Opinion – The Portland Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com Thu, 23 Feb 2017 02:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.2 Leonard Pitts: Fear of harmless people can turn the Constitution into forgotten fragment http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/leonard-pitts-fear-of-harmless-people-can-turn-the-constitution-into-forgotten-fragment/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/leonard-pitts-fear-of-harmless-people-can-turn-the-constitution-into-forgotten-fragment/#respond Wed, 22 Feb 2017 11:00:15 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1157127 Imagine this.

You are a boy, living in a child’s blissful unaware. You are not terribly different from other kids. Maybe you play stickball in the street and pretend to be Joe DiMaggio. Maybe you listen to “The Lone Ranger” on the Philco. Maybe you’re crazy for Superman.

Maybe it’s a good life.

Then comes that sudden Sunday in December. All at once, everyone is angry about something bad that happened at a place called Pearl Harbor and people you know – people who know you – are staring at you as if you are no longer who you always were.

Two months later – 75 years ago this week – there is news about a new executive order signed by President Roosevelt. Soon, the poster starts appearing on lampposts. The headline reads: “Instructions to All Persons of Japanese Ancestry.” It is an evacuation order.

As a child, you know nothing about the column in the San Francisco Examiner where Henry McLemore wrote: “Let ’em be pinched, hurt, hungry and dead up against it. … Personally, I hate the Japanese. And that goes for all of them.”

And you didn’t hear how Assistant War Secretary John McCloy said, “If it is a question of the safety of the country (and) the Constitution … why, the Constitution is just a scrap of paper to me.”

All you know is that suddenly, with maybe a week’s notice, you are on a train, being taken away from your Philco and from stickball games, from Superman comic books, from, well … everything.

Maybe your name is Noriyuki “Pat” Morita and you will someday be Mr. Miyagi in “The Karate Kid” movies. Maybe your name is Hosato Takei and as George Takei, you will become the original Mr. Sulu on “Star Trek.” Maybe your name is Norman Mineta and you will be a congressman.

But in the desolate camps to which you are exiled, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you might someday be. In the camps, as they say, “a Jap is a Jap.”

So in the camps, you live behind barbed wire, under armed guard in tar paper barracks with toilets where you must do your business in public view. You live with inferno heat, aching cold and gritty dust. Yet, you struggle to hold on to who you used to be.

You play baseball. You draw and sing. And you go to school, where every morning you stand, hand over your heart, and recite, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America … .”

Seventy-five years later, communal memory recoils from what the United States of America did to you. And as we tend do when memory indicts conscience, we choose to forget. So many of us no longer know what happened, how you lost your businesses, your homes, how your lives were never again the same.

As many of us forget the story, they also forget its moral: how fear can interdict reason, make you lash out with hatred at harmless people.

Thus, some of us cheered recently when a new executive order was signed and our airports turned to chaos. Some of us echoed McCloy: “the Constitution is just a scrap of paper to me.”

But the rest of us were saddened by what America has done to itself – and to countless innocents – in the spasms of its fear. The rest of us were stunned by what Winston Churchill called “the confirmed unteachability” of humankind.

We never learn, do we?

Imagine you are a boy, living in a child’s blissful unaware, not terribly different from other kids. Maybe you play hoops at the park and pretend to be Michael Jordan. Maybe you watch Power Rangers. Maybe you’re crazy for Spider-Man.

Maybe it’s a good life.

But then comes a sudden Tuesday in September.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for The Miami Herald. He can be contacted at:

lpitts@miamiherald.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/leonard-pitts-fear-of-harmless-people-can-turn-the-constitution-into-forgotten-fragment/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/04/PITTS_LEONARD_1_TNS2.jpgTNS Columnist Leonard Pitts. (Olivier Douliery/TNS)Tue, 21 Feb 2017 22:03:17 +0000
Maine Voices: Repeal of Obamacare would leave thousands of hardworking Mainers in the lurch http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/maine-voices-repeal-of-obamacare-would-leave-thousands-of-hardworking-mainers-in-the-lurch/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/maine-voices-repeal-of-obamacare-would-leave-thousands-of-hardworking-mainers-in-the-lurch/#respond Wed, 22 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1157032 Like a lot of inland paper mill towns, my boyhood home of Rumford has seen better days. Nearly one in four residents there lives in poverty – that’s about twice the poverty rate for the rest of Maine.

With so many families struggling to pay their bills, the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) has offered life-saving assistance. But Republicans in Congress want to repeal it. In the process, they would give big tax breaks to wealthy households in Portland and other communities along the coast.

Mine is one of those wealthy households. But I’m not celebrating. I believe that making sure working families keep their health care is more important than giving another tax cut to the well-to-do like me.

But with Rumford’s paper mill employing just a fifth of the workers it did when I was a kid, many families there depend on subsidies offered by the ACA to afford health insurance. Thanks to those subsidies, as well as an expansion of Medicaid (which Maine has unwisely rejected), nearly 20 million Americans have gained health coverage since 2010, including tens of thousands in Maine.

But President Trump and the Republicans in Congress want to reverse that progress. According to a recent Congressional Budget Office study, repealing the ACA would cost 32 million Americans their health insurance by 2026. Within just the first two years of an ACA repeal, 95,000 Mainers would lose health coverage.

Meanwhile, taxes on the superwealthy would go down. Families making more than $700,000 a year – the famous 1 percent – would see their tax bills cut by $33,000, on average. The top 0.1 percent – with annual incomes over $3.7 million – would get a $200,000 tax break, on average. The 400 richest Americans – with incomes averaging more than $300 million per year – would have their taxes slashed by $7 million, on average.

How does depriving working families’ health coverage cut rich people’s taxes? The ACA is largely funded by taxes on wealthy households and on corporations that benefit from wider access to health care, such as insurance and drug companies. If the ACA goes away, so do the taxes.

Taxing individuals and corporations who are thriving in our modern economy to extend a helping hand to families who have been left behind is good policy. It does more than expand health care coverage. It also narrows our nation’s destabilizing wealth and income gaps.

That’s because the increased taxes apply to wealth, not work. The kind of income targeted by ACA taxes – capital gains, dividends and interest – is highly concentrated among rich households. The tax code generally taxes that kind of passive income at much lower rates than wages, contributing to economic inequality.

One of the ACA’s targeted wealth taxes is helping to strengthen and expand Medicare. As the state with the nation’s oldest population, Maine should be particularly pleased that ACA taxes are shoring up the health insurance system for the elderly and disabled. We should also be particularly concerned about those taxes being stripped away.

I’m proud that our senior U.S. senator, Susan Collins, co-sponsored a bill that would allow states to keep benefits from the ACA, including the federal subsidies that make insurance affordable. Her stance is important because she sits on a committee that will decide the ACA’s fate. Collins’ bill is a welcome improvement over her Republican colleagues’ drive to kill Obamacare outright. But under her plan, many state governments – including Maine’s, under the current administration – would probably opt out of the ACA, leaving their citizens in the lurch.

I’ve served in the Maine Legislature, and I know how hard it is to create good law from scratch. Claims by Republicans that they will somehow fashion an adequate replacement to the ACA should be viewed with extreme skepticism. They still don’t have a replacement plan now, after voting scores of times over the past six years to repeal the ACA. Much more likely, if the ACA is repealed, hardworking families in Maine and across the country will simply lose their health insurance.

And I’ll get a big tax cut I don’t want. The price is too high.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/maine-voices-repeal-of-obamacare-would-leave-thousands-of-hardworking-mainers-in-the-lurch/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/05/879636_health_overhaul_disparities-e1485233116526.jpgThe Obamacare health care marketplace is forcing insurance companies to lower costs without charging more than the competition.Wed, 22 Feb 2017 12:46:57 +0000
Our View: Barring Blaine House candidates would undercut Maine Clean Election Act http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/our-view-barring-blaine-house-candidates-would-undercut-maine-clean-election-act/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/our-view-barring-blaine-house-candidates-would-undercut-maine-clean-election-act/#respond Wed, 22 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1157158 Maine Republicans just can’t resist revisiting decisions made by Maine voters. Gov. LePage kicked off his attempt to overturn a statewide minimum-wage increase in December, just a month after it was passed. Now two Republican legislators want to stop gubernatorial candidates from being funded through the voter-approved Maine Clean Election Act. This proposal represents a step backward for transparency and accountability, and lawmakers should reject it.

The Clean Election Act – which allows candidates to qualify for public financing by collecting small donations – has been supported at the ballot box twice: in 1996, when it was created, and then again in 2015, when voters backed a proposal to expand the amount of money available to candidates, tighten penalties for campaign finance violations and require groups that buy political ads to disclose their top three donors.

Because of that 2015 referendum, gubernatorial candidates can now draw on $1 million in public funds during the primary and $2 million in the general election – and that’s just too much in a cash-strapped state like Maine, say Reps. Joel Stetkis of Canaan and Paula Sutton of Rockland, the co-sponsors of L.D. 300.

Stetkis pointed out at Friday’s hearing on the bill that the state’s court security system is struggling to recruit security personnel because the pay is too low. Sutton calls the idea of public financing for Blaine House hopefuls “completely absurd.”

But although memorable, the legislators’ rhetoric overlooked the fact that they’re not talking about an unfunded mandate. The Clean Election overhaul was designed by its advocates to draw on funds from the elimination of “low-performing, unaccountable” corporate tax breaks. (One infamous example – the New Markets Capital Investment Credit – took $16 million in taxpayer money meant to revive a northern Maine paper mill and funneled it to out-of-state financiers instead.)

There are 59 such programs in Maine. They cost the state $300 million a year. And we don’t know whether or not they’re contributing to economic growth. Thankfully, the state Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability is in the middle of scrutinizing these incentives. Based on data gathered by the watchdog agency and a legislative panel’s recommendation, the programs that don’t live up to performance standards will be identified, thus freeing up money to help support the Clean Election expansion.

The Clean Election Act has been working for Maine voters. Studies show that it makes races more competitive – which is especially important when you’re picking the state’s chief executive – and helps offset the growing influence of big-money donors. There’s no reason to try to undercut it now.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/our-view-barring-blaine-house-candidates-would-undercut-maine-clean-election-act/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1157158_edi.0222.jpgPublic financing helps offset the growing influence of big-money campaign donors and has been shown to make races for elective office more competitive.Tue, 21 Feb 2017 21:30:13 +0000
Another View: Saving the 2020 Census should lead next commerce chief’s to-do list http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/another-view-saving-the-2020-census-should-lead-next-commerce-chiefs-to-do-list/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/another-view-saving-the-2020-census-should-lead-next-commerce-chiefs-to-do-list/#respond Wed, 22 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1157171 Secretary of Commerce nominee Wilbur Ross, who as a business school student served the Census Bureau as an enumerator in Boston, is scheduled to see a confirmation vote next week. If it is a “yes,” he should get to work immediately, looking to the report published this month by the Government Accountability Office that includes the 2020 Census among its list of “high risk” operations.

According to the GAO, the Census Bureau has announced a plan to replace its paper-and-pencil operation with smart technological innovations, but has yet to guarantee it can implement those changes successfully in 2020. The bureau scrapped some important 2017 field tests that could have helped answer that question because of uncertain funding. It also struggled with high nonresponse rates in 2016 tests, and cost estimates for the 2020 survey are shaky. All of that needs to change before it is too late for fixes.

There is a reason the census is part of the Constitution: The national head count is critical to a functional democracy. Not only is it a vital research tool, but the census also determines how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives and how district lines are drawn. Any doubt about the data’s validity could cause a crisis in the 2020 redistricting battle – which is why it is essential that the bureau gets it right.

That has become tougher (and more expensive) in a society where living situations are getting more complex and heads harder to count. A steadier funding stream would help the Census Bureau conduct the tests it needs to make sure its new strategies work in 2020, but the GAO says the bureau will also have to strengthen its internal controls and communication.

That the 2020 report could lack integrity would be worrying on its own, and it would be even more so under an administration that has repeatedly displayed a disdain for data. Saving the census would give Ross an early opportunity to prove that he, at least, cares about accurate numbers.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/another-view-saving-the-2020-census-should-lead-next-commerce-chiefs-to-do-list/feed/ 0 Tue, 21 Feb 2017 21:45:07 +0000
Greg Kesich: In Portland, labeling someone ‘progressive’ means … well, not much http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/greg-kesich-in-portland-labeling-someone-progressive-means-well-not-much/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/greg-kesich-in-portland-labeling-someone-progressive-means-well-not-much/#respond Wed, 22 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1157129 When I was a little boy, some of the neighborhood kids called me “Rubber Legs.” I’m not sure why, but I could tell that it wasn’t a compliment, and it made me cry.

Now I get called names all the time, but I’m more used to it.

One of the most common these days is “progressive,” which I can tell is supposed to hurt my feelings, but like “Rubber Legs,” I’m not really sure why. Is a “progressive” someone who supports gradual social change? Or is it a big-government statist who prefers diktat to personal freedom?

It all depends on who’s talking. That’s the problem with these labels. They don’t tell you much.

Last week, a group calling itself Progressive Portland jumped into the label war with some name-calling of its own. Only this time, as its name would suggest, “progressive” is not meant to be an insult. The group rated all the city councilors on their progressivity and issued a report card. You may be surprised to learn that by this measure, most of the elected officials in Maine’s most liberal city are failing badly.

Progressive Portland members say they are trying to make city government more accountable, but they’ll end up doing more harm than good if people take these ratings too seriously. The report card stirs up division inside a group of people who agree on almost everything almost all the time, and who need to cooperate to do their jobs.

You won’t get people to work together by calling them names.

To do its ratings, Progressive Portland’s steering committee picked 19 votes that they found to be indicative of a progressive political orientation. Then they scored each of last year’s City Council members based on what the group considered the “right” choice.

All nine councilors average a score of 56 percent collectively. Individually, Mayor Ethan Strimling led the class with 83 percent and former District 3 Councilor Ed Suslovic came in dead last with a score of 37 percent.

Pretty dismal for what’s supposed to be the most progressive town in Maine. But how seriously can you take these numbers?

For starters, progressiveness is not really a thing that you can objectively measure. It’s one thing for the National Rifle Association to say that “Congressman Jones has never voted for a bill we told him to oppose, so he gets an A.” It’s quite another to say that District 1 Councilor Belinda Ray (47 percent) is more progressive than District 5 Councilor David Brennerman (44 percent) because he voted to let the Elks Club property by the airport be developed as an office park and she voted to keep it zoned residential.

Close votes are not always revealing. Controversial issues are often controversial because there are good arguments for both sides or, perhaps more commonly, because all the available options suck.

What is the progressive agenda on a local level, anyway? Are water and sewer upgrades progressive? Could a progressive support a school renovation bond that results in tax hikes and rent increases?

What about supporting an industrial building on the waterfront that would create jobs but may block some views?

I think you can make a progressive argument for all of those things, but what do I know? When I ran down the list of Progressive Portland’s issues and asked myself how I might have voted, I got a 68 – much like my final grade in Algebra II. Needless to say, no one is asking me to do any engineering work for them.

But the worst thing about reducing a year of a city councilor’s work to a single number or a one-word label has to do with the nature of that work, especially in a small city like Portland.

Municipal government is not like Washington or Augusta. The elections are nonpartisan and, for the most part, so are the issues. Making the sewers flow in the right direction is not a philosophical debate. City government is usually more a matter of figuring out what you can afford to do on the list of things that absolutely have to get done.

Unlike the representatives on the state and federal level, city officials are right here. They have listed phone numbers and email addresses. If they don’t get back to us, we know where to find them every other Tuesday night.

Portland’s problem isn’t that it’s a city of progressives with a conservative government. It’s that the city is a complicated mix of people with different needs and expectations who all want to live in the same place.

You would need cooperation to take on a real “progressive” agenda. You won’t get anywhere by calling people names.

Take it from Rubber Legs.

Listen to Press Herald podcasts at www.pressherald.com/podcast.

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

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter: @gregkesich

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/22/greg-kesich-in-portland-labeling-someone-progressive-means-well-not-much/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)Wed, 22 Feb 2017 12:14:40 +0000
Our View: Maine workforce shortages require complete focus http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/our-view-maine-workforce-shortages-require-complete-focus/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/our-view-maine-workforce-shortages-require-complete-focus/#respond Tue, 21 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1156006 Maine is facing a shortage of 3,200 registered nurses by 2025, according to a study released last week by nursing organizations, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the University of Maine System.

Research and industry anecdotes have found similar shortages in other industries: teaching, construction, manufacturing and hospitality, to name a few.

Each shortage has industry-specific factors, of course. Education, particularly in science and math, faces competition from related fields, for instance, while low pay for construction workers and home-health aides has people looking for work in other regions and industries, respectively.

But what they all have in common is a supply problem – there are simply not enough working-age Mainers to fill all the slots in all the industries that contribute to the state economy. It is a steadily growing problem that is only going to get worse, and no amount of attention is too much.

The nursing shortage is emblematic of the larger trouble. The demand for health care is increasing as Maine’s population ages, with the rise of chronic illness a particularly demanding development.

Nurses, too, are growing older – a third are over 55, with many more over 45. They’ll be retiring soon, and to replace them at the level necessary, Maine must increase the number of new nurses by 20 percent each year, the study said.

It is the same in a number of industries. In a 2016 survey by Mainebiz, three-fourths of businesses reported having trouble finding suitable applicants for open positions.

What is happening is simple and well documented. As baby boomers age out of the workforce, there are not enough young Mainers to replace them.

According to a report from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Development Foundation, the state’s workforce grew by 40 percent from 1980 to 2010, largely because of an influx of women. Now, it is expected to decline, unless, like Maine’s population as a whole, more of the state’s young people stay here through there working years and the state attracts more new people, including immigrants. That is just the math when it comes to one of the country’s oldest and least diverse states.

Some policymakers are working to reverse the trend. Programs to help pay off student loans are being considered, as are initiatives that increase training opportunities in fields facing shortages.

Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, has introduced a bill that would allow nursing licenses to be used across state lines, hoping to attract more workers from out of state. Maine must remain open and inviting for immigrants, who will make up much of the country’s workforce growth in the coming decades.

All of these efforts, large and small, are necessary. Maine is facing a severe demographic challenge that will not go away easily, and it must be factored into just about every decision legislators make.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/our-view-maine-workforce-shortages-require-complete-focus/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1156006_677701_20131108_athospita_4.jpgMaine's nursing shortage is emblematic of a larger problem: The demand for health care is increasing as Maine's population ages. The state's demographic challenge also affects other industries: teaching, construction, manufacturing and hospitality, to name just a few.Mon, 20 Feb 2017 16:28:57 +0000
Another View: A rise in the interest rate could boost the economy http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/another-view-a-rise-in-the-interest-rate-could-boost-the-economy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/another-view-a-rise-in-the-interest-rate-could-boost-the-economy/#respond Tue, 21 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1156011 Inflation in the U.S. rose in the year that ended in January by 2.5 percent – faster than expected, and well above the Federal Reserve’s target of 2 percent.

It was the latest sign that the economy needs a rise in interest rates when the Federal Reserve’s policymaking committee meets next month.

Before the new inflation number, most analysts had thought the next rise would come later in the year. Afterward, it looked like a closer call, with trades in derivatives suggesting a probability of roughly 40 percent that the mid-March meeting would raise rates.

That should make it easier for the Fed, which doesn’t like to surprise investors, to do the right thing.

The central bank has long said it will be patient about getting monetary policy back to normal, not wishing to stifle a recovery that’s been no better than tepid. But it has also said that its interest-rate decisions won’t be tied to a fixed schedule, but will depend on data as it arrives. The new figures tilt the balance in favor of further tightening, sooner rather than later.

A balance has to be struck. Moving too soon risks choking off some jobs that might otherwise be forthcoming. But waiting too long could leave the Fed no choice but to tighten policy abruptly amid fears of a surge in inflation – and that would be much worse for jobs.

There’ll be fresh data between now and the next Fed meeting, but as things stand, choosing not to nudge interest rates higher in March would be taking patience too far.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/another-view-a-rise-in-the-interest-rate-could-boost-the-economy/feed/ 0 Mon, 20 Feb 2017 16:42:21 +0000
Commentary: Unable to stand on merit, Trump needs all the enemies he can get http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/commentary-unable-to-stand-on-merit-trump-needs-all-the-enemies-he-can-get/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/commentary-unable-to-stand-on-merit-trump-needs-all-the-enemies-he-can-get/#respond Tue, 21 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1156016 Not by accident did President Trump bring up Hillary Clinton’s name multiple times at his mind-numbing news conference last week. Trump has been in office four weeks. He won the election three and a half months ago. Nevertheless, he still feels compelled to bring up his former opponent.

“We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country,” he said. “You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons, and other things. Like, lots of things are done with uranium, including some bad things. Nobody talks about that.”

He’s unintelligible and wrong, but his supporters hear: Hillary Clinton gave away uranium. (By the way, during her tenure as secretary of state, a sale of a Canadian company with mines in the United States was approved. The sale was to Russian oligarchs. Yes, it’s bad to give Russians a strategic boost, Mr. President.)

Again bringing up Clinton, Trump said at one point, “Hillary Clinton did a reset, remember? With the stupid plastic button that made us all look like a bunch of jerks. Here, take a look. He looked at her like, ‘What the hell is she doing with that cheap plastic button?’ Hillary Clinton. That was the reset. Remember it said ‘Reset’? Now if I do that, oh, I’m a bad guy.” Huh? He does want to do a sort of reset, in fact. The critique makes little sense other than as a critique of her prop, but again he in effect tells his base: Clinton was bad, the worst ever.

