Opinion – Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com Thu, 23 Nov 2017 09:00:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 Gathering leftover crops to feed poor, known as gleaning, is catching on http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/23/maine-voices-gathering-leftover-crops-to-feed-poor-known-as-gleaning-is-catching-on/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/23/maine-voices-gathering-leftover-crops-to-feed-poor-known-as-gleaning-is-catching-on/#respond Thu, 23 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1291891 As I ripped out spent Sun Gold vines and planted garlic at my Tom Settlemire Community Garden plot in Brunswick last month, food waste piled up in most tracts that could have fed dozens – no, hundreds – salads and soup. Squishy tomatillos entombed in brown husks, untold split, oozing tomatoes, frosted stalks of kale and chard, and verdant patches of parsley. But only 25 percent of our garden’s plot-holders agreed to let volunteers glean an undetectable portion of their ripe excess for area food banks this growing season.

When I evangelize such efforts, otherwise woke citizens will ask: Wait, what is gleaning? We’ve forgotten this ancient, biblical practice, where the poor once had even a legal mandate to collect leftover, economically nonviable crops from farmers’ fields after harvest. I want our Brunswick garden to take a note from behavioral economics, nudging all plot-holders to permit gleaning in exchange for the privilege of borrowing a community plot – rather than leaving the choice up to human generosity.

We food hoarders, and I am one, exhibit the “planning fallacy.” We optimistically overestimate the volume of veggies our family can eat (not to mention chronically underestimate the hours putting up all those quarts of tomatoes and applesauce will consume). But over-gardening is only a sin if you don’t share.

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful as gleaning comes out of the closet. We celebrated our first (annual) Maine Gleaning Week in October. Year-round and statewide, everyday Mainers now rescue peak-season produce for their neighbors, through a surge of grassroots groups that include the Central Maine Gleaners, Lincoln County Gleaners and Healthy Acadia’s Gleaning Initiatives in impoverished but agricultural-rich Hancock and Washington counties. We’ve sprouted new food bank farms, such as Twin Villages in Damariscotta, that raise crops exclusively for low-income families.

Here in the midcoast, the Merrymeeting Gleaners, formed by the local Food Policy Council and Master Gardeners in spring 2016, has harvested more than 20,000 pounds of free produce this calendar year, arming food pantries with farm-fresh veggies to distribute in their Thanksgiving baskets. This harvest included over 1,000 pounds of apples that volunteers picked at popular Rocky Ridge Orchard in Bowdoin after it closed for the season.

There I scaled the Baldwin ladders with my two boys, age 6 and 2, that Sunday morning, then delivered boxfuls to the Head Start kitchen in Bath, one of 21 sites that the Merrymeeting Gleaners supplies. With my toddler in tow, I also tried, in vain, to glean an overgrown maze of Fairwinds Farm corn in Bowdoinham. Instead, we drove over bushels bound for a summer feeding program at the Georgetown Central School. On occasional Saturdays, we deliver a trunkload of surplus from the Brunswick Winter Market in Fort Andross to the Bath Housing Authority. Gleaning is an easy way for busy families to contribute.

As you pore over January’s seed catalogs, plan to Plant a Row for the Hungry and invite more curious children into your garden next season. From his front-yard urban farm, our Brunswick buddy Ben Walsh processes more than a year’s worth of homemade tomato sauce and frozen kale for his family of three. So come August and September, he invites neighbors over for weekly backyard vegetarian feasts until the produce is gone. He’s done more than anyone to foster community among the bogged-down – but admittedly affluent – families in our neighborhood near Bowdoin College. Ben even hosts an annual Melonfest, inviting a crowd to freely sample the heirloom watermelons and muskmelons he starts from seed and coaxes to ripeness with heat-trapping black plastic mulch.

Let’s reclaim food access as a nonpartisan issue as we break bread together this holiday season. We could all learn from the family of my Oregon Food Bank friend Sharon Thornberry, a gleaning organizer in a state that pioneered such self-sufficient groups run for and by low-income people under President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Sharon grew up on a North Carolina hog farm before her family moved to Iowa amid racial tensions in 1963. There, her father planted quarter-acre gardens to feed others as much as themselves. He always knew which families, black or white, or senior citizens, needed food in his community – and took extra steps to preserve their dignity.

“He would make up baskets of food and leave them on people’s porches,” Sharon recalls. “He’d say, ‘We can’t possibly use all this up: Will you please help us out?’ ” We gardeners and farmers market shoppers could do more to share that bounty, too.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/23/maine-voices-gathering-leftover-crops-to-feed-poor-known-as-gleaning-is-catching-on/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/11/1291891_MV.1123.jpgLaura McCandlish of Brunswick and her sons, Theo, 6, and Emmet, 2, glean corn at Fairwinds Farm in Bowdoinham. Year-round and statewide, everyday Mainers now rescue peak-season produce for their neighbors.Wed, 22 Nov 2017 19:53:26 +0000
Our View: Mythical first Thanksgiving a story worth celebrating http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/23/our-view-first-thanksgiving-myth-a-story-worth-celebrating/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/23/our-view-first-thanksgiving-myth-a-story-worth-celebrating/#respond Thu, 23 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1291902 These days, when we call something a “myth” we usually mean it’s a “lie.”

But the word also has a more important meaning: A myth is a story that gets passed down in a culture over generations that explains how the world works. Historical accuracy is less important than what the story says about people who pass it on.

The story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving is based on historical events, but it is also a myth.

It goes like this: Seeking religious freedom, Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed at Plymouth Rock on Nov. 11, 1620. Before going ashore, they signed the Mayflower Compact, a mutual agreement that the community would stick together, write their own laws and live by them, creating the first system of self-government in the new world.

The first winter was harsh, and half the colonists died. But the next spring, their Indian neighbors taught them how to hunt and plant crops. To celebrate their first harvest, the Pilgrims held a feast of Thanksgiving, inviting their Indian friends, beginning a tradition that we continue today.

But here are some facts that usually get left out of the story: The Mayflower left Holland at the wrong time of year and headed for land at the mouth of the Hudson River, near what later became New York City but was then considered part of the Virginia colony.

About half the passengers were religious separatists, who had no interest in freedom of religion for anyone other than themselves. They modestly called themselves “saints,” not “Pilgrims.” The rest, who they called “strangers,” had less spiritual reasons to escape life in England, some looking for commercial opportunity, some trying to stay out of jail.

After two months at sea, blown off course by storms, the Mayflower laid anchor about 200 miles northeast of their destination. Exhausted from their journey and nearly out of beer (the only beverage thought safe to drink, even for children) the Pilgrims and their hangers on wanted off the ship.

Some of the Strangers argued that since they were not in Virginia, they did not need to abide by the contract that they’d signed with the colonial authorities.

The Mayflower compact was the hastily drafted agreement to end the mutiny.

It’s true that half the colonists died the first winter, and that there was a good harvest the next summer. There are reports of a harvest celebration, which the Pilgrims probably wouldn’t have called “Thanksgiving” because that had a technical meaning in their religious practice, and it happened in September, not November. There are reports that Indians were present, but no contemporary account says they were invited.

It’s in its telling of the role of the Indian neighbors in which the story peels off from history.

When the Mayflower arrived, the Massasoit had recently lost 50 percent to 90 percent of their population to plague, probably introduced by European fishermen. The Plymouth Colony was founded on what turned out to be a graveyard, a former Indian village that had been wiped out by disease, something that the newcomers took to be a sign of divine providence. The local tribe had an interest in helping the newcomers – the two communities needed each other. But together they also engaged in combat with other local tribes over territory.

And it’s a good thing that the official story ends where it does, because what happened next does not create a warm holiday feeling. What followed was a centuries-long process of conquest, as European settlers and their descendants claimed the continent for themselves. The homey scene of Indians and Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving blots out much more horrifying images of war and extermination.

The story of the First Thanksgiving that we grew up with is based on history, but enough details have been left out or invented to make the whole tale something other than the truth.

But it’s not a lie, either. It’s a story about bravery, sacrifice, cooperation, and inclusiveness. It’s a story about throwing off the shackles of an old world and building a new one where everyone has a place.

The values that were later attached to the Mayflower Compact and the First Thanksgiving are values that still inspire us.

It’s a story about who we want to be, not necessarily who we always are.

Which makes it an important founding myth, and makes it something worth celebrating.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/23/our-view-first-thanksgiving-myth-a-story-worth-celebrating/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/07/1225642_Mayflower_Genealogy_72845.j.jpgThe Mayflower II, a replica of the original ship that brought the Pilgrims to Massachusetts in 1620, is towed out of Plymouth Harbor in Plymouth, Mass.Wed, 22 Nov 2017 22:19:55 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Trump’s tactic of returning every jab makes predicting his position easy http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/22/leonard-pitts-trump-tactic-of-returning-every-jab-make-predicting-his-position-easy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/22/leonard-pitts-trump-tactic-of-returning-every-jab-make-predicting-his-position-easy/#respond Wed, 22 Nov 2017 11:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1291389 Call it the politics of “I know you are, but what am I?”

It is a form of “reasoning” that could not be more puerile, infantile, juvenile. So it very much appeals to Donald Trump.

You got an example in last year’s final presidential debate, when Hillary Clinton called him a “puppet” of Russian president Vladimir Putin. “No puppet,” snapped Trump. “No puppet. You’re the puppet. No, you’re the puppet.”

That exchange illustrated the degree to which a (then) 70-year-old man can be indistinguishable in temperament from a 7-year-old boy while also showcasing Trump’s reflexive instinct to turn every jab back against his opponent. It takes a rather testicular temerity to accuse someone else of your own sins, but that’s what Trump does.

Indeed, as seen in the 2016 campaign, it’s his go-to move. Trump, the favored candidate of David Duke, challenged Hillary Clinton to address her “racist” 2008 campaign. Trump, king of the ad hominem insult, complained of opponents being “nasty” and “angry” toward him. Trump, who bragged about being a grabber of pudenda, condemned Bill Clinton’s abuse of women. And so on.

Once you get that this is his favorite tactic, you get why last week’s announcement that the Justice Department is considering a special counsel to look into Clinton’s supposed collusion with Russia was predestined.

After all, Trump has long chafed at the fact that his campaign is under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for allegedly conniving with Putin’s regime as it interfered in the 2016 election. And the drip-drip of the headlines can only have added to his discomfort, what with reports of frequent, friendly contact between his people and the Russians and the indictments of three former aides (two for alleged money laundering unconnected to the campaign).

In response, Trump has repeatedly invoked Clinton’s supposed crimes and chided his Justice Department for failure to investigate them. So last week’s news reads, unavoidably, as an attempt by beleaguered Attorney General Jeff Sessions to save his job by giving his boss what he wants. Not incidentally, it also reads as a troubling attempt to turn Justice into a political missile, a weapon to punish Trump’s enemies.

You see, there’s no obvious crime here. The allegation is that Clinton, as secretary of state, approved a deal for a Russian firm to purchase shares in Uranium One, a Canadian mining company with operations in the United States, in exchange for a more than $140 million donation to the Clinton Foundation.

But Clinton didn’t green light the deal; she had no power to do so. Rather, it was approved unanimously by a nine-agency committee of which State was a member. As for the supposed quid pro quo, the vast majority of the money _ over $130 million _ came from a single Uranium One investor. He says he had no connection to the company at the time, having sold his shares 18 months before Clinton even took office. What we apparently have here, then, is another “nothing burger” in the mold of Whitewater and Benghazi _ not to mention superfluous proof of Trump’s juvenility.

The man who said, “No puppet _ you’re the puppet” now desperately wants to say, “I didn’t collude, you colluded.” In other words, he wants to distract and deflect.

But the evidence of Team Trump’s plotting with Russia grows more alarming with each headline. I, for one, refuse to allow baseless accusations about Hillary Clinton to make me lose sight of that. Or, to put that in terms the child president might better understand:

She’s rubber, he’s glue.

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/22/leonard-pitts-trump-tactic-of-returning-every-jab-make-predicting-his-position-easy/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/04/PITTS_LEONARD_1_TNS2.jpgTNS Columnist Leonard Pitts. (Olivier Douliery/TNS)Tue, 21 Nov 2017 20:44:15 +0000
Maine Voices: For gun owners, suicide prevention needs to be a collaborative effort http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/22/maine-voices-for-gun-owners-suicide-prevention-needs-to-be-a-collaborative-effortthe-maine-gun-safety-coalition-is-sometimes-wrongly-seen-as-anti-gun-ownership-the-writer-says/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/22/maine-voices-for-gun-owners-suicide-prevention-needs-to-be-a-collaborative-effortthe-maine-gun-safety-coalition-is-sometimes-wrongly-seen-as-anti-gun-ownership-the-writer-says/#respond Wed, 22 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1291280 Three days before I was scheduled to represent the Maine Gun Safety Coalition at an American Foundation for Suicide Prevention walk, I was informed that I was no longer allowed to speak. I mentioned that my remarks echoed the same messages about gun safety put forth by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s partner since 2015. It turned out that this partnership between the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization and the nation’s second-most-powerful gun lobbying group was precisely the reason why the Maine Gun Safety Coalition was disinvited.

This summer, we were thrilled when the local coordinators of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Walk in Portland invited us to speak about how the safe storage of firearms can prevent suicides. It was a pleasure working with the local coordinators leading up to the event. We agreed about the importance of educating gun owners on safe storage practices in the home to reduce gun suicides.

On Sept. 21, three days before the walk, I received an email from a volunteer for the suicide prevention nonprofit: “We just heard from our National office for the AFSP and unfortunately we will be unable to have you speak at our walk.”

Perplexed, I asked why. I was told, “The most compelling reason for not having you speak is the possibility that gun rights groups could construe AFSP as supporting gun control, background checks and other anti-gun ownership matters.”

This only added to the confusion because the Maine Gun Safety Coalition is not anti-gun ownership. Our board includes several hunters and two police chiefs who carry guns for work, and I’ve been a recreational shooter since Cub Scouts.

Despite the varying reasons for owning a gun, we all agree that being a responsible gun owner means storing guns unloaded and locked – that’s why we’ve distributed over 25,000 free trigger locks throughout Maine. Our mission is to save lives, and we believe suicide prevention must be part of every conversation about reducing gun deaths, because U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicate that 86 percent of gun deaths in Maine are the result of suicide.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation represents gun manufacturers and dealers. With headquarters located just three miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, the gun industry trade group is led by Steve Sanetti, who was president of gunmaker Sturm, Ruger & Co. for 28 years. The group spends millions annually lobbying against policies aimed at curbing gun suicides. Its website includes educational tips such as “If someone calls an AR-15-style rifle an ‘assault weapon,’ he or she either supports banning these firearms or does not understand their function and sporting use, or both. Please correct them.”

I feel compelled to speak out because I recently learned that another gun violence prevention group like the Maine Gun Safety Coalition was treated poorly by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. In late October, the suicide prevention foundation denied Brady Campaign and Moms Demand Action volunteers the opportunity to distribute materials at their San Diego walk, the nonprofit investigative news organization Voice of San Diego reported. National Shooting Sports Foundation materials, however, were distributed at the event.

Prior to the National Shooting Sports Foundation and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention partnership, gun violence prevention groups routinely distributed information at the suicide prevention group’s events. With the focus on suicide, these materials typically addressed the safe storage of firearms in the home.

We are concerned that since the partnership was announced two years ago, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention staff and volunteers haven’t been able to point to any examples of gun dealers, shooting ranges or gun clubs distributing the gun industry trade group’s and the suicide prevention group’s jointly developed Firearms and Suicide Prevention materials or giving their Talk Saves Lives presentation in Maine. In fact, the volunteers I spoke to were unaware of the partnership!

The Maine Gun Safety Coalition applauds the hard-working American Foundation for Suicide Prevention staff and volunteers for their efforts to reduce firearm suicide by engaging gun dealers and firearm safety trainers to educate gun owners about risk reduction. Our organization plans to continue to have productive conversations with the suicide prevention group’s local organizers in the hope that we can treat each other with mutual respect in our shared mission to reduce gun suicides. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention does valuable work, and we hope to partner with them again in the future.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/22/maine-voices-for-gun-owners-suicide-prevention-needs-to-be-a-collaborative-effortthe-maine-gun-safety-coalition-is-sometimes-wrongly-seen-as-anti-gun-ownership-the-writer-says/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/07/952703_Gun-Control-California.JP3_-e1481407714883.jpgMeasures signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday require people to turn in high-capacity magazines and mandate background checks for ammunition sales.Wed, 22 Nov 2017 15:53:39 +0000
Greg Kesich: Men need to learn that being masculine is not all about asserting power http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/22/greg-kesich-men-need-to-learn-being-masculine-is-not-all-about-asserting-power/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/22/greg-kesich-men-need-to-learn-being-masculine-is-not-all-about-asserting-power/#respond Wed, 22 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1291378 What do men do better than women? Well, there’s murder.

Men commit about 90 percent of those, including virtually all mass shootings. There’s also getting murdered: Men are the victims in homicides 77 percent of the time.

Then there’s going to jail: Men make up 93 percent of the inmates in federal prison. Men commit suicide at four times the rate of women, and they are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs or over-work, which is probably why women outlive us by an average of about five years.

But when it comes to sexual misconduct, there’s no contest. From harassment to assault, we have a corner on it, as we’ve seen in the past year with high-profile cases emerging from the worlds of politics, entertainment, the news media, Silicon Valley, celebrity kitchens – basically anywhere anyone has bothered to look.

It feels like we are living in a great historical moment for American women. A cascade of revelations have exposed sexual harassment committed by powerful men, and instead of being called liars or sluts, the accusers are being believed, giving more women the courage to tell their stories.

But what is going on with American men? It can’t be written off as just a few monsters, this goes too broad and too deep. It’s not just Republicans or Democrats, or libertines or religious hypocrites.

It’s becoming clear that there is something about the way that we bring up boys in our culture that damages them. There is a thread that connects these workplace incidents with murder, suicide, gender discrimination and all the other ways that men are hurting women and themselves simply by being men.

Feminist writers call it “toxic masculinity,” the destructive force of the cultural expectations that men are taught to impose on themselves.

Practically from birth, boys are taught to stifle their feelings and deny any emotion other than anger, which they are told doesn’t count as an emotion, writes Kali Holloway on the website alternet.org.

As they grow, boys are taught by their peers and through the media that men are supposed to be aggressive and always interested in sex, unlike women, who are more mysterious. Men pursue women for sex (“girl chasing”), and women usually resist at first, but succumb if the man persists.

Achieving manhood is not just a question of getting older. It’s conditional, something that has to be earned by acting in a certain way (“It’ll make a man out of you,” boys are told when offered a shot of whiskey or a tour in the Marine Corps). Men are judged by their ability to make money and possess women. A man can be “emasculated” if he doesn’t exert power over women.

