The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Opinion Mon, 24 Oct 2016 03:46:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bill Nemitz: A personal ode to the Best Dog Ever Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It was, among daily life’s many rituals, my favorite.

I’d pull into the driveway at the end of a long day.

Fairbanks, the Best Dog Ever, would jump up and stand by the porch steps, his face one big smile, his tail wagging like there was no tomorrow.

I’d come down the walk, stop in my tracks and say, “C’mon, Banks!”

Bolting down the steps, he’d sprint directly toward me, veering off at the last second into a wide circle – past the miniature Japanese maple, out to the driveway, around through the hostas and back up onto the porch, where he’d crouch like a coiled spring, tongue out, tail still wagging …

“C’mon, Banks!” I’d repeat. And we’d do it all over again … and again … and again …

I thought about those glorious homecomings with tears in my eyes Monday as I lifted Fairbanks up from the driveway and onto the towels my wife, Andrea, had spread across the back of the car.

His eyes clouded by cataracts, his hearing all but gone, his fluffy tail motionless between his arthritic hind legs, Bankster looked back up at me and, I swear, one last time he smiled.

He came into our lives 13 years ago, rescued at the last minute from a kill shelter in Alabama by The Golden Retriever Rescue Lifeline and trucked all the way to Maine along with more than a dozen other equally lucky pups.

I’d just written about the good people who run the rescue program, and Andy and I went to the park-and-ride lot in Biddeford to watch the offloading.

It was love at first sight. Fairbanks came down the ramp and sidled up next to Andy, who melted on the spot.

The next thing I knew, I was writing a check for the adoption fee. And just like that, all of our lives took a turn for the better.

If you’ve never had a dog, you may not get how a non-human can become part of a family. If you have, then perhaps you’ll understand.

Fairbanks was more than just a friendly dog. He was, to us and to so many who crossed his path over his long life, an actual friend.

Some might remember when I last wrote about him just over four years ago.

Back when he was a local celebrity.

Andy managed an upscale clothing boutique on Middle Street at the time and, rather than leave Bankster alone at home all day, she began bringing him to work.

Sitting there in the display window, at eye level with whoever passed by, he proudly served for more than a year as the Old Port’s therapy dog. To this day, people tell us how their daily “Fairbanks fix” made their workaday lives a little less wearisome, their burdens a little bit lighter.

“So handsome,” wrote one of many admirers on his “Friends of Fairbanks” Facebook page. “You light up my workday. Thanks, Fairbanks.”

Andy eventually changed jobs and, alas, Fairbanks lost his window on the world. His fans were crushed.

Still, life went on. We adopted another rescue dog, Sofie, to keep Bankster company during the day. And we tried mightily not to notice time’s inevitable advance.

His end-of-the-day welcomes slowed from four loops around the driveway to three, then two, then one … until finally he stayed put on the porch and gamely waved with his tail.

He slept more and, when he did play, moved more gingerly. His 4-mile walks shrank steadily until anything over a half-mile was likely to leave him lame for a day or two.

His facial hair turned gray.

But his spirit, dare I say his love, never wavered.

Last year, as I spent most of my time sick in bed, Fairbanks sensed something was wrong. Tail wagging, he’d stare into my eyes for what seemed like hours, as if to say, “We’ve got this. Things will get better.”

And they did. At least for me.

They say golden retrievers have an average lifespan of 11 or 12 years. Yet even as Fairbanks limped past 14, Andrea and I had trouble accepting that this gift, this once-scrawny little guy with the outsized grin, could ever stop warming the world around him.

But as we Googled “dog end of life” and scanned all the checklists on “when to know it’s time,” the evidence slowly mounted: Night wandering? Check. Loss of vision and hearing? Check. Inability to climb stairs? Check. Increasing incontinence? Check. Weight loss? Check …

Then it was Monday. From the moment we awoke, the 3:15 p.m. veterinarian appointment hung heavy over the day until finally, as the clock hit 3, I took a deep breath, hooked the leash onto Fairbanks’ collar and said, my own throat tightening, “C’mon, Banks. Time to go.”

Our veterinarian could not have been kinder. She examined Fairbanks, asked us about this and that, and gently assured us that, yes, we were making the right decision.

Upon hearing the words, I suddenly felt panicky. I wanted to scoop him up, run out to the car and make a beeline for home, where everything would be perfect again and Bankster would run to his heart’s content.

Instead, I held his front paw and watched as the vet administered the sedative and left us all alone for a few minutes.

Our tears flowing freely, Andy and I hugged and petted the dog of our dreams. Then he kissed us each on the chin one last time, lay down and, ever so slowly, drifted off to sleep.

Only then did I realize I still had my slippers on.

Only as I got in the car and closed the door did I fully grasp how attached we’d become to that furry bundle of pure, unadulterated friendship.

Only now, as Sofie and I sit here amid the silence, do I appreciate how much a dog can fill an old house – and beyond – with his simple presence.

Time surely will heal all of that.

Still, as I look over at the corner of the living room and spot a Fairbanks fur ball hiding in the shadow, I’d give anything for one more sunny afternoon, one more welcome home, one more wag of that brilliant tail.

Goodbye, Bankster. May you run in peace.


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Maine Voices: A call to resist ‘toxic masculinity’ Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WATERVILLE — It’s hard to find much good in the news these days when it comes to men. The release of the “Access Hollywood” tape of Donald Trump’s conversation with Billy Bush; the growing number of allegations that Trump kissed, groped and otherwise assaulted women; and Trump’s lame it’s “just words,” nothing more than “locker room talk” defense have all put contemporary masculinity in the crosshairs.

A number of commentators have highlighted Trump’s “toxic masculinity” and suggested that in its hyper-macho posturing, bullying and lack of empathy for others, it masks an underlying fear and anxiety of not measuring up, of being inadequate, of losing control. Others have noted the “precarious masculinity” of Trump’s white working-class male supporters, and suggest that many men see in Trump and his talk of male dominance and success someone who can restore their lost power and status.

White working-class men are suffering, economically, socially and physically. And so it is understandable that these men would identify with Trump, desperately hoping that he will save them from their despair.

But what about other men, men with power, privilege and prestige, men like Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Pence, Jimmy Fallon, Matt Lauer and Billy Bush, who have happily served, in public and in private, as “beta boys” to Trump’s “alpha male”? Why are they falling all over themselves to serve him, to defend him, to treat him gently, even playfully, to laugh at his crude comments?

The answer to this question takes us back to “toxic masculinity,” and to the fear and shame and self-silencing that those of us who identify as men learn at a very young age that other boys and men will judge us as inadequate, weak, cowardly, “soft” and “feminine” if we don’t suck it up and play along.

Yet, in spite of all the Trump-inspired bad news about men and masculinity, there is, thankfully, some good news, too.

First of all, it’s good news that so many men spoke up and spoke out in response to the Bush-Trump video. From politicians like President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, to celebrities and media figures, to academics, to a whole host of professional athletes, there has been a chorus of condemnation directed against the notion that the Bush-Trump conversation is typical of “locker room talk,” and and against the assumption that nonconsensual physical contact is acceptable.

In addition, organizations that promote healthy masculinity and work with boys and men to reduce the incidence of sexual assault, like Mentors in Violence Prevention, A Call to Men and Maine’s own Boys to Men, continue their critically important efforts.

Second, there is mounting evidence that respectful, equitable, nonviolent and emotionally adept forms and expressions of masculinity are not only possible, but also lead to positive outcomes for boys and men, educationally, physically, psychologically and socially.

For example, psychologists Carlos Santos, Niobe Way and their colleagues have found that middle-school boys who resist conventional hypermasculine norms are more engaged in school, remain in closer, more emotionally supportive relationships with their mothers, siblings and friends, and exhibit fewer depressive symptoms than boys who do not resist.

My students and I are finding similar things as we talk to young men at Colby College who embody forms of healthy masculinity – young men like 2012 graduate Eric Barthold, 2014 graduate John Kalin and 2016 graduate Chris Millman, who are leaders in sexual violence prevention and social justice efforts on campus, young men who are scholars and athletes and musicians and mentors to children in the community, young men who resist the pressures to be “beta boys,” and who have the courage to stand up and speak out about misogyny, sexual violence, homophobia and racism on campus.

Talking to these young men is helping us to understand the complex contours of what we have come to think of as healthy masculinities, as well as to chart the developmental and educational conditions and experiences that enable some young men, like our informants, to grow up to be good and just human beings.

The path from boyhood to healthy manhood isn’t easy. It’s full of challenges, pitfalls, stops and starts. Resisting the toxic masculinity of the Trumps of the world can sometimes be very dangerous, and even life-threatening.

But in these difficult days, when masculinity seems to be on trial at every turn, it’s important to know that Trump and his kind don’t speak for all men, and to have faith that better men will prevail in the end.

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Maine Observer: Catch a falling leaf, just for fun Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 While most people enjoy the fiery palette of fall foliage, and many enjoy tracing, with their eyes, the dipsy-doodle paths of falling leaves, only a few are members of the Leaf Catchers Club.

To be a card-carrying member (more on that later), you must catch a leaf after it falls from a tree and before it hits the ground. It’s not that easy, and the almost constant Maine wind makes it harder.

The purpose of the Leaf Catchers Club I founded in my high school is to encourage fun, laughter and smiles. Get outdoors. Breathe in and enjoy the landscape. Reactivate the child within. The club is a “student organization,” but many teachers, coaches and parents have also joined.

I keep a poster in my classroom. Club members bring their leaves in, tape them to the poster and sign their names. It’s based on trust, which is why “integrity” is added to our motto of “speed and dexterity.” October is the only leaf-catching membership month.

I don’t remember how or why I started encouraging leaf catching, but now I know I continue the club, in part, for those teenage students who never seem to smile. Most of them, in my experience, have been girls.

I teach in extremely rural Maine where tall, leafy trees are plentiful. Sometimes we study haiku poetry, a Japanese genre often rich in natural imagery. Then we go outdoors to be inspired by nature and to write … almost always in October. I mention the club, and the students take it from there. If you’ve ever seen the beaming face of a young fisherman with a just-caught fish, you’ve seen the face of a leaf catcher.

My favorite memory is of one of those unsmiling, tough-luck teenagers locked onto the trunk of a 15-foot maple, shaking a few leaves loose. Then she and a similarly impassive friend ran in circles, laughing crazily before falling, all smiles, to the leafy ground.

During the annual meeting, I welcome all club members by shaking their hands with the secret handshake. It’s silly – that’s the point. Membership cards, also silly, quote Byron: “West wind … Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! / One too like thee: tameless, and swift, / And proud.” I serve maple-flavored, maple leaf-shaped cookies. Our motto is “Carpe folio” (“Seize the leaf”).

Be careful as you go after your leaf. As you look up, your feet are left on their own below. You might twist an ankle or run into something. However, in over 15 years of leaf-catching clubs, no one has reported an injury.

There’s nothing wrong with passively taking in Maine’s fall foliage. But hundreds of proud, smiling leaf catchers, with color in their cheeks, are worth emulating. When’s the last time you had a chance to pirouette in the crisp fall air while something fell from heaven into your waiting hands?

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Our View: Vote Emily Cain in 2nd District to make Congress work again Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, has, through his energetic style and prodigious fundraising, earned attention in a way not often seen for a first-term congressman. But he has also sided regularly with the House Republicans whose obstructionism gives Congress its bad name, and whose efforts are largely centered on repealing the significant gains of the Obama administration.

For those reasons, and for Democrat Emily Cain’s solid legislative record and firm grasp of the federal issues facing Maine, we are endorsing Cain in the Nov. 8 election. She was an effective legislator, and she has been an energetic campaigner, too, reaching out to Mainers throughout the 2nd Congressional District and showing an ability to connect warmly and empathetically with voters of all backgrounds and political leanings, traits that will serve her well as a congresswoman.

Poliquin has had some admirable victories. He brought to the finish line the effort to have athletic footwear covered under the Berry Amendment, which will ensure American-made sneakers are bought by the military, a boon to Maine’s New Balance employees. Along with the the rest of the state’s congressional delegation, he successfully stood up to Sweden’s proposal to ban Maine lobsters from the European Union, saving $200 million in annual exports.

But he has also, time and again, sided with the tea-party caucus against important issues related to health care, national security, and civil and worker rights.


Poliquin was one of seven Republicans in the U.S. House to change votes to defeat a measure aimed at upholding President Obama’s executive order barring discrimination against LGBT employees by religious organizations that contract with the federal government. He also voted to repeal long-overdue changes to the rules governing overtime that were allowing companies to exploit workers.

Poliquin was part of a party-line vote to permanently bar federal funding for abortion, and though he voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act, he is only waiting for a Republican-approved alternative to surface.

Based on the ideas coming out of the party, we have no confidence that a Republican alternative would fix the ACA in a way that will preserve its best features, nor does it seem plausible that Poliquin will work with Democrats to improve the ACA in the way that is necessary.

Poliquin is also opposed to the Iran nuclear deal, which we believe made the world safer by slowing the ability of Iran to make nuclear materials and increasing monitoring. It was the most realistic way to bring the international community together on the issue, and it should stay, against the wishes of the many Republicans.

Finally, Poliquin is adamantly opposed to the new national monument near Millinocket, which we feel is an exciting development for the region, particularly if it is a step toward a national park.

Cain, meanwhile, is on the right side of all those issues. She backs LGBT and worker rights. She supports fine-tuning the ACA and protecting access to health care, including a women’s right to an abortion. And unlike Poliquin, she would be part of a caucus that supports full funding for Social Security and maintaining Medicare in its current form, not replacing it with a voucher system.

In addition, she backs the Iran deal, and though her stance on the national monument has been somewhat tortured, she is ultimately supportive.


Cain also said she would also angle for a committee spot advantageous to Maine, such as the Agriculture Committee. Poliquin is on the Financial Services Committee, which fits his Wall Street background but does little to directly impact the state.

Cain, whose experience in the Maine Legislature as a leader for both the majority and minority party would certainly benefit her in Congress, has been open and forthright about her positions on these issues throughout the campaign.

That’s in direct contrast to Poliquin, who has frequently dodged questions, particularly those related to his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

It is troubling that Poliquin refuses to say publicly whether he supports Trump, even as Trump has made the 2nd District a focus of his campaign. Trump has exhibited character flaws and a dearth of policy knowledge unprecedented among modern major-party candidates, and Maine residents deserve to hear what the congressman thinks.

Based on that lack of response as well as his political experience, there is little hope that Poliquin would work with a President Hillary Clinton. Nor would he push back against a Freedom Caucus that would either be conducting another four years of obstructionism, or – God forbid – advancing the agenda of a President Donald Trump.

Emily Cain, on the other hand, would be another vote for maintaining and building on the advancements of the last eight years while looking out for Maine’s interests in Washington. For that, she has earned our endorsement.

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Another View: Poliquin has good reason to oppose U.S.-Iran nuclear deal Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Gordon Adams (Maine Voices, Oct. 8) criticizes U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s position on the Iran nuclear agreement.

Here are some issues that refute Mr. Adams’ claims that the deal is a good one:

There is ample evidence for the existence of an Iranian-Russian strategic alliance with the objective of regional dominance. This has a major impact on the deal. Mr. Adams touts the uranium enrichment reductions achieved, but overlooks two potential offsets.

First, Iran can use the U.S. funds to purchase uranium from the Russians, who recently canceled a uranium reduction treaty.

Secondly, production can be relocated to Syria, entirely avoiding U.N. inspections. Russian-Iranian forces are interoperable in Syria.

Previous Iran-North Korea nuclear agreements failed. This one has further eroded enforcement by limiting sites inspected to only ones named. Unnamed and military sites are off limits.

The deal is only for 10 years, but it’s highly unlikely to last. A Russian U.N. veto will prevent the use of U.N. sanctions now and in the future.

Iran continues to test ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads, in violation of other international agreements. It continues to support terrorism and call for the destruction of the U.S. and Israel.

Now, Iranian missiles have been used in Yemen to attack our U.S. Navy. It is counterintuitive to expect such a reckless and nefarious regime to abide by any agreement. Once the U.S. turned over the funds, the Iranians have absolutely no motive or incentive to abide by the deal.

I can’t think of any other way to describe someone who is so sure this is a good deal than to say that he is naïve and living in a fairy tale. We need more politicians like Rep. Poliquin, who understands that appeasing our enemies promotes more aggressive behavior, as history has shown again and again.

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Analysis: Mainers suffering high anxiety over election Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Have you had trouble sleeping over the election? Worried you were about to be run off the road because your bumper sticker had sent someone else into a fever pitch of nastiness? Or found yourself on Facebook, steam coming out of your ears as you indignantly give what-for to that misogynist, racist creep who maybe went to high school (in another state) with someone that you met once and friended?

You are not alone. You are so far from being alone. The heinous, horrible debates are over and the gavel will come down in the case of Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump on Nov. 8. But in the meantime, what about our collective blood pressure? This can’t be good for anyone, on either side of the political fence.

Fifty-two percent of American adults reported that the election is a very significant or somewhat significant source of stress, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association released earlier this month.

Mental health professionals themselves report being disturbed, both for their patients and for themselves, by the way the presidential race has unfolded. William Doherty, a professor at the University of Minnesota and a licensed marriage and family therapist, started a manifesto in opposition to “Trumpism” (first bullet point: Trumpism “is antithetical to everything we stand for as therapists”). Over 3,000 therapists have signed it already.

Portland’s Gail Clinton, a trained psychiatrist who uses talk therapy in her practice, is one of the 10 or so Maine medical professionals who put their name to Doherty’s manifesto. Clinton (no relation to the candidate) said that in her practice, she started noticing election-related tension in her patients about six months ago.

“But it has really accelerated in the last weeks and certainly months,” Clinton said. “Even in the last week it has accelerated.” Although the APA survey found men and women to be almost equally stressed about the election, in Clinton’s practice, she said “definitely more women that I work with are upset.”

Elise Magnuson, a Portland psychologist and president of the Maine Psychological Association, agreed. Trump’s taped, gleeful boasts of sexually predatory behavior have alarmed many women and brought back deeply stressful memories of being groped, grabbed and treated as prey.

“I do think that this is very relevant for a lot of women,” Magnuson said. “Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 will report receiving unwanted sexual attention by the time they reach adulthood.”

How do they cope? How should they cope?

“APA recommends remembering that the presidency is only one of the three executive branches of the government,” Magnuson said. “Other things that do commonly help is time outside, particularly in our gorgeous Maine fall. Time with friends. Journaling. Meditation. Exercise. It cures everything.”


Sharon Bearor is trying to chill, but it’s hard. She’s a registered nurse, which in theory might make the Portland resident better equipped to deal with the stressors of the 2016 presidential election. For her personally, these include three separate negative encounters on the road because of a pro-Hillary Clinton magnet on her car, including being berated by two men in a car. “I was kind of listening to music and enjoying my little space,” she said. “I started crying.”

During the debates she let the rage at Trump flow, standing right up next to the television, swearing and tweeting freely, even though, she says, she’s not an angry person by nature. “I’m peace, love, Rolling Stones and Joni Mitchell,” she said. “But this guy? He makes my skin crawl.”

Duncan Newcomer, one of the signatories to the anti-Trump manifesto, is a psychotherapist and minister in Belfast.

“I think Trump has disturbed people in a really profound way by his violence and his anger and his irrationality,” Newcomer said. Among those he counsels, “people are pretty agitated. As am I.”

He has even had dreams about Trump. And for him, those would be nightmares.

Stress levels are undoubtedly high on both sides, although it proved harder to get Republicans to admit to it on the record than Democrats. When Press Herald reporters interviewed Trump supporters at his recent rally in Bangor, they spoke of being afraid of increased terrorism, should their candidate not be elected. Some supporters, like Gov. Paul LePage, picked up on Trump’s completely unsubstantiated claim that were he to lose, it would be because the election was rigged. Which of course, would send voters into a panic.