His Clinton obsession may be traceable to his popular vote loss, which still gnaws at him. More specifically, he knows that a large number of voters chose him only because they thought Clinton was worse. Of the 25 percent of the electorate who voted for one candidate because the other was worse, Trump won 50 percent, Clinton only 39 percent.

She won pluralities of voters who either strongly favored or had reservations about the candidate they chose. Surely 78,000 people in three states, enough to swing the Electoral College to Clinton, voted for Trump because they thought Clinton was worse. His victory depended on voters afflicted with Hillary Derangement Syndrome. Now he must remind voters why they pulled the lever for him.

Trump, like most demagogues, needs an enemy – the elites, the press, Clinton. If he had to survive on his own merits and accomplishments, he’d flop. Press or Trump? Clinton or Trump? It’s all a tactic to keep his own popularity high, or as high as it can be.

Alas, the technique has not really paid off since people tend to judge presidents in office on what they do in office. Trump’s historically horrendous approval numbers (38 approve, 56 disapprove in Gallup; Pew had a nearly identical split, 39/56.) As Trump’s performance sends more voters, and lawmakers, reeling and the investigation of his and his aides’ ties to Russia get underway, we should remember how critical Vice President Mike Pence becomes. If things get really bad – impeachment or some 25th Amendment “solution” – the choice will not be Trump vs. Clinton. It will be Trump vs. Pence, who’d take over if Trump left or was removed. Uh-oh. Pence is in positive territory (43/39 in the Pollster.com average), and among Republicans, especially those on Capitol Hill, he’s exceptionally popular.

If you gave 52 Republican senators a secret ballot and asked if they would prefer Pence or Trump, would Trump get more than a handful of votes? I doubt it. And that, if the facts get dicey and Trump’s behavior gets wackier, will be a big problem for Trump. Democrats, as much as they dislike Pence’s conservative ideology, would no doubt jump for joy if they got Pence instead of Trump. Republicans would rejoice at the prospect of a “normal’ president who might help accomplish their aims.

In other words, if down the road the president continues to unravel, there may be a very big bipartisan consensus to show Trump the door.

It’s not like they’d be getting Clinton; they’d be getting the not erratic, not flashy, not crazy Mike Pence.

We are a long way from any of that, but Trump’s barking up the wrong tree if he thinks the ghost of Hillary Clinton will keep his approval rating high. The American people have moved on from the election. Now the question is whether at some point they’ll move beyond him – into Pence’s waiting arms.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/commentary-unable-to-stand-on-merit-trump-needs-all-the-enemies-he-can-get/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1156405_Trump_96917.jpg-717dd.jpgPresident Trump tweeted more criticism of Sweden on Monday, referring to immigration policies in that country.Mon, 20 Feb 2017 16:39:51 +0000
Kathleen Parker: Nothing fake about ongoing news of an erratic president http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/kathleen-parker-nothing-fake-about-ongoing-news-about-an-erratic-president/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/kathleen-parker-nothing-fake-about-ongoing-news-about-an-erratic-president/#respond Tue, 21 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1156034 To sum up President Trump’s first month in office, he has exceeded everyone’s expectations.

To those who opposed him, he’s worse than expected. To those who supported him, he’s done exactly what he said he would do and more.

And everyone hates the media.

Regarding the observation that the media took Trump literally but not seriously, it would appear that we didn’t take him literally enough.

It bears saying, I suppose, that I’m not a Trump hater, as my ever-vigilant critics insist. I’d like to get on with things – but the right things, in the right ways. Of course, I want the president of the United States to be successful, but correctly. That is, constitutionally, cautiously and considerately. Overall, my hopes and goals for the nation are more or less the same as any other well-adjusted American’s, even if we may differ in the how.

Based on my mailbag, which is as good a barometer as any of how people are thinking, the greatest obstacle before us isn’t this president or that policy but our distrust of each other, especially the public’s toward the media. We scribblers have never been the most popular people on the block. On my first day of work, my editor told me, “If you want friends, you’re in the wrong business.” I’ve accepted that, but I can’t accept the perception – and the president’s mantra – that journalists are the enemy of the people. (Enemies of the people are much, much richer.)

For the record, I’m a paid opinion writer, so to those who write accusing me of being biased and opinionated, I say, “Stay strong.” To the rest, setting aside the death threats and batches of truly revolting insult, I’m reading and taking it all in.

The overarching theme is that no matter what Trump does, he’ll never get a fair shake from me and my ilk. (Other letter writers say, “Thank you.”) The president and his staff just need a little time to adjust, these readers implore. “Give the man a break!” He has a steep learning curve, after all. True, but this is precisely the problem for many veteran journalists, whose careers constitute the equivalent of several advanced degrees in public policy and government along with, cumulatively, several centuries of White House experience.

Me and my ilks, she wrote in a purposely ungrammatical way, get set in our ways, too, and have expectations of a certain level of knowledge, decorum and protocol. The Trump White House is overrun with amateurs and ideologues who are running the country like they’ve been up all night on bath salts.

It doesn’t seem to bother Trump’s fans that he has hit a few snags – court rulings halting his travel restrictions; the dismissal or withdrawal of a top official here and there. Or that there seems to be an irregular relationship between Trump’s and Vladimir Putin’s “people.”

Maybe there was nothing much to the chats between short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russia’s ambassador. Maybe there was no collusion between Trump campaign aides during multiple communications with Russian operatives during the 2016 election.

But given (1) Trump’s solicitousness toward Putin, (2) the administration’s unwillingness to declaim moral equivalence between Russia and the U.S.; combined with (3) Trump’s campaign threat to rethink U.S. involvement with NATO – wouldn’t the media be derelict in their duty if they did not relentlessly scrutinize these issues and events?

There’s nothing “fake” about these reports. And though the media can be accused of vigorously pursuing such stories, even at the risk of appearing “negative,” isn’t this their job? Resistant as I am to the cheap comparison, can you imagine the Republican reaction if this same set of facts emerged during the first month of a Hillary Clinton administration – especially if Trump had won 3 million more votes?

If sometimes the media are wrong, professional mechanisms are in place for correction. People can have faith in this real fact. Not so a White House that doesn’t appear to believe in acknowledging mistakes, much less correcting them. The difference between these two is the difference between reliable sources and propaganda.

There’s room for improvement, and we in the media bear the burden of winning back reader trust. But those who would give Trump the benefit of the doubt – no matter what – should be willing at least to give responsible, proven journalists an open-minded reading and a fair hearing.

Remember, the enemies of freedom always silence the reporters first.

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

kathleenparker@washpost.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/kathleen-parker-nothing-fake-about-ongoing-news-about-an-erratic-president/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1155031_314225-Trump_conf.jpgIn the midst of airing his grievances and defending his administration, President Trump said, "I'm not ranting and raving – I love this."Tue, 21 Feb 2017 12:06:21 +0000
Maine Voices: Aroostook County won’t necessarily strike it rich by mining http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/maine-voices-aroostook-county-wont-necessarily-strike-it-rich-by-mining/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/maine-voices-aroostook-county-wont-necessarily-strike-it-rich-by-mining/#respond Tue, 21 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1156060 As an environmental and natural resource economist, my job is to look at the potential costs and benefits of any proposed legislation. Benefits of mining include the potential jobs and increased tax revenue that could come about from any development. On the cost side, of course, are the possible negative effects on the environment.

Anthony Hourihan, director of land development for Irving (a mining company with interests in Bald Mountain), suggests that allowing this type of mining in Maine could result in 300 direct jobs and 400 indirect jobs, and he projects $126 million in state and local taxes.

Given that the proposed mining area is in Aroostook County, an area of the state that experiences chronic persistent poverty and has higher unemployment rates than the rest of the state, that is no small benefit.

But who will get these jobs? One of the pitfalls of this “potential jobs” argument is just that – the jobs are potential.

There needs to be a match between the skills of the population and those necessary for the jobs.

Phillipe Dolzone, a writer for the Balance, an online financial advice site, writes, “The increasing complexity of the mining process and involved technology nowadays requires a much higher level of skills, including computer literacy … most of the mining groups will more likely hire recently graduated students from high school programs in mining or technical school programs in mine technology.” Currently, Maine has none of these.

Mining companies may find it less costly to import talent from elsewhere rather than foster it locally. That may be a boon to the area, if families come to Aroostook County for the mining jobs and decide to stay. But that possibility depends on how long the mining activity is expected to last at a particular site.

That, in turn, depends on the amount of reserves at the site and the rate of extraction, which in turn is determined by the price of the minerals and the cost of the technology needed to remove them.

So what can a community do to ensure that those promised jobs do, in fact, materialize?

One possibility is a community benefit agreement, much like those required under Maine’s Wind Energy Act, whereby grid-scale wind development projects must demonstrate that they will provide “tangible benefits” to the future.

Typically, community benefit agreements are negotiated between the project developer and a community coalition, and can include local hiring provisions, or establish funds for job training and job readiness programs.

Now to look at the potential costs. Open pit mining, which is the most common method and most likely to be used in Maine, has the potential to expose radioactive elements, and contaminate groundwater and surface water.

As minerals may be present in small quantities in a geographic area, large quantities of ore need to be refined to extract it. Contaminants may be released into the water through separation of the minerals from the surrounding rock, where slurry containing mine tailings, water and pulverized rock is created.

Other potential environmental costs are disruption to ecosystems and endangered species habitat, large-scale water extraction and erosion. Beyond the possible risks to the environment and human health, others have expressed concern that mining activity could affect Maine’s tourism industry.

To minimize these costs (and to maximize net benefit), the tailings or residue from mining activity must be contained and disposed of in a way that doesn’t adversely affect sediments, groundwater or surface water. Much of the waste that is generated is likely to be toxic or radioactive, and so proper disposal is essential.

Likewise, in order to minimize the harm done, proper siting techniques need to be used.

The mine’s footprint, including any access roads, must be sited in such a way that they don’t affect sensitive areas or endangered species habitat, or have the potential to increase flooding, deforestation or erosion.

The latest regulations adopted by the Board of Environmental Protection attempt to resolve some of the shortcomings that had been pointed out last time these regulations were discussed.

However, questions remain. One thing’s for sure, though: With no fewer than 14 bills introduced in the 128th Legislature, the discussion is far from over.

There are potential benefits and costs to mining in Maine. The job of good policy is to ensure that institutions are in place to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs – and ensure an equitable distribution of costs and benefits.

Only then should each proposal be evaluated on its own merits.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/21/maine-voices-aroostook-county-wont-necessarily-strike-it-rich-by-mining/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/Screen-Shot-2017-02-20-at-4.33.07-PM.pngMon, 20 Feb 2017 16:37:13 +0000
Maine Voices: Finding one’s true voice in the most challenging of times http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/20/maine-voices-finding-ones-true-voice-in-the-most-challenging-of-times/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/20/maine-voices-finding-ones-true-voice-in-the-most-challenging-of-times/#respond Mon, 20 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1155798 KENNEBUNKPORT — This has been a painfully reflective time for all of us, and especially for those directly threatened by recent changes in immigration policy.

Over the last several weeks, we have witnessed a seismic shift in American policy and its impact on immigration. President Trump signed the executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States by Foreign Nationals” – or what has also been referred to as the “Muslim ban” – on Jan. 27. That order has since been frozen, but the president has promised to announce its replacement later this week.

Much of what was authorized in the presidential order echoed back to June 1939 when the German ocean liner St. Louis was turned away from the port of Miami. The ship was forced to return to Germany, where nearly 250 of the 937 passengers died in the Holocaust. Similarly, the order conjures up traumatic memories of the 1942 presidential order that forced Japanese-Americans to leave their homes and relocate into detention camps.

With the possibility that our borders will again be closed to these new immigrants hoping for a better life, we can only surmise what their futures might be as they wait, feeling powerless and without hope.

These shameful acts from our past and the one we are now experiencing have short- and long-term impact. They create fear and uncertainty; perpetuate stereotypes and false assumptions about faiths, people and nations, and impart legacies of historic trauma perpetrated by a nation that prides itself on “liberty and justice for all.”

Immigrants come to our country to escape present-day violence and degradation. Many experience historical trauma that is transmitted across generations, through unrelenting brutality perpetrated against them by people who have forgotten or do not know why they hate. The wounds of trauma affect emotional, physical and psychological well-being across ages and groups.

We witness its effects in programs such as the Center for Grieving Children in Portland, where youth enact the unresolved grief and pain of their families as well as their own. At the same time, these children and families testify to their resilience. They teach us the power of culture, custom and connection.

The Portland group Kesho Wazo, a grass-roots ensemble of Portland’s multicultural youth, are making efforts to find commonalities and bridge gaps of misunderstanding across cultures and faiths. Like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, they view every person as a vital part of our “national fabric.”

They bring people of all ages together to dispel myths and build alliances between people; those who speak languages other than English and dress to custom. They are welcoming but at the same time they ask us to examine our assumptions and mistrust of others; to learn with and from each other to broaden understanding, combat discrimination and create a culture of inclusion for all people.

For now, broad-scale mandates are most notably affecting Maine’s immigrants and refugees. But as history tells us, any group or population may be subject to direct and indirect discrimination at any given time. As a social worker for 40 years, I know that the current mandates and rapid-fire changes shake everyone to the core.

As a profession, social workers have an ethical obligation to combat discrimination and work with people and populations subjected to hate, intolerance and inequity. However, I would argue that as citizens of the world, we all have a moral obligation to refute such actions.

We are responsible for the safety and quality of life of this nation. Freedom allows us to speak our mind, empowerment permits us to have choices – freedom and choices now denied to one population by the recent policy mandate. When we do not use our voice alone or collectively, we are equally culpable for acts against humanity.

The values and tenets of the social work profession compel me to challenge contradiction and to advocate publicly for those who are excluded – those who may not be able to speak for themselves and those who need support to find their voices. Compassion, tolerance and kindness, however, cut across job roles, as do curiosity, understanding and humility. Action begins with a strong voice, one that resonates with all of us.

 

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/20/maine-voices-finding-ones-true-voice-in-the-most-challenging-of-times/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/Rally.jpgPORTLAND, ME - FEBRUARY 3: Portland High School senior Awo Ahmed, center, joins with fellow on the school steps on Friday afternoon during a protest in response to an alleged racially charged incident between four black students and three white teens last week. About two hundred students from Portland High School and Baxter Academy participated in the march around the school grounds. A similar event was held simultaneously at Deering High School. (Staff photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)Mon, 20 Feb 2017 14:59:38 +0000
Our View: The power of the presidency has ebbed and flowed over time http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/20/our-view-power-of-the-president-has-changed-over-time/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/20/our-view-power-of-the-president-has-changed-over-time/#respond Mon, 20 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1156008 Abraham Lincoln saved the Union. George Washington was the father of his country. Franklin D. Roosevelt marshaled the power of the federal government to rescue a nation from economic depression and sent it off to war.

That’s why historians consistently rank them as our top three presidents. A recent survey of historians by C-SPAN is no different.

The ranking at the bottom are also consistent.

New Hampshire’s pro-slavery Democrat Franklin Pierce (41st) has not seen his reputation improve over time. Neither has Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson (42nd), who was impeached for interfering with congressional attempts to protect the rights of former slaves in early days of the Reconstruction. And the perennial last-place finisher, James Buchanan, failed to keep the country from falling into civil war, which is why he’s 43rd out of 43 on the list.

We remember them all on Presidents Day, including the current inhabitant of the White House, Donald Trump. It’s far too soon to know where he’ll end up in the rankings between Lincoln and Buchanan, but the perspective of the historians is good to keep in mind during what looks like a period of upheaval.

One thing worth noting is that, for most of us now living, the idea of the presidency was formed during what the historians consider the “golden age” of the office, from 1933 to 1969.

The five presidents in that period – Franklin Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson – all make it into the top 10. One more top 10 president, Ronald Reagan, was elected just about a decade later. We would likely have a very different expectation for the office if we all had been alive in the days of Rutherford B. Hayes (32nd, according to the historians), Chester A. Arthur (35th) or Warren G. Harding (40th).

Since the 1930s, we have seen more power concentrated in the hands of the executive, and the results have not always been good for the country.

Congress has not declared war since 1941, although American troops have been sent to battle in every decade since. Recently, Barack Obama (ranked 12th in the latest survey) used executive orders to achieve policy goals denied him by Congress. Now we see President Trump undoing those orders while issuing his own, while apparently ignoring a legislative agenda.

We have also seen other institutions rise up and stop a president when his use of power goes too far. The Supreme Court overturned key parts of Roosevelt’s agenda, and when he responded by trying to pack the court with friendlier judges, the Senate stood in his way, effectively ending the New Deal.

When the administration of Richard Nixon (28th on the list) was found abusing the power of the government to spy on and sabotage political “enemies,” the courts, Congress and the free press took actions that forced him to resign.

We will see whether the Trump presidency is one in which more power is consolidated in the executive branch, or if other institutions regain the authority they used to have. When it comes to the checks and balances of our government, change is the only constant.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/20/our-view-power-of-the-president-has-changed-over-time/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1156008_White_House_Tours_84892.j2-e1487596437645.jpgAll presidents live in the White House, but the amount of power that they wield changes over time, driven by the chief executive's ability to work with the other institutions of government.Mon, 20 Feb 2017 08:12:10 +0000
Maine Observer: Perhaps a turnip, but memories are sweet of Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/maine-observer-perhaps-a-turnip-but-memories-are-sweet/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/maine-observer-perhaps-a-turnip-but-memories-are-sweet/#respond Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1155600 The other day I was explaining my relationship to Maine, and the person I was talking to said, “Oh, you were a turnip.”

“What is that?” I asked. “Oh,” he said, “a turnip is a person who turns up every summer and goes away in the winter.” In many respects that is true, but it is not the whole picture.

My grandmother and grandfather owned a small farm in Hollis and my mother lived there all year when she was small. In fact, she started school in Hollis.

Because the winters were very harsh, they moved to the Boston area for the winters when she was in elementary school. Then they came to Maine and the farm in the summers and brought all the young cousins for a fresh air experience.

After my mother married my father, her parents lived with us in the winter in Texas and we came to Maine and the farm in the summer. While we were there, we attended Ladies Aid picnics at Sebago Lake and Hill’s Beach. We went to programs at the Grange Hall downtown and attended the Baptist Church in the old white building in the center of town. We walked to town on the railroad tracks to buy penny candy and passed the box factory on our way. We knew when the train was passing through town and called it “The Tunaville Trolley.”

Much of this is gone now, but we remember those days with pleasure.

One year, when I was going to graduate school in Boston, a friend lent me her VW Beetle for the summer. I drove it one weekend to Maine and it broke down in Hollis. I called the local garage and a truck came and examined the car and said all I needed was more water in the battery.

When I offered to pay him, he asked who I was. I explained that my mother was a Newcomb and my grandparents Bert and Bertha. He was amazed and said he used to play cards with my grandparents. He would not let me pay because he had such fun with them.

On old maps, I can see that Danforth Newcomb owned land in Hollis in the century before last. He owned all the land surrounding the old farmhouse. Now the only land my family owns is held by my brother and is the back lot in view of the Saco River.

I am the only member of my family who lives in New England. The rest reside in the South or Canada. We live where we have gotten jobs, a result of marriages and lucky coincidences and decisions. Just as my parents went from the Boston area to Texas and then North Carolina, where my father’s jobs took us, we children have moved in separate directions and followed our own paths.

If you happen to mention Hollis to any of the five of us, we immediately think of the dairy farm down the road, fishing in the Saco, blueberry picking after the fire of 1947 and swimming in Ossipee Lake. We have Maine in our blood and our memories.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/maine-observer-perhaps-a-turnip-but-memories-are-sweet/feed/ 0 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 21:18:17 +0000
Alan Caron: Forget the fear and try to focus on the good http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/alan-caron-try-to-focus-on-the-good/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/alan-caron-try-to-focus-on-the-good/#respond Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1155607 We’ve gone from hope to fear in America, and it isn’t our finest hour. Millions of Americans checked the box for Donald Trump as president out of fear of a changing world, fear of people from away, fear about their jobs and anger at a government that has lost touch with ordinary Americans.

Now, by electing him, their anxiety has infected millions of other Americans who fear what they’ve done. President Trump’s first month in office has only made matters worse.

We’re in the early stages of learning something important about our country and our future. Decisions made out of fear and anger only lead to the spiraling growth of both – and then to bad decisions and eventual self-destruction.

Trump is a bad decision made out of anger. That, in itself, is not fatal to the country. We’ve been electing incompetent people throughout our 250-year history and have somehow continued to move forward. But Trump is another matter, and it goes beyond mere incompetence. He’s a pubescent, insecure, delusional and reckless character who likes dictators too much.

The good news is that in times of national crisis in America’s past, when we’ve desperately needed real leadership, an uplifting vision and a steady hand, we’ve always managed to find the collective wisdom we’d been searching for. Out of crisis, we’ve elevated people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.

It is in times like this that the seeds of the next generation of American leadership grow and sprout and begin to usher in a more hopeful, more wise and more effective future.

But to get there, Americans are going to need to reach out to others who aren’t exactly like them and build a new national unity that extends beyond partisan and class divisions, a unity that includes not only Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton, but also Bernie Sanders supporters who demanded more change or felt confident in voting for other candidates because Clinton seemed like a shoo-in.

It has to include those who voted for Trump to send a message to Washington because they believed the pollsters who said Trump couldn’t win. The worried blue-collar workers who are being displaced by machines and company-friendly trade deals. And the millions of independent-minded Americans who consider themselves socially progressive but don’t see taxes and government programs as the answer to all our problems.

