worse off than those who started later.

Some youth football leagues are already adjusting. Some limit the number of games, or the number of days players can have full contact. The NFL is sponsoring a league with a smaller field, fewer players, no special teams and other changes meant to cut down on violent collisions.

That may not be enough. Tackle football is tackle football, however you frame it. Changes may limit the number of obviously harmful plays, but it is impossible to remove all the little collisions that researchers say add up to big problems.

More research is needed, but it looks like tackle football and young kids just don’t mix. Indeed, some communities have switched to flag football for its younger participants. Others should follow.

NFL players have reviewed the latest information on football and brain trauma, and some have opted to retire early.

With youth sports, the decisions on what and when to play ultimately fall on parents and coaches, and it’s on them to make the right choice for kids.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/21/our-view-in-youth-football-little-collisions-really-add-up/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1258449_445896-YouthFootball.jpgMore research is needed, but it looks like tackle football and young kids just don't mix. Indeed, some communities have switched to flag football for the program's younger participants – and others should follow.Wed, 20 Sep 2017 23:27:29 +0000
Sean Spicer’s comic act at the Emmys: Is laughing at lies really that funny? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/20/sean-spicers-comic-act-at-the-emmys-is-laughing-at-lies-really-that-funny/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/20/sean-spicers-comic-act-at-the-emmys-is-laughing-at-lies-really-that-funny/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 10:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1257921 “Was nothing real?” — Jim Carrey in “The Truman Show”

Funny covers a multitude of sins.

That has long been my go-to explanation of a dynamic unique to comedy. Meaning the fact that you are allowed to be crude and shocking, to transgress all kinds of isms, all bounds of propriety, if you can get a laugh in the process.

Sean Spicer got a laugh out of me Sunday night.

He rolled that podium onto the Emmy Awards stage and I cracked up. Nor was I the only one. Indeed, the surprise appearance of the former White House spokesman set off a roar from the audience of beautiful people, though when the camera found Melissa McCarthy, who has memorably lampooned Spicer on “Saturday Night Live,” her smile seemed inscrutable and not quite amused.

I like to think she instinctively understood what some of us didn’t get until later. Namely, that this was no laughing matter.

“This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period,” cried Spicer, “both in person and around the world!” It was, of course, a send-up of his first full day on the job, when his notoriously thin-skinned and insecure boss, Donald Trump, sent him out before the press corps to insist, against verifiable fact, that Trump’s inauguration was the most widely viewed of all time.

The incident was an early indication that this White House would not be bound by fact. That would be driven home by a subsequent blizzard of presidential lies and by enablers like Spicer, who would then go out and insist, with a straight face, that the president’s hogwash was true.

Now here was Spicer, effectively declaring himself in on the joke. And being enabled by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, many of whose members reportedly mobbed him at the after-party. Talk show host James Corden even planted a kiss on his cheek. It was almost anticlimactic the next day when Spicer told the New York Times that “of course” he regrets haranguing reporters about the size of the inauguration crowd.

One wonders what, exactly, we are supposed to do with that. Are we supposed to laugh off all those times he stood there insisting right was left, lies were truth and two plus two equaled macadamia nuts?

In a way, it makes sense that Spicer sought redemption in a room full of actors. An actor, after all, must dedicate himself to a fiction, make himself believe the lie in order that he might sell it to you.

But an actor is only trying to convince you he’s a superhero or starship captain. Spicer was trying to convince America that the most prodigious liar in presidential history was some oracle of consistent truth. The press secretary was selling bovine excreta, knew he was selling bovine excreta, yet acted as though you were the fool if you did not acknowledge it as gold.

And now he walks out onstage, does this comedic bit, and we’re supposed to treat it all as some harmless, meta joke? That feels cynical and slimy. It feels bereft of principle. And it suggests we have crossed the line between laughing at a joke and being one.

I mean, who’s laughing at whom here? Are we laughing with him about the fact that you can no longer trust a word the White House says – or is he laughing at us for how little that apparently means? Maybe we’re all the butt of this joke. Maybe truth is the butt of this joke.

I’m disappointed in the Television Academy. I’m also embarrassed that I laughed. Sean Spicer is one of the reasons we live in a nation filled with millions of angry, frightened, and deeply misinformed people. And yes, funny does, cover a multitude of sins.

That’s not one of them.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for The Miami Herald. He can be contacted at:

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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Maine Voices: Add to state’s allure, competitiveness with paid family leave policy http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/20/maine-voices-add-to-maines-allure-competitiveness-with-statewide-paid-family-leave-policy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/20/maine-voices-add-to-maines-allure-competitiveness-with-statewide-paid-family-leave-policy/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1257858 CAMDEN — As editor in chief of Down East magazine, I get hundreds of letters a year from people sharing their passion for this state we call home. Take it from me, Maine, we’ve got something special, something you can’t manufacture in a marketing firm overnight, something based on this enduring truth: People want to live in, return to or relocate to Maine. In short, we have curb appeal.

As a member of the millennial generation, I also see stubborn obstacles and mindsets that are preventing us from capitalizing on this priceless asset. Our demographics and related economic challenges have been amply covered and articulated; and yet, we haven’t made the changes necessary to chart a new, more hopeful course. If we want to be competitive in recruiting new and younger Mainers to support our aging and retiring workforce, we have to have a competitive advantage. And the “quality of life” sales pitch rings hollow if you don’t have the opportunities and policies to back it up.

There are a lot of relevant issues that need solutions, from affordable and quality child care and health care to internet access and job opportunities. As a working mother, I believe one of the policies that could make a huge difference is a comprehensive paid family leave law.

Now, you have probably heard that the United States is in the company of only Swaziland, Papua New Guinea and Lesotho on the list of countries that don’t offer paid maternity leave, a prominent component of paid family leave. But paid leave is not limited to women having babies. It also, for example, covers an ever-growing contingent of us Mainers who are or will be caring for our aging parents or sick family members.

I won’t bore you with sad statistics. (OK, I can’t resist. Did you know that one in four American moms goes back to work less than two weeks after having a baby?) I also won’t guilt you with all the morally compelling reasons why paid leave is simply the humane thing to do. (OK, you try navigating a child’s cancer treatment while fearing for the job that provides your insurance.)

But what I will do is entice you with the argument that seems to have the highest chance for success: the bottom-line benefits. Researchers have found that paid family leave increases female participation in the labor force, increases employee retention rates, reduces turnover costs, improves worker satisfaction, loyalty and productivity, and vastly improves medical and mental health outcomes, which – you guessed it – reduces health care costs for everyone.

Current Maine law states that if you work for a company with more than 15 employees, you won’t get fired if you take up to 10 weeks of unpaid time off in a two-year period. If you happen to be at a smaller business, you’re totally at the mercy of your employer, many of which can’t afford or manage paid leave programs.

Maine, we can do better.

Building on successful programs in other states, we can create a paid leave fund that functions like insurance so that workers receive at least a partial income when they need to take family leave. A statewide policy makes this much easier on small and large businesses alike and ensures that all Mainers have more options when faced with major illnesses, welcoming a new child to our families or caring for a loved one.

Here at Down East, we now offer three months of paid parental leave along with a host of progressive workplace policies, including unlimited sick and vacation days. We made the change because we want to retain and recruit talented people. We also made the change because we represent Maine values in everything we do – not just on our pages.

If Maine truly wants to be the way life should be, we need businesses, towns and cities and, ultimately, the state to step up and support the families that already live here as well as inspire the ones that want to move here to take the plunge.

Maine is deeply ingrained in who I am and what I do – and I want it to be a thriving place for decades to come. Passing a comprehensive paid family leave law is one step we have to take if we want a bright future for our state.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/20/maine-voices-add-to-maines-allure-competitiveness-with-statewide-paid-family-leave-policy/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/04/830328_Paid-Family-Leave-San-Fra9.jpgA mother and child attend a rally supporting paid family leave in San Francisco on Tuesday.Wed, 20 Sep 2017 17:25:11 +0000
Greg Kesich: Ensure Portland’s waterfront has room for fishermen who make it special http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/20/greg-kesich-lets-ensure-portlands-waterfront-has-room-for-fishermen-that-make-it-special/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/20/greg-kesich-lets-ensure-portlands-waterfront-has-room-for-fishermen-that-make-it-special/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1257900 Willis Spear is pretty clear about why people want to come to Portland.

In a petition that he and other local lobstermen presented to the City Council, Spear let the city know that it’s the working waterfront that generates the attraction.

“You can go anywhere in America and see cheap hotels made of plastic and glass or condominiums pushed to the edge of the sea, but nowhere in America can you see little wharves, built in the 18th and 19th centuries, working daily to provide jobs and food for the people of Maine and the country.”

And of course he’s right. The lawyers from Pierce Atwood might work on Commercial Street, but how often do they get quizzed about their work by cruise ship passengers, or asked to pose with them for a photo? That kind of thing happens to fishermen all the time.

But this attraction could be fatal. There is a waterfront development boom that has the potential to bring more hotel rooms, more offices, more retail shops, more cars and especially more people, who could crowd out the very activities that make Portland special. Somebody ought to do something to protect the industrial waterfront, and those somebodies are the people in the development community and tourism industries, who benefit as much as the fishermen from the health of a real working waterfront.

What if office tenants were as passionate about keeping pleasure boats off the wharves as the people whose livelihood demands that they have space to tie up? What if hotel owners gave their guests transportation options that didn’t interfere with bait trucks on Commercial Street?

What if, for once, we didn’t kill the golden goose?

It’s easy to see what the fishermen are worried about.

There are four new waterfront projects in various stages of development that would bring thousands of people to Commercial Street.

A 300-unit hotel and condominium project is planned for the former Rufus Deering Lumber Co. site over by the Casco Bay Bridge, and another hotel is planned for what is now a surface parking lot on Fishermen’s Wharf a few blocks away.

At the eastern end of Commercial Street, the former Portland Co. property has an approved master plan for a multi-use development with historic restoration and new construction that includes housing, retail, restaurants and offices, on a piece of land as big as the entire Old Port. And just next door, Wex, a Maine-based technology company, recently announced plans to move its headquarters, with offices for 650 people, to the foot of India Street. The company’s president said access to the waterfront will be a recruiting tool for the fast-growing company.

On one hand, this is good news for Portland. No, not good news – great news.

People want to come here. They want to visit, they want to work here, they want to live here. They want to contribute to the tax base, which means that the city’s many and expensive infrastructure bills can be shared more broadly.

But Spear doesn’t look up the road and see new schools and modernized sewers. He sees a time when there is no room for him or his sons. It’s the general trend, not the specifics of any of these projects, that poses an immediate threat.

But the future doesn’t have to be so dark. Visitors gawking at fishermen can be a nuisance, but they also represent an opportunity to sell directly to consumers. Instead of one kind of business growing at the other’s expense, both could grow together.

So far the fishermen’s biggest concerns are parking and traffic, which are problems that can be treated with medicines other than a development moratorium.

There are routes besides Commercial Street to move through traffic across the peninsula, and there are vehicles besides private cars that can get tourists from their hotel rooms to local restaurants. If people circling the block for parking spaces are clogging up traffic, it may make sense to move parking elsewhere.

The city is preparing a traffic study of Commercial Street that will better define the problem and propose solutions.

Judging from the petition, the lobstermen are getting organized, and they will make the case that with more than 80 boats employing a couple of hundred people pumping millions into the local economy, their concerns should be taken seriously.

And the tourism and development industries should be right behind them, advocating for the health of their golden goose.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at:

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter: gregkesich

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/20/greg-kesich-lets-ensure-portlands-waterfront-has-room-for-fishermen-that-make-it-special/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/10/Columnist-Kesich-e1441211688709.jpgJohn Patriquin/Staff Photographer.Wed. July,25, 2012. News room mug shots Greg Kesich. (Photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer)Tue, 19 Sep 2017 23:17:17 +0000
Another View: Study underscores social media’s power to reinforce our existing beliefs http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/20/another-view-study-attests-to-social-medias-power-to-reinforce-our-existing-beliefs/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/20/another-view-study-attests-to-social-medias-power-to-reinforce-our-existing-beliefs/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1257993 A psychology study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science has shown that political messages on social media containing “moral and emotional language” diffuse far faster than political posts on more morally neutral topics.

For example, an impassioned rant about proposed gun control legislation is much more likely to “go viral” than an evenhanded analysis of the effects of cutting interest rates in the current economic climate.

More interesting is the study’s secondary finding. Political posts rich in moral and emotional content may spread faster and wider than other kinds of political messages – but very rarely so wide as to penetrate the conversation on the other side.

Pundits have long warned of social networking’s tendency to create “ideological echo chambers,” which constantly reinforce users’ existing beliefs while insulating them from arguments on the other side. Indeed, most people can attest to the effect themselves from a glance over their own newsfeeds. But, until now, there has been little empirical grounding for these concerns.

The proof is important because without it, it was all too easy to dismiss the worriers as heirs to a long tradition of doomsaying when a new medium of expression gains a large, young following. Television was debasing popular and political culture before the internet, and the radio before TV, etc. – the pattern stretches back to the printing press. Yet if these findings are correct, this moment is different.

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Our View: Suicide data for veterans show vast unmet need for care http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/20/our-view-veteran-suicide-data-show-vast-unmet-need-for-care/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/20/our-view-veteran-suicide-data-show-vast-unmet-need-for-care/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1258000 Every day, nationwide, an average of 20 veterans die by suicide.

Every week, a family in Maine loses a military sibling, parent, child or spouse to suicide.

Every year, our country loses about 400 more veterans to suicide than have died in combat since the war on terror began.

This is a national scandal – but it’s a preventable one, if we press our officials to forgo the usual lip service to veterans in favor of policies and actions that actually help them.

Veterans are about 20 percent more likely to die by suicide than are people who have never served in the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced late last week, citing the first-ever state-by-state VA suicide data. Epidemiologist Rajeev Ramchand, who studies suicide for the Rand Corp., told the Associated Press that the suicide rate in every state is at least 1½ times higher for veterans than for nonveterans.

Maine’s veteran suicide rate isn’t significantly different from the national norm, the VA found. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have a problem. It’s obvious that we do. There’s no single, obvious solution, but another VA statistic – that 70 percent of the veterans who die by suicide had not been using VA health care – offers fresh information about where to direct state and federal resources.

For example, the VA earlier this year lifted a ban on access to mental health services by veterans with other-than-honorable discharges. While this decision doesn’t address other barriers to care, like the wait times and lack of staffing that have plagued VA care facilities nationwide, it’s a good first step. Veterans who have received other-than-honorable discharges are at higher risk of suicide than their honorably discharged peers – and depriving them of care, therefore, only increases the likelihood that they will die by suicide.

Closer to home, Maine moved in the right direction during the last legislative session by approving L.D. 1231, which sets up a program to gather data on mental health admissions for veterans and establishes a pilot initiative to provide case management for those who require mental health care.

Of the roughly 30,000 veterans in Maine who don’t use VA health care services, it is estimated that over 10,000 are in need of mental health care. If Maine’s new pilot program can save the life of just one of them, it will have been worth it – and hopefully, the initiative will do far more than that for those who have done so much for their country.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/20/our-view-veteran-suicide-data-show-vast-unmet-need-for-care/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1258000_20070518togus_1.jpgThe Veterans Affairs Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus is seen above in 2007. Of the roughly 30,000 Maine veterans who don't use VA health care services, it is estimated that over 10,000 are in need of mental health care.Tue, 19 Sep 2017 22:37:04 +0000
Opinion podcast: Hillary Clinton’s book, the Democratic Party rift, and Trump’s negotiating skills http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/opinion-podcast-hillary-clintons-book-democratic-party-rift-trumps-negotiating-skills/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/opinion-podcast-hillary-clintons-book-democratic-party-rift-trumps-negotiating-skills/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 19:02:05 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1257698 Hillary Clinton’s new book “What Happened” is her reflection on the 2016 election, but critical reception suggests some people wish she would keep her analysis to herself. Dill and Nemitz try to define the ideological division within the Democratic Party without using the names “Hillary” or “Bernie,” and discuss whether Trump’s immigration deal with Democrats is a new negotiating tactic or more of his predictably unpredictable political style.

Related stories:

Trump crosses aisle to Republicans dismay

Hillary Clinton: ‘I am done with being a candidate’

Sanders rolls out plan for federally run health insurance

Podcast links:

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/opinion-podcast-hillary-clintons-book-democratic-party-rift-trumps-negotiating-skills/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/12/770622_337347-APTOPIX-Dem-2016-Deb.jpgBernie Sanders talks with Hillary Clinton during a break at the Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.Tue, 19 Sep 2017 15:04:20 +0000
Another View: Turkey should be punished for embassy protest violence in D.C. http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/another-view-turkey-should-be-punished-for-embassy-protest-violence-in-d-c/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/another-view-turkey-should-be-punished-for-embassy-protest-violence-in-d-c/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1257312 In the four months since the violent attack on peaceful protesters by Turkish bodyguards during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington, nothing has made the Turkish government own up to this outrageous assault on democratic principles on American soil. Not protests from the State Department, not bipartisan condemnations from Congress and not the indictments of Turkish security officials on criminal charges. Perhaps a threat to block certain weapon sales will be a more meaningful way to suggest there is a price to be paid for such brutality.

Turkey’s continued intransigence about the events of May 16, in which 11 people were injured in a melee outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence, prompted a Senate committee to approve a measure that would block the U.S. government from supporting the sale of weapons to security forces protecting Erdogan.

Video of the demonstration showed protesters being chased down, kicked and beaten by men who included members of Erdogan’s security detail while the Turkish president looked on complacently.

Nineteen people, including 15 identified as Turkish security officials, were indicted on felony charges, but most are believed to have left the United States and only two have been taken into custody.

The Justice Department won’t comment on whether it is seeking extradition, and the Turkish government has been uncooperative to the point of insult. That Erdogan called the indictments “a clear and scandalous expression of how justice works in America” is in keeping with the utter contempt he has displayed so brutally in his own country toward the right to dissent, a free press and an independent judiciary.

This amendment now goes to the full Senate. Congress should approve the measure, and the president should sign it.

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Charles Lawton: Recipe for economic transformation is universal and ubiquitous http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/charles-lawton-economic-transformation-is-universal-and-ubiquitous/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/charles-lawton-economic-transformation-is-universal-and-ubiquitous/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1257318 “Focus on research. Encourage risk taking. Embrace failure. Reward collaboration. Attract immigrants and venture capitalists. Build networks of experienced workers. Take advantage of nearby universities. Get professors to train the next generation of students and to work with local business leaders to spin out important technologies. The status quo only brings woes.”

The economic development marching orders noted above sound tailor made for Maine. They accept that legacy industries that have served as the basis for economic prosperity in the past have been disrupted by worldwide social and technological change, and that no policy seeking their return can be successful.

At the same time, they embrace the reality that progress toward any future prosperity will be messy and confusing, often involving missteps and failures and requiring fundamental transformations in all of our attitudes about economic development.

Interestingly, these marching orders are not taken from some new economic development plan for a rural state like Maine, seeking to join the economic growth ever more concentrated in the world’s major metropolitan areas. They come from an application submitted by the city of New York to the Bloomberg Foundation to finance a 2-million-square-foot Cornell Tech in Brooklyn, whose purpose will be “to stir up the melting pot and see what emerges from the primordial ooze of professors, entrepreneurs, students, venture capitalists and business leaders.” This messy vision, the application concludes, “is the recipe for transformation.”

To me, these words and their geographic origin underline two points. The first is that the need for transformative economic development is universal. It applies to all areas.

The second is that Maine’s most striking example of the messy “primordial ooze” required by “the recipe for transformation” was on display just over a week ago at the University of Southern Maine during Venture Hall’s Demo Day.