Not Adam Ratterree, who is chairing the Waldo County residents for Trump. He said he has observed some tension from others, but he is fine. Given how badly Trump is flagging in the polls, particularly after recent news items about his sexually predatory behavior, is he prepared for a Clinton presidency?

“I really don’t want to see that,” Ratterree said, serenely. “As far as my calm demeanor about it, what is going to happen is going to happen.”


Although the survey found that it didn’t matter whether respondents were Democrats or Republicans, the APA did conclude that those who use social media are more likely than those who do not to be experiencing stress (54 versus 45 percent, respectively). Sandy Johnson, a Realtor in Portland, reports that her stress level has gone down since she ditched Facebook a few months ago for political reasons.

“I was overcome with revulsion at some of the stuff I was reading,” she said. “I was off the charts. I was so angry and upset about everything.”

Of her Facebook decision she says, “It was liberating, let me tell you.”

Exercise, as psychologist Magnuson noted, is a definite balm.

“I do find working out helps some,” said David Rogers Treadwell, who regularly submits opinion pieces to the Times Record in Brunswick. He’s tried to keep his political passions from taking over his columns, but so much for what the American Psychological Association says: He’s unabashed about his liberal angst on social media. “I get out my stress by posting on Facebook,” he said. “That helps. I don’t hold back.”

Then there’s acupuncture. Beth Herzig, a licensed acupuncturist at Rocky Coast Acupuncture in South Portland, said the election “is coming up in conversation with almost everyone. People are really down about it.” There are specific treatments, including the “five-point protocol” that are “wonderful for calming the nervous system,” in general, Herzig said, although there is no specific pressure point that releases the pent-up fears of either liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans.

In the case of this particular election, it might help to be siding with neither. Matt Roy, a lifelong Republican who is running in Lewiston for an open seat in the Maine House of Representatives, is voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Both Trump and Clinton “scare me,” he said, and he knows Johnson doesn’t stand a chance of winning. (Well, he’s got hopes for Utah.) Maybe that’s why Roy is more Zen about this election than others.

“I’m sure deep down, we all have our anxieties about the future,” he said. “But everyone has anxieties about the future.”

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Cynthia Dill: Surprising myself with my choices in the early-voting booth Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I typically vote on Election Day, but this year I voted early because I’m signed up to volunteer as a “voter protection” lawyer on Nov. 8 in the bordering battleground state of New Hampshire. I think the job will entail milling around a gymnasium or an Elks hall with a group of cheerful senior citizens, snacking on homemade brownies and making polite conversation as American democracy peacefully happens. Because there’s never been any real voter fraud, nor is there any legitimate reason to believe voter fraud will happen this year. But who knows? Maybe in some sleepy little town in the White Mountain hollows a legal controversy of national proportion will erupt and I’ll be called upon to spring into action and defend the Constitution. That would be exciting.

It certainly was exciting to vote for Hillary Clinton for president of the United States, and regular readers know why I so strongly support her candidacy. Clinton has the experience, intelligence and temperament to be the leader of the free world, and her moral compass has led her on a lifetime path of public service and fighting for justice.

Chellie Pingree is an under-appreciated, reliable workhorse for the First Congressional District, and voting for her was a no-brainer. She’s a steady, seasoned lawmaker and successful businesswoman who miraculously is able to quietly make real gains for Maine and the country as a member of the minority party in Washington. Pingree’s expertise and reputation around food, sustainability and economic issues adds real value to her seat in Congress, and she has helped veterans all over in substantial and meaningful ways.

As to Question 1, the legalization and regulation of marijuana, I surprised myself and voted no. This in spite of my strong support of medical marijuana and innate belief that recreational use should be legal. Alysia Melnick, the political director for the Yes on 1 campaign, won me over in the debates, but then Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, and District Attorney Stephanie Anderson, a Republican, came out opposing the bill and I got spooked. Feeling guilty for not reading the language of the legislation, on top of my lingering questions about how this new industry can be effectively regulated when federal banks refuse to transact business with marijuana businesses, jerked me to a no vote.

More surprising than my vote on Question 1 was my spontaneous rejection of the very heartfelt advice I often give others about voting, and that’s if you don’t comfortably know the candidate or the issue, skip it and leave it blank and vote for what you do know. Look at Brexit, the vote in England to leave the European Union. More than half of the voters supported it in large part only because they were pissed off at the government about immigration and a lagging economy. Many pro-Brexit voters had no idea it would cause a complete transition of power and ex-communication from Europe. I may regret my vote on Question 1.

I also voted no on Question 2, too, even though I support the concept of raising taxes on high-income families to support public education. A big problem I have with Question 2 is Gov. Paul LePage. If the initiative passes, he will sabotage the law that springs from Question 2 because he personally hates teachers unions. I dread the drama and veto of the budget or any other law needed to pass to implement this new tax, plus I do not believe tax policy is properly done by referendum. I also have cautious optimism that a Clinton presidency will bring federal changes to the tax code that will raise money for public education, and the state should follow.

I voted yes on Question 3 because a person on a no-fly list due to suspected terrorism or who beats kids and tortures animals should not be able to buy an assault weapon willy-nilly from Uncle Henry’s list or at the Cumberland County Gun Show. Warnings that a background check is the first step down a slippery slope of big government taking away guns and repealing the Second Amendment is the biggest crock of beans since Y2K.

I voted yes on Question 4, the bill that seeks to raise the minimum wage gradually to $12 an hour in 2020 and, thereafter, roughly tie it to inflation, plus increase wages for restaurant workers. The current minimum wage law is a loophole being used by some companies to exploit employees who have no good alternatives. Taxpayers foot the bill for entitlement programs that low-wage workers need to make ends meet while the companies they work for pay their CEO 350 times what their average worker earns, most of them women. If a large or small business can’t afford to pay a decent wage for a hard day’s work, then the business model is flawed.

I voted yes on Question 5, the so-called ranked-choice voting bill, because the election of Lepage, twice, to the Blaine House was a travesty. His stain on Maine politics will not come out for several washings. In the meantime, Maine is the perfect place to experiment in a safe and thoughtful way with the democracy process to try and make it better. The implementation and technology challenges may cause us to reverse or change course, but that’s a chance I am willing to take.

I voted yes on Question 6, the infrastructure bond. The low interest rates we will pay on the debt coupled with the low gas-tax revenue available without it for roads, bridges, ports, airports, bicycle and pedestrian trails, makes this an easy one. We need to upgrade and maintain our infrastructure to maintain our standing in the world.

To be a volunteer lawyer on Election Day this year is good, and to have the opportunity to vote and express myself is great.

God bless America.

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

Twitter: dillesquire

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Alan Caron: Voters united at last, over distaste for sore loser Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Donald Trump stumbled into the last debate, wounded and bleeding. It seemed impossible that he could come out in even worse shape. To do that, he had to find a trapdoor into a deeper cellar than the one he had already wandered into. He not only found it, but he promptly jumped in. And whatever chance he had to reset the trajectory of the campaign went with him.

When asked, twice, by moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, if he would accept the outcome of the election, he refused to answer. Trump will now go down in history as the first major-party presidential candidate who not only proclaimed that the election was “rigged” before it happened, but who also refused to respect the outcome of the election unless he wins.

Most folks would never tolerate their kids talking or acting like that about a ball game or a test at school.

Trump did succeed in one goal, in that debate. He united the country. But the unity was against the nonsense he’s been peddling lately about “rigged” elections. We Americans will acknowledge our many faults, and no party or ideology or system, including our elections, is perfect. But the integrity of our elections has always been a deeply held and nonpartisan American value, and the foundation of our democratic system.

It is a system that has been sustained and nurtured through every challenging period and hard-fought election battle in our 240-year history. And safeguarded by states and courts, towns and cities, patriots and citizens.

The sanctity of our elections is the work of thousands of Americans, here in Maine and across the country, who maintain voter lists; organize them by precinct; check machines and pencils; prepare to greet you on Election Day at the local polling place; and work late into the night carefully counting and recounting ballots.

Many do that work for free or for a small stipend. They do it, mostly, out of a love of our democratic traditions and for the example that America sets for others in the world. They deserve our deepest gratitude.

What they don’t deserve is careless talk by self-serving politicians. Conspiracy fears run amok. The crazy blather of far right-wing radio is brought to the mainstream of the country. All by people who assume the worst in others, state their fears and suspicions as settled facts, and recklessly make sweeping charges, without a shred of evidence, against people who disagree with them.

Donald Trump should apologize to the people who run our elections, but of course he won’t. He never apologizes to anyone because, in his mind, he doesn’t make mistakes, except those that are someone else’s fault.

So let’s apologize on his behalf. When you vote on Nov. 8, take a moment to thank the people who are working at the polls. Congratulate them for getting through another grueling and stressful day.

This election has now become more than a vote for a Democrat or a Republican, as this latest controversy makes clear. It’s an opportunity for America to send a message to Washington and the world. We want change, but not senseless and mean-spirited division. We want energetic debates, but civility. We want to include people rather than exclude them. And we want co-operation to become a strength again, rather than a weakness.

Trump and Clinton have provided us with two starkly different visions of America and our future. Donald Trump offers a relentlessly negative view of an America besieged by forces beyond our control and ruled by stupid and dangerous elites. He offers the appeal of the strong man who promises to “drain the swamp” in Washington, seal the borders, expel 15 million immigrants, corral American businesses so they can’t go overseas, further reduce taxes on the rich and roll back gains for women, minorities, the environment, consumers and workers.

Hillary Clinton offers a more hopeful view of an America on the mend after a Great Recession. She calls for reining in the power of corporate America, raising taxes on those who have gained far more than everyone else in recent years, reinvesting those dollars in education and infrastructure, and continuing progress for women, minorities, gays and lesbians, climate change and working people.

Those who say that there isn’t much difference between the two parties, and that it’s hardly worth voting except as a protest, need to take a harder look at these competing visions. What kind of future we’ll have is on the ballot this year.

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

]]> 5, 22 Oct 2016 16:37:20 +0000
Port City Post: Talent for tap dancing can lead to overconfidence, bigly Sat, 22 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 An empty nest allows extra time for some potentially foolish decisions – like raising chickens, meditating or taking a hip-hop class, for example.

As we mature, our self-consciousness goes low as our impulsiveness goes high. We decide to do things that we might not do during our more relevant decades, like getting a tattoo or walking our dog in our pajamas.

If a friend told me that she had signed up for a tap dancing class, I’d be very polite and enthusiastic, but I would also hope that she would not go as far as inviting me to her recital. I think I’m busy that night.

It’s hard not to look upon the choice of an aging pal to start taking a tap dancing class without seeing it as just another desperate attempt to stay alive, upright and ambulating.

But here I am telling you about my decision to finally take a tap dancing class. It’s something I’ve wanted to try for years. I now own a pair of shiny-new tap shoes and a 10-class pass to Casco Bay Movers. It’s jazz hands all around, my friends.

Be happy for me because I plan on being the best tap dancer ever.

As it turns out, I am already great at tap dancing. I mean really, really great. I’m bigly and fantastic at tap dancing. I can hear an eight-count beat from a hundred miles away. Shuffle ball change step, shuffle ball change step and stomp.

I was born to tap and because of my natural ability to tap, I’m quite confident that I could also become president of the United States or have my own reality show or climb Mount Everest or become a movie star. Why not? After all, greatly begets greatly and then we become, well, terrifically terrific!

I’m already the best student in my class. And speaking of my class, it is a very good-looking group of people. I went around the room so I would know who the hell I was tapping with. There are some seriously bad senoritas in my class rocking their right to tap. If I weren’t tapping with these women, I would probably be dating them.

Tap is all about love and “love” is a fantastic word and I know words. “Love” is the greatest word ever besides “beautiful” and “strong,” of which I am both.

The beauty of me is that I believe in me and my ability to tap. Don’t feel insecure around me when you see me tap. It’s not your fault. Shuffle off to Buffalo, one two three four five six seven eight, ball change.

Nobody has more respect for tap dancing than I do. Fa-lap, fa-lap, fa-lap, one two three four five six seven eight.

And women are the best tappers ever. Nasty women are unbelievably great at tap dancing. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

Tap is winning. Tap is love. Tap is nasty. Let’s all hold hands and make a big wall of sound with our tap shoes and then life will be safe, secure and goodly.

Let’s make America great again, one nasty ball change after the other. Love and tap trump hate, and I just want you to be happy.

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

]]> 5, 21 Oct 2016 18:04:32 +0000
Garrison Keillor: Worry about Trump’s new role dampens glee over election finally ending Sat, 22 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 This election is winding down, thank heaven, and barring a bombshell backstage video in which Hillary Clinton is heard talking about how she loves to stroll into a men’s room and let out a whoop and yank the waistbands of men at the urinals and yell “Snuggies!” the outcome is in sight, and finally we’ll be done with Nate Silver and Politico and RealClearPolitics and the ranting and raving on YouTube and the borderline psycho posts on Facebook by people we wish we weren’t related to, and we can get back to real life.

The bitterness of it has been exhausting. The “issues” were piffle, there was zero illumination, the election was all about hostility. The ugly billionaire nitwit versus the Babylonian anti-Christ. The Trumpites stuck with him despite his hopelessness because his candidacy gave The New York Times fits, and the Hillareans stuck with her because the alternative was him.

So here we are, loathing each other. Too bad, but we are a righteous people and we need to have someone to loathe.

Look at the English language. The words that express peaceful harmony are so few, so pale, so flaccid, while the words that express disgust, dismay, revulsion constitute a vast and delicious vocabulary. “You’ve got bubblegum for brains, you jackass, you nincompoop, you fathead. You are so average, did you eat dumb flakes for breakfast?” – it goes on and on and on.

Shakespeare is loaded with insults from our rich Anglo-Saxon heritage. It’s a language for people who don’t like each other. You want harmony, go talk Sanskrit.

So here we are, bilious and consternated, and in three weeks, it all comes to an end. Apparently, Mr. Trump will not call up Hillary on election night and offer her congratulations. He may file a lawsuit instead. His followers will be encouraged to believe that the election was rigged by Wall Street hedge fund managers in cahoots with the vaccine industry, followers of Saul Alinsky and aliens living in Roswell, New Mexico, but whatever – it will be over.

The shouting will die down. The “Lock her up” T-shirts will go into the bottom drawer. Families will gather for Thanksgiving and bite their tongues and avoid eye contact. There will be Christmas. The inauguration will take place, and Barack and Michelle and the girls will go to their new home and get out the Scrabble board and pop a kettle of popcorn. And next spring, the 2020 campaign will begin.

I worry about Donald Trump. What is he going to do? He has damaged his brand. The steaks, ties, home furnishings, fragrances, whiskey, resorts, condos, golf club memberships – when you associate yourself with white supremacy, male chauvinism and invincible ignorance, this is not smart marketing.

He can’t go back to the tower. Manhattan is about 83 percent Democratic. Why live among people who don’t appreciate you and ride around in a black limo with smoked-glass windows through crowds of pedestrians giving you the finger? It’s no way to live.

Does the man have friends? Or only associates? This is the big question. Is Sean really and truly his friend? Or Howard? Or Rudy? Do they go out for lunch and tell jokes about the two blondes who went to the drive-in theater in February to see “Closed for the Season”? I doubt this.

He should pick up his traps and move to Nebraska. He is leading in Nebraska, about 2-to-1. There are wonderful warmhearted people there who love and admire him, so he would fit right in. Look at Broken Bow, a town of 4,000 on Highway 2 in Custer County. He could get a nice 3BR there for $150K. There’s a municipal airport, a hospital. The restaurants are good if you like beef. You can play golf from May through September and after that you can use a fluorescent orange ball and play in the snow.

He’d be far away from The New York Times. He could make Broken Bow great, put marble floors and walls in the public school, put up a marble statue of George Armstrong Custer. He could attend a good evangelical church every Sunday and go to Bible reading Wednesday night, where maybe he can learn more about those two Corinthians.

He’d need to be careful about touching women suddenly without permission, though, because many of them are armed. If he grabbed one, she might cut him to ribbons. Even if she were a Christian.

]]> 2, 21 Oct 2016 18:07:23 +0000
We could all breathe easier by reducing greenhouse gas emissions Sat, 22 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When my son was young, his asthma affected his ability to play, especially on hot and humid days. It always broke my heart to have to make him slow down and even to stop playing.

Here in Maine, on the tailpipe of the U.S., we know that air quality is important to our health. We have an opportunity through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – a mandatory market-based program that works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector – to support a 5 percent emissions cap that will reduce exposures to air pollution and help slow the progression of climate change that also threatens our health.

The RGGI cap on carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) represents a regional budget for carbon emissions from the power sector in the nine participating states. Strengthening the emissions cap from 2.5 percent to a 5 percent reduction in emissions per year, starting in 2021, will build on RGGI’s previous success and ensure that Maine is doing its part to clean up air pollution and protect health well into the future.

Maine residents, no matter where in the state they live, are and will be affected greatly by increased asthma and respiratory illness, heart attack and stroke as a result of air pollution and climate change. Reducing carbon emissions through RGGI reduces the rate of climate change, improves the health of millions of Americans by clearing the air of toxic co-pollutants such as sulfur and nitrogen oxides, ozone and particulate matter and even returns economy-boosting dollars to our state. It’s a win-win-win.

When we reduce carbon emissions in the electric sector, harmful air pollution declines. Our kiddos with asthma can avoid scary emergency room visits; they can play safely and participate in sports outside without fear of an asthma attack.

Workers stay healthy, on the job and productive, earning the wages they need to support their families. Elders are healthier and live longer, with more time to help their adult children and enjoy their grandchildren. Taxpayers save billions on the health costs of pollution-related disease.

RGGI states, including Maine, adopted aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals to combat climate change – a 35 to 45 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, and a 75 to 90 percent reduction by 2050. These admirable goals are essential targets that we must meet to avoid allowing Earth’s temperature to increase more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, which, scientists agree, is required to prevent severe environmental collapse.

Maine must help choose a plan for RGGI that will propel us toward these important goals. There is little time left to debate how to control climate change. We already have the information needed to be confident that a 5 percent carbon cap reduction in the RGGI program can be achieved and will produce health and economic benefits.

RGGI’s success has been valuable for Maine, producing benefits to consumers while reducing electricity demand and supporting clean renewable energy. However, the funds from auctioning allowances are only a small part of the economic bonus that the RGGI states receive for reducing emissions.

Air pollution is so deadly that the monetized health co-benefits of reducing carbon emissions are enormous, as are the indirect economic benefits of keeping students in school and workers on the job.

A recent paper in the journal Nature Climate Change quantifies the health and economic benefits that will accrue from the changes that the electric sector must make to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees. These required emissions reductions are roughly equal to an annual cap reduction in RGGI of 5 percent.

If all states reduced carbon emissions by this amount, we would see dramatic health benefits nationwide, with thousands fewer asthma attacks requiring emergency room visits in children under 18, and potentially millions of fewer missed work days. In this scenario, we could also prevent thousands of premature deaths each year.

Even the most conservative economic models show that the benefits of the emissions reductions required to meet the goals of the RGGI states are five to 10 times the costs of implementation.

RGGI is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions from the electric sector and to make the future healthier for Maine citizens. We urge the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the leadership of RGGI to seriously consider an annual cap reduction of at least 5 percent.

Families and children in our state are relying on the DEP and RGGI leadership to choose a plan that will adequately control climate change and improve public health so that no matter where we live in Maine, we can breathe easier for many years to come.

]]> 22, 21 Oct 2016 23:27:59 +0000
Another View: Global trade is here to stay – whatever politicians say Sat, 22 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 They say you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, but if you could, here’s how we imagine it: An American company invents the process and then outsources physical genie-stuffing to a factory in Mexico. The empty bottles are shipped in from Taiwan.

No, we’re not really thinking about genies – we’re contemplating the global economy. Once a country becomes part of the international order of things, it’s not easy or cheap to retreat to the previous way of life. Free trade and free genies are similar: Each will go its own way and pursue its best path.