Only that kind of unity can reverse the country’s drift into anarchy and even authoritarianism. Only that kind of unity can help reinvent government, rethink old assumptions, rebuild friendships and clean up the mess when Trump is gone.

We need to rekindle our long history of hope, and we can start by remembering to celebrate the light, even in the darkest moments.

Here are some of the lights I’m celebrating these days.

• Millions of Americans are resisting Trump, each in their own way. Some are demonstrating. Some are organizing at the local level. Others are speaking out, filing lawsuits, contributing funds, exposing fake news and working to better understand our history and the politics of extremism.

• The courts are doing what they are supposed to do, which is to hold steady against tyranny when partisan passions combine with an indifference to our constitutional system of checks and balances.

• The free press, in the face of unprecedented scorn and abuse, is continuing to raise the tough questions and to do its best to provide the American people with the information that we so desperately need in times like this.

On a more personal note, I’m grateful that 350 people gathered in Bangor recently to focus on the future of rural Maine and how to rebuild its communities and economy. The room was full of positive energy and practical examples of people building new businesses, reinventing older ones and making new alliances.

I’m grateful to all the people in our community who volunteer for nonprofit organizations, churches, civic groups and town committees. Who protect our parks, wildlife and waterways. And who organize sports activities for our kids or make the library a place of marvelous adventures.

I’m grateful every day for the Belovable One (aka my wife), who doesn’t have to commute to a job in Boston anymore and is now focusing her considerable talents and energy toward helping the people of this region.

Finally, I’m grateful for the Little Dude (aka our 11-year-old), who is becoming a little man this year and who loves coaching and teaching basketball to kindergartners and first-graders.

These are the kind of people who are doing the real work of “making America great again.”

Alan Caron is the owner of Caron Communications and the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” and “Reinventing Maine Government.” He can be contacted at:

alancaroninmaine@gmail.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/alan-caron-try-to-focus-on-the-good/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/03/Columnist-Caron_thumb.jpgFri, 17 Feb 2017 21:16:20 +0000
Cynthia Dill: Planned Parenthood is almost as popular as Sen. Susan Collins http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/cynthia-dill-sen-susan-collins-and-planned-parenthood/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/cynthia-dill-sen-susan-collins-and-planned-parenthood/#respond Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1155671 You could say the relationship between Sen. Susan Collins and Planned Parenthood is like that between a clownfish and a sea anemone. Despite the exchange of an occasional sting or slight, they thrive and strive in symbiosis for women’s reproductive rights as the water around them grows more murky and toxic every day. Moderate Republicans face extinction and women’s rights are threatened, yet Collins’ star continues to rise and Planned Parenthood is stronger than ever. The paradox is in the numbers, as is the challenge.

Collins has been twice ranked the second-most popular senator in America and has an approval rating of 79 percent, on top of being re-elected in 2014 with close to 70 percent of the vote – without an endorsement by Planned Parenthood. Compare that with a 19 percent approval rating for Congress as a whole and the fate of moderate Republicans around the country ousted by the right-wing party fringe.

Planned Parenthood is 36 years older and almost as popular as Collins. The nonprofit organization that provides health care to 2.5 million people every year enjoys support from 70 percent of the population across the state, according to polling, including from people who voted for President Trump.

“This election went one way, but it was obviously not a mandate, and it was certainly not a mandate on repealing women’s health and rights,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told me Friday morning.

It makes dollars and sense that a majority of Americans support Planned Parenthood and want the federal government to continue reimbursing it to the tune of $550 million per year for providing life-saving services. It’s a fiscally conservative program. Access to contraception and education reduces unwanted pregnancies and therefore the number of abortions. The fiscal cost of providing preventive care is substantially less than treating illness. Teenagers who know about sexually transmitted diseases are less likely to contract them and need treatment. Defunding Planned Parenthood is like defunding the local fire department. Sounds good until it’s your house up in flames.

The budget reconciliation bill to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood, as well as the resolution voted on by the House to let states do it – a resolution, by the way, supported by Rep. Bruce Poliquin – are not like votes to defund all the local fire departments, though, just those departments that place the aspirations of the homeowner over others wishing to control her. “Defunding” Planned Parenthood means one of its doctors who screens a patient for cancer will not get reimbursed by Medicaid, but another doctor across the street or 100 miles down the road screening for cancer will get reimbursed.

A wildly popular and cost-effective health clinic that educates men and women, treats disease and prevents unwanted pregnancy, thereby reducing the number of abortions, would be supported by the people in Washington sent there to represent them, one might think – but the elephant in the room is the elephant in the room.

Collins is one of only two pro-choice Republican senators out of 52 who will cast their votes one way or the other, with only a simple majority needed to pass. Her vote is important, but that doesn’t mean she is or created the problem. In 2015, when the Senate passed a budget bill that eliminated federal money for Planned Parenthood and also repealed Obamacare, despite Collins attempt to fix it, the measure passed and was vetoed by President Obama. Another Republican senator who voted along the same lines, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, lost his seat the next year.

What’s past is prologue, and now there are even more Republicans. Even if Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska vote against the budget reconciliation bill that includes the repeal of Obamacare and defunding of Planned Parenthood, or a standalone bill of the same sort, a tie will go to Vice President Mike Pence, who as governor of Indiana crusaded for the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

The problem is that even though an overwhelming majority of people support Planned Parenthood, its mission and a woman’s legal right to self-determination, the majority of members of Congress do not. Unlike in 2015, when President Obama was a backstop, though, now we have Trump, who won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote by 3 million votes and got only 42 percent of the women’s vote.

And then there are these numbers: Women are the majority in America, and 70 percent of all people support the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade that a constitutionally protected right of privacy extends to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. It’s the law of the land, largely supported by its inhabitants, but we are ruled by a White House, Senate, House and a majority of state legislatures made up of people for whom pregnancy is an impossibility.

Any law that defunds Planned Parenthood, either by itself or with the repeal of Obamacare, will go to a Supreme Court that is now evenly divided between four so-called liberals and four conservatives. Collins and Planned Parenthood are in agreement that tying the two issues together is problematic. One reason may be that Justice Anthony Kennedy – one of the so-called liberals – voted with the minority in 2012 that Obamacare, a law that also provides huge health benefits to women, is unconstitutional. He may welcome another opportunity to strike down the law regardless of any collateral damage to Planned Parenthood.

Like the clownfish and sea anemone, Collins and Planned Parenthood are different animals in an intricate relationship that if managed properly can provide mutual protection from predators.

Correction: This column was updated at 9:58 a.m. on Feb. 19 to correct the amount of federal funds Planned Parenthood receives per year. It is about $550 million.

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

dillesquire@gmail.com

Twitter: dillesquire

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/cynthia-dill-sen-susan-collins-and-planned-parenthood/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/02/20150928cynthiadill0032-e1456164666846.jpgPORTLAND, ME - SEPTEMBER 28: Cynthia Dill, a new columnist, was photographed on Monday, September 28, 2015. (Photo by Yoon S. Byun/Staff Photographer)Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:58:20 +0000
Maine Voices: Russians may have more faith in American democracy than Americans do http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/maine-voices-russians-may-have-more-faith-in-american-democracy-than-americans-do/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/maine-voices-russians-may-have-more-faith-in-american-democracy-than-americans-do/#respond Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1155233 NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia — Throughout the 25 years I have lived in Siberia, people have turned to me as a translator, not of English, but of America – and never more so than now. From my university students to the Kazakh fast-food cashier at the mall, they say just “Trump?” hoping I can provide a translation that will reinforce their desire for something positive to happen in the U.S.-Russia relationship.

For many Americans, 2008 was the “hope” election. The unexpected victory of Donald Trump turned 2016 into the “hope” election for many Russians. Not because they like Trump – I have not met anyone who is confident this is a good thing – but because the alternative was frightening.

The increasing demonization of Russia reached a crescendo in 2014, when Hillary Clinton compared Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine to Adolf Hitler’s in the 1930s. Most Russians think of Putin as the man who stopped the social chaos and economic devastation that characterized newly democratic Russia in the 1990s.

Equating their president with the man responsible for killing 27 million of their relatives and friends (including Putin’s older brother) was the step too far, especially since it was said amid NATO movements best explained by Russian history scholar Stephen Cohen: “There has never been such an amassing of hostile military force on Russia’s Western frontiers since June 1941, when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.”

The hope that Trump represents came with his simple question, “Wouldn’t it be good if we could get along with Russia?” Yes, as his tweets go beyond grudges and domestic affairs, concerns are growing. One colleague was particularly disturbed by Trump’s comments on international institutions: “This is very dangerous – you cannot rebuild these institutions in a day.”

Still, it appears Russians have more faith in American democracy than Americans do these days. Rhetoric, policies and the mystifying Electoral College system aside, the outsider defeated the establishment candidate. To Russians, that possibility is the heart of the democratic promise and something to be celebrated.

My worries about the U.S.-Russian relationship started long before Trump rode down the escalator into history. The disconnect between reality and the impression people in America have about life in Russia has gone from surprising to troubling and has now reached the stage of alarming.

Of course, bad things happen here in Russia and there is injustice, but these co-exist with my work at a top university where I have total freedom in my classroom. Similar to schools in America, my eighth-grader was taught how to protest in her civics class, she was against animal cruelty, her best friend was pro-feminism and a boy was against movies because they are too expensive.

Thousands of people in my city recently applied those skills in minus-20 temperatures to protest an increase in utility rates. Twenty-five years into one of the newest democracies and it is not perfect, but more people are active than ever before, pushing for the same things people in America are fighting for: access to good health care, education and jobs.

Equally disorienting is the tone and certainty that define discourse on all sides of all issues in America today. The anger, sarcasm and meanness expressed by everyone toward anyone they don’t agree with or who has made choices they don’t understand are as shocking to me as the title “President” before the name “Trump.”

Our ability to listen, respect differences and work with people who we don’t agree with – that is what made America special. Take that away, and the meaning of America is lost: Intolerance contradicts everything developing democracies believe to be part of the essential idea, something to strive for.

Sometimes being an American here is a burden, especially on trains, when I’d like to rest but people hear the accent and want me to tell them about America. However, my sense of responsibility to live up to their image of America and chat has never gone unrewarded.

Not long ago I shared a coupe with a woman who was only 59 but had no teeth and a bad heart and was a cancer survivor. Born in a village, she spent her life working in a factory. Her doctor said the 30-hour train ride was too dangerous, but she had to do it in order to take care of her grandson so her daughter-in-law could go back to work. As we neared the station, her son called her cellphone, confirming they’d meet her and asking how she felt. She answered, “I have lived to spend time with an American, I never dreamed that would happen, I am fine.”

We need to remember that our great burden as Americans is to live up to the idealized image that many people around the world still have of us. They are watching and hoping.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/maine-voices-russians-may-have-more-faith-in-american-democracy-than-americans-do/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1155233_Russia_Trump_Inauguration3.jpgTraditional nesting dolls depicting Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are seen for sale in St. Petersburg, Russia. Trump's election is seen in Russia as a victory for the outsider and something to be celebrated.Sat, 18 Feb 2017 17:11:37 +0000
Our View: Hunger in Maine shows no signs of relenting http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/our-view-hunger-in-maine-shows-no-signs-of-relenting/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/our-view-hunger-in-maine-shows-no-signs-of-relenting/#respond Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1155346 Good Shepherd Food Bank, the state’s primary supplier of charity food pantries, has grown tremendously in recent years. And that is a shame.

Designed for emergencies only, the food pantry system is now a regular source of sustenance for tens of thousands of Mainers. It’s like running your house on a generator: costly, inefficient and utterly unnecessary when there is a better way.

That better way is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, which provides direct hunger relief to the people who need it the most, allowing recipients to shop for food the same way everyone else does.

But it has been the policy of the LePage administration to cut as many people as possible from the federally funded food stamps program, under the premise that the benefits keep “able-bodied” Mainers from looking for work.

However, the people dropped from the rolls are not finding work any faster, and many of the Mainers the administration purports to focus on – children, the elderly and the disabled – still struggle to get enough food. As a result, while the hunger that erupted during the Great Recession recedes elsewhere, it has become a way of life in Maine.

UNRELENTING HUNGER

The percentage of people who struggle with hunger nationally rose as high as 14.6 percent in 2008, when the recession left so many vulnerable Americans reeling and seeking assistance for the first time.

That number fell to 12.7 percent in 2015, but in Maine, where the economic recovery has lagged, the rate remains stubborn at 15.8 percent, and as high as 17 percent in some counties. Worse, Maine is third in the nation in “very low food security,” the percentage of residents who frequently skip meals because they cannot afford them.

Overall, one in six Mainers, and one in four children, struggle with hunger.

Who are these Mainers? They live next door to you and sit next to your kids in school. They are retirees on a fixed income, people with diagnosed and undiagnosed disabilities, laid-off workers struggling to find their next job and full-time workers making less than a livable wage.

And, according to a new survey done on behalf of Good Shepherd and Preble Street, they rely heavily on food pantries. Of the more than 2,000 Mainers surveyed in all 16 counties, 86 percent use a food pantry at least once a month, including 44 percent who use one at least every two weeks.

That’s despite the fact that more than half also receive SNAP, showing just how inadequate those monthly benefits are – about $1.40 a meal. The vast majority of recipients say SNAP runs out in two weeks or less, and most say even with all the help, they are making choices between food, heat and health care by the end of the month.

And it’s getting worse: 59 percent of the respondents said they use a pantry more than in the past.

That is as clear an indictment of Maine’s anti-hunger efforts as it gets.

POLICIES MAKE IT WORSE

So how did the LePage administration respond to this growing hunger crisis? In the last two years, it has implemented for the SNAP program a three-month time limit for childless, able-bodied Mainers ages 18 to 59, as well as an asset test for some recipients, refusing to apply for a federal waiver that would exempt Maine from both.

The idea is that taxpayers should not buy food for Mainers who are healthy enough to work, and that by providing that food for free, SNAP is incentivizing unemployment.

But taking away a person’s food stamps does not make a job appear. It doesn’t fix their car so they can get to an job interview or training session. It simply adds to their already considerable stress and leaves them hungry, making it more difficult to pull themselves out of poverty.

More likely, they will continue to spiral downward, until homelessness or health problems make them more of a burden than $1.40 a meal.

The fact is, most working-age SNAP recipients are off the program in under a year. LePage’s policies just stunt their recovery, making it less likely they’ll get back on their feet. They are not reducing hunger, just shifting it to a much more inefficient and ineffective system.

The asset test, too, puts struggling Mainers in a bind, asking them to use their meager savings before receiving benefits, making it more likely they’ll need more costly help in the future.

And though those policies were aimed at saving resources for the most vulnerable, they are clearly not helping: 87 percent of households using food pantries include a child, senior or person with a disability.

No, hunger in Maine is not caused by laziness or public generosity. It is a byproduct of a stagnant, low-wage economy intersecting with the stresses of poverty. Lack of transportation, the high cost of living and health care, and insufficient retirement funds conspire to put Mainers in so deep a hole they can’t get out. Gov. Paul LePage has responded by digging it deeper.

We don’t expect LePage to change his tune. But if legislators don’t go back to their districts and see hunger, they’re not looking hard enough. And if they don’t deal directly with the realities of hunger, they are letting their constituents down.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/our-view-hunger-in-maine-shows-no-signs-of-relenting/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1155346_edi.0219.jpgJessica Woods, a volunteer at Good Shepherd Food Bank's Auburn warehouse, packs bags for Maine seniors who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Over half of the Mainers who use food pantries also get SNAP, a new survey has found.Fri, 17 Feb 2017 18:08:57 +0000
Bill Nemitz: Think millennials are lazy? Meet the guy who helps keep Maine’s roads clear http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/nemitz-maine-millennials-already-a-part-of-making-states-engine-run/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/nemitz-maine-millennials-already-a-part-of-making-states-engine-run/#respond Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1155855 The next time someone complains that young adults can’t get out of Maine fast enough, that there’s nothing to keep them here, that too many of them are more interested in whining than in working, refer them to Joe Somerset.

“People say we millennials don’t work. We’re lazy. We just want everything handed to us. And for a portion of the population, that might be true,” Joe said last week during a break from his job at Hydraulic Hose & Assembly Inc. in Gorham. “But at the same time, there’s just as many of us out there that are busting our backs, earning a blue-collar living.”

A week ago this evening, while snowplow drivers far and wide went about beating back the second of three storms that dumped 3 feet of snow or more on much of Maine, Joe grabbed his sleeping bag, hopped in his pickup and headed for work.

Sunday is normally the one day of the week he can call his own. But heavy snow means an armada of snow plows on the road – each relying on a maze of hydraulic lines to maneuver the massive blades up and down, side to side … and whatever you do, don’t lose track of that wing plow.

Problem is, hydraulic lines break. And when they do, a snowplow is essentially kaput until a new line, with precisely the right fittings at each end, can be fabricated — not tomorrow, not next week, but right now.

Joe Somerset fixes a broken hose at Hydraulic Hose & Assembly. He gets plenty of work when snow plows are running around the clock and says he gets his work ethic from his father, who rises at 2 a.m. to drive a dairy truck. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Enter Joe Somerset.

He’s 22. He lives with his parents in Buxton in the same house where his mother grew up.

But when necessary, he sleeps on a cot in the loft overlooking his workbench at Hydraulic Hose & Assembly. Or tries to sleep, as was the case last Sunday night.

“I was up for like 31 hours,” Joe recalled. “I came in, I did some stuff around the shop, I made some hoses. By the time I climb upstairs into my cot and started to fall asleep around one o’clock in the morning, the phone’s ringing to come back down, make some more hoses, let the guy in who’s come to pick them up. So I might have maybe caught 20 or 30 minutes of sleep that night … but not really.”

Much has been made in recent years about the shortage of able-bodied young Mainers who can drive the state’s economy forward while the rest of us grow older and less productive.

Many say, quite correctly, that the state’s future hinges on the energy and talent of immigrants and young adults who come here from away searching for quality of life – offsetting the steady drain of native Mainers who vamoose upon reaching adulthood and never look back.

Overlooked in all that hand-wringing, though, are the young men and women who are born here, grow up here and actually stay here because, well, they know a good thing when they see it.

Joe is one of those people.

“I probably will never leave Maine,” he said. “I love this state.”

He first went to work when he was a 14-year-old at Bonny Eagle High School. John and Ramona Snell, owners of Snell Family Farm in Buxton, knew from the start that this kid was a keeper.

Eight years later, he still is — in addition to his full-time job making hydraulic hose assemblies, Joe spends as many as 30 hours a week with the Snells, tilling the fields, planting and harvesting and, of course, fixing the farm equipment when it breaks down.

“He is energetic and ambitious, determined to get ahead and not expecting anyone to hand him things in life,” Ramona Snell said in an email last week. “He’s immensely helpful to us.”

Joe Somerset’s work gloves wait for him at Hydraulic Hose & Assembly. Somerset, 22, works there full-time and also works at Snelling’s Farm. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Then there’s the carpentry, roofing and other construction work Joe does with his dad, Mike Somerset, who rises around 2 a.m. each day to drive a truck for Oakhurst Dairy.

“That’s where I get my work ethic from,” Joe said. “My dad just drives, drives, drives, drives and drives. He’s always working.”

To Joe, hard work is not something to be endured. It’s a way of life — sometimes for money, sometimes not.

Just last week, shortly after he got out his towing straps and yanked two vehicles out of the snowbank on River Road in Buxton, Joe logged onto Facebook.

There he saw people complaining that the school bus stops hadn’t been adequately cleared of snow, forcing their kids to wait for the bus in the street.

“Well, none of these people who are complaining about the bus stop not being shoveled out went out there and shoveled out a bus stop,” he noted. “They just complain about it. You’re going to complain about it, but you’re going to let your kid stand in the street?”

Ditto for the wags who see a fire crew out there shoveling out hydrants while the fire engine idles nearby.

“People say, ‘Hey that’s a waste of taxpayer dollars to be driving around in a half-million dollar firetruck,'” Joe said. ‘Well, it’s right across from your driveway. Why don’t you go and shovel out the fire hydrant?”

Shaking his head, he grinned out from under his thick red beard. “I think we do live in a world where people might complain a little too much.”

A registered Republican, Joe’s too busy to get bogged down in the red-hot rhetoric now radiating from Washington, D.C. There’s too much “pissing and moaning” on both sides, he thinks, and not enough energy being put into “coming up with actual solutions to the problems.”

Little wonder that more than once over the years, people have told Joe he’s “an old soul.”

Maybe that’s because he’s teaching himself the art of blacksmithing (in his spare time) or dreams of one day owning a chunk of land and starting his own farm.

Or perhaps it means that this rural millennial who last week spent the wee hours doing his part to keep the plows running – the Snells now call him “an unsung hero in the snow removal business” – embodies the fabric of Maine.

Unlike so many of his peers, there’s simply no place on Earth he’d rather be.

Joe Somerset wipes the oil from his hands after fixing a hose at Hydraulic Hose & Assembly. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

“For the ones who stay, you kind of grow up and realize one day that your pickup truck doesn’t run off hopes and dreams,” he said. “So you start working and you realize, ‘Hey, it ain’t bad here. I’m making a living. I’m not living paycheck to paycheck. I’ve got gas in my tank, a roof over my head, food in my belly.'”

Break time was over. Time to get back to work.

“For some people, they realize that’s enough,” Joe said. “They don’t need to run away to a different state to find that. It’s here.”