Women are more likely to report being depressed than men, but researchers find that men are more likely to express their pain as anger and act out.

Because the standards of masculinity are impossible to meet, and because a man can lose his status by failing to meet those standards, men are always at risk of being humiliated. This is dangerous.

James Gilligan, former director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Harvard Medical School, has interviewed countless prisoners. He doesn’t report finding much remorse, but he did find a lot of embarrassment.

“I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed,” he told the men’s health blog MenAlive. Virtually every act of violence he researched was “an attempt to prevent or undo that loss of face – no matter how severe the punishment, even if it included death.”

I can hear the groans now. Leave it to a male writer to make the story of sexual harassment in the workplace into a tale of how tough men have it.

Yes, women have their own set of impossible-to-meet standards, and it’s hard to be sympathetic to men when they are the ones committing harassment and assault.

It’s men who have to change.

Making a demeaning joke that uses a woman as a prop (like the now-famous photo of Al Franken pretending to grope a sleeping woman’s breasts) is not the same thing as demanding sex in exchange for a promotion. But they both come from the same place – a man’s need to assert power.

We are going to have to learn how to share power without giving up our status as men. We need different role models and heroes. We need to teach boys to better understand their emotions.

Because this toxic masculinity is killing us.

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

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter: gregkesich

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/22/greg-kesich-men-need-to-learn-being-masculine-is-not-all-about-asserting-power/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/10/Columnist-Kesich-e1441211688709.jpgJohn Patriquin/Staff Photographer.Wed. July,25, 2012. News room mug shots Greg Kesich. (Photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer)Tue, 21 Nov 2017 20:40:59 +0000
Our View: Transgender people need safe haven from violence http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/22/our-view-transgender-people-need-safe-haven-from-violence/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/22/our-view-transgender-people-need-safe-haven-from-violence/#respond Wed, 22 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1291516 Observed worldwide every Nov. 20 in honor of the transgender people slain worldwide, Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017 took place at a historic time in our country – barely two weeks after the election of Danica Roem of Virginia as the nation’s first transgender state legislator (replacing a man who once called referred to himself as the state’s “chief homophobe“) and the Minneapolis City Council victory of Andrea Jenkins, the first transgender woman of color to hold public office in the U.S.

But grim statistics overshadow these firsts: At least 25 transgender people have been killed so far in 2017, making it the most deadly on record, advocacy groups say. Anti-transgender hate crimes surged by 44 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to the FBI, compared to a 4.6 percent rise in the total of hate crimes overall during the same period.

Though the term may evoke an incident that happens on the street, transgender people also face hate violence at school, work and the doctor’s office, according to a landmark 2015 survey of nearly 28,000 transgender Americans. And compounding the injury is the fact that transgender people perceive that they have nowhere to turn when they are attacked.

In results released earlier this year, 62 percent of the Maine survey respondents who interacted with police officers reported mistreatment, including “being verbally harassed, repeatedly referred to as the wrong gender, physically assaulted, or sexually assaulted, including being forced by officers to engage in sexual activity to avoid arrest.” As a result, 59 percent of respondents said they would feel uncomfortable asking law enforcement for help if they needed it.

It should be made clear that this won’t be countenanced. The Maine Criminal Justice Academy should examine its training methods with an eye toward revising them; the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office suggests the best practices in a recent report. Boston Police Department guidelines, for example, call for officers to address someone who is transgender by their preferred name, even if it hasn’t been legally formalized. In West Hartford, Connecticut, Police Department policy advises officers honor a transgender person’s request to be searched by someone of a specific gender.

Transgender Day of Remembrance vigils memorialize the victims of the gravest threat to the safety of transgender men, women and teenagers. But as we honor those killed, we shouldn’t forget that transgender people are regularly targeted for other forms of violence as well – and they should be able to call for help without putting themselves further at risk.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/22/our-view-transgender-people-need-safe-haven-from-violence/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/11/1291516_1290304_trans.jpgPeople gathered in Monument Square in Portland on Sunday to observe Transgender Day of Remembrance, memorializing transgender murder victims worldwide. A statewide survey found that transgender Mainers are reluctant to call police for help if they need it for fear they'll be harassed or attacked.Tue, 21 Nov 2017 22:54:07 +0000
Another View: Two months after Maria, Puerto Rico far from normal http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/22/another-view-hedy-5/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/22/another-view-hedy-5/#respond Wed, 22 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1291546 It has been two months since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, yet most of the island’s 3.4 million residents are still without electricity in what ranks as the largest blackout in U.S. history. No one has a clear handle on when the lights will be back on. Other problems include damaged homes, people in shelters, lack of access to clean water and, The New York Times reported, fears of a full-fledged mental health crisis.

Nonetheless, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the Army general who led the military’s response to Maria, announced last week that troops would begin to wind down operations. He explained that the military’s mission – clearing roads, search-and-rescue work, helping restore communications, opening ports – was over. The long-term work of rebuilding was now up to the local government and federal agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA officials say they will be there for the long haul. That’s good to hear. Also good is the decision by the Trump administration to not just rebuild but also allow for enhancement and improvements in infrastructure projects. So, for example, a traditional power grid could be replaced with solar- or wind-power components. Getting Congress to approve the necessary resources will be key.

Puerto Rico’s governor has asked for $94.4 billion, a request that hasn’t been helped by the troubling questions that have been raised about the decision of the government power company to give a $300 million no-bid contract for energy restoration to a small startup firm based in Montana.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló canceled the contract, and the head of Puerto Rico’s electric utility has resigned, but the lingering questions, as well as doubts that have been raised about the government’s official death toll, underscore the need for Congress to not just write a check but also ensure the money will be put to its best use. If Rosselló is unable to provide that assurance, Congress should consider whether the federal oversight board put in place last year to supervise Puerto Rico’s finances should be given more authority to help speed recovery.

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Kathleen Parker: Groping a serious offense but context, circumstance important to consider http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/21/groping-a-serious-offense-but-context-circumstance-important-to-consider/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/21/groping-a-serious-offense-but-context-circumstance-important-to-consider/#respond Tue, 21 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1290625 It seems more than coincidence that the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency coincides with a trend that was heretofore unrecognized – groping.

Gropers abound, it seems. From Harvey Weinstein to Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore to Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken – and dozens in between – it would seem women are swimming in groper-infested waters.

One can hardly turn on the news without landing on a panel discussion of groping and punishment.

How long before groper-fatigue sets in? The challenge for everyone, but especially the media, is to not overwhelm ourselves with trivial pursuits and blind leads.

Groping is wrong and bad and awful, but it doesn’t rise to the level of rape as we commonly understand it.

And while a forced kiss is disgusting (and you want to brush your teeth forever), it wouldn’t seem to be a life-altering event. If it is, we’re talking about more than groping.

I’m not excusing anyone’s behavior. I find the whole bunch of accused men, including the president of the United States, revolting and pathetic. May every groper find a larger man’s hand down his britches and see how he likes it. Crude – my apologies. But this is what it’s come to.

While the debate about these offenses is, one hopes, constructive, there’s a tendency to put all these monkeys in the same barrel.

There are notable differences of degree among them and we should always give consideration to context and other possible extenuating circumstances lest we become blind to fairness and enamored of “justice,” with or without due process.

Do I believe every accuser who has come forward? I’m inclined to. In fact, without good reason otherwise, I’m inclined to first believe the woman in any case.

This isn’t because I happen to be a woman but because men historically have been unfairly believed over women. Assuming no relevant pathologies, why not believe the woman?

In Moore’s case, of course, there is credibility in numbers. Several women unknown to each other reported similar experiences. But are these alleged offenses from so long ago sufficient to end his Senate campaign and his political career?

The fact that Moore totes the “Ten Commandments” around like an ash sack of piety makes the allegations all the more repulsive – America hates the hypocrite more than the criminal – and makes people more inclined to send him packing.

But is it really fair to judge him based on unprovable recollections by women who were teens at the time? Is it not possible that Moore has repented or that, as he claims, these things never happened? Might four decades have changed him? Or don’t we care? We have to ask.

Franken is helped only insofar as he wasn’t yet a Minnesota senator when his guerrilla groping took place.

The fact that he expressed remorse and didn’t deny his acts is hardly courageous given that we’ve all seen a photograph of him as he’s about to grab a woman’s breasts while she was sleeping.

He and the woman, Leeann Tweeden, whom he reduced to an inhuman object for his audience’s amusement, were on a USO tour at the time.

In the picture, Franken, erstwhile comedian and, apparently, lifelong buffoon, is looking over his shoulder at the camera grinning like a baboon. It was a stupid, thoughtless and demeaning performance. Context for Franken may simply have been his outdated sense of humor. What’s funny for one generation isn’t remotely humorous to the next.

How does one punish a Franken? Democrats may be willing to sacrifice him since Minnesota’s Democratic governor would appoint another Democrat to replace him.

If so, they gain the high road over Republicans, who are stuck not only with Moore but with the leader of their party.

Trump, whom more than a dozen women have accused, is the gorilla in the ointment.

We know that he’s an admitted forced-kisser and a groper, thanks to the “Access Hollywood” tape. It’s easy to think he’s guilty as charged based on his generally dismissive behavior toward women and his alarming impulsivity.

What will happen to Trump is probably nothing. He, like Moore, stands only accused. We may not be at a point where recompense is possible for past aggressions, but there can be little doubt that groping, the trend that suddenly defined 2017, is on its way out.

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

kathleenparker@washpost.com

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Charles Lawton: Changes in county populations mean more than you might think http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/21/charles-lawton-changes-in-county-populations-mean-more-than-you-might-think/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/21/charles-lawton-changes-in-county-populations-mean-more-than-you-might-think/#respond Tue, 21 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1290647 Maine has a people problem. We have always prided ourselves as crusty, independent and always hardworking, the gold standard of the labor force, as the secretary of the Navy once said of the workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (located in Kittery, Maine). And, over the past several years, we have had it beaten into our consciousness through a drumbeat of demographic reports that we are the oldest (median age of 45 versus national average of 38) and whitest (94 percent versus 62 percent for the whole country) state in the nation, that we need to attract more young people (of all colors) if we are to revive our economy.

All this conventional wisdom is true, but I don’t think that the wrenching changes it implies for our public policy is fully appreciated. According to the latest U.S. Census data, only three Maine counties had more births than deaths over the past six years (Cumberland, Androscoggin and York), and only four experienced positive population growth (Cumberland, York, Waldo and Knox).

Consider for a moment three groups of counties – the four with positive population growth, the five with population losses of more than 1,000 (Aroostook, Penobscot, Kennebec, Washington and Somerset) and the remaining seven counties with population losses between one and 999.

In the four counties where the population increased, personal income grew 22 percent between 2010 and 2016, ranging from 24 percent in Cumberland County to 18 percent in Waldo County. For the five counties with a population loss of 1,000 or more, personal income grew only 12 percent over the same period. In the remaining counties, which saw moderate population loss, personal income grew 15 percent over the period. Without attributing any causal effect, it is clear that population growth is at least associated with higher income growth.

But then consider sources of income – earnings versus property and transfers. Remember that personal income includes three main components – so-called earned income (wages and net income of sole proprietors), property income (interest, rent and dividends) and transfers (pensions, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other forms of payments from government programs).

For Maine’s four population growth counties, the share of personal income coming from current earnings in 2016 was 63 percent – virtually equal to the national average. In the seven counties that saw moderate population loss, the share of personal income derived from current earnings was only 56 percent, and that share had fallen nearly 2 percent since 2010. In the five high-population-loss counties, the current earnings share of personal income was just over 57 percent in 2016 and had fallen by 2.5 percent since 2010.

In sum, population loss is tantamount to greater economic dependence. As employment opportunities decline, those who can do so move away to find a new source of earnings elsewhere, and those who remain become more dependent, either on their own saved earnings from the past or on government transfer payments of one sort or another.

The populations of the counties with demographic decline are not just aging, but they are also decreasing their involvement in the current economy. And this structural change has significant ramifications for public policy.

In Piscataquis County, where less than 49 percent of personal income comes from current earnings, there is clearly and quite naturally a greater vested interest in maintaining the flow of “unearned” income than in reviving the current earnings economy. This is not to cast aspersions on the motivations of the people in this and other counties where an increasing share of the populace is dependent on “unearned” income. It is simply to say that such fiscal impacts of population change are natural and unavoidable. Judging and attributing motives to such changes are simply further evidence of the dysfunction of pitting one category of society against another. In acknowledging the problem, they make its solution more difficult.

We must, rather, recognize that demographic change is not just a count of people, it is a fundamental change in the structure and operation of a society of people. Assuming that people will, or demanding that they should, behave in some ideologically defined “correct” way – be that becoming “properly motivated to work” or “properly motivated to share” – is simply to prolong the problem. We must instead recognize that assumptions about “proper” or “correct” motivations or character traits are merely ways of delaying solutions to our very real problems. We must come to treat economic upheaval more as a natural disaster that demands concerted common action and less as a “failing” of people living in certain areas.

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

cttlaw3@gmail.com

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Our View: Faced with threat to shellfish industry, Maine has its head in the sand http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/21/our-view-faced-with-threat-to-fishery-maine-has-its-head-in-the-sand/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/21/our-view-faced-with-threat-to-fishery-maine-has-its-head-in-the-sand/#respond Tue, 21 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1290654 In 2014, with rising ocean acidity threatening Maine’s fishing and aquaculture industries, a state commission issued a series of recommendations for localized research that was delivered with optimism.

“While scientific research on the effects of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and individual organisms is still in its infancy,” the report said, “Maine’s coastal communities need not wait for a global solution to address a locally exacerbated problem that is compromising their marine environment.”

Three years later, little progress has been made on those recommendations, and the work of implementing them has been left to volunteers – hardly the response warranted by such a threat to Maine’s marine economy.

Contrast that with actions in Washington state, which commissioned its own blue-ribbon panel on acidification in 2012. Looking to protect its $270 million-a-year shellfish industry, Washington has since used $6 million in public money to fund research into ocean acidification, and is a founding member of a coalition working on the issue that includes four states, two Canadian provinces and nine national governments.

But not Maine, home of a shellfish industry with more than twice the value of Washington’s.

Here, efforts to put public resources toward monitoring and researching ocean acidification have come up short, and last year the commission was disbanded. The commission’s work has been taken up by a group of volunteers who now must find their own funding sources and get by without the significant power of the state behind them.

This isn’t something Maine should be doing on the cheap. Fueled by rising temperatures and increased runoff from coastal development, ocean acidity has increased 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution, and the ocean is expected to be two or three times more acidic than today by 2100.

The acidity makes it more difficult for mussels, oysters and clams to build shells, meaning fewer infants survive until adulthood – it has caused failures at oyster hatcheries and mussel farms, and some high-acidity flats in Maine are no longer producing clams.

“Make no mistake about it: What is at risk here is nothing short of the future of the aquaculture and fishing sectors of this state,” Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association, told state legislators in 2015.

The research on how acidity affects lobsters in cold water, however, is limited, an information gap that the largely forgotten report from the state commission was designed to close.

Without research conducted along the Maine coast, we won’t know how lobsters are responding to ocean acidity at different ages and in different areas. We won’t be able to identify areas of the state most affected by runoff and formulate ways to mitigate that impact. We won’t be able to move fishermen away from troubled spots, or properly prepare for major changes in an industry that defines communities up and down the coast.

The volunteer group is doing some of that work on their own, even traveling to an overseas conference on the subject. They are discussing joining the group founded by Washington state and others. Members say they have had cooperation from state agencies.

But with so much at stake, that’s simply not enough – as it stands now, Maine’s marine economy is heading into the next century blind.

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Maine Voices: Maine Hire-a-Vet successfully connects employers to job-seeking veterans http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/21/maine-voices-maine-hire-a-vet-successfully-connects-employers-to-job-seeking-vets/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/21/maine-voices-maine-hire-a-vet-successfully-connects-employers-to-job-seeking-vets/#respond Tue, 21 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1290696 AUGUSTA — Maine’s unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, according to the latest statewide employment report released by the Maine Department of Labor. While that’s good news for most of the state, Maine employers are struggling to find qualified candidates in this tight job market. At the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services we know that our veterans can contribute incredible skills and expertise to the workforce. Unfortunately, cultural barriers often cause unexpected complications for veterans seeking post-service employment.

I know firsthand how challenging finding a job after service can be. I moved to Maine from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after separating from active duty six years ago. As a West Point graduate with a master’s degree in business administration from Northeastern University, a military police officer and a psychological operations officer who deployed five times in support of the global war on terror, I assumed that transitioning into the civilian workforce would be seamless. However, after months of job hunting and more than 30 applications, I did not receive a single call.

I felt like my life-changing, successful and universally applicable experiences in the military inexplicably had no value. From conversations with other veterans, I found that my experience was not unique. This is not what our veterans should expect after serving our country, nor should we allow it. In response, the state of Maine created the Maine Hire-a-Vet Campaign, recognizing the need to bridge this disconnect and realize the potential of job-seeking veterans.

Launched in 2015 by the Maine Department of Labor in partnership with the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services, the campaign commits to engaging 100 employers in hiring 100 veterans across 100 days (typically September to December). The campaign has been incredibly successful and is now a national model for state veteran hiring programs. In 2016, 197 veterans were hired by 147 employers at an average wage of $22.23 per hour. With one month left in the 2017 campaign, we are on track to surpass our goal of connecting 100 veterans with gainful employment.

The Maine Labor Department also provides employers with military and veteran cultural training to help them better understand military culture and how veterans’ skill sets can contribute to their workforce. A significant cultural difference addressed by this training is the comparatively inverse approach that each sector takes to promotions.

The military rewards good performance, but promotes on potential. As a result, all service members start their next military job having never done it before, but knowing that they are capable of succeeding at it. Every service member promoted into his or her next position is relatively unqualified for that role – but has shown the potential to learn and be successful.

Contrast that with the civilian world, where promotions and hiring decisions are based on past performance and demonstrated experience in a similar role. When a veteran enters the workforce they often look for jobs in which they may not have experience, but in which they have the potential to succeed. Hiring managers, looking for past, relevant experience in a resume, may not appreciate the adaptability and versatility that veterans bring, thereby leaving veterans out of the conversation and the opportunity.

I encourage employers to sign up for the Maine Hire-a-Vet Campaign to take advantage of available resources to hire veterans. You may also want to enlist veterans in your workforce to help with recruiting and hiring efforts. Veterans and transitioning service members who are looking for a new or a better job are encouraged to contact the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services for referrals to the employment resources available to them in Maine.

At the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services, we are committed to leading Maine’s veteran advocate community to best serve our veteran population. Whether it is bolstering employment opportunities, improving access to education opportunities or facilitating access to health care and mental health programs, we lead by example in honoring Maine’s legacy of service and our veterans’ contributions to our communities and our workforce.

For more information on these services or any other issue you need assistance with, please call us at 207-430-6035 or visit maine.gov/veterans.