Venture Hall (on whose board I serve as a volunteer) is a nonprofit dedicated to stirring up the “primordial ooze” of Maine’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. With major support from MaineHealth and Unum, it designed an accelerator program to help young startups improve their odds of success and accelerate their growth paths. It received applications from over 60 companies from around the world and selected six (two from Maine and one each from Colorado, California, Missouri and New Jersey) to participate in a 13-week program ending on Demo Day.

Company teams came to Portland for the summer and spent hours and hours with a wide range of mentors, business and subject matter experts and, most importantly, employees from MaineHealth and Unum whose jobs involved working on the problems that each member team’s products or services were designed to address. From more accurate delivery of anesthesia to improved employee participation in wellness programs, each participant team received enthusiastic and helpful responses to their product or service ideas.

Startup team members got immediate feedback, and sponsor participants were exposed to ideas that could help them improve their productivity and ease their own job challenges. The enthusiasm of both the participants and the sponsors throughout Demo Day was evidence of the program’s success at “accelerating” not just company growth but also the transformation of Maine as a participant in the entrepreneurial economy of the 21st century.

OK, so what? Will Demo Day simply be like Labor Day – an exciting end to the seasonal peak of Maine’s tourist year – for a new category of visitor? Or, particularly without a Bloomberg Foundation seeking to fund its future success, will it be simply a heady summer experience to be recalled fondly?

Two facts give me reason for optimism that Venture Hall’s accelerator program will continue and grow and thus become more significant in Maine’s necessary process of socioeconomic transformation.

First, two of the out-of-state startups in the 2017 summer program were so taken with Maine – both as a place to live and a place to do business – that they opened offices here. Without abandoning the states where they started, they’ve decided that growing in Maine will help accelerate their overall growth.

The second reason for optimism that this accelerator program will become a regular part of Maine’s “primordial ooze” of innovative energy lies with the enthusiasm of the employees of the program’s sponsors. Many spoke of the insights into improving their own job performances that they gained from participating in this program and how eager they are for potential new programs.

In other words, Maine can become a magnet for world-class entrepreneurs, and its existing major companies can accelerate their own innovative transformations by participating.

Charles Lawton, Ph.D., is a consulting economist. He can be contacted at:

cttlaw3@gmail.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/charles-lawton-economic-transformation-is-universal-and-ubiquitous/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/10/1098638_edi.10242.jpgThe University of Southern Maine, above, has been hard hit by recent cuts made by the UMaine System in an effort to close a budget deficit. Now we're learning more about a new center that would house combined graduate programs currently operating at USM and the University of Maine.Mon, 18 Sep 2017 20:14:47 +0000
Our View: Leaked report feeds sense of uncertainty on Katahdin Woods and Waters http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/our-view-leaked-report-feeds-sense-of-uncertainty-on-katahdin-woods-and-waters/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/our-view-leaked-report-feeds-sense-of-uncertainty-on-katahdin-woods-and-waters/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1257322 Imagine that you are planning a vacation to Maine next summer. You think you might like to drive up the coast and visit Acadia National Park, “where the mountains meet the sea.”

And after that, you think you might like to drive west to get the feel of a massive forest, maybe even see a moose in the wild.

A trip to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument would do the trick: a place where you can hike, bike, canoe or just drive your car while soaking up the forest atmosphere. The plan is sounding great.

And then you read that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is proposing to add “active timber management” to the list of allowable activities in your vacation destination. In other words, the forest you want to visit may or may not be standing when it’s time for your trip.

How does that plan look now?

It could be even worse. Say you’re considering investing in the Katahdin region, maybe opening a restaurant or an inn. Again, you will have to think twice about making a commitment, knowing that the future of the park and its attractiveness to visitors are uncertain.

And that uncertainty is the biggest danger of the destructive and unnecessary process that has been unleashed on the region by the Trump administration and its allies here in Maine. Tentative steps toward expanding the outdoor recreation economy in an area that has been devastated by the loss of papermaking, its core industry, will be set back again by politicians who want to thump their chests.

Vague promises about logging the 87,000 acres – less than 1 percent of the 17.8 million-acre forest that surrounds it – won’t save many jobs in the increasingly mechanized forest products industry. But even before a single tree is felled, the word is out to potential visitors and people who want to host them that there could be nothing to see after a very long drive.

Zinke’s recommendation is part of a document that was leaked this weekend, so there may be time for the secretary to revise his position.

The Katahdin region deserves a chance to see if a different approach to economic development will work. The people who have seen their communities abandoned by the paper industry deserve a chance to find out whether increased visits to the monument will boost the development of local businesses, repopulate neighborhoods, put kids in the schools and create other opportunities to live and work.

Even people who initially opposed the idea of a federally managed park in the Maine woods were ready to give it a try. But with constant political interference, it won’t have much of a chance.

In a few months, people will start making their summer plans for 2018. It would be nice if we could help them decide to come to Maine.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/our-view-leaked-report-feeds-sense-of-uncertainty-on-katahdin-woods-and-waters/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1257322_164284_20170615_monument_6.jpgThe East Branch of the Penobscot River flows near Whetstone Falls in the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in northern Penobscot County.Mon, 18 Sep 2017 23:17:32 +0000
Maine Voices: We need to watch whom our representatives place on the courts http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/maine-voices-we-need-to-watch-closely-whom-our-representatives-place-on-the-courts/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/maine-voices-we-need-to-watch-closely-whom-our-representatives-place-on-the-courts/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1257275 One hundred and forty-four. That is the number of current openings in the federal judiciary. This amounts to 16 percent of our federal judgeships. In the next few years, President Trump and the Republican Senate will fill those seats with lifetime appointments. And with the aging of the judiciary, there could be as many as 438 vacancies by 2020.

The president has sought to fill these seats with young candidates, many of whom will serve on the courts for decades to come. In other words, the next generation of federal courts will be defined by the men and women whom Trump appoints to office.

It is easy to forget the critical role that federal judges play in our legal system. We tend to focus on the Constitution’s text and the men who wrote it, not on the judges who give it meaning. But the mere enumeration of rights in a Constitution is, in the words of James Madison, nothing more than a “parchment barrier.”

Instead, we must remind ourselves that the judiciary is the bulwark of our most fundamental rights, and many of the rights that we take for granted, from desegregated schools to the right to counsel, are in existence only because of how judges interpreted the open-ended language of the Constitution.

To protect these rights, and to ensure that the other two branches of government do not trample them, judges must be sufficiently independent to stand up to the president and to Congress. How can judges do that when it is the president and the Senate who decide who is going to serve on the courts?

Part of the protection is institutional: We the people gave judges life tenure so that they could decide cases without fear or favor. But that alone is not enough. We need our judges to be courageous, thoughtful and considerate. Because judges do so much more than merely call balls and strikes, the content of their character is much more important than the content of the Constitution itself.

Since one of the most important duties of a federal judge is to stand up to the other federal branches, it is important that the people serving on those courts are not mere lackeys for a partisan agenda. And that is where the people themselves must play a role.

We need to monitor closely whom our elected representatives place on the courts, and voice our concerns to our representatives. We must pay attention to who will serve as our protectors for the next 20, 30, even 40 years, and ensure that they are people we trust with that kind of responsibility. This is precisely why we should be outraged when the president attacks individual judges based on their national origin, questions their legitimacy or uses a litmus test to ensure that his nominees commit to decide constitutional cases a certain way.

It is easy to become complacent and assume that every judge will defend our rights. But we know that identity matters. Studies show that a judge’s ideology, religion, race and even the judge’s family can make a difference. For example, researchers have found that judges with daughters decide sex discrimination cases differently from those without. Scholars have likewise identified race-based and gender-based effects, along with many other potential influences on judicial decision-making.

That is exactly why judicial diversity is so important – and not just ethnic diversity or gender diversity, but also diversity of personal, political and life experiences. Unfortunately, this has not been a consideration for the president. Most of the president’s nominees have been white. Most of them have been male. Most have served as prosecutors or corporate lawyers. Lawyers with experience on the other side of the legal profession – civil rights lawyers, public defenders, advocates for minorities and the poor – have largely been ignored. This lack of diversity skews judicial decisions in favor of some interests and against others, and makes the quality of our judiciary poorer as a result.

Constitutional rights will not protect themselves. As someone who was born and raised in the former U.S.S.R., I have experienced this firsthand. The Soviet Constitution was filled with all kinds of rights and freedoms, all of which were ignored because no judge was willing to enforce them. We must ensure that our courts – the crown jewel of the American democracy – remain independent and willing to stand up for our constitutional rights. And more importantly, we must be vigilant to ensure that the courts are filled with those capable of ensuring equality and protecting the rights of all Americans.

 

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Kathleen Parker: How the Democrats won the presidency, after all http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/kathleen-parker-how-the-democrats-won-the-presidency-after-all/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/kathleen-parker-how-the-democrats-won-the-presidency-after-all/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1257293 Rarely, if ever, have so many presidential winners and losers been so incessantly chatty.

Hillary Clinton – who lost the 2016 election, in case you weren’t sure – is on a book tour with her campaign memoir, “What Happened.” (Hint: She’s a woman, the Comey letter.)

Donald Trump – who is still campaigning despite having won – is chatting up Democrats to try to get something done. Anything! By week’s end, he was recanting every mean thing he’d ever said about illegal immigrants and was softening his vow to send “dreamers” (children brought here by their parents) back to their point of conception.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama, who already had his turn but can’t quite quit, is still talking.

Finally, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost the Democratic nomination to Clinton, is still running and still ranting about Medicare for everyone. Given the likely eventuality of a single-payer health care system, he and Larry David may as well take a victory lap. It’s beginning to seem that Sanders won, after all. As did the Democrats.

On the losing side are the Republicans, who put their faith in a guy who promised the moon but has managed only to deliver a galaxy of tweets and several significant staff replacements. Trump the Republican was always a strain to credulity, but people can make themselves believe just about anything, as thousands of years of ritual sacrifice and snake dances confirm. Trump the salesman has always known this, either instinctively or as the result of his first successful con.

There are two things to know about con artists: One, they’re having fun; two, once a bluffer tastes the sweet satisfaction of scamming a sucker, he can’t stop.

Trump was never ideologically driven, though he did surround himself with ideologues as helpmates. Or were they the biggest suckers of all?

This thought finally began to take shape when Trump recently met with the enemy – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Depending on whose version one prefers, they discussed making a deal on both the future of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants and what Trump called “extreme security.”

Almost instantly, Breitbart slapped Trump with a nickname: “Amnesty Don.” How quickly Steve Bannon shape-shifted from former senior White House policy adviser and Trump’s personal Pravda to his antagonist. Other Republicans, presumably speaking for the base, declared Trump’s presidency kaput.

Then again, maybe Trump decided it was time to get something done. Maybe deep within, he has a heart. Or, more likely, he saw polls saying that most Americans think children brought here not of their own accord should be allowed to stay where they grew up.

Maybe he gets his wall in the process, maybe not. But what seems increasingly clear is that, while Clinton tries to purge her demons by explaining how she lost, Trump is busy fashioning a perfect world for Democrats to prevail. Which is to say, he may get more accomplished for the Democratic Party than Clinton could have with a Republican-dominated Congress.

Consider: Immigration reform is beginning to look a lot less draconian and a lot more Pope-ish. Bannon, a Catholic, notably remarked during a recent “60 Minutes” interview that the church has been “terrible” on immigration, encouraging forgiveness rather than wall-building, because, he said, it needs illegal immigrants to fill the pews. Such a charmer, that one.

Also, the wall is not, in fact, getting built, though repairs are being made to existing wall-like structures. Ditto health care, which, instead of being repealed and replaced, likely will be an Obamacare fix, followed by a single-payer system that Democrats wanted all along and that Trump supported before he became a “Republican.”

Thus, it would seem that Democrats really won the election and that President Trump, despite his faux-angry campaign promises, is a pretty good Democrat, after all. Congratulations, Mr. President, on your best performance yet. Congratulations are also owed to former President Obama, whose chief legacy survives. Congratulations, Sen. Sanders: Your day is nigh.

Finally, congratulations, Madame Secretary: Everybody knows you won, as well as why you lost. You get the last word, a great haircut, and you didn’t have to take the worst job in the world. Not a bad day’s work.

Kathleen Parker is a columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group. She can be contacted at:

kathleenparker@washpost.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/19/kathleen-parker-how-the-democrats-won-the-presidency-after-all/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1253796_Hillary_Clinton_Book_12370..jpgFormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she's not finished with politics, but won't run for president in 2020.Mon, 18 Sep 2017 20:19:39 +0000
Our View: Scam voter fraud panel shows its true colors http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/18/our-view-scam-voter-fraud-panel-shows-its-true-colors/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/18/our-view-scam-voter-fraud-panel-shows-its-true-colors/#respond Mon, 18 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1256824 Matthew Dunlap did right last week, standing up for sanity in the face of abject lunacy as President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission continues to careen into dangerous territory.

It is, however, unclear whether the Maine secretary of state’s place on this panel is worth it any longer. Now that the commission has been shown beyond doubt to be a sham, does the presence of a Democrat beholden to the facts make any sense? Or does it only hand the commission an undeserved patina of bipartisan respectability?

Those concerns have been there from the start, when Dunlap accepted the position on the commission run by Vice President Mike Pence and Kris Kobach, secretary of state and Republican candidate for governor in Kansas.

Kobach has made a name for himself as a fact-averse crusader, a fanatical pursuer of voter fraud who nevertheless has managed to find very little of it.

The commission itself was born out of Trump’s ridiculous and unsupported statement that as many as 5 million people voted illegally – all against him – in the 2016 election.

Regardless of its leadership and provenance, we thought Dunlap’s participation at the outset was a good thing – he would provide an informed, steady response to the fact-challenged bomb-throwing, and possibly help guide the commission toward the real threats to our election integrity: foreign interference and vulnerable electronic voting systems. Those concerns seem even more pertinent now that we know the extent to which Russia used Facebook ads to influence the election.

Now, it appears that the commission may be beyond saving.

In a piece written for far-right – some would say white-nationalist – Breitbart News, where he is a paid columnist, Kobach said that the around 5,000 New Hampshire residents who registered to vote with out-of-state licenses are proof that the 2016 U.S. Senate race, won by Democrat Maggie Hassan in a close vote, was “stolen through voter fraud.”

That would be a laughable statement if it were not so inflammatory – Dunlap called it “reckless.” The voters were likely students, who as residents for most of the year legally are allowed to vote.

Also last week, it was revealed that Hans von Spakovsky, a member of the commission whose hands are all over efforts in recent years to suppress the vote through unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, wanted Democrats and moderate Republicans kept off the commission, lest they weigh facts and other hard evidence over demogoguery and innuendo.

It’s hard to see the commission now as anything but part of an effort to cast aspersions on the electoral system for the purpose of suppressing the vote. Voter fraud – nonexistant in anything close to meaningful numbers, and caused by honest human error in the tiny numbers it does occur – is simply a pretense for making it harder to vote, either by erecting barriers to registering or by purging voter rolls, a process that eliminates eligible voters as collateral damage.

Dunlap’s sharp criticism drew attention to that anti-democracy attack. But that appears to be all he can do – Kobach’s commission will continue on with its assault on the electorate.

Maybe that’s a sign that Dunlap’s time on the commission has run its course.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/18/our-view-scam-voter-fraud-panel-shows-its-true-colors/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1256824_126422-Dunlap2.jpgThe president's Election Integrity Commission is not a search for truth, and Maine Secretary of State Dunlap should not lend it credibility.Sun, 17 Sep 2017 16:39:03 +0000
Maine Voices: Fine to pray during the anthem, but don’t say anyone ‘should’ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/18/maine-voices-fine-to-pray-during-the-anthem-but-dont-say-anyone-should/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/18/maine-voices-fine-to-pray-during-the-anthem-but-dont-say-anyone-should/#respond Mon, 18 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1256898 GEORGETOWN — I am a Jewish atheist. If that offends you, you can call me “a Jewish agnostic.” If that troubles you, it is OK to refer to me as “a secular Jew” or, if you prefer, “a cultural Jew.” It really doesn’t matter to me because whether or not I believe in “god” has no meaning in my life.

When I read Peter Pinette’s words about prayer (Maine Voices, Sept. 8), I found myself agreeing with his hopes for health care, jobs, equal protection under the law and respect for life, but I profoundly disagreed with his use of the word “should” when he referred to the use of prayer during the singing of the national anthem at sports events. (I also suspect that our reverence for life might even be viewed differently.)

As a kid who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in the late 1930s and ’40s, I attended Hebrew school and public school, went to holiday temple services and knew only a loving home where we observed all kosher rules. But I was not blind. My next-door neighbors were Greek and the apartment house was owned by Italians and the Russians lived one flight up. The religions were diverse, and as I grew up, I began to wonder how each could claim that their way was the right way and the only way.

When I went to Brooklyn College and, contrary to all the wishes of my relatives, majored in anthropology, it became clear to me that there were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of religions. Native American religions of the eastern U.S. differed radically from those in the western part of the country, and the religions of Asia and Africa bore no similarity to one another except for the fact that most believed that they were the one true religion and that those who differed were often not to be tolerated. Indeed, what seemed to be common was the idea that it might be OK to kill “them” … those others, those nonbelievers, those who did not follow the “true way” and so were somehow less than human.

So I began to wonder why it seemed that religion was everywhere. Why was it so important for each human society to invent “god” or gods and a whole panoply of rules and regulations? My guess is that there are many reasons and I don’t need to be certain if it is out of fear or gratitude or the need for humans to form community or what the cause might be. I just know that as long as a religion does not impose its rules on me, and does not seek to discriminate against or harm any individual or group, then I can wholeheartedly offer my respect.

So, if someone wants to pray during the national anthem, that is fine with me. If they want to organize Christian prayer in a church, good for them. But when they tell me that at a sports event, I should look straight forward, place a hand over my heart while the anthem is sung and close my eyes and bring my hands together in prayer, I get very uncomfortable. I get the feeling that if I choose to sit, keep my eyes wide open, keep my hands at my sides and not say the words “under ‘god’ ” as the Pledge is recited, then I am somehow less of a patriot, less of a citizen, less of a human.

My greatest concern these days is that it seems almost impossible to begin a respectful dialogue among progressives, moderates, conservatives and ultra-conservatives, and I am unnerved by the feeling that fundamentalists of every religion are quite similar to one another in their intolerance of anyone who dares to disagree with them.

If I am mistaken and there is a “god,” that’s fine with me. In fact, I choose to live my life respectful of diversity – and, yes, that includes people who are gay, transgender, bisexual and heterosexual, as well as immigrants, “dreamers” and all churches and pastors and congregations that seek to help the vulnerable.

I support health care for all, protection of our environment, a living wage, great education for our children, the right of reproductive freedom, voting rights, civil conversations and personal responsibility, and I suspect that if there is indeed a universal “god,” that would sit pretty well with him or her or it. I am grateful for my family, my life and the freedom provided by the United States of America.

What I do not want and will not abide is someone telling me how I should live my life and what I should believe and how I should act. I hope Mr. Pinette and others who believe as he does can respect how I choose to live my life.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/18/maine-voices-fine-to-pray-during-the-anthem-but-dont-say-anyone-should/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/07/1220790_Orioles_Brewers_Baseball_37.jpgMilwaukee Brewers players line up for the national anthem before a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles Monday in Milwaukee.Mon, 18 Sep 2017 12:02:04 +0000
Jim Fossel: Trump, Democrats come to a deal of sorts http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/jim-fossel-trump-dems-come-to-a-deal-of-sorts/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/jim-fossel-trump-dems-come-to-a-deal-of-sorts/#respond Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1256092 A little more than a week ago, President Trump signed the first major bipartisan bill of his presidency, as he cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to raise the debt ceiling, extend government funding and provide disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

To be sure, passing disaster relief was the right thing for both parties to do; what was less necessary was caving entirely to the Democrats on government funding and the debt ceiling.