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/nemitz-maine-millennials-already-a-part-of-making-states-engine-run/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1155855_662606-20170216_Joe-Somer3.jpgJoe Somerset in the workshop at Hydraulic Hose and Assemblies. Somerset makes hydraulic hoses and has been working on a farm since high school. He usually clocks somewhere between 60-70 hours of work a week.Sun, 19 Feb 2017 16:41:03 +0000
Another View: Dill’s refugee column shows the flaws in how we train lawyers http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/another-view-dills-refugee-column-shows-the-flaws-in-how-we-train-lawyers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/another-view-dills-refugee-column-shows-the-flaws-in-how-we-train-lawyers/#respond Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1155598 If the 32 column inches of Cynthia Dill’s Feb. 12 column regarding President Trump’s executive order on immigration were an appellate court opinion, 31.5 inches of it would be dictum (“bull slinging,” in legal parlance) and the remaining half-inch the substance – her single point being that she’d rather have courts deciding national security issues than the president.

Given the nature of American legal education, this is not surprising. Ever since law school dean Christopher Columbus Langdell instituted the Socratic case method of instruction at Harvard in 1870, which was eventually aped by every other American law school, lawyers have learned the law not by studying the Constitution or statutes enacted by legislatures or Congress, but rather by studying appellate court decisions, in which judges determine the law.

One of the few things I remember from my law school days were the first words of our civil procedure professor in our first class, asking “Ms. A” (bad luck to be top of the alphabet): “What was the holding in Pennoyer v. Neff?” And, so it went for three years. Constitutional law wasn’t even a first-year course, and studying basic statutory law was viewed as being unintellectual. Nothing could be more black-and-white clear than the language of Title 8, U.S. Code Section 1182(f), which states: “… the President … may suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate,” language both ignored and uncited by the self-styled “smarter than us” judges of the 9th Circuit.

It’s the legal elite giving the middle finger to the Constitution and its grant of presidential preeminence on national security issues and to Congress and the American people in their disdain for the plain meaning of words.

Middle finger also extended, Cynthia Dill concurs.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/19/another-view-dills-refugee-column-shows-the-flaws-in-how-we-train-lawyers/feed/ 0 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 21:19:01 +0000
The humble Farmer: Bowdoin educator comes looking for a few good stories http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/18/the-humble-farmer-bowdoin-educator-comes-looking-for-a-few-good-stories/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/18/the-humble-farmer-bowdoin-educator-comes-looking-for-a-few-good-stories/#respond Sat, 18 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1155424 Unless I haven’t been paying attention, Charlie Wing’s latest book is “Salt in Their Veins.” Although it contains stories about everyday Maine people, it could not be called “Quirky Characters” because Steve Bither and Tim Sample had already used up that title.

You’ve read books by Charlie Wing. Folks say that he taught physics at Bowdoin for years. The way I heard it, someone suggested that it would be fun to see what would happen if Bowdoin professors were to teach one course in something that they knew absolutely nothing about. Professor Wing claimed to know nothing when it came to repairing things in the home, so, being a genius blessed with an insatiable appetite to educate, his research enabled him not only to teach a course on how things work but also to write enough books on the topic to sink a dory.

“Salt in Their Veins” is different, however, and Charlie didn’t actually write it any more than I write newspaper columns. He just knocked about southern Maine and wrote down what people said. Perhaps the greatest difficulty in writing a book about Maine is in finding 40 natives who will admit that they have nothing better to do than peel back the cap on a cold one, and talk.

How can you improve on ordinary everyday Maine coast conversation? When Charlie asked Carroll “Bud” Dowling how he was able to go out in his barn and make a submarine that would go down 1,400 feet, Mr. Dowling said, “Common sense.”

Tim Sample, who has lived more lives than a tomcat, told about the time he worked on a lobster boat and why things had to be done in a certain way: “The bottom line was that if you didn’t do it that way bad things might happen, like somebody might die.”

I can’t remember how I happen to be on a first-name basis with Professor Wing, but when I was setting up my solar radiant heated cellar/office, he was one of several heating gurus who came by and told me how to insulate it. And here’s an important thing you should know about Charlie Wing. Instead of telling you how to “calculate the R-value of a multilayered installation,” he comes right out and says, “Nail the board to the wall.”

Charlie told me he was going to interview some Maine people and put their stories into a book. He asked me to suggest several friends who would be willing to talk with him. Other than myself, the only other St. George characters to make it to the printer were the colorful Port Clyde artist, Wilder Oakes, and my late friend, the witty Timmy “Peeler Boy” Holmes.

If you have ever had your words recorded for a book or newspaper article, you know it isn’t long before you wonder if you should have said this or that. And, even worse, your mind suddenly overflows with countless bits of insightful wisdom that you wish had come to mind when you were waxing eloquent.

For example, here was my chance to see immortalized in “Salt in Their Veins” the fact that young people cannot possibly know that if you are madly in love with someone who won’t even give you the time of day, you should not get religion or slash your wrists in despair. There is a very good chance that in 40 or 50 years, whatever remains of your dearly beloved will turn up on your doorstep. And if you peep out from behind your curtain, you will see nothing that will inspire you to open the door.

Why didn’t I tell the world that I can swallow my six morning pills at one time? This is more than a remarkable achievement when you consider that one of my newest medications is a fish-oil pill about the size of an Austrian sausage. When pill swallowing becomes a regular event in the Senior Olympics, I will stand proud when it comes time to represent my country.

A stickler for accuracy, Charlie was kind enough to let me fact-check the chapter he wrote about me. This is a courtesy I did not afford him with the present piece. So if I said something here that is not true – or in some way offended your cousin or Great-Uncle Alvah – please remember that this isn’t a book. Anything printed in a newspaper or said at a news conference is off the record.

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

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/18/the-humble-farmer-bowdoin-educator-comes-looking-for-a-few-good-stories/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/04/RobertSkoglund.jpgFri, 17 Feb 2017 19:57:20 +0000
Another View: Trump blunders on Mideast peace proposal http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/18/another-view-trump-blunders-on-mideast-peace-proposal/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/18/another-view-trump-blunders-on-mideast-peace-proposal/#respond Sat, 18 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1155434 President Trump on Wednesday casually demolished a pillar of U.S. foreign policy under both Democratic and Republican administrations: the belief that the way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is for Israel to live side by side in peace with an independent Palestinian state.

That so-called two-state solution obviously faces formidable obstacles; negotiations are virtually moribund at the moment. But unless and until someone comes up with a better plan, the effort to create two separate states is the only conceivable way to preserve Israel as a democratic and a Jewish state and to allow Palestinians to govern themselves. Neither side will agree to less.

Trump claims to know better.

“I’m looking at two states and one state, and I like the one both parties like,” he said at a news conference as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looked on. “I can live with either one.”

To someone utterly ignorant of the history and politics of the Middle East, Trump’s comment might have sounded refreshingly flexible and open-minded. But the idea that Israelis and Palestinians could agree on the arrangements for a single state is absurd.

Yes, some Israelis favor a version of a single-state solution in which Israel would annex the West Bank – but without giving Palestinian inhabitants of that territory full citizenship and full voting rights. (If they did, the sheer demography of the new state would mean the end, effectively, of the Jewish state.) Obviously, most Palestinians would not embrace a one-state solution in which they were denied full rights. For their part, Palestinian supporters of a single state conceive of it very differently– as a binational, secular or even Islamic state. That would be anathema to Israelis because it, too, would mean the end of the Zionist dream.

A single state that would be agreeable to both sides isn’t the “ultimate deal” of Trump’s imaginings; it’s the ultimate fantasy.

Still, by floating that possibility, Trump undermined U.S. support for the two-state solution and relaxed the pressure on Netanyahu, whose support for the idea has always been halfhearted at best. At Wednesday’s news conference, the prime minister welcomed Trump’s comments and said that he wanted to “deal with substance, not labels.”

Trump long has suggested that he could capitalize on his skills as a business negotiator to bring peace to the Middle East. Recently he tapped his son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, as his representative in the region, though Kushner has no experience as a diplomat.

“I think we’re going to make a deal,” Trump said Wednesday. “It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand.” But it’s hard to imagine such a deal that didn’t involve a democratic Jewish state and an independent Palestine – the very two-state solution Trump has now dismissed as dispensable.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/18/another-view-trump-blunders-on-mideast-peace-proposal/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1155434_APTOPIX_Trump_US_Israel_287.jpgPresident Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint news conference at the White House.Fri, 17 Feb 2017 20:02:07 +0000
We must resist attempts to roll back the EPA and the laws it enforces http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/18/maine-voices-we-must-resist-attempts-to-roll-back-the-epa-and-the-laws-it-enforces/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/18/maine-voices-we-must-resist-attempts-to-roll-back-the-epa-and-the-laws-it-enforces/#respond Sat, 18 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1155453 SOUTH BERWICK — Threats by Donald Trump during and after his campaign echo Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s announced goal of reducing or eliminating the power of the Environmental Protection Agency and the laws the agency enforces. While this may save industries some costs in the short run, the long-term costs to public health and the environment are a disaster in the making. History teaches that a return to the unregulated, lax 1950s is not a direction worth seeking.

Back in the 1950s and ’60s, the Cuyahoga River, which empties into Lake Erie, was so fouled with toxic chemicals, black, heavy oil and trash that it caught fire several times. This became a major spur and a symbol for the emerging environmental movement.

The 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” also served as a wake-up call to the dangers of unregulated toxic chemicals and their impacts on the ecosystems of our planet. In her book, she demonstrated how the indiscriminate use of DDT to control mosquitoes was concentrating up the food chain and threatening the existence of a predator, the bald eagle, the symbol of our country’s freedom.

Americans woke up and on the first Earth Day in 1970, 10 million Americans demonstrated, showing the power of an awakened and determined citizenry to respond to threats to our health and to our planet.

At that time, a patchwork of state programs encouraged companies to locate in states with lax environmental protection controls, many of them in poorer areas in the South. Equally important, it became recognized that pollution crosses state and local boundaries; downwind and downstream communities suffer the impacts of pollution from irresponsible companies without being able to influence their practices.

In Maine, Sen. Edmund Muskie – known as the father of the modern environmental movement – spearheaded efforts to pass the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972. Muskie believed that environmental regulations needed enough science and scientific analysis to justify the federal government getting involved. Both bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support from both houses of Congress.

The U.S. has become a world leader in creating and sustaining a clean environment. As a result, we have enjoyed measurable improvements in air quality, cleaner rivers and lakes, a reduction in hazardous wastes, better drinking water, preservation of wetlands and many other protections for our shared natural heritage.

Corporations found that these laws provided a rational, reasonable and geographically consistent environmental protection system: in short, a level playing field. In addition, businesses have participated in the setting of pollution limits through the regulatory process at federal and state levels.

Contrary to myths that President Trump and Republicans are trying to resurrect, environmental regulation is not a job-killer and it does not cause jobs to flee abroad. Studies of offshoring find that domestic companies move abroad for other reasons, such as lower wages, tax avoidance and easier access to international markets.

Environmental regulations may cause a reshuffling of jobs, but, more importantly, they stimulate new technologies and improve efficiency. For example, while power plant regulations may affect coal mining, the increasing demand for natural gas-fired plants is creating new jobs.

Equally important, well-crafted environmental laws and regulations shift the burden of impacts away from the public and the environment, such as polluted air and water, internalizing costs to the companies and their products, which in turn pass the costs on to consumers.

In fact, the federal Office of Management and Budget has rated the effectiveness of the EPA as among the best in the nation, with benefits typically exceeding costs by more than a 10-to-1 ratio. Trump said that he wanted to “get rid of (the agency) in every form.”

He and House Republicans have also announced their intention of gutting the Clean Power Plan, put in place by the Obama administration to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, an important effort to address global warming. In addition, the talk of abandoning the progress made by signing the Paris climate agreement would seriously jeopardize our role in the world as leaders in addressing this most critical issue facing our planet.

If you want to see how bad our environment could become, look at China, Mexico, India or parts of Russia. Citizens there choke with the foul air, and lives are shortened. We must resist any attempts to roll back the progress we have made, whether it be through adverse changes to federal environmental laws, regulations or through budgetary reductions of the EPA, which will have the same effect.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/18/maine-voices-we-must-resist-attempts-to-roll-back-the-epa-and-the-laws-it-enforces/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2010/08/portland-press-herald_3200845.jpgTourists walk along Red Square in a thick blanket of smog in Moscow on Monday, with St. Basil’s Cathedral in the background. The city set a daily heat record of 95.5 degrees on Monday, the seventh such record this month.Fri, 17 Feb 2017 23:19:43 +0000
Gina Barreca: Who has time for sleep? I have too much worrying to do http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/18/gina-barreca-who-has-time-for-sleep-i-have-too-much-worrying-to-do/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/18/gina-barreca-who-has-time-for-sleep-i-have-too-much-worrying-to-do/#respond Sat, 18 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1155526 My brother sent this email to me: “My bed is a magical place where I can suddenly remember everything I was supposed to do.”

I’ve always been a rotten sleeper. My brother also used to be a rotten sleeper, but now he says he just waits until 1 a.m. before lying down. Such tricks don’t work for me: As soon as I shut my eyes, I’m met with an elaborate display constructed by the Freudian Fireworks Company spelling out the word “Failure.”

The moment I put my head on the pillow, I picture myself standing in front of a judge holding an impressive ledger inscribed with every task I’ve left undone as well as everything I might’ve done better.

The last time I remember doing everything right was on the occasion of my First Communion. That was in 1963, which was the year ZIP codes were introduced. It’s been a while since I haven’t worried about messing up.

Nightly fear of failure and anxiety usually start with ordinary self-nagging. Do I have enough cat food to get through the week without making a trip to PetSmart? Then I feel bad for rescue animals. Instantly I veer straight into the lane of oncoming orphans, refugees and the homeless, excoriating myself for not doing more about global hunger and shelter.

After that, I’m awake for a month.

A person can’t even watch television before bed anymore. I’m not talking about watching panel discussions on cable stations where people from opposing viewpoints face each other in a cage match. I’m talking about watching broadcasters on local stations.

I used to love listening to the weather report before going to sleep. It was soothing. Not anymore. I keep a notebook and pen near the bed (because sleep experts insist that having a laptop in the bedroom is as disruptive as having a ferret in your pillow) so I can tell you exactly what I heard before switching off the TV last night: “After the break, we’ll talk about what kind of impacts this storm system will have on the morning commute because of the severe rains that are coming in tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.”

I’m no meteorologist, but the “impact” of rain is that you’re going to get wet. I don’t think that’s something you need to sit through a Subaru ad to discover. It’s going to be a rainy day, it’s gonna take you longer to get to work, you could end up damp and you’ll probably be in a bad mood when you arrive.

Because we want to blame the inability to sleep on something other than ourselves, we now blame the beds. Mattresses have become our enemy. You can now buy beds that lift you up, making your ankles higher than your thorax, or ones guaranteeing your shoulders are warmer than your buttocks. You could have a bed that makes you into a balloon animal. It’s like joining the Cirque du Soleil every night.

Can I tell you a secret? If you can’t sleep, it’s not because of the bed. People used to sleep on mattresses made by stuffing corn husks into a sack – and those were the aristocrats. Most people slept on the ground for that nice firm feeling and so they could run when an animal started chasing them. Basically they were pretty tired from herding goats. They slept well because they were physically exhausted. Their anxieties were also more immediate than ours. (“Honey, do you think we’ll get beaten to death by the Visigoths tonight?” “Nah. I heard it’s going to rain. They don’t like the rain.”)

I’ve known few truly talented sleepers. I had a roommate back in college who could’ve been on the Olympic sleep team. She was world-class. But even she now wanders through her house like a wraith after midnight trying to figure out whether it’d be easier to fall asleep in the armchair or on the couch.

During these turbulent times, I bet we’re losing even moderately good sleepers to insomnia on a nightly basis. We’re fraught and overwrought.

We not only need sleep, we need rest. We need to take some lightheartedness, herd our worst thoughts like goats into a pen and speak again in the morning.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/18/gina-barreca-who-has-time-for-sleep-i-have-too-much-worrying-to-do/feed/ 0 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 20:09:11 +0000
Commentary: Navigating the empire of U.S. surveillance http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/commentary-navigating-the-surveillance-empire/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/commentary-navigating-the-surveillance-empire/#respond Sat, 18 Feb 2017 02:06:37 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/commentary-navigating-the-surveillance-empire/ The who, what, where, and why of the Trump administration’s first major scandal – Michael Flynn’s ignominious resignation on Monday as national security adviser – have all been thoroughly discussed. Relatively neglected, and deserving of far more attention, has been the how.

The fact the nation’s now-departed senior guardian of national security was unmoored by a scandal linked to a conversation picked up on a wire offers a rare insight into how exactly America’s vaunted Deep State works. It is a story not about rogue intelligence agencies running amok outside the law, but rather about the vast domestic power they have managed to acquire within it.

We know now that the FBI and the NSA, under their Executive Order 12333 authority and using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as statutory cover, were actively monitoring the phone calls and reading text messages sent to and from the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

Although the fact of being able to monitor any specific individual is classified TOP SECRET, with the Special Intelligence (SI) caveat, and cannot be released to foreigners, the existence of this monitoring in general is something of an open secret, and Kislyak probably suspected he was under surveillance.

But a welter of laws, many of them tweaked after the Snowden revelations, govern the distribution of any information that is acquired by such surveillance. And this is where it’s highly relevant that this scandal was started by the public leaking of information about Mike Flynn’s involvement in the monitoring of Kisylak.

The way it’s supposed to work is that any time a “U.S. person” – government speak for a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, even a U.S. company, located here or abroad – finds his or her communications caught up in Kislyak’s, the entire surveillance empire, which was designed for speed and efficiency, and which, we now know, is hard to manage, grinds to a halt. That’s a good thing. Even before Snowden, of course, the FBI would “minimize” the U.S. end of a conversation if analysts determined that the calls had no relevance to a legitimate intelligence gathering purpose. A late night call to order pizza would fall into this category.

But if the analyst listening to Kislyak’s call hears someone identify himself as an agent of the U.S. government – “Hi! It’s Mike Flynn” certainly qualifies – a number of things have to happen, according to the government’s own rules

At this stage, the actual audio of the call and any transcript would be considered “Raw FISA-acquired information,” and its distribution would be highly restricted. At the NSA, not more than 40 or so analysts or senior managers would be read into the classification sub-sub compartment that contains it, called RAGTIME-A, B, C, D or P, where each letter stands for one of five different categories of foreign intelligence.

For anything out of the ordinary – and this qualifies, at the FBI –the head of the National Security Division would be notified, and he or she would bring the raw FISA transcript to FBI Director James Comey or his deputy. Then the director and his deputy would determine whether to keep the part of the communication that contained Flynn’s words. The NSA has its own procedures for determining whether to destroy or retain the U.S. half of an intercepted communication.

In this case, there were three sets of communications between Flynn and Kislyak, at least one of which was a text message. The first occurred on Dec. 18. The last occurred on Dec. 30, a day after sanctions were levied against people that the Russian ambassador knew – namely, spies posing as diplomats.

The factors FBI Director James Comey and his deputy would have had to consider in this case are complex. Flynn was a former senior intelligence official not in power at the time of the communications, though he did have an interim security clearance. Then there was the policy context: The United States wanted to know why Russia decided not to retaliate, according to the Washington Post.

But the most important factor would have been that Flynn was talking to the ambassador of a country who has been credibly accused of interfering in the election of his boss. Regardless of the content of Flynn’s side of the call, it would be negligent if the FBI decided to minimize, or ignore, these calls, simply because Flynn is a citizen who is not subject to surveillance himself. But what Flynn said in the calls would have played a role in the FBI’s determination to keep the transcripts unminimized – a fancy way of saying “unredacted.”

The Justice Department would then decide whether to pursue the matter further. If they thought Flynn was acting as an agent of a foreign government – and there’s not a gram of evidence for this – they could apply for a normal surveillance warrant under Title III of the U.S. code.

It is rare for the FBI or NSA to distribute raw, unminimized FISA material outside of controlled channels. But given the intelligence questions at stake, they would have had an obligation to circulate the Flynn transcripts to the National Security Council, which, during most of January, was peopled with President Obama’s staff and detailees from other government agencies.

Sometime before Jan. 12, the fact that these conversations had occurred was disclosed to David Ignatius, who wrote about them. That day, Sean Spicer asked Flynn about them. Flynn denied that the sanctions were discussed. A few days later, on Jan. 16, Vice President Mike Pence repeated Flynn’s assurances to him that the calls were mostly about the logistics of arranging further calls when Trump was president.

At this moment, we are four days away from Trump’s inauguration. The FBI agents and analysts who monitored the calls, as well as some NSC officials in the Obama administration, along with a few senior Justice Department attorneys, all knew with certainty that the content of the calls contradicted Flynn’s account of them. The transcript of the Dec. 30 call proved as much.

For reasons unclear to us, Comey did not believe that Flynn’s misrepresentations amounted to a sufficient national security risk on Jan. 16 to spring FBI investigators on the Trump team, or even on Flynn. Perhaps he felt that doing so right before the inauguration would have been too unseemly.

But he did want to know more. In an extraordinary turn, agents were sent to the White House to interview Flynn just a few days after Trump was sworn in, according to the New York Times. We don’t know what they learned. But by Jan. 26, Comey had dropped his objections to notifying the White House. (In the interim, Sean Spicer was asked about the calls again, and repeated the Flynn untruth.)

Acting attorney general Sally Yates informed the White House counsel, Don McGahn, that their account of what Flynn said did not match what Flynn insisted he said.

McGahn had the clearance to see the transcript, but it’s fair to assume that many members of Trump’s team probably did not. But that does not explain why it took 11 days for Pence, who certainly did have such clearance, to learn about the Justice Department warning. And it does not explain what the White House was doing as it mulled over this information for weeks.