 

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Our View: To combat harassment, we must look in the mirror http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/20/our-view-to-combat-harassment-we-must-look-in-the-mirror/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/20/our-view-to-combat-harassment-we-must-look-in-the-mirror/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1290108 After all the allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, after we process the revelations involving Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Roy Moore and Al Franken, what are we going to be left with?

If it is just a trail of derailed careers, we would have missed an enormous opportunity to correct a destructive and toxic structural flaw in our society, one that exists not only in politics, media and entertainment, but also anywhere people care to look.

What we are seeing this year could be the dismantling of a system that has forced women to endure all manner of harassment and assault, one that pressures victims to stay silent, then asks, “What took you so long?” when they come forward.

Or it could just be another lost moment; it could go either way.

What started it all were the now-confirmed allegations against Weinstein, who, after years of paying off and intimidating victims in the film industry, could no longer keep his sleaze shielded from the general public.

Brave women and relentless journalists brought to light those stories and more. Longstanding rumors about C.K. were confirmed; it will be difficult for his career in comedy to recover. The credible and mounting allegations against Moore have put his candidacy for an important Senate seat in jeopardy in a way that his lawless and bigoted professional history did not.

And there will certainly be more.

But this isn’t about waiting for the next recognizable face to take a fall from power – it’s about making sure that women don’t have to endure this behavior simply as a matter of employment or career advancement.

First, we need to recognize that while all these cases are unacceptable, it’s OK to see the differences. A pattern of noxious behavior over years is worse – and, unfortunately, far more common – than an isolated incident of harassment or misconduct, and requires a different response.

What Franken did – as far as we know – pales in comparison to the allegations against Moore, in both number and severity. Franken also offered a clear and sincere apology and called for an ethics investigation into his own actions, while Moore continues to deny the credible claims despite mounting evidence, and to sic his political machine on his ever-growing number of accusers.

But Franken’s response still falls short in at least one critical way: He should have apologized for what he did when he did it – 11 years ago – instead of making his victim live with the memories and weigh the risk to her reputation, career and peace of mind involved in coming forward. We should want other men who have transgressed to step up in real time, own up to what they’ve done, commit to doing things differently and seek a role in changing the dynamic that makes sexual harassment possible in the first place.

These should not be seen as a collection of individual stories but as the same tale over and over again. Whether on the casting couch, on Capitol Hill or in the thousands of other workplaces across the country, women have been forced to navigate a culture where lewd behavior and unwanted advances are accepted practice. They are made to endure harassment from bosses in order to stay employed and advance up the ladder. They risk exclusion, name-calling and worse if they speak up.

That may be changing. This year, the blame and shame are, more and more, being placed where they belong: with the assailants. People seem more willing to believe the women who were victimized. There have been allegations and more against a media titan, a progressive comedian and a right-wing talk-show host, a liberal senator and conservative Christian former judge. Three of the last five presidents are the subjects of credible accusations.

This is everywhere, and it is time that is acknowledged and the behavior rooted out, whenever and wherever power and masculinity create a toxic environment for women. Putting an end to the free rein of people like Weinstein and Moore is a good start, but it is only the first step.

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Maine Voices: Mainers know how to weather the storm, no matter how extreme http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/20/maine-voices-mainers-know-how-to-weather-the-storm-no-matter-how-extreme/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/20/maine-voices-mainers-know-how-to-weather-the-storm-no-matter-how-extreme/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1290178 GRAY — We have seen four major weather events in the last 20 years that stick out in my mind. Countless others have occurred – these particular storms just resonate personally:

The Great 100-Year Flood of ’96: The Presumpscot River was flowing over the Turnpike between what were then exits 9 and 10, in Falmouth and West Falmouth, those in the know will remember.

The Ice Storm of ’98: Until very recently, the resulting power outage was Maine’s largest ever.

The Patriots Day Storm of ’07: We saw heavy tree loss and power failures, especially along coastal York and Cumberland counties.

Whatever we’re going to name this storm – the All Hallows Eve Storm of ’17?

First and foremost, let’s not, as has been the case since the initial election of Paul LePage as governor, use this as a jumping-off point to push your point of view, albeit via an editorial (Nov. 6), and bash Augusta, specifically LePage.

As Mainers, we endure harsh weather all year long, and it is the public’s fault if they are not prepared through lessons learned over time living through these events. Basic survival supplies should be in everyone’s home, including, to say the least, batteries and a full tank of vehicle fuel to reach needed destinations.

As far as municipalities being prepared, Yarmouth has one of the most comprehensive, community-interactive municipal tree care programs in the state, and their outage numbers were some of the highest percentage-wise in regard to customers served and customers without power.

There have been many cases that have occurred in recent years where weather anomalies occurred and the community has banded together to take care of the unexpected. Consider all the roads lost because of washouts and inadequate culverts 21 years ago in southern Cumberland and York counties; Route 27 in Carrabassett Valley washing out several summers ago, and, as recently as this past year or two, the roads washing out in the Jackman area.

All of these are prime examples of a weather event that was so severe, old-timers had never recalled such a thing occurring before, while afterward, people came together and took care of the issue in hours, as was the case with the reopening of Route 27. (Great job, Maine Department of Transportation, working 24 hours straight to finish that project!)

Central Maine Power and their out-of-state brethren from afar just restored power to almost 500,000 people in a week’s time – tip your hat in respect to them. It made me proud, as I drove north on 95 on Nov. 7, from Salisbury, Massachusetts, to Bangor and then back to my office in Portland, to see the smiles on the countless faces of the linemen and linewomen who were southbound in their scores of bucket trucks. They were heading home knowing that long, grueling hours of nonstop hard work had brought back normalcy to hundreds of thousands of people they’ll never know. As weather anomalies become the norm, improvements to the infrastructure will be made in order to handle these examples of “the Al Gore science.”

As far as the dry summer and insect-infested trees, coniferous trees have a shallow root system typically affected by high winds in very moist soil conditions. Had we had a normal to wet summer and fall, the devastation would have been greater. Perhaps if the regulations weren’t so strict and stringent along the coast, which was highly hit by this storm and is populated by affluent liberals and the browntail moth, greater efforts could be made to eliminate the pests (the moths, not the liberals). Insect-related compromise to the root systems of the deciduous trees that we saw fall in this weather event can and should be curbed.

We as a people are hearty and long survived in Maine. A nor’easter by the woodstove or a thunderstorm on the screened-in porch (if the wind isn’t blowing the rain into the porch during that particular storm) are forms of seasonal entertainment to us prepared Mainers.

Regardless of the hoopla stirred up by the weather service or over-inflated predictions made by the Storm Center, we know how to make it through the thick of the storm and bask in the sunshine that always breaks afterward. Being a Mainer isn’t about census statistics, political or scientific stance or surviving a storm. It’s a birthright: You’re either in the club or you’re not. I believe it’s high time people who aren’t in the club stop speaking via the written press on behalf of those who are.

 

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Jim Fossel: Medicaid expansion not done yet http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/jim-fossel-medicaid-expansion-not-done-yet/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/jim-fossel-medicaid-expansion-not-done-yet/#respond Sun, 19 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1289443 The supporters of Medicaid expansion celebrated on Election Night as the citizen initiative to take advantage of federal funding under Obamacare to expand the program easily passed statewide.

However, if we were giving out grades for campaigns this year, they wouldn’t receive an “A” simply for winning the election, nor would they get an “F” for successfully passing bad policy via referendum – their grade would be incomplete.

Even if you accepted the idea of Medicaid expansion as being good public policy, the problem with the referendum as it was written was that it offered no payment mechanism for the state’s share of the cost.

Essentially, the referendum asked voters whether they wanted this new program without any explanation of how we’d all end up paying for it – so of course it was approved, just like voters nearly always approve bonds in Maine.

Moreover, there’s already quite a dispute brewing over exactly how much Medicaid expansion will end up costing the state, so we don’t know that end of the formula either. Legislators now face the confusing situation of knowing what the voters want, but not knowing how much it will cost or how to pay for it.

This is the exact opposite of the referendum on education spending from last year, which created a new tax and dedicated it all toward a specific purpose. Even though the new tax was a bad idea, at least that was crafted responsibly, by figuring out how to pay for something before the money was spent.

In the end, the Legislature decided to work around that new tax and find the money to increase education spending another way. The Democrats, despite supposedly being in favor of the tax increase as enacted by the referendum, went along with it because they at least came away with increased education spending in the end.

This session, another battle looms over exactly how to enact Medicaid expansion as the endorsed by the voters. After Democrats showed no willingness to go along with the new tax created to fund education last session, it seems unlikely that they’re going to come up with a new revenue source on their own.

On the flip side, Gov. LePage has ruled out raising taxes or raiding the rainy day fund in order to fund Medicaid expansion. Most Republicans – in the Maine House, anyway; the Senate is, as usual, more of a wild card – will probably support the governor on this. Since the state of Maine, unlike the federal government, has to maintain a balanced budget, following those demands would require that all the funding come from cuts to other programs.

Republicans in both the House and Senate would be wise to stand with the governor and resist any attempt to raise taxes. During the last legislative session, that served them well throughout budget negotiations, as the Legislature eventually found a way to balance the budget without passing new taxes. Sticking to that same strategy this session when it comes to Medicaid expansion is not only good public policy – the state shouldn’t be raising any taxes to fund big government, no matter how well the economy is doing – it’s good politics heading into next year’s elections as well.

With the passage of Medicaid expansion, Democrats probably believe they have the advantage over the Republican Party, but in fact they may well have backed themselves into a corner.

If Augusta Republicans can, for once, stay united and actually work together, they can force Democrats to come up with a plan to pay for Medicaid expansion. After all, Democrats are the ones who have spent the last seven years pushing this policy – they should be the ones who find a way to pay for it.

That means they’ll have to make the cuts elsewhere in the budget, probably digging into the funding for other priorities like K-12 education or municipal revenue sharing. That would force them to backtrack on previous promises in order to fund this latest one, perhaps angering large portions of their base just as they begin to gear up for the midterm elections.

If the Democrats can’t stomach budget cuts, and can’t find support for tax hikes or raiding the rainy day fund, they may well end up delaying Medicaid expansion. That would not only be a clear defeat for them, it could well divide their base and re-energize Republicans.

No matter what happens, both sides should be prepared for a long, bitter fight over this issue that could extend well beyond this year.

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

jwfossel@gmail.com

Twitter: @jimfossel

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Cynthia Dill: Republican tax plan won’t benefit many Mainers http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/cynthia-dill-the-republican-tax-plan-wont-benefit-many-mainers-at-all/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/cynthia-dill-the-republican-tax-plan-wont-benefit-many-mainers-at-all/#respond Sun, 19 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1289444 Remember Question 1 on Maine’s November ballot, which wanted us to give one guy – Shawn Scott – the exclusive license to operate a York County casino so he could get richer? That’s what the Republican tax overhaul plan coming out of Washington looks like – except instead of one guy getting all the money, it’s 1 percent of the population.

I don’t fault the logic of the super-rich people who want to get more and more money: The cost of lobbying and controlling members of Congress keeps going up, and a steady stream of big checks is the price of admission to good schools, glitzy parties and attendance at “conferences” and “summits” in places like Aspen and Colorado Springs.

It is no surprise the mega-wealthy will keep their cherished charitable deductions under the proposed legislation because the entire social order of elite families revolves around throwing gala fundraising events that demand expensive clothing and coiffures in a vicious and fabulous cycle. Being rich and powerful looks easy, but it ain’t cheap.

What’s harder to understanding is the logic of the Republicans in Maine who support the proposal, especially those in rural districts where the middle class is shrinking and annual family income has been decreasing while Americans at the top of the economic ladder are having a banner run. Just 25 people hold more wealth than the bottom 56 percent of the U.S. population combined, according to a new Institute for Policy Studies report, and income inequality will be worse under the proposed law, not better. Taxes will basically stay the same or go up for many lower- and middle-income families so that corporations earning record profits can get a reduction in their tax rates and the super-rich can gobble up more of the economic pie.

Why would rural Republicans support a law that will not allow students in their small towns to deduct interest on college loans, so that fancy people can keep deducting fancy parties in the big cities or sprawling ranches?

The economic benefits for the average family in Maine are minuscule under both the House and Senate tax legislation, and they evaporate altogether over time. But the frosting on the cake is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act mandate in the Senate bill, which would effectively eliminate health insurance for the thousands of people in rural Maine communities who rely on it and who voted overwhelmingly to expand access to Medicaid under Obamacare.

And can we talk about debt? How can any Republican who calls him or herself “fiscally conservative” support legislation that increases the national deficit by an estimated $1.7 trillion?

In 2014, when Bruce Poliquin was first running for Congress, he campaigned on a promise to reduce the U.S. debt and deficits, claiming to be the champion of “struggling American families and businesses” that owed at the time, according to him, “a $17 trillion mountain of smothering debt to bondholders around the world.” He lamented that “Congress has no credible plan to pay off the debt.

“The annual interest payments on the $17 trillion national debt nearly double the amount we spend on veterans benefits. When interest rates rise, those interest payments will spike and crowd out our ability to adequately fund food safety, disease prevention, border control, education, environmental protection, national defense and other vital public services.

“Big government overspending, high debt and rising interest rates hurt our hard-working families in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District and across America. They drive up taxes and kill jobs. Big government programs entrap our families in dependency and poverty,” he concluded in a statement on his campaign website.

So what’s Poliquin’s plan now that he’s in Washington? Apparently to fully support a tax bill that increases the size of the mountain by $1.7 trillion.

The biggest government “program” is the Internal Revenue Code. It picks the winners and losers in the U.S. economy, and the reform proposal on the table gives rural Mainers the shaft.

Some things are not partisan. Republicans and Democrats who sexually harass and assault women, for instance, should be held equally accountable. I applaud Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for strongly denouncing the Senate candidacy of fellow Republican Roy Moore and calling for an ethics investigation into Democrat Al Franken. A massive increase in our country’s debt, especially when interest rates are projected to rise under the new Federal Reserve, is not partisan, either. It’s math.

In a bipartisan thumping, Maine defeated Question 1 because it was an obviously unfair giveaway to one undeserving guy. The same logic applies to the tax reform proposal currently on the table, and we should reject it soundly. Abuse of the system by ultra wealthy and powerful interests who can afford to co-opt the process with armies of lobbyists and big checks because it pads their bottom line should not be tolerated by people whose own financial security is threatened and made worse, regardless of which political party is pushing it – right?

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

dillesquire@gmail.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/cynthia-dill-the-republican-tax-plan-wont-benefit-many-mainers-at-all/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/02/20150928cynthiadill0032-e1456164666846.jpgPORTLAND, ME - SEPTEMBER 28: Cynthia Dill, a new columnist, was photographed on Monday, September 28, 2015. (Photo by Yoon S. Byun/Staff Photographer)Sun, 19 Nov 2017 17:25:15 +0000
Our View: Poliquin hurt Mainers with vote for tax bill http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/our-view-poliquin-hurt-mainers-with-vote-for-tax-bill/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/our-view-poliquin-hurt-mainers-with-vote-for-tax-bill/#respond Sun, 19 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1289448 Rep. Bruce Poliquin had a big week. The representative for Maine’s 2nd District voted to bankrupt graduate students, add $1.7 trillion to the federal deficit and cut $25 billion out of next year’s Medicare budget.

And he did it all with a single push of a button.

All it took was his vote on the House Republicans’ Tax Cut and Jobs Act, an appealing-sounding 440-page rewrite of the tax code that was rushed from backroom negotiations to passage in the House chamber in less than two weeks – just a little more time than the House would usually take to recognize the University of Alabama’s award-winning marching band, or National Avocado Toast Day.

Poliquin said last week that he supported the bill because it would simplify the tax code, making it easier for middle-class Mainers to file their returns, but he was just being modest. This bill would do a lot more than that.

Poliquin voted to give away trillions of dollars to extremely wealthy individuals and corporations.

The cuts would be partially offset by the elimination of most tax deductions, and what that wouldn’t cover would be added to the deficit ($1.7 trillion), triggering cuts to the programs that Poliquin’s middle-class constituents rely on, including Medicare, Social Security and financial aid for students.

LIKE HEALTH CARE BILL

Like his vote last spring to upend the health care system – another bill that would have resulted in a massive windfall for the rich – this is a terrible piece of legislation, both for the country and for Maine. We hope we can again rely on the Senate, especially Republican Sen. Susan Collins, to prevent anything this reckless and destructive from ending up on the president’s desk. It’s small comfort to remember that the health care bill came within a single vote of passage in the Senate, and the tax bill is also expected to be close.

The linchpin of both the House tax bill and the version that’s moving through the Senate (which is, in some ways, even worse) is a reduction of the corporate tax rate, from 35 percent to 20 percent.

The argument usually made is that America’s high corporate rate drives investment overseas, where taxes are lower, sometimes zero percent. Lowering the U.S. rate, they argue, would encourage investment here, promoting economic growth, and benefit workers in the form of more jobs and higher wages. If that sounds familiar, it should. It was the same “trickle-down” argument made for lowering individual tax rates under President George W. Bush, and all that resulted was a massive increase in the national debt and the Great Recession.

But reducing corporate rates makes even less sense than those tax cuts, considering that the government had been running a surplus when Bush took office and we now have a $440 billion deficit.

PROFITS HIGH

What’s more, the profits made by U.S. corporations are at nearly all-time highs, so our current tax rates do not appear to be holding them back. When surveyed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch on what they would do with more cash, corporate CEOs said they would pay off debt and pass on dividends to stockholders, not hire more people or raise wages. According to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, foreign investors holding stock in American companies would get more benefit from this bill than the bottom 60 percent of American wage earners would.

The plan Poliquin supports includes other ways wealthy people can get wealthier. It would eliminate the inheritance tax, which is now applied to only the top 0.2 percent of families, ensuring dynastic succession for those currently on top of the heap. It lowers the tax rate for pass-through income, helping some small businesses, but also allowing rich people to call themselves businesses and shelter more money.

To pay for these and other handouts, the bill is full of horrifically unjust take-backs: A $250 tax credit for teachers who buy supplies for their students is eliminated. So is the exemption for people who have to pay more than 10 percent of their income in medical bills. And a graduate student on a scholarship who also gets a small stipend to teach or work in a lab would have to pay tax on the full amount of waived tuition as if it were income.

This isn’t tax reform – it’s a publicly funded reward for the handful of wealthy donors who have bankrolled the Republican takeover of Congress.

Still, 13 Republican House members had the guts to stand up for their constituents and vote against the bill last week. Maine’s Poliquin should have been one of them.

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Another View: Legislature wise to slow down process on ranked choice vote http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/another-view-legislature-wise-to-slow-down-process-on-ranked-choice-vote/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/another-view-legislature-wise-to-slow-down-process-on-ranked-choice-vote/#respond Sun, 19 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1289449 Jim Fossel’s Nov. 5 Maine Sunday Telegram column about the referendum process is misleading.