Republican leadership had been pushing for a longer-term extension, to see Congress through the upcoming midterm elections on both fronts. Instead, Trump gave the Democrats exactly what they wanted: a three-month increase that sets up a massive battle at the end of the year.

Had Republicans been able to present a unified front, they may have been able to negotiate a longer-term spending solution. Unfortunately, many conservative lawmakers continued the hard-line tactics they had employed during 2011 and 2013 debates over the debt ceiling, when a Democrat still served in the White House. Rather than work with them to get a debt ceiling bill passed, Trump opted to work with Democrats instead, and the vast majority of Congress went along with his approach – including the entire Maine delegation.

Now, this was not entirely a terrible outcome. Lurching from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis is no way to govern responsibly in any country, and it’s especially damaging in the world’s largest economy. It was certainly vital to pass disaster relief aid, and it was good to see that done while avoiding another government shutdown or debt ceiling crisis. Trump was wise to back down from his threat to shut down the government if his proposed border wall with Mexico wasn’t fully funded.

This bill didn’t do anything to actually solve any of those impending fiscal crises – it just made them slightly less impending. It was the equivalent of getting an extension on your term paper, instead of just getting it done on time. Once again, Congress has punted our fiscal problems down the road rather than working together in a substantive way to fix them. In the end, simply avoiding another crisis – while certainly commendable – isn’t really responsible governing.

The question for Trump and for Congress is whether anything will change over the next three months, or if they’re just going to ignore the problem until the last minute again. While Trump’s willingness to engage in bipartisanship is commendable, it may also pose greater challenges for him in the future. Most Republicans heeded leadership’s warnings that it was vital to support this round of funding and increase the debt ceiling so disaster relief aid could be passed. If that urgent pressure isn’t there in three months, many more conservatives may be willing to revolt against yet another debt ceiling increase.

Moreover, by revealing his willingness to negotiate with Democrats, Trump may have overplayed his hand.

If Democrats feel empowered they may begin to push in other areas as well. This could include changes to the Affordable Care Act, immigration policy and more. All Democrats have to do is pick a position that will split the Republican Party and tie it to an urgent, must-pass bill of some sort.

Working with Trump may come at a cost to Democrats, whether individually or collectively. Right now, much of the energy in the Democratic Party seems to be coming from left-wing activists who view it as their moral obligation to resist Trump at all turns. Democrats who abandon the ‘”resistance” may find themselves the target of primaries, as Republicans who were willing to work with President Obama often did. At this point, progressives are unlikely to be mollified by a few policy wins here and there – they’re pushing for outright victory on all fronts.

If the vote over government spending and disaster aid were the beginning of an end to the partisan rancor that has so divided Washington, that would be a relief. Instead, it seems to have been the classic D.C. bait-and-switch: pretend to oppose something in order to extract concessions. It’s hard to imagine that Democrats would really have voted down disaster relief funding in the middle of hurricane season – they just used the opportunity to get their way.

This time, that strategy allowed the Democrats to get a win. Hopefully over the next three months, the Republican Party learns from their mistake rather than repeating it.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:

jwfossel@gmail.com

Twitter: @jimfossel

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Our View: Global warming needs political climate change http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/our-view-global-warming-needs-political-climate-change/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/our-view-global-warming-needs-political-climate-change/#respond Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1256201 We keep hearing that this is a sharply divided nation in which people won’t agree on the time of day.

No issue seems to be more polarized than climate change, especially when the airwaves are full of debates contesting whether it’s an impending cataclysm or a Chinese hoax.

But what if all that noise didn’t reflect what most people are coming to understand to be the truth of global warming?

The question is usually put as “Do you believe in climate change?” and unless you can find consensus on the answer, the political and economic decision-making process that follows is hopeless.

However, evidence is emerging that we may be a lot closer to that consensus than you would think from listening to talk radio, or scrolling through the reader comments on a newspaper website. Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communication has used national surveys and sophisticated modeling to gauge public opinion on a series of important questions that show that the leaders appear to be far more divided than the people.

These findings are a rare whiff of good news from a corner of our democracy that has provided mostly stale air. Policy makers on the federal and state level should look at these numbers and see that the public is more ready than they might have believed for them to act.

First off is the threshold question: “Is global warming happening?”

According to the Yale estimates, 70 percent of Americans would say “yes” and only 12 percent say “no.” That’s not the near unanimity you see among actively publishing climate scientists, but it’s a much stronger majority than you would see for a candidate in any national election.

The statewide numbers for Maine are right in line, with 69 percent who say “yes,” and only 14 percent who say “no.”

Whether it’s mostly a man-made phenomenon is a closer call, but a solid 53 percent say it is, while only 32 percent believe that we are only experiencing natural cycles that have happened throughout history. That trend continues in Maine, where there is a solid 20-point margin in favor of the view that human activity is causing the change.

Perhaps most significantly, 71 percent of Americans trust climate scientists, according to the estimates, while only 26 percent do not. Compare that with the approval rating for Congress (16 percent), or the president (37 percent), and you can see that trusting science is far from controversial.

It is strange but true that as the politics of this issue have become more fractious, the scientific consensus has gotten increasingly solid. Reviews of peer-reviewed studies that ask whether global warming is affected by human activity have found between 97 and 100 percent agreement that it is.

The journal Theoretical and Applied Climatology recently published a review of the studies that claim to disprove anthropogenic global warming and found that the outliers contained numerous mistakes. “A common denominator seems to be missing contextual information or ignoring information that does not fit the conclusions, be it other relevant work or related geophysical data. In many cases, shortcomings are due to insufficient model evaluation, leading to results that are not universally valid but rather are an artifact of a particular experimental setup. Other typical weaknesses include false dichotomies, inappropriate statistical methods, or basing conclusions on misconceived or incomplete physics.”

Every American can’t conduct his own climate study, or even review all the scientific literature. So it’s important to see evidence like the Yale study that shows that most people believe the scientists and know that the scientists believe that the planet is warming as a result of human activity.

The Yale surveys show strong support for increased research in alternative energy (82 percent), regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant (75 percent) and mandated renewable energy production for utilities (66 percent), all ideas that have been considered politically divisive in the recent past.

Polls are not perfect reflections of public opinion – the last presidential election is proof of that. But this data set should show policymakers who have been slow to step forward that it’s not just the planet that’s getting warmer – the political climate might be changing as well.

People can see that pond ice doesn’t stick around as long as it used to, and that sea-level rise is already causing expensive infrastructure problems. They can project what they’ve seen in their own lives onto what might happen in the lives of their children and grandchildren.

Americans may not agree on much, but people are starting to agree on this: Scientists are predicting dire consequences unless we reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we pump into the environment.

The real question isn’t what we “believe” but what we are going to do about it.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/our-view-global-warming-needs-political-climate-change/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1256201_us_news_earthday_mct.jpgNASA launched the Earth Observing System's flagship satellite "Terra," on December 18, 1999. Strong majorities of Americans believe that the Earth is warming and human activity is causing it.Fri, 15 Sep 2017 17:30:54 +0000
Bill Nemitz: Don’t know the facts? Don’t post a comment http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/dont-know-the-facts-dont-post/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/dont-know-the-facts-dont-post/#respond Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1256582 “Our busy minds are forever jumping to conclusions,” the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus once said, “manufacturing and interpreting signs that aren’t there.”

Epictetus would have made a lousy online commenter.

To wit:

One week ago today, the annual United Bikers of Maine Toy Run turned suddenly and horribly tragic just after noon as the procession headed northbound on Interstate 95 in Augusta.

A pileup involving a pickup truck and several motorcycles left two people dead, four people injured and thousands of Mainers wincing at the sight of something so right, in the blink of an eye, disintegrating into something so wrong.

Police, as they typically do, initially said the incident was “under investigation.”

In a follow-up the next day, Maine State Police spokesman Steve McCausland reiterated that “we have not drawn any conclusions” about exactly who hit whom.

Didn’t matter. The online peanut gallery doesn’t draw conclusions – it spews them.

“Did anyone notice that the skid marks in the photo looks like the truck made a sudden and abrupt left turn from the passing lane into the travel where the motorcycles were traveling in before the truck went off the road and rolled over on its side into the right hand lane ditch,” posted one reader.

“Perhaps he was being aggressively tailgated in the passing lane and a busy travel lane made it a difficult situation for the truck driver to merge into safely,” chimed in another.

Yet another, responding to an earlier post and self-identifying as a cousin of one of the deceased, pleaded for people to remember that “families of these accidents DO read these comments.”

That person added, “Not all those who ride bikes do it dangerously. And if you read the article A TRUCK HIT THEM.”

Then there’s the reader who goes by “guestnulll.”

“I looked at the photos of the crash scene with tire marks that were posted yesterday,” wrote this person. “It appears the truck driver was in the passing lane and abruptly moved into the travel lane, striking the motorcycles.”

Keep in mind that this comment came under a follow-up story about families and friends grieving the two fatalities. But that didn’t stop this armchair detective.

“I see one scenario the truck driver went to merge into the travel lane and did not look, making the truck driver responsible for the crash,” surmised “guestnulll.”

But wait, there’s more:

“I see one scenario as being the truck driver’s truck was surrounded by other vehicles and being tailgated-pressure to move over. The truck driver attempted to do so in a very busy travel lane and hit the cyclists. Making the tailgaters behind the truck being responsible for the crash.”

Give that poster a thumbs-up for imagination. As for accuracy, not so much.

On Thursday, McCausland announced that police had determined that one of the deceased motorcyclists – not the pickup driver – was in fact responsible for the crash.

It occurred, McCausland said, when that rider “veered his motorcycle into the path of a pickup truck which was traveling in the passing lane. That collision set off the chain reaction crash involving the pickup and several other motorcycles.”

This followed days of speculation that the pickup driver must have been at fault. After all, he was driving the pickup and they were just on bikes, right? He went across their lane, right?

“William Nusom, 67, of Hollis attempted to avoid the collision by steering his truck into the median guardrail,” McCausland reported. “The truck then lost control and traveled across the three northbound lanes, striking other motorcycles taking part in the United Bikers of Maine Toy Run.”

Back to “guestnulll,” whose two “scenarios” – including one that pinned the crash directly on the pickup driver – could not have been more wrong. What says this person now?

“How about an apology to the truck driver from people who blamed the truck driver?” chided “guestnulll” to his fellow posters. “Didn’t think so.”

Sanctimony, thy name is “guestnulll.”

But this is not just about one newspaper reader with way too much spare time and way too little ability to think critically. Or, for that matter, self-critically.

The bigger point here is that tragedies like this aren’t just a headline to click on, a story to pick apart and a virtual public square where, for far too many, the bigger bonfire you can ignite, the better.

We’re talking about real people here, folks. Real lives snuffed out in an instant. Real hearts broken. Real tears shed by those left behind to pick up the pieces.

That is why this newspaper, as a matter of policy, shuts off reader comments on certain news stories – sexual assaults, murders and other calamities where internet trolls are all too ready to pounce. Sure, our online moderators can and do take offensive comments down – but only after they’ve been posted and, alas, the damage has been done.

(In fact, the public comment section was shut down during the Press Herald’s initial online coverage of this incident. Perhaps, in retrospect, the moratorium should have been extended to subsequent updates.)

So here I sit, one week removed from the carnage on I-95, and I can’t help wondering how William Nusom must feel.

One minute, the poor man was driving along the highway with his 99-year-old mother in the passenger seat. The next, there was wreckage everywhere, he and his mother were both being treated for minor injuries, and the tide of public opinion was already turning, however unfairly, against him.

A voicemail message left on Nusom’s home phone Friday got no response. Perfectly understandable.

But what I’ll never get my head around is why some people, when they see catastrophe from afar yet have precious few facts to figure out exactly what happened, still see fit to log on and start doling out the blame.

Old Epictetus was right: For as long as there’s something to see, our busy minds will forever jump to conclusions.

But our busy minds aren’t the real problem here.

All those busy fingers are.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/dont-know-the-facts-dont-post/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/09/Top-Story-Block-Bill-e1412944716710.jpgPORTLAND, ME - MAY 15: Images of Portland Press Herald news reporters and columnists, Wednesday, May 15, 2014. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)Sun, 17 Sep 2017 09:04:58 +0000
Maine Voices: Local-wood spirit needs nurturing http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/maine-voices-local-wood-spirit-needs-nurturing/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/maine-voices-local-wood-spirit-needs-nurturing/#respond Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1255869 One of Maine’s most environmentally advanced school buildings showcases a most traditional Maine building material.

Good old white pine paneling sheathes the walls and ceilings of the Friends School of Portland in Cumberland. The expanses of blond planking, custom milled from trees on the site, was “a huge selling point” to school directors, according to builder Peter Warren of Freeport.

“They love it … Wood in the school came right off the lot,” said Warren, who worked with Kaplan Thompson Architects on the school’s ultra-energy efficient passive house design.

That kind of excitement has been rare in the wood products industry of late. If you’ve followed the news, you know that five paper mills have closed in the past three years. The workforce has shrunk by half in the past 15 years. Much of the strategizing over the future of the woods industries has rightly focused on developing export markets. A companion effort seeks a renewal spark by strengthening homegrown networks, similar to the local food movement.

Local wood consciousness may lag local food awareness. But between the construction and heating industries, and emerging products, the upside for local wood may be far greater than local agriculture. Especially through stronger branding and value-added products.

Building the brand begins at home.

An upcoming tour provides opportunities for architects, engineers and builders to consider new ways of incorporating local materials into their projects. The Local Wood WORKS Initiative organized the two-day Designing for Maine tour, which features producers of cedar shingles, hardwood flooring and a variety of pine products. The tour also features some of the state’s best-managed woodlands.

“We think the building community is a key to raising awareness,” said Theresa Kerchner, executive director of Kennebec Land Trust. The land trust is one of eight organizations that launched the initiative as a strategy for supporting rural jobs and conserving Maine’s woodlands for their recreational, economic, wildlife habitat, water quality and scenic values.

In a state that’s 89 percent forested, it’s natural to assume that all wood is local wood.

But that’s not how Maine’s economy is working today. Just as Maine exports a lot of raw wood, it imports a lot of wood products. There’s plywood from the tropics, cedar clapboards from the West and pressure-treated framing lumber from the South. Many of these products have no Maine substitutes. But Maine produces a variety of premier products that deserve wider appreciation.

To be sure, most builders will tell you that finding local suppliers takes a bit more effort than driving to the nearest big-box store. And in some cases, it may cost a little more.

Interest in building with local wood is “really high” among architects, says Portland architect Scott Simons, who incorporated laminated wood timbers in the recently completed Patrons Oxford Insurance building in Portland. Simons says he appreciates wood’s multiple appeals: its availability, its juice to local economies, its carbon storage qualities and its beauty.

“It makes sense,” Simons said.

Simons is especially interested in the next generation of products and ongoing efforts to site manufacturing capacities in Maine for mass-timber panels and wood-fiber foam insulation.

Why should average Mainers pay attention and buy more local wood?

It will make a big difference in parts of the state hardest hit by economic dislocation and demographic changes.

It helps bridge the divide between the two Maines. A suburban homeowner building a deck, a logger trying to make payments on expensive equipment and a family trying to practice good forestry all have a stake in a common cause.

It will reconnect Mainers with our heritage as “the Pine Tree State” and invest us psychologically in growing, sustainably harvesting and producing the next generation of wood products, which still need broader political support and financial backing to succeed in the marketplace.

It all comes back to how we spend our dollars. It’s easy to catch the local-wood spirit from a devout practitioner, such as Henry Banks of Denmark. Banks is a fine home builder who delights in Maine’s wood bounty and in matching wood to the task at hand. He once managed to use 18 different species of Maine wood in a covered footbridge in Bridgton.

If builders wonder whether their customers can even tell the difference, Banks has a message. When local wood is installed in a visible place in the house, not only do homeowners notice, they tell their friends.

“They go crazy. They brag about it,” said Banks.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/maine-voices-local-wood-spirit-needs-nurturing/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1255869_wood.0917.jpgBuildings like the new Friends School of Portland that use local wood products can protect small woodlots from development.Fri, 15 Sep 2017 18:10:38 +0000
Maine Observer: As zucchini erupts, nightmares begin http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/maine-observer-as-zucchini-erupts-nightmares-begin/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/maine-observer-as-zucchini-erupts-nightmares-begin/#respond Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1256062 I dream of zucchini … 6, 8, 10 feet long. A nightmare, really.

In my terrible dream, there’s no end to them. Hundreds, thousands, like an unstoppable army of thick vegetable pythons, slithering through the morning-dewed grass from garden to house. They are purposeful, determined, undeterred. I can hear them whispering, their voices insistent, demanding: “Eat me … eat me … eat me!”

I wake up in a cold sweat, afraid to look out the window. I imagine the dinner we should have eaten earlier of gazpacho soup, zucchini fritters and a salad of field greens, rather than the hot dogs and mac and cheese we did eat. I could have been virtuous, productive, enlightened.

It’s the end of the summer season, and my wife and I are drowning in late-season produce. We have too much of everything: buckets of cherry tomatoes, bags of onions, bowls of yellow squash, pyramids of cucumbers.

The cilantro in the herb garden is a small forest and the oregano and mint are overtaking the yard like invasive species.

We didn’t produce all this … produce. Some came from the CSA we share with friends in support of Somali farmers in Lewiston; some from smiling, sharing neighbors, happy to rid themselves of their own overabundance; some from our son-in-law, transitioning from house builder to organic farmer; some from our Saturday morning visits to the Kennebunk Farmers Market to buy late-season peaches and natural bug spray that doesn’t work; some from the Shady Brook Farm in Biddeford, whose lettuce is so perfect you feel guilty eating it. Better to spray it with fixative and decorate your coffee table with it.

Because we aren’t canners, storing and freezing the bulk of this vegetal abundance, I’m embarrassed to say that a good deal of it ends up in our compost pile. (Which, of course, I’ll till back into the soil next spring to ensure that once again we will grow more food than we can possibly eat. A delicious, rather than vicious, cycle.) I know this is a rich person’s problem, in the sense that poor people all over the world are malnourished and starving. But what to do?

In the Bible, God commands humans to go forth and multiply. Looking around, it seems we took this advice too seriously.

In truth, many of us simply have too much, from food to cars to flat-screen TVs. The natural bounty of summer only exacerbates this problem when, well-intentioned, we share this bounty with our family and friends and neighbors, rather than sharing with those among us who have less.

Along with the pride of growing your own food lingers a faint residue of guilt. Time for me, at least, to rethink this situation.

While I figure out my personal response to this dilemma, I contemplate this ocean of beautiful, healthy produce that overruns my gardens, fills my house and occupies my mind.

It’s a good problem to have, I guess, but right now it makes me want to drive to McDonald’s and order a cheeseburger and fries.

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Commentary: Defeating misinformation need not be a business http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/commentary-defeating-misinformation-need-not-be-a-business/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/commentary-defeating-misinformation-need-not-be-a-business/#respond Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1256088 Debunking Russian propaganda is now an industry – unfortunately, a rather useless and misguided one.

The awkwardly named European External Action Service East Stratcom Task Force provides the latest exercise in futility. The agency, which is part of the European Union bureaucratic machinery, has gathered several thousand examples of disinformation in the first searchable database of its size, a culmination of its work since 2015.

It’s a gold mine for connoisseurs of Kremlin-sponsored narratives. A search for the German chancellor’s name, for example, yields gems such as “Angela Merkel Offers Congratulations on a Child Marriage,” “Angela Merkel is a Fuehrer of the Fourth Reich,” “Angela Merkel Has a Complex of an East German Woman,” “Angela Merkel Took a Selfie with a Suicide Bomber” and “Angela Merkel Is the Daughter of Adolph Hitler.”

After the laughter comes a serious question: How does one debunk that kind of thing? The Task Force certainly tries. In response to the “Fourth Reich” item, published on a Czech-language site, it writes:

“Angela Merkel is a democratically elected leader, any parallel to the Nazi Third Reich is unsubstantiated.”