The example of the moment is the United Kingdom, where British voters in June voted to leave the European Union. The decision, called Brexit, is an exercise in genie-stuffing: The process of reversing decades of economic integration is expensive and counterproductive. Warning signs are everywhere: European leaders say they’ll take a tough negotiating stance on the divorce, which has caused the British pound to plummet. Financial services firms may leave London for the continent. A leaked British government report warns that Brexit could cause a sharp decline in GDP over 15 years.

Being part of the EU is good for Britain, but as with all trade relations there are positive and negative aspects – tradeoffs, as it were, for being part of a large, single marketplace.

British voters didn’t like the fact that citizens from the continent could live and work in the U.K., potentially taking jobs from locals. They also resented the role EU bureaucrats in Brussels played in their everyday lives. Brexit passed because voters believed the argument that Britain could disentangle from Europe but keep the trade benefits of EU membership.

The problem is there are 27 member countries in the EU besides Britain, and in order to dissuade other members from breaking away, they will not make it easy for the U.K. to leave. European leaders appear determined to require that the U.K. keep its borders open for all EU citizens in exchange for unrestricted access to the continent’s market. France’s president, Francois Hollande, set off the pound’s recent plummet by saying Britain won’t be allowed to retreat to its bottle without pain. Once on its way out of the EU, Britain will be a diminished player.

The United States faces the same existential debate about global trade and integration. Donald Trump is campaigning on the promise of abrogating or renegotiating trade deals that he says are killing American factory jobs. Hillary Clinton, who once promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new trade deal between the U.S. and 11 other countries, is now against it.


Yet international trade and investment already are the reality. In the global economy, companies and countries specialize in making the most valuable products they can and buying the rest. American companies manufacture sophisticated goods and American farms grow crops sold all over the world. Our genie company would be most efficient and profitable with its headquarters and R&D in the States and the assembly line in Mexico.

There is no need to reverse these economic trends, and they shouldn’t be reversed. The TPP will be good because the best way to improve the American standard of living is to support the competitiveness of American businesses. Conversely, American consumers enjoy the benefits of less expensive goods from overseas. Part of the equation is using trade deals to secure and protect new markets for American products. That’s what the TPP will do.

The folly of putting this genie back in the bottle is exemplified by Trump’s campaign promise to get Apple to bring production of the iPhone home in order to create more American jobs. Setting aside the fact that presidents don’t control business decisions, assembling iPhones in the United States isn’t going to happen.


Making the phones here would add $50 to $100 to the cost of each one, which would drive consumers to Apple’s competitors. That likely underestimates the cost by multiples, because China’s factories, with their low-cost workforce, are so vast and flexible that no American plant could compete.

The late Steve Jobs once was asked by President Obama what it would take for Apple to make iPhones in the United States. Jobs’ reply, according to The New York Times, had a touch of the genie to it. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said.

The best path for the American economy is to seek productivity gains and competitive advantages wherever they are. No magic is required.

]]> 3, 21 Oct 2016 20:12:38 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: WikiLeaks disclosures about Clinton a warm gun but still non-smoking Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The case against Hillary Clinton could have been written before the recent WikiLeaks and FBI disclosures. But these documents do provide hard textual backup.

The most sensational disclosure was the proposed deal between the State Department and the FBI in which the FBI would declassify a Hillary Clinton email and State would give the FBI more slots in overseas stations. What made it sensational was the rare appearance in an official account of the phrase “quid pro quo,” which is the currently agreed-upon dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable corruption.

This is nonetheless an odd choice for most egregious offense. First, it occurred several layers removed from the campaign and from Clinton. It involved a career State Department official (he occupied the same position under Condoleezza Rice) covering not just for Clinton but for his own department.

Second, it’s not clear which side originally offered the bargain. Third, nothing tangible was supposed to exchange hands. There was no proposed personal enrichment which tends to be our standard for punishable misconduct.

And finally, it never actually happened. The FBI turned down the declassification request.

In sum, a warm gun but nonsmoking. Indeed, if the phrase “quid pro quo” hadn’t appeared, it would have received little attention. Moreover, it obscures the real scandal – the bottomless cynicism of the campaign and of the candidate.

Among dozens of examples, the Qatari gambit. Qatar, one of the worst actors in the Middle East (having financially supported the Islamic State, for example), offered $1 million as a “birthday” gift to Bill Clinton in return for five minutes of his time. Who offers – who takes – $200,000 a minute? We don’t know the “quid” here, but it’s got to be big.

In the final debate, Clinton ran and hid when asked about pay-for-play at the Clinton Foundation. And for good reason. The emails reveal how foundation donors were first in line for favors and contracts.

The soullessness of this campaign – all ambition and entitlement – emerges almost poignantly in the emails, especially when aides keep asking what the campaign is about. In one largely overlooked passage, she complains that her speechwriters have not given her any overall theme or rationale. Isn’t that the candidate’s job?

It’s that emptiness at the core that makes every policy and position negotiable and politically calculable. Hence the embarrassing about-face on the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the popular winds swung decisively against free trade.

So too with financial regulation, as in Dodd-Frank. As she told a Goldman Sachs gathering, after the financial collapse there was “a need to do something because, for political reasons … you can’t sit idly by and do nothing.”

Giving the appearance that something had to be done. That’s not why Elizabeth Warren supported Dodd-Frank. Which is the difference between a conviction politician like Warren and a calculating machine like Clinton.

Of course, we knew all this. But we hadn’t seen it so clearly laid out. Illicit and illegal as is WikiLeaks, it is the camera in the sausage factory. And what it reveals is surpassingly unpretty.

I didn’t need the Wiki files to oppose Hillary Clinton. As a conservative, I have long disagreed with her worldview and the policies that flow from it. As for character, I have watched her long enough to find her deeply flawed, to the point of unfitness.

Against any of a dozen possible GOP candidates, voting for her opponent would be a no-brainer. Against Donald Trump, however, it’s a dilemma. I will not vote for Hillary Clinton. But, as I’ve explained in these columns, I could never vote for Donald Trump.

The only question is whose name I’m going to write in. With Albert Schweitzer doubly unavailable (noncitizen, dead), I’m down to Paul Ryan or Ben Sasse. Two weeks to decide.

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

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M.D. Harmon: Trump may be an outlet for Americans’ anger, but defeating him will not end it Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The other day I met a fellow who, I discovered, also has a degree in political science, and after we talked a bit, I said to him, “Oh, you’re a quant.”

He seemed a little bit taken aback, but not because he thought it was an insult; his reaction seemed more along the lines of “What else would I be?”

The term “quant” was coined in 1979 (according to Merriam-Webster) as shorthand for “quantitative analyst.”

It describes a social science professional who focuses on how human behavior can be quantified – reduced to charts, tables, graphs and numbers – in place of “softer” intellectual analysis.

That’s OK as far as it goes – professionals like Charles Murray do excellent work teasing normative truths out of numerical tables – but because you can’t measure everything (or even the most important things) by numbers, it has turned most current non-quantitative political analysis over to historians, journalists and similar observers of the human condition.

Thus it has fallen to non-specialists to peer behind the curtain of opinion polling, crime rates and economic statistics to look at what is motivating Americans’ psyches from the inside out these days.

To start, the decidedly non-Donald-Trump-friendly political consultant Reed Galen wrote Tuesday in his “The American Singularity” column that, “According to a Politico/Morning Consult survey out this week, 41 percent of all voters (73 percent of Republicans) believe that the election could indeed be stolen from Trump. … His words shock the American political soul, are cause for concern and are a pro-active threat to how we conduct ourselves in the public square.”

Where, one wonders, could Trump backers have gotten the idea that the political process is stacked against them? Oh, that’s right, the recent revelations about Democratic corruption from WikiLeaks, clandestine videos and FBI document dumps.

If they’ve been allowed to hear of them, that is.

As The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel noted last week: “If average voters turned on the TV for five minutes … chances are they know that Donald Trump made lewd remarks a decade ago and now stands accused of groping women. But even if average voters had the TV on 24/7, they still probably haven’t heard the news about Hillary Clinton: That the nation now has proof of pretty much everything she has been accused of.”

Even as the major media downplay and even ignore them, revelations have emerged of paid provocateurs picking fights at Trump rallies that get blamed on his backers; slurs against Catholics as backward and benighted; Clinton’s expressed need to have contrary “public and private” positions on issues where the private ones favor fat-cat supporters of her campaign and family foundation; and direct coordination between some of those covering the campaign and Clinton’s staff.

Such events appear to be why, Galen notes, that Clinton “is the embodiment of what so many Americans (and almost all Republicans) see as a country run by elites who truly care little for their well-being. Clinton’s example is less stout, less noisy and less ugly (than Trump’s), but no less insidious, odious or threatening to the Republic.”

Should she win, Galen says, and again acts “to save the big guys at the expense of the little, the ensuing wildfire will be more than just an election can hope to head off. Trump may be an outlet for the anger of many Americans, but his defeat will not end their disaffection.”

That’s an idea echoed and expanded on by (no surprise) classical historian Victor Davis Hanson, who wrote Tuesday on National Review Online that “a political neutron bomb” has exploded in our political institutions, leaving them hollow shells.

Once the Bernie Sanders insurrection was disposed of (by close coordination between the Clinton campaign and supposedly “neutral” party officials) Democrats found apparent unity – as a Clinton family enterprise, in the full Sicilian sense.

As Hanson says, “Collate the (Clinton adviser John) Podesta e-mails. … Review Hillary’s Wall Street speeches and the electronic exchanges between the media, the administration, and the Clinton campaign. The conclusion is an incestuous world of hypocrisy, tsk-tsking condescension, sanitized shake-downs, inside profiteering, snobby high entertainment – and often crimes that would put anyone else in jail.”

Republicans, meanwhile, are torn asunder: “No one quite knows what the party will become after Donald Trump sprinted away with the Republican nomination and then discovered that most of the Republican establishment, implicitly and explicitly, would rather lose to Hillary Clinton than win with him. Many said they quit the Republican Party when Trump was nominated, as many perhaps will quietly quit when it returns to normalcy. After the election, don’t expect a rapid reconciliation.”

There’s little danger of that. But if traditional governing institutions have been gutted, what will fill their vacant roles?

I doubt it will be pleasant.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

]]> 5, 20 Oct 2016 19:45:53 +0000
Another View: Regulating cannabis like alcohol is not what Question 1 does, Maine AG Mills says Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I had not intended to wade into the debate on marijuana, but after reviewing Question 1 last month, I shared my legal analysis with a reporter. Apparently, I struck a nerve.

Like many Mainers, I listened to campaign rhetoric saying that if this bill passed, marijuana would be regulated like alcohol. In an opinion column (“Question 1 reveals the real dangers of marijuana,” Oct. 19), Greg Kesich reiterates this view. However, while that may be the goal of the proponents, it is not what the bill actually does.

Nothing in the referendum regulates possession of marijuana by a minor, and the bill even repeals the existing section of law that does.

There are a number of laws that prohibit minors from possessing alcohol or driving after consuming any alcohol, but these protections are lacking in Question 1.

To say that this referendum regulates marijuana like alcohol is to imagine a world where words in lawbooks have no meaning.

That is not the world in which I operate.

The drafters of this bill have not explained why the proposed law fails to protect children, why it greatly expands the definition of cannabis, why it lacks penalties or why it fails to protect the workplace the way the Maine Medical Marijuana Act does.

Perhaps these are drafting errors, but as attorney general I would be remiss if I did not point out these flaws. If passed, the law will take effect 30 days from the governor’s proclamation, giving a new Legislature little time to act.

Regardless of whether marijuana should be legal (Maine decriminalized possession of small amounts 40 years ago), the question is whether this 30-page bill should become law.

I ask every citizen to read the entire bill before voting on this measure.

]]> 13, 21 Oct 2016 11:42:11 +0000
Our View: Youngest voters missing in action at Maine polls Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Maine is justifiably proud of its high voter turnout rate – but statistics don’t tell the whole story. It’s true that the percentage of all eligible adults who cast a ballot is consistently higher here than it is elsewhere. But our youngest voters aren’t picking up the habit, and that’s something we can’t afford to ignore.

Each of us gets just one vote. Someone with a Ph.D. and a million-dollar house has no more say at the polls than someone who didn’t finish high school and shares an apartment with three other people. Those who don’t vote forgo their one and only opportunity to directly choose what initiatives will be put in place and what people will be implementing them.

A lot of factors influence whether someone votes. Making it easier for a voter to register has been shown to make it more likely that they’ll go to the polls. In states that allow voters to register or update their registration information on Election Day, researchers have found that average turnout over time is at least 10 percentage points higher than in states with advance deadlines.

Maine pioneered same-day registration, and in terms of voter participation, we consistently outpace other states. In 2014, our voter turnout rate was the highest in the country; in 2012, during the last presidential election, we came in sixth, and in 2008, we trailed only Minnesota and Wisconsin.

But too many Mainers who are newly eligible to vote aren’t doing so. In 2008, 2012 and 2014, anywhere from a quarter to a third of those age 18 to 29 weren’t even registered, putting them far behind other age groups. Those same years also saw similarly significant gaps between the 18- to 29-year-old voter turnout rate and the rate for people in other age groups.

Fortunately, this is an issue nationwide, too, and there’s been a lot of research on how to get young people to vote. Making sure they have reliable information on registration is key. The best way to get it to them? In-person, door-to-door contact with someone their own age. (The least effective way? Automated phone calls.) Allowing online registration has also been shown to boost youth turnout.

Whatever the outcome on Election Day, none of us can afford to sit back on Nov. 9 and think that there’s no more work to be done. If the youngest generation of voters doesn’t get into the habit of casting ballots now, our democracy will be deprived of their voices, and our policies will reflect their lack of participation.

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As Americans vote in 2016, they should remember the lessons of history Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 FALMOUTH — As America votes in 2016, thoughts go back to 1945 when, with youthful eyes, we witnessed an America celebrating the end of World War II and a nation relieved that “our boys are coming home.”

Elementary school children at the time, we were vague in our understanding of the war’s meaning. Later, when proceeding up the educational ladder, we would become aware that our elders were themselves attempting to understand the meaning of these years now blessedly past – and to learn from the tragic experience. In our election season, we would do well to reflect on this spirit of learning that prevailed in that postwar era.

Amid the celebrations of the end to the loss of so much blood and treasure, and with the horrors of Hitler’s Germany revealed, America pondered how the long nightmare had come to be. How did a Germany steeped in Western civilization, comprised of people who were primarily Christian and lived in a democracy, allow an Adolf Hitler to come to power?

We who were children at that time of victory were to grow up in an America – and in an educational system – committed to understanding this horrific phenomenon.

As teenagers in junior high and high school, we were introduced to this quest. By the time we reached high school, and later in college, we discovered that some of our teachers were now those former “boys” who had returned. Not surprisingly, they taught with an engaging sincerity and with a commitment that the lessons learned never be lost on us.

We learned that by 1930, the German people had suffered greatly. The sacrifices of a lost World War I, the economic catastrophe of inflation and then the Depression put them and their democracy to a severe test.

During the tumultuous decade of the 1920s, Hitler and his Nazi Party made great political gains. This rise to prominence took place despite many warning signs.

Hitler’s deeply flawed character was easily evident. His narcissism, his braggadocio, his opportunistic lies were readily apparent. With skillful demagoguery he appealed to emotions, exploiting the fears and anger of his people.

It was easy for us to contrast Hitler’s approach with our earlier study of our own Abraham Lincoln who, in the midst of America’s greatest crisis, appealed to our reason, built our nation up and urged us to seek “the better angels of our nature.”

Hitler stooped to appeal to the worst nature within his fellow citizens. He tore his country down, he bellowed his campaign theme to make Germany great again – and he boasted that only he could do it. He attacked that which he claimed was foreign within their borders. He drew on the fear of terrorism and preyed on (and, in a sense, prayed for) any evidence of it that he could seize on for political gain.

How, facing this clear and present danger and living in a democracy, did Germans end up with Adolf Hitler? This disastrous result occurred although the German people never gave the Nazi Party a majority vote in a free election. In the final analysis, Hitler did not need a majority vote – merely a plurality.

Unfortunately, the German people did not have the advantage of a two-party system such as ours that would have offered them a choice between two major candidates. They had many parties from which to choose.

Left with several choices on their ballots, voters were able to let rigid ideology, past voting habits and even personal pique guide their individual vote. Each voter who didn’t want to vote for the Nazi Party could select from a multitude of other parties the one party that best matched their own particular political inclinations. Votes were thus dispersed among the many parties rather than combined to support but one major-party candidate opposed to Hitler.

In this way, millions of voters were able to vote with a “clear” conscience: They had not voted for Hitler. In this way, the Nazi Party obtained a plurality. In this way, the path was cleared for Hitler to become Germany’s leader.

Postwar America strove to understand the German political experience. As we Americans cast our ballots in 2016, the lessons learned should serve us well.

]]> 59, 21 Oct 2016 00:15:47 +0000
Current fisheries science supports increasing menhaden quota Thu, 20 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 KENNEBUNK — Maine’s lobstermen recently caught a break with the reopening of the state’s menhaden fishery. A key source of local, fresh bait for Maine’s lobster fishery, menhaden has been an increasingly common presence in Maine waters. But the fishery’s reopening is only a temporary patch on a long-standing problem.

Scientists have determined that the menhaden stock is in great shape. But the fishery suffered steep cuts in quota by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the interstate body that manages menhaden, because the stock assessment conducted in 2012 had erroneously concluded that the stock was overfished.

The most recent menhaden assessment, conducted in 2015, found that the opposite was the case: Menhaden is not being overfished and has not been overfished since the 1960s. In short, the fishery is being managed sustainably. When read in conjunction with other metrics from the assessment, including all-time low levels of fishing mortality, it is clear that the menhaden stock is poised for long-term success.

Last year, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, in recognition of the sustainability of current menhaden management, raised the coastwide quota by 10 percent. While this increase was a positive development for fishermen, the quota still remains well below what it what it was nearly five years ago.

We have made dramatic gains in our understanding of the stock. Since the current science clearly supports the sustainability of the menhaden stock, the quota can clearly be safely increased.

In the year since the 2015 assessment, additional science continues to support a quota increase. The marine fisheries commission also conducted an analysis earlier this year to determine the potential impact of a quota increase on the menhaden population. The assessment consisted of nearly 9,000 simulations, testing a variety of different potential harvest level raises.

At all levels tested, the scientists’ conclusion was that there was a zero percent chance of overfishing if the quota were to be raised. There are few decisions of resource allocation that can be made with such certainty.

Today, menhaden fishermen are back out on the water, thanks to an “episodic exemption” from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. This allows them to continue to fish above Maine’s low menhaden quota when the fish become abundant in state waters. This year’s episodic exemption in Maine supports the assessment’s conclusion that there are large numbers of menhaden in Atlantic waters.

This phenomenon is not limited to Maine. Large schools of menhaden have been reported throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic, especially in states like New York and Rhode Island. Both of those states were also granted episodic exemptions this year after experiencing unusually large menhaden runs in their state waters. There is currently no reason why the quota cannot be reasonably increased.

Even states with larger quotas, such as New Jersey, have had trouble keeping up with the menhaden schools in their waters. Garden State fishermen met their menhaden quota early in the summer, leaving enough menhaden crowding into local waterways to cause menhaden die-offs. These incidents support the ASMFC’s scientific conclusions that the menhaden stock is healthy, and menhaden management is sustainable.

All of which raises this question: Why has the quota remained at its current artificially low level, given the flawed assessment that the quota is predicated on? As it stands, lobstermen are paying exorbitant prices for bait this year because of a summer shortage of fresh bait such as herring and menhaden.

Maine’s lobster industry generated nearly $2 billion in economic activity for the state in 2015. Lobster landings alone were valued at more than half a billion dollars. Our coastal communities depend on this revenue for their economic vitality, and Maine lobstermen depend on a steady bait supply to generate landings. In addition, menhaden fishermen also lose thousands of dollars each year by virtue of the artificially low cap.