Here we have to leave the realm of reasonable conjecture, but the best explanation might be the easiest: incompetence or ineffectiveness from the White House counsel, and an inability to foresee the real world consequences of their own decisions by White House principles. The country’s intelligence agencies, by contrast, were far-more clear-sighted in the use of their prerogatives and power.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/commentary-navigating-the-surveillance-empire/feed/ 0 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 21:22:00 +0000
Our View: Reports on ousted adviser demand broad, transparent inquiry http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/our-view-reports-on-ousted-adviser-demand-broad-transparent-inquiry/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/our-view-reports-on-ousted-adviser-demand-broad-transparent-inquiry/#respond Fri, 17 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1154850 A roiling controversy finally boiled over this week, with Michael Flynn resigning as national security adviser after admitting that he misled White House officials about his dealings with Russian diplomats.

Now the Senate and House Intelligence committees are both probing Russia’s involvement with the 2016 presidential election. We urge the committees to make the investigations as broad and transparent as possible, with the goal of fully revealing the impact the recent events have had on the workings of our democracy.

What sparked the crisis were news reports about communications Dec. 29 between Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, during which Flynn allegedly suggested that the Trump administration would consider lifting sanctions imposed that day by Barack Obama in retaliation for alleged election-related hacking.

But as explosive as it is, the possibility that Flynn’s contact with Kislyak violated a ban on diplomacy by private citizens isn’t the biggest issue. What’s galvanizing attention is that on Jan. 14, according to The Washington Post, Flynn told then-Vice President-elect Mike Pence that he and Kislyak never talked about the sanctions. It wasn’t until Monday, the day he resigned, that Flynn officially owned up to having “inadvertently briefed the vice president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador.”

Up until now, calls to look into potential ties between Russia and Donald Trump have been a partisan issue. However, both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate want to scrutinize contacts between Trump campaign officials and the Kremlin – and rightly so.

The possibility that Flynn gave Pence misinformation about what he told a long-standing U.S. adversary raises troubling questions. To name just a few: President Trump was reportedly told Jan. 26 that Pence had been misled by Flynn, so why did it take another three weeks for Flynn to leave? How does the Trump administration plan to deal with Russia? How sound is our national security apparatus?

Some Democrats want an independent commission to conduct the inquiries, but we believe that the House and Senate Intelligence panels can handle it, as long as they avoid putting the issue in an overly narrow frame. We’re encouraged that Angus King, who serves on the Intelligence Committee along with his fellow Maine senator, Susan Collins, told the Press Herald on Tuesday: “The matter of Mr. Flynn and what he communicated with the Russians is very definitely part of our work – even the famous conversation in December – but also whether there are other contacts.”

Focusing on who leaked information on Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak and the events leading up to Flynn’s resignation would send the wrong message: That people who speak up about potential threats to national security will be punished for their candor. The American people deserve to know the truth, and their elected representatives shouldn’t shy away from making sure they get it.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/our-view-reports-on-ousted-adviser-demand-broad-transparent-inquiry/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1154850_303850-FlynnTrump.jpgPresident Trump was reportedly told Jan. 26 that Michael Flynn, right, had misled then-Vice President-elect Mike Pence about the nature of his dealings with Russian diplomats – so why did it take another three weeks for Flynn to step down as national security adviser?Fri, 17 Feb 2017 08:18:03 +0000
Another View: Dodd-Frank hasn’t hurt economy – and in fact it probably helped http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/another-view-dodd-frank-hasnt-hurt-economy-and-in-fact-it-probably-helped/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/another-view-dodd-frank-hasnt-hurt-economy-and-in-fact-it-probably-helped/#respond Fri, 17 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1154871 Both the economy as a whole and the auto industry rallied strongly under President Obama’s guidelines after the Great Recession.

The Dodd-Frank Act was put in place after the Great Recession that began in 2008. The idea was to curb the wild and wooly ways of big banks that helped steer the financial system into the mortgage lending crisis and a near Depression. Many Americans still have not recouped their savings.

President Trump ran, of course, on a platform claiming the country was in a free-fall, that the financial system was a “disaster” and that he, by golly, could hold Wall Street accountable.

Like so many of the president’s campaign claims, those were based in his own imagination. In fact, under President Obama, the financial markets bounced back big-time (under Dodd-Frank, by the way), the auto industry rebounded and business has boomed. But a doomsday scenario works better in the presidential plotline.

So Trump is moving to “dismantle” Dodd-Frank, he says, adding, “because, frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine, that have nice businesses and they can’t borrow money.”

Good grief. At least Trump committed a little inadvertent honesty.

But mainstream big banks aren’t especially enthusiastic about blowing up Dodd-Frank, which can help to protect consumers and keep the playing field level – and calm.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/another-view-dodd-frank-hasnt-hurt-economy-and-in-fact-it-probably-helped/feed/ 0 Thu, 16 Feb 2017 20:15:13 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: Even if Flynn’s talks are not a crime, the cover-up is baffling http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/krauthammer-even-if-flynns-talks-are-not-a-crime-the-cover-up-is-baffling/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/krauthammer-even-if-flynns-talks-are-not-a-crime-the-cover-up-is-baffling/#respond Fri, 17 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1154768 It’s a Watergate-era cliche that the cover-up is always worse than the crime. In the Mike Flynn affair, we have the first recorded instance of a cover-up in the absence of a crime.

Being covered up were the Dec. 29 phone calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador to Washington. The presumed violation was Flynn negotiating with a foreign adversary while the Obama administration was still in office and, even worse, discussing with Sergey Kislyak the sanctions then being imposed upon Russia (for meddling in the 2016 elections).

What’s wrong with that? It is risible to invoke the Logan Act, passed during the John Adams administration, under which not a single American has been prosecuted in the intervening 218 years. It prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign powers. Flynn was hardly a private citizen. As Donald Trump’s publicly designated incoming national security adviser, it was perfectly reasonable for him to be talking to foreign actors in preparation for assuming office within the month.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT?

Worst case: He was telling Kislyak that the Trump administration might lift sanctions and therefore, comrade, no need for a spiral of retaliations. How different is this from Barack Obama telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, on an inadvertently open mic, during his 2012 re-election campaign, “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”

Flynn would have been giving the Russians useful information that might well have contributed to Russia’s decision not to retaliate.

I’m no Russophile. But again: What’s wrong with that? Turns out, the Trump administration has not lifted those sanctions. It’s all a tempest in an empty teapot.

The accusations of misbehavior by Flynn carry a subliminal echo of a long-standing charge against Richard Nixon that he interfered in the Paris peace talks in October 1968 to prevent his Democratic opponent from claiming a major foreign policy success on the eve of the presidential election.

WHERE’S THE HARM?

But that kind of alleged diplomatic freelancing would have prolonged a war in which Americans were dying daily. The Flynn conversation was nothing remotely of the sort. Where’s the harm?

The harm was not the calls but Flynn’s lying about them. And most especially lying to the vice president, who then went out and told the world Flynn had never discussed sanctions. You can’t leave your vice president undercut and exposed. Flynn had to go.

Up to this point, the story makes sense. Except for one thing: Why the cover-up if there is no crime?

Why lie about talking about sanctions? It’s inexplicable. Did Flynn want to head off lines of inquiry about other contacts with Russians that might not have been so innocent? Massive new leaks suggest numerous contacts during the campaign between

Trump associates and Russian officials, some of whom were intelligence agents. Up till now, however, reports The New York Times, there is “no evidence” of any Trump campaign collusion or cooperation with Russian hacking and other interference in the U.S. election.

Thus far. Which is why there will be investigations. Speculation ranges from the wildly malevolent to the rather loopily innocent.

At one end of the spectrum is the scenario wherein these campaign officials – including perhaps Flynn, perhaps even Trump – are compromised because of tainted business or political activities known to the Russians, to whom they are now captive.

A fevered conspiracy in my view, but there are non-certifiable people who consider it possible.

At the benign end of the spectrum is that the easily flattered Trump imagines himself the great dealmaker who overnight becomes a great statesman by charming Vladimir Putin into a Nixon-to-China grand bargain – we jointly call off the new Cold War, join forces to destroy the Islamic State and reach a new accommodation for Europe that relieves us of some of the burden of parasitic allies.

SO WHY LIE?

To me, the idea is nuts, a narcissistic fantasy grounded in neither strategy nor history. But that doesn’t mean Trump might not imagine it – after all, he maintains that if we had only stayed in Iraq to steal its oil, we wouldn’t have the Islamic State.

And if this has indeed been his thinking about Russia, it would make sense to surround himself with advisers who had extensive dealings there.

I believe neither of these scenarios, but I’m hard put to come up with alternatives. The puzzle remains.

Why did Flynn lie? Until we answer that, the case of the cover-up in search of a crime remains unsolved.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/krauthammer-even-if-flynns-talks-are-not-a-crime-the-cover-up-is-baffling/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/10/Columnist-Krauthammer.jpgThu, 16 Feb 2017 20:13:58 +0000
A proposed Medicare voucher system will not work for Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/maine-voices-a-proposed-medicare-voucher-system-will-not-work-for-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/maine-voices-a-proposed-medicare-voucher-system-will-not-work-for-maine/#respond Fri, 17 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1154777 BRUNSWICK — For more than 50 years, Medicare has provided recipients with a guaranteed set of health care benefits in retirement. Right now, 55 million Americans rely on this crucial program. Here in Maine, more than 288,000 individuals – or 22 percent of our population – are covered by Medicare. Another 315,000 between the ages of 50 and 64 will enter the program in the next 15 years.

The voucher system for Medicare being proposed in Congress would hurt hardworking Americans who have paid into the program their entire working lives, but the system would hit those near retirement the hardest.

A voucher system (or “premium support,” as some in Washington call it) would replace Medicare’s current guaranteed benefits with a risky alternative. Under a voucher system, the federal government would substitute the guaranteed benefits package with a fixed dollar amount or “defined contribution” that beneficiaries would apply toward their health coverage.

Each Medicare beneficiary’s premium would be the difference between the government’s defined contribution (voucher value) and the cost of the insurance plan he or she chose. If the fixed dollar amount turned out to be insufficient to cover necessary health care costs, the beneficiary would have nowhere to turn. They would either have to dip into their own savings or go without medical care.

For many older Americans, Medicare provides important protection against economic insecurity. Without the guarantee of health care coverage, especially for older adults, the consequences are alarming. As it is, many Medicare beneficiaries in Maine are in poor health and struggling to cover Medicare out-of-pocket costs. They could face increased financial distress under a voucher model.

The fact is that the burden of chronic disease is high in our state. In 2014, 31 percent of Medicare beneficiaries had two or three chronic health conditions. Nineteen percent had four or five conditions, and 12 percent had six or more. Why should our most at-risk residents be subjected to a system that would make it even more difficult for them to access necessary health care?

We know that many residents in Maine are already struggling. The median personal income among Mainers 65 and older is about $21,000. In 2015, 7 percent of Mainers age 65 and older lived below the federal poverty level.

Many current Medicare beneficiaries have low incomes and would be at risk of catastrophic out-of-pocket costs under the voucher system. For example, people with limited financial resources could be forced to enroll in less expensive health care plans under the new system. Such lower-priced plans might come with higher deductibles to make up for a lower monthly rate. The plan might include other cost-sharing requirements, and this would increase the risk of these lower-income individuals going without necessary care because they simply couldn’t afford it.

The bottom line is that a voucher system is a step in the wrong direction. Yes, Medicare needs to be strengthened, and solutions should be considered for the long term. However, rather than shift higher costs of care to those who can least afford it, we should look at ways to strengthen the program. For example, we should be clamping down on drug companies’ high prices, improving the coordination of care and taking steps to stop Medicare fraud. We should work on advancing improvements in the use of technology and cut out overtesting.

President Trump emphatically said during his campaign that he will protect and save Social Security and Medicare. Now we need Congress to support this position and oppose a voucher system.

During the congressional recess – the week of Feb. 20 – our U.S. senators and representatives will be home in Maine. If you are concerned about protecting Medicare, please contact their local offices. You can also sign AARP’s petition to Congress, and get involved by going to aarp.org/protectmedicare.

This is the time to make your voice heard on this important issue. Our elected leaders need to hear from us in Maine so they will fight for us in Washington.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/maine-voices-a-proposed-medicare-voucher-system-will-not-work-for-maine/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/01/786497_letters_0804.jpgLast year, Medicare spent $6.3 billion on medical equipment for use or treatment in the home. It hopes a pre-approval requirement for receiving some devices will reduce fraud.Fri, 17 Feb 2017 11:24:18 +0000
Podcast: Maine’s delegation engaging in politics in Washington. http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/podcast-episode-36-maines-elected-plying-politics-in-the-new-paradigm/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/podcast-episode-36-maines-elected-plying-politics-in-the-new-paradigm/#respond Fri, 17 Feb 2017 07:00:41 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1155225 After a week off due to poor weather, Editorial Page Editor Greg Kesich, and columnists Bill Nemitz, Alan Caron and Cynthia Dill return to the podcast to talk about the challenges and opportunities facing our elected representatives in Washington.

Will Bruce Poliquin ever take a stand?

Are liberals too critical of Susan Collins?

Will Angus King be on TV a lot?

and what’s up with Paul LePage?

Download this episode

Press Herald Podcast RSS Feed

Subscribe to the Press Herald podcast on iTunes

Subscribe on Android

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/podcast-episode-36-maines-elected-plying-politics-in-the-new-paradigm/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/10/podcast-logo-v4_final2_450.pngSat, 18 Feb 2017 09:47:12 +0000
Everyone can play a part in reducing teen dating violence http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/16/maine-voices-everyone-can-play-a-part-in-reducing-teen-dating-violence/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/16/maine-voices-everyone-can-play-a-part-in-reducing-teen-dating-violence/#respond Thu, 16 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1154201 In spite of, and sometimes because of, the bitter cold that February can bring, it’s a pretty romantic month. Between Valentine’s Day and the snowy, blustery world outside, what better time of year is there to snuggle up with your sweetheart by the fire?

But alongside the blizzards and romance, February is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, an opportunity for all of us to get educated and raise awareness about the dark side of relationships experienced by scores of young people in our community each year.

The numbers tell us that adolescents are especially vulnerable to experiencing abuse. Before reaching adulthood, one in three American teens will experience emotional, physical or sexual abuse at the hands of a romantic partner. Dating violence can affect anyone, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, but many teens struggle with who to turn to for help and support if their relationships become unhealthy or abusive. When they do reach out, their experience is often minimized and downplayed as “young love,” and signs that a relationship is turning dangerous are overlooked.

As educators with the Young Adult Abuse Prevention Program of Family Crisis Services, my colleagues and I speak to middle school, high school and college students around Cumberland County about how to have healthy relationships, recognize signs of abuse, get help when they need it and be a supportive friend to their peers. Through these conversations, we work to give them the skills and resources they need to have respectful, positive relationships in adolescence and beyond.

But you don’t have to be a professional advocate to make a difference. Since teen dating violence is a community-level problem, everyone, regardless of their age or ability, can stand up and play a part in the movement to prevent and end it. Whether you’re a parent, an educator, a concerned citizen or a teen yourself, here are some helpful tips and suggestions for joining us in preventing teen dating abuse in February and beyond:

• Learn the signs of teen dating abuse and keep an eye out for red flags among your children, your students, your friends or your peers.

 Get to know your community resources, such as Family Crisis Services, and help the people you know who are affected by dating or domestic violence to get connected with them. (If you’re concerned about issues involving sexual violence, you can also reach out to Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine.)

 Call out examples of unhealthy or abusive relationships in media and literature and encourage discussion about them with children, students and friends.

 If someone you know is struggling with an unhealthy or abusive relationship, let them know that you’re there for them. Believe the survivor, listen with an open ear, respond without judgment and help them explore their options for getting the support they need to feel safe again. For extra help with approaching these conversations, concerned parents, teachers, friends and loved ones can call Family Crisis Services 24/7 at (800) 537-6066.

 Get involved in school or community clubs or organizations that work to end interpersonal violence. High school students are welcome to join the Youth Voices of Change group, a club focused on anti-dating violence activism that meets once a month at the Portland Public Library. Email us at yaapp@familycrisis.org to sign up.

Dating violence and interpersonal violence are tied to many other forms of oppression, such as racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. By speaking out and supporting efforts to reduce inequality in other areas of society, you can also help to end interpersonal violence for everyone, regardless of their identity.

If you’ve personally experienced dating violence and feel safe and ready to talk about it, consider sharing your story. Storytelling can be an incredibly powerful way to help others understand the impact of an issue and why it’s important.

The last couple of months have made it clear that no matter how cold it gets outside, members of our community are willing to join hands and stand up for important causes. This month and throughout the year, we hope that you’ll get together with your partner, your child or your friends, practice some healthy communication over a mug of hot chocolate and take action to end dating violence.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/16/maine-voices-everyone-can-play-a-part-in-reducing-teen-dating-violence/feed/ 0 Wed, 15 Feb 2017 18:48:29 +0000
Our View: Gov. LePage is out to distract with conflict-of-interest claim http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/16/our-view-gov-lepage-is-out-to-distract-with-conflict-of-interest-claim/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/16/our-view-gov-lepage-is-out-to-distract-with-conflict-of-interest-claim/#respond Thu, 16 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1154234 You have to hand it to Gov. LePage – he does not give up easily.

He campaigned for months against Question 2, which raises money for schools with a 3 percent surtax on the highest incomes. LePage warned that the levy would wreck the economy and threatened to move away from Maine if it passed, but somehow the voters passed it anyway.

Then he submitted a budget that would twist the tax code in such a way that it would actually cut the income tax rate for the highest earners and push more responsibility for funding schools onto local property-tax payers.

That’s gotten a cool response even from Republicans who had agreed with the governor that income tax rates are too high.

Now he has turned the whole complex exercise of balancing benefits and harms – which is required to successfully reform tax and education policy – into a personal attack against a single lawmaker whom most Mainers have never heard of.

Nice try, governor, but this one shouldn’t work either.

Gov. LePage has taken to the airwaves to claim that Taxation Committee Co-chair Ryan Tipping, a Democratic state representative from Orono, has a conflict of interest because he took a paid position as a political consultant with the Question 2 campaign last year. LePage has declared that this proves that Tipping’s vote is for sale, that he is not representing the people in his district and that he should resign his seat in the Legislature.

As is so often the case, the governor’s argument sounds better if you don’t look at the facts. Tipping is an elected official who ran for office promising to get more money for schools, so supporting the referendum would hardly be an abandonment of his constituents. Offered a job with the Question 2 campaign, Tipping checked with the state ethics commission and was advised that it would not be a conflict of interest.

It would be impossible to run a citizen legislature if this kind of professional involvement made a lawmaker ineligible to serve. You could never have a lawyer on the Judiciary Committee, a retired teacher on Education or anybody on Appropriations who had ever worked for a business that had contact with the state.

But wait a minute – Question 2 is not about Tipping, or about his brother Mike, a liberal activist whom the governor likes to bring up in his rants.

The question before the people of Maine was not whether we like the Tipping brothers, but whether Maine should spend more money on education. The people said “yes.”

The governor may not agree with their decision, and he may believe that he has better ideas for running the state, but there was an election, and his side lost. Even though LePage would rather fight about Ryan Tipping’s resumé, lawmakers should be smart enough to focus on the work that stands before them.

The Legislature should now address the law approved at the polls and come up with the best way to provide those funds to school districts, improving education and reducing pressure on property-tax payers. It’s not going to be easy – taxation and education policy never are.

They will have to tune out the governor’s campaign of distraction if they are going to deliver the sound policy the people have demanded.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/16/our-view-gov-lepage-is-out-to-distract-with-conflict-of-interest-claim/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1149596_560936-20170207_StateOfSt5.jpgGov. Paul LePage delivered his annual remarks in writing to the Legislature in 2016, but this year, with a $6.8 billion state budget proposal and a host of other issues and initiatives before legislators, he gave an in-person address Tuesday in the House chamber.Wed, 15 Feb 2017 23:00:24 +0000
Dana Milbank: With plenty of investigation options, Rep. Chaffetz targets a cartoon character http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/16/dana-milbank-with-plenty-of-investigation-options-rep-chaffetz-targets-a-cartoon-character/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/16/dana-milbank-with-plenty-of-investigation-options-rep-chaffetz-targets-a-cartoon-character/#respond Thu, 16 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1154243 Angry Utah residents shouted down Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, at the Republican’s recent town hall meeting.

“Do your job!” they chanted, scolding him for refusing to investigate the Trump administration. In fairness to Chaffetz, he is busy with more pressing matters.

True, Chaffetz, after his unending investigations of the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton, hasn’t shown any appetite to examine, say, the Trump administration’s ties to Russia or its many conflicts of interest. But the chairman has shown determination to probe, without fear or favor, the threat to America posed by Sid the Science Kid.

The chairman of the powerful panel – the main investigative committee in the House – sent a letter to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demanding to know why, in an attempt to raise awareness of the Zika virus, “CDC appears poised to make a sole-source award to the Jim Henson Company for $806,000 to feature Sid the Science Kid in an educational program about the virus.”

Scandalous!

Sid, for readers not familiar with PBS children’s programming, is a preschool cartoon character. Like President Trump, Sid is orange. Unlike Trump, he is highly inquisitive. In each episode, Sid answers questions such as: Why can’t he scratch his ear with his foot the way his dog can? Why does his stomach growl when he makes French toast? In one of my favorite episodes, “The Big Sneeze,” Sid discovers that he needs to wash his hands even if he can’t see germs on them.