Game over for those sneaky Russians. Right?

It’s pointless to fact-check individual bits of Russian propaganda, the way the East Stratcom Task Force does, or the way fact-checking operations do for Facebook. One reason is that fact-checking, predictably, has little effect on audiences whose confirmation biases are stroked by propaganda narratives. A recent Yale University study has demonstrated this with regard to Facebook’s fig-leaf effort. Another, more important reason is that Russian propaganda doesn’t try very hard to pretend that it’s fact-based. Even when it masquerades half-heartedly as journalism, it is, in effect, public relations – it tells stories in pursuit of broader communication goals.

A 2016 paper produced for the European Parliament by the Paris-based European Union Institute for Security Studies contains an elegant formula for the Russian communication strategy versus the EU:

“The ‘attractiveness gap’ between Russia and the EU had to be bridged by improving Russia’s standing – mainly through the promotion of the ‘Russian World’ (Russkiy Mir) – but also by reducing that of the EU.”

The Russian propaganda outlets’ “meta-narrative” to serve that goal is, according to the institute, as follows:

“One key message depicts the West as an aggressive and expansionist entity on the one hand, and as weak and verging on collapse on the other. The EU is portrayed as close to crumbling under the combined pressure of the fiscal and migration crises. The Union is also painted as an unwieldy entity EU strategic communications with a view to counteracting propaganda 9 which is incapable of making decisions due to waves of hasty enlargements to the east. These two representations, in turn, feed into forecasts about the imminent demise of the EU, just as the Soviet Union collapsed twenty five years ago.”

The agenda versus the U.S. is similar and, in a way, derivative of the European one. The U.S. needs to be portrayed as pointlessly aggressive, messy and corrupt – not much different from Russia at its worst. As far as the Russian propaganda machine is concerned, the U.S. can’t do anything right, unless it’s playing along with the current Russian policy goals; the best outcome is if the U.S. fails at something or looks stupid.

The machine will use anything – actual facts, half-truths, conspiracy theories, raw emotion – within this communication strategy. At the end of the day, it’s not important what it uses – it’s only important to understand the framework.

A lot of the counterpropaganda efforts – like the now-discredited PropOrNot project or the Hamilton 68 project – attempt to document the ragtag distribution network of Russian propaganda. But the average person who retweets RT and Sputnik is, as a rule, not a Russian agent. More likely, they are simply naive or lazy, boosting items that appeal to them without going to the trouble of looking for the original source. That, however, is exactly what one needs to do.Once you understand the transparent Russian communication goals, follow the RT and Sputnik reports to the source and do your bit of soul-searching, you’re safe from Russian propaganda (or perhaps consciously aligned with its goals). There’s no more to it than that; it doesn’t take a staff of civil servants or think-tankers. No media literacy classes or multimillion-dollar counterpropaganda budgets are necessary. You’re welcome.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/commentary-defeating-misinformation-need-not-be-a-business/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1256088_321842-PropagandaArt2.jpgcommunist propaganda poster with modern design ABOUT THE AUTHOR Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.Fri, 15 Sep 2017 17:34:31 +0000
Cynthia Dill: Class action protections not partisan http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/cynthia-dill-class-action-protections-not-partisan/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/17/cynthia-dill-class-action-protections-not-partisan/#respond Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1256091 In the coming days, the U.S. Senate will vote on whether to repeal a common-sense rule established in July by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after studying the numbers related to class action lawsuits and private arbitration of consumer claims.

The bureau concluded what most of us know instinctively: The playing field is not level between consumers and big businesses, especially in the financial sector, and the market is not free. The new rule codifies what should be obvious: Taxpaying consumers get their day in court and can join together to enjoy the economies of scale like everyone else. The rule says financial companies can’t force customers to privately arbitrate disputes instead of publicly accessing the U.S. justice system – but beware of charlatans trumpeting political ideology in the fight for votes. Access to justice in civil courts is about money. Profit and consumer protection – not politics – are at stake.

Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Sykes didn’t stick a fork in the Subway footlong class action lawsuit just because she’s “conservative.” Anyone who’s spent time in a kitchen knows you can’t coerce bread dough.

“Early discovery established that Subway’s unbaked bread sticks are uniform, and the baked rolls rarely fall short of 12 inches. The minor variations that do occur are wholly attributable to the natural variability in the baking process and cannot be prevented. That much is common sense,” the judge wrote. “A class action seeking “only worthless benefits for the class” and “yields (only) fees for class counsel” is “no better than a racket” and “should be dismissed out of hand,” she said, and did; therefore, the case was dismissed.

This case and a very small handful of others are typically held out as evidence of an alleged flood of litigation holding back the U.S. economy. Too many frivolous lawsuits driven by unscrupulous liberal lawyers justify, they say, blocking class actions altogether, implying judges aren’t capable to be nonpartisan gatekeepers. Using the familiar hyperpartisan frame, business lobby groups paint deregulation, forced arbitration and the justice system in shades of red and blue when the true color of efforts to force individual arbitration and deny class actions is green.

“When a bank charges illegal fees to millions of customers and then blocks them from suing together, a result is not millions of individual claims, but zero. So the bank gets to pocket millions in ill-gotten gains,” said Richard Cordray, bureau director, in a recent New York Times op-ed.

Cordray’s statements are not talking points. Research the bureau did pursuant to the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, supported by Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, proved what common sense would suggest. Lawyers are not bilking consumers as much as unregulated corporate behemoths are.

It wasn’t lawyers who installed secret software in Volkswagen’s “clean diesel” cars to purposefully cheat emissions tests – it was engineers and bean counters. And it wasn’t lawyers at Wells Fargo who signed up a bunch of customers for accounts they did not want or authorize, then hosed them with hidden fees and then gallingly hosed them even more with obnoxious debt collection of the fees plus interest. In both the VW and the Wells Fargo cases, consumers benefited substantially by joining forces and streamlining the hassle and expense of litigation with a class action lawsuit – now the stepchild of certain Republican lawmakers who brag about business acumen but are blinded by supply and demand of campaign cash.

Basic fairness is not a Republican or a Democratic ideal. Wells Fargo did not discriminate between liberals and conservatives when it perpetuated a massive fraud opening thousands of unauthorized accounts, and hackers who broke into Equifax were not partisan. Real injury was inflicted on millions of consumers, regardless of their political stripes, and they should be allowed to join together and seek redress for their non-frivolous claims. A simple rule barring mandatory arbitration of consumer claims should not be analyzed through a lazy partisan lens.

Banks and financial companies do not insert mandatory arbitration clauses in non-negotiable boilerplate contracts to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits. A system to do that is already in place – just ask Judge Sykes. Big financial companies insert mandatory arbitration clauses in nonnegotiable contracts to insulate them from all lawsuits and, therefore, pad the bottom line.

Maybe we can’t blame profit-driven companies that deal in cash for chasing profit – but we are fools thinking these companies are suffering under an imaginary weight of consumer protection laws. The financial services sector now makes up around 8 percent of the GDP, and profits have soared since the Great Recession to staggering amounts. Compared to gains made by consumers, the industry crying about red tape is awash in green and gold. This kind of unregulated financial frenzy is like a keg party fraught with opportunity to get sloppy. Simple and fair rules are the responsible thing to do.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule allows consumers to join forces and throw open the doors to the courthouse in solidarity to have claims against big financial corporations decided in public by a judge or jury sworn to uphold the Constitution, instead of going it alone in a private conference room with an arbitrator. It’s a good rule and should not be repealed. Some businesses under pressure to perform reach a calculated decision it is more profitable to cheat because in fact absent laws that are enforced by courts it is more profitable to cheat.

Lawmakers who are passionate to punish Dreamers these days for their unintentional violation of immigration laws are the same ones who want to repeal the rule that will hold cheating corporations’ feet to the fire. Pardoning young, dark-skinned people is “amnesty” and, therefore, out of the question – but when companies such as Wells Fargo and VW flagrantly violate consumer protection laws, these same lawmakers don’t blink. They are convinced by campaign checks that it isn’t businesses cheating consumers it’s lawyers making stuff up to get rich. Don’t buy it.

Common sense says a Facebook meme about an 11-inch sandwich purporting to be a “footlong” does not cause harm simply because it goes viral, and common sense says consumers should have access to justice for valid complaints.

Cynthia Dill is a civil rights lawyer and former state senator. She can be contacted at:

dillesquire@gmail.com

Twitter: dillesquire

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The humble Farmer: Fishing, writing, Facebook: Put out your bait and hope for a bite http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/16/the-humble-farmer-fishing-writing-facebook-put-out-your-bait-and-hope-for-a-bite/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/16/the-humble-farmer-fishing-writing-facebook-put-out-your-bait-and-hope-for-a-bite/#respond Sat, 16 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1256204 At the ripe old age of 34, I was still going to school full time. For reasons beyond my control I dropped out and, for the next 20 years, lived the life of an academic hermit. Because I lived alone, whenever something would come to mind that I thought was worth remembering, I wrote it on a door casing or on the walls.

One enigmatic line, written in black Magic Marker over the cellar door, said, “Never trade labor for fish with Maurice.”

This wall scribbling overflowed into the personal column of the Maine Times and eventually into over 50 newspapers in several states and Canada.

Editors didn’t come to me. I admit it. I drove a dump truck from here to Oklahoma and Wisconsin and pounded on editors’ doors. I spoke at newspaper conventions. I enjoyed the marketing aspect and the interactions with people.

Although I have avoided fishing since my grandfather Skoglund took me smelting in 1942 – you stand with a pole in your hand and watch the tide come in over the slippery rocks – selling your speaking or writing services is no more than fishing: You put out your bait and hope that someone bites.

In perhaps the 1970s equivalent of a tweet, I sandwiched my shorter observations on life in between old-fashioned songs on my MPBN radio show. When a really astute comment could be squeezed into three sentences, it would sometimes get published in USA Today. (Nota bene: You might have discovered that the short letters you’ve written to your favorite editor are more likely to get published than the windy ones.)

But what do you do when one newspaper column and a dozen rants for a radio show don’t begin to handle the curious material that cries out for embellished recycling at every turn?

Years ago there would be nothing I could do with it, but now I can post it on Facebook. On Facebook your comments and photos are evaluated, or winnowed, by friends of your choosing, which lets you know when you have something worthy of elaboration and publication.

I would not be surprised if you don’t use Facebook. And I would not be surprised if you have never heard of it. Or if you have heard of it but still don’t know what it is, because although I have heard of Twitter, I still don’t know what it is or how it works, what it is supposed to do or how you plug into it.

We read that Facebook is used by 214 million Americans. Only 20 million of them are over 65 because we old folks are set in our ways and, as Holman Day put it, ‘twould take a keg of powder to shake us off our nest.

Facebook is no more than a public diary. Facebook is illustrated. You can paste pictures of anything that interests you and comment on it. Cats. Food. Grandchildren. People who think they are good-looking post a lot of close-up pictures of themselves.

This morning I peeked at the page of a woman who documented the rapid ripening and utilization of her peach crop. We start off looking at mouth-watering pans of peach-pecan cobbler bread. She quickly moves on to peach and whipped cream crêpes and a plain peach cobbler. Remember that Facebook displays these goodies in living color.

Then, before we can catch our breath, she mentions bags of frozen peaches in the freezer, peaches in the closet and peaches that are dropping on the ground outside. She begs friends to come in and cart off a bag of peaches, but there is no help in sight because on Facebook there is no way to determine where you live.

Finally, overwhelmed by an overabundance of peaches and having nowhere else to turn, she makes several gallons of peach vodka and collapses, glass in hand on the chopping block behind the woodshed, sated with the warm internal glow that comes only after work well done.

Did you know that you can freeze peaches whole, like blueberries on a baking sheet, and, when they are frozen solid, store them in plastic bags? I learned this a week after my last peach had been eaten by the cow friend, but, thanks to Facebook, next year you and I will be ready.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website:

www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html

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Commentary: Proposed cuts to research threaten our future, quality of life http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/16/commentary-proposed-cuts-to-research-threaten-our-future-quality-of-life/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/16/commentary-proposed-cuts-to-research-threaten-our-future-quality-of-life/#respond Sat, 16 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1256223 I’ll never forget the first time science made a personal, life-altering impact on me. It happened in 1968, when I was a young naval officer with a newly minted doctorate in applied mathematics.

The Navy decided I was a perfect fit to serve as navigator on a destroyer off the coast of North Vietnam. It was my first deployment at sea, and suddenly I was in charge of keeping our ship and sailors safe, whether in open ocean sailing or under enemy fire.

There were no fancy navigational tools back then, just the knowledge of spherical trigonometry, a sextant and a thick book of tables, so my scientific training was vital. We fared well, and science hasn’t failed me since.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration is proposing cuts to federal research that is critical to our health, national security and way of life. The cuts would devastate programs in many agencies. We need help from Congress to hold the line.

Why should we be concerned? I could devote pages to the details, but it boils down to this: Without scientific research, there is no discovery, no progress, no ability for us to benefit from new innovations and defend ourselves against natural and manmade threats.

Imagine your life without electricity, clean water, reliable transportation, medications and your cellphone. All of these life staples were made possible by federal investments in science, and we need science to keep producing innovations that fuel our economy and sustain our prosperity.

Why are federal dollars essential to basic scientific research? Because commercial support isn’t enough. Most investors aren’t keen on bankrolling an idea that doesn’t offer a quick payoff. It takes federal investment to nourish exploration and innovation at laboratories where financial success is not the governing principle.

In addition, the administration’s proposed cuts come at a time when many countries – including China, Russia and South Korea – are increasing their investments in scientific research, recognizing that it will be a key foundation of 21st-century economic growth and global competitiveness. Without sustained commitment, the U.S. risks stalling our world-leading innovation engine, putting the well-being of future generations in peril.

I’ve been fascinated with science since my boyhood in Philadelphia, when my elementary school teacher demonstrated inertia to the class using coins. That’s the one where you place a stack of quarters atop a playing card, and, if you pull the card out fast and smooth enough, the quarters stay put. It was and still is a pretty neat trick.

I realize not everyone is into science. But science benefits all of us, and we need science to make our nation thrive.

The next time you make a call on your cellphone, pick up antibiotics for a nasty bug or simply flip on an electric light, remember – it’s science we need to thank.

 

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Maine Voices: Regulatory Accountability Act would undermine our ability to do business http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/16/maine-voices-regulatory-accountability-act-would-undermine-our-ability-to-do-business/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/16/maine-voices-regulatory-accountability-act-would-undermine-our-ability-to-do-business/#respond Sat, 16 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1256234 WALPOLE — I have owned and operated an oyster farm on the coast of Maine for 32 years. Each year, we raise over 100 million seed oysters, which we supply to other growers across the Eastern Seaboard, along with fully grown oysters we sell here in Maine and throughout the United States.

It’s been a rewarding journey – not everyone is lucky enough to spend their career working out on the Damariscotta River, or taste the fruits of their labor on the half shell. But that doesn’t mean it’s always been easy. Over the years, we’ve faced hurdles – just as any business has. But now we face a new challenge: a bill in Congress that disguises itself as regulatory reform.

I know, firsthand, the frustration of complying with poorly conceived and executed rules and regulations. Yet I can also say, unequivocally, that without environmental regulations, my company would not be successful today and would very likely have gone out of business years ago. Let’s be clear about the goals that should guide our elected leaders who enact laws and the government agencies that carry them out: to maintain and promote a strong economy while protecting public health and ensuring a clean environment. The Regulatory Accountability Act, currently making its way through Congress, seriously misses the mark on creating a framework in which all businesses can thrive.

My business is wholly dependent on clean coastal waters. In 1998, I was nearly put out of business by a septic tank pumper illegally emptying his truck 150 yards from our hatchery intake pipe. But many factors – sometimes from distant sources – can seriously affect the productivity of the ocean ecosystem I rely on.

For example, carbon emissions are causing acid levels in our coastal waters to increase as more CO2 dissolves in the water and freshwater runoff increases. Warming ocean temperatures are linked to the rise of pathogenic bacteria that can kill our oysters or make people sick. For us to avoid these threats and continue providing safe, healthy seafood to consumers, we must have clear, common-sense regulatory limits on pollution – period.

I believe that Congress could pursue regulatory reform that provides targeted fixes to the process – like bringing all stakeholders to the table earlier in the process and creating a schedule for reviewing rules at regular intervals. But the Regulatory Accountability Act is not the answer. Under the guise of regulatory reform, this proposal would add a new litany of bureaucratic hurdles, making it even harder for businesses like ours to navigate the already complex regulatory system.

Only in Washington would politicians try to solve the problem of slow bureaucracy with more bureaucracy. Yet that is exactly what the Regulatory Accountability Act proposes. The legislation imposes dozens of new procedural requirements; requires far-reaching, complex new analyses; sets in motion trial-like, formal hearing requirements; provides new avenues to petition for hearings; and includes many new legal avenues for court challenges.

And, potentially most importantly, it focuses only on the potential costs of regulations, and does not adequately balance those against benefits. This means that the benefit I provide to the local economy and our food supply will not be appropriately considered when calculating the cost of compliance for practices by other businesses that affect my operation. Rather than streamlining the process and providing for more regulatory certainty and accountability, the Regulatory Accountability Act will bring the regulatory process to a halt.

We’ve been harvesting oysters for over 30 years, and I hope we can do the same for decades to come. But to do so, we need a federal government capable of ensuring clean waters, setting responsible limits on pollution and providing a predictable business environment. In Maine, the aquaculture industry is growing rapidly, creating good jobs and diversifying Maine’s marine economy. The Regulatory Accountability Act would take Maine, and our nation, in the wrong direction.

I hope Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King oppose this misguided legislation. If it passes, Wall Street firms and D.C. lobbyists might be thrilled, but small businesses like ours and Maine consumers will pay the price.

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Another View: Trump makes a bold, bipartisan move on DACA http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/16/another-view-trump-makes-a-bold-bipartisan-move-on-daca/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/16/another-view-trump-makes-a-bold-bipartisan-move-on-daca/#respond Sat, 16 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1256292 President Trump made a daring move Wednesday, mapping out the beginnings of a deal with Democratic minority leaders to save “dreamers,” the young immigrants who were given temporary protections from DACA, the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals. That is a positive, compassionate move that should bring support from those who have worked hard to protect the 800,000 people who now live in daily fear of deportation from the only homeland they remember.

Trump will need all the support he can get, because establishment Republican leaders are already pushing back. House Speaker Paul Ryan said the morning after Trump’s dinner with Democrats that there was “no deal,” pointedly adding, “I think the president understands he has to work with the congressional majorities to get any kind of legislative solution.”

Ryan should understand that the president is putting him on notice. Above all else, Trump considers himself a dealmaker. He values “closers” – those who find a way to make things happen. He has become increasingly impatient with Republican leadership that, in his view, keeps flubbing the ball on health care, infrastructure, trade and now, immigration.

Buoyed by recent success with Democrats on averting a government shutdown over the debt limit, Trump has turned again to a couple of wily, hardened dealmakers: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. If what emerges is a package that enacts border security enhancements the country actually needs while giving DACA protections the permanence of law, that is the kind of bipartisan problem-solving Americans should applaud.

Some rank-and-file congressional Republicans already have signaled there may indeed be room for compromise. North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, who leads the House Freedom Caucus, said that “if we try to get the political rhetoric out of it and actually look for real solutions,” a deal is “entirely possible.”

DACA is, in fact, a problem worth solving. Born of an executive order from President Obama in 2009, it was a temporary measure at best, limited in scope because it lacked the full force of enacted law. The protections it offered were needed then and now, sheltering those brought here so young that many have no memory of their birth country. Some do not even speak its language. The only home these young people know is here.