This month, when the issue of raising the menhaden quota is again brought to a vote, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has the opportunity to reverse its flawed decision to cut the menhaden harvest. Mainers would be greatly served by a prompt ASMFC vote to increase the quota to a reasonable level.

]]> 0, 19 Oct 2016 23:36:01 +0000
Dana Milbank: With talk of fraud, Trump trying to create post-election chaos Thu, 20 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — We are three weeks from the election, and very close to the edge.

Retiree Gerald Miller, a volunteer at Donald Trump’s rally here, is confident his man will win Nov. 8 – unless there’s foul play.

Miller, wearing a National Rifle Association pin and a tea party cap over his long hair, shares Trump’s concern that the election may be “rigged” by the Clinton campaign. “It is enough to skew the election. They can swing it either way,” he said, particularly because Hillary Clinton may have “the FBI working for her” in committing the fraud.

So what happens if Clinton is declared the winner? “Donald Trump is going to holler fraud if he doesn’t win,” figured Miller, who is white and says he has post-traumatic stress disorder from “racial violence” he suffered in the military. “I think we’re on the verge of a civil war, a racial war. This could be the spark that sets it off.”

I fear that Miller may be right.

Objectively, Trump is in big trouble; master handicapper Stuart Rothenberg wrote for The Washington Post online Tuesday that Trump’s path to Electoral College victory is “nonexistent” and said he could win fewer than 200 electoral votes.

But I spent a couple of hours before the rally in this indoor show ring talking to many Trump supporters and found them in states of denial and fury. I didn’t find one who expects Trump to lose. To varying degrees, most agreed with Trump that the election process is rigged. And some predicted ominous things if Trump loses – if not violence, then a mass rejection of the legitimacy of the democratic process.

Ann Macomber, a Christian, retired teacher and Trump volunteer handing out fliers saying “Hillary Clinton is coming for your guns,” told me the voting system in Colorado has been “infiltrated”: dead people voting, voters with bogus addresses, precincts that report more votes than registered voters. “It’s happening. It’s sad,” Macomber said. “If we lose this election, we can’t trust anything in America anymore. We’re not sovereign.”

Some observers dismiss Trump’s talk of a “stolen” and “rigged” election as just more rantings of a narcissist who can’t accept that he is almost certain to lose. But the talk of election fraud is more nefarious than that and clearly an effort to destabilize the post-election environment.

In early August, Trump consigliere Roger Stone declared that there is “widespread voter fraud” and argued that “if there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate … we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.” In an interview with the conservative outlet Breitbart, Stone said Trump has to “put them on notice that their inauguration will be a rhetorical … bloodbath.”

Now the head of Breitbart News is the head of the Trump campaign, and Trump, who had quieted the fraud talk when he was improving in the polls, is raising it more than ever.

“Voter fraud is all too common,” Trump told a few thousand people Tuesday afternoon in Colorado Springs, but if you mention it, he said, “they say bad things about you, they call you a racist.” He scolded Republican leaders for saying “everything is peachy” with the election process and warned that this could be the year “America truly lost its independence.” Warned Trump: “It’s going to be a one-party system. This is your final shot.”

He particularly scolded the press, which “created a rigged system and poisoned the minds of so many of our voters.” But he also found corruption in voter surveys (“I don’t believe the polls anymore”) and in his opponent (“many times worse than Watergate”).

“We won’t let them stop maybe the greatest movement in the history of our country!” Trump said, prompting chants of “USA!,” some foul language shouted at the press corps and, after the rally, a mass chant of “Shame on you!” directed at the press risers.

The candidate’s reckless closing message that nothing is on the level – not Democrats, not the press, not the polls, not Republican leaders, not even the integrity of the voting process – has left many of his supporters prepared to declare the election results illegitimate.

Joseph Salmons, wearing a “Les Deplorables” T-shirt and pin, told me the election won’t end anything. “The movement’s starting. Even if he doesn’t win, it’s going to tip,” he said.

But tip into what? “I sincerely hope people don’t lose their minds,” Salmons said.

If they manage to keep their cool, it will be despite the best efforts of Trump.

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

]]> 34, 19 Oct 2016 20:13:58 +0000
Our View: Maine needs rational pot policy, so vote ‘yes’ on Question 1 Thu, 20 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Listen to a podcast of our editorial board’s meeting with supporters of both sides of Question 1.

Sometimes it’s the leaders who need leadership. For decades, politicians have been clinging to outdated ideas about drug policy because they didn’t want to appear soft on crime.

We support the citizen-initiated Question 1, an act to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol, because it would tell lawmakers to change course.

A “yes” vote says that there is such a thing as responsible, adult use of marijuana. The current law makes criminals out of people who are otherwise law-abiding and dumps millions of dollars into a tax-free black market. Legalization would put low-risk marijuana use on the right side of the law, and focus resources where they are more needed.

Our support for the ballot question does not mean that we consider all use of marijuana to be benign, or that we think its use is appropriate for everyone.

Our editorial board was divided on this referendum, especially because of a concern that passage of the proposal would send a confusing message to young people about drug use.

Many details would have to be worked out before we could be fully comfortable that this law would not result in aggressive marketing to teens or make it easier than it already is for young people to get their hands on pot.

But we are confident that when the Legislature comes back into session it could address that kind of issue before the law goes into full effect. We have no confidence, however, that lawmakers would take on this task unless the voters pass Question 1 and tell them to do it.

Ultimately, this measure is a referendum on the war on drugs, a 40-year-old failed public policy that has used the criminal justice system to address a public health problem. It has given Maine a marijuana policy that makes no sense – one that winks at some violators, punishes others too severely and pumps money into criminal organizations. Our medical marijuana program does a lot of good, but it’s haphazard, making cannabis unavailable to some people who would benefit from it, while providing a back door to legalization for some recreational users.

The referendum question is far from perfect, but it provides the framework for a much more workable system than now exists to balance personal liberty with legitimate public safety risks.

If the question were to pass, we would support legislation that strictly regulates edible products that could be confused with commercially marketed candies and treats. The state could also require the use of child-proof containers and warning labels.

We also expect the Legislature to make sure that municipalities have control over how many retail pot shops can open in their communities, or even whether there can be any at all.

Impaired driving and furnishing drugs to minors would still be against the law, and we would support police efforts to continue to enforce those laws.

But marketing, impaired driving or teenage drug use is not what Question 1 is really about. This referendum simply asks whether adults in Maine have the judgment to handle a little more freedom.

We think that they do, so we vote “yes.”

]]> 136, 20 Oct 2016 07:18:18 +0000
Commentary: Falsehoods, vitriol may win elections, but they throw democracy for a loss Thu, 20 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Regardless of political party affiliation or policy position, the vast majority of Mainers and other Americans agree that the destructive rhetoric, name-calling and mudslinging in the current election cycle have reached a level never seen before. It would seem at times that the very fabric of our society, a unifying force for good, is frayed beyond repair.

Finger-pointing in the service of refusing to work together has paralyzed us anddeposited us in the corners of a political boxing ring from which there is no winning. People feel the negative effects of attack ads, name-calling, falsehood and vitriol that flood the airwaves and print media. It is disheartening. The lack of civil discourse in our public debates and campaigns is sometimes hard to avoid.

As a society, we say we do not like negative campaign tactics, but, ironically, many cannot help but be drawn in. Negative campaigning works, at least with regard to voter polls, even when it does nothing to better the lives of our fellow citizens.

Drew Westen, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University, has extensively studied the psychology of politics. He explains why negative campaigning works in this way: “Emotions such as anxiety, fear and disgust involve very different neural circuits than, say, happiness or enthusiasm. A candidate’s job is to get all those neural circuits firing – both the ones that draw voters in and the ones that push them away from other candidates.”

Indeed, in study after study, statistics show that Americans cannot avoid the wreckage of negative attack ads. If attack ads and untruths did not work, politicians would not use them.

Even if attack ads “work” on some level, does the end ever justify the means? In my own Lutheran and Episcopalian churches, and in the nine member denominations of the Maine Council of Churches, we do not believe so.

Taking an action or making a statement just because it “works” does not make it moral or ethical. To acquiesce to negative and deceitful campaigning simply because it wins votes is akin to allowing unethical medical experimentation on people and animals, something I would hope the reader finds repulsive. In other words, effectiveness is not the litmus test for morality.

At the Maine Council of Churches, our Preamble on Civil Discourse states that “for a flourishing democracy we need to have debate based on mutual respect and honesty, but communications around political campaigns have become meaner, more deceitful and disrespectful. The impact has been confusion, division, and discord among the electorate.”

The MCC is committed to seeing civility restored to the political process. As a gathering of churches with sometimes divergent views, we model the power and strength that can accrue from civil discourse in a spirit of justice and love for one another. We stand firm when we are on common ground, for we believe that we are called to do no less.

Among the provisions of our Covenant on Civil Discourse is the mandate to act respectfully toward others; to refrain from personal attacks or characterizing one’s opponent as evil; to refuse to make untrue statements; to value honesty, truth and civility (while striving for workable solutions), and to disavow statements by those working on one’s behalf if those statements don’t meet those same standards.

I would encourage the reader to check out our website. There you will find a number of resources on civil discourse. You can also see the list of the close to 200 Maine candidates for local and national office who have signed our Covenant for Civil Discourse. Is there a politician missing from the list? Is it worth a call to him or her to ask if they are willing to pledge to be civil and to avoid negative campaigning and name-calling?

As the political campaign season fills the media with ads and accusations, we ask all people of good faith and conscience to hold our politicians and political organizations to the highest standards of honesty and respect. But civility is not only for politicians. As citizens, we also have a responsibility to be civil. In our households, places of work and recreation, and yes, even in our houses of worship, we can model to one another what it means to be civil in our political conversations.

We can avoid telling untruths, and we can talk about others without calling them names. We can listen to the opinions of others with respect, even if we do not agree with them. Together, we can speak and act in peace, confident in our ability to build a just and prosperous society.

]]> 0 Wed, 19 Oct 2016 20:24:16 +0000
Bill Nemitz: No grave concerns about integrity of Maine’s upcoming election Thu, 20 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I’m thinking about swinging through the cemetery near my house on Election Day to see if anyone needs a ride to the polls.

Sounds crazy?

Not as crazy as this:

“I am not confident we’re going to have a clean election in Maine,” Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday during his weekly chat with WVOM radio. “Will people from the cemetery be voting? Yes, all around the country.”

Don’t bother asking for evidence.

There is none.

Don’t bother pointing out to LePage, as more than one headline writer has already, that he was elected twice via the same system he now declares unclean.

LePage, we all know by now, is a stranger to irony.

And don’t assume LePage’s words, echoing those of his maniacal messiah, Donald Trump, are not a threat to the democratic process.

If this election has taught us one thing, it’s that a frightening number of Americans will believe anything.

“This allegation of widespread election fraud is just absolutely irresponsible,” Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said Wednesday in an interview.

It’s also getting old.

For the better part of a decade, Republicans far and wide have tried with some success to erect as many barriers as they can between the American voter and the ballot box.

Here in Maine, for example, LePage & Company passed a law back in June of 2011 that did away with same-day voter registration. It set a deadline of two business days before an election – meaning, for Tuesday elections, the close of business the previous Thursday – for people to get on the voter rolls.

That November, Mainers pushed back hard. A people’s veto of the measure passed by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent.

Why the lopsided outcome?

Because a majority of Mainers believe in making it as easy as possible to vote. And because back then, just like now, Republican claims that our electoral system is rife with corruption have no basis in truth.

Thus it comes as no surprise that Politifact on Monday gave its worst “pants on fire” rating to Trump’s claim that the country is beset with “widespread voter fraud.”

“More people are struck by lightning or attacked by sharks than are accused of voter fraud,” Politifact found.

Does that mean our system is perfect? Of course not.

In a 2012 study titled “Inaccurate, Costly and Inefficient: Evidence that American Voter Registration Needs an Upgrade,” the Pew Center on the States found much room for improvement when it comes to registrations that are no longer valid or accurate (24 million), names of deceased citizens still on the voter rolls (1.8 million) and people who are registered in more than one state (2.75 million).

“These findings underscore the need for states to improve accuracy, cost-effectiveness and efficiency” in their elections, Pew concluded.

What Pew didn’t allege, however, is that any of those shortcomings have led to actual voter fraud.

In fact, Justin Levitt, an election fraud expert and professor at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, did an exhaustive study two years ago of crooked-electioneering claims throughout the United States.

Levitt unearthed 31 credible allegations of voter fraud from 2000 to 2014 – out of more than a billion votes cast.

So much for “widespread” skullduggery.

That mirrors an “investigation” back in 2011 by then-Secretary of State Charlie Summers. He launched it at the behest of then-Maine Republican Party state Chairman Charlie Webster, who claimed more than 200 out-of-state students in the University of Maine System had voted here illegally.

The number of students found by Summers to have actually committed voter fraud? Not a one.

But back to the dead people.

According to Secretary of State Dunlap, the Social Security Administration automatically alerts the state whenever a Maine citizen dies. The information goes first to the Department of Motor Vehicles and, in turn, to the state’s Central Voter Registration System.

Typically, Dunlap said, that prompts the removal of a person’s name from the voting list within a month of his or her death.

Beyond that, many of Maine’s 503 municipal clerks take their own steps to keep their lists up to date. In my hometown of Buxton, Town Clerk John Myers told me his staff checks the newspaper obituaries daily to see if any local folk have passed away and therefore shouldn’t be showing up on Election Day.

In other words, LePage’s claim that “people from the cemetery” will vote on Election Day is 100 percent, Grade-A baloney.

As is his other assertion this week that “there are counties in this country that get more votes than there are citizens in their county. So what’s that tell you?”

It tells us, once again, that Maine’s chief executive has no clue how idiotic he often sounds. And that he has zero respect for the intelligence and integrity of election workers who will spend long hours come Nov. 8 ensuring that our democracy works the way our Founding Fathers intended.

Here in Maine, with 10 or more of those good citizens serving at each of more than 600 polling places, that translates into well over 6,000 people. Some are Republicans, some are Democrats, some are independents, but all are driven by a shared belief in the process.

To call our elections rigged, without a scintilla of evidence to back it up, is to call these people incompetent at best and complicit at worst.

They deserve far better from the Republican nominee for president, from Maine’s governor and from the many other bomb throwers now feeding this frenzy.

Truth be told, they’re owed an apology.

As for those who blindly agree with Trump and LePage that the fix is in, you’re missing completely what’s motivating these two bozos as Election Day draws near.

Trump, facing all-but-certain defeat in 19 days, is pre-emptively soothing his gargantuan ego. Incapable of looking in the mirror and seeing the loser that he soon will be, he reflexively blames the system that got him this far.

And LePage?

Dunlap has a theory on what prompted the governor’s crazy talk on Tuesday. Around the same time LePage was calling in to WVOM, Dunlap noted, his administration was rocked by a report from the state auditor that the welfare cops at Department of Health and Human Services had “improperly managed” some $13 million in federal funds for needy children and families.

“How do you address that?” Dunlap mused. “You threaten a zombie apocalypse.”

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

Twitter: BillNemitz

]]> 60, 20 Oct 2016 08:44:58 +0000
Podcast: How will you vote Nov. 8 on legalizing marijuana? Wed, 19 Oct 2016 20:08:49 +0000 Proponents and opponents of Question 1, an act to legalize marijuana, faced off before the Press Herald editorial board, highlighting their points of disagreement on the upcoming referendum.

Subscribe to the Press Herald Podcast on iTunes

]]> 2, 20 Oct 2016 16:28:47 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Documentary shows nation still bound by its oppression of black men Wed, 19 Oct 2016 10:00:32 +0000 “Not whips and chains – all subliminal;

instead of (the N-word), they use the word criminal”

– Common from “Letter to the Free”

In the end, she gives us grace. And by then, you really need it.

The end credits roll over pictures celebrating everyday joys of African-American life. A beaming girl rides a pony. Boys flex. Fathers cuddle daughters.

The anger and pain that have sat heavily in your chest for more than 90 minutes begin to lift ever so slightly at these reminders of black life still stubbornly managing to be lived even in the midst of state-sponsored oppression. Otherwise called, without irony, the U.S. justice system.

In “13th,” the troubling new documentary from director Ava DuVernay now streaming on Netflix, the American prison-industrial complex is laid bare as a machine designed for the suppression of an inconvenient populace. Meaning black men – the nation’s bogeymen for two centuries and counting.

Like “The New Jim Crow,” the game-changing 2012 book by Michelle Alexander, “13th” doesn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know if you’ve been paying attention. Its triumph is to fit the pieces together, to make visible the pattern that was there all along.

Namely, that much of what we call justice is a 150-year effort to win back what was lost at Appomattox. Yet somehow, we never quite see.

Six point five percent of the country accounts for over 40 percent of its prisoners.

The liberal looks at this and says, “Isn’t it a shame what poverty does to them?”

The conservative looks at it and says, “Isn’t it a shame they embrace thug culture?”

The overt racist looks at it and says, “Isn’t it a shame they’re naturally criminal?”

Hardly anyone looks at it and says, “The system is working as designed.” Hardly anyone says, “This is not about criminality, but control.”

DuVernay says it forcefully, explicitly and convincingly. In “13th” – the title comes from the constitutional amendment that ended slavery – the director of “Selma” draws a line from Appomattox through convict leasing, through lynch law, through the Southern strategy, through mass incarceration, through the commodification of black bodies and black misery by private prison entrepreneurs. All the way up to now.

Cue Donald Trump. On screen, a black man is being spat upon at one of his rallies. A black woman is being shoved. A black man is being sucker punched. And Trump is loving it.

“Knock the c–p out of ’em, would you? Get ’em out of here. In the good old days, this doesn’t happen, because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, they would not do it again so easily. Like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.”

As he speaks, the images change.

It’s 1965 and Rev. C.T. Vivian is being knocked down the courthouse steps.

It’s 1960 and protesters are being hauled off lunch counter stools.

It’s 1957 and reporter L. Alex Wilson is being kicked and pummeled down the streets by the good people of Little Rock.

All as Trump is reminiscing about the good old days. And a chill skitters up your spine.

We like to think we have distance from the past, don’t we? We profess to be mystified by it.

How could people have done such things? If I had lived at that time, a man will assure you, I’d have never tolerated it. But, as attorney and author Bryan Stevenson reminds DuVernay’s camera, “the truth is, we are living at this time – and we are tolerating it.”

It is an unanswerable truth, a truth that leaves conscience maimed. The credits roll just then.

And yes, you are thankful for that small bit of grace.

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

]]> 13, 18 Oct 2016 21:36:21 +0000
Greg Kesich: Question 1 on Maine ballot reveals the real dangers of marijuana Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Before we vote Nov. 8, it’s time that we had a serious discussion about the dangers of marijuana.

We are talking about distorted perceptions and disrupted thinking – and that’s just in the referendum’s opponents.

The “Vote No on 1” crowd seems to be slipping dangerously into a delusional state with less than three weeks to go before Election Day. Its leading spokespeople are scaring themselves with figments of their own imaginations. It’s almost as if a wave of paranoia swept through their minds, and it’s making them blurt out things that they would know weren’t true if they were in a normal state.

Exhibit A is Maine’s top prosecutor, the otherwise sensible Attorney General Janet Mills, who issued a news release last week to announce that saying “yes” to a question that begins “Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age …” would actually be legalizing pot for people of all ages.

Mills said the new law would wipe out the existing statute that outlines the penalties for juvenile violators.

“The effect is it makes it legal for anybody of any age – 2 years old, 20 years old, 80 years old – to possess up to 2½ ounces of marijuana. That’s disturbing to me,” Mills told WCSH last week. “I have to think it’s something more than a drafting error because they deliberately wrote a 30-page bill. It’s very troublesome, the language of the bill.”