The headline claims that the “Legislature is ignoring will of people.” I find they are doing their job.

We are a republic, under a democracy, who elect representatives to do the people’s business.

Had the ranked choice voting partisans done their job, and allowed the process to be vetted before it was sent to the voters, they would have found it violated the Maine constitution avoiding many pitfalls.

Our Maine constitution is built on the notion of “one man, one vote.” The candidate for governor or Legislature with the most votes garnered is declared the winner. Period.

The attorney general has said as much. People are under the illusion all successful referendums become law but not until after a vetting process, and they may not pass muster.

The only true democracy is our yearly town meetings (of which there are fewer every year) with a level playing field for all. The most taxed citizen is level with one who pays no taxes when they are doing the town’s business.

Maybe we should disband state government and have one all-citizen meeting once to do our business? Impossible.

When it came to ranked choice voting referendum Mr Fossel writes about, the Legislature did its job delaying the process until it could be brought into line with the principle of “one man, one vote.”

I should also say I have known Mr. Fossel from his time as a babe in his mother’s arms and am glad of his journalism success.

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Commentary: Stars embroiled in Hollywood sexual abuse scandals are hard to watch http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/stars-embroiled-in-hollywood-sexual-abuse-scandals-are-hard-to-watch-literally-for-many-mainers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/stars-embroiled-in-hollywood-sexual-abuse-scandals-are-hard-to-watch-literally-for-many-mainers/#respond Sun, 19 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1289553 When he first heard that the comedian Louis C.K. had masturbated in front of women, John Highstreet went through something like the five stages of grief.

First came denial. There was no way someone whose sense of humor he identified with so strongly could have done that. Then he was angry at how the comedian behaved, how he degraded women. And finally came acceptance, both of what C.K. admitted to doing and of what Highstreet knew in his heart he had to do: Never watch, buy or support the comic’s work in any way ever again.

“He admitted what he did but that doesn’t matter to me, I’m done with him,” said Highstreet, 51, a carpenter from Kennebunk. “I made a mistake in judging him in a positive way. I don’t have to rationalize it or feel bad, I just have to accept it and move on.”

In the past month, more than a dozen prominent Hollywood performers or executives have been accused of sexual abuse or harassment, presenting us consumers of mainstream entertainment with both a dilemma and an opportunity. What should we do? Do we watch movies Harvey Weinstein produced, likely enriching him financially, even after allegations that he raped three women and that he tried to sexually intimidate or force himself on dozens more? Do we watch Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey as a brilliantly sinister politician in “House of Cards,” after more than a dozen allegations of sexual assault or harassment by men, including several minors? Will it matter to Hollywood, or to Spacey and his bank account, if people stop buying DVDs of his film “American Beauty”? And if we don’t watch the work of the accused, do we somehow penalize the hundreds of other people who worked on those shows and films?

The opportunity being taken by most of the 10 Mainers interviewed for this piece is to make a statement. Some are making a personal statement: They can’t stomach watching somebody on screen who’s alleged to have done something so damaging to another human being. Some feel they’re making a statement to society at large and to Hollywood in particular, that this behavior must stop. Some feel that talking about the ongoing Hollywood sexual abuse scandals, and what choices they’re making to deal with them, will help foster a more open dialogue about the prevalence of abuse today.

“All this news right now makes me realize it’s much more pervasive than I thought. It makes me wonder if I did enough to warn my (adult) daughters about teachers or employers,” said Jenny Yasi, 58, a dog trainer from Freeport.

Weinstein has been accused of various types of sexual misconduct by more than 80 women. The specific allegations against C.K. came from five women who said he either asked to expose himself, masturbated in front of them, or did so over the phone. Several other actors, producers or directors have been accused of harassment or sexual assault since the first stories about Weinstein broke in October, including actor Ben Affleck, Amazon Studios head Roy Price, director James Toback, director Brett Ratner and actor Jeremy Piven.

Accusations of sexual abuse and even rape by Hollywood stars are not new. After a career built on being America’s favorite comic dad, Bill Cosby’s career was essentially ended after dozens of women accused him of sexual misconduct, drugging them and molesting them. His “Cosby Show” became a giant hit in the 1980s and later was a staple of cable re-run networks. Now it’s seldom seen.

But it’s hard to think of a time when so many Hollywood stars were accused of sexual abuse. The sheer number forces the issue more than ever. It forces people to think more about the overall societal problem, and their personal response to what’s going on right now.

Choosing whether to watch a favorite performer accused of sex crimes is no small dilemma, considering how tightly woven into the fabric of our lives pop culture and entertainment are. Some people, like Highstreet, listened to audio of C.K. to get needed comic relief in the face of their daily struggles. Others, like Kate Tracy of Saco, followed evil power couple Frank and Claire Underwood (Spacey and Robin Wright) on “House of Cards” faithfully, looking forward to each new episode to provide some needed escapism.

For viewers, balancing what they feel for the alleged victims with their love of certain shows is a very tricky, personal thing. Tracy, 30, who sells real estate, says she might watch “House of Cards” if it continues without Spacey, who has been fired from the show. She might watch if they focus on Wright’s character, equally compelling and evil, after maybe killing off Spacey’s character or locking him away somewhere. She says that’s at least partly because she’s watched “House of Cards” for six years. If Spacey comes out with a new show or a new film, Tracy will not watch it.

For some people, C.K. presents a special dilemma because his act is him. Rowan Bishop, 50 and owner of a recording studio in Westbrook, thinks he would have a hard time divorcing the accusations from the performer in the case of C.K. His stand-up routines are delivered very personally. He’s not playing a role, not in the way an actor does, and he’s talking about things from his own point of view.

Many people have been disturbed to find out that C.K.’s latest film “I Love You, Daddy” is about a TV writer (played by C.K.) whose 17-year-old daughter is having a relationship with a much-old director who is rumored to be a pedophile. The film’s scheduled Nov. 17 opening has been canceled and there are no plans to distribute it.

Boycotting Weinstein’s work requires more work, since he’s not in the movies. And he’s not seen as the creative force behind it. Jenna Little Armstrong, 50, of Portland, said she doesn’t want to watch C.K. and Spacey anymore. But she says she hasn’t really paid much attention over the years to which films Weinstein or his company (from which he’s been fired) have made. So she probably won’t go out of her way now to look for Weinstein’s name in the credits. Plus Armstrong feels that she would be supporting the women in Weinstein’s films, who endured harassment or worse, by watching those films.

The economic impact of not watching something could affect a lot more people than the stars, says Juston McKinney, a former York County deputy sheriff who has been working as a comedian for 20 years. On the day he was being interviewed for this, McKinney got an $18 check in the mail for a small role he had on an episode of Kevin James’ sitcom “The King of Queens” about 12 years ago. If people don’t watch that show and the re-runs cease, McKinney wouldn’t get the steady stream of checks, no matter how small.

“I don’t know if I’d look for Weinstein’s name on a film and (then) not watch. But I do know that he’s not the only one responsible for those movies, a lot of people worked on them,” said McKinney, 47.

Dixie Townsend, who was a big Spacey fan, feels like her only option right now is to not watch anything he’s done or will do. She thinks that as a consumer of entertainment, that’s the best way she can show solidarity with the victims.

“The people who have come forward (with accusations of abuse) want to believed,” said Townsend, 54, a credit manager from Scarborough. “I feel this is the one thing I can do to support them.”

 

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Despair should serve as wake-up call http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/maine-voices-despair-should-call-those-of-faith-to-help/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/maine-voices-despair-should-call-those-of-faith-to-help/#respond Sun, 19 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1289370 A recent study by economists at Princeton University reveals that, for the first time in American history, life expectancy is falling. Specifically, it is falling among white Americans with a high school education or less. The causes of these deaths are clear – obesity, addiction and suicide top the list – but the reasons are only beginning to emerge. The study suggests a driving factor is a loss of economic opportunity that deprives formerly middle-class, blue-collar workers of the chance for homeownership, marriage and stable family life. Life for many Americans seems hopeless from an early age, and the memory of the previous generation’s job stability and prosperity makes the present reality worse.

And despair is not limited to the working class. Some college grads, many already shouldering significant school debt, now find it difficult to establish a career path. Many grads are working in low-pay jobs not commensurate with their education. Some return home to live with parents; others postpone marrying and buying a home of their own. Life in America, which once seemed so clearly focused on working toward the American Dream, is now, for many, a future without guarantees.

SUCKERED BY PROSPERITY

In some ways, we’ve all been suckered by the bubble of prosperity that followed World War II. The GIs came home, found good-paying manufacturing jobs or went to college on the GI Bill and built the American middle class. We take such rising prosperity as the norm, even though, in fact, real income has been flat or falling in America since the 1970s. It now takes at least two jobs to do what my parents, 50 years ago, did with five children and one income.

But, previously, rural families often lived in extended households with the labor of the entire family going into a single farm. City folk often rented out a spare bedroom to a boarder whose rent helped make ends meet. It’s easy to forget there have been many periods of struggle in American history.

Social observers going back to Alexis de Tocqueville have noted that Americans have organized themselves around social contracts or covenants: marriage, family, church and synagogue and mosque, volunteer organizations and charities, fire departments, bowling leagues and all the rest. In recent decades, such covenants have faltered. The hope of a secure life surrounded by friends and family has been replaced by despair over ever achieving such a life and the all-consuming struggle to make ends meet.

Re-creating economic opportunity for all Americans requires public will. Education, retraining, health care, affordable housing and mental health and addiction treatment must be placed near the top of political and governmental agendas. But more important is the recovery of the covenantal sense that we are all in this together, that we all matter, that every life is sacred, and that we will not let one another fall. And here, I think, faith communities and houses of worship have a huge role to play.

Faith communities are defined by covenants. They proclaim that we are all sacred children of God and that God is always with us. Moreover, faith communities recognize that identity and hope are group projects. As Desmond Tutu, former Anglican archbishop of South Africa, has put it, “I am because we are.” The antidote to fear and despair is found in a deep connection to the people around us.

It’s time now for communities of faith and all people of good will to reach out to our neighbors with renewed conviction; to offer aid, yes, but more importantly, to offer hope – to say to our neighbors that they matter, that we care what happens to them, that we will walk with them as they work to keep body and soul together and build a life worth living.

DISEASE OF DESPAIR

As a Christian and a bishop of the Episcopal Church, the model for me is Jesus, who made a particular habit of befriending those whom society had left behind – widows, orphans, lepers, poor people, sinners and unbelievers. He claimed them as brothers and sisters and told them they belonged to God and to the community. We can follow the same path.

Despair is a kind of disease – and it’s contagious. It does not appear to me now that a return to the prosperity of the ’50s and ’60s is imminent. But despair need not overtake us. The antidote for despair is love and compassion, and we have them in abundance. Let the despair of the moment be a clarion call to action, to truly love our neighbors as ourselves.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/maine-voices-despair-should-call-those-of-faith-to-help/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/11/1289370_692159-20131126_MobileFood4.jpgA line forms around the mobile food truck behind the Grace Episcopal Church in Bath in 2013. Economic hardship is hitting the middle class.Fri, 17 Nov 2017 18:29:43 +0000
Bill Nemitz: 100+ Women Who Care are building community one $50 check at a time http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/nemitz-building-community-one-check-at-a-time/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/nemitz-building-community-one-check-at-a-time/#respond Sun, 19 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1289798 Walking into the Italian Heritage Center in Portland, Janet Bowne was just another one of a couple of hundred ladies looking for a fun night out.

Walking out, she had a $50 check from every last one of them.

“I spend a lot of time trying to separate people from their money,” confided Bowne, who works as a member engagement coordinator for Southern Maine Agency on Aging’s adult day care services. “This is a big win!”

A con job? Nope.

A pyramid scheme? Guess again.

This is about building community.

Monday marked the third anniversary of 100+ Women Who Care Southern Maine, an ever-expanding organization bound by the collective belief that if you take a $50 check and add another … and another … and another … pretty soon you have a serious chunk of change on your hands.

How serious? Try more than $100,000 since the group formed in 2014.

“I’m pretty good at visioning,” said founder Deb Bergeron as the banquet room filled up last week. “But this is bigger than anything I ever expected.”

It all started years ago when Bergeron, who works as a professional and personal life coach in Falmouth, served as a volunteer with Dressed for Success – a fledgling nonprofit that provided high-quality attire for job interviews to women in need.

The program operated on a shoestring for 14 years before closing in 2012 – not for lack of interest, but for a paucity of operating funds.

Around the same time, as many of Bergeron’s female clients took stock of their lives, she kept hearing the same lament: I want to feel a greater sense of community. I want to give back and have an impact, but I don’t have a ton of money.

Enter 100 Women Who Care. Founded in 2006 by a group of women in Michigan, it’s since spread to 186 chapters throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Most, like the Southern Maine chapter, meet quarterly.

Call it speed dating for charity.

It starts with nominations – any member can nominate a nonprofit provided it specifically serves southern Maine.

At the start of each meeting, three nonprofits are drawn from a box. The members who nominated them then have five minutes each to make their case, followed by a brief question-and-answer session.

The entire group – well over 200 women attended Monday’s gathering – then vote by secret ballot for the organization they want to support.

When the nonprofit with the most votes is announced, each and every woman pulls out her checkbook and donates $50 directly to that organization.

“No questions asked. No wrapping paper. No cookie dough. No overhead. I thought the concept was brilliant,” said Barbara McDonald of Scarborough, an account executive for Portland Radio Group who has participated since the beginning. “I said to my husband, ‘Two hundred dollars a year? I’m in!’ ”

Last week’s nominees included, in addition to Southern Maine Agency on Aging, Children’s Odyssey, a Portland-based preschool program for kids of varying developmental levels, and Safe Maine, which provides financial assistance to women seeking an abortion who lack the money to pay for it.

But in the end, a majority of the women went with Bowne’s pitch: All too often, because of wait lists and a general lack of state and federal funding, Southern Maine Agency on Aging needs “bridge funding” for adults with dementia and other debilitating conditions at its two centers in Biddeford and Falmouth.

In addition to providing an environment where “we like to focus on what they’ve retained, not what they’ve lost,” Bowne said, the day care service offers a much-needed break to relatives and other worn-out caregivers.

“They built this state. They built this country,” Bowne said of the centers’ clientele. “And now they have some deficits, and their caregivers are maxed.”

The women, while empathetic, are no pushovers. Following all three presentations, questions ranged from other funding sources to staff-to-client ratios to transportation for those who need the service but can’t get there from here.

Since its formation, 100+Women Who Care Southern Maine has showered 13 nonprofits with windfalls that currently exceed $10,000.

Recipients range from Furniture Friends, who provide used furniture to those in need, to Pets for Vets, which rescues and trains shelter animals and pairs them with military veterans.

“I learn about organizations I’ve never even heard about,” said Eileen Kalikow, owner of Vocational Resources in downtown Portland. For all the good work the nonprofits do, she added, many lack the sophisticated fundraising and development needed to stay afloat, let alone expand their services.

That was the case for Family Hope, an all-privately funded program that helps families cope with the mental illness of a loved one, before it hit the jackpot with 100+ Women Who Care back in August.

Paul Golding, Family Hope’s executive director, returned last week to tell the women their much-needed support, to the tune of just over $10,000, will be used to hire a new outreach worker and expand the organization’s services into York, Sagadahoc and Androscoggin counties.

“A lot of people are really, really struggling to find services for their loved ones,” Golding noted. He added with a smile, “If you want to flatter me by bringing me an extra check, I’m shameless and happy to do that.”

They just might. Bergeron noted that some women often go well beyond the $50 minimum.

Others, she added, double back and write a second check for one of the also-rans – an anonymous donor recently handed over $10,000 to be distributed among organizations that have been nominated but didn’t garner the most votes.

“It’s a ripple effect,” said Bergeron, who dropped the $100 minimum used elsewhere to $50 here “because this is Maine and I wanted it to be more inclusive.”

(Not to be outdone, a spinoff men’s group, 100 Men Who Care Southern Maine, now holds quarterly philanthropic gatherings of its own. Unlike the ladies, the guys meet in a bar.)

So, cheer up, fellow Mainers. Dark as these days may seem and divided as our social discourse may feel, Janet Bowne will head into work Monday at Southern Maine Agency on Aging with a fistful of checks from women with nothing better to do than spend an evening helping out their fellow humans.

“I’m a hero right now,” Bowne beamed. “I’m going to ride this wave for a while.”

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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Maine Observer: The rare beauty of a 64-crayon fall day http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/maine-observer-the-rare-beauty-of-a-64-crayon-fall-day/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/19/maine-observer-the-rare-beauty-of-a-64-crayon-fall-day/#respond Sun, 19 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1289383 This was a Crayola kind of day. What’s that, you say?

Well, it’s a day where if I had a box of 64 Crayola crayons and, if I could draw, I could use every single color! The sky was sky blue; the river, gray blue.

My whole world out front was alive with color! The flag, as always, was red, white and navy blue. The whole world said: “Come out! Come out! Look at me!”

And so, putting my jobs on hold for awhile, out I went to enjoy the scene in sheer pleasure. The grass was no longer verdant green but rather almost burnt orange or burnt sienna.

Now, at the end of October, the trees surrounding us wore coats of many colors. The swamp maples were scarlet, vermillion, sunset orange; other maples wore light chrome green and Mango Tango and their leaves were floating down gently on the breeze while the oaks, trying to hold onto theirs, as always, wore burnt umber and brown.

Interspersed were the firs and pines wearing their usual pure dark green. Our blue hydrangea-painted chairs beckoned me and so I went and sat and listened to the slurping of the water, lapping at the rocks, as the tide began to turn. The wonder of nature enveloped me. I felt well and truly blessed. Blessed that it is there for all to see; happy I took the time to see it.

And then, in a few days, a mighty storm roared in from the southeast during the blackest of nights. All power was lost for thousands of people and instead of venturing out, I hunkered down; we all hunkered down.

The earth became soaked and turned a muddy brown; my river, now a dark gray, had mountainous swells pounding the blackened granite ledges, throwing spindrifts of gossamer white into the air. The rhododendron, now a sickly green, curled its leaves, appearing as if it were trying to stay as dry as possible.

In my mind I saw why my box of colors held its 64: The landscape was now clothed in burnt umber, rusts and browns, sepia and gray, and yet the mosses still kept their emerald green while the leaves turned to maize and goldenrod as they rained down from the trees.

Finally, it all calmed down, and in the dark of night the moon sent a golden beam across my placid deep gray river. All was again peaceful in my world.

Oh! If I could only draw!