They have attended American schools, served in this country’s military, worked at jobs, paid taxes and kept clean records – otherwise they would not even be eligible for DACA. To qualify for the program, they had to come out of the shadows and offer all of the personal information that will make them sitting ducks for deportation, should it come to that. Offering them legal protection while this country finally sorts out its immigration reform mess is an act of compassion and intelligence – these are the kind of hardworking go-getters who already are assets to this country.

Because Trump is keenly aware of public opinion, it has not escaped his notice that a majority of Americans strongly support finding a way to allow dreamers to stay – and that includes a plurality of Republicans. Also, Trump himself said earlier that as far as dreamers were concerned, he had “a big heart” and they needn’t worry. It therefore surprised many when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA was being rescinded within six months. Trump said then he wanted a deal, and he has taken the first real step toward making that happen.

Trump has shaken up the political establishment in many unsettling ways since becoming president. We have disagreed with many of his decisions. But this is an example of where turning over the table may break the partisan gridlock that has kept this country from tackling the comprehensive immigration reform it so badly needs.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/16/another-view-trump-makes-a-bold-bipartisan-move-on-daca/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1256292_Trump_Immigration_20124.jpg-e1505532360295.jpgBecause President Trump is keenly aware of public opinion, it has not escaped his notice that a majority of Americans strongly support finding a way to allow "dreamers" to stay in the United States.Fri, 15 Sep 2017 23:26:14 +0000
Michael Gerson: Feinstein is off-base to demand that judges be secularists http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/15/michael-gerson-feinstein-is-off-base-to-demand-that-judges-be-secularists/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/15/michael-gerson-feinstein-is-off-base-to-demand-that-judges-be-secularists/#respond Fri, 15 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1255559 Some political tastes linger in the mouth like spoiled milk or a bad oyster.

Consider the shockingly shabby treatment recently accorded by some Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame who is being considered for a position on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Her questioners displayed a confusion of the intellect so profound, a disregard for constitutional values so reckless, that it amounts to anti-religious bigotry.

Barrett is an instructive test case of secular, liberal unease with earnest faith, particularly in its Catholic variety. She is, in the description of a letter signed by every full-time member of the Notre Dame law school faculty, “a brilliant teacher and scholar, and a warm and generous colleague. She possesses in abundance all of the other qualities that shape extraordinary jurists: discipline, intellect, wisdom, impeccable temperament, and above all, fundamental decency and humanity.”

Barrett is also, not coincidentally, a serious Christian believer who has spoken like one in public. This was enough to make Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a fellow Catholic, wary. “Do you consider yourself an ‘orthodox’ Catholic?” he asked Barrett, evidently on the theory that publicly acceptable religion must come in small, diluted doses.

It fell to California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, however, to explicitly declare Barrett part of a suspect class. “Dogma and law are two different things,” she lectured. “And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. … When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.” Translation: Don’t let your dogma mess with my dogma.

Where to start? How about with the fact that Feinstein’s line of questioning was itself a violation of the Constitution? Here is constitutional scholar and Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber: “By prohibiting religious tests, the Constitution makes it impermissible to deny any person a national, state or local office on the basis of their religious convictions or lack thereof. Because religious belief is constitutionally irrelevant to the qualifications for a federal judgeship, the Senate should not interrogate any nominee about those beliefs. I believe, more specifically, that the questions directed to professor Barrett about her faith were not consistent with the principle set forth in the Constitution’s ‘no religious test’ clause.”

How about Feinstein’s indifference to the sordid history of anti-Catholic bias? “Feinstein leapt past 20th-century suspicions of Catholic allegiances,” legal scholar John Inazu told me, “to 19th-century bigotry toward Catholic identity: Who you are as a Catholic is ‘of concern.'”

How about Feinstein’s ignorance of religion itself? In defending her animus, she called particular attention to Barrett’s statement that Christians should be “building the kingdom of God.” That would be the kingdom that Jesus insisted is “not of this world,” much to the confusion of 1st-century politicians. It is a description of transformed hearts, not a prescription for theocracy.

But the deeper problem is a certain type of liberal thinking that seeks to declare secular ideas the only valid basis for public engagement. A neutral public square, in this view, must be a secular public square. Since religious ideas and motivations are fundamentally illiberal, they must be contained entirely to the private sphere.

This is a thin and sickly sort of pluralism. It is permissible, in this approach, to advocate for human rights because John Locke says so, but not because of a theological belief that the image of God is found in every human being.

If your views on a just society are informed by John Stuart Mill, they are allowed to triumph in politics.

If your views on a just society are informed by your deepest beliefs about the cosmos, you can never prevail, because this represents the imposition of religion.

This is hardly “neutrality.” It is a conception of pluralism that silences millions of people and reaches back into history to invalidate the abolition movement, the civil rights movement and many other causes informed by boisterous religious belief.

In effect, Feinstein would make her secularism the state religion, complete with its own doctrine and Holy Office. A judge is bound by the Constitution, not by any creed – as Barrett has affirmed again and again. But having a conscience and a character shaped by faith is not a problem; it is part of a rich and positive American tradition. Someone should inform the grand inquisitor.

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Commentary: The casino success that benefited Bangor can be replicated in York County http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/15/commentary-the-casino-success-that-fueled-bangor-can-be-replicated-in-york-county/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/15/commentary-the-casino-success-that-fueled-bangor-can-be-replicated-in-york-county/#respond Fri, 15 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1255570 When Maine licensed its first gaming facility more than a decade ago, residents and business leaders had high hopes for what the project could achieve – keeping taxes down, creating new jobs, spurring tourism and economic development and generating additional funding for critical education, health care and agriculture priorities.

By virtually any measure, the Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway has been a tremendous success, achieving – and, in many cases, exceeding – each of these goals and providing a transformative shot in the arm for Bangor. Over the past decade, the facility has generated more than $500 million in revenue and helped to pay for construction of the Cross Insurance Center arena and convention center.

The positive impact of this facility has been felt hundreds of miles away in communities across Maine, thanks to new revenues that fund vital state initiatives. In addition, predictions about the negative impacts from a Bangor casino have not come true. In fact, a 2013 Lowell Sun news story examining the effects said “the facility is hailed by civic leaders as a cornerstone of the city’s redevelopment.”

What has worked for Maine and Mainers for more than 10 years can work once again – this time, in southern Maine. York County is poised to take advantage of the opportunity to generate new jobs and economic growth with the construction of a gaming facility of its own. And on Nov. 7, voters across Maine will have the chance to weigh in and vote “yes” on Question 1 to approve a York County casino that will keep Maine dollars in Maine and add new revenues for medical care, education, police and property tax relief, as well as draw tourist dollars. Voting “yes” on Question 1 also means more funds to help seniors and those with disabilities, and more money for scholarships and drug education.

Progress for Maine is a campaign to ensure that the state can reap the jobs, tourism, economic development and revenue that a casino in York County will generate. Established with seed money by the construction and development company Atlantic & Pacific Realty Capital, Progress for Maine supports quality jobs and economic growth.

Our goal is to share more details about our vision, highlight the benefits of a York County casino and grow our broad coalition of support – business and community leaders, tourism officials, residents and others – who are eager to realize the new jobs and revenues that this project will generate for Maine.

It’s the right project because it’s ideally suited to complement Maine’s existing gaming facilities. It’s the right location because it can grow York County’s existing tourism industry while also preventing Maine dollars from fleeing to Massachusetts – where two casinos are currently under construction and one will be only 50 miles from our state border. Do we really want to see Maine dollars – and potential Maine diners, shoppers and concertgoers – heading out of the state?

The project will create hundreds of high-quality permanent jobs as well as construction jobs. It also is projected to generate more than $42 million in funding for the state in its first year of operation. This means more revenue to keep our income, sales and property taxes from increasing, and additional funding for education, health care and agriculture. It will also boost businesses by providing job training and partnerships with community colleges and career centers. Dedicated slot machine revenues from any York County casino will go directly to the University of Maine System scholarship fund, drug education initiatives throughout the state and vital programs at the Office of Aging and Disability Services.

But before any of these jobs or revenues can be realized, Maine residents must first vote “yes” on Question 1 – a ballot question to enable the state to pursue this opportunity. The blueprint for success that fueled Bangor can be replicated in York County. Let’s keep Maine dollars in Maine. Let’s generate more funding for vital education and health care priorities. Let’s continue to grow a successful industry. Let’s make real progress for Maine by making a gaming and entertainment venue in York County a reality.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/15/commentary-the-casino-success-that-fueled-bangor-can-be-replicated-in-york-county/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1174895_edipic_1003.jpgA measure likely to be on this fall's statewide ballot is written so that only Shawn Scott would qualify for a license to operate a proposed casino in York County. Scott was a major player in the development of Hollywood Casino, above, in Bangor.Fri, 15 Sep 2017 07:59:22 +0000
Fort Gorges inspection tour violated Maine’s Freedom of Access law http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/15/maine-voices-fort-gorges-inspection-tour-violated-maines-freedom-of-access-law/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/15/maine-voices-fort-gorges-inspection-tour-violated-maines-freedom-of-access-law/#respond Fri, 15 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1255572 The recent kerfuffle surrounding an inspection tour of Fort Gorges by members of the Portland City Council, along with a preservation specialist from the Planning and Urban Development Department, confirms philosopher and essayist George Santayana’s observation that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Even though Maine’s Freedom of Access law defines a “public proceeding” as “any functions affecting any or all citizens of the state,” members of city government seem surprised, if not actually put out, by the assertion voiced by this newspaper and others that their fact-gathering mission to Fort Gorges – which came to light after the city and at least one councilor posted photos on social media – was a “public proceeding” requiring notice under the state’s open meeting law.

When asked about the need for public notice, the city’s communications director, Jessica Grondin, replied, “No. Not required. It’s not a meeting.”

Apparently believing that only “action items” trigger a need for notice, Councilor Justin Costa said, “There is no action item, there is no potential action item … .” Another councilor, Spencer Thibodeau, asked, “What constitutes a public proceeding?” and then added that the fort tour was “quite informal.”

Unfortunately, and as Santayana predicted, those currently acting for the city have apparently forgotten the case of Guy Gannett Publishing Co. (the former owner of the Portland Press Herald) v. the City of Portland, a 1992 decision that handed the city 16 pages of guidance on what constitutes a “public proceeding” requiring legal notice. The case raised, discussed and decided many of the arguments heard today, and the positions of various councilors, then and now, are strikingly similar. The decision was authored by Superior Court Justice Kermit Lipez, who rose from Maine’s trial court to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and then went on to the prestigious U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Gannett case involved what the city of Portland characterized as an “informal” and “information-gathering” session with investor Daniel Burke and Charles Eschbach, commissioner of the Eastern League, regarding the possibility of bringing an AA baseball team (eventually our “Sea Dogs”) to Portland.

After hearing the city’s evidence and arguments, Lipez specifically rejected the city’s position that mere fact-gathering in an informal setting did not trigger the need for legal notice of a City Council gathering under Maine’s “open meeting” law. In simple and unequivocal words, he wrote:

“Actions by a public body are the product of discussions and deliberations which sift and evaluate information acquired in many ways, including meetings with people who have information to share. Since those informational meetings are an integral part of the decision-making process, they must be exposed to public view.”

In its declaration of purpose, our Freedom of Access Act says that it exists “to aid in the conduct of the people’s business” and that the act “shall be liberally construed and applied.”

In rendering his decision in Guy Gannett v. City of Portland, Lipez harkened to the definition of public proceedings set forth in the Freedom of Access Act.

Public proceedings are any “transactions of any functions affecting any or all citizens of the state.” Clearly, that definition includes the City Council’s recent fact-gathering inspection tour of Fort Gorges with a city employee.

It’s unlikely that giving notice of an inspection tour of Fort Gorges would have produced throngs of people to watch. But that’s not the point. The people of any municipality have a right to know when their councilors are gathering, what types of information they are seeking and absorbing and what types of collective experience may influence future decisions – like capital expenditures, services and taxes.

It’s certainly understandable that current staff and councilors at Portland City Hall don’t recall a court ruling from 25 years ago. Nonetheless, it’s most likely that a brief inquiry to the city’s attorney would have turned up the wisdom and guidance provided to the city a quarter-century ago in this landmark case.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/15/maine-voices-fort-gorges-inspection-tour-violated-maines-freedom-of-access-law/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1254369_750663-council.jpgA Facebook photo posted by Councilor Pious Ali, shows, from left to right, Ethan Strimling, Ali, Belinda Ray, Justin Costa, Spencer Thibodeau, Nicholas Mavodones and David Brenerman at Fort Gorges on Monday.Fri, 15 Sep 2017 11:52:15 +0000
Another View: Merkel’s likely re-election a hopeful sign both at home and abroad http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/15/another-view-merkels-likely-re-election-a-hopeful-sign-both-at-home-and-abroad/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/15/another-view-merkels-likely-re-election-a-hopeful-sign-both-at-home-and-abroad/#respond Fri, 15 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1255811 In Germany’s parliamentary elections Sept. 24, Chancellor Angela Merkel will be seeking her fourth term. For the past four years, the country of 80 million has been governed by a coalition of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, and the Social Democratic Party.

Merkel and Germany have emerged as the leaders of what could still be called the Western world in terms of democracy and principles. France has taken an iconoclastic approach to its traditional parties, the UK is trying to figure out its post-Brexit future, and the United States’ election of Donald Trump has upended the traditional trans-Atlantic alliance.

Germany can be said to be doing quite well, economically and politically. Unemployment has dropped from 11.2 percent when she became chancellor in 2005 to 3.8 percent today. Wages continue to rise. Germany shows a budget surplus of $31 billion.

On the foreign affairs side, Germany considers the Iran nuclear negotiations a model, and Merkel has now proposed comparable talks as an approach to the North Korea problem. She has already approached Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the subject, with Russian President Vladimir Putin next on her list. In taking this initiative, she has taken leadership on the issue away from the U.S., presenting Germany as an interlocutor more acceptable to North Korea than the United States is.

It is probably safe to assume that the current governing coalition, with Merkel in the lead, will win the Sept. 24 elections. Given her steady hand, that should be seen as a good thing, for Germany, Europe, the U.S. and the world.

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Our View: Rising economic tide leaves too many Mainers behind http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/15/our-view-rising-economic-tide-leaves-too-many-mainers-behind/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/15/our-view-rising-economic-tide-leaves-too-many-mainers-behind/#respond Fri, 15 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1255812 Maine got good economic news from Washington this week, when residents learned that household income here is climbing faster than the national average and that the state has moved up in national rankings.

But very young and rural Mainers are still hurting – and since Gov. LePage has ravaged social supports, his potential successors should be pressed early and often to say what they’ll do to make things better for Maine’s needy.

Median household income in Maine reached $53,079 last year, according to data released Thursday from the Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey. Though we lag the national median of $57,617, the new state number represents a 13.6 percent jump between 2012 and 2016 – enough to move Maine from 36th to 33rd place in U.S. income growth. Over the same period, the national median family income rose 12.1 percent.

Maine’s poverty rate is also moving in the right direction: It’s gone from 14.7 percent in 2012 to 12.5 last year. (Nationally, the figure is 14 percent, down from 15.9 percent in 2012.) However, too many Mainers are still being left behind – among them, some of our youngest and most vulnerable.

Statewide, since the end of the Great Recession, the child poverty rate has hovered at around 17 percent for all children and 19 percent for those under 5. That’s a crisis in itself, but the survey data show there are pockets where the situation is much worse. In Aroostook County, more than a third – 37 percent – of children under age 5 are living in households where the income is below poverty level, as are 26.6 percent of very young children in Kennebec County. In prosperous southern Maine, on the other hand, the share of the very young living in poverty is far lower: 7 percent in York County, and 11.3 percent in Cumberland County.

And as poor mothers and fathers have been struggling to gain an economic foothold, their efforts have been stymied by the state’s dismantling of the child care safety net. The ability of a parent – especially a single one – to bring in an income depends on access to affordable child care. People in poverty spend over a third of their income for child care; single moms can wind up shelling out 37 percent of their pay.

An insufficient voucher system was in place when Gov. LePage took office in 2011. Then his Department of Health and Human Services made it weaker by cutting the subsidies that care providers receive for enrolling children from low-income families. After repeatedly opposing the Legislature’s attempts to raise subsidy rates, the DHHS this summer unilaterally decided to increase them, according to the Bangor Daily News – though the larger centers that enroll most youngsters won’t see much of a boost, if any.

At the helm of the DHHS as services for poor families were decimated? Mary Mayhew, who led the agency for six years until she stepped down in June, shortly before launching her campaign to succeed her former boss – whose war on the poor she has pledged to perpetuate. The election is over a year away, but it’s not too early to hold her accountable for her actions – and to push other candidates to make it clear that they will be true advocates for the Mainers who need it most.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/15/our-view-rising-economic-tide-leaves-too-many-mainers-behind/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1173754_23011-20170323_Daycare_0221.jpgCamille Pitzer, 3, bites into a freshly sliced orange at MaineLy Childcare in South Portland.Fri, 15 Sep 2017 11:42:32 +0000
Our View: LePage cuts mean more Mainers end up hungry http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/14/our-view-lepage-cuts-mean-more-mainers-end-up-hungry/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/14/our-view-lepage-cuts-mean-more-mainers-end-up-hungry/#respond Thu, 14 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1255153 Hunger is getting no better here in Maine while it improves across the country, and although everyone should be angry, no one should be surprised.

To Gov. LePage, a few free meals a month has a corrupting influence on poor Mainers. Take those away, he says, and people will have no choice but to pull themselves out of poverty.

But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, it turns out that making sure low-income Mainers have less money to spend on food means that more of them end up hungry.

Who could have guessed?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP, formerly food stamps – is one of the most effective anti-poverty initiatives because it is so simple and direct. Recipients are given a modest monthly stipend that can be spent only on food, and that is crucial in pulling Americans drowning in hardship just above the water.

In Maine, where so many people are living paycheck to paycheck, or sporadically employed, just one emergency away from a full-blown crisis, SNAP has helped a lot of people with one of the essentials of life.

But LePage has instituted a number of barriers under the guise of fiscal responsibility. He declined to seek federal waivers for Maine for SNAP’s work requirement and asset test – both mandates that the U.S. government has been willing to suspend in the past, recognizing that the economy remains depressed in parts of the state.

These requirements sound reasonable, but in practice they hurt Mainers. People are not as easily categorized as LePage’s changes suggest, so cutting out broad categories of Mainers, and implementing other bureaucratic roadblocks, often delays or denies benefits for Mainers who actually qualify.

What’s more, taking the benefits away doesn’t magically erase the need. If LePage’s plan was for all the people he kicked off SNAP to find another way to feed themselves, it’s clearly not working.

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 12.3 percent of American households are food insecure, meaning that they do not have enough food for a healthy, active lifestyle. That includes the 4.9 percent who have very low food security, meaning that members of these households have been forced to skip meals.

That’s down from the high of 2011, when the troubles caused by the recession reached their peak.

Maine, however, is one of 15 states where food insecurity is worse than the national average – 16.4 percent of households on average from 2014 to 2016.

And while most of the country has been improving, the state has actually seen a small increase in hunger since 2011-13.

Meanwhile, the state’s food pantries are setting new records for the number of people served each year, with Good Shepherd Food Bank, the state’s largest charity food supplier, experiencing huge increases since 2011. Once emergency sources of food, they have become a foundational resource – families use them month after month, year after year, to fill permanent shortcomings in their cupboards and refrigerators.

That’s an indication not that Mainers are too lazy to go find good jobs, but that something structural is keeping so many from getting the food they need just to get by.