I hear what she’s saying. Two-year-olds smoking anything is indeed a troubling notion. And to think that the people behind a referendum campaign would intentionally do something this awful is even worse.

What are they trying to do to us? What kind of world do we live in? What’s going on?

But if you find yourself feeling this way, just focus on your in-breath and listen to some chill music. Maybe light a candle and some incense.

Because this is not going to happen.

First of all, the question is being pushed by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. Last time we checked, alcohol was pretty strictly regulated to prevent children from buying it.

Teens have been known to steal alcohol or to get some help from adults to buy it illegally, but those are criminal offenses.

Regulating something “like alcohol” is another way of saying that it’s not for kids,

Lawyers for the campaign say that Mills is wrong, and the referendum would repeal only the part of the law that affects fines for adults who use or possess pot. But even if they are wrong and Mills is right, don’t expect to see legal dope dealers at the day care when Nov. 9 rolls around.

That’s because the Legislature would still have to write the rules for retail sales, and there would be more than enough time to fix anything that needs fixing before any legal pot were to be bought or sold.

Does anybody think there would be a single vote in the Maine House or Senate against reinstating penalties for drug use by minors? This would go through quicker than a resolution recognizing Sleep Disorder Awareness Week or National Clean Up Your Virtual Desktop Day. The governor might even sign it.

Speaking of the governor, he is experiencing his own version of the pot terrors.

In a video released by his office last week, Paul LePage, staring into a camera with all the ease of an ISIS hostage on beheading day, reported that marijuana kills.

“THC levels in marijuana snacks are so high, they could kill children and pets.”

Wow. Scary. Sort of.

It’s true that a significant number of children and pets have been killed by marijuana overdoses. The number is zero, which is a very significant number.

Unlike alcohol, aspirin and drain cleaner – all legal products – the illegal substance marijuana has no known lethal dose.

There are plenty of good reasons not to vote for Question 1 next month. Marijuana takes hold of some people’s lives and does not let go. It is especially destructive for young, developing minds. It’s no joke.

If you think that keeping pot illegal is still the best way to stop people from doing something that millions of them are breaking the law to do right now, you should vote “no.”

But if you are worried about 5-year-olds legally sparking up spliffs behind the kindergarten, or coming home to find your dog with his paws in the air after getting into your pot-infused Gummi Bears, relax.

It’s just the pot talking. It can make you think some weird things.

Listen to Press Herald podcasts at


]]> 80, 18 Oct 2016 18:17:13 +0000
Maine Voices: By opposing Question 3, LePage wouldn’t disarm domestic abusers Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Gov. LePage has made addressing domestic violence a cornerstone of his time in office. During a very shaky six years, his efforts to protect women from domestic abusers has arguably been his most laudable initiative.

That’s why his comments during his Oct. 1 weekly radio address were so disappointing. By joining the gun lobby in opposition to Question 3 on November’s ballot, LePage is turning his back on domestic violence victims across the state.

The governor’s position on background checks is really puzzling. There’s video of him telling a debate audience during his campaign for re-election in 2014 that he would support universal background checks as long as they went to voters for approval. Now he’s opposing them across the board, making the false claim that background checks – even for convicted felons and domestic abusers – violate the Maine and U.S. constitutions.

Not only is he factually wrong, he’s also morally wrong-headed.

The Maine Constitution provides a robust framework for protecting the rights of Mainers to bear arms. It does not, however, say that criminals and domestic abusers should have unfettered access to guns. Maine law already prohibits the possession of guns by these dangerous people, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that background checks are entirely consistent with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

LePage is just plain wrong about the facts.

What’s more disturbing to me, though, is how philosophically wrong the governor is. Just recently, LePage proposed requiring ankle bracelet monitoring for those accused of domestic violence. His heart is in the right place on this. He wants to do everything he can to protect the victims. But without Question 3, those same domestic abusers will be able to purchase guns on the unlicensed market, no questions asked.

And there’s no shortage of guns available that fall through the loophole in current law. A recent study shows there are nearly 3,000 guns offered for sale every year by unlicensed sellers.

LePage’s worldview is one of well-armed but ankle-braceleted domestic abusers. It’s a horrifying contradiction.

The governor is an outspoken advocate for gun rights, but that doesn’t mean he has to be a lackey for the D.C. gun lobby. He seems to be forgoing his genuine concern for abused women in favor of the irrational position of the same D.C. gun lobbyists who opposed Sen. Susan Collins’ bipartisan effort to keep suspected terrorists from buying guns. It’s utterly disheartening.

We have to face the facts, and two things are clear.

First, background checks work. How do we know? In states that have adopted laws similar to Question 3, the rate of women murdered by their domestic partners with a handgun has been cut nearly in half.

 Second, the shocking fact is that half of all murders in our state are of women killed by their intimate partners.

Since Colorado passed a similar law in 2013, over 1,000 prohibited persons – including domestic abusers – have been prevented from getting a gun in the unlicensed market. Background checks for all gun sales will help protect women’s lives.

Many believe that Maine already has background check laws in place. This is only partially true. If a convicted felon, domestic abuser or someone who is severely mentally ill goes into a gun store to try and buy a firearm, they will fail a background check and be prohibited from buying that gun.

But right now, that same dangerous person can walk out the door and buy a gun from someone they meet online or through a classified ad with no background check. This is a fatal loophole. This newspaper’s editorial board recently compared this to a bar that refuses to sell alcohol to minors, but then lets them freely drink by entering through the back door. It just doesn’t make sense.

Question 3 closes this deadly loophole by requiring background checks for all gun sales. Put plainly, there would be no more “easy access” to guns for domestic abusers.

So in light of all of this, when LePage says he opposes Question 3, it feels like he’s throwing away years of good work, and abandoning abuse victims all over Maine who have come to respect his work on their behalf.

If someone is so dangerous that the governor wants them to wear an ankle bracelet, then they’re too dangerous to have a gun.

I hope the governor will take a long, hard look at his position and side with women all over Maine who have come to believe in him as a sincere advocate by supporting “Yes on Question 3.”


]]> 16 Tue, 18 Oct 2016 18:54:05 +0000
Our View: Maine’s drought response too late to do much good Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Though droughts aren’t nearly as rapid or dramatic as floods, Maine residents are learning that ongoing lack of rain can be as disastrous as surging waters. Now eight in 10 Mainers are living in drought, wells are drying up and some municipal sources are scrambling to meet demand – showing why Maine would be better off addressing the risk of drought before it occurs instead of taking eleventh-hour action during an ongoing crisis.

News coverage has focused on the last six months of below-average rain in Maine. But this is a dry spell that’s been several years in the making. The lack of rain last year, combined with the lack of snow last winter, has left us more parched than we’ve been in 15 years.

Groundwater levels are nearing the low point reached during the region’s last serious drought, from 1999 to 2002. During that 14-year period, Maine took no official action in anticipation of the next dry spell. It wasn’t until August that the Maine Drought Task Force, made up of public safety officials and state and federal weather experts, met to discuss the current drought.

That’s because, like many states, Maine responds to droughts after they occur rather than planning ahead to reduce the impact of the next drought. Elsewhere, mostly in the West, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center, states look at past drought impacts, develop early warning plans and promote steps that cut water waste, such as fixing leaks in public supplies and encouraging growers to manage their farms in a way that retains water in soil.

This approach, known as “mitigation,” can cut the costs associated with drought, saving $4 for every $1 spent, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. One example cited by the Drought Mitigation Center is assistance to farmers: After the fact, it costs more and doesn’t necessarily reach the people who need it. (Maine farmers lost $32 million in crops in 2001 and 2002.)

This is not to belittle the response in Maine. The state Drought Task Force now seems to be meeting regularly, and the Maine Public Utilities Commission has started assessing whether the state needs a statewide emergency water supply plan or if measures being taken by public water systems are doing the job.

But with evidence accumulating on the benefits of preparation, Maine should embrace that strategy instead of waiting for the next slow-motion disaster to unfold – when it will be far too late to get ready for it.

]]> 7, 19 Oct 2016 00:14:50 +0000
Another View: Dentist unfairly dismissive of concerns about fluoride Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In his Oct. 12 Maine Voices, Joseph R. Kenneally, DMD, is disturbed by people whom a headline writer called “anti-fluoridation activists.”

He’s disturbed that the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District board and superintendent won’t accept the statistics that he and all the other doctors, whose academic credentials make them right, are presenting as fact. He’s also disturbed that people of lesser academic standing, who actually handle the hydrofluosilicic acid that goes into our drinking water, are wrong.

The words “poison” and “toxic” on the labels of the hydrofluosilicic acid that goes into our drinking water aren’t scientific. Supporters of fluoridated water don’t use those words.

The doctor dismissed the weight of the arguments against water fluoridation as the misinformation of a few local residents of the Kennebunks – unspecified misinformation that he compared to the weight of the scientific belief of the members of over 100 medical and health organizations, medical and health experts “trained to the doctoral level,” who absolutely support the ingestion of fluoride by over 200 million Americans.

A few people in the Kennebunks complain about spending a measly $20,000 a year for the miraculous effects of drinking fluoride, a mere drop in the bucket compared to the $100 million to $600 million a year that over 200 million of us pay for the fluoride miracle – money we pay to an industry that would have to pay at least that much for the containment of their toxic waste without the blessings of thousands of medical experts.

Of course, the next time I’m in a dentist’s chair, I’ll be on the wrong side of this argument. I joke, but our dental community is powerful. And I respectfully submit that our dental community has overstepped its bounds on water fluoridation.

]]> 177 Tue, 18 Oct 2016 21:39:14 +0000
Kathleen Parker: The greatest fear of all is what happens after the election Tue, 18 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — If I were to distill a recent public discussion about the state of our nation to one word, it would be “worried.”

Not fearful, not angry, but worried – about the future; about an election season that has made evil-clown sightings seem weirdly apt; but mostly about what will happen after the election. How do we mend the deep divisions that have evolved during this thoroughly nasty – and, at times, X-rated – campaign season? How does the country salve its wounds and reunite in common purpose?

Audience members here at the Poynter Institute’s “Community Conversation,” at which I was invited to speak last Thursday, posed these and other questions. The 150 or so attendees were a cross-spectrum mix of students, professionals, retirees and a few notables – a diverse group, in other words, with no protesters, rabble-rousers or armed combatants in search of a revolution. The latter may have been occupied in nearby Lakeland, where Donald Trump had pronounced a global conspiracy against him the day before.

Clinton supporters at the Poynter event told me privately that they were afraid to put “Hillary” signs in their yards for fear of retribution, not from roaming vandals but from once-friendly neighbors. My suggestion that this campaign was reminiscent of the run-up to the Iraq war, when politically opposite friends avoided each other, was received with nods of agreement.

Whether for Trump or Clinton, neither side can conceive of what compels the other. In this duplex of horrors, Clinton is a corrupt, lying, hypocritical career politician, and Trump is a sleazy, lying, narcissistic autocrat and an (alleged) sexual predator. Never the twain shall meet.

Once the votes are counted, who knows what’s next? President Obama’s final two months may require his coolest touch yet.

Meanwhile, the questions posed here did not readily present answers. What’s needed, I posited half-seriously, is a superhero. Someone to rise from the marshes and cut through the fog of our discontent, someone who can summon our better angels and help restore the country’s self-respect.

At least for now, one is optimistic without reason.

We can know with near certainty that a defeated Donald Trump will unleash the armies of Mordor, comprised of a fan base that will embrace his dark conspiracy theory that the election was rigged. To their minds, his loss couldn’t possibly be linked to a very long list of objectionable, as well as dishonest, statements he’s made, only one of which is the sex-talk video we needn’t view again.

Talking dirty has become the new normal, as anyone walking down a city street can confirm. And the objectification of women isn’t remotely limited to Trump’s warped view. As disgusting as Trump’s verbal (and possibly physical) assaults have been – and, yes, hurtful, too, as Michelle Obama so passionately said last week – a certain contingent of his supporters are reluctantly willing to overlook the nastiness for the sole reason that they dislike Clinton more.

Others aspire to loftier goals, such as preventing a liberal Supreme Court or reducing the tax burden with an eye toward economic growth. These are certainly legitimate reasons. But Trump’s willingness to pave the way for a “revolution” were Clinton to win should be sufficient evidence that this man isn’t fit for the office.

To what extent are Trump sympathizers willing to express their disappointment? Well, who knows? But many will have seen the interview with a woman at a Trump rally last week who said she and her comrades are prepared to take their country back, cheerfully reminding the interviewer that “you’re in the South. We’re all Second Amendment pros.”

Is she talking about a well-regulated militia, perchance?

This is the mindset Trump has nurtured these past many months. These are the people he will summon at the end. These are the reasons the less-emotionally taut are so worried.

More worrisome still is the opposite result: What if Trump wins? We can presume that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be delighted, his possible WikiLeaks alliance having paid off. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who has called Trump a “wise politician,” will order extra platters of chicken wings to celebrate.

As the Japanese proverb goes: When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.

Remember, too, that Trump has vowed as president to make it easier for people to sue the media, which, constitutionally, he can’t. But as all authoritarian figures tend to do, Trump has to blame someone else for his failures. The media are handy bait for the credulous and misinformed.

Don’t be afraid, but be worried.

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

]]> 54, 17 Oct 2016 18:46:58 +0000
Charles Lawton: Nobel laureate Bob Dylan reminds us to listen to one another Tue, 18 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 You’ll never know the hurt I suffered
Nor the pain I rise above,
And I’ll never know the same about you
Your holiness or your kind of love
And it makes me feel so sorry.
– Bob Dylan, “Idiot Wind”

On my morning run several days ago, I passed a neighbor’s house on which was displayed a large sign proclaiming “Deplorables for Trump.” One presidential candidate promises, if elected, to jail the other. Our governor says that supporters of raising the minimum wage should be prosecuted for attempted murder.

If nothing else, our current election will go down in history as among our angriest, as one with the most potential to do lasting damage to our system of representative democracy. The unrestrained vitriol displayed on both sides and the headshaking disbelief at what opponents say and seem to believe is downright frightening.

Pondering this enormous anger – rage, actually – I am reminded of the career and creations of our newest Nobel laureate in literature. The man first described to me many years ago as “perplexing Bobby Zimmerman” by a colleague at the University of Maine at Farmington, who knew him at a summer camp in Minnesota, grew up to become the troubadour who created the emotional milestones that capture the feelings of our age.

He is a man who also generated strong reactions – of praise, of criticism and of betrayal. His critics (quoting from his acceptance speech of the MusiCares 2015 Person of the Year award) said that he “made a career out of confounding expectations.”

He also, I believe, embodies the attitude and the journey we all must emulate if we are to move from this most divisive election to any meaningful repair of our civic structure. Like all would-be saviors, the author of “Idiot Wind” is undoubtedly “a nuisance to live with at home.”

But compared to the litany of transparently insincere apologies scripted by public relations wordsmiths that we have all become accustomed to hearing, there can be no doubt about the depth of personal sorrow our Nobel-winning troubadour feels about his failure to cross the interpersonal borderline depicted so savagely in that monument to “the howling beast” of anger.

In his MusiCares acceptance speech, Dylan describes the origins of his work, how he went to sleep singing folk songs, woke up playing folk songs and traveled the length and breadth of the country listening to and singing folk songs. He describes how he “met other singers along the way who did the same thing, and we just learned songs from each other.”

Declining the “solitary genius” designation, he concludes, “If you had sung that song (‘John Henry was a steel drivin’ man’) as many times as I did, you’d have written ‘How many roads must a man walk down?’ too.”

While that conclusion may just slightly overstate the songwriting abilities of most of us, it does speak to the value of trying to see things from other points of view than our own. It does say that any “greatness” America may have comes from every region, every idiom, every person. That is the value of a troubadour – he or she is not a decider, not a convincer, not a salesperson, but an explicator, one who captures the feelings of things and expresses them in ways all who care to listen can understand.

And so, in some small way, I try here to play the troubadour of the Maine economy, saying what I feel to be true for all who care to read. More than anything, what this state and this nation need following whatever results our elections provide is not smug “I told you so, you loser!” victory dances, but heartfelt efforts to listen to one another and make every effort to “bind the nation’s wounds.”

Charles Lawton is chief economist for Planning Decisions, Inc. He can be contacted at:

]]> 7, 18 Oct 2016 10:49:00 +0000
Maine Voices: It’s time to question whether referendums are a good way to tackle problems Tue, 18 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 There’s been a lot written lately about the growth of citizen-initiated referendums. But not enough has been said about how to prevent the problems they present and improve what’s worthy in the process.

What’s wrong with referendums? More and more, they’re becoming a device for single-interest groups, on both the right and the left, to fast-track their legislative agendas by getting the public to vote a question into law, thus circumventing the normal vetting and prioritizing that take place in the Legislature.

We’ve seen popular referendums decided in anger and fear, like Brexit and anti-immigration laws in Europe. Others have tackled real problems but presented dubious solutions, like rent control. In these cases, majorities have voted measures into law discredited by experts and sometimes previously rejected by elected representatives.

The poster child for referendum abuse in Maine is Las Vegas entrepreneur Shawn Scott. He drove the referendum that eventually allowed slots at a Bangor racetrack he owned, which he promptly sold for a $51 million profit.

Like any good gambler, Mr. Scott knows a sucker when he sees one. He was back in Maine this year with a new referendum proposal giving him exclusive rights to establish a racino in York County. Those plans failed because invalid signatures were found on his petitions. But he’s already planning for next year.

Less brash is this year’s referendum Question 2 to raise top-end taxes to increase teacher pay. Yes, the wealthy should pay more to fund social needs, but who decides why education is the beneficiary, as opposed to, say, mental health or drug addiction? Basically, because a well-organized, deep-pocketed union got their question on the ballot first.

Referendums today are rarely “people’s campaigns” in the way most of us understand that term. Petition management companies – available to anyone with the money to pay them – typically drive the petition-circulating process.

One of these firms, National Petition Management, is so sure it can secure the signatures needed to get your question on the ballot that it promises “if your percentage of valid signatures falls under our contracted rate, we’ll make up the difference at our own expense.” These companies helped place several referendums on this November’s ballot.

The idea of paying someone based on the signatures they collect favors big money in politics and doesn’t exactly instill confidence that the process is being conducted in a fair and impartial fashion.

But the whole point, of course, is to get a question on the ballot, where anything can happen. Here, legislation with potentially complex and far-reaching consequences gets presented to voters in a roughly 25-word query packaged in sound bites and verbal triggers.

Anyone with the desire to make a truly informed and responsible decision about a referendum must read the proposed law, something a responsible elected official would do as part of his or her duties. Yet expecting the average voter to slog through a bill like the one to legalize marijuana – 30 pages long – is like counting on an iTunes user to read their service agreement before upgrading.

The point is not to banish popular referendums. Rather, it’s to identify those that are poorly conceived or that serve as a tool for special interests to skirt normal legislative channels.

How can we do this? One way is to bring integrity to the process of collecting petition signatures. Amazingly, courts have looked askance on limiting the practice of paying consultants to hustle signatures. We need creative legal strategies to address this.

Another idea, championed by Massachusetts, requires that petition signatures represent a cross-section of voters from all areas of a state. We should also explore limits on how soon a referendum may be re-introduced if it has once been defeated.

Especially important is providing voters with unbiased and readily accessible data about a referendum question. The state of Oregon, for example, has pioneered the Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission, which calls for a randomly selected, diverse group of 24 Oregon citizens to spend five days meeting with experts, sponsors and opponents regarding each referendum question on the ballot.

The group then drafts a Citizens’ Statement on their findings, including key facts about each measure and arguments for and against its passage, which is published in a voters’ pamphlet distributed at every polling place in the state.

Ultimately, mistrust of the political system is driving the rise of referendums. We need leaders motivated by consensus, not ideology, division or filibuster. Maybe that’s too much to expect. But if we can create these changes locally and move forward from there, we might experience the kind of renewal that is grass-roots democracy at its best.