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Commentary: PACE Act would help more Maine families afford child care http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/18/commentary-pace-act-would-help-more-maine-families-afford-child-care/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/18/commentary-pace-act-would-help-more-maine-families-afford-child-care/#respond Sat, 18 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1289462 High-quality child care helps provide all kids – especially those living in poverty – with a shot at future success. It helps prepare them for kindergarten and helps ensure they will graduate from high school. Despite its benefits, child care costs have increased substantially in recent years. Alarmingly, in many places, including in Maine, it is now more expensive to pay for high-quality child care than it is to pay for in-state college tuition. The resulting financial pressures are felt most by low-wage workers, who spend, on average, more than 30 percent of their income on child care.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average annual cost of care for one infant in Maine is $9,512, nearly 17 percent of a typical family’s income. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services classifies child care as affordable if it costs no more than 10 percent of a family’s income. By this standard, only 26.7 percent of Maine families can afford infant care. That leaves a staggering number of Maine children at an unacceptable disadvantage.

And with more children comes an even heavier financial burden for families. Child care for two children – an infant and a 4-year-old – costs $16,382 a year. While this is slightly less than the national average, it is still nearly 64 percent more than average rent in Maine and nearly a third of a typical family’s income. Working parents in Maine are increasingly faced with difficult decisions when it comes to balancing care and work, with some concluding that the steep cost of care serves as a barrier to working more – or working at all. For many families, having two or more sources of income is often essential to make ends meet.

Since child care is becomingly increasingly more difficult for families to afford and serves as a barrier to employment, lawmakers would be wise to ensure our tax policies keep pace with rising child care costs and working families have the support they need to stay in the workforce. Alleviating the financial burden child care causes for working families is a political imperative that has bipartisan agreement, which is why we’re encouraged to see bipartisan, bicameral support in Congress for addressing this issue.

While the federal government provides two significant tax benefits to help offset child care costs – the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts – both are badly in need of an update.

The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit is a dedicated tax credit that helps families offset the costs of high-quality child care and early education programs. We strongly support the expansion of the credit, as well as efforts to make it refundable. Despite the obvious benefits of expanding and improving the child care tax credit, the recent tax reform proposals passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and introduced in the Senate this month would merely retain the credit as is.

Instead, the proposal marginally expands the Child Tax Credit, which is a different credit that can be used for any expense. In addition, the proposed expansion of the Child Tax Credit does not make it refundable, meaning millions of children from low-income families would not benefit at all. High-income families, on the other hand, would receive the largest increase in the Child Tax Credit.

It’s time for Congress to do more to specifically help working families afford high-quality child care and early learning for their children.

The Promoting Affordable Childcare for Everyone (S. 208 and H.R. 3632) Act – bipartisan legislation introduced in both the Senate and the House – would update the tax code to reflect the reality of the rising costs of child care. The Senate would be wise to include it in its final tax reform package. Doing so would ensure that families, particularly low-income families, receive the same tax benefits already available to middle- and upper-income families. And by tying both benefits to inflation, families will benefit for generations to come.

This common-sense legislation is a step in the right direction for working families in Maine and across the country. There’s nothing more important to our nation’s future than our children, and we must do what we can to invest in them and their futures. Please join us in urging the Senate to support the PACE Act, include it in tax reform legislation and ensure a brighter tomorrow for our kids.

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The Maine Millennial: It’s tough, but I’m coming to terms with gaining some weight http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/18/the-maine-millennial-its-tough-but-im-coming-to-terms-with-gaining-some-weight/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/18/the-maine-millennial-its-tough-but-im-coming-to-terms-with-gaining-some-weight/#respond Sat, 18 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1289464 I’ve gained some weight recently.

(I can sense the women reading this nodding sympathetically.)

It took me a little while to realize it, because gradual change can be hard to see when it’s your own body. But one day I noticed my clothes weren’t fitting the way they were supposed to, so I sought a second opinion and asked my boyfriend.

Fun fact: I have literally seen deer in the headlights of my car before, and yet I have never seen such a deer-in-headlights expression as my boyfriend had when I asked him, “Hey, honey, do you think I’ve gained some weight?” I suspect his brain shut down in self-preservation as he instinctively sensed, like so many men might, that there was no right answer.

After I slowly calmed him down, he did agree that I had developed “a bit of a tum.” And indeed, I have developed a bit of a tum.

It’s not surprising – over the past six months, while watching my father die of cancer, I’ve binged on more than my fair share of wine and chocolate. My friend Grace pointed out that I’ve had a pretty good reason. And before he died, my father lost about one-third of his body weight, and he wasn’t particularly large to begin with. So maybe I was subconsciously trying to counter that. Also, I put way too much sugar in my coffee, because my lactose intolerance forbids me from cutting the bitter stuff with creamer.

Most people would agree that I’m not fat, although you probably can’t tell through a 1-inch-by-1-inch headshot. And I can’t believe I even feel like I need to say that, as if there were something wrong with being fat. Because there’s not! My mother is fat and she is perfectly healthy and very beautiful. As a bisexual woman, I myself find women with squishy stomachs attractive. (I also like women with abs. Call me, Megan Rapinoe.) Therefore, I should be perfectly happy with my own squishier stomach, right?

Wrong. The patriarchy has invaded my brain. I feel like I’ve failed somehow. My body hasn’t noticeably changed since puberty (and boy, that was a change). Now here I am, with added blubber just in time to hibernate for winter. I don’t know the numbers of this gain – we haven’t had a scale in my house since our dog broke it in 2001. (He wasn’t fat. Just rambunctious.) I only know that it’s noticeable, and that society wants me to feel bad about it so it can sell me Spanx and diet pills and celery.

But I’m fighting back, darn it! After all, this is Maine. The more body heat you can produce, the better a long-term mate you make – and since my boyfriend and my girlfriend are slim, I am happy to serve as their personal toaster. And, let’s be real – no matter what movies and magazines show, having a flat stomach as a woman is mostly a matter of genetic luck. (If you are that lucky: Congratulations. Has your mutation also given you superpowers?) We’re built to carry children, and to survive famines. Our bodies gain and distribute fat to achieve that goal.

I am going to try to eat healthier, because a diet of wine and carbs, while fun, isn’t, you know, healthy. I also plan to start working out again, but not to lose this weight. Because my jiggly stomach doesn’t need to get lost. I need to work out because yesterday, my dog beat me in a sprint across the yard, and he’s a 12-year-old shih tzu with a pin in his hips.

The other night, my mother and I started grabbing our guts and belly-laughing, doing our best Jabba the Hutt imitation (“Solo! Too Nakma Noya Solo!”). My sister, who is tall and willowy, walked in and tried to grab her abs. “Can I pretend to be a Hutt?”

Why, yes you can, Jabba Jr. All are welcome.

So, mean people on the internet can feel free to call me fat. I’m still cute. But my added weight just makes me a better tackle.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

themainemillennial@gmail.com

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Republican ‘tax reform’ could be called the ‘accident of birth lottery’ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/18/maine-voices-republican-tax-reform-could-be-called-the-accident-of-birth-lottery/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/18/maine-voices-republican-tax-reform-could-be-called-the-accident-of-birth-lottery/#respond Sat, 18 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1289509 PROSPECT HARBOR — If I go to the corner market (which, on the Schoodic Peninsula, is about 2 miles away) and buy a $1 lottery ticket whose jackpot is $5.5 million and then win, I know that I will be required by law to pay taxes on the full $5.5 million. This is not money I actually earned. I just got lucky, so I will not complain about paying the taxes because I will have cleared about $4 million. Nor am I likely to feel cheated because the take-home amount is not double my winnings.

Congressional Republicans’ “tax reform” proposal creates a new sort of lottery. Call it the “accident of birth lottery.” It works this way.

Currently, children who inherit their parents’ estate are not required to pay a dime of federal taxes on the first $5.5 million they inherit. So-called “death taxes” kick in only for any inheritance above that amount. Children of affluent families who leave estates of $5.5 million have won the “accident of birth lottery.” Even in families with five children, each heir will walk off, tax-free, with $1 million. Will they feel cheated that the amount is not more? Will they regret having so many siblings? If their parents’ net worth is, say, $10 million, will they be angry at the federal government for taxing the remaining $4.5 million?

Both House and Senate Republican “tax reform” plans double the current nontaxable amount of an estate left by parents to their children from $5.5 million to $11 million. The House version would also abolish the estate tax in 2024. One-tenth of 1 percent of Mainers will reap the rewards if the tax is either rolled back, eliminated or both. The Republican Party’s contention that owners of small farms and businesses will benefit is a canard: Only 50 small farmers and business owners nationwide will benefit. In fact, the vast majority of the real beneficiaries are the already very rich.

Giving such tax benefits to the already very rich will only exacerbate income and wealth inequality in our nation. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett among them have more wealth than the poorest 50 percent of the American population combined. The Brookings Institution has reported that between 1992 and 2013, the share of the nation’s wealth held by the top 1 percent of the richest climbed from 27 percent to 33 percent. Republican “tax reform” will only accelerate the rapidity of wealth accumulation by the nation’s richest people. Just how much of the fortune added to already-overstuffed coffers actually trickles down to the poor is moot.

Being born into a poor family in America is a curse; being born into a superwealthy family, a blessing. In either case, it is pure luck. “There but for the grace of God go I” can otherwise be read as “There but for the grace of good fortune go I.”

Tax policy is, as so many have pointed out, actually about values. Should the rich pay their “fair share,” and what do we mean by “fair share”? Is it fair that South Carolina taxpayers get $7.87 from the federal government for every $1 they pay in federal taxes? Or that Mainers get $1.79 from the feds for every $1 that residents pay in taxes?

Residents of Delaware, who get considerably less from the federal government than they pay in taxes, are in fact transferring wealth to South Carolinians and Mainers. Redistribution of wealth in this nation, whether by government or by private philanthropy, is a means to make birthright count for less and opportunity count for more.

Various states’ dependency on redistribution of wealth by the federal government has long been a fact of the American political economy. Similarly, progressive income taxes require the wealthier to pay more of their income in absolute terms than do the poor, because, arguably, the wealthy have benefited more from the nation’s bounty. Is this form of the Robin Hood effect unfair? Or do we agree that those who have more should be required to assist those who have less, just as the federal government already does with the states? That is a values question.

So too is the Republican plan to transfer more wealth to the already rich by changing the estate tax laws. Yes, as someone once said, everyone in America enjoys liberty and justice – but only a few heirs of wealthy parents enjoy tax breaks on their unearned income.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/18/maine-voices-republican-tax-reform-could-be-called-the-accident-of-birth-lottery/feed/ 0 Mon, 20 Nov 2017 11:41:50 +0000
Our View: City Council should approve Maine Med plan http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/18/our-view-city-council-should-approve-maine-med-plan/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/18/our-view-city-council-should-approve-maine-med-plan/#respond Sat, 18 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1289572 Maine Medical Center is the state’s largest hospital, accounting for over a third of all inpatient surgeries performed in Maine, admitting and discharging 41,000 patients annually.

It’s also Portland’s largest employer, with 4,500 workers filling various shifts, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

And, for some people and businesses, Maine Med is their neighbor.

It’s not easy to fill all of those roles, but the medical center had done a good job of staying at the forefront of a fast-changing industry while trying to minimize its impact on the people who live or work nearby.

In its role as a good neighbor, the hospital is working with the city to develop a plan for its future growth, not just for the next three to five years, but for up to 20 years in the future.

This plan, known as an “Institutional Overlay Zone,” gives the city a sense of where Maine Med may expand in the years to come, and it spares nearby property owners and other residents the periodic shocks that have accompanied previous expansions.

This is a good way to approach planning with such an important local institution. The City Council should adopt Maine Med’s zoning.

This application comes as a result of a planned $512 million renovation and expansion project, which would modernize the facility, add surgical operating rooms with the latest technical equipment and increase the number of single rooms for patients.

These are critical improvements to this institution.

Patients who are admitted to the hospital are sicker and need more acute care than patients in the past because minor surgeries and other treatments are conducted on an outpatient basis. Maine Med has to change with the times.

The clinical necessity for a hospital that has these attributes has already been well established. The state has issued its approval of the project. The only issue before the council is how it will fit in the city.

Neighbors are concerned about a creeping institution, gobbling up housing and retail space over time, creating dead spaces with big, featureless buildings.

Maine Med has responded to those concerns.

For instance, an employee parking garage that was originally planned to front on Congress Street has been moved to the site of a surface lot currently in use behind the old railroad building on St. John Street.

When preliminary work showed that the garage would interfere with views from the Western Prom, the hospital revised its plans and made the building shorter.

These are good changes that demonstrate good faith. But some of the neighbors’ concerns will never be completely satisfied.

The hospital is an important piece of regional infrastructure. Its benefits extend throughout the city and state, and that should be considered when evaluating impacts on the immediate neighborhood.

The council should approve the overlay zone, and the city should continue to work with Maine Medical Center and its neighbors so that the institution can continue serving its multiple roles.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/18/our-view-city-council-should-approve-maine-med-plan/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/953873-20160914_hospital-01-e1510981032766.jpgPORTLAND, ME - SEPTEMBER 14: Maine Medical Center is proposing a massive, expensive expansion. (Photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)Fri, 17 Nov 2017 23:58:39 +0000
Ruth Marcus: ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ serves as a model for Republican tax legislation http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/17/ruth-marcus-fiddler-on-the-roof-serves-as-a-model-for-republican-tax-legislation/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/17/ruth-marcus-fiddler-on-the-roof-serves-as-a-model-for-republican-tax-legislation/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1288776 The supposed price tag for the Republican tax bill is $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Republicans would have you believe that the measure would sprinkle enough magical growth dust throughout the economy to wipe out that cost. Don’t believe them, but also: Don’t believe for a moment that the bill would cost a mere – mere! – $1.5 trillion. Peel away the budget tricks and it becomes clear that the real price tag would be hundreds of billions of dollars higher.

Which is where “Fiddler on the Roof” comes in – specifically “Sunrise, Sunset.” What once was a schmaltzy ballad is now the blueprint for Republican tax gimmickry.

The House and Senate measures differ in details, but both play the same hide-the-cost games to disguise the real price – the House to the tune of $400 billion, the Senate clocking in at $515 billion, according to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. By the way, those numbers understate things, because they don’t include the cost of paying interest on the additional debt.

Some provisions have a “sunrise” – that is, they phase in over time. Of those, the priciest is the estate tax. To begin with, the House bill would merely – merely! – double the size of estates exempt from taxation, from $11 million per couple to $22 million. But beginning in 2024, the estate tax would be repealed entirely.

There is zero policy basis for this change. It serves only to display a lower price tag during the initial 10-year window and to mask the real long-term cost. Of the first-decade price tag of $172 billion, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, all but $39 billion accrues in the second five years.

Next, “sunsets.” The opposite of delayed implementation is the pretense that a break once provided to taxpayers will ever be taken away. Thus the House measure hands out a $300-per-adult tax credit – but sets it to end after 2022, shaving $225 billion off what would have been the 10-year cost. The Senate sunsets most of its individual tax goodies– lower rates, doubling the standard deduction and child tax credit – after 2025, “saving” $240 billion.

These sunsets are one reason why many middle-income families whose tax bill would be lower at first would end up paying more by the end of the decade than if current law were to stay in place.

So either Republicans are lying when they say these taxpayers will be better off – or they are lying about the true cost of the plan.

But of course there will be a clamor to make the cuts permanent – just as there was with the George W. Bush tax cuts, which played similar games, although not quite on this audacious scale.

Then there is the biggest gimmick of all – think of it not as sunrise or sunset but as an eclipse, obscuring a whopping $462 billion in deficit-financed cuts. That is the cost of assuming that the size of the tax cut should be measured by how it differs from current policy, not from current law, under which many tax breaks are due to expire. In the real world, they end up getting extended, year after year. They are supposed to sunset, but never do.

Yes, but, the cost of making these breaks permanent is not cost-free, as Republicans fantasize. You can’t “disappear” extra spending, and tax breaks are spending. Think about it: Your weekly grocery budget is $100.

You regularly spend $150 at the market. When you sit down to arrange your finances going forward, you’ve got a choice: Either cut back on the organic raspberries or acknowledge that you’re going to be spending $150 from now on.

If so, you need to find some way to pay for – or borrow – that extra $50 a week. If you’re like the federal government and going into hock to afford the raspberries/tax cuts, your overall debt is going to be higher than you had planned.

The Republicans’ games are even crazier than this, because the approach pads the baseline with tax breaks that have already expired or have been scheduled to phase down. In other words, they’re not current policy at all.

Sunrise, sunset, eclipse. These are music to tax-writers’ ears, because they allow them to cram a tax cut that will cost more than $2 trillion into a $1.5 trillion package.

Lawmakers can fool themselves into believing this is fiscal responsibility. Don’t let them fool you, too.

Ruth Marcus is deputy editorial page editor for The Washington Post. She can be contacted at:

ruthmarcus@washpost.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/17/ruth-marcus-fiddler-on-the-roof-serves-as-a-model-for-republican-tax-legislation/feed/ 0 Thu, 16 Nov 2017 19:46:45 +0000
It’s time for all Mainers to start setting the table for civility http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/17/maine-voices-its-time-for-all-mainers-to-start-setting-the-table-for-civility/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/17/maine-voices-its-time-for-all-mainers-to-start-setting-the-table-for-civility/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1288780 Across the nation, Americans are concerned that our country is drifting further and further apart. Many communities face a similar challenge of partisan divides that are getting stronger and sharper each year.

We see this dynamic here in Maine, where our legislators and our governor often argue unnecessarily, while the only thing Mainers want is to see progress on complicated issues. Washington sets the same frustrating tone, where Democrats and Republicans view each issue as a win or a loss. The divisive 2016 election followed by the combative rhetoric that has followed continue to drive a wedge between so many Americans.

Incivility in government continues to bleed into our daily lives, causing pain and frustration for many of us. It’s becoming clear that we’re no longer listening to each other and we’re struggling to build the relationships that help us understand one another, work together and find compromise.

But here in Maine, we don’t have to continue down the same corrosive path. We all need to take a step back and remember that we have more that binds us together as Americans than separates us by politics.

That’s why we’re working together to engage Mainers to improve and strengthen public and political discourse through a statewide initiative called Maine Revives Civility, a partnership among the National Institute for Civil Discourse, the League of Women Voters of Maine and the Maine Development Foundation as well as a growing network of partners and collaborators.

Our democracy is predicated on the idea that opposing sides can work together, find common ground and develop solutions to address complex problems. Whether we live in Aroostook County or Cape Elizabeth, we all need to embrace the vital skills of listening to each other, disagreeing without being disagreeable and building a culture of respect.

Both of our esteemed senators already model the kind of discourse we hope to replicate across the state. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is routinely lauded for her commitment to bipartisanship and regularly works to improve civil discourse both in Congress and across the country. Earlier this year, she clearly explained a tenet we must all embrace: “We don’t have to get along, but we must show respect and civility.”