Cutting SNAP – and withholding millions in federal funds for job training and other initiatives that help poor Maine residents, as LePage has also done – won’t fill those structural gaps. It will only make them deeper.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/14/our-view-lepage-cuts-mean-more-mainers-end-up-hungry/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1255153_AP_17087675085211-e1505385159382.jpgSunny Larson, left, and Zak McCutcheon pick produce while gathering provisions to take home at the Augusta Food Bank, which is serving a record-breaking number of families – over 400 a month. Food pantries have become a regular source of nutrition for many, not just a stopgap.Thu, 14 Sep 2017 06:32:52 +0000
Businesses will be hurting without a sustained J-1 student visa program http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/14/maine-voices-no-day-at-the-beach-without-a-sustained-j-1-student-visa-program/ Thu, 14 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1255103 Waves Oceanfront Hotel in Old Orchard Beach is a staple of the community. Open year-round, its engines really rev up during the summer, when the year-round population of 8,000 balloons to over 100,000 and the normally sleepy town becomes a destination for tourists from around the world. Mainer Ken Lafayette, longtime owner of Lafayette Hotels, trains for these summer months like a marathon runner – using the offseason to put in place what is necessary to make it across that demanding summer finish line.

Among Ken’s top priorities are his employees. Finding enough temporary workers to fill the extensive needs of his hotel operations is tricky. The local high school graduated 52 students in 2017. Despite a relationship with the Southern Maine Community College culinary program, he can usually recruit only three or four local candidates per year – hardly enough to sustain him through the summer marathon ahead.

That’s why for the past 10 years, Ken has benefited from a U.S. State Department cultural exchange program. The J-1 student visa program – which is made up of five distinct programs, including summer work-travel, camp counselor, intern and trainee, and au pair programs – has brought students from overseas to the U.S. to learn English, study and get exposure to American culture for over six decades. These privately funded programs build lasting alliances with the world’s business, government and academic leaders of tomorrow, at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.

In peak seasons, Maine has thousands of temporary jobs to fill statewide. These include everything from wait staff at restaurants to tour guides, camp counselors and lifeguards – you name it. Despite aggressive efforts to fill these jobs with local workers, there just aren’t enough to meet the need. Combine that with the fact that many Maine college students are at school during the demanding “shoulder seasons” of late spring and fall, as well as a persistent low unemployment rate, there is an undeniable need to go beyond the state’s and even the country’s available pool of workers.

Without enough employees to meet its seasonal demands, businesses like Waves Oceanfront Hotel would have to shut down parts of their operations and delay or defer capital expenditures – all of which support the ability to grow and hire more permanent American workers.

Camps, in particular, greatly benefit from the participation of J-1 students. As an integral part of Maine’s cultural fabric and heritage, we boast some of the most exceptional experiences for children and young adults. As integral as the camp experience is to Maine, the presence of international counselors at our camps is paramount to their success. Camps across the country have been participating in cultural exchanges since the program’s inception. This brings an element that campers cannot find in their daily lives – one in which different cultures and languages are shared and celebrated.

Maine communities, campers and staff members benefit from the cultural exchange as much as, if not more so, than the J-1 counselors. These friendships and the corresponding camaraderie last lifetimes and lead to greater global understanding and increased awareness. Living, eating, working and playing together in the great Maine outdoors provides the perfect backdrop for exchanging ideas. For this exchange of thought and culture to happen, however, looking beyond “Buy American, Hire American” is critical if we truly want to help future generations become more global in thought while also supporting the local economy.

While J-1 counselors’ absence would undermine the quality of these programs, it would also jeopardize the ability to operate. According to industry estimates, some 20 to 25 percent of counselors at overnight camps in Maine are here on the J-1 program. Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicate that it would be difficult or impossible for camps to replace these staff with Americans. But it would also undercut the spirit that is inherent in camps – one of cultural diversity and exploration that make a camper’s time there all the more meaningful.

And the feelings are mutual. A recent report commissioned by the Alliance for International Exchange found that 76 percent of summer work travel program participants have a higher overall regard for the United States after the program. With the global favorability rating of the United States hovering below 50 percent, keeping already-successful cultural exchange programs thriving seems like a no-brainer.

Given all that we know about the J-1 participants’ role in the state, we implore the Maine congressional delegation to take action to protect the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program. The future success of our seasonal businesses depends on it.

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http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1248989_39157-20170831_J1-_0079.jpgCeren Han, 20, of Turkey, operates a ride Thursday at Funtown Splashtown USA in Saco. Han holds a J-1 visa that allows foreign college students to work in the U.S. as part of a cultural exchange program.Thu, 14 Sep 2017 14:04:51 +0000
Dana Milbank: Funny how some Republicans no longer swear by Trump http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/14/dana-milbank-funny-how-some-republicans-no-longer-swear-by-trump/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/14/dana-milbank-funny-how-some-republicans-no-longer-swear-by-trump/#respond Thu, 14 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1255144 Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, an early and loyal Trump enthusiast, gave an uncommonly candid assessment of the president to a group of young Republicans at home in California recently.

“He’s an (expletive),” Hunter said, “but he’s our (expletive).” So reported his hometown San Diego Union-Tribune.

That’s close to a perfect summary of Republicans’ relationship of convenience with President Trump.

Trump gave succor to neo-Nazis, boasted of groping women, attacked the integrity of the judicial system, fired the FBI director to stymie the Russia probe, boasted about his genital size on national television, attacked racial and religious minorities and labeled women all manner of vulgarities.

And, through it all, Republicans stuck with Trump.

But this time, some Republicans say he went too far. He made a deal with Democrats.

It’s not a big deal, mind you, just a procedural agreement to postpone budget wrangling for three months. But because Trump sided with Chuck and Nancy over Mitch and Paul, combined with his tweeted attacks on the Republican Senate leader and Stephen Bannon’s threat to back primary challenges to Republican senators, there is suddenly talk of civil war within the Republican Party.

Republican lawmakers booed Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney when they tried to sell Trump’s deal with the Democrats. “It’s just a betrayal of everything we’ve been talking about for years as Republicans,” former Sen. Jim DeMint, an influential conservative, told Politico.

In an article headlined “Bound to No Party, Trump Upends 150 Years of Two-Party Rule,” Peter Baker of The New York Times quoted conservative writer Ben Domenech: “This week was the first time he struck out and did something completely at odds with what the Republican leadership and establishment would want him to do in this position.”

The first time! If this is the first time Trump has been completely at odds with what the Republican leadership and establishment want him to do, let’s review the various things Trump has done as president that must have been consistent with what they wanted. If his deal with Chuck and Nancy is a “betrayal of everything,” let’s recall all those things that were not such betrayals of Republicanism:

Firing James B. Comey in an effort to thwart the FBI’s Russia probe.

Dictating a misleading statement explaining his son’s campaign interaction with Russians.

Moving slowly to fire national security adviser Michael Flynn after being told by the Justice Department that Russia could potentially blackmail Flynn.

Inventing the false charge that he was wiretapped by his predecessor.

Shoving aside a European prime minister to make his way to the front of a photo.

Mocking the abilities of U.S. intelligence agencies to an overseas audience.

Sharing sensitive Israeli intelligence with the Russians.

• Initially failing to affirm NATO’s collective-security guarantee.

Gratuitously antagonizing European and Asian allies.

Raising the temperature in the North Korea nuclear standoff with a threat of “fire and fury.”

Encouraging a blockade of U.S. ally Qatar.

Issuing a ban on entry by members of certain Muslim countries that was struck down in court and had to be rewritten.

Attacking “so-called” federal judges and saying they should be blamed for terrorist attacks.

Launching a false social-media attack on the Muslim mayor of London.

Declaring the media “enemies of the American people.”

Claiming he lost the popular vote only because millions of people voted illegally and appointing an election fraud commission in an attempt to prove it.

Saying there were “fine people” marching among neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.

Moving to end protection from deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrant “dreamers.”

And that list, of course, doesn’t include the many things Trump did before assuming office: the “Access Hollywood” video, the “birther” campaign, calling Mexican immigrants rapists, countenancing violence at his rallies and all the rest.

Why do so many Republicans who tolerated so much now howl about civil war over a deal with Democrats? I’m skeptical this will turn out to be a real break (Trump’s dealmaking was clearly impromptu), but to the extent it does, it’s not about principle but partisan tribalism. Republicans can stomach just about anything as long as Trump remains a member in good standing of the tribe. But if he favors enemy tribesmen over his own, that’s taboo.

Heading into the 2018 midterms, Republicans increasingly have an incentive to make people think they’re different from the unpopular Trump and that he’s independent of the two-party system. But if Republicans disown Trump now, they still own all the previous Trump actions over which they failed to break with him in any meaningful way.

He’s their you-know-what.

Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

dana.milbank@washpost.com

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Commentary: From the president, all the hypocrisy that should be unfit to print http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/14/commentary-from-the-president-all-the-hypocrisy-that-should-be-unfit-to-print/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/14/commentary-from-the-president-all-the-hypocrisy-that-should-be-unfit-to-print/#respond Thu, 14 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1255149 WASHINGTON — President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, rarely speaks publicly and is known to egg on the president in his trashing of the mainstream media.

But when he decided to break that silence, Bannon chose the venerable Charlie Rose as his interviewer and the CBS flagship Sunday night show, “60 Minutes,” as his venue. There could be no more mainstream choice.

Trump himself is a constant critic of the establishment press who delights in disparaging The (“failing”) New York Times and The (“Amazon”) Washington Post.

But last spring, when he wanted to put his own spin on the decision to withdraw the Republican health care bill, he quickly made two phone calls to break the news: to The Post’s Robert Costa and the Times’ Maggie Haberman.

And when Trump wanted to get his message out about the firing of FBI Director James Comey, he sat down for an Oval Office interview with Lester Holt of NBC News.

“It’s a combination of stunning calculation and deep irony,” said Frank Sesno, director of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, speaking of Bannon’s appearance on “60 Minutes.”

If the mainstream news media are the Trump administration’s archenemy, you’d think these fraught-with-significance appearances would go to friendly media outposts like “Fox & Friends” or “Gateway Pundit” or Alex Jones’s “Infowars.” Or perhaps even to Breitbart, headed by Bannon himself.

But the calculation dictates otherwise: “They know where the numbers are, and where the reach and the clout is,” Sesno said.

As usual with this president and his cohort, it’s all about the ratings.

And, Sesno added, the irony is clear: “They’re wading about as deep into the mainstream as they can get” after making media hatred the poisonous centerpiece of the Trump campaign and presidency. Stoking his base’s resentment of the news media sometimes seems to be the only constant for the ever-changing president.

The Bannon appearance on “60 Minutes” brought to mind Trump’s late November visit to the Times building in Manhattan, where he gave an extensive on-the-record interview, sat next to publisher Arthur Sulzberger and made glowing remarks about the paper.

“I will say the Times is – it’s a great, great American jewel,” he gushed. “A world jewel.”

After Trump gave a scoop to the Times in July – saying that he would never have appointed Jeff Sessions as attorney general if he had known that Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation – MSNBC’s Chris Hayes observed: “The sheer thirst that the president has for the New York Times approval is something to behold.”

Sometimes, of course, the technique backfires, or at least doesn’t go quite as planned.

Rose’s skillful questioning drew an extraordinary assessment from Bannon that he probably didn’t set out to make: That Trump’s firing of Comey was perhaps the worst political blunder in modern history.

And Holt extracted from Trump a damning explanation for why he fired the FBI director: “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’ ”

In short, neither Charlie Rose nor Lester Holt was a pushover. They did their jobs well.

The big picture, though, is troubling.

When Trump and his allies constantly disparage the press – attempting to turn citizens against reality-based journalism – they undermine democracy.

That they do so, and then blithely turn to the very same news organizations to take advantage of their credibility, what we’ve got can be summed up in a single word: Hypocrisy.

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Bill Nemitz: Unlikely story behind a life on the street offers a lesson to rest of us http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/14/bill-nemitz-unlikely-story-behind-a-life-on-the-street-offers-a-lesson-to-rest-of-us/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/14/bill-nemitz-unlikely-story-behind-a-life-on-the-street-offers-a-lesson-to-rest-of-us/#respond Thu, 14 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1255152 Maybe, if you live or work in downtown Portland, you’ve seen her.

Each morning for the past month or so, she’s left the city’s tired old Oxford Street Shelter at 7:30 a.m. sharp, along with the 200 or so other people who find refuge there on any given night.

Five feet tall with snow-white hair, she walks the streets of the peninsula pushing a blue metal shopping cart. It’s loaded down with a large green trash bag containing all her possessions and doubles as her walker.

One sideways glance at Deborah Marvit is all most people might need to peg her as homeless and, as so many of us do, give her a wide berth. It’s what happens to those who live on the street and, day after day, find themselves judged by what they are, not who they are.

That changed Tuesday evening.

“Obviously, I’m a member of the older generation, and I certainly wasn’t brought up to have any expectation in my life of being in the situation where I am now,” Marvit told about 50 city officials, social service providers and local residents packed into the State of Maine Room at City Hall.

That said, she added, “I have a couple of comments …”

Called by the City Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, the gathering marked the first in what undoubtedly will be numerous discussions of Portland’s new homeless shelter as it moves from the drawing board to fruition somewhere within city limits.

Debate over its proposed location, once announced, will draw far bigger crowds – from those who don’t want the new shelter hidden away in some industrial area to those who don’t want it anywhere remotely near their back yard.

But for now, the focus is on the draft design by Winton Scott Architects – a 27,400-square-foot, 24-hour, 211-bed facility that is everything the Oxford Street shelter isn’t.

Over more than two hours, speaker after speaker rose to offer their impressions of the blueprint.

Some said the “day area” is a major step up from Oxford Street; others said it’s way too small.

Some lauded the idea of an on-site health clinic; others said it too needs to be expanded.

Some praised the sprawling, single-story layout; others said its large footprint would pose a siting challenge and suggested a second-floor sleeping area.

Then, near the end, Marvit stepped up to the microphone.

As she later explained in a post-meeting interview, she first came to Portland in the summer of 2016, chasing down a truck she’d been renting that had been repossessed with all her worldly possessions inside.

She was between permanent homes in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at the time. Upon realizing the truck had been reclaimed because of what she called a miscommunication with the trucking company, she took a bus to Portland and a taxi to Scarborough, money in hand, to work things out.

Or not. She left with only what she could carry and, just like that, found herself at Oxford Street.

This is a woman who traces her ancestry to Mayflower Compact signatories William Bradford and William Brewster, and who was educated at Harvard University and Vassar College before graduating with a degree in art history from Boston University.

A woman who traveled to Europe as a college student in 1950 and, on the transatlantic cruise back home, got a job putting out the ship’s newspaper.

“I was working, as a matter of fact, on the ship’s newspaper when the news came of the Korean War breaking,” she recalled. “I was the one who got that news and wrote it up for the Sea Breeze.”

This is a woman who raised and supported two sons, as a single mother, on her earnings as an artist, a writer and a teacher. Five years ago this Sunday, her 53-year-old elder son was murdered in Baltimore as he left a rehearsal by the choral society in which he sang.

Before her life got derailed, Marvit said, “I actually wanted to go to Baltimore to find out who murdered my son.”

Still homeless after finding her way back to Portsmouth last year, she returned to Portland in August because “I’d established roots here.”

They include the Portland Museum of Art, where she dipped into what little money she had for a “Plus One” membership. It enables her to bring a friend, usually from the shelter, for an afternoon of meandering among the city’s artistic and cultural treasures.

Marvit has a case worker and, like anyone, would much prefer a permanent roof over her head to the laundry room at Oxford Street, where she and 13 other women vie for floor mats each night.

So she lacks the means for her own housing?

“It isn’t lack of means, necessarily,” she replied. “It’s lack of housing.”

She joined Homeless Voices for Justice, which is organized and led by Maine’s homeless on behalf of Maine’s homeless. In fact, she told her audience at City Hall on Tuesday, the group’s first newsletter should hit the streets within the next week or so.

“So, I would suggest that anybody who’s interested make a point of finding out what some of these people are writing about and thinking about,” she said.

Which brings us back to Marvit’s reason for heading to City Hall in the first place. Actually, two reasons.

One was to caution that a new shelter, for all its shiny surfaces, might become a “ghetto” where collective need trumps individual dignity.

“I find that the back stories of these people and their reasons for coming (into the shelter) are as various as the number of people who are there,” she said. “And I think that that needs to be addressed. I think the shelter itself should provide some day areas in which individuals can be themselves, they can have activities which promote their own personal interests, with ongoing encouragement, and which treats them as valued people, just not a member of a homeless entity, which unto itself is subject to a lot of stereotyping.”

Her other message was for those of us whose direct contact with the homeless – if we have any at all – is limited to those oh-so-fleeting sidewalk encounters.

“Whenever you know that somebody is homeless, please do not reject them,” she said. “Try and find out, as you would about a new neighbor, what they’re like as a person, where they come from, what they’re interested in, what they’ve done in the past, what they’re proud of.”

After the meeting, Marvit graciously accepted a packaged salad from Portland Health and Human Services Director Dawn Stiles – it was left over from a bag of takeout for busy officials who’d had no time for dinner.

Outside City Hall a short time later, still holding tight to her makeshift walker, Marvit spoke eloquently about the wonderful immigrant staffers at Oxford Street, about how her $103 monthly check from Social Security morphs automatically into her payment for Medicare Part B, about how she’s been known to sleep outside under a makeshift tent because “I like to be outdoors.”

At her age? (Which, for the record, she asked that I not disclose.)

“Age is a state of mind,” she explained with a smile.

She does not seek our pity. Only our understanding.

“I’m a survivor,” Marvit said proudly. “And I think there’s something about my personality which relishes being a survivor. And not only that, I like the adventure.”

With that, amid the deepening darkness, the woman with the white hair aimed her shopping cart down Cumberland Avenue toward Oxford Street.

She hadn’t yet checked in for the night – and she hoped there would still be room.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/14/bill-nemitz-unlikely-story-behind-a-life-on-the-street-offers-a-lesson-to-rest-of-us/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/09/Top-Story-Block-Bill-e1412944716710.jpgPORTLAND, ME - MAY 15: Images of Portland Press Herald news reporters and columnists, Wednesday, May 15, 2014. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)Thu, 14 Sep 2017 12:19:39 +0000
Leonard Pitts: ‘Nickel prophets’ see Hurricane Irma and other disasters as God’s will aligned with their biases http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/13/nickel-prophets-see-hurricane-irma-and-other-disasters-as-gods-will-aligned-with-their-biases/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/13/nickel-prophets-see-hurricane-irma-and-other-disasters-as-gods-will-aligned-with-their-biases/#respond Wed, 13 Sep 2017 10:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1254673 “Be still and know that I am God.”

Psalms 46:10

It’s an admonition some of us struggle to obey.

Indeed, some of God’s self-appointed spokespersons seem to find it especially difficult. Thus, before the first raindrop fell, the first palm tree bowed, or the first transformer blew, they came out to tell us what He meant by pointing a monster hurricane at Florida.

A Pastor Keith Swanson said Hurricane Irma would be diverted if the Supreme Court immediately outlawed abortion and same-sex marriage. Meantime, former teen idol Kirk Cameron said the storm was the deity’s way of teaching humans “humility.”

Actually, humility would require not presuming to know the mind of God (“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” – Isaiah 55:8) but leave that aside. The point is, this sort of thing is common.

To the scornful derision of non-believers and the mortified embarrassment of those people of faith who strive to be also people of thought and compassion, every disaster seems to bring out some nickel prophet who claims to have divined the motives of the Almighty as surely as if God had asked his advice in advance. When Hurricane Harvey smacked Houston, a radio preacher named Rick Wiles blamed the city’s “LGBT devotion.”

When Hurricane Sandy trashed the Jersey shore, a Rev. John McTernan laid it off on “the homosexual agenda.” When Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans, Catholic priest Gerhard Wagner called it “divine retribution” for the Big Easy’s gay-friendly ways.

This penchant for ascribing disaster to a peeved deity does not stop at international borders. As Haiti struggled to dig out from a devastating earthquake, TV preacher Pat Robertson said the impoverished island nation was suffering under a curse from God.