]]> 31, 17 Oct 2016 20:03:00 +0000
Our View: Lack of savings becomes a growing concern for U.S. retirees Tue, 18 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 For decades now, each successive generation of Americans has been less prepared for retirement than the one before, the result of a broken system that is leaving seniors with too little income in their golden years.

That’s why new ideas are needed for getting young workers to save even just a little each month, because while a slight majority of millennials say they are confident they’ll have adequate savings when it comes time to retire, the hard numbers say something very different.

According to a GenForward survey released recently, more than 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 30 have no retirement savings whatsoever.

They are part of a generation whose earning power has been clipped by rising college costs, stagnant wages and the Great Recession, so saving has been a low priority. But they are also facing fewer options.

Just 7 percent of the Americans aged 18 to 30 polled by GenForward have access to pensions: employer-based retirement plans with guaranteed and fixed payouts that were commonplace among private-sector workers until relatively recently.

As pensions faded in popularity, along with the union strength that won benefits for workers, employees were left to rely on 401(k) plans, which move the risk from employer to employee and do not offer fixed payouts.

But many workers are finding even those unavailable. From 1999 to 2011, the share of employees being offered an employer-based retirement account fell from 61 percent to 53 percent. The plans were particularly hard to find in the personal-services category – one of the largest sectors, and growing – and for young employees.

With that the case, millenials are looking at a stark future, and they don’t have to look far.

Forty percent of baby boomers have saved nothing for retirement, and only a quarter of Americans aged 55 to 64 will have enough savings. They’ll likely have to rely only on Social Security, with its declining value. Ultimately, 9 percent will face extreme poverty in retirement, and 24 percent will live in near-poverty.

That’s what happens when so many people don’t have the easy option of having retirement savings come, directly and automatically, out of their paycheck. And that’s why California’s plan is so intriguing.

California is now offering a state-run retirement program to nearly 7 million private-sector workers. Officials are still working out many of the details, but the plan will operate much like a 401(k), with little risk to the state, which won’t contribute and won’t have to cover losses.

Eventually, all companies with at least five employees will have to offer their own plan or enroll in the state plan, which will automatically enroll employees and start setting away 3 percent of pay, rising 1 percent annually until it reaches 8 percent, unless the employee opts out.

There is still a lot of unknowns with such a plan, but it would certainly provide a convenient way for everybody to save for retirement, not just those workers whose employers are among the shrinking number offering plans. Done correctly, it could replace the pensions lost to history, and Maine officials should keep an eye on it.

]]> 67, 18 Oct 2016 00:17:25 +0000
Podcast: The Editorial Board: Question 5 – Ranked Choice Voting Mon, 17 Oct 2016 15:51:41 +0000 Kyle Bailey, campaign manager for the Ranked Choice Committee debated state Representative Heather Sirocki over Question 5, an act to establish ranked choice voting, at a meeting of the Press Herald editorial board.

Related: Our View: Ranked-choice voting is right for Maine

Subscribe to the Press Herald Podcast on iTunes

]]> 1, 19 Oct 2016 16:26:06 +0000
Maine Voices: Effort to legalize marijuana is full of smoke and mirrors, Cumberland DA says Mon, 17 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Even if you think marijuana should be regulated and taxed like alcohol, you should vote “no” on Question 1.

Why? Because a “yes” vote will enact L.D. 1701, 30 pages of legislation that does not treat marijuana like alcohol.

Instead, it creates a profit-driven industry that will aggressively market product, increase consumers and continuously push more potent (and, therefore, more addictive) products, while insisting they are not harmful. Think Big Tobacco 2.0. On steroids. And it will obliterate medical marijuana in Maine, as it has in Washington state and Colorado.

Let’s take a look at what Question 1 will actually do instead of what the proponents want you to believe it will do.

The legislation completely legalizes pot use for kids by repealing the section of the law that prohibits it. Right now, adults 21 and over may possess up to 2½ ounces (that’s 150 joints) of pot and face a civil penalty only (i.e. fines).

Question 1 will make it legal for people over 21 and under 21 to possess and use up to 150 joints of pot. This law does not protect kids – it set them up as a huge new market for commerce.

The legislation establishes pot shops. Colorado now has more pot shops than Starbucks, McDonald’s or even pharmacies. Under the would-be law, pot shops are supposed to sell only to persons over 21, but there is no penalty for selling marijuana and marijuana products to youths. This law treats the marijuana retailer differently from an alcohol or tobacco retailer, who could lose their license for allowing sales to children.

The legislation does nothing to protect the public from impaired drivers. Unlike with alcohol, there is no prohibition against driving while smoking or consuming marijuana. And although operating while impaired by marijuana would be a crime, it’s not enforceable because there is no marijuana corollary to the blood alcohol test threshold of .08.

Marijuana hits all three parts of the brain (as opposed to alcohol’s one), and there is no standard metabolism rate. There is no known number of nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol in the blood that proves impairment. So if somebody tests at 5 nanograms or 8 nanograms of THC, that means, well, nothing.

The legislation wreaks havoc on employers. It specifically prohibits an employer from penalizing an employee for using marijuana in a location other than the employer’s property.

This is in contrast to the medical marijuana law, which provides limits on the use of marijuana by employees. Because of the conflicts with the medical marijuana law and federal law, it will be impossible for employers to know how to respond to a stoned employee or a problem employee who happens to use marijuana.

This bill gives landlords no rights to impose (and tenants no rights to enjoy) smoke-free policies. The medical marijuana law allows a landlord to restrict smoking on their property if they adopt a 100 percent smoke-free policy. This bill specifically allows the smoking of marijuana in any “nonpublic” place.

 This bill gives the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry a mere nine months to set up a huge regulatory bureaucracy; develop rules, policies and protocols, and train law enforcement in the investigations, searches, etc., necessary to enforce the new laws.

The Department of Agriculture, of course, has no experience, let alone expertise, in substance abuse, the law of search and seizure, commercialization of drugs or training law enforcement. It’s like asking the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to develop rules and enforce a whole new tax code.

This new regulatory and licensing structure will divert scarce police resources from crime to regulatory enforcement. It will also divert scarce court resources with endless licensing appeals.

Now for the cost: This bill will not save money or resources. The tax revenue imagined by the proponents will be outstripped, by a factor of at least 10 to 1, by the costs generated by the law. That’s the way it is with cigarettes and alcohol, and will be with marijuana.

The “yes on 1” campaign rhetoric is characterized by smoke and mirrors and downright dishonesty. That’s because the motive behind this effort is Big Marijuana commercialization at a time when we are already in the center of a gargantuan, devastating and overwhelming substance abuse public health crisis in our state.

Let’s take the time to develop a smart and sensible approach to marijuana based on public health and not on what’s best for Big Marijuana. Vote “no” on 1.


]]> 67 Mon, 17 Oct 2016 10:28:21 +0000
Our View: LePage puts local spin on Trump’s low tactics Mon, 17 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Gov. LePage has said that Donald Trump should pay him “for starting this whole thing about being outspoken.” But if things keep going the way they are, Trump should ask for some payment of his own.

During a week when many conservatives were seen speeding away from the trash fire that is the Trump campaign, LePage not only stayed put along Trump’s side but continued to throw gasoline on the blaze as well, aping some of the candidate’s most ridiculous and damaging attacks while putting a local spin on others. It’s a further sign that inflammatory and divisive politics are becoming normalized, and it shouldn’t be tolerated, in Maine or anywhere else.

The bulk of the comments came at a news conference last Tuesday, which LePage called to clarify remarks made a day earlier in which he said the United States needed Trump’s “authoritarian power.”

While explaining that he meant the moment called for Trump’s “authoritative persona,” and standing behind Russian nesting dolls depicting Bill Clinton and a series of women involved in Clinton’s scandals, LePage rambled in a way that can only be described as Trumpian. He even – oddly – inserted a harsh remark critical of Sen. John McCain.

But that’s not the worst of it.

After praising Trump’s “powerful personality,” LePage called President Obama a “dictator” for issuing executive orders, which Obama has used to protect LGBT and employee rights, designate a national monument in Maine’s Katahdin region and forward immigration reform.

When asked how this differed from LePage’s own use of executive authority – which has brought us endless vetoes and baseless, worthless investigations – the governor said he acts with the best interests of Maine people in mind, while Obama is only interested in his own legacy.

That is very much in kind with LePage’s statements the next day, when he said at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Lewiston that two proponents of increasing the minimum wage “should be sent to jail,” echoing Trump’s frequent comments on Hillary Clinton. The next day, he called the measure “attempted murder.”

There are no reasonable disagreements in Paul LePage’s world. There are only good people and bad people, and the only way to be a good person is to agree with him. The others don’t just have a different point of view – they have a nefarious agenda. The issue shouldn’t end with a vote on the merits, but with the opposition behind bars.

If demonizing opponents is Step 1 in the playbook, then delegitimizing the media is Step 2. Trump rails about media unfairness and a rigged process. LePage does the same, telling reporters, “I have no respect for you at all … your life is to destroy people instead of doing good things.”

It may be strategy, it may be delusion, but it clearly gives angry supporters an excuse for ignoring the very valid criticisms of both politicians. In the case of the Trump candidacy, it makes possible a scenario in which millions of Americans don’t accept a Clinton victory Nov. 8. It makes post-election violence a possibility, and a post-election mess a near certainty.

That’s the end result of all this bombastic, inflammatory and fact-challenged nonsense – an America that is less stable and utterly incapable of coming together.

There’s no hope that LePage will stop acting like Trump. We can only hope that other Mainers seeking elected office don’t see it as a reasonable way to gain power.

]]> 60, 16 Oct 2016 18:23:49 +0000
Commentary: How will Portland deal with its impending growth? Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Portland will grow in the coming years as more people flock to cities, driven by well-established and worldwide trends. Cities today attract the young, the empty-nesters and the globally displaced, plus service- and knowledge-based businesses. The northward spread of economic activity from Boston and the warming effects of climate change will bring even more.

The question is not whether Portland will grow, but how well it will manage the growth that is now certain to come. Will this growth be haphazard, driven solely by market forces and the desire for profit? Or will it be intentional as well, responsive to longstanding traditions and public values, and lead to a more attractive and successful city? Will Portland become a city of the rich and poor, squeezing the middle class out to the suburbs and making itself auto-dominated? Or will it return to its roots as a livable, walkable city of connected neighborhoods, each with its own distinctive character?

A more populous and attractive city for its residents to live and for businesses to locate will go a long way in helping the city deal with its aging infrastructure. Its current Capital Improvement Plan estimates the replacement value of the city’s capital assets at some $830 million. If these were scheduled for replacement over a reasonable 45 to 50 year period, it would require roughly 50 percent more in annual borrowing than is proposed in the plan – and burdensome property tax increases for all.

Over the past six months Creative Portland, the Portland Regional Chamber, the Muskie School and the Portland Society for Architecture have examined these issues and conclude that the city faces not one but two great challenges today: workforce development and housing, which are two sides of the same coin.

To be successful, Portland must grow its workforce, broaden its property tax base and create greater housing opportunities for all social classes along its connecting thoroughfares and in select neighborhood centers on and off the peninsula.

Portland must pay careful attention throughout to good urban design, learning from other successful cities.

Successful cities today are powerful magnets for people, offering vast opportunity for employment and upward mobility. They accommodate diverse peoples of all incomes and social classes and ensure the availability of shelter that is affordable to all. To do this, they build mixed-use and mixed-income neighborhoods that bring together housing, businesses, shops, cultural venues, green space and pocket parks, creating settings where residents can walk to shop, work, play, rest, engage and visit.

Portland’s employers face formidable challenges in replacing the highly skilled workers who will retire over the next few years. This “changing of the guard” will be successful only if Portland can attract and keep the next-generation workforce. Housing prices and rents that are out of reach will drive more workers from the city, worsen traffic congestion, make commuting even more stressful and dangerous, further burden resident taxpayers and persuade employers to locate in places where employees can afford to live.

To address its workforce problem, the city must attract and train workers at all skill levels. Unprecedented collaboration will be required among our secondary schools, colleges, students and employers to ensure a continuing supply of high-skill and high-wage professionals, and to prepare residents for more limited-skill and limited-wage jobs that offer employment entryways for thousands of individuals.

Over the past decade, commuters rather than residents have been the overwhelming beneficiaries of Portland’s job growth. Right now, just 25 percent of Portland’s workforce lives within the city. Each workday, more than 50,000 workers enter and depart the city, turning important parts of the city into transport sluiceways rather than vibrant neighborhoods.

Over the next decade, Portland can and should aim to have half its population live and work in the city. In 1950, Portland was home to 77,000 people; today the city population is 66,000. How could Portland best become a city of 77,000 again – or even 100,000? It would take a new way of thinking about the city’s development.

Why not move forward with the approved plan to reconfigure Franklin Street as a tree-lined boulevard with wide sidewalks for pedestrians and five- or six-story commercial and residential buildings? With Maine Medical Center’s recent expansion announcement, why not refurbish the St. John/Valley Street area as an attractive neighborhood for its current residents, businesses, new hospital employees and light industry?

The Rocky Hill section behind Morrell’s Corner offers yet another exciting possibility for a neighborhood where as many as 5,000 people might live, work and shop without getting into a car and could be connected to the peninsula by improved public transit.

Interstate 295 between Congress Street and Washington Avenue has created a massive physical and psychological barrier that will require imaginative redesign to restore the East Deering neighborhood and reconnect the peninsula to Forest Avenue, the public university and private businesses now compromised by the massive highway.

Why not aspire to remove I-295 between Congress and Tukey’s Bridge altogether, direct through-traffic to the Maine Turnpike’s Falmouth Connector and make the new Congress-to-Washington corridor into a grand boulevard for housing, commerce and green space?

A Maine Department of Transportation traffic analysis for the redesigned Franklin Street indicates that bringing contemporary engineering design standards to these several projects would improve both traffic flow and public safety.

In Boston, the Rose Kennedy Greenway along the site of the late Central Artery has transformed the city’s relationship to the North End and a cleaned-up Boston Harbor. In Dallas, which now boasts a small streetcar system downtown, a movement is afoot to tear down Interstate 345 and replace it with a mixed-use boulevard.

How wonderful a gift to Portland might it be to repair the pain once inflicted upon it along Franklin Street, Spring Street and I-295 by recreating each of these as a lively and pleasurable scene of housing, commerce and personal pleasure?

Portland today teems with possibilities. With imagination and projects shovel-ready for forthcoming federal infrastructure funds, we can make this city even more attractive to new residents, especially those needed to replace retiring workers; to new businesses that will come where talent resides; and to current and future residents who will enjoy a livable city of vibrant, connected neighborhoods.

Portland has been a city of challenge and change from its very beginnings at the foot of India Street nearly 400 years ago. Throughout, its residents have shown resilience and pragmatism in responding. It is time now for us to act, to envision and build a Portland for the coming century that will highlight new and exciting (if familiar) architectural forms, and to advance its acknowledged resiliency and quality of place.

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Cynthia Dill: After Trump, Buffett offers a refreshing take on taxes Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Call me old-fashioned, but I find it deeply touching that Warren Buffet never took a carry-forward loss on his personal income tax return. And I was comforted when less than 24 hours after Donald Trump accused Buffett of taking a “massive deduction” in last week’s awkward presidential “debate,” the 86-year-old Oracle of Omaha issued a humble G-rated, 237-word statement.

“I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when I was 13. (Though, being a slow starter, I owed only $7 in tax that year.) I have copies of all 72 of my returns and none uses a carry-forward,” he said.

A slow starter? At age 13? That’s adorable.

“Mr. Trump says he knows more about taxes than any other human. He has not seen my income tax returns. But I am happy to give him the facts,” Buffett said.

Contrast that with Trump’s boasting in the debate that he used his $916 million business loss in 1995 to evade paying personal income taxes for years, his refusal to turn over his returns – on top of being a letch who gropes – and suddenly the thought of sifting through 72 years of Buffett’s tax returns seems like a walk in the park or a dip in the clear blue sea.

The nightmare of Trump’s small hands uncontrollably groping a growing number of women on airplanes and in nightclubs and dressing rooms is nauseating, so in honor of Monday’s deadline for rich people to file tax returns after a six-month extension, treat yourself. Don’t think about the number of women Trump has assaulted; instead, imagine all the little numbers in Buffett’s big returns. It’s a much better numbers story: a hardworking boy who became a successful man who doesn’t grope.

Buffett’s numbers, when pieced together, are that mosaic we call the American Dream. Millions and millions of little numbers in boxes, columns and rows on thick ivory sheets of paper telling a story of spectacular success that spans decades of both Republican and Democratic administrations. Let us be reminded of what is good and great about America so we don’t lose sight of it.

The end of this ugly campaign hasn’t been written yet, but Buffet’s story is destined to have a happy ending because he’s pledged to give away 99 percent of his wealth to charity. With a net worth of $64 billion, Buffett doesn’t hide behind an audit. He’s a rich man who without hesitation supports Hillary Clinton for president of the United States, even though her tax plan will cost him a lot of money.

“I have been audited by the IRS multiple times and am currently being audited. I have no problem in releasing my tax information while under audit. Neither would Mr. Trump – at least he would have no legal problem,” Mr. Buffett said. And he’s brawny, too, challenging Trump to meet “any place, any time” to field questions about their income tax returns.

“My 2015 return shows adjusted gross income of $11,563,931. My deductions totaled $5,477,694, of which allowable charitable contributions were $3,469,179. All but $36,037 of the remainder was for state income taxes.

“My federal income tax for the year was $1,845,557. Returns for previous years are of a similar nature in respect to contributions, deductions and tax rates,” Buffett wrote.

Trump’s tax plan would make Buffett a richer man. Trump calls for the elimination of the estate tax and for the very highest earners, the top 0.1 percent like Buffett, to see their rates drop from 40 percent to 33 percent, in addition to slashing the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, according to The Washington Post.

Clinton’s tax plan, on the other hand, is described as “the most explicit and ambitious plan to tax the rich ever laid out by a major-party presidential nominee.” It will limit some deductions high earners can claim and end the tax benefit known as carried interest, as well as increase taxes on some capital gains and ramp up the estate tax, bumping the rate from a maximum of 40 percent today to as high as 65 percent for individual estates valued at more than $500 million.

Clinton’s plan will help working families, especially low-income parents with young children, doubling the existing child tax credit and expanding it to an estimated 14 million more families. Her plan also creates new tax credits for out-of-pocket health-care expenses and for caring for a parent or grandparent. She wants to impose a 4 percent additional tax on the less than 1 percent of individuals who earn $2.5 million or more per year and, tipping her hat to the Omaha Sage, Clinton wants a new minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent, modeled on the “Buffett rule,” for individuals earning $1 million or more.

Be still my beating heart.

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

Twitter: dillesquire

]]> 11, 15 Oct 2016 20:39:51 +0000
Alan Caron: Trump’s problem with women – and reality Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Donald Trump has had a demoralizing few weeks. He’s been rocked by one misstatement or scandal after another. He’s at war with everyone and every institution, and he’s threatening to punish them all. According to Trump, there’s a grand conspiracy at work to deprive him of victory in which everyone is ganging up on him and telling lies. His campaign is now engulfed in flames and spiraling toward the ground.

Trump, of course, says he’s blameless.

Trump’s one good day in the last few weeks came during the second debate, when he did better than in the first. But that is only because the bar was so stunningly low. In all five independent national polls since then, Hillary Clinton was declared the winner.

Trump said all the polls were fixed.

Trump made one massive mistake in that debate, and it has predictably come back to haunt him. When pushed to explain the videotape in which he boasts about groping women, he said he “talked about it but never did it.” He might as well have put a large red target on his back. Within days, several women had stepped forward to say that Trump had indeed done exactly what he bragged about.

Trump said they are all liars.