During a Bar Harbor lecture on civility earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Angus King crystallized his philosophy for governing, first as our state’s chief executive and now as one of our elected representatives in Washington. King tries to be careful not to make disagreements personal: “We must always resist the temptation to turn an opponent into an enemy.”

We have a number of advantages to help us improve civility. We have one of the highest levels of voter turnout and political engagement in the country. We value close access to our elected officials. And we have a history of tolerance, regularly welcoming everyone to our great state – for example, the many Somali refugees who have resettled in Portland and Lewiston.

We also have a state Legislature – galvanized by the need for progress – working together to find solutions. Many lawmakers have direct experience working with the National Institute for Civil Discourse – participating in civility workshops organized by the institute to build stronger working relationships, which make it easier to find compromise.

We don’t expect or want Mainers to walk away from their political beliefs. And we’re not offering a solution to partisan politics. Civility means listening to one another, demonstrating respect and continuing to work together, even though we may not agree on every issue.

So, let’s start talking again. Take a moment to ask yourself if you can do more to reach out to connect with people who may not agree with you on the issues. As we gather with friends and family over the holidays, we have a great opportunity to start “setting the table for civility” by pausing and reflecting on the need to heal the divisions in our state and in our country and take personal action to increase civility and understanding. We have Maine Revives Civility guides available online that can help you start conversations on your own – at the library, at your church, or even at your own kitchen table.

We know we can’t fix this divide overnight, but we believe we can make progress just by reaching out.

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Commentary: BIW workers continue to be the best shipbuilders in the world http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/17/commentary-biw-workers-continue-to-be-the-best-shipbuilders-in-the-world/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/17/commentary-biw-workers-continue-to-be-the-best-shipbuilders-in-the-world/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1288799 BATH — Through these gates…

Thousands of men and women from BIW know this familiar phrase at the main entrance to Bath Iron Works: Through these gates pass the best shipbuilders in the world.

Our history is a great source of pride. It also serves as a reminder to each generation of shipbuilders that BIW’s reputation is earned over and over each and every day.

The demographic trends of our state are reflected in our people. Waves of shipbuilders who came into BIW when the first Arleigh Burke destroyers were being built in the 1980s have retired and more continue to do so. We all have a stake in finding and training their successors.

In sharp contrast to the ongoing loss of manufacturing jobs in Maine and across the United States, BIW is hiring. We’ve hired more than 2,000 people since 2014 and are poised to hire an additional 2,000 over the next five years.

These are good-paying jobs with good benefits – the kinds of jobs that enable people to live in Maine and to buy homes, raise families, educate their children, save for retirement and contribute to their community.

Today, 5,700 men and women engage in our unique form of manufacturing, one that requires advanced skills in numerous trades, including welders, pipefitters and electricians, along with design disciplines like naval architecture and marine engineering.

As the Navy grapples with the challenges of recapitalizing America’s fleet, BIW’s role will depend on how successfully we maintain our highly skilled workforce and whether we have world-class facilities.

Anyone driving down Washington Street in Bath can see BIW has been investing in our facilities, modernizing our buildings and machinery to provide a safer and more efficient workplace.

As important are the investments we are making in our people. New employees at BIW are taught trade-specific skills in our Trades Learning Center – from welding and grinding to rigging steel for major crane lifts.

Every summer, BIW hires dozens of interns, many of them from the engineering programs at the University of Maine and Maine Maritime Academy, to give students real-world experience in manufacturing and to interest them in becoming part of our rich heritage.

Our apprenticeship program has existed since the 1920s and provides a pool of highly trained mechanics and designers who become force multipliers in shipbuilding and ship design, dramatically increasing our output and effectiveness. Today, BIW employs more than 400 current or former apprentices.

Why does all this matter? BIW’s impact is felt throughout the state. We have an annual payroll of more than $400 million, including people from as far away as Aroostook County. We purchase $45 million in supplies and services each year from companies in 11 of the state’s 16 counties.

BIW currently has six ships under construction, with three more under contract, but we can never rest. Our time horizon is long and we operate in a very competitive environment.

BIW can continue to be an engine for economic growth and provide opportunity for thousands of Maine families, but a skilled workforce remains the key to our future, just as it is for all businesses, large and small.

Maine’s high schools, our Maine Community College System and public universities are helping to prepare candidates for BIW careers. We in turn are working in partnership with these institutions and Maine Quality Centers to help guide that training.

For us, it all comes down to that sign we pass under every day. We want to keep the best shipbuilders in the world passing through our gates for generations to come and we want the chance to prove with every ship we deliver that “Bath Built is Best Built.”

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/17/commentary-biw-workers-continue-to-be-the-best-shipbuilders-in-the-world/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/11/1288799_927264-20141210_BIW_242.jpgBath Iron Works recruits and trains thousands of highly skilled workers, who make good wages and contribute to their communities.Fri, 17 Nov 2017 11:02:58 +0000
Our View: Resignation of watchdog puts American consumers at risk http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/17/our-view-resignation-of-watchdog-puts-american-consumers-at-risk/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/17/our-view-resignation-of-watchdog-puts-american-consumers-at-risk/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1288872 If you’re completely confident that your money and personal information are safe in the hands of the financial services industry – and if you don’t have a credit card, a mortgage, a student loan or a bank account – there’s no need for concern about the pending resignation of the nation’s top consumer advocate.

The rest of us, on the other hand, should be very worried about the near-certainty that the next head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be someone bent on gutting it rather than ensuring that it’s better equipped to do its job.

Richard Cordray’s announcement Wednesday that he plans to step down by the end of the month follows a tumultuous first six years for the bureau, the only federal agency solely dedicated to protecting Americans from harmful banking and lending practices.

Banks, mortgage companies, credit card issuers and their Republican allies in Washington have long been critical of the bureau, but their efforts to weaken its oversight of unfair, illegal or predatory practices didn’t pay off until Donald Trump was in office.

The Trump administration’s approach to financial regulation can be summed up in three words: Foxes, meet henhouse. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, a tea party Republican who’s tried to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, could be appointed its acting director as soon as Friday – the day after Joseph Otting, a former banker who was investigated over his bank’s home foreclosure practices, was confirmed as the leading regulator of large national lenders.

Former Wall Street lawyers Jay Clayton and Randal Quarles, the industry insiders nominated, respectively, to run the Securities and Exchange Commission and oversee Wall Street’s largest banks, had already gotten the green light from the Senate.

Maine’s two senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, should push back early and often against efforts by the White House to replace Cordray as permanent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director with a figurehead who would stand by quietly as Congress repeals the bureau’s consumer complaint system, reduces its ability to make rules and bars it from penalizing the institutions it regulates – among other proposals to neuter the agency.

The bureau has been a much-needed champion for the average American. It played a key role in investigating Wells Fargo for creating millions of fake customer accounts and fined the bank $185 million. It’s returned $60 million to service members charged excess interest on student loans; military families dealing with illegal foreclosures and predatory lenders have gotten back $120 million.

All told, about 29 million Americans have gotten back nearly $12 billion as a result of the bureau’s efforts. If Maine’s senators help put in place someone whose goal is to undo these safeguards, the people who stand to lose out – their constituents – should be prepared to hold them accountable.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/17/our-view-resignation-of-watchdog-puts-american-consumers-at-risk/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/11/1288872_shutterstock_344340632.jpgThe only federal agency dedicated solely to protecting Americans from harmful banking and lending practices, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau needs a director who will be a forceful advocate for consumers, not a pawn of Wall Street.Thu, 16 Nov 2017 20:27:25 +0000
Another View: Democratic order must reign for Zimbabwe to have any chance http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/17/another-view-democratic-order-must-reign-for-zimbabwe-to-have-any-chance/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/17/another-view-democratic-order-must-reign-for-zimbabwe-to-have-any-chance/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1288967 A military coup in Zimbabwe on Wednesday may have ended – at last – the misrule of 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look likely that his removal can pull a once-prospering country from the ditch into which Mugabe drove it.

Mugabe was a hero of Zimbabwe’s independence struggle and took power in 1980. But he wrecked his legacy by brutally repressing his opponents and summarily expropriating white-owned farms, thus destroying the country’s export business. Unemployment has risen past 80 percent; shortages of food and other basic goods haunt a population of about 14 million. Most elections have been rigged.

That horrific record, however, was not the reason for the coup. Rather, it was Mugabe’s firing last week of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was vying for control of the ruling party with Grace Mugabe, the president’s wife.

Some reports suggest that Mnangagwa, if put in power, could reverse some of the regime’s worst mistakes. Reuters reported in September that he was contemplating forming a unity government with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and reaching out to dispossessed white farmers in a bid to revive the agricultural economy.

But according to Reuters, Mnangagwa is not committed to competing with Tsvangirai in a fair election, which he could easily lose. Yet without an election that provides a genuine popular mandate, the chance for reforms that could revive the economy looks small.

That’s why the United States and other Western governments should insist on a prompt restoration of constitutional order and a firm commitment by the military to holding internationally supervised elections next year. The end of Mugabe’s rule offers a fragile opportunity to rescue an African country – but only if it does not lead to the installation of another strongman.

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A critical fishery left vulnerable to one company’s exploitation http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/16/maine-voices-a-critical-fishery-left-vulnerable-to-one-companys-exploitation/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/16/maine-voices-a-critical-fishery-left-vulnerable-to-one-companys-exploitation/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1288198 Last summer, there was a surge of menhaden northward into Maine’s midcoast waters. Many years had passed since a surge of “pogies” visited the shores of Muscongus Bay, and their arrival was quickly noticed. All of a sudden osprey began carrying menhaden to their chicks, anglers witnessed feasting striped bass and local lobstermen began catching their own bait.

These events have become more commonplace since the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted in 2012 to end overfishing of Atlantic menhaden and set coastwide catch limits for the first time. But in recent years, catch limits have increased, a pattern that continued Monday, when the commission voted for the status quo rather than recognizing the keystone importance of Atlantic menhaden.

The commission claims to want ecologically based fisheries science to determine how much of the menhaden stock can be harvested while leaving enough in the sea for wildlife, but such studies will be completed no sooner than 2019. In the interim, the commission considered how to responsibly manage the menhaden fishery and asked all concerned for their input.

Unfortunately, despite vast consensus to manage the fishery in a sustainable way by leaving more fish in the sea, the commissioners decided to keep the catch limits for Atlantic menhaden the same. They rejected an interim proposal, supported by 126,000 public comments, to set ecosystem-based management guidelines that would have ensured an abundance of food for the many species known to feed on menhaden.

Why are menhaden so important to the marine ecosystem?

Menhaden are an oily fish important to marine mammals, game fish such as striped bass and bluefish, and coastal birds including osprey, bald eagle, royal tern, brown pelican, black-crowned night heron, northern gannet, black skimmer, least tern and common loon. That’s why environmentalists, scientists, recreational anglers, restaurant owners, ecotourism companies and more support leaving more menhaden in the ocean.

Robust menhaden stocks support healthy ecosystems, which in turn help sustain Maine’s tourism economy. By feeding much of the marine food web, these high-energy fish are also fueling ecotourism, seafood and recreational industries, which are important economic drivers. In Maine alone, there are 838,000 resident and nonresident wildlife watchers that contribute over $798 million in ecotourism per year. Menhaden are also a crucial prey for game fish and therefore benefit Maine’s seafood industry, which provides 39,000 jobs and spins off $2.4 billion in annual sales. In Maine, 84,000 resident and nonresident recreational anglers spend $52 million annually, supporting almost 660 Maine jobs.

Atlantic menhaden are also filter feeders – an attribute that mitigates the effects of warming coastal waters. Menhaden remove algae and detritus that can choke coastal waters, creating toxic dead zones as sunlight is blocked from beneficial rooted aquatic plants such as eelgrass. Each fish can filter up to 7 gallons of water per minute! No other fish in the Gulf of Maine can filter ocean water as fast or effectively. But it takes vast schools of these toothless “moss bunkers” to have this effect. Long live these large-mouthed ocean grazers swimming with mouth open, filtering plankton, algae and detritus, converting it to oil-packed protein for the larger finned, feathered and furred marine life.

Since people don’t eat menhaden, this is not a choice of food for people or wildlife. Claiming that they were waiting for science to provide clarity about how much to leave in the sea, most of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission sided with just one company, Omega Protein, which claims 75 percent of the commercial harvest of Atlantic menhaden to produce fertilizer, dietary supplements and cosmetics.

Monday’s vote ignored the Atlantic menhaden’s role as “the most important fish in the sea.” By favoring business as usual, one large corporation benefited and the interests of thousands were ignored. The commission should have taken into account the groups that use menhaden, including birds, marine mammals and recreational and commercial anglers.

Despite the commission’s decision to keep catch limits the same, they are vocal about wanting to create an ecologically based fishery in the future, once the science supports this change. The commission projected that the management study would be completed by 2019, and I am hopeful the commission will do the right thing in 2019 to safeguard this important species and all the life along our coast that depends on it for food and a healthy ecosystem.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/16/maine-voices-a-critical-fishery-left-vulnerable-to-one-companys-exploitation/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/11/1288307_Forage_Fish_Health_82352.jp_.jpgA barrel contains frozen and salted menhaden at a lobster bait warehouse in Portland in October. Environmentalists and commercial fishing groups are divided over a decision to increase the amount fishermen can catch of the ecologically vital fish.Thu, 16 Nov 2017 11:34:01 +0000
Our View: Trump’s court nominees unfit for lifetime seats http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/16/our-view-trumps-court-nominees-unfit-for-lifetime-seats/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/16/our-view-trumps-court-nominees-unfit-for-lifetime-seats/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1288208 Ten months into the Trump presidency, there is no wall, tax reform is in limbo and Obamacare remains the law of the land. But there is one area where Donald Trump is very much fulfilling his campaign pledge – and its impact will certainly outlast him.

The president and the Republican-controlled Senate are filling judicial vacancies in the federal courts with great speed. Many of the nominees are professionally and ethically qualified for these lifetime appointments. Others, to be generous, are not.

Falling in the latter category is Brent Talley, a 36-year-old Department of Justice official who has practiced law for just three years and has never tried a case. He has received a rare “unqualified” designation from the American Bar Association. What’s more, in papers submitted to Congress, he failed to disclose that his wife is a White House staffer.

But Talley is young and can cast conservative votes well into the future, so he is a good fit for the Trump administration’s plan to transform the judiciary into a partisan battlefield favorable to Republicans.

For Americans concerned with an unbiased, cautious and thoughtful justice system oriented toward protecting constitutional rights, that’s bad news. And Talley is only one of many bad nominees, some of whom are a far better fit for low-rent right-wing blogs than a federal bench.

One nominee, Damien Schiff, has called Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy a “judicial prostitute”; he also disagreed with a ruling that overturned all state laws banning private sexual activity by consenting same-sex couples. Another, Jeff Mateer, once described transgender children as part of “Satan’s plan.” Mark Norris has implied that all Muslims are terrorists, and spoken out against rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, African-Americans, Latinos and refugees.

And that’s just a sample.

The administration is pushing forward these nominees without the reviews and bipartisan checks and balances typical of the process in the past. (Also, of the nearly 60 nominations so far, 74 percent are white men, hardly representative of the country as a whole.)

Trump has already approved eight appellate judges and could put in place dozens more – on top of the vacancies left under the Obama administration when the Republican-controlled Senate blocked confirmations, many judges are reaching retirement. Democrats, who abolished fillibuster rules when in power, now won’t be able to stop him.

That is particularly significant in the appellate courts, which are often the last word on politically charged cases. Appellate courts have in the last year alone rejected Trump’s travel ban and transgender military ban. They will hear cases on gerrymandering, public unions and religious freedom.

Those cases and the many others handled by federal courts should be heard by careful and thoughtful judges intent on applying the law, not by bomb-throwers who have already made up their minds. Unfortunately, the court system may be trending toward the latter.

When Democrats changed the filibuster rules, they erased the incentive to work across the aisle to confirm good judges. Why do that when the presidency and a narrow Senate majority means you can put in place whomever you like?

That’s troublesome even if only the best candidates are put forward. With nominees like Talley, it could be a disaster.

Republican senators, such as Maine’s Susan Collins, have an obligation to stand up for a competent, ethical and conscientious judiciary. Whether Donald Trump is president for another seven weeks or seven years, the rest of us will have to live with these judges for decades.

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Dana Milbank: Compelling evidence shows Donald Trump Jr., um, lacks intelligence http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/16/dana-milbank-compelling-evidence-shows-donald-trump-jr-um-lacks-intelligence/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/16/dana-milbank-compelling-evidence-shows-donald-trump-jr-um-lacks-intelligence/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1288219 With all the documentation of Russian collusion piling up, President Trump’s best excuse may be that his people were too incompetent to organize a conspiracy. Luckily for him, an innocent-by-reason-of-stupidity defense has the virtue of being plausible.

For example, there is clear and compelling evidence that Donald Trump Jr. is dumb as a post.

This week brings word that the Trump campaign was in direct contact with WikiLeaks, described by Trump’s own CIA director as “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” And who was the point of contact? D’oh! Donald Junior – asking privately for information from WikiLeaks, which at one point suggested an action that the candidate took, in part, just minutes later.

This follows the discovery in July that Junior met with Russians during the campaign. He first claimed the meeting concerned adoption, then admitted it was to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, then said nothing was untoward because the information provided by the Russians “wasn’t helpful.” This, as Jimmy Kimmel pointed out, was like saying, “I tried to rob the bank but I forgot they weren’t open on Sundays.”

A tweet pinned to the top of Junior’s Twitter page says, “Life is hard; it’s even harder when you’re stupid.” And Junior should know. Some of his colleagues on the Trump campaign mocked him as “Fredo,” the weak son in “The Godfather.” Trump surrogate Chris Christie euphemistically described Junior as “by no means a sophisticated political actor.”

On Election Day in Virginia last week, Junior issued two tweets, hours apart, urging people to vote – “tomorrow,” the day after the election. The previous week, Junior tweeted that he would take away half his daughter’s Halloween candy because “it’s never to (sic) early to teach her about socialism.” (He seemed not to grasp that trick-or-treating involves handouts.) This was Junior’s second candy-related mishap; he previously shared a tweet likening Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles, asking, if “I told you just three would kill you, would you take a handful?”

This week, as CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski noticed, irony eluded Junior when he “liked” a tweet discrediting one of Roy Moore’s accusers – because she “has had three divorces” and “filed for bankruptcy three times.”

The 39-year-old Trump once tried to make it on his own, but after a couple of his ventures fizzled, he signed on with Dad, whom Junior has been “helping” ever since. Such as in September 2016, when he posted an image featuring Pepe the Frog, a white-supremacist emblem. Junior pleaded ignorance: “I thought it was a frog in a wig.”

A number of Junior’s tweets over the years call people “morons” and “idiots” for their “unintelligible grammar” and poor spelling. Unfortunately, he routinely makes the same errors himself, sometimes in the tweets labeling others morons. When called on this, he explains, “I just let spelling and grammar go” or “spelling has never been a strong point.”