Chaffetz was quick to recognize the danger. On Jan. 26, the day after TMZ reported that the CDC was planning a Zika-education partnership with Sid, Chaffetz fired off a letter to acting CDC director Anne Schuchat, demanding all “communications between CDC and the Jim Henson Company and also PBS.”

Chaffetz’s spokeswoman did not respond to a phone call and an email seeking comment.

This raises the possibility that the probe might expand beyond Sid. Can his teacher, Miss Susie, expect a subpoena? Does the inclusion of PBS in the probe suggest Curious George’s immigration status is in jeopardy? Did Bob the Builder hire undocumented workers? Is Kermit the Frog a dishonest journalist who broadcasts fake news?

Chaffetz, in closing, reminded the CDC that his committee can investigate “any matter” at “any time.”

Yes, it can – which is why it’s so appalling that Chaffetz is focusing on an animated preschooler. Chaffetz never met a probe he didn’t like during the Obama administration, from Benghazi to the IRS. In September alone, Democrats complain, his committee held five days of “emergency” hearings probing Clinton’s emails and issued 12 subpoenas.

Now national security adviser Michael Flynn has resigned after several U.S. officials confirmed that he discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador in the month before the inauguration – contradicting public assurances by administration officials. But Chaffetz showed no curiosity about that, nor about Russia’s attempts to tilt the election in Trump’s favor, nor about much of anything Trump-related.

Chaffetz thought Clinton’s use of a private email server threatened national security. But over the weekend, Trump proved more brazen: He plotted his response to North Korea’s latest missile test from the main dining area of his Mar-a-Lago Club. Club members posted photos on Facebook of Trump and Japan’s Shinzo Abe discussing the matter and poring over documents in proximity to waiters, club members and guests.

In this open-air situation room, Trump spoke by mobile phone and aides used their cellphone flashlights to illuminate papers – not the textbook way to handle sensitive information. One club member posted photos online of the nuclear “football” and its minder.

Scenes such as this one highlight the need for some adult oversight of the new administration. Its travel ban has been shot down in court. The president has been attacking Nordstrom and reincarnating Frederick Douglass. His press secretary has been making up what presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway calls “alternative facts,” and counselor Conway has herself been counseled after pitching Ivanka Trump’s fashion line on TV.

Chaffetz did say Conway’s Fox News infomercial was “wrong, wrong, wrong.” Maybe he’ll have a hearing on the matter – once he dispenses with Sid the Science Kid and the rest of the late Henson’s empire.

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

danamilbank@washpost.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/16/dana-milbank-with-plenty-of-investigation-options-rep-chaffetz-targets-a-cartoon-character/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1137774_AP_16145541789281.jpgHouse Judiciary Committee member Rep. Jason Chaffetz, left, claims the government's ethics office is unfairly targeting Donald Trump. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer is defending Walter Shaub Jr.Thu, 16 Feb 2017 14:26:57 +0000
Commentary: PUC’s mishandling of solar rules will hurt industry, utilities and ratepayers http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/16/commentary-pucs-mishandling-of-solar-rules-will-hurt-industry-utilities-and-ratepayers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/16/commentary-pucs-mishandling-of-solar-rules-will-hurt-industry-utilities-and-ratepayers/#respond Thu, 16 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1154249 PITTSFIELD — The Maine Public Utilities Commission recently announced a new rule that will significantly alter the relationship between the state’s electrical monopolies and Mainers who install solar in 2018 and beyond. This rule contains some of the most anti-solar provisions in the country and demonstrates a continued failure to leverage the economic power of an industry that is demonstrating huge job gains and capital investment across the country.

The PUC’s actions are not surprising, given the commission’s failure to provide a rigorous analysis of the impacts of either our current net-metering rules or their newly introduced ones. As a result, the PUC has needlessly created a series of conclusions with unpredictable consequences.

Though no other state in the country has introduced a grandfathering period of less than 20 years – including those with far more solar than Maine – the PUC called for a 15-year grandfathering period. This provision is particularly egregious since it affects not only those who will buy solar in the future, but also those who have already invested in the technology.

The PUC also announced new bureaucratic requirements that will increase the cost of solar installations. In order to implement the most controversial and extreme provision, Maine homes and businesses will need to install a second, dedicated meter to allow the utilities to measure the total amount of electricity generated by their solar installation. There are questions regarding who will pay for the meter, but it is anticipated that this change could increase systems costs by $500 to $700 – even if the utility forces other ratepayers to cover the cost of the additional meter.

This additional equipment will be used to ensure that solar customers pay the utilities for electricity that never leaves their site. Currently, utilities measure only the electricity that is delivered to the grid from a solar energy system. The purpose of installing an additional meter is to a levy a fee on solar owners for all of the electricity they generate, including electricity that powers the owner’s property and never enters the utility’s transmission infrastructure.

With this change, the PUC has concluded that Maine utilities have a right to earn revenues on energy that solar customers avoid buying by simply reducing their energy demand from the grid. This is the equivalent of paying a fee to Central Maine Power for reducing one’s electricity consumption by installing LED lighting, using a woodstove instead of electric heat or getting rid of an extra freezer. There are significant concerns about the legality of this provision.

One of the most ridiculous consequences of this rule change is that solar customers who have batteries and are connected to the grid will be forced to pay CMP for a portion of the electricity they use when the grid is down. I think most readers can imagine the outrage if homeowners with a gas generator were required to pay CMP for a portion of the electricity they generate during a power outage.

These are expected results when a process is heavily dependent upon bureaucrats and utility interests and ignores the expertise of those who actually do the work. The PUC failed to take into account many of the comments provided by the general public and local industry.

It ignored the benefits that solar owners provide to other ratepayers by reducing peak demand on the transmission grid and expensive power plants.

It ignored the industry’s input regarding the implementation of the state’s net metering rules.

It ignored input from everyone – even the utilities – regarding the complexity of implementing a more complex accounting method. When presented the opportunity to “review” net metering, the commission made broad assumptions and proceeded to act.

The new rule includes some glaring impacts on all other ratepayers as well. One of the most direct consequences is requiring ratepayers to pay CMP to amend its billing system to accommodate the extremely complex new rules. Net metering is fairly simple. The PUC’s new rules are not, and they will vastly complicate CMP’s accounting. Ratepayers will be required to foot the bill for this.

The short-term result of these changes will be an increase in solar installations in 2017 as homes and businesses rush to get in ahead of the new rule. The long-term consequence is a series of disincentives that undermine the public’s ability to benefit from private investments in solar and battery storage to make our grid more affordable, predictable and resilient.

Fortunately, the Legislature has the opportunity to act before this rule takes effect. Let’s hope they take a more practical approach than the one offered by the PUC.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/16/commentary-pucs-mishandling-of-solar-rules-will-hurt-industry-utilities-and-ratepayers/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/09/1063041_686715_solar2.jpgThe Public Utilities Commission's rejection of the one program Maine has to encourage solar investment contradicts a PUC-commissioned study that found that solar development is a good deal.Thu, 16 Feb 2017 08:43:01 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Trump failing to grasp new role as servant of 324 million Americans http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/trump-failing-to-grasp-new-role-as-servant-of-324-million-americans/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/trump-failing-to-grasp-new-role-as-servant-of-324-million-americans/#respond Wed, 15 Feb 2017 11:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1153678 Dear Mr. So-Called President:

So let me explain to you how this works.

You were elected as chief executive of the United States. I won’t belabor the fact that you won with a minority of the popular vote and a little help from your friends, FBI Director James Comey and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The bottom line is, you were elected.

And this does entitle you to certain things. You get your own airplane. You get free public housing. You get greeted with snappy salutes. And a band plays when you walk into the room.

But there is one thing to which your election does not entitle you. It does not entitle you to do whatever pops into your furry orange head without being called on it or, should it run afoul of the Constitution, without being blocked.

You and other members of the Fourth Reich seem to be having difficulty understanding this. Reports from Politico and elsewhere describe you as shocked that judges and lawmakers can delay or even stop you from doing things.

Three weeks ago, your chief strategist, Steve Bannon, infamously declared that news media should “keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.”

Just Sunday, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller declared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”

What you do “will not be questioned”? Lord, have mercy. That’s the kind of statement that, in another time and place, would have been greeted with an out-thrust palm and a hearty “Sieg heil!” Here in this time and place, however, it demands a different response:

Just who the hell do you think you are?

Meaning you and all the other trolls you have brought clambering up from under their bridges.

Maybe you didn’t notice, but this is the United States of America. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Nation of laws, not of individuals? First Amendment? Freedom of the press? Any of that ringing a bell?

Let’s be brutally clear here. If you were a smart guy with unimpeachable integrity and a good heart who was enacting wise policies for the betterment of all humankind, you’d still be subject to sharp scrutiny from news media, oversight from Congress, restraint by the judiciary – and public opinion.

And you, of course, are none of those things.

I know you fetishize strength. I know your pal Vladimir would never stand still for reporters and judges yapping at him like so many poodles.

I know, too, that you are accustomed to being emperor of your own fiefdom. Must be nice. Your name on the wall, the paychecks, the side of the building.

You tell people to make something happen, and it does. You yell at a problem, and it goes away. Nobody talks back. I can see how it would be hard to give that up.But you did. You see, you’re no longer an emperor, Mr. So-Called President. You are now what is called a “public servant” – in effect, an employee with 324 million bosses.

And let me tell you something about those bosses. They are unruly and loud, long accustomed to speaking their minds without fear or fetter. And they believe power must always answer to the people. That’s at the core of their identity.

Yet you and your coterie of cartoon autocrats think you’re going to cow them into silence and compliance by ordering them to shut up and obey? Well, as a freeborn American, I can answer that in two syllables flat.

Hell, no.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald. He can be contacted at:

lpitts@miamiherald.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/trump-failing-to-grasp-new-role-as-servant-of-324-million-americans/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/04/PITTS_LEONARD_1_TNS2.jpgTNS Columnist Leonard Pitts. (Olivier Douliery/TNS)Tue, 14 Feb 2017 21:25:53 +0000
Our View: Maine should go to bat for rural internet funding http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/our-view-maine-should-go-to-bat-for-rural-internet-funding/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/our-view-maine-should-go-to-bat-for-rural-internet-funding/#respond Wed, 15 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1153777 Paying taxes, applying for jobs, researching term papers: Modern life requires high-speed internet, but in much of Maine, those connections are only in one of the hundreds of local schools or libraries that are part of a statewide network. But that system’s revenue stream has been steadily drying up, making it imperative that lawmakers in Augusta reach an agreement on a proposal to maintain this vital service.

The Maine School and Library Network coordinates broadband access for around 950 institutions across the state, signing contracts with providers at rates lower than any one school or library could afford on its own. The federal government covers 60 percent of the cost of the connection, and the network pays for the other 40 percent, with revenues from a fee on in-state phone calls.

That worked in the 1990s, when the network was launched. Since then, though, Mainers have increasingly chosen to forgo voice calls and communicate via text message. Revenues from in-state calls have dropped from around $4 million as recently as 2011 to less than $3 million last year, Maine Public Radio’s Mal Leary recently reported.

Schools and libraries have started getting local funding to cover broadband costs – but if communities balk at contributing and the phone fee revenues continue to slide, then Maine could lose out on the federal broadband matching funds.

Rep. Martin Grohman, a Biddeford Democrat, has a two-pronged proposal to address the shortfall in school and library internet funding. The bill, L.D. 256, would put in place a short-term fix (a higher levy on in-state telephone calls) and require stakeholders to develop and present a long-term solution by next February.

The poor quality and uneven availability of broadband in Maine have landed us near the bottom of state internet access rankings. We haven’t used the approach that’s worked in North Dakota: There, small telecoms have joined forces to get federal grants, and the state now has the highest percentage of residents with ultra-high-speed home and business internet connections. And Maine doesn’t offer the tax breaks and subsidies that have brought about network improvements in other states where the population is otherwise too spread out to be attractive to large, corporate internet service providers.

Granted, President Trump has promised public works investment, and Congress wants it, too, but these decisions are months down the road at best. Grohman’s proposal, on the other hand, is something that Maine lawmakers can pursue now – and if they have the best interests of their constituents in mind, they will.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/our-view-maine-should-go-to-bat-for-rural-internet-funding/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1153777_881764-20140314-world-wide-.jpgIn much of Maine, high-speed internet service is available only in local schools and libraries that belong to a statewide system – and that system's revenue stream is drying up.Tue, 14 Feb 2017 23:41:13 +0000
Greg Kesich: Bernie Sanders’ agenda can win in Maine if a candidate can pull it off http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/greg-kesich-sanders-agenda-can-win-in-maine-if-a-candidate-can-pull-it-off/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/greg-kesich-sanders-agenda-can-win-in-maine-if-a-candidate-can-pull-it-off/#respond Wed, 15 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1153779 Remember back when Bernie Sanders was too liberal?

It was just last year, when the presidential campaigns rolled into Maine for the quadrennial caucuses. Some smart people warned that even though they agreed with Sanders on substance, he was a risky choice because he would not be able to appeal to moderates in a November match-up against a Republican. So Maine Democrats were advised to help nominate Hillary Clinton, who would be liberal enough.

We know how that worked out. People waited in line for hours in the freezing cold at the Democratic Caucus just to get a chance to vote for Sanders, and he won the state easily. After Clinton won the nomination, Sanders gamely endorsed and campaigned for her, but whatever magic he had did not rub off, and most of his supporters either grudgingly backed Clinton or just stayed home. Some voted for a third-party candidate or even Donald Trump – out of disgust for the whole system.

Nursing post-election hangovers, many of the same smart people were heard to mutter, “… shoulda picked Bernie.” OK, maybe we weren’t that smart.

As 2018 Democratic candidates to be Maine’s next governor start to peek out of their holes, the Bernie Sanders phenomenon deserves some attention. Is there enough of an energized base of progressives in Maine ready to undo eight years of Paul LePage’s mean-spirited trickle-down economics? And if so, is there anyone out there who could lead it?

The answer to the first question appears to be “yes.”

Sanders didn’t just win the Maine caucus last March: Seven months before that, he came here and, with very little advance work, packed the Cumberland County Civic Center. Even the 2007 version of Barack Obama stuck with the Expo.

Sanders didn’t compete with charisma. He spoke for 45 minutes, told no jokes, revealed no personal anecdotes, shared no names of suffering people he has met along the campaign trail.

Instead, he laid out the problem he saw – a system that enriches the people at the top while everyone else struggles – and said what he would do about it.

That was universal health care, free college tuition, strong labor unions and expanded Social Security. To blunt the impact of corporate money that would be marshaled against any of those goals, Sanders financed his campaign with microdonations from individuals and called for a constitutional amendment that would ban corporate money from politics.

Could an agenda like that work in a statewide race?

Maine’s last election suggests that it could.

Remember, four out of five referendum questions passed in November. Imagine a Legislature that legalized marijuana, added a surtax on high incomes, increased the minimum wage and instituted ranked-choice voting. Smart people might say that it was out of touch and way more liberal than the people. But now it’s the people who are more liberal than their government.

And take note of the way the presidential race played out here. Yes, it’s true that Donald Trump won the 2nd Congressional District by 9 points, earning him a single electoral vote. But Clinton still won the state, thanks to a more modest 6-point win in southern Maine.

How did she do it? Because a lot more people voted in the reliably liberal 1st District than in the more conservative 2nd. Clinton picked up 30,000 votes more in the district she won than Trump got in the district he won. That shows how someone could win a statewide race by dominating the southern Maine vote even if they got smoked up north.

And the street demonstrations since the Trump inauguration suggest that there is a mobilized force demanding change, much like the tea party wave that carried Gov. LePage to the Republican nomination in 2010. This year’s protests have a lot of overlap with the people who turned out for Sanders and who were disappointed that he was not the nominee.

The harder question is whether there is a Maine Democrat who could take advantage of these trends.

The Bernie voters are notoriously difficult to corral. Sanders was not even a Democrat himself, and many of his supporters don’t consider themselves to be members of a party. They may not turn out for a primary, and they probably won’t get excited about a middle-of-the-road Democrat, no matter who the Republican is.

With the Ghost of Bernie Past hanging over this election, Democrats have a lot to think about. Candidates could find themselves wondering whether they are too liberal for Maine, or whether they are liberal enough.

Listen to Press Herald podcasts at www.pressherald.com/podcast.

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

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter: @gregkesich

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/greg-kesich-sanders-agenda-can-win-in-maine-if-a-candidate-can-pull-it-off/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, 14 Feb 2017 21:12:41 +0000
Another View: Proposal would wisely expedite access to unproven remedies http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/another-view-proposal-would-wisely-expedite-access-to-unproven-remedies/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/another-view-proposal-would-wisely-expedite-access-to-unproven-remedies/#respond Wed, 15 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1153787 The Trump administration has signaled support for a federal law to help terminally ill patients get access to drugs that might be their best hope but aren’t fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It’s a good cause.

The FDA currently allows “compassionate use” of experimental drugs in certain cases, and its statistics show that almost every time it is asked to let someone take a drug under that program, it agrees; in fiscal 2015, the applications numbered more than 1,200.

But Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., finds that program “overly complicated” and “bureaucratic.” He’s sponsoring legislation to make sure federal authorities respect state “Right to Try” laws that say certain patients with terminal conditions can use drugs that are only partway through testing.

A statement from Biggs’ office said the proposal would make sure any bad results from these patients “are not held against” the applications for the medications’ approval.

That may be the bill’s most important feature: Under the current program, drug-regulation expert Erika Lietzan of the University of Missouri School of Law said, “companies may be cautious” about providing experimental drugs. The data from compassionate-use cases goes into the application to approve the drugs, and while the FDA realizes those patients are not part of the trials, the applicants have to account for them.

If a patient has exhausted all the proven remedies and is going to die, that patient should have access to the unproven remedies. A slim hope is better than none.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/another-view-proposal-would-wisely-expedite-access-to-unproven-remedies/feed/ 0 Tue, 14 Feb 2017 21:15:31 +0000
Maine Voices: For those standing on the median, ‘flying a sign’ is an exercise in humility http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/maine-voices-for-those-standing-on-the-median-flying-a-sign-an-exercise-in-humility/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/maine-voices-for-those-standing-on-the-median-flying-a-sign-an-exercise-in-humility/#respond Wed, 15 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1153624 For three days in early January, with camera and microphone in hand, we embarked on a project to document people’s experiences of standing on the median or along the street with cardboard signs.

The practice, which is called “flying a sign,” is an issue of intense debate in Portland and beyond. We wanted to know what motivated people to fly signs, what they used the money for and what they did on a day-to-day basis to survive. We interviewed 10 people, and here is what we learned:

Most of the people who fly signs said they would rather work than beg for money.

In conversations with signers on the median or along the street, we learned that all of them want to be working. Some have experience as general laborers, boat builders, masons. Others worked in food service. Some were disabled, had criminal records or lacked housing, which affected their ability to work.

 Most of the people we talked to said that flying a sign was humiliating.

The experience of standing on the median or sidewalk with a cardboard sign and asking for money is a degrading one. When we asked them “Have you ever had to ask for money?” most of the people on the street said they had, and that it was hard. During the interviews, we heard passers-by yelling “Get a job!” which only adds to the humiliation.

One person we interviewed said, “Every time someone passes by, I lose a part of my soul, and every time someone gives me something, I lose even more.” Another person said, “I don’t like to do this – I know I am taking money from working people.”

Most people said they use the money to buy essentials.

Only one of the people whom we interviewed said they would buy a beer with the money. The rest said they use the money for food and water. Were they lying about that? We doubt it.

Most talked about very specific things they use the money for. One person said, “I know it’s not essential, but I would like to be able to have creamer for my coffee once in a while.” Another said, “I use the money to bribe my way into a friend’s home for the night by paying for food, so I don’t have to sleep outside.”

Of the 10 people we interviewed who were flying a sign, five live outside in tents or in the woods.

The first day when we collected interviews, the temperature was in the single digits and breezy. Living outside in the winter in Maine is hard. Enough said.

Almost all of them are from Portland.

While the people we talked to have lived in other places at some point in their lives, nine out of the 10 have lived in Portland for many years.

They all have a story.

Many of them spoke about being judged, and wished that people would stop and talk to them about how they ended up on the median. “But,” one man relented, “nobody wants to hear it – it’s too depressing.”

It’s not just about money.

Flying in the face of cynicism, all of the signers spoke of the social interactions that occur while on the street, and how they look forward to positive encounters. One gentleman laid it down by stating, “If someone wants to give money, that’s fine. If they want to give me something to eat, that’s great. If they want to talk, that’s even better, because I don’t have many opportunities to have intelligent conversation.”

There are many homeless and extremely poor residents of Portland who do not fly a sign, and it is quite possible to get “three hots and a cot” for free through Preble Street and the Oxford Street Shelter. So why do some choose to do it? Perhaps it is that by earning some pocket money, and having the choice to buy a sandwich or creamer or even a beer, these folks are asserting a sliver of autonomy and grasping onto a sense of self that is threatened daily by the anonymous nature of homelessness.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/15/maine-voices-for-those-standing-on-the-median-flying-a-sign-an-exercise-in-humility/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2012/07/portland-press-herald_3663227.jpgWed, 15 Feb 2017 17:54:42 +0000
Kathleen Parker: If we survive the next 2 years, we’ll have a new president in office http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/kathleen-parker-if-we-survive-the-next-two-years-well-have-a-new-president-in-office/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/kathleen-parker-if-we-survive-the-next-two-years-well-have-a-new-president-in-office/#respond Tue, 14 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1153131 Good news: In two years, we’ll have a new president. Bad news: If we make it that long.