Nor is the aforementioned penchant limited to natural disasters. Jerry Falwell notoriously diagnosed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as God’s verdict on the ACLU, among others.

It is telling that the God such people conceive is always so perfectly in sync with their own politics and biases. It never seems to occur to them, for instance, that these calamities might be God’s way of providing an opportunity for someone to be a better human, to reach a helping hand to someone else in need, to “love one another as I have loved you.”

For that matter, it never seems to occur to them to just shut up. But it should.

As much as or more than it is anything, faith is surrender, an acceptance of one’s own smallness and limitation, a willingness to believe that whatever comes – whatever God brings, no matter how painful – will redound, in the end, to love.

That can be difficult to maintain in the best of times, but in the test of times, when the wind howls or the ground heaves, it becomes exponentially harder.

That is what you are seeing demonstrated when these nickel prophets prophesize. The palm trees shred, the rain slants sideways, the ocean rises like a wall, and they speak with a pontifical certitude about What God Is Trying to Say. They fill awed silence with babble that only sounds like confidence. It is, yes, human nature to seek answers. It’s a way of asserting order upon an unruly universe. But that order is only an illusion. It doesn’t matter how loudly you blame the ACLU or the LGBTQ community, there still comes a moment when you must contemplate how small you are, how uncertain life is, as measured against the angry and capricious storm. And this is where the truth is told.

After all, it’s easy to find scapegoats and call it God’s will.

What’s hard is to feel the storm rise and yet, obey that hard admonition.

Be still, and know.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for The Miami Herald. He can be contacted at:

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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Maine Voices: Our political system needs an independent, solution-driven third party http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/13/maine-voices-our-political-system-needs-an-independent-solution-driven-third-party/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/13/maine-voices-our-political-system-needs-an-independent-solution-driven-third-party/#respond Wed, 13 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1254633 CUMBERLAND — The deal President Trump recently struck with Democratic Party leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to fund the government through December, and the preliminary proposal to eliminate the debt ceiling altogether, represent well one of the most positive (potential) consequences of Trump’s deconstruction and destruction of the Washington status quo: the incidental formation of an independent political party.

According to Gallup, over 40 percent of America considers itself politically moderate. Yet because of the rise of highly partisan news media, and the faceless nature of social media, the casual observer could be forgiven for concluding that America is on the verge of political civil war in the “age of Trump.”

An independent political party is needed to bridge the perceived ideological divide, so I’d like to make the case for the deliberate formation of one. I will define a political independent and propose a bipartisan voting structure; outline an independent policy construction framework, and highlight a key issue around which an independent platform can be constructed.

While, as previously stated, over 40 percent of Americans consider themselves politically moderate, I believe that over 75 percent of Americans could agree on a workable solution to the vast majority of key political issues. This 75 percent cohort can be defined as those ideologically disgusted by hardliners Elizabeth Warren on the left and Ted Cruz on the right – two politicians emphatically uninterested in prioritizing the development of workable political solutions over the building of ideological brands.

The House Problem Solvers Caucus voting structure represents well how the vast majority of Americans, sitting around the dinner table, might come to a workable agreement: For a policy proposal to make it out of the caucus, 75 percent of its 43 members and 51 percent of its Republican and Democratic members must vote in favor of the proposed policy. This is picture perfect bipartisanship.

Independent policy construction must work backward from end goal to policy solution, while remaining ideologically agnostic toward government and the free market. Too often, both sides of the political aisle agree on the end goal (i.e. health care coverage for all), but allow ideological rigidity to drive the policy construction process (i.e., free market insurance versus government insurance).

For Americans in search of a workable solution, the government-versus-free market debate can be resolved via the following principle: The government exists to provide goods and services, such as national security, public safety, public infrastructure and the social safety net, that do not meet the free market’s “return on investment” hurdle. But the government is terrible at implementation, which is where the free market comes in.

As I wrote in a May Maine Voices column, my bipartisan framework is to “let the federal government fund it, and the free market run it.” This framework is perhaps best demonstrated by Switzerland’s health insurance market, which is heavily funded and regulated by the government in order to provide universal coverage, yet run almost entirely by private companies.

Unlike the high-profile-yet-low-priority issue of income inequality, health care is critically important to Americans, making it a key issue around which an independent political platform can be constructed. And with the Democratic Party quickly, and dangerously, making Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for all” plan a key issue for the 2020 presidential election, the political environment is ripe for an independent policy blueprint for covering the 29 million Americans without health insurance.

According to the Kaiser Foundation, about 156 million Americans have employer-based health insurance and another 106 million are covered by Medicaid and Medicare. For all intents and purposes, we are Switzerland. Ideologically driven, free market-only and government-only “solutions” have no place in the discussion.

According to The New York Times, in 2015 the United States spent about $7,200 (federal and state) per Medicaid recipient. If we conservatively assume it would cost $10,000 per recipient to cover the 29 million uninsured, direct federal subsidies for private insurance would cost $290 billion, or less than 10 percent of the federal budget. While manageable at 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, it is likely a portion of this cost could be defrayed by charging the resultant pool of 135 million Americans receiving “free” insurance a monthly premium.

So in conclusion: While the idea that the American political funding structure would support an independent political party appears far-fetched, the Democratic Party’s systematic implosion at the grass-roots level under Barack Obama and Congress’ current 16 percent approval rating represent decisive evidence of electorate revolt against the current system.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/13/maine-voices-our-political-system-needs-an-independent-solution-driven-third-party/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1242899_health_care_rallies_08816_j.jpgPeople attend a health care rally at the Indiana Statehouse in support of the Affordable Care Act on Jan. 15. Having failed to repeal the law, the Trump administration is attempting to undermine it.Wed, 13 Sep 2017 14:22:44 +0000
Greg Kesich: Missed conversation with angry reader leaves much unanswered http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/13/greg-kesich-missed-conversation-with-angry-reader-leaves-much-unanswered/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/13/greg-kesich-missed-conversation-with-angry-reader-leaves-much-unanswered/#respond Wed, 13 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1254699 One of the best parts of this job is hearing from readers.

Sometimes it’s a handwritten card from someone who wanted you to know that they were touched by a piece you wrote. Sometimes they just want to tell you that you stink at writing.

In either case, you wrote it, they read it and they had a response. It’s the definition of communication, and what happens on the opinion pages is supposed to be a conversation.

A few weeks ago, we published an editorial that called out President Trump for his assessment that “many sides” were to blame for violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

We called his mushy messaging “a disgrace.”

A reader (I won’t name him here) wrote me a personal message, outraged that we did not acknowledge that there had been violent left-wingers at the rally as well. After railing against our soft treatment of anti-fascist agitators, he got to the point:

“You, of course, are a classic New York City leftist idiot who brought your bachelor’s degree in journalism and your hatred of all things conservative to Maine, to see if you could possibly influence the outcome of elections here, as you tried in New York.

“It is in fact, Mr Kesich, you … who are a disgrace – especially to your profession – which, by the way, in my experience was one of the chosen majors of all the idiots at my university who were too stupid to choose any major that might result in a good-paying job. I assume that is one of the reasons you hate capitalism. But I digress …

“So all of you far left wingers (keep up) your constant negative attacks on Trump, conservatives and your nonstop accusations of racism while you pat yourself on the back each night and try to reaffirm that ‘I’m not racist’ and ‘I am a good person, and all Trump supporters are haters, unlike me’ – you are simply increasing his chances of re-election.”

Well, how do you respond to that? At first you want to defend yourself (I’m from Yonkers, not New York City, and I didn’t major in journalism).

But here is a guy who has taken the time to create a mental picture of me and shoot it full of darts. I wanted to know why.

I wrote him back.

“I could answer you point-for-point, but that seems like a waste of time. Both of us would just get even more mad and self-righteous.

“I have an idea: Would you like to get a cup of coffee sometime? Not to debate, but to better understand each other.”

It was a few days before I got a response:

“I used to be amenable to political discussion, but since the media in general has decided to act as political activists for the Democrats … the ‘cup of coffee and let’s discuss’ opportunities are over. Especially at Starbucks, where if I acknowledged any level of conservative ideology, the public-school brainwashed left-wing idiots who work there would likely refuse to serve me.”

He went on to say that he grew up in a poor family in which no one had ever gone to college. He borrowed money and worked odd jobs, eventually earning a Ph.D., “yet people like you continue to insist I was ‘privileged.’

“You can joke about it, you can pooh pooh it, but the media created Donald Trump. There are millions of tax-paying Americans in this country who feel like the Democrats and Obama wrote them off, in favor of ‘preferred status’ for specific racial groups. There is no arguing this, because you and your friends in the media would dismiss it as racism immediately, of course.”

I was disappointed, and I told him so. If we’d had the chance to talk, I’d have told him I thought he was right – in part.

The media deserves blame for the rise of Trump, partly because we still can’t talk about race without laying collective guilt on individuals who have done nothing wrong.

But I would have also had so many questions. Like, why are you so angry? It sounds like you got to live the American Dream. And can’t you see that the only minority group with “preferred status” is the top 1 percent? And if not Starbucks, how about Dunkin’?

I wrote, “I can honestly say that even though you express yourself very well, I don’t understand you at all. And I can tell from what you have written that you don’t understand me. It’s too bad, but that’s the world that we live in.”

He didn’t write back.

Remember the line from “Cool Hand Luke,” when Strother Martin says, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate”?

We’ve got that here, too. And it’s supposed to be a conversation.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at:

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter: gregkesich

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/13/greg-kesich-missed-conversation-with-angry-reader-leaves-much-unanswered/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/10/Columnist-Kesich-e1441211688709.jpgJohn Patriquin/Staff Photographer.Wed. July,25, 2012. News room mug shots Greg Kesich. (Photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer)Tue, 12 Sep 2017 22:14:50 +0000
Our View: Ignoring higher risk of floods won’t make them less likely http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/13/our-view-ignoring-higher-risk-of-floods-wont-make-them-less-likely/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/13/our-view-ignoring-higher-risk-of-floods-wont-make-them-less-likely/#respond Wed, 13 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1254742 Hurricanes Harvey and Irma didn’t come anywhere near New England, but we can’t afford to let our distance from the devastation in the Southeast lull us into complacency. As sea levels and precipitation rise, making severe weather more likely, so has the risk of a major flood here. The increasing number of Mainers without flood insurance for high-risk properties should rethink their stance – and Maine’s congressional delegation should push for money to better prepare for the next disaster.

Over 31,000 Maine homes are in designated flood hazard areas, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But as of June 30, there were only 8,380 active flood insurance policies in Maine, down 9 percent from 2012.

Only mortgaged homes in flood hazard zones – areas where there is a 1 percent chance of a flood in any given year – are required to have flood coverage, and a lot of people in hazard zones look to pay off their note early or buy privately in order to avoid the mandate. Their personal decision, in turn, can affect the ability of the larger community to recover and move on after a natural disaster.

“People pay off their houses and they are willing to roll the dice,” Sue Baker, state coordinator of the National Flood Insurance Program, recently told the Kennebec Journal. Higher premiums have been a major deterrent to getting flood coverage, even though the $20,000 it can cost to repair the damage from just an inch of flooding far exceeds the $1,043 average annual premium in Maine.

It’s also important to note, though, that 40 to 50 percent of the Houston residents whose homes were flooded by Harvey didn’t have to have insurance, because they live outside FEMA’s mapped high-risk zones. As Slate magazine reported Sept. 7 in “Why are FEMA’s flood maps so horribly flawed?,” the maps are often out of date and fail to take into account climate change, which boosts sea levels and precipitation by driving up ocean and land temperatures.

What’s more, Slate pointed out, efforts to make the maps more accurate face a significant roadblock in the form of resistance from local officials, who want to remove obstacles to development, and local residents, who want to avoid having to shell out for flood insurance. In Maine, for example, where FEMA is making its third attempt in a decade to update state flood plain maps, South Portland recently voted to join five other communities – Harpswell, Kennebunkport, Kittery, Old Orchard Beach and Wells – in contesting the maps once they’re published later this year.

FEMA hasn’t been getting a warm reception in Washington, either. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt says now is not the time to discuss climate change. President Trump has called for zeroing out funds for flood hazard mapping and slashing the budget for a program that helps states and communities take long-term measures to reduce losses from disaster – though a 2005 study by over 50 national experts found that every $1 spent by FEMA on hazard mitigation saves $4 in post-storm rebuilding and cleanup.

A major flood can happen anywhere. To ensure that Maine and Mainers are ready for the next one, our elected representatives in Washington should push for spending more on critical initiatives like revising flood hazard maps, educating the public about flood risk and helping communities better prepare for storms. Ignoring the elevated risk of natural disasters won’t make them any less likely – and we may not have the luxury of sitting the next one out.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/13/our-view-ignoring-higher-risk-of-floods-wont-make-them-less-likely/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1254742_APTOPIX_Harvey_64716.jpg-95-e1505276379118.jpgForty to 50 percent of the Houston residents whose homes were flooded by Harvey lived outside federally designated high-risk zones. FEMA maps are often out of date – and efforts to improve them frequently encounter strong resistance from local officials and homeowners.Tue, 12 Sep 2017 21:49:17 +0000
News and opinion podcast: Residential referendums in Portland and the Republican political spectrum http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/news-opinion-podcast-residential-referendums-portland-republican-political-spectrum/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/news-opinion-podcast-residential-referendums-portland-republican-political-spectrum/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 21:40:22 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1254516 In November, Portland residents will vote on two ballot questions driven by citizen initiatives. One would allow resident input during the re-zoning process for new construction. The other would create a number of new rules for the city and its landlords with the goal of stabilizing rising rents. Randy Billings has been covering both issues. Host Greg Kesich and columnist Bill Nemitz discuss different political philosophies within the Republican party, both in the Maine governor’s race and in Washington.

Related stories:

West End residents file paperwork to block cold-storage warehouse on waterfront

Portland council puts rezoning process, rent increase initiatives on November ballot

Meet the candidates for Maine’s 2018 governor’s race

Podcast links:

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Stream on Stitcher

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/news-opinion-podcast-residential-referendums-portland-republican-political-spectrum/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1150746_884418-CityHall.jpgCity Councilor Nicholas Mavodones says he is generally concerned about politicization of Portland City Hall, above, and that Emily Fidgor and Steven Biel are "skilled and professional at what they do" – advocating for a progressive agenda.Tue, 12 Sep 2017 17:40:22 +0000
Garrison Keillor: Beauty is truth and truth is factual http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/garrison-keillor-beauty-is-truth-and-truth-is-factual/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/garrison-keillor-beauty-is-truth-and-truth-is-factual/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 14:10:36 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/garrison-keillor-beauty-is-truth-and-truth-is-factual/ Truth begins with facts. Facts are solid, like bricks. You build a house out of facts, the wolf won’t blow it down. But you drop a fact on your foot, it hurts.

Garrison Keillor

I learned this as a boy, living near the Mississippi River in Minnesota when I discovered that where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi near Cairo, Illinois, the Ohio is actually larger than the Mississippi. So it’s the Mississippi that flows into the Ohio. The Ohio is the big show. This fact was shocking to me. I was proud of the river, spent hours on the shore, skipped stones on it, and I felt diminished by the new information. To go from Father of Waters to a mere tributary is a definite fall.

Facts have that tendency to bring us down a notch. I’d been 6-foot-3 since I was in high school and now I’m a half-inch short of that. If people ask, I still say 6-3 but it’s not true and I know it. I’m shrinking.

Even presidents must yield to facts. The horse-faced William Henry Harrison lasted only a month in the White House. He was a military hero, having defeated the Shawnees at the Battle of Tippecanoe in Indiana, and he was anxious to show his intellectual acuity and so, having defeated Martin Van Buren in the 1840 election, Harrison composed a massive speech for his inauguration and stood and delivered it for two hours in a cold rain, a 68-year-old man, hatless, coatless, and then attended three inaugural balls. His wife had stayed home sick and wasn’t there to advise him. A couple weeks later, feeling very ill, he took to his bed. Pneumonia was the diagnosis, though it’s now believed he had a bacterial infection from drinking bad water, there being no sewers in Washington at the time. His doctor dosed him with opium and repeated enemas, and the treatment likely hastened his end.

He had written the speech himself and the first sentence gives you an idea of the style: “Called from a retirement which I had supposed was to continue for the residue of my life to fill the chief executive office of this great and free nation, I appear before you, fellow citizens, to take the oaths which the Constitution prescribes as a necessary qualification for the performance of its duties; and in obedience to a custom coeval with our government and what I believe to be your expectations I proceed to present to you a summary of the principles which will govern me in the discharge of the duties which I shall be called upon to perform.”

In other words, “You elected me president and now I shall address you.”

As he lay in the White House, in an opioid stupor, with a hose up his rear end, W.H.H. might have dreamed of Tippecanoe when he rode around waving his sword at Tecumseh’s warriors, or maybe he revisited the debacle on the Capitol steps, the crowd standing glumly in the cold rain listening to 8,445 words of hogwash and horse feathers which, what with the rain and the lack of a megaphone, were incomprehensible to most onlookers, a faint murmurous croaking like a cricket in the weeds. In the space of one month, a hero became the butt of a joke – Longest Speech led to pneumonia which led to Shortest Term in Office.

Now it appears he died by drinking water that contained his own waste, the executive chamberpot having been emptied on ground near the White House well.

As the current occupant cuts his prime rib under the John Adams inscription on the dining room mantel (“May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof”), he seems impervious to reality. Like many real estate salesmen, the gentleman has a poetic imagination. Any man who comes away from a visit to Houston and says people there are happy is eating the wrong mushrooms. He has stood in a cold rain for seven months, pretending the sun is shining, winning the admiration of a shrinking bloc of barflies, bikers, and Baptists, and now he is drinking bad water, and eventually reality will catch up with him. It always does. He is headed for Harrisondom.

W.H.H. had a large vision of westward expansion but he should’ve thought about sanitation. The Romans had built a massive sewer, the Cloaca Maxima, back in Jeremiah’s day and a system of aqueducts by the time Jesus was in the third grade. Wake up and smell the excrement.

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Commentary: Expanding Medicaid will help Maine hospitals, health centers and the economy http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/commentary-expanding-medicaid-will-help-maine-hospitals-health-centers-and-the-economy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/commentary-expanding-medicaid-will-help-maine-hospitals-health-centers-and-the-economy/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1254252 AUGUSTA — Tens of thousands of Mainers have come together to ask Maine voters to approve an expansion of Maine’s Medicaid program (known as MaineCare) to more than 70,000 of their neighbors living in, or near, poverty.

Most who would qualify are working in low-wage jobs – jobs where health insurance is not offered or is unaffordable. The federal government would fund 90 percent of the cost for newly eligible Mainers and would transform the lives of thousands of people barely getting by, through giving them access to affordable health care.

Expansion of Medicaid, Question 2 on November’s statewide ballot, will help Maine’s hospitals and health centers and the economy at large with over $500 million in new federal funds every year. It’s such a win-win deal that 31 other states have expanded Medicaid (and not one has withdrawn from the program). These states have reported huge benefits, including lower uninsured rates and improved economies. Republican, Democratic and independent governors have not only signed off on Medicaid expansion, but also continue to defend it.

Not Gov. LePage. He has consistently fought Medicaid expansion with a series of false or misleading statements. He is guaranteeing that Maine taxpayers won’t reap the full benefit of their federal tax dollars as other states draw down job creating and health care providing federal funds while we forgo such funding here.

The governor’s misguided treatment of Maine taxpayers goes even further. His Department of Health and Human Services commissioned a conservative organization to run an analysis of the program that independent experts said contained miscalculations and exaggerations. That same organization had to repay the state hundreds of thousands of dollars for submitting plagiarized work.