Trump’s explanation of the original tape has inflamed the situation further. He says it’s just “locker-room talk,” which is the new way of saying “boys will be boys,” as though this is how we should teach our sons to act. Most women on the receiving end of jerks like Trump would call it something else, like disgusting or creepy, hurtful or abusive. Maybe even illegal.

An army of women is now on the march, and they are not amused. As Michelle Obama said in an emotional and compelling speech this week, “enough is enough.” Clinton said, in an interview, that she is “all that stands between us and an apocalypse.” If that’s true, it is the women of America who seem determined to save us from “the boys” getting their hands on power that they can’t be trusted with.

Trump’s problems with women have passed a tipping point. While he still leads among men in national polling, that lead has shrunk to just 5 percent. But he trails among women by 15 percent, and that number is growing. With women representing 53 percent of voters, the math doesn’t add up for Trump.

All of this is a subset of a larger problem, which is Trump being Trump. People who become president get there because they can both energize primary voters and expand their support after the primary. Trump has done well with the first task and failed miserably with the second.

Not that Trump hasn’t tried. For a while, he brought in new people. He worked with the national party on fundraising and field operations. Seasoned veterans of national campaigns helped him with messaging. He began to read from a teleprompter rather than rely on stream-of-consciousness riffs in his speeches. And his polling numbers began to rise.

But Trump’s attempts to broaden his support among women, more educated suburban voters, Hispanics and moderate Republicans were short-lived and at times painful to watch. He seemed to be awkwardly out of his element talking to a mainstream America that doesn’t think and act like him.

Quickly enough, his bad habits began to take over. He couldn’t help himself. The new suit didn’t quite fit the old body. The struggle between the new Trump and the old one intensified. And the damaging late-night tweets began again as his campaign managers cringed.

By now, Trump has fully retreated to his small arenas of adoring fans who feast on the red meat he feeds them and lap up his every scathing attack on the Clintons, Republicans, the media, government and outsiders. Whether the bully or the victim, he’s once again at the center of every story. Never mind that these “huge” rallies, as he calls them, are far smaller than Romney’s were four years ago, just before he lost.

The real problem is that there simply aren’t enough of those folks to win any election outside of the deep red states. And the conspiratorial and hateful messages he’s using to energize his base are turning off everyone else.

Trump has now all but given up trying to broaden his appeal – or he simply doesn’t understand how to do it. Either way, the end of this conversation is near. And the women of America are going to have the last word.

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

]]> 6, 16 Oct 2016 18:37:13 +0000
Our View: Ranked-choice voting is right for Maine Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 We need an electoral system built for the way we live today, not for the way our grandparents lived.

That’s why we support Question 5, a proposal to introduce ranked-choice voting in primaries and general elections for U.S. senator, U.S. representative, governor and members of the Maine Legislature.

This reform represents a bold change, but it’s a change that would bring back something we’ve lost – consensus politics in a time of political fragmentation.

Our current system took shape when there were two strong parties that dominated the political process. Parties won elections by assembling coalitions and selecting candidates who had broad appeal. It was hard for fringe elements to break through.

But even though Maine’s political parties have been in decline for decades, they still have an outsized influence on the process. Nominees selected by the small number of committed partisans who show up to vote in June have enormous institutional advantages on Election Day in November.

That puts the largest group of voters, those who are not active as either Democrats or Republicans, in a bind.

They have no say in the selection of a party nominee, but they can’t vote for a third-party candidate without risking a vote for a “spoiler” who fragments opposition and gives an extreme candidate a path to victory.

Campaigns like this become exercises in handicapping, with voters and the media calculating who a third-party candidate “takes” votes from – as if anyone’s vote “belongs” to any candidate – instead of analyzing which person would do the best job.

Ranked-choice voting changes that dynamic. Voters can pick the person they think is the best without giving up the ability to have some say in the choice among the other candidates.

Contrary to what opponents claim, ranked-choice voting is not a complicated system.

On Election Day, voters get a ballot, go behind a curtain and mark the oval next to the name of their favorite candidate. For some, that’s all they’ll do.

If there are more than two candidates in the race and a voter has a second choice, the ballot has a place to register that preference.

The voter can rank all the candidates or none.

It’s the kind of decision that everybody makes every day of their lives. If you ever wanted strawberry ice cream but the store had only chocolate and vanilla, you ranked your choice by buying one of the other flavors or by skipping ice cream altogether. There is no trick to it.

And there is nothing mysterious about the vote counting, either. If no candidate gets a majority after the first-place votes are counted, the last-place candidate is eliminated.

Then the ballots of the voters who favored that candidate are examined, and their second-place choices are allocated to the remaining candidates. The votes are counted again and the process continues until one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote. It’s just a series of runoffs, which is why it’s also known as “instant runoff voting.”

This is not a process that Maine voters will have trouble understanding.

Another common critique of Question 5 is that it’s a sour grapes complaint over the election and re-election of Gov. LePage in 2010 and 2014.

It’s true that there was much less call for election reform after independent Angus King or Democrat John Baldacci were elected with less than a majority of the votes in 1994 and 2002. But this is not a backlash against a governor because he is a Republican.

Even LePage supporters have to acknowledge that he represents a new era in Maine politics, one that is more openly partisan and hostile to compromise than any we have ever seen. A left-wing candidate with small but enthusiastic support could also win a multi-candidate race if the opposition were divided the way it was for LePage.

Parties used to play the role of consolidating opinion and building big coalitions that could win elections, but it’s unrealistic to believe that they can reclaim that role.

We are much more likely to see competitive multi-candidate races in the future than we are to see a return of two-party dominance.

Under the current system, loud voices are noticed and the ability to bring people together undervalued.

Ranked-choice voting is the right change for Maine.

]]> 57, 15 Oct 2016 22:52:43 +0000
Maine Observer: Maine fan bids ‘Big Papi’ adieu Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When I saw the headlines the next morning I wondered how anyone who saw David Ortiz’s last game at Fenway could get it so wrong: “A bad evening for a good team.” “No dramatic finish for David Ortiz.” “Indians sweep aside Ortiz’s last bit of magic.”

Of course, my son, Kurt, and I, along with fans from across New England, hoped Ortiz would do something amazing as he has so often. But he was intentionally walked in his final at-bat in the 8th and when he made it to second on Hanley Ramirez’s RBI single, Manager John Farrell sent in Marco Hernandez to run for him. It all made perfect baseball sense.

And yes, the Red Sox lost the game 4-3 to Cleveland and were swept from the division series, but it was after Travis Shaw popped out to end the game that the magic happened.

Instead of the usual headlong rush to the exits, most people stayed put. We waited what seemed like a very long time for the after-victory activities to wind down.

The Indians and their fans, who were seated all around us behind the Cleveland dugout, celebrated, hugged and were interviewed. The Sox went off to a team meeting in the clubhouse.

Still we waited, thousands and thousands of us, even though we had no assurance we weren’t waiting in vain.

Fans tried to start some kind of chant – “Thank, you Papi” and “We’re not leaving” – but it never took hold. I think most of us assumed that Ortiz wouldn’t interrupt or intrude on Cleveland’s celebration.

Some impatient fans yelled, “Get off the field!” But most of us simply stood in silence.

Eventually the Indians left the field and even the media seemed to think all had been said and done. Then some of the remaining reporters began to hurry across the field and thousands of us turned our heads toward the Sox dugout at nearly the same moment.

Ortiz came up the dugout stairs wearing a bright red shirt and standing a head taller than anyone near him. The theme song from “The Natural” began to play on the loudspeaker and I couldn’t help looking up at the three World Series banners over my head.

When his face appeared on the big screen, Ortiz looked so serious that at first I thought he was unhappy to be called back to the field. But later he told reporters that when he walked out to the mound, he realized it was for the last time.

“I was trying to hold in my emotions,” he said, “but it hit me at that last second. I couldn’t hold it in no more.”

Ortiz tipped his cap to the crowd, turning slowly around Fenway Park, sometimes holding his hand to his heart, to say goodbye to us all. And we cheered a man, his career and his character and tried to thank him. He left wiping away tears and so did we.

That’s a dramatic finish no one will ever forget.

]]> 0 Sat, 15 Oct 2016 20:35:13 +0000
Another View: Dennis Dechaine still has legal avenues to pursue Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Re: “Federal court rejects final appeal of Dennis Dechaine’s murder conviction” (Oct. 4):

Contrary to assertions made by the Maine Attorney General’s Office, there is no proof that Dennis Dechaine ever confessed, and strong evidence that police lied when they testified that he had. And there is no proof that he told anybody where the body was.

We know that the 1st Circuit Court rejected Dechaine’s application for a second successive habeas appeal on procedural grounds. But contrary to the statement from the Attorney General’s Office, there is no certainty that they considered the merits of the evidence and arguments presented by Dechaine.

Contrary to what was stated in the story, Dechaine has not exhausted all his paths to a retrial, although most have now been blocked by the opposition of the state and by rulings of Justice Carl Bradford, who denied Dechaine’s request for DNA testing in 1989, when there would have been fresh DNA to test.

More recently, Bradford ruled against allowing the testimony of Dr. Cyril Wecht, the world-famous forensic pathologist, who found that time of death evidence destroyed the state’s theory of the crime.

The story refers to “a Brunswick man” who wrote a book about the case. In fact, retired federal agent James Moore intended to prove Dechaine guilty, spent 10 years investigating the case and concluded in his book “Human Sacrifice” that Dechaine did not kill Sarah Cherry.

There are also several likely alternative suspects.

]]> 0 Sat, 15 Oct 2016 20:33:42 +0000
Maine Voices: To really help a stricken Haiti, support Konbit Sante Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Hurricane Matthew reminds us once again that disasters happen, and that they are decidedly not equal-opportunity events.

Nature’s fury can overwhelm even the best preparations, as we have seen happen on the East Coast of the United States, but the level and scope of suffering are extremely disproportionate for people who live in abject poverty and are not protected by strong governance and health systems. We see this as each day the death tally rises and the level of devastation becomes better understood in southwest Haiti.

Konbit Sante, a local Maine-based organization, has been working in northern Haiti for 15 years, and in that time has repeatedly witnessed both the disasters and the local and international responses. We have also witnessed and benefited from the generous impulses of people, many of whom are our neighbors here in Maine, who want to help when they see the images that we are seeing today from southwest Haiti.

We are grateful that the area and people with whom we work were only minimally affected by this latest hurricane, but we have received many concerned inquiries about how to be most helpful in these circumstances.

Some thoughts on what is helpful and what is not:

While people have a great desire to personally help those in need, in most cases a period of major crisis is the worst time to make a first visit to a different country and culture. It is much more effective to identify people and legitimate organizations who already have long-term relationships with the communities in the affected areas and support their response.

In some cases, volunteers with specific expertise are needed, as the relief organizations will generally make known. But more often, the funds used to support the travel of people who were not recruited could be put to better use if they were donated directly to local responders.

There is often an impulse to collect and send materials that we all imagine would be useful under the circumstances. There are instances where critical materials are not available in-country where this becomes necessary, but it is better to support organizations’ procurement of the specific materials they need for relief efforts.

After the earthquake in Haiti, the airport tarmacs were famously overloaded with well-intentioned but often not useful materials, hindering the timely passage of vital supplies. Those organizations working on the ground can provide guidance about how best to support those material needs.

The scope of a disaster is very often related to the realities and contexts in which people live. During the height of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, we learned that it would be impossible to build enough cholera treatment centers if nothing is done to reduce people’s vulnerability to its spread, and so we invested in community prevention efforts.

And so it is with all disasters: While it is important to respond after the fact with support for relief, it is also important to invest in work that strengthens health and other systems that decrease people’s vulnerability to the next disaster.

The response to this latest tragedy in Haiti is taking time to put together. As a small and flexible organization, Konbit Sante is collaborating with others in northern Haiti to bring needed material and financial resources to a small hospital, St. Boniface Hospital, in the affected area in the south, so that St. Boniface can scale up its capacity to treat and prevent cholera, as the anticipated rise in cases in the area is already occurring.

We have the legal status and experience to bring critical humanitarian materials into the country, such as the 640,000 water disinfection tablets that we just purchased from Medentech in Ireland. As approved purchasers of World Health Organization’s medicines and supplies in Haiti, we are buying the recommended IV fluids and oral rehydration salts for treating cholera patients at risk of death from dehydration.

We have the relationships and collaborations to handle the logistics of getting these materials where they can have the greatest impact, quickly. By redirecting funds that have been entrusted to us by the ongoing generosity of our donors, volunteers and supporters, we have been able to respond quickly during this emergency relief phase without having to conduct a fundraising campaign.

Going forward, even as this disaster inevitably recedes from the headlines, we will continue to work to strengthen the capacity of the health system in our area to meet the great everyday health needs of their community, to reduce their vulnerability to disasters and to more effectively respond.


]]> 0, 15 Oct 2016 20:15:41 +0000
Bill Nemitz: In realm of verbal gaffes, LePage is an authority Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Dear Governor LePage,

Darn. It took you almost six years, but you finally uncovered the media’s secret weapon.

“I think that you all live in a world of words,” you told a roomful of reporters Wednesday, explaining why you have no respect for those of us who make a living hanging on your every word.

Including the word “authoritarian.” That’s the one you used during your weekly chat with WVOM radio Tuesday to describe the kind of power America needs from your hero, Donald Trump.

I know, Governor, it turns out “authoritarian” was the wrong word. As you pointed out during your news conference the next day, you meant to say “authoritative.”

Geez, words can sure be confusing, can’t they, Big Guy?

“Authoritarian,” according to Merriam-Webster, means “of, relating to, or favoring blind submission to authority.”

Or, if you prefer the secondary definition, “of, relating to, or favoring a concentration of power in a leader … not constitutionally responsible to the people.”

I kind of like the latter. Makes me think of Donald Trump. Or maybe Adolf Hitler.

And someone out there in cyberspace apparently agrees: While I checked out “authoritarian” on Merriam-Webster’s website, wouldn’t you know that a video ad for Trump/Pence 2016 popped up to the far right!

In other words, Governor, you had it right the first time. Trump, without a doubt, is as authoritarian as they come.

But after that characterization landed you on CNN (again), you called in the press – the same people with whom you recently vowed never to speak again – and backpedaled to the word “authoritative.”

“Authoritative” means “having or proceeding from authority: official” and “clearly accurate or knowledgeable.”

Or, secondarily, it means “dictatorial.” Hmmm…

Moving on, you called your word mixup a “big error.” Then, a bit later, you called President Obama an “autocrat” and a “dictator.”

Back we go to Merriam-Webster, which defines “autocrat” as “a person who rules with total power,” and “dictator” as “a person who rules a country with total authority and often in a cruel or brutal way.”

So let’s see if we have this straight, Governor.

Contrary to what you said previously, Donald Trump is not an authoritarian. But he is authoritative, which Merriam-Webster tells us is synonymous with “authoritarian” and “dictatorial.”

President Obama, on the other hand, is a dictator and an autocrat, which Merriam Webster relates to “authoritarian.”

Help us here, Governor. We beseech you. (Sorry. That’s synonymous with “beg.”)

As you explained to all those word people, “If you look at the entire context, unless you’re a moron … you would clearly understand that I was criticizing Obama and I was lighthearted on Trump.”

Shoot, I guess that makes me a moron. Watching your 33-minute news conference left me thinking you shouldn’t leave the Blaine House without a mini-dictionary in your back pocket.

But back to your bromance with Trump.

You told the State House scribes that, unlike Obama, The Donald “does not have to go behind closed doors with community activists to get things done, and to hurt American people.”

Couldn’t agree more, Governor. If elected on Nov. 8, Donald Trump is fully prepared to hurt the American people right out in the open!

Say what? That’s not what you meant?

My bad. I slipped right back into that trap of paying close attention to what you actually say. It’s what they train us to do in the word business.

You see, Governor, that’s the difference between people like us, who communicate for a living, and people like you, who flail away at the English language like it’s a syntax-stuffed piñata.

From where we sit, words matter. Good or bad, pedestrian or incendiary, they’re indispensable to the functioning of a free society.

Use them well and they can raise people up. Use them poorly and they can drag us all into the gutter.

But from where you sit, words are of little consequence.

Choose the wrong one, as you do so persistently, and the entire state of Maine suffers.

And when that gets you in hot water, as it so often does, we’re the ones to blame.

We’re the ones who failed to navigate our way through your malapropisms to get at what’s really going on inside that stunningly addled head of yours.

I can hear you now the next time you cross paths with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, one of many Republicans who loudly (and rightfully) denounced the misogynistic comments Trump uttered aboard the “Access Hollywood” boy bus.

You’ll tell Collins the press got it all wrong. That you were taken out of context when you said her Trump smackdown “is not what we, the people who elected her, expect of her.”

Except, of course, that’s exactly what you said.

You also said the press portrays you as “about the biggest dumbass on the face of the earth.”

Your words, Governor. Not ours.

You complained that “the children of the Greatest Generation have sold the grandchildren of the Greatest Generation down the tubes.”

Last time I checked, Big Guy, you were 68. That puts you right smack at the front of the Baby Boom generation, which was begotten by the Greatest Generation.

So when you lambaste “the children of the Greatest Generation,” you do know you’re talking about yourself, right? Or are we word people once again putting words in your mouth?

One of the word people you called in Wednesday asked you for your thoughts about Donald Trump’s policies. Your words: “I don’t know about them. I am just campaigning.”

Campaigning on what? Donald Trump’s way with women? Do you ever actually take a moment to listen to yourself?

I will give you this, though, Governor.

Among your many rants last week, you counted yourself among the “little peons” who elect “the people inside the Beltway in Washington.”

Interesting word choice. “Peon,” according to the dictionary, means “a person who is not very important to a society.”

Way to go, Big Guy. You nailed that one.


]]> 90, 15 Oct 2016 21:38:57 +0000
Another View: Trump or Clinton? It’s time to decide, Mr. Bone Sat, 15 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Dear Ken, We respect that you are undecided in the presidential election. We understand that a lot of Americans are torn about the significant baggage that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton bring with them into this final month of campaigning. Undecided voters like you represent about 15 percent of the electorate.

The fact that you remain engaged, with your priorities in order, makes us respect you even more. While you were attending Sunday’s debate at Washington University in St. Louis, millions of Americans chose to watch football instead.

As a coal plant worker from Shiloh, Illinois, 20 miles from St. Louis, you have understandable qualms about Clinton, especially her comments that the coal industry’s days are numbered and that miners need to prepare for other lines of work.

Nobody in the coal business wants to hear that. When coal jobs are in jeopardy, you’re in jeopardy. Thus your question to the candidates on Sunday: “What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job layoffs?”

The question reflects an awareness of the conundrum our elected leaders face. The environmental damage caused by rising carbon dioxide levels, of which coal is a major contributor, cannot be ignored. Evidence of devastating climate change is all around us.

At the same time, killing coal jobs is going to entail serious economic disruption. You’re not a statistic on a chart. You’re a real human with legitimate concerns about housing payments, groceries and how to care for your family. That’s why this election could have real impact on your future.

Of the two candidates who stood before you Sunday, one is a former reality show host with no elective-office experience and no record of public service. The other has devoted her entire adult life to public service.

Trump makes broad-sweep promises of employment and prosperity. He’ll produce coal like there’s no tomorrow. Ask yourself: Where is his plan? Compare the shallow solutions he offers on his website to the detailed explanations on Clinton’s website.

Communities built around coal production have been in trouble for years, not just because of greater emphasis on lower-carbon energy sources but also because of plummeting oil prices and cheap domestic natural gas. Trump promises to create “millions of jobs” by expanding domestic petroleum production, yet he simultaneously promises to protect coal jobs. The market cannot support both objectives.

As you get closer to a decision, consider the rude, dismissive remarks Trump makes about sexual abuse. Consider his magic-wand approach to all of America’s problems. Is this man firmly planted in reality? Or does he live in a game-show world?