What has been his strong point? Speaking up for the “moral teaching of the Bible” even though he previously boasted that he had some sexual “hookups I don’t remember.” Telling the public that “if ur a boob guy this whole lactation thing is amazing the sports bra the wife is wearing is losing the containment battle!!!”

His Twitter feed skews Low Playground, with vulgar words, jokes about bestiality and sexual assault, and a quip about pretending to be gay so he can put his hands up women’s skirts.

When he ventures into big-boy topics, he gets in big trouble. On Twitter and in an interview at the time of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony, he inadvertently confirmed one of Comey’s main points. In a campaign interview, Junior spoke of reporters “warming up the gas chamber” to deal with Republicans.

In 2011, he tweeted about Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., wearing a cowboy hat but confused her for another black woman, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., which he spelled “Watters.” He wrote: “Easier 2 take u seriously when u dont (sic) look like a stripper.”

And sometimes the misfires are literal. After safari photos emerged of him in 2012 holding a knife and the tail of a dead elephant, Junior explained, “I HUNT & EAT game.” This year, he observed Earth Day by shooting prairie dogs, which are not widely consumed.

In September, Junior raised a ruckus when he said he didn’t want Secret Service protection. Security experts warned against this, and his protection has since been restored, but maybe Junior was safe all along. Those who want to harm America might conclude that they would do more damage leaving Junior right where he is.

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

dana.milbank@washpost.com

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Solution to rockweed harvesting should be rooted in privacy rights http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/16/solution-to-rockweed-harvesting-should-be-rooted-in-privacy-rights/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/16/solution-to-rockweed-harvesting-should-be-rooted-in-privacy-rights/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1288223 ARLINGTON, Va. — The future of the abundant rockweed growing along Maine’s coast may turn on one of our country’s oldest ideas: property rights. This week, the Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments over whether rockweed can be harvested from private property without owners’ consent, raising fears of overharvesting and other ecological harms.

Due to legal ambiguities that stretch back to the colonial era, no one is quite sure who owns the seaweed that grows on rocks in the area between low and high tide.

Tidal lands are private property, but the public has some rights to use it. Uncertainty in the case of rockweed has predictably led to time-consuming and expensive conflict and litigation.

But there’s a proven way to protect a valuable environmental resource like Maine’s rockweed while also reducing conflict: Define it as private property.

If landowners have clear rights to the rockweed growing along their shorelines, then they will have the ability to preserve it and incentive to ensure that any harvesting is sustainable. And in contrast to the contentious regulatory process, secure and unambiguous property rights will avoid unnecessary conflicts between property owners and rockweed harvesters, letting both focus instead on ways to conserve rockweed through compromise.

Rockweed is one of Maine’s most valuable natural resources. It is an indicator of water quality as well as a source of food, shelter and spawning habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Rockweed is also economically valuable. The annual harvest is worth approximately $20 million, much of it used for fertilizer, animal feed or human health supplements.

As rockweed harvesting has increased, so has conflict between coastal property owners and harvesters. Worried that current harvesting is unsustainable, hundreds of coastal property owners have joined the Rockweed Coalition, an environmental group concerned about the impacts of rockweed harvesting on the coastal ecosystem. In addition, local and regional conservation organizations – including the Downeast Coastal Conservancy, Friends of Blue Hill Bay, and the Conservation Law Foundation – have lined up to express their concerns over commercial harvesting. The Rockweed Coalition has created a no-cut registry, through which coastal property owners signal that they do not approve of harvesting on their land. One of those property owners is at the center of the case currently before the Supreme Judicial Court.

Carl Ross forbids harvesting on his property. But Acadian Seaplants, one of the largest producers of marine-plant products in the world, contends it may harvest from his property without his consent. In the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Pacific Legal Foundation and the Property and Environment Research Center recently filed an amicus brief outlining why property rights are the optimal solution to this conflict.

Property rights produce strong incentives for good stewardship. If property owners use resources unsustainably, they will directly bear the future consequences. The idea that people take better care of something they own than something owned by a stranger – or something owned by no one in particular – is not groundbreaking. There’s a reason, for instance, that people take much better care of the bathrooms in their homes than public restrooms – in the former, they know they’ll have to clean up the mess. So too with environmental resources.

But the primary reason that clear and secure property rights are the key to protecting Maine’s rockweed is that they will allow competing demands to the resource to be resolved amicably.

Property owners and harvesters could negotiate mutually beneficial contracts that would allow harvesting while protecting the long-term future of the rockweed. Market transactions would also encourage fertilizer producers or others with an interest in rockweed to uncover better information about the resource and develop new harvesting methods that can reduce environmental harms. A company that invents a less-disruptive harvesting method would have an incentive to educate property owners about the technique so that it might improve its prospects when it comes to negotiating for the right to harvest.

Relying on the political process, however, would ensure rockweed remains a continuous source of conflict. Conservationists and harvesters would jockey to steer regulation to their advantage. And the costly and time-consuming litigation would likely never end.

By clearly defining property rights, the court can put an end to the conflicts – and ensure that the rockweed ecosystem will thrive for decades to come, too.

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Leonard Pitts: Lesson from elections – If anti-Trump crowd gets energized and votes, it wins http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/15/leonard-pitts-lesson-from-elections-if-anti-trump-crowd-gets-energized-and-votes-it-wins/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/15/leonard-pitts-lesson-from-elections-if-anti-trump-crowd-gets-energized-and-votes-it-wins/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 11:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1287734 And there’s more where that came from.

Or at least, let us fervently hope.

The Republican Party was thoroughly rebuked in last week’s election, and no party in modern history has ever deserved rebuking more. Nor has any party leader ever deserved spanking more than Donald Trump, the boy president whose backside voters decisively, if tacitly, paddled.

It is not simply that Democrats pummeled Republicans up one coast and down another, winning two governorships and a slew of municipal and state offices. Arguably more impressive was the way they did it – with a rainbow of candidates who served as an implicit stick in the eye to the Republican Party’s politics of resentment and exclusion.

In Hoboken, voters elected the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey history. Seattle chose its first lesbian mayor, Provo its first woman, Charlotte its first African-American woman. The new mayor of St. Paul is an African-American man – a first – while an openly transgender black woman will join the Minneapolis City Council, yet another first. Ditto the election of an Asian-American woman to the Virginia Legislature.

And from the department of just deserts:

Robert Marshall, a Virginia lawmaker who authored a bill restricting transgender peoples’ use of public restrooms, was defeated by a transgender woman, Danica Roem. In New Jersey, Atlantic County official John Carman, who posted a meme in January asking if the women’s march would be over “in time for them to cook dinner,” lost his job to a woman, Ashley Bennett.

So some Democratic euphoria just now would certainly be understandable. But keep in mind that while Trumpism might be walking with a limp, it’s still walking. Timely evidence of this came the day after the election in the form of a must-read Politico piece by Michael Kruse.

He visited Trump Country, the city of Johnstown in western Pennsylvania, to take the temperature of the failed president’s ardent followers. There, Kruse found what you’d expect: cognitive dissonance that would embarrass a toddler, toxic levels of intolerance, and indestructible love for a man whose rants validate their rage, their petulant sense of themselves as a culture under siege, victims of change. It is an affection untethered by reason. In one jaw-dropping passage, retired nurse Maggie Frear concedes Trump hasn’t kept his promise to bring the steel mills back, build a border wall or repeal Obamacare. “But I like him,” she insists, “because he does what he says.”

In another, a bunch of 60-somethings in this town of boarded-up homes and opioid addiction seem most exercised about the “clowns” in the NFL who kneel during the national anthem. “NFL,” says retiree Pam Schilling, stands for “(racial slur beginning with ‘N’) For Life.”

One would be hard-pressed to find more vivid proof that if we intend to take our country back, the rest of us – a phrase meant to include the perhaps 17 principled conservatives who have so far managed to escape Trump’s re-education camps – will have our work cut out. You can’t persuade these people. You can only defeat them. Last week’s vote proves this isn’t impossible.

To the contrary, it is eminently doable if we are energized, organized and active – if we rise from our complacent backsides and vote, every election, every time. Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million. So people like those in Johnstown do not outnumber the rest of us. They simply outwork and outvote us.

But there are still more of us than there are of them. We are the majority, and it’s past time we acted like it. Good things happen when we do.

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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Maine Voices: With vision and boldness, Maine could grow into trans-North Atlantic hub http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/15/maine-voices-with-vision-and-boldness-maine-could-grow-into-trans-north-atlantic-hub/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/15/maine-voices-with-vision-and-boldness-maine-could-grow-into-trans-north-atlantic-hub/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1287696 Imagine Maine in 2035: The crane operator, a Skowhegan native and a recent hire at the Port of Portland, maneuvers the steel shipping container up and away from the ship’s deck. The container, marked with the iconic blue Eimskip “E,” carries wild-caught haddock and cod from the cold waters of the Norwegian Sea. The ship, a Danish-built feeder container vessel, is a familiar sight along the Portland waterfront, and it’s the third Eimskip ship this week to call at the city’s port. Like the others, the ship will soon be steaming across the North Atlantic to Nuuk, Greenland, loaded with lumber, Maine-sourced consumer goods and world-famous Maine craft beer.

Farther up the coast, a Chinese container vessel departs the offshore liquefied natural gas fueling station. The Washington County facility, part of a larger network of North Atlantic fueling stations, services ship traffic transiting the warming waters of the Northwest Passage. The fueling station is the newest addition to Maine’s diversifying marine infrastructure complex, and employs highly skilled engineers and technicians from around the United States – workers who are finding a home in the coastal communities of Washington County.

Far inland, a group of entrepreneurs from the Maine Startup Initiative gather in a repurposed warehouse on the banks of the Androscoggin River. Newfound opportunities to bring product to market throughout the North Atlantic have sparked a wave of innovation in the state’s western foothills. These enterprising entrepreneurs have partnered with universities across the state, and are searching for the next product to successfully employ the “Made in Maine” brand, a renowned moniker in the northernmost European markets.

To some, these scenes may seem like science fiction. New Englanders often think of Maine as the proverbial “end of the line” – the northern frontier situated at the periphery of the great Northeastern megalopolis.

With this age-old narrative in mind, I was surprised when I arrived at the 2017 Arctic Circle Assembly in Iceland to find a delegation of more than 50 Mainers at work promoting a flourishing partnership between Maine and Iceland. Among this delegation, I met visionaries who have constructed a narrative that fundamentally challenges the way people think about Maine’s place in the world. These visionaries, a coalition of business leaders, policymakers and academics, are positioning Maine as the premier gateway between New England and the countries of the North Atlantic.

Why does Maine sit as the center of a growing trans-Atlantic relationship? As a student of history, geopolitics and diplomacy, I find the arguments quite convincing.

The ports of Maine are strategically located as the first stops in the United States for ships traveling from cold waters of the northernmost Atlantic region. Maine boasts a rich maritime heritage, well-established marine industries and a government that is open to opportunities that will grow the economy. New Englanders and Scandinavians share a close cultural affinity. Not to be discounted, the people of Maine are industrious, innovative and thirsting for opportunity in the wake of a major decline in the paper industry. There is little wonder why the leaders at Eimskip chose Portland over larger competitors.

Despite the activity in the Maine-Iceland relationship, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about the future. The course that Maine charts regarding this gateway vision is ultimately up to the people of the state and their propensity for risk-taking. Port infrastructure projects are expensive, long-term ventures that require large upfront investment. Better connecting Maine’s ports to the greater New England transportation system will require updating rail infrastructure and constructing warehouse and storage facilities. Increased industrial capacity as a response to greater economic activity may change the landscape of Maine’s cities and towns.

While the visionaries must successfully promote Maine on the world stage and argue that Mainers will benefit from breaking the periphery-state narrative, the people of the state must also have the courage to stake out a new position in a changing world.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/15/maine-voices-with-vision-and-boldness-maine-could-grow-into-trans-north-atlantic-hub/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1260721_464401_20151014_portworkers.jpgChad Fox, a reach stack operator and member of the Longshoremen's Union, moves an Eimskip container on the Portland waterfront in 2015.Tue, 14 Nov 2017 23:22:39 +0000
Greg Kesich: Election identity crisis – Will the real Maine please stand up? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/15/greg-kesich-election-identity-crisis-will-the-real-maine-please-stand-up/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/15/greg-kesich-election-identity-crisis-will-the-real-maine-please-stand-up/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1287724 When it comes to politics, there really are two Maines. But they’re not the ones you usually hear about.

It’s not just northern vs. southern, inland vs. coastal or rural vs. urban.

The great divide in Maine politics these days is between the way people vote when they are electing a candidate and the way they vote when they are answering a ballot question.

In the past few elections, Maine voters have recognized same-sex marriages, legalized marijuana, raised taxes on the rich to pay for public schools, hiked the minimum wage and instituted a ground-breaking electoral reform that will let Maine voters rank their choices in races that have three or more candidates. Last week, they made Maine the first state to expand Medicaid eligibility by referendum, cementing our reputation as one of the bluest of the blue states.

But the same Maine voters also have elected and re-elected a tea-party governor in Paul LePage who has done everything in his power to thwart all of the above-mentioned policy changes, and thanks to the voters, he has enough support in the Legislature to make his opposition stick.

When you add a surprise victory last year for Donald Trump in Maine’s 2nd District, which has twice elected Bruce Poliquin, and the state starts looking kind of red.

What we are seeing can’t be explained by presidential cycles, outside money or three-way math, although they all have a role.

It’s more about the fundamentally different way that Republicans and Democrats understand politics and government. It’s why Republicans keep winning elections even though Republican policy ideas are unpopular. It’s also why there isn’t a progressive tea party, or a Democratic version of LePage. And it’s why the partisans don’t know how to work together after the election when they get to Augusta or Washington.

The divide is explained in the 2016 book “Asymmetric Politics” by Matthew Grossman and David A. Hopkins. They argue that the two parties that dominate the political debate are not just ideological rivals, they’re completely different kinds of organizations, interested in different things and operating under different rules.

The Democratic Party, as it was assembled by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, is a coalition of groups, like organized labor, farmers and social progressives, working in common cause despite some conflicts.

Since 1964, the Republican Party has been an organ of the conservative movement, and there are few Republicans who manage to stay around if they have unorthodox views on taxes and small government.

According to the authors, this makes Democrats sound like they are reading off a checklist when they campaign, because that’s what their constituent groups demand in exchange for their support.

And that’s why Republican campaigns stick to broad themes such as self-reliance, individual liberty and patriotism, because that’s what the conservative movement requires.

That’s the theory, anyway, and it seems to play out in Maine.

The lack of ideological unity in the Democratic Party shows itself by the number of independent candidates running in so many of our elections. There are a lot of unenrolled voters in Maine, but there is no “independent” or “moderate” ideology. Most independent candidates are former Democrats who offer the Democratic agenda minus some of the coalition’s clunkier elements.

You could see Eliot Cutler as a Democrat who was not trying to win any friends in the labor unions, or a Green Party candidate as a Democrat who doesn’t expect much love from the Manufacturers Association.

Paul LePage was able to take advantage of the disunity, offering himself as the perfect Republican candidate.

His conservative ideology is pure. His values are rock-solid. And his biography is the kind of thing you would read about in, well, a biography.

Whether you liked him or not, he was the candidate for smaller government and less taxation. The people who shared those values proved to be willing to overlook some faults, like LePage’s short fuse and refusal to compromise.

Which brings us to the next election, and the question of which Maine will elect LePage’s successor and the next Legislature? Will it be the Maine that expanded Medicaid or the one that voted for LePage, Poliquin and Trump?

Recent history would suggest that the Republicans have the upper hand, assuming that they can keep the debate on broad themes and away from the specifics of their less popular ideas.

But after being out of power for a while, Democrats should be encouraged by the results of the referendums.

The voting public does not appear to be scared off by big transformative policy ideas, and a candidate who can talk about them convincingly has a chance of reaching both Maines at the same time.

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

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter: gregkesich

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Our View: FCC move lets stations take the ‘local’ out of news http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/15/our-view-fcc-move-lets-stations-take-the-local-out-of-news/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/15/our-view-fcc-move-lets-stations-take-the-local-out-of-news/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1287832 By abolishing a regulation requiring TV and radio stations to have local broadcast studios, the FCC is enabling broadcasters to disconnect from the communities they’re supposed to serve, looking the other way as media conglomerates churn out newscasts that are either homogenized or slanted – and abdicating its own responsibility to protect the public interest.

The so-called “main studio rule” was put in place to encourage interaction between the people who watch or listen to the news and the people who put it on the air. The goal was to allow local concerns and local feedback to shape local news decisions.

With viewers and listeners now able to contact stations via email and social media, the decades-old rule has become obsolete, say those who successfully pushed for its elimination last month. Their other argument: That the decision will save broadcasters money that now can be channeled into local programming.

Don’t be fooled by the spin – this is essentially a handout to companies like the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Known for distributing conservative commentary on a “must-run” basis to its 173 local stations (including the Portland CBS affiliate, WGME), Sinclair is awaiting FCC approval of a deal that would allow its stations to reach about 72 percent of U.S. households.

With such reach, and the touted savings from no longer having to maintain local studios, Sinclair could do a lot to support local news production. But their track record indicates that’s not likely. The in-depth, award-winning WGME newscast is not the norm for Sinclair; known for a penny-pinching approach to its news operations, it laid off most of the news staff at its NBC affiliate in Toledo, Ohio, in 2016, shifting production to its ABC affiliate in South Bend, Indiana.

“Anyone who understands how these big media companies operate can see the danger,” Christopher Ruddy, CEO of the conservative website Newsmax, wrote in a recent Washington Post op-ed. “By owning local stations, the New York-based media networks could dictate local news coverage. With the planned elimination of the local studio rule, they will have a green light to do so.”

His concerns are echoed on the left, with Dana Floberg of the consumer advocacy group Free Press warning that the FCC “has blasted open a path for conglomerates like Sinclair to move even more resources – including broadcast facilities and staff – away from underserved communities.”

This is particularly concerning in rural states like Maine, where access to news online is hampered by the poor quality and uneven availability of broadband and data caps on smartphones.

At a time when citizens need more and more-reliable sources of information, the FCC’s decision to eliminate the main studio rule will ensure just the opposite.

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Another View: ‘Drain the swamp’ doesn’t mean the whole State Department http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/15/another-view-drain-the-swamp-doesnt-mean-the-whole-state-department/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/15/another-view-drain-the-swamp-doesnt-mean-the-whole-state-department/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1287843 There’s a difference between taming the bureaucracy and decimating it. What President Trump and Secretary Rex Tillerson are doing to the State Department is the latter, making it far more difficult for the department to advance U.S. interests around the world.