Recent administration statements on Medicaid expansion appear to use the same approach. It’s not surprising, then, that the Maine Heritage Policy Center’s recent commentary in the Portland Press Herald is full of misinformation. One of the conveniently overlooked facts about Maine’s prior expansion efforts is the degree to which we bucked national trends in terms of maintaining health coverage for Maine people. Comparing the current Medicaid expansion effort to Maine’s experience 15 years ago is like comparing the Apple Watch to the first iPod. Today’s opportunity to expand coverage, with the federal commitment to higher funding levels, makes it very different.

Rather than relitigating the past, we should be looking to other states for the evidence of Medicaid expansion’s success and its potential for Maine. Here are some facts:

Medicaid expansion increases access to affordable care. In Maine, one in five low-income people has to put off seeing a doctor because they can’t afford the cost.

Low-income Americans with Medicaid coverage are more likely to have a primary care doctor, more likely to receive preventive screenings and more likely to report being in good health than those without insurance.

One-third of Maine nonelderly adults has an unpaid medical bill. From 2012 to 2015, the share of adults with unpaid medical bills fell nearly twice as fast in states that expanded Medicaid as it did in non-expansion states.

Medicaid expansion will bring hundreds of millions of dollars into the state each year, and create or preserve thousands of good-paying jobs in health care and related sectors.

Maine’s hospitals are under great financial stress, primarily because of recent cuts to MaineCare coverage. Hospitals in Medicaid expansion states have seen a 40 percent reduction in their levels of uncompensated care. At that rate, Maine hospitals would save $188 million.

Opponents of Medicaid expansion have no new arguments to offer, so they are resorting to fighting over the past. The evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of Medicaid expansion, so opponents rely on alternative facts, distortions and misrepresentations. It won’t work.

Mainers care for their neighbors, and look out for one another – and they know a tall tale when they hear one. A “yes” vote on Question 2 this Nov. 7 is a vote for jobs, for care, and for facts over fear.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/commentary-expanding-medicaid-will-help-maine-hospitals-health-centers-and-the-economy/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/06/1208291_mercy.jpgMercy Hospital in Portland, above, is a member of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, which experienced an operating loss of $34.3 million during its 2016 fiscal year.Mon, 11 Sep 2017 20:39:22 +0000
Maine Voices: The perfect DACA storm offers a chance to pocket a win for all Americans http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/maine-voices-the-perfect-daca-storm-time-to-pocket-a-win-for-all-americans/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/maine-voices-the-perfect-daca-storm-time-to-pocket-a-win-for-all-americans/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1254114 BRUNSWICK — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – the Obama-era program for youngsters brought here without documentation by their parents – is dying. All the immigrant advocacy groups say it. Donald Trump, they say, made a wrong and cruel decision on Sept. 5, putting 800,000 young, taxpaying residents at risk of deportation. This decision must be condemned and resisted.

Maybe so. But maybe there is a way to treat the Trump decision as a win-win for all, including the DACA kids. Intended or not, we may be at a “perfect storm” moment to rescue these 800,000 residents.

First, congressional Republicans are looking for a legislative win, having failed to kill the Affordable Care Act, and they face an uphill climb over the next three months on budget and spending bills, tax reform and the debt ceiling, all coming to a crunch in December. Both Sen. Susan Collins and the elusive Rep. Bruce Poliquin have decried the move, announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and called for relief (as have independent Sen. Angus King and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree).

Second, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan desperately need to recover their political mojo, having failed on health care and been rolled by the Democrats and Trump on money and debt. Legislating DACA gives them a chance to actually accomplish something, or at least appear effective.

Third, the White House needs a political recovery program of its own. The Trump administration is rapidly earning a reputation for chaos, death by Twitter and legislative failure, a record unmatched by any White House in our nation’s history.

They may have not meant it, but the administration actually provided the opening for a DACA win-win. Trump and Sessions framed the DACA issue as a constitutional problem, not (for the most part) as an attack on immigrants. Barack Obama, they said, should have asked Congress to create DACA, rather than creating it as an administrative action by the Department of Homeland Security.

Set aside the reality that Congress has been unwilling to legislate anything on immigration for years, which gave Obama the incentive to carry out this end run. Now may be the moment to fix that constitutional issue and save the “dreamers.”

Fourth, like a gift from the gods, there is actually a bill that would rescue DACA, called the DREAM Act, which was reintroduced in July with impressive bipartisan supporters – a wonder in these days – Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

For every DACA participant and person with temporary protected status, the measure would provide a careful path to citizenship. As long as the person entered the U.S. before the age of 18, has been here for four years before the DREAM Act passed, stayed here until they apply, goes to college or enrolls in a secondary school, are not convicted of criminal offenses and pass a medical exam and a background check, they can eventually become citizens. It would take something like eight years to finish the process, while giving the applicant provisional immigration status.

However they feel about immigrants in general, a majority of Americans feel positive about the DACA kids. They were brought here by their parents as young people and know no other country. Since 2012, they have grown up, hold jobs, go to school, pay taxes and contribute to the American economy. They are, in all respects, Americans, except for this one thing: their citizenship status. They are our neighbors; they win our hearts; they should be American citizens.

Every element of this moment says “yes, it’s time to legislate a path to citizenship for the ‘dreamers.’ ” This may be a wonderful opportunity to accomplish the unthinkable – a bipartisan victory that legislates a positive program focused on a group everyone seems to care about. And the bipartisan Maine delegation can help it happen by co-sponsoring and helping pass the DREAM Act this month.

Would Trump sign it? He has already said, several times, that he sympathized with the DACA kids. He framed the issue as something Congress should do. If the DREAM Act passes with bipartisan support, even a quixotic Trump veto could be overridden.

Time to pocket the win-win on DACA.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/maine-voices-the-perfect-daca-storm-time-to-pocket-a-win-for-all-americans/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1251599_editorial.0907-e1504777816854.jpgNinety-seven percent of the young undocumented immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are working or in school – but the decision to end DACA leaves them facing an uncertain future.Mon, 11 Sep 2017 19:48:52 +0000
Charles Lawton: Boom in southern, coastal Maine will stall if home prices stay high http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/charles-lawton-parts-of-maine-wont-attract-enough-workers-without-lowering-home-prices/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/charles-lawton-parts-of-maine-wont-attract-enough-workers-without-lowering-home-prices/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1254153 I have long argued that Maine’s economic future depends on attracting more workers. As long as the number of people who die in Maine each year continues to exceed the number born here, we will need immigrants (both domestic and international) just to maintain our current income level.

If Maine employers can’t fill open jobs, our prosperity will inevitably shrink. For this reason, I have focused a great deal of attention on the labor market: What can we do to attract and train the workers we need?

This question leads me increasingly to the housing market.

If we are to attract new workers, we’ll need places for them to live – and that leads to housing affordability.

Each year, the Maine State Housing Authority (MaineHousing) compiles a Housing Affordability Index. Affordable homeownership (there is a separate rental affordability index) is the ability of someone earning the area’s median income to cover the payments on the median-priced home there (including taxes and insurance on a 30-year mortgage) while spending no more than 28 percent of gross income.

In 2016 (the most recent year for which data are compiled), Knox County offers the closest example of an affordable housing market in Maine. In 2016, the median household income in the county was $56,280. Someone earning the median income could afford a home priced at $202,848. The actual median home price in Knox County in 2016 was $205,000, yielding an affordability index of 0.99 (the home price affordable at the median income divided by the actual median home price).

A very slight drop in housing prices or a very slight increase in income would make Knox County a “perfectly” affordable housing market.

Index values over 1.00 indicate increasingly “affordable” housing prices, and index values below 1.00 indicate increasingly “unaffordable” prices. By this standard, 11 of Maine’s 16 counties had affordable housing, with index values ranging from 1.72 in Piscataquis County to 1.04 in Lincoln and Waldo counties.

Five counties had “unaffordable” housing prices, ranging from 0.99 in Knox and Sagadahoc counties to 0.95 in Hancock County, 0.93 in York County and 0.81 in Cumberland County.

The average of the median home prices in the 11 affordable counties was $125,400, ranging from $80,000 in Aroostook County to $198,250 in Lincoln County. The average of the median home prices in the five unaffordable counties was $213,780, ranging from $189,000 in Hancock County to $256,000 in Cumberland County.

Two main conclusions emerge from this analysis. First, housing affordability is associated with lower levels of economic growth.

The affordable counties are, by and large, central and northern counties with substantial levels of out-migration. The unaffordable counties are southern and midcoast counties with faster-growing economies.

The second, and more important point, to be drawn from these data is that housing unaffordability is driven more by housing prices than by income. That is, unaffordability is not about slow income growth but about the cost of housing outpacing income growth.

In the five counties where housing is unaffordable, the average of the median incomes was $55,537. This is 25 percent above the average of the median incomes in the 11 counties where housing is affordable. However, the average of the median home prices in the five unaffordable counties ($213,780) was 71 percent above the average of the median home prices in the 11 affordable counties ($123,368).

This imbalance between the relative impacts on affordability of the home price side of the index and the income side is seen clearly when comparing the correlation of each with the index.

The 2016 affordability index is inversely related to both median county income and median county home price. In other words, homes are less affordable in counties where median incomes and median home prices are higher.

If housing price growth in economically dynamic southern Maine continues to outpace income growth, we run the risk of diminishing inflow of labor to the region, which is the only difference between continued economic revival in Maine and further spread of the economic stagnation and outmigration that plague rural and upcountry areas of the state.

Just as the need to increase our labor force presents a policy challenge to our employers and educational institutions, the need to attract talent must bring state, regional and local policymakers to rethink the regulations and financial mechanisms that make housing increasingly unaffordable.

Charles Lawton, Ph.D., is a consulting economist. He can be contacted at:

cttlaw3@gmail.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/charles-lawton-parts-of-maine-wont-attract-enough-workers-without-lowering-home-prices/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/10/736621_113361-20151022_HomeSales2-e1505231816321.jpgreal estate, rentals and leasing performed particularly well during the second quarter in Maine,Tue, 12 Sep 2017 11:57:11 +0000
Our View: Cybercrimes can hit as hard as a hurricane http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/our-view-cyber-crimes-can-hit-as-hard-as-a-hurricane/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/our-view-cyber-crimes-can-hit-as-hard-as-a-hurricane/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1254170 After a hurricane strikes land, the assistance comes in waves.

First responders rush to the scene to rescue people in harm’s way. Later, agencies step in to house the homeless and help pay for rebuilding. Finally, policymakers determine what went wrong and what steps could be taken to make the population less vulnerable next time.

In a manmade financial disaster, like last week’s disclosure of a massive data security breach at Equifax, all the steps have got to happen at once. When data travels around the world faster than the blink of an eye, consumers can’t wait around for the flood waters to recede.

Regulators need to step in immediately to make sure that the company that allowed this to happen is doing all that it can to protect the people whose information was stolen from identity theft – at the company’s own cost, not the consumers’. User-friendly systems to challenge illegitimate debt need to be built now to deal with a series of crimes that could take years to play out.

And Congress needs to act promptly to require that the companies that handle such sensitive financial data are held responsible when they fail to keep it secure. Such a measure is headed to the U.S. Senate as soon as this month, when senators will be asked to undo an Obama-era rule that allows people who have been harmed by financial institutions like Equifax to join class-action suits instead of being forced into arbitration on a one-by-one basis.

A bill to kill the rule has already passed the House (with the support of 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin), but it can still be defeated if enough senators look at the Equifax disaster and determine that this is no time to make these organizations less accountable.

It’s important to realize the enormity of what Equifax allowed to happen and the inadequacy of the company’s response so far.

Equifax believes that it may have compromised sensitive financial data of as many as 143 million Americans, a breach that was discovered in late July, after a period of undetected intrusion.

The company did not announce what happened for another month, giving top executives time to sell stock, the price of which is now plummeting.

The information that was compromised included birth dates, addresses and Social Security numbers – more than enough for identity thieves to open bank accounts, apply for credit cards, take out mortgages or buy cars in the name of unsuspecting consumers.

Equifax, like the other credit rating agencies, will allow consumers to freeze their accounts, preventing anyone from running a credit search without the consumers’ permission – which they would give by paying a fee to Equifax. That alone should give members of Congress and financial regulators reason to act. It would be outrageous if the failure of Equifax to keep information safe ended up generating more business for the company.

Once again our vulnerability to cyber crime has been thoroughly exposed. Just as with hurricanes, we know “the big one” is coming, and it would be foolish to pretend otherwise.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/12/our-view-cyber-crimes-can-hit-as-hard-as-a-hurricane/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1254170_Equifax_Cyberattack_79958.j-e1505209265698.jpgThe credit monitoring company Equifax says "criminals" exploited a U.S. website application to access files between mid-May and July. Consumers need protection from sloppy guardians like this.Tue, 12 Sep 2017 05:41:16 +0000
Our View: Program should balance privacy with security http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/11/our-view-program-should-balance-privacy-with-security/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/11/our-view-program-should-balance-privacy-with-security/#respond Mon, 11 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1253497 The anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is a time to remember the 2,996 people killed and the lives changed forever, and to recognize the humanity and heroism of that awful Tuesday morning.

It is also an appropriate time to reflect on all that has been done in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the name of security.

One of those items is very timely. Due to expire at the end of the year is a program that is aimed at spying on foreign citizens living outside of the United States but also has collected data of innocent Americans.

Congress, which is expected to renew the program in some form, should take the opportunity to tighten its privacy protections, so that it can continue on without threatening the rights of American citizens.

At issue is Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was approved by Congress in 2008. It allows intelligence agencies to monitor the communications of foreigners they believe have information relevant to national security. It specifically bars spying on people living in the United States, citizens and noncitizens alike.

However, the program casts a wide dragnet, and phone conversations and emails of Americans are often picked up and stored, even if those Americans are not communicating with a foreign national identified as a target. An analysis by The Washington Post found that 90 percent of the information collected was not connected to a target, and much of it originated in the United States.

And unlike the aspects of the Patriot Act unmasked by Edward Snowden, Section 702 allows for the collection not only of metadata – who called who, when and for how long – but also of the actual contents of communications – phone conversations, the text of emails and instant messages, photos, family photos and medical records.

The data is stored in a National Security Agency database that is accessible by the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies. It theoretically could be used to obtain information from a non-target that otherwise would have required a court-approved warrant.

Now, there is no evidence that the database has been misused. The NSA, too, has stopped collecting data involving Americans after the secret federal court that oversees FISA said it was a violation.

And there is wide agreement that Section 702 is a valuable intelligence asset. Members of Congress from both parties have come to its defense. It has been credited with stopping attacks and tracking terrorists, and in a 2014 report, the president’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said it “has enabled the discovery of previously unknown terrorist operatives as well as the locations and movements of suspects already known to the government.”

But it can be updated to better protect Americans without sacrificing its efficacy. Congress could say that the incidental collection of information from Americans is outlawed, putting on the books what the NSA says it is already doing, making sure that they cannot go back on their promise. Congress could also make the FBI and others obtain a warrant to search the database for items unrelated to national security.

At any rate, lawmakers should provide only short-term reauthorization, so that the law comes up for review every five years, allowing for changes that reflect the times.

Each of these minor changes would retain the meat of Section 702 while making it less likely that the rights of Americans are infringed upon. That’s a balance the United States has been trying to maintain since Sept. 11, 2001, and we shouldn’t stop trying to get it right.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/11/our-view-program-should-balance-privacy-with-security/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1253497_Sept_11_Anniversary_Then_2.jpgSmoke from the remains of the World Trade Center billows over the Lower Manhattan skyline in 2001. A surveillance program put in place after 9/11 has collected the contents of communications by innocent Americans.Sat, 09 Sep 2017 22:15:09 +0000
Maine Voices: All arguments clearly favor Portland’s new recycling carts http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/11/maine-voices-all-arguments-clearly-favor-portlands-new-recycling-carts/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/11/maine-voices-all-arguments-clearly-favor-portlands-new-recycling-carts/#respond Mon, 11 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1253697 Portland’s new recycling carts will solve some environmental problems, reduce city costs and result in a more positive experience for both residents of and visitors to the city.

As a solid waste researcher at the University of Southern Maine, I have studied many aspects of residential recycling and trash nationwide. Which containers are used to collect recycling has been found to be an influential factor. I have conducted numerous studies measuring the impact of container selection on recycling rates and litter production.

Two of these studies, conducted in 2015, were funded by the Maine Economic Improvement Fund and done in cooperation with the city of Portland and ecomaine. The first study hypothesized that Portland’s reliance on small recycling bins increased the amount of recyclable materials disposed of as trash; the second study quantified the amount and impact of litter created by open-top recycling bins.

The small (18-gallon) open-top recycling bins were chosen by Portland in 1999. They were a reasonable choice for a new curbside recycling collection program: They were easy to use and were the cheapest to purchase. Portland’s recycling rate in 1999 was 10 percent, meaning that only 10 percent of the waste generated by households was collected for recycling. Portlanders quickly became avid recyclers.

Just three years later, Portland’s recycling rate jumped to 32 percent and then to 38.7 percent prior to the new carts. While Portland’s dramatic increase in recycling is great news, too many recyclables continue to be thrown away because the bins were simply too small.

One study characterized and quantified collected residential trash over a three-month period. Among the key findings was that on average, 18 percent (by weight) of each trash bag at the curb was recyclable materials. This means that citywide, each year, Portlanders throw away 1,480 tons of recyclables valued at $133,000. Moreover, because the city does not pay ecomaine for its recyclables, but pays $70.50 per ton for trash, the city pays an avoidable $250,700 to dispose of recyclables as trash.

During this same study, based on weekly counts, the average number of curbside recycling bins per household was 1.7, and each week, 15 percent of all bins had significant overflow of materials that were typically placed on the ground next to the bin. This means that most residents used more than one bin; many bins were overflowing, resulting in higher labor costs for collection, and a significant amount of recyclables were disposed of as trash. These are all clear indications that the bins were too small.

A second USM study focused on the litter generated by the open-top bins. The research team collected, counted and categorized litter created specifically by the open-top recycling bins. Litter is created by wind, by the breeze from passing vehicles, by scavengers (human and animal) and by material stuck to the inside of bins that is subsequently dislodged.

About 6,280 pieces of litter, weighing 2,284 pounds, were created each week from the bins. Per year, this equates to 326,500 pieces of litter, weighing about 118,800 pounds. We calculated the labor required to collect each piece of litter as a proxy for direct economic impacts; it ranged from 17 cents to 79 cents per piece of litter, for an annual economic impact of between $55,515 and $257,980.

Litter also costs taxpayers because of additional efforts in cleaning impaired stormwater drains. The land-based litter (primarily plastics) that enters the ocean is recognized as an increasing national and global problem.

Portland’s new 65-gallon carts dramatically increase the capacity for recycling so only one container is needed, and there is now sufficient room for an average week’s worth of recycling. The carts have lids, which will significantly reduce the generation of litter, resulting in cost savings to city taxpayers. The lids also protect the contents from getting wet, especially paper and cardboard, which reduces their market value.

The new carts have two other important benefits. First, there is a reduced impact on workers, who previously had to repeatedly bend over to pick up bins, which is no longer necessary with the wheeled carts. Second, individuals who generate relatively small amounts of recycling no longer have to set out their recycling each week, as the larger carts can be set out only when full. This means fewer stops by city trucks, thus reducing operational costs.

With every solution there are new challenges, but these are far outweighed by the cost savings and environmental benefits. Most important will be the decreased litter, which in addition to a direct savings is one of the most common citizen complaints. Numerous studies have consistently shown that reducing litter results in a more positive experience for residents and visitors.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/09/11/maine-voices-all-arguments-clearly-favor-portlands-new-recycling-carts/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1234678_808573-20170802_Recycling_1.jpgThe city of Portland rolls out new recycling containers. Literally. This example of the new bins is on display at the Public Service Department, at 55 Portland St.Mon, 11 Sep 2017 11:40:22 +0000