My “good” prediction is based on the Law of the Pendulum. Enough Americans, including most independent voters, will be so ready to shed Donald Trump and his little shop of horrors that the 2018 midterm elections are all but certain to be a landslide – no make that a mudslide – sweep of the House and Senate. If Republicans took both houses in a groundswell of the people’s rejection of Obamacare, Democrats will take them back in a tsunami of protest.

Once ensconced, it would take a Democratic majority about 30 seconds to begin impeachment proceedings selecting from an accumulating pile of lies, overreach and just plain sloppiness. That is, assuming Trump hasn’t already been shown the exit.

Or that he hasn’t declared martial law (all those anarchists, you know) and effectively silenced dissent. We’re already well on our way to the latter via Trump’s incessant attacks on the media – “the most dishonest people in the world” – and press secretary Sean Spicer’s rabid-chihuahua, daily press briefings. (Note to Sean: Whatever he’s promised you, it’s not worth becoming Melissa McCarthy’s punching bag. But really, don’t stop.)

With luck, and Cabinet-level courage not much in evidence, there’s a chance we won’t have to wait two long years, during which, let’s face it, anything could happen. In anticipation of circumstances warranting a speedier presidential replacement, wiser minds added Section 4 to the 25th Amendment, which removes the president if a majority of the Cabinet and the vice president think it necessary, i.e., if the president is injured or falls too ill to serve. Or, by extension, by being so incompetent – or not-quite-right – that he or she poses a threat to the nation and must be removed immediately and replaced by the vice president.

Aren’t we there, yet?

Thus far, Trump and his henchmen have conducted a full frontal assault on civil liberties, open government and religious freedom, as well as instigating or condoning a cascade of ethics violations ranging from the serious (business conflicts of interest) to the absurd (attacking a department store for dropping his daughter’s fashion line). And, no, it’s not just a father defending his daughter. It’s the president of the United States bullying a particular business and, more generally, making a public case against free enterprise.

To an objective observer, it would seem impossible to defend the perilous absurdities emanating from the White House and from at least one executive agency, the USDA, which recently scrubbed animal abuse reports from its website, leaving puppies, kittens, horses and others to fend for themselves.

On a hopeful note, a few Republicans are speaking out, but the list is short.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz recently got a taste of what’s ahead for Republican incumbents. Facing an unruly crowd at a town hall meeting in Utah, the House Oversight Committee chairman was booed nearly every time he mentioned Trump. Even if many in the crowd were members of opposition groups, the evening provided a glimpse of the next two years. From 2010’s tea party to 2018’s resistance, the pendulum barely had time to pause before beginning its leftward trek.

While we wait for it to someday find the nation’s center, where so many wait impatiently, it seems clear that the president, who swore an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution, has never read it. Nor, apparently, has he ever even watched a Hollywood rendering of the presidency. A single episode of “The West Wing” would have taught Trump more about his new job than he currently seems to know – or care.

Far more compelling than keeping his promise to act presidential is keeping campaign promises against reason, signing poorly conceived executive orders, bashing the judicial and legislative branches, and tweeting his spleen to a wondering and worrying world.

Trump’s childish and petulant manner, meanwhile, further reinforces long-held concerns that this man can’t be trusted to lead a dog-and-pony act, much less the nation. Most worrisome is how long Trump can tolerate the protests, criticisms, humiliations, rebuttals and defeats – and what price he’ll try to exact from those who refused to look away.

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

kathleenparker@washpost.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/kathleen-parker-if-we-survive-the-next-two-years-well-have-a-new-president-in-office/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/trump-yet-again.jpgMon, 13 Feb 2017 20:47:29 +0000
Charles Lawton: Here’s a proposal to create real equality of job opportunity http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/charles-lawton-heres-a-proposal-to-create-real-equality-of-opportunity/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/charles-lawton-heres-a-proposal-to-create-real-equality-of-opportunity/#respond Tue, 14 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1153138 As a former member of Maine’s Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission, I have learned to remain humbly silent about any prognostications I may have made. Nonetheless, I find it gratifying that just a week after saying that we would do well to pay more attention to principles than to partisanship, the headlines proclaim that we are – at least so far– still a nation with an independent judiciary based on the principle of a constitutional separation of powers. However the issues of executive power and immigration reform may ultimately be resolved in the case of temporary bans, it is clear that we all need to be involved in formulation of whatever new social contract emerges from the constitutional turmoil in which we are now embroiled.

To my mind, the most important element such a “contract” must include is an expanded version of economic adjustment assistance. It is often forgotten that many of the central elements of the implicit social contract that emerged nationally in the New Deal of President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s – Social Security, unemployment insurance, wage, hour and worker organization regulations – were not created by our federal government, but borrowed from the most successful experiments conducted in a variety of state governments. And these programs were, in turn, the product of collaborations among social activists, labor unions, academic researchers and philanthropists.

Ultimately, these elements of the New Deal social contract were based on an evolving understanding of certain of our foundational goals. Individual liberty and equality before the law could, in the industrialized world of the 1930s, have practical meaning only within a community that created programs that at least tried to ensure some degree of equality of opportunity to all citizens. Hence, a tax on wages that went into a fund to ensure that those who had worked for years could enjoy some level of financial support for their last, non-working, years. Hence, another tax on those working today to go into a fund to help those who may lose their jobs tomorrow.

The traditional New Deal economic adjustment assistance programs worked well into the 1980s, but they are clearly inadequate to the demands of the post-1980s globalized economy. And just as the programs of the 1930s emerged to address the socio-economic changes from the agriculture-based economy of the 19th century, so programs today must recognize and adapt to the globalized and digitized economy of the 21st.

Through the better part of the 20th century, unemployment insurance was relatively effective in buffering the worst of the business cycles. When business declined and workers were laid off, funds collected when they were working could be used to tide them over until business improved and they were called back. Since the 1980s, fewer and fewer workers were ever called back. Each recession served as motivation for businesses to become more productive – to produce more with fewer workers.

What the unemployed need today – in addition to pure wage replacement – is the three R’s: re-engagement, retraining and relocation assistance. To anyone following the labor market closely, it is obvious that skilled and motivated human beings are increasingly the scarcest and most valuable resource on earth. Designing and implementing the programs to meet this need will be the battleground from which some political party will become the majority party for the next generation. Will it be the Democrats? The Republicans? The Greens? The nationalists? Who knows, but if someone doesn’t, the United States’ experiment in democracy will certainly fail.

In the interests of focusing discussion, here’s a proposal: Reduce the federal corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. Create a federal-state worker learning assistance program modeled after the federal-state unemployment assistance program. Dedicate all federal and, where applicable, state corporate income tax revenue collected to this newly created worker learning assistance program. Include in this dedication all corporate income tax collected on repatriation of any of the estimated $2.4 trillion of corporate income held abroad by U.S. corporations on earnings they made outside the U.S. Include an additional 5 percent credit on earnings repatriated within six months of enactment of this program. Establish a board comparable to the National Science Foundation to solicit, evaluate and allocate money to proposals for use of these funds from schools (public and private), universities, labor unions and any other entity with ideas for helping workers displaced by business disruptions caused by international trade or abrupt technological change.

Such a program would, I believe, do more to make real for the 21st century the fundamental American principle of equality of opportunity than any other public program we could design. It would simultaneously productively disrupt our glacially slow educational institutions, more fully exploit the opportunities presented by the digital communications revolution and begin to stem the alienation and hopelessness that feed the anger and addictions that so threaten our social fabric.

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

cttlaw3@gmail.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/charles-lawton-heres-a-proposal-to-create-real-equality-of-opportunity/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/06/450623_Getting-A-Raise.JPEG-0d9ae-e1487036173788.jpgFILE - In this March 25, 2014 file photo, a technician inside a trailer monitors and directs the pressure and mix of water, sand and chemicals pumped during a hydraulic fracturing operation at an Encana Corp. well pad near Mead, Colo. Oil and gas workers earned an average 11 percent more an hour in April than they did a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s more than five times the average gain across all industries. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)Mon, 13 Feb 2017 20:34:52 +0000
Maine Voices: Meals on Wheels delivers better health for Maine’s seniors http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/maine-voices-hedy-6/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/maine-voices-hedy-6/#respond Tue, 14 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1153154 SCARBOROUGH — When seniors receive Meals on Wheels, they are getting a delicious meal and much more.

With health care costs soaring, Meals on Wheels can help people stay healthier, decrease health care costs and improve the quality of life for seniors who need nutritional support for the short or long term.

Research from Meals on Wheels America shows that 83 percent of Meals on Wheels recipients say their health is improved because of Meals on Wheels. But perhaps the most revealing fact is that the cost to provide one year of Meals on Wheels is less than one day in the hospital.

The Southern Maine Agency on Aging has been delivering Meals on Wheels in Cumberland and York counties for more than four decades. Despite our best efforts, myths about the program have continued to confuse deserving people and deter them from considering this valuable nutritional and social resource to restore and maintain their health.

MYTHS

• Meals on Wheels are only for low-income seniors. In fact, anyone 60 or older who is primarily homebound, unable to prepare nutritious meals regularly and is able to accept meals at the midday delivery time is eligible.

The Southern Maine Agency on Aging conducts an in-home nutritional assessment within the first nine business days of enrollment. Meals are delivered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There is no income test.

Meals are also available for caregivers over 60 who are limited in their ability to prepare meals during a time of their loved one’s recovery.

• Meals on Wheels are basic, bland nutrition. Actually, the meals are tasty and designed to meet one-third of the Federal Dietary Reference Intake for a healthy diet.

The meals are prepared in a U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified kitchen and can be ordered to accommodate personal dietary preferences such as low-sodium, gluten-free and vegetarian. Special meals for people undergoing dialysis are also available.

The menu varies but always includes a protein-based entrée, a carbohydrate side dish and a vegetable. Clients can opt to receive a quart of milk weekly. The meals arrive frozen but are easily prepared.

The Southern Maine Agency on Aging’s Meals on Wheels clients are surveyed regularly, and 88 percent rated the meal quality as good or great in the most recent survey.

BENEFITS

• Meals on Wheels can help in the short term. Many clients sign up for Meals on Wheels after surgery like joint replacement or illness like pneumonia limits their activity. They may only need a few weeks of meals to help with the recovery process. Research shows that good nutrition following a period of illness or surgery greatly improves recovery time.

One of our clients contacted Meals on Wheels after a hospital stay for treatment of an aggressive cancer. She had little or no appetite and lived alone. Her weight had plummeted to less than 100 pounds. She started receiving Meals on Wheels and soon began to gain weight.

Her outlook improved, as did her energy and strength. She received Meals on Wheels for two years and when she got a clean bill of health, she opted to stop receiving the meals. She had gained 16 pounds and decided her mission was to give back to the program that gave her a second chance at a full life. Now in her 80s, she knits hats for other Meals on Wheels clients and for hospitalized children.

• Perhaps the best part of the Meals on Wheels program is the regular visit for the recipient. Our volunteers or staff deliver a smile and a bit of conversation with each knock on the door.

This brief encounter helps minimize the social isolation that results as hearing, vision, strength and memory fade. A quick check-in offers peace of mind to family caregivers, nearby or far away, because they know that their loved one is not alone.

The Southern Maine Agency on Aging is lucky to have the support of over 130 volunteers. Some serve as drivers and runners to make the deliveries. Our Warming Crew volunteers help the clients who need help with heating their meals. Our Phone Pals make calls to our clients to check in with them on nondelivery days.

According to the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, 17 percent of Maine seniors experience food insecurity. Chances are you know someone over 60 and homebound who could benefit from regular nutritious meals delivered to their home. Contact the Southern Maine Agency on Aging at (207) 396-6500 or at www.smaaa.org and help them improve their quality of life.

 

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/maine-voices-hedy-6/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/03/612080_edi.0330-e1427752308581.jpgA Charleston, W.Va., woman looks over a meal delivered by the Meals on Wheels program. In Maine, a reduction in federal Meals on Wheels funding will put further pressure on the organizations such as food pantries that help meet the nutrition needs of low-income Mainers.Tue, 14 Feb 2017 15:10:25 +0000
Another View: Many Portland students hurt by outmoded school buildings http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/another-view-many-portland-students-hurt-by-outmoded-school-buildings/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/another-view-many-portland-students-hurt-by-outmoded-school-buildings/#respond Tue, 14 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1153156 As two people who have worked on the issue of rebuilding our aging elementary schools for almost a decade, we wholeheartedly agree with the assessment of Portland City Councilors Pious Ali, David Brenerman and Justin Costa, who wrote about the unsound conditions at Presumpscot, Longfellow, Reiche and Lyseth elementary schools and said that upgrading them is a necessity, not an option.

On the other hand, we were very disappointed to read in a separate column by Michael Mertaugh the false claim that studies show student learning isn’t connected to learning environment. Study after study has shown that facility issues like insufficient light (Lemasters, 1997), bad acoustics (Evans and Maxwell, 1999), climate control (Corcoran, Walker, and White, 1988), and inadequate structural band-aids (Branham, 2004) all impact academic achievement.

Also, teacher retention, vital to better outcomes, is also impacted by facility quality (Buckley, Schneider, & Shang, 2005). But regardless of studies, does anyone actually believe that Portland special ed students should be taught in windowless utility closets? Or that students should have to wear headphones to drown out the noise? Or that kids with disabilities should be shipped across town because their neighborhood school is not ADA compliant? Or that 6-year-olds should have to walk outside in the winter to get to the bathroom? We hope not. Unfortunately, all of these conditions exist in the four schools we are looking to rebuild.

But once again, we are so thankful that the councilors have joined a unanimous Board of Education in calling for a $61 million bond to rebuild our schools. We are finally on the verge of giving voters a chance to decide whether they want learning environments that are suited to meet the needs and expectations of our kids, their families and our community.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/another-view-many-portland-students-hurt-by-outmoded-school-buildings/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/12/1123771_581361_reiche.jpgMon, 13 Feb 2017 20:42:14 +0000
Our View: Election reform for all the wrong reasons http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/our-view-election-reform-for-all-the-wrong-reasons/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/our-view-election-reform-for-all-the-wrong-reasons/#respond Tue, 14 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1153164 Donald Trump and Paul LePage see the Northeast as a hotbed of voter fraud, where no election outcome can be trusted. As president of the United States and governor of Maine, respectively, they are in uniquely powerful positions to ferret out this fraud, yet despite what they see as a threat to our democracy, they have ordered no investigations.

If they did, they would find nothing, just as other investigations have found no evidence of consequential fraud.

Still, their constant, fantastical hawing clears the way for legislation aimed at making it harder for people to vote. Maine has said no to these restrictions before and we should continue to do so.

At least two bills in front of the Legislature will try to capitalize on the fanciful claims by Trump and LePage. One would require voter identification at the polls, while another would make it more difficult for college students to vote in Maine.

They would be necessary if millions of people took advantage of the lack of voter ID laws to vote illegally, or if college students commonly cast ballots in two states. That’s what happens in the ridiculous conspiracies concocted by Trump, who says as many as 5 million voted illegally in New Hampshire on Nov. 8, and LePage, who said after the election that he could not stand by the results. No, these restrictions do not eliminate widespread fraud, because there isn’t any widespread fraud to eliminate. Study after study backs this up, with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University finding that voter impersonation occurs in, at most, .0025 percent of ballots.

And a 2011 review by then-Secretary of State Charlie Summers, a Republican, found no evidence that students and noncitizens were voting in Maine.

However, the restrictions do accomplish something – they keep largely Democratic voters from voting.

Around the country, Republican-controlled legislatures and governor’s offices are requiring voter ID, eliminating same-day registration, shortening the early-voting period, and making it harder for students to vote, knowing their party benefits.

So they’ll ignore the ample evidence that voter fraud occurs so infrequently that it is practically non-existent, and they’ll ignore the fact they are putting barriers in place to keep American citizens from exercising their right to vote.

The Election Assistance Commission was created after the 2000 presidential election to help states implement new voting procedures and act as a clearinghouse for information on new technology. This month, a GOP-controlled House committee, along party lines, voted to shut down the commission. Ballot security, indeed.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/14/our-view-election-reform-for-all-the-wrong-reasons/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1153164_letters_0227-e1487068299333.jpgStaff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette Voters make their way in and out of voting booths at Kennebunk Town Hall on Election Day in 2002.Tue, 14 Feb 2017 05:31:47 +0000
Our View: Swift action, not words, needed to fight Maine’s opioid crisis http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/13/our-view-swift-action-not-words-needed-to-fight-maines-opioid-crisis/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/13/our-view-swift-action-not-words-needed-to-fight-maines-opioid-crisis/#respond Mon, 13 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1152211 Gov. LePage spoke with great passion last week about the opioid overdose crisis, now claiming on average more than one life a day in the state.

Listening to the speech, you couldn’t doubt that he really cares about the families who are being torn apart by this scourge, and that he sincerely wants to do something to end it. In recent months, he and Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew have made money available for medication-assisted treatment, the “gold standard” for fighting opiate addiction, with a 50-year track record of success.

The only question is, where has this leadership been for the last six years?

Starting in his first year in office, LePage and Mayhew promulgated rules that put time limits on methadone treatment, despite solid research that shows that the medicine allows many people to work and have a normal life, and that there is a high rate of relapse for people who are weaned off it.

Then LePage made national news with his stubborn opposition to the wider distribution of naloxone, the overdose antidote medication, claiming that it did not save lives, it just prolonged them.

LePage and Mayhew have repeatedly bragged about reducing the MaineCare rolls, especially by cutting coverage for nondisabled, childless adults. This has disrupted the economics of treatment providers, closing clinics and slowing expansion just when they were most needed.

The governor says that Maine can’t just “throw money at the problem” and should look to see what’s working in other states.

He won’t have to look far: Vermont has been able to slam the lid on overdose deaths using a coordinated system of treatment known as the “hub and spoke” concept that is now a national model. The state makes available residential detox beds for addicts (the hub), following with medication-assisted treatment and counseling in the community (the spokes). It’s been able to finance the system largely with federal funds, because instead of kicking people off Medicaid, Vermont expanded coverage for individuals earning less than $16,300 a year.

For most of his time in office, Gov. LePage has treated drug addiction as a moral failing, and offered only tough love, at times sounding insensitive to the heartbreaking loss of control that addicts experience.

Lately, his words have been more sympathetic, but he still leaves questions about whether he fully understands the problem.

In his speech to the Legislature – and again in a radio interview Thursday – the governor quoted an unnamed friend, an emergency room doctor, who LePage said told him that the opioid overdose epidemic would end only when this generation dies.”

Those are chilling words coming from LePage, who’s not simply an observer, but an official who has the tools at his disposal to slow the death toll – if he would just be willing to use them.

There is a welcome change in Gov. LePage’s rhetoric regarding the drug crisis. If he matches his sympathetic words with swift actions, he could save lives.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/13/our-view-swift-action-not-words-needed-to-fight-maines-opioid-crisis/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1152211_560936-20170207_StateOfSt2-e1487087489935.jpgGov. Paul LePage delivers his State of the State Address last Tuesday. Halfway through his second term, the governor appears sincere that he wants to do something to end Maine's opioid overdose crisis.Sun, 12 Feb 2017 20:24:30 +0000
Maine Voices: LePage’s proposed cuts cast school leaders as fat to be trimmed http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/13/maine-voices-lepages-proposed-cuts-cast-school-leaders-as-fat-to-be-trimmed/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/13/maine-voices-lepages-proposed-cuts-cast-school-leaders-as-fat-to-be-trimmed/#respond Mon, 13 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1152326 FREEPORT — As districts statewide begin to deliberate on school budgets, the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations is poised to hear testimony regarding the governor’s biennial budget. Given the many cuts to public education proposed by Gov. LePage, I urge fellow Maine citizens to speak up to protect our schools.

I am a school board member in Regional School Unit 5. It is with trepidation that budget deliberations have begun in our district – and across Maine: Embedded in the governor’s budget are 48 changes to the Essential Services and Programs funding formula, which is currently used to determine state contributions to local schools.

Normally, at this time of the year the Department of Education would be issuing spreadsheets showing the impact of funding changes to local aid. This year, however, given the complexity of the changes proposed by the Blaine House, this is not the case. The result is that districts have no way of knowing how much state aid they will receive from Augusta. Superintendents and school boards are struggling to craft school budgets without knowing what their revenue will be. We are, in essence, operating in the dark.

Additionally, having these 48 proposed changes included in the biennial budget makes it very difficult to evaluate the impact of each change separately. Maine citizens should be given the opportunity to deliberate the merit of each proposal independently, in a separate forum – not within the constraints of the discussion regarding the entire biennial budget.

One prominent change embedded in Gov. LePage’s budget is the elimination of funding for system administration, including superintendents and assistant superintendents, business managers, human resources directors and support for school boards and business office functions. While it is easy to target school administration, good leadership in schools is as necessary as good leadership in any type of organization or business.

Administrators plan professional development for staff and they coach teachers; they strategize and set goals for schools; they communicate with parents and students, setting a positive tone in school buildings; they craft budgets and oversee spending; and they run schools like any CEO would run a company. Without effective leaders, students suffer. We can’t expect public schools to attract, and retain, the talent needed to improve education unless we provide funding for these key positions. Nor can we count on good leaders being effective without good support staff – which, if Gov. LePage has his way, will be defunded as well.

The governor’s budget also cuts general purpose aid by $9.5 million, and an additional $5.5 million annually is being diverted to “regional education service agencies.” We are still waiting to hear from the governor which organizations fall into that category.