Clinton doesn’t offer perfect solutions. Her plans require hard work and sacrifice. In your real world, Ken, isn’t that the way problems get solved?

]]> 31, 15 Oct 2016 00:21:31 +0000
The humble Farmer: The seeds of contentment might lie in properly reading the signs Sat, 15 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 You might remember reading somewhere that to everything, there is a season. There is a time to plant and a time to harvest.

This was brought to mind when my bed-and-breakfast guest Alton said that when he was young, he planted some potatoes. His potatoes appeared to be doing very well. The tops were high and green. But his wife’s grandmother muttered something about “not planting under the right sign” and that the potatoes were not going to amount to a hill of beans.

Alton Lawson was born and brought up in North Carolina. He told me tat the old people in his part of the country always did everything by the astrological signs. He said that his wife’s grandmother was right: Because he planted under the wrong sign, all he got for his labor was a crop of potato tops.

Because I always put in a few veggies in the spring, I asked Alton to tell me more about these beneficial signs. He said his brother-in-law does everything by the signs. Cuts his hay by the signs. Sets his fence posts by the signs. Alton says that when you set a fence post by the sign, it won’t move about.

I asked how I could learn more about signs. He said it’s in the almanac.

A day or two before, I had chanced to receive from Judson D. Hale the latest copy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which, it seems, is now published in Dublin and not Peterborough, New Hampshire. We perused the pages and, sure enough, there were planting charts, astronomical data and enough information on the dozen signs to occupy a student for weeks.

Al then told me that the fellows who race stock cars won’t drive a green car. And if you eat peanuts in the pit, you’ll be thrown out.

Realizing that we had moved away from sound science predicated on astrological signs and into superstition, I quickly shifted our conversation over to banjo picking and decided to continue my studies on my own.

So do you plant by the signs? The cognoscenti will tell you that from new to full moon, you plant crops that grow on top of the ground, and when the moon is waning, you plant potatoes and radishes and other underground crops.

When the moon is overhead, it has the power to pull millions of gallons of water into Cutler Cove behind my brother’s house. We must therefore wonder if the moon has enough power to pull small green tendrils toward the sky.

How does that work, anyway? It is something that I have never heard discussed at Grange meetings, so perhaps it is time to revise our programs.

I have yet to understand why we should plant by the signs or if it makes any difference at all, so I now turn to you for help.

To muddy my thinking, we recently read that the first representations of the Orion’s Belt constellation were carved on a hunk of mammoth ivory some 30,000 years ago. To further complicate matters, the artist was looking at light that took 30,000 years to get here.

We are told that stars are constantly moving, so even if they didn’t burn out years ago, it is unlikely that they are in the same place they were when the zodiac was finally created in Iraq a mere 3,000 years ago.

Signs aside, most of us plant when it isn’t raining or when we are lucky enough to find the time. Like your typical old Maine man, I’ve spent a goodly portion of many winters dreaming about the garden bountiful I’m going to plant in the spring.

And every winter I forget we never do have a spring in St. George. As I recall, this year it didn’t get warm enough on the coast of Maine to step out of doors until after the Fourth of July. Heron Breen at Fedco usually sends me enough squash seeds for 30 or so hills, but by the time it was warm enough to think about getting something in the ground, it was too late to put in an order. So we won’t be eating squash this winter.

When Alton first mentioned signs, it brought to mind a newspaper item about a woman up in the northern part of The County who claimed she’d been kidnapped and locked in her car trunk for three days. It was suspected she had manufactured an excuse for not going to work.

Sure enough, when the sheriff examined the trunk, he became suspicious: There was no indication that anyone had lived in the trunk for three days. The sheriff knew that if there are bears in the woods, you will see signs.

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:

]]> 0 Fri, 14 Oct 2016 19:31:45 +0000
Maine Voices: Background checks will make us a bit more secure, Sagadahoc County sheriff says Sat, 15 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BATH — Many people have asked what my position is on Question 3 – perhaps even more so because I was not listed as one of the 12 Maine sheriffs who are publicly opposing the proposal to expand background checks on private gun sales.

The fact is I needed to give this serious consideration and not jump to judgment. I have studied the proposal closely. I agree with my fellow sheriffs: This is not a partisan issue. I believe that this is a public safety issue.

Much has been said about this referendum being the deterioration of our Second Amendment rights. The Second Amendment says that “… the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” If the referendum passes, no one would lose their right to keep and bear arms – at least no one who is already allowed to own a weapon. It would simply require a background check by a licensed firearms dealer at his shop during a private gun sale.

If the prospective buyer passes the background check, they would be allowed to purchase the weapon. This is really no different from any Maine citizen currently walking into L.L. Bean, Cabela’s or any licensed dealer’s shop and making a purchase.

Our state already has laws that prevent people from “keeping and bearing arms,” and we are perfectly fine with this, because these people have committed serious crimes or have documented mental health issues. But I find it interesting that any one of these restricted people can currently purchase a weapon in a parking lot or in someone’s garage or basement.

I admit I struggled with the provisions in Question 3 regarding the transfer of weapons to family and friends. One of the biggest claims of those opposed to the referendum proposal is that it makes it a crime for a law-abiding citizen to transfer or loan a firearm to a family member or a friend.

However, the exceptions included in the proposed law seem to cover almost any situation in which a transfer or sale would take place. A key factor is whether the person transferring the firearm knows that the person they are giving the weapon to is restricted or disqualified from owning or possess a firearm in the first place. This would have to be proven in court before a person is ever convicted of violating this law.

It has been said Maine does not have a problem with violent crime and is one of the safest states in the nation. I believe this and am proud of it, but I don’t see the connection to this referendum.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve been told that Question 3 will not prevent criminals from getting weapons. To a degree, I believe this, but the measure may make it more difficult than it is now.

Let’s face it: We’ve passed laws to prevent drunken driving and domestic violence, but we still have people who drive drunk and people who commit crimes against family members. Laws are intended to reduce the number of such acts. So I agree that this law in and of itself will not prevent all restricted people from acquiring guns, but it just might make it harder for them to do so.

I understand why many folks in Maine oppose this law, and the great thing about democracy is we are welcome to have opposing views. We let the majority of the people determine what rules we have to govern us. We as individuals make up our minds based on our experiences.

As elected officials, we sometimes have to give great weight to the people we serve and protect. I understand why 12 of Maine’s 16 elected sheriffs oppose this. I’ve spoken with many of them; they’ve given me their reasons and I respect them. For many, their position is based on their thoughts, beliefs and experiences. It is no different for me.

Within my county I have received as many requests to support Question 3 as I have to oppose it. I’ve heard from wonderful, law-abiding, family-focused people from all walks of life, including hunters and collectors of firearms, and I value each contact and perspective.

However, I am also influenced by my own experience. I am a gun owner, and although I no longer hunt, I take great pride in the right of ownership of firearms for the protection of my family and property.

But I am a public safety officer as well. Earlier this year in my very own county, I was one of the first police officers to arrive on the scene of an accidental shooting that claimed the life of the mother of two young children.

This event occurred as the result of a firearms transaction in a parking lot; the victim was an onlooker. I believe this happened because the firearm wasn’t handled as carefully as it might have been if the parties had to meet at a gun dealer’s shop to carry out the sale (a requirement of Question 3). As a result, a person is dead, and I cannot ignore that.

It may not be a perfect law, and it surely won’t stop every bad person from ever getting their hands on a gun, but it might stop some. I will support Question 3.

]]> 12 Fri, 14 Oct 2016 22:10:43 +0000
Commentary: They might not be high fashion, but treasured old clothes are priceless Sat, 15 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Every autumn I look forward to pulling a particular item of clothing from the back of the closet, brushing it off and wearing it again: It’s a coat I bought in late 1989, made of bright pink wool.

It’s not as if this garment goes with anything; nothing else in the world even complements this color. No other color wants to be seen next to it. It’s not a shade others would regard as autumnal, having no smoky, sunset undertones or hints of hauntingly early harvests. Put a plastic hat on me and I’d look exactly like a life-size bottle of Pepto-Bismol wearing this coat.

Now ask me if I care.

Everybody has a beloved piece of apparel. Graphic novelist Mimi Pond, author of the best-selling “Over Easy,” shares my penchant for outerwear. Her gotta-keep garment is a “1950s black swing coat that I’ve owned since I was about 17. Replaced the lining around 1980 or so, I still wear it. It’s been to operas and it’s served as a blanket for impromptu camping.”

That’s a coat that lives to serve.

Mimi also has “a pair of American flag knee socks from circa 1969, but those stay in the Museum of Personal History.”

We all have a version of Mimi’s Museum of Personal History. If I asked you, “What is the oldest item of clothing you still wear on a regular basis?” I bet you’ll have a quick answer that will be followed by an equally swift justification. You’ll sing the praises of the boots you bought at L.L. Bean in 1976, like my friend Anne Schwartz.

Or, like my friend Donna, you’ll tell me about your robe, which will force me to tell you about mine. A piece of terrycloth so old, it probably no longer technically qualifies as a robe. It actually looks like a costume from “Night of the Living Dead,” or “The Walking Dead” or whatever The Dead do now – dance? (Will we soon see a show called “Dancing With the Dead Stars”? And wouldn’t that be great?)

You’ll have a story to connect to the cloth, a text to go with textile, and you’ll explain how a sentimental chord is struck to go along with the literal cords braiding the edges of the jacket that you wore to a protest march in 1969.

There’s usually one shirt, scarf or sweater that, despite being no longer flattering, in fashion or intact, that you fetishize. Maybe, like Helen Lukash and Brooks Clark, you’ll have stories about shoes resoled so many times they’d more accurately be called “reincarnated.”

Part of you insists this item is essential even if you recognize its hideousness. It’s one of those things you might even grab if your house were on fire, now that photographs are on thumb drives.

It’s a non-negotiable item. Even if your family members, life partners and best friends think it’s hilarious, abhorrent or simply puzzling, they’ll have pry it out of your hands with a crowbar.

There’s the flannel shirt worn by your grandfather; the fabric is worn so thin it’s virtually transparent, but you believe it imparts some of his strength to you when you need it. There’s your grandmother’s shawl, which, despite years of washings, still uncannily bears traces of her lavender perfume.

There are dove-colored kid gloves from your aunt who, believing they were too nice to wear, never took them out of the original box. These beauties you keep in your car and slip carefully over your fingers whenever it’s chilly or damp, reminding yourself not only of your dad’s favorite sister but also of the need to make good use of what’s at hand.

These favorite pieces are slightly numinous, carrying with them moments of the past that wrap around the present.

When I put on that bright pink coat, not only am I making sure I’m easy to find in a crowd, I’m putting on a cross between a suit of armor and a baby blanket. It gives me strength and it gives me comfort.

Of course I know it’s only stuff. Yet I understand why we all have one thing about which we say: This I’m keeping. This is mine.

]]> 1 Fri, 14 Oct 2016 19:30:12 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: Trump’s ‘lock her up’ campaign is an affront to democratic decency Fri, 14 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The second presidential debate – bloody, muddy and raucous – was just enough to save Donald Trump’s campaign from extinction, but not enough to restore his chances of winning, barring an act of God or of Putin.

That Trump crashed because of a sex-talk tape is odd. It should have been a surprise to no one. His views on women have been on open display for years. And he’d offered a dazzling array of other reasons for disqualification: habitual mendacity, pathological narcissism, profound ignorance and an astonishing dearth of basic human empathy.

To which list Trump added in the second debate, and it had nothing to do with sex. It was his threat, if elected, to put Hillary Clinton in jail.

After appointing a special prosecutor, of course. The niceties must be observed. First, a fair trial, then a proper hanging. The day after the debate at a rally in Pennsylvania, Trump responded to chants of “lock her up,” with “Lock her up is right.” Two days later, he told a rally in Lakeland, Florida, “She has to go to jail.”

Such incendiary talk is an affront to elementary democratic decency and a breach of the boundaries of American political discourse. In democracies, the electoral process is a subtle and elaborate substitute for combat, the age-old way of settling struggles for power. But that sublimation only works if there is mutual agreement to accept both the legitimacy of the result (which Trump keeps undermining with charges that the very process is “rigged”).

The prize for the winner is temporary accession to limited political power, not the satisfaction of vendettas. Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez and a cavalcade of two-bit caudillos lock up their opponents. American leaders don’t.

One doesn’t even talk like this. It takes decades, centuries, to develop ingrained norms of political restraint and self-control. But they can be undone in short order by a demagogue feeding a vengeful populism.

This is not to say that the investigation into the Clinton emails was not itself compromised by politics. FBI director James Comey’s recommendation not to pursue charges was both troubling and puzzling. And Barack Obama very improperly tilted the scales by interjecting, while the investigation was still underway, that Clinton’s emails had not endangered national security.

But the answer is not to start a new process whose outcome is preordained. Conservatives have relentlessly, and correctly, criticized this administration for abusing its power and suborning the civil administration (e.g., the IRS). Is the Republican response to do the same?

Wasn’t presidential overreach one of the major charges against Obama by the anti-establishment Republican candidates? Wasn’t the animating spirit of the entire tea party movement the restoration of constitutional limits and restraints?

In America, we don’t persecute political opponents. Which is why we retroactively honor Gerald Ford for his pardon of Richard Nixon, for which, at the time, Ford was widely reviled. It ultimately cost him the presidency. Nixon might well have been convicted. But Ford understood that jailing a president for actions carried out in the context of his official duties would threaten the very civil nature of democratic governance.

What makes Trump’s promise to lock her up all the more alarming is that it’s not an isolated incident. This is not the first time he’s insinuated using the powers of the presidency against political enemies. He has threatened Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, for using the newspaper “as a tool for political power against me and other people. … We can’t let him get away with it.” Trump has gone after others with equal subtlety. “I hear,” he tweeted, “the Rickets [sic] family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $’s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!”

He also promises to “open up” libel laws to permit easier prosecution of those who attack him unfairly. Has he ever conceded any attack on him to be fair?

This election is not just about placing the nuclear codes in Trump’s hands.

It’s also about handing him the instruments of civilian coercion, such as the IRS, the FBI, the FCC, the SEC. Think of what he could do to enforce the “fairness” he demands. Imagine giving over the vast power of the modern state to a man who says in advance that he will punish his critics and jail his opponent.

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

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Our View: Everyone can draw on Katahdin hero’s legacy Fri, 14 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In a time when we wouldn’t think of climbing Mount Katahdin without sturdy boots, fleece apparel, maps and freeze-dried food, it’s staggering to think that a 12-year-old boy weathered nine days on Maine’s highest peak with no shelter or food. That was Donn Fendler’s experience in 1939. And his death Monday at the age of 90 brings to a close a life well lived, on the mountain and off.

The basics of Fendler’s account are familiar: He became separated from his family near the summit of Katahdin, walked off into the fog and got lost.

Drawing on his Boy Scout training, he followed a small stream toward what he hoped would be a settled area. The boy eventually came out at a hunting camp on the East Branch of the Penobscot. But it wasn’t an easy trek – he walked 48 miles and lost 16 pounds, suffering scratches, bruises and bites from clouds of black flies and mosquitos.

Over the years, Fendler told his story – recalled in “Lost on a Mountain in Maine,” a short book he wrote with Joseph Egan – to many Maine schoolchildren, and the value of determination and resilience was at the heart of it.

“I tell every one of them they have something inside them they don’t know they have,” he said in a 2011 Associated Press interview. “When it comes up to a bad situation, they’re going to find out how tough a person they are in the heart and the mind – it’s called the will to live.”

By all accounts, Fendler, who would go on to marry, raise a family and serve 30 years in the military, never tired of visiting schools and libraries to talk to young people about his Katahdin odyssey (he and his wife divided their time between central Maine and Tennessee). What’s more, Fendler was genuinely interested in hearing their stories, too, and wrote back to every child who ever wrote to him, according to Ryan Cook, who’s directing a movie adaptation of “Lost on a Mountain in Maine.”

Though most of us won’t face the same challenges that Fendler confronted in the wilderness, his experiences offer a lot of wisdom to people of all ages about how to deal with tough times: Keep your head. Listen to your instincts. It’s OK to cry – it can help you clear your mind. When you least expect it, something or somebody will come along and and give you the strength to go on.

Donn Fendler is no longer with us, but his legacy will survive as long as there are people who are inspired by adversity to reach out to and strengthen their connections to others.

]]> 0, 13 Oct 2016 23:15:16 +0000
M.D. Harmon: Referendum questions problematic if you want to limit government Fri, 14 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Mainers are facing five referendum questions Nov. 8 (six if you count an uncontroversial transportation bond of the sort that are approved routinely).

But the others all come from the political left, and contain provisions that are problematic – or worse – for people like me, who prioritize limiting the size and scope of government power. In ballot order, they are:

1) “Do you want to legalize the possession and use of marijuana by persons who are at least 21 years of age, allow state and local regulation of retail sales of marijuana, and allow state regulation of the cultivation, manufacture, testing and distribution of marijuana?”

Its sponsors must believe that the biggest thing our society lacks is another legal mind-altering intoxicant.

Further, they apparently think we should legalize it before we have any way to test if people driving cars are stoned on it.

Do people really believe that our society is doing so well that increasing the number of people who can tune in, turn on and drop out is exactly what the doctor ordered? Bummer.

2) “Do you want to establish a Fund to support kindergarten through 12th grade public education by adding a 3 percent surcharge on Maine taxable Income above $200,000?”

All this would do is raise taxes on Maine’s highest earners to the second-highest rate in the nation. Are we doing so well economically that we can tell the entire nation that our state wants to put punitive taxes on its most productive citizens? That’s a heck of a way to persuade business leaders to move here.

3) “Do you want to change Maine law to require background checks prior to the transfer of firearms between individuals, with some exceptions for certain circumstances?”

While ads for this useless folly focus on sales, the law also criminalizes entirely innocent “transfers” like lending your gun to a buddy the day before he goes hunting.

Plus, while former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has found a cop or two to promote it in ads financed by his millions, a large majority of elected sheriffs oppose it, and there’s a very effective TV commercial giving their views.

The proposal is a back door to universal gun registration – it wouldn’t work without it – and it would do nothing to stop the most common ways criminals get their guns: stealing them, buying them from other crooks or finding a “straw purchaser” who can pass a background check for them. All those ways are already illegal. Hey, let’s make them more illegal!

4) “Do you want to raise the minimum hourly wage of $7.50 to $9.00 in 2017, and in $1.00 increments up to $12 in 2020; and to raise it for service workers who receive tips from the current rate of $3.75 to $5 in 2017, in $1.00 increments up to $12 in 2024?”

The flaw here is the idea that every job should pay enough to allow a person to subsist on it alone, the so-called “living wage” standard.

But many minimum wage jobs are held by teenagers getting their first work experience or people seeking to augment their current income, and higher minimums price them out of the market.

Salaries are an expense to an owner, just like flour is to a baker. The cost of a worker has to be balanced against that worker’s contribution to the bottom line.

Sound harsh? Remember, no bottom line equals no jobs and no workers.

And that segues into the iron economic law that says when you raise the cost of something, demand for it declines. So this idea violates both common sense and basic economics. No wonder leftists like it so much.

5) “Do you want to change Maine election law to allow voters to rank their choices of candidates for U.S. Senate, Congress, Governor, State Senate and State Representative?”

The case for this is based on a presumption and a superstition. The former is that most voters like more than one candidate, when it is just as likely that they really like only one of them.

When all the others are “last choices,” why negate your first vote, which could provide a plurality win for your favorite, to elect someone you dislike?

Second, the idea that majorities somehow legitimize officeholders is a matter of faith, not experience.

I never heard a single liberal say Angus King or John Baldacci were not legitimate governors because of their plurality elections. And Bill Clinton didn’t get a majority either time he ran for president.

So, if it never mattered to leftists before, why should it matter to the rest of us now?

But if all that “no” voting sounds too negative, you can always vote “yes” on the transportation bond. Improving infrastructure is actually something government is supposed to do.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

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