To put all these cuts in perspective, readers might recall that in 2004, Maine voters passed a referendum calling for the state to pay for 55 percent of all public K-12 education costs, and 100 percent of special education costs, as a way to reduce pressure on local property taxes. That percentage was never met. Not only did the state abdicate its responsibility to reach the 55 percent target; in 2013, the cost of teacher retirement was shifted onto localities.

Last November, however, voters reaffirmed their support for state-funded public education by approving a 3 percent surcharge on Maine annual incomes above $200,000. This new revenue source is intended to help the state reach the 55 percent funding target. Gov. LePage’s response to the election result, however, is to undermine the will of the people of Maine by changing the education funding formula to lower state contributions to Maine cities and towns.

We, local taxpayers, have been consistently asked to fund parts of school budgets that are supposed to be shouldered by the state. The proposed changes go too far. The state needs to live up to its responsibility of funding public education for all Maine children – and this needs to start now.

A good education is the best tool we can give our kids. In a changing economy where it is increasingly difficult to access well-paying jobs without high skills, the state owes every Maine child the opportunity to succeed by funding 55 percent of public education based on the current EPS funding formula.

The proposed changes would be devastating for our public school system. Please urge your state representatives and senators to stand up for our children by opposing Gov. LePage’s proposed cuts to education.

 

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/13/maine-voices-lepages-proposed-cuts-cast-school-leaders-as-fat-to-be-trimmed/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/937589-20170125_LePage_1.jpgMon, 13 Feb 2017 08:52:58 +0000
Bill Nemitz: Even under fire, Collins remains best hope for Senate sanity http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/bill-nemitz-even-under-fire-collins-remains-best-hope-for-senate-sanity/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/bill-nemitz-even-under-fire-collins-remains-best-hope-for-senate-sanity/#respond Sun, 12 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1152210 And the understatement of the week goes to … Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

“These are not easy times to be in public office. They really aren’t,” Collins said Friday as she traveled home for the weekend from the nation’s capital, also known as the District of Calamity.

Collins should know. From the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as President Trump’s new education secretary to the reprimand of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren under the Senate’s now infamous Rule 19, Collins is to the current national angst what a lightning rod is to a bolt from on high.

The harder she tries to straddle the Great Political Divide, the more she winds up getting torched.

Let’s start with the DeVos nomination, which Collins opposed in a 50-50 deadlock broken only by the highly unusual intervention of Vice President Mike Pence.

Conservatives, including Gov. Paul LePage, were furious with Collins for breaking ranks with her party and announcing well in advance that DeVos would not get her vote.

At the same time, liberals lambasted her for letting DeVos escape the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (giving it the best acronym on Capitol Hill: HELP) with a favorable report to the full Senate.

Had Collins gone the other way in the committee’s 12-11 party-line vote, these critics say, she could have prevented the DeVos nomination from ever reaching the Senate floor.

Not true.

Several times in recent years – see: Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork (Supreme Court justice); John Tower (Defense secretary) and John Bolton (United Nations ambassador) – presidential nominees have emerged from their confirmation hearings with either an unfavorable vote or no recommendation by the oversight committee.

Their fates before the full Senate ranged from approval (Thomas) to rejection (Bork and Tower) to stalemate, followed by a presidential “recess appointment” (Bolton).

Collins, who joined fellow Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in ultimately opposing DeVos, offered this explanation for the apparent contradiction between her committee and floor votes:

“I truly believe that presidents are entitled to considerable deference in putting together their Cabinets. And that, to me, means that each and every senator should have a voice in deciding whether or not to support the nominee. It’s not something that should be shut off early in the process, particularly not at the committee level.”

Disagree with that if you must. But to those who insist that Collins would have stopped DeVos in her tracks by voting “no” in committee, history begs to differ.

“They’re just mistaken about that,” Collins said.

On to the Warren rebuke.

To recap: Warren, in a floor speech opposing the certain confirmation of then-Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, read quotes from two historical giants: the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Upon reading Kennedy’s decades-old description of Sessions (at the time a U.S. attorney nominated for a federal judgeship) as “a disgrace to the Justice Department,” Warren was warned by the Senate’s presiding officer to refrain from further besmirching the senator from Alabama.

Warren went on to read the equally critical letter by King. That’s when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suddenly appeared and, to Warren’s clear surprise, invoked Rule 19.

The rarely invoked rule states, “No Senator shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”

The presiding officer sided with McConnell. Warren appealed. And with that, the entire Senate was summoned to vote on whether to silence Warren.

Enter Collins.

Approaching Warren prior to the vote, Collins asked if they could speak privately. Warren agreed and they headed for an anteroom just off the Senate chamber.

“My goal was to be the peacemaker,” Collins said. “We talked for, I’d say, 15 minutes.”

Collins declined to reveal details of the private chat, but essentially she told Warren that the enforcement of Rule 19 would be bad for the Senate and if Warren agreed to rephrase her remarks, Collins would work on McConnell to back down as well.

And?

“I will plead to being unsuccessful,” Collins said.

In other words, the two women found themselves on opposing courses that were, by then, impossible to alter?

“I think that’s fair,” Collins replied. “On both sides.”

The conversation ended. Warren went out of her way to hold open the door to the Republican side of the chamber for Collins, who is still hobbled by a broken ankle she suffered last fall.

“So there were no hard feelings there, for lack of a better word,” Collins recalled.

Collins then voted to invoke Rule 19 against Warren because, she said, the Senate’s nonpartisan parliamentarian had found Warren in violation and that was good enough for Collins.

“I think invoking Rule 19 is a big deal,” Collins said. “We do have rules in the Senate, we do have norms, that are intended to prevent the Senate debate from spinning out of control. It’s an attempt to have civility.”

So what about last year’s arguably worse violation by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who stood on the Senate floor and called McConnell a liar?

(That contradiction, it’s worth noting, was a tipping point for Maine Sen. Angus King. In a thinly veiled reference to Cruz, he asked the presiding officer if calling another senator a liar would violate Rule 19; after being told it would, King voted against silencing Warren.)

Collins noted that Cruz’s comment came late one night when virtually the entire Senate had gone home – not exactly the hyper-politicized atmosphere in which Warren sounded off.

That said, she added, “Absolutely, Rule 19 was definitely violated when Ted Cruz called Mitch McConnell a liar. And it should have been invoked.”

In retrospect, the Rule 19 smackdown probably helped Warren more than it hurt her – starting with the T-shirts now selling like hotcakes with McConnell’s tone-deaf quote, “Nevertheless, she persisted,” printed across the front.

“(McConnell’s) protest was to try to make people say, ‘She should not have violated the Senate rules,’ ” mused Collins. Yet “among (Warren’s) supporters, the reaction was, “Yay! She violated the Senate rules!’ So it is fraught with irony.”

As is this: To roundly condemn Collins for a committee vote on DeVos that made no difference, or a procedural wrist slap that ultimately amplified Warren’s declaration of conscience, is to overlook Collins’ larger role in these dark times.

Love her, hate her or pray quietly that she sees the light, Maine’s senior senator remains one of the nation’s most hopeful counterbalances to Trump & Company once the wheels truly fly off. And fly off they inevitably will.

Tighten your seat belt, Sen. Collins. This ride has just begun.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/bill-nemitz-even-under-fire-collins-remains-best-hope-for-senate-sanity/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)Sat, 11 Feb 2017 22:23:44 +0000
Maine Observer: Stow contains all of Maine’s pleasures http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/maine-observer-stow-contains-all-of-maines-pleasures/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/maine-observer-stow-contains-all-of-maines-pleasures/#respond Sun, 12 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1151763 As a naturalist, botanist, mineral collector and Maine history teacher, I had occasion to poke into the nooks, crannies and remote areas of Stow. Throughout several decades, I discovered plant species in Stow that were new to Maine as well as extirpated plants that hadn’t been seen in over a hundred years.

Why Stow? Because many of my ancestors came from this hidden paradise. As a child I would travel to Stow with my parents and visit several cousins. We would camp at Evans Notch in Chatham, New Hampshire. I continued to camp at Evans Notch after the passing of my parents. Over the years I climbed every hill and mountain in Stow and Batchelders Grant looking for minerals, plants, birds and animals. In my 20s I recall finding a large pocket of amethyst crystals on Deer Hill. The estimated weight of the crystals was over a hundred pounds.

It wasn’t until an absence of several years that I went back to Stow during the summer months to visit old haunts and admire the beauty of meadows, fields and woods. Many of the Eastman landmarks were gone; some destroyed by fire, others deteriorated with age. I noticed the barn and outbuildings were gone from the Fred Eastman homestead at Stow Corner. I recall when I was a scrawny 15-year-old trying to pitch hay into Fred’s horse-drawn wagon. I didn’t last long at this task.

I begin to muse about the summer season and seasons past. When late July and August roll into September, goldenrods and wild asters dot the open fields this time of year in our northern climes. Fall unofficially begins on Sept. 1 in Stow, Batchelders Grant and Chatham. A curtain has been drawn and the summer performance is over.

Mother Nature is getting ready for her long, deep sleep by December.

I’ve always found September to be melancholy in Stow, knowing colder weather will be arriving in mid-October.

It is then that I can hear the winter winds blowing down the mountain slopes (Bald Face Mountain) and into the valley, stripping the green grasses to brown and removing the trees of their dress and exposing their naked souls to the gods.

Yes, the Indian summer that comes later is beautiful, teasing me that the good times of summer are here again. Nonetheless, I can’t be teased. I know cold weather will descend upon my shoulders as I walk through forest still looking for that rare fern that tenaciously hides from the cold. Summers for me in the wilds of Stow, collecting plants and minerals, birding and examining every little creature on the forest floor, filled my days with joy.

If heaven exists, then I visualize myself walking between Thoreau and Robert Frost, down a dusty dirt road in Stow bordered by rock walls and sugar maples, discussing Mother Nature and the negative pressures she must now endure in the 21st century.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/maine-observer-stow-contains-all-of-maines-pleasures/feed/ 0 Fri, 10 Feb 2017 18:36:27 +0000
Maine Voices: Immigrants made America great http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/maine-voices-immigrants-made-america-great/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/maine-voices-immigrants-made-america-great/#respond Sun, 12 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1151768 A little over a week ago, one of my great-aunts passed away. She was an impressive woman by all accounts – not to mention that she lived for 97 years. Her death made me recall the countless stories she told about the old days in Portland when Italian immigrants were escaping abject poverty in search for better lives.

Similarly, my Franco-American relatives migrated to Maine for economic opportunities. Over the short course of a century, both sides of my family came to Maine for opportunities and gave so much back.

These musings about my multicultural family should not come as a surprise, as I suspect many of us, grandchildren of immigrants, are giving much thought to the Trump administration’s Muslim ban. Every generation has welcomed foreign cultures to U.S. shores, and each has encountered its struggles to find acceptance.

My great-aunt’s stories were filled with a deep sense of community and shared culture, but they also reminded me of what my relatives had to endure. Derogatory terms were used to describe Italian- and Franco-Americans, and cultural myths led to prejudice and exclusion. Very few of my relatives now speak Italian or French; the drive to fit in and avoid discrimination resulted in letting go of our beautiful, romantic languages. As a child, I was told that being Catholic made me a second-class citizen, and I remember how groundbreaking it was to elect the first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy.

My sense of family, culture and community runs deep, and it makes me ache to imagine what my small piece of America would look like if my family had been banned from seeking refuge in America. Everyone would have lost.

One of my great-grandmothers had a lunch cart serving sandwiches to the Italian laborers. Maybe you’ve heard of Amato’s Italian sandwiches? Another of my great-grandmothers was a midwife who delivered the babies of Italian and Jewish families in Portland’s Little Italy neighborhood. My Franco-American relatives worked in the Pepperell Mill in Biddeford and owned a corner store where Mémère sold her tourtière (pork pie) during the holidays. I can’t help but think of my own family history when I see halal markets and restaurants opening in Portland.

All of us can cite stereotypes associated with our heritage. If we’re honest, we can recall times when we’ve been guilty of stereotyping and joking about cultures other than our own. At the same time, I know that my life has been enriched by what I have learned from friends and colleagues across cultures. I can’t imagine a life without difference in a democracy.

The essential belief that all people are created equal is foundational to what makes our country a proud and powerful nation. The Constitution provides checks and balances that help policymakers make decisions based on a common view of humanity. This country is built on the legacy of immigrants like my great aunt and my grandparents. Like our Muslim brothers and sisters, we are immigrants, too.

As a second-generation daughter of immigrants, I am no longer looked upon as a foreigner. I have had the privilege of earning two college degrees; I own a house; I travel at will, and I earn a wage my immigrant relatives could never have imagined. I’m rarely the brunt of discriminatory acts, and my loyalty to America’s values seldom has been questioned, until recently.

My hope for immigrants from the seven banned majority-Muslim countries is that their future will hold experiences similar to my own and that those politicians who have been elected to uphold our Constitution can see beyond their misplaced fear.

It is time for those of us whose families made landfall on Ellis Island to take Lady Liberty seriously. She’s not joking when she says: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” My immigrant family took it seriously, and so do I.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/maine-voices-immigrants-made-america-great/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/02/1151768_workers.0212.jpgItalian immigrants lay water pipes on Capisic Street in the Deering section of Portland around 1900. The photo was taken by Leonard Bond Chapman, a noted photographer of the era, who lived near the work site.Sat, 11 Feb 2017 17:04:23 +0000
Our View: Maine teachers need more than higher salaries http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/our-view-maine-teachers-need-more-than-higher-salaries/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/our-view-maine-teachers-need-more-than-higher-salaries/#respond Sun, 12 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1151809 If Gov. Paul LePage wants to give Maine teachers a raise, we’re all in. Pretty sure Democrats are too, judging from the reaction Tuesday night to the governor’s remarks on teacher pay at the annual State of the State address, one of the few that night to draw a bipartisan standing ovation.

But attracting top talent to the teaching profession, and making sure that talent goes to poor, rural districts as well as the wealthier suburban ones, will take more than a statewide teacher contract. Although that could help, it also requires a sustained effort to fight against the many forces keeping students across the state from having the same educational opportunities.

NOT JUST SALARY

A statewide teacher contract could counterbalance one of those forces. Because each school district negotiates its own teacher salaries, there are disparities between the wealthier and poorer districts. For example, according to a Press Herald analysis of Maine School Management Association data, the average teacher salary in the Cumberland County region is significantly higher than in the Kennebec County region, $57,500 to just more than $43,000. That gives the wealthier schools a clear advantage in attracting the best and most experienced teachers.

A statewide contract, or regional contracts designed to deal with regional differences in the cost of living, could level the playing field, allowing poorer schools to attract and retain teachers who would otherwise go elsewhere.

But salary is just one factor dividing schools. Teachers want to teach, too, where there are smaller class sizes and a range of class offerings. They don’t want to dip into their own pockets to buy student supplies. They certainly don’t want to teach in outdated schools, where they may be stuck in a trailer or converted closet posing as a classroom.

Equitable salaries across schools alone won’t make it easier for teachers to do their job, and they won’t bring more people to the profession. Both are desperately needed. Nationwide, there were 60,000 fewer teachers than needed in 2015, and the deficit could reach 100,000 by 2018. Each year, 8 percent of teachers leave the profession, and a lot of it has to do with inadequate school funding, as well as other factors that have put teacher satisfaction at a 25-year low.

Enrollment in teacher preparation programs has dropped nationally, and in Maine the number of education degrees awarded fell from 1,222 at its peak in 2006-07 to 787 last year.

Wages for teachers are far behind those of comparable college-educated professionals.

In Maine, school funding was slow to rebound following the Great Recession, and our 33rd-ranked average teacher salary, along with a high cost of living, makes it one of the toughest states to be a teacher, according to WalletHub.

MORE INVESTMENT

Around the country, we are simply not investing enough in schools and teachers to make teaching an attractive profession. If Gov. LePage would like to change that, he should have a partner in Maine Democrats, who have consistently fought for more school funding, and who last year backed a bill that would have increased starting pay for all teachers. He would also have the backing of Maine voters, who in November supported an income-tax surcharge to raise money for schools, a move the governor has resisted.

LePage has made education reform a focus of his final two years in office.

However, he isn’t likely to find much of an appetite for one of his proposals – changing the school-funding formula, which has been praised for its fairness by analysts who also say that Maine education needs greater funding. And though his idea for regional consolidation of administration has promise, implementation may be difficult, and savings unimpressive.

But he would certainly find support in providing all Maine schools with sufficient funding.

That would help poorer schools, and poorer students, improve, and according to an analysis by an education professor at the University of Southern Maine, raising the achievement levels of poor students to match more well-off students would give Maine the country’s second-ranked schools.

If LePage wants to get more money “into the classroom” – that is, to teachers and into the facilities where students learn — he can certainly do that, and with great effect.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/our-view-maine-teachers-need-more-than-higher-salaries/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/06/4501-20150617_Teacher_04.jpgPORTLAND, ME - JUNE 17: Karen Renton, left, is retiring after a 32-year career as a music teacher at Yarmouth Elementary School. Here, her pupils react to the eighteen school portraits of their teacher through the years. (Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer)Sat, 11 Feb 2017 19:36:48 +0000
Cynthia Dill: Trump’s right about one thing: Nation’s security is at stake http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/cynthia-dill-trumps-right-about-one-thing-nations-security-is-at-stake/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/cynthia-dill-trumps-right-about-one-thing-nations-security-is-at-stake/#respond Sun, 12 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1151813 Don’t be surprised if President Trump appoints himself to the Supreme Court. This balance of power thing is not his style and he hates losing, which makes enforcing a Muslim ban problematic.

On Jan. 27, Trump issued Executive Order 13769, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” citing the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and banning travel to the U.S. for anyone from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen – countries none of the 9/11 terrorist were from – and banning refugees from Syria, a country savagely ripped apart by war and whose people, including thousands of innocent children, are suffering.

Two days later, amid complete chaos and despair, Trump said of the order, “this is not a Muslim ban.”

What about that December 2015 campaign statement titled “Donald J. Trump Statement On Preventing Muslim Immigration?” Remember how it said “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”?

Remember after the horrific shooting in Orlando, Florida, when Trump said, “I called for a ban after San Bernardino and was met with great scorn and anger, but now … many are saying that I was right to do so …”?

And everyone recalls candidate Trump all over the news trumpeting his Muslim travel ban, including these remarks on “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd:

“But just remember this: Our Constitution is great. But it doesn’t necessarily give us the right to commit suicide, OK? Now, we have a religious, you know, everybody wants to be protected. And that’s great. And that’s the wonderful part of our Constitution. I view it differently.

“Why are we committing suicide? Why are we doing that? But you know what? I live with our Constitution. I love our Constitution. I cherish our Constitution. We’re making it territorial. We have nations and we’ll come out, I’m going to be coming out over the next few weeks with a number of the places. And it’s very complex … and I would stop the Syrian migration and the Syrians from coming into this country in two seconds. Hillary Clinton wants to take 550 percent more people coming in from that area than Barack Obama. I think she’s crazy. I think she’s crazy. We have no idea who these people are for the most part, and you know, because I’ve seen them on different shows …”

Trump did then what any self-respecting candidate for president would do after watching television. He announced the establishment of a commission.

“Political correctness has replaced common sense in our society. That is why one of my first acts as president will be to establish a commission on radical Islam, which will include reformist voices in the Muslim community who will hopefully work with us. We want to build bridges and erase divisions. The goal of the commission will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization. This is my pledge to the American people: as your president I will be your greatest champion. I will fight to ensure that every American is treated equally, protected equally and honored equally. We will reject bigotry and oppression in all its forms and seek a new future built on our common culture and values as one American people. Only this way, will we make America great again and safe again.”

And who better to reject bigotry and oppression than Rudy Giuliani, pre-eminent reformist voice in the Muslim community? As reported in The Washington Post, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro asked Giuliani whether the ban had anything to do with religion.

“I’ll tell you the whole history of it,” Giuliani responded eagerly. “So when (Trump) first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’ ”

Giuliani said he assembled a “whole group of other very expert lawyers on this,” including former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Tex.) and Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) – other prominent “Muslim reformists” in the Trump camp, for sure.

“And what we did was, we focused on, instead of religion, danger – the areas of the world that create danger for us,” Giuliani told Pirro. “Which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible. And that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.”

Except that according to the 9th Circuit, which was asked to review the order, “Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States. Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all.”

Some experts. Urging federal judges to accept without question a fact-free “reform” of what obviously is Trump’s promised Muslim ban? Asserting that judicial review of Trump’s order allegedly about national security and defense violates the separation of powers? I thought Trump was going to start winning again.

Trump’s claimed imperialism – the notion that his orders are unreviewable – “runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.”

A law that has a religious purpose as opposed to a secular purpose is unconstitutional. So is a law that prefers one religion over another or discriminates on the basis of one religion over another. That’s what makes America great already. National defense is not an end in itself that justifies the exercise of unrestricted power.

In the name of national defense, the United States of America cannot sanction the subversion of religious freedom and due process of the law, for these and other fundamental rights are what make the defense of the nation worthwhile in the first place.

After the 9th Circuit refused to permit enforcement of the travel ban while the case is fully litigated, the president of the United States tweeted at 6:35 p.m. Thursday: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

And he’s right. It is in court where sometimes the security of our nation is at stake, and that’s fine by me.

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

dillesquire@gmail.com

Twitter: dillesquire

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/12/cynthia-dill-trumps-right-about-one-thing-nations-security-is-at-stake/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/02/20150928cynthiadill0032-e1456164666846.jpgPORTLAND, ME - SEPTEMBER 28: Cynthia Dill, a new columnist, was photographed on Monday, September 28, 2015. (Photo by Yoon S. Byun/Staff Photographer)Fri, 10 Feb 2017 18:35:00 +0000