Tillerson’s plans to reorganize the department may well make sense. But the details have been kept from the public as well as the rank-and-file, raising unneeded suspicion. Meanwhile, the president has given every indication that he doesn’t believe in a cornerstone of democratic governance: the idea that a career diplomatic corps can be relied on to discharge its duties regardless of who’s in office.

High-ranking Foreign Service officers have been pushed into retirement. Only nine out of 28 undersecretaries or assistant secretaries of state have been nominated or confirmed. Among the dozens of ambassadorships without even a nominee are those for vital partners such as Australia, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey.

Asked about the department’s many empty slots, Trump responded, “I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be.”

Tillerson’s plans to “redesign” his department have resulted in a hiring freeze and rescinded job offers, as well as a crude effort to encourage middle-ranking officers out the door by pushing them into clerical work.

It’s not that Tillerson doesn’t have some good ideas. There are too many special envoys. Foreign aid does need to be more strategic and effective. And, not to put too fine a point on it, the department’s tribal bureaucratic culture needs to be opened up.

But neither Tillerson nor Trump has helped the cause of reform with their morale-sapping words and actions. It will be up to Congress to check the worst aspects of Tillerson’s plan. And it will fall to civic and business leaders (not to mention policy wonks) to more forcefully articulate the value of robust diplomacy.

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Garrison Keillor: When a trip to New York is a journey through time http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/garrison-keillor-when-a-trip-to-new-york-is-a-journey-through-time/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/garrison-keillor-when-a-trip-to-new-york-is-a-journey-through-time/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 01:06:04 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/garrison-keillor-when-a-trip-to-new-york-is-a-journey-through-time/ Slight panic in the airport out in Texas. Waiting to check a bag, pull out my billfold, no driver’s license. Check pockets, briefcase. Credit cards, no license. The brain flutters. Hotel? Taxi? Pickpocket? A teen terrorist from Izvestistan perhaps, trying to persuade TSA he is 75 and from Anoka, Minnesota?

How about dementia? Loss of license today, tomorrow can’t conjugate “lay” and “say,” next day my wife’s name is missing along with the three branches of government.

OK. License found. In jacket pocket. I head for TSA, resuming my life as a Midwestern author, husband, father. Never mind that I checked that very pocket three times thoroughly. I’m OK. OK?

Life is precarious. So much depends on a small card with a grim picture of me on it. Lose it and I become flotsam, a fugitive, stateless, displaced. Sobering.

So I got on a plane to New York and when I disembarked my faithful iPhone was dead and wouldn’t recharge and suddenly it was olden times again when you look around for a payphone and newsboys shout the headlines on the street corner and you get on an elevator and an attractive woman asks you for a light. And when a meteorite is headed straight for Gotham, Clark Kent steps into a phone booth to change into his Superman outfit and deflect the thing into Long Island Sound.

I spent a whole day with no cellphone and it gave me the feeling of being in a foreign country, out of touch, friendless, so I walked over to Grand Central Station and there, under the great starry ceiling, I found an Apple store and made an appointment to see someone at their genius desk who could restore my connection to the world.

I had an hour to kill and I did it in style, in the Oyster Bar, the restaurant that time has not changed. I sat down and the waitress came by, said hello, handed me a menu. She didn’t ask how I was doing today – she was a classic New York waitress, a big healthy woman, all business. Came back a few minutes later, said, “Ready?” I ordered black coffee and a half-dozen Chincoteagues and the grilled halibut. She did not say, “Oh, that’s one of my favorites,” as millennial waiters in the Midwest do. She brought the coffee and I amused myself by writing a limerick:

“There was an old waitress of Queens

“Who cautioned me not to eat beans,

“Lest I spill on my clothes

“Or stick beans up my nose

“And never find out what life means.”

After she brought the food, she did not come back to say, “How’s everything tasting?” No need – it’s the Oyster Bar, the food is good. Nor did she come back later to ask, “You still working on that?” She was a minimalist. Waiting on tables is a service; it isn’t the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

It dawned on me that, here in the Oyster Bar, I was in a time warp and that, if I decided to not get an iPhone, it would be 1961 outside and my hero A.J. Liebling would be alive and still writing his gorgeous stuff, and I’d walk up 44th Street and see Eudora Welty, as I once did years ago, standing in front of the Algonquin Hotel, looking for a taxi, and I’d be 19 again, walking around with a pack of Luckies in my pocket, writing sorrowful poems about an owl with a broken wing flying home through a moonless night. So I tipped the waitress 50 percent for the memories and went over to Apple. The old phone was dead for good and I bought a new one.

The thought of going back to 1961 was unbearable. I’d have to relive the 1963 assassination and stay in grad school to dodge the draft and hear Richard Nixon say that he had a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. My precious daughters would disappear into the ether and my dear wife would be 4 years old.

It’s good to be old. Every day is an adventure. The Apple guy was very nice. I didn’t understand much of what he said but he sold me the new phone and I appreciate this gizmo more than the average 19-year-old would because I am old enough to remember the wooden phone on the farmhouse wall with the crank that you turned to get the operator who would connect you to whoever you wanted. This phone is a God-given miracle. With this and my driver’s license, I can go anywhere.

Garrison Keillor is an author and radio personality.

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Opinion podcast: How the Maine People’s Alliance is cracking the code http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/opinion-podcast-maine-peoples-alliance-cracking-code/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/opinion-podcast-maine-peoples-alliance-cracking-code/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 00:59:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1287468 In 2016, a victory at the polls for a substantial minimum wage hike was a small bright spot for progressives in what was an otherwise devastating election. Now, some of the same people behind that referendum were able to pass a Medicaid expansion law over vocal opposition from Gov. LePage. Hallweaver is the legislative director for the MPA and she discusses these policy successes, progressive politics in general and the organization’s next big goal— a statewide referendum on a universal long-term-care benefit for seniors who want to stay in their homes.

Host’s note: This is our last episode of the opinion podcast for a little while. After a year of trying out a new medium, we are taking a hiatus to figure out what worked, what didn’t, what we liked, and what we could do more of. What did you enjoy most about this podcast since you have been listening? Have a favorite episode? What types of audio conversations and stories would you like to hear more of from the Press Herald? Please email us your thoughts at letterstotheeditor@pressherald.com.

 

Related links:

Statewide results maps for Medicaid expansion, casino and more

Maine People’s Alliance launches in-home care referendum drive

Senate Republicans to add repeal of ACA insurance mandate into tax bill

 

Podcast links:

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Maine Voices: Congress needs to show compassion, respect and caring for others http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/maine-voices-congress-needs-to-show-compassion-respect-and-caring-for-others/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/maine-voices-congress-needs-to-show-compassion-respect-and-caring-for-others/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1287162 FALMOUTH — There’s an inconvenient truth when it comes to cutting taxes: You have to make up the difference somewhere.

Congress is starting the nitty-gritty work of determining how to find revenue and reduce expenditures to offset the $1.5 trillion which it plans to cut in taxes over 10 years. During this process, the Maine Council of Churches and its nine member denominations have one overriding request: Make the federal budget just and humane.

Don’t let the poor go hungry, merely because they don’t make enough money. Don’t make them choose between paying bills and going to the doctor. Don’t destroy our sacred environment with a quick solution for today when the ramifications will last forever.

And to each senator and member of Congress, we say: Remember those values you learned in school, in your family and at church. Compassion. Respect. Love your neighbor. Please stand by those values and be strong enough to fight for your convictions.

Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King both remembered these values during recent votes in the U.S. Senate. Both senators fought repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which would have hurt numerous households in Maine by eliminating important health care coverage. This vote must have been particularly difficult for Sen. Collins because she stood up to her own Republican Party. She showed her moxie and became a national celebrity, recognizing the devastating impact that cuts to the Medicaid program would have on low-income families and on the rural economy in Maine.

She also broke with her party when she voted with Sen. King, an independent, in favor of an amendment to the recent Senate budget resolution that would have blocked oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, home to the Gwich’ins. Oil exploration and drilling in this unique piece of creation would severely undermine the subsistence life of the Gwich’ins and ultimately devastate this native people, whose ancestors have lived in Alaska for thousands of years.

Unfortunately, that amendment failed and now the sale of oil drilling leases in the wildlife refuge and elsewhere is under serious consideration by the Senate as a source of revenue to offset tax cuts. Raising revenue through yet more oil leases, particularly in ecological and culturally sensitive areas, not only exacerbates our dependence on fossil fuels but also does not prescribe to the value of loving our Gwich’in neighbor.

Under the budget proposals before Congress, cuts are slated for the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior as well as safety net programs vital to vulnerable communities in Maine: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, children’s health insurance, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Social Security insurance for the disabled. Even Pell grants, which help college students pay tuition, are on the chopping block.

The cuts to the EPA would hurt Maine’s ability to protect its water, air and health because the state relies so heavily on the EPA for its budget, particularly since the state’s environmental budget has been cut in recent years. More than 20 percent of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s budget and 100 of its staff are provided by the EPA.

The money supports nearly every aspect of the DEP’s work: licensing, permitting, enforcement, resource assessment, mitigation and compliance with the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and hazardous waste and other environmental laws. Cuts make it difficult to protect our citizenry from toxins in our water and air and hazardous waste.

Cuts to safety net programs would be particularly challenging in Maine, since the state would be asked to either make up the difference or not provide for those in need. Maine’s children would likely suffer the most. The percentage of children living in “deep poverty,” defined as families of three surviving on $10,000 a year or less, increased in Maine at a rate eight times greater than the national average between 2011 and 2015. However, governmental assistance intended to get families out of poverty was cut substantially. This is a trend that should be reversed, not amplified.

As Congress moves ahead with the budget process in the upcoming days, we urge our elected officials to remember these important values: compassion, respect and caring for each other. We pray that revenue raised will bear in mind our neighbors’ plight and that expenditures cut will not be at the expense of those in need. We pray that our leaders will have the courage to vote for the least of us, the vulnerable and the voiceless.

 

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Alan Caron: Republicans mess with Medicaid expansion at their own peril http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/alan-caron-republicans-mess-with-medicaid-expansion-at-their-own-peril/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/alan-caron-republicans-mess-with-medicaid-expansion-at-their-own-peril/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1287188 FREEPORT — Maine voters made me proud Tuesday.

First, they dispatched the referendum on a southern casino with extraordinary clarity. Five out of six voters said “no,” despite a $10 million advertising campaign seeking their support for the most deceptive campaign in decades.

More importantly, for the future of Maine’s economy and citizens, our voters made Maine the first state in the nation to expand Medicaid by popular vote.

This vote, apparently, has sent Gov. LePage into a rage. How dare we veto him? Vetoeing bills is his job. LePage is the veto king of Augusta, with more vetoes than any other Maine governor in history. Since he has no real ability to persuade the Legislature to support his ideas, he’s become “Gov. Veto,” blocking legislation, voter-approved bonds and now nearly all recent citizen initiatives.

It is almost as though he’s saying to Maine voters, “Who do you think you are?”

I would urge Gov. Lepage and his allies in Augusta to step back and take a deep breath. Reflect on what Maine voters just said and the instructions they sent. Once the dust settles on this vote, calmer heads need to prevail.

Last Tuesday’s elections across the country, where Democrats picked up seats everywhere, are a warning of what is coming for Republicans in 2018. It could be the beginning of a tidal wave of angry voters determined to “throw the bums out” over frustration and embarrassment with the president and Congress.

That wave could also sweep Republicans out of any positions of power in Augusta next year. Republicans can avoid the worst of that prospect by not doing dumb things like foot-dragging on the public’s votes. If they meddle with the Medicaid vote, they will pay the price in every district in the state next year.

Here’s a little advice for the governor and Republicans in the Legislature on how initiatives work: Citizens initiate them, by their signatures. Elected officials are free to share their views and opinions and, if they wish, to campaign for or against a referendum. Then citizens vote and their will becomes law. Elected officials, including the governor, should then represent the voters, and, barring any major flaws in the bill, get out of the way.

LePage has, of course, opposed expanding Medicaid since it first became a possibility when the Affordable Care Act was passed. He also vetoed the Legislature on this issue five times. His arguments against expanding Medicaid have fallen into three categories:

First, that we can’t afford it, even though the federal government is picking up more than 90 percent of the tab. Second, that voters didn’t understand the issue and that referenda are a bad way to govern, even though LePage himself just a few years back proposed as many as five questions and promised to govern by the will of the people (He wasn’t able to secure the signatures to get any of them on the ballot).

Perhaps his bottom line argument has been that Maine people are strongly opposed to the Affordable Care Act, which allows this expansion to occur, and that LePage and company were simply standing up for Mainers.

All of those arguments turned to dust Tuesday, in a Medicaid expansion vote that wasn’t close and wasn’t confusing.

Augusta has gotten into a bad habit, under LePage, of ignoring the will of the voters and either making major revisions to or outright dismissing citizen initiatives. They’ve done that, most notably, on the ranked-choice voting and marijuana initiatives.

This trend began when LePage, early in his administration, decided that bond issues passed by the voters didn’t matter unless he agreed with them. So he sat on bond issues, refusing to expend funds as required by the voters. And he got away with it, which then emboldened his Republican allies to treat citizen initiatives with the same indifference.

But messing with the vote on Medicaid expansion is another thing altogether, and it’s full of peril for Republicans.

Most Americans now support having more people insured. They’re coming to appreciate that when people don’t have health care, it actually costs the rest of us a fortune in shortened lives, lost productivity and costly crisis treatment in emergency rooms.

Something has shifted in the public’s attitudes on health care, and Republicans spend so much time talking to each other that they haven’t picked it up.

 

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Our View: Anthony Sanborn’s case is closed but questions linger http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/our-view-sanborn-case-closed-but-questions-linger/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/our-view-sanborn-case-closed-but-questions-linger/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1287196 Anthony Sanborn waited a long time for this.

Now 47, Sanborn had been behind bars since he was 16, convicted of a murder he says he didn’t commit. But through an unprecedented series of events and dogged work by his lawyers, his done-deal of a case was reopened this year, and he was given the chance to argue for a new trial based on charges that police and prosecutors had mishandled evidence and coerced witness testimony.

As that hearing was headed toward a conclusion last week, the state and Sanborn agreed to a settlement. He dropped his claim for a new trial, and replaced it with one that said his 70-year sentence had been excessive. The state agreed that Sanborn could be released on time served.

It was a good outcome for both parties. Sanborn does not have to spend another day living in fear that he’ll be sent back to prison, and the Maine Attorney General’s Office was spared the headache of retrying a 29-year-old case in which all the main witnesses have recanted their testimony and there are chain-of-custody problems with key evidence that has been sitting unsecured in a retired detective’s attic.

But it was not a good outcome for the rest of us, because too many questions have been left unresolved.

Such as, did the police and prosecutor make so many mistakes in this case that a convicted murderer was able to walk out of prison?

Or, was an innocent teenager railroaded into what could have been a lifetime in prison by law enforcement officers willing to cut corners in order to get a conviction? And if so, how do we know he was the only one to whom that happened, and how do we know it won’t happen again?

What we do know for sure is that once the case against Sanborn was given scrutiny, it quickly fell apart.

Sanborn was charged with the murder of Jessica Briggs, who was stabbed to death and thrown into the Fore River in May 1989. Both of them were 16.

The state’s case was built on three witnesses, two of whom now say that they lied at Sanborn’s trial because they were intimidated by police. Most spectacularly, Hope Cady, the supposed eyewitness to the crime, told Justice Joyce Wheeler not only that she was nowhere near the crime scene that night, but also that she couldn’t have seen anything even if she had been there: Her eyesight was so bad at the time that she was legally blind.

Cady now says she testified against Sanborn because the detectives were threatening to send her back to the state’s juvenile corrections facility, known then as the Maine Youth Center.

Sanborn’s lawyers showed that the third witness, who is now dead, had been a suspect in a sexual assault case at the time but was never prosecuted.

That doesn’t prove that Sanborn is innocent, but it makes it hard to see how the state would have been able to convince another jury of his guilt.

Prosecutors were right to cut a deal, but it shouldn’t stop there. The Maine Criminal Justice Academy should examine its training methods and recommended policies for recording interviews and interrogating teenagers to see if there are any changes needed to stop something like this from happening again.

The academy’s administrators should be called before the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee to report on their findings.

This case is closed as far as Sanborn is concerned. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us should stop asking questions.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/our-view-sanborn-case-closed-but-questions-linger/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/11/1287196_289661-20171108_sanborn_1-e1510634103231.jpgAnthony Sanborn walks out of court last Wednesday a free man after reaching an agreement with the state during his post-conviction review. Sanborn was convicted of the 1989 murder of 16-year-old Jessica Briggs.Tue, 14 Nov 2017 09:06:03 +0000
Charles Lawton: Elect politicians for ability to collaborate on progress, not their stances on issues http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/charles-lawton-elect-politicians-for-ability-to-collaborate-on-progress-not-their-stances-on-issues/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/charles-lawton-elect-politicians-for-ability-to-collaborate-on-progress-not-their-stances-on-issues/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1287207 The contrast couldn’t have been greater. The editorial in last Thursday’s edition of this paper proclaimed, “Gov. LePage has lost his four-year battle to keep health care coverage from low-income Mainers.” Simultaneously, the front-page story in the very same paper reported that the governor “vows to bar expansion (of Medicaid) unless legislators find a way to fund it.” Talk about the irresistible force and the immovable object.

With every election, the conclusion is becoming increasingly clear: Be it expressed by 300,000 voters or 700,000 voters, the “will of the people” is not the same thing as governing.

Despite advances in artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles are a lot closer to reality than autonomous government. Numbers from voting machines do not create programs, establish budgets, impose and collect taxes or hire people to execute whatever we may decide is in “the public interest.” Election results may give us a way to measure the “will of the people,” but they cannot achieve it. That remains the task of the far murkier process of self-government.

Examining the proverbial sausage factory and getting involved in its operating procedures is the only alternative to the increasingly frequent, expensive and frustrating process of collecting signatures and returning to the polls yet again to guarantee that the “will of the people” is finally enacted into law. In reviewing the results of the recent elections in New Jersey and Virginia, Republican columnist Peggy Noonan said “in both (parties), ambivalent leaders are chasing after voters they no longer understand.” In Maine, we might paraphrase her by saying that “dead-certain voters are chasing after leaders they neither understand nor trust.”

In neither case will the chase result in effective governance. A duel that pits representatives trying to be whatever they think will get them re-elected against one-issue zealots trying to force their definitions of the “will of the people” through the ballot box will only increase today’s sense of pessimism about our politics and government.

To my mind the answer to our political malaise lies not at the ballot box, but in the neighborhoods, not in ever-more-expensive one-issue campaigns, but in increased public involvement in the ideas and campaigns of candidates for local, state and national offices.

Though we may want to “get through” to “the politicians,” ours is a representative democracy. Though we may vote on an issue, those “politicians” and the government officials they hire are the people who will create the programs that will or will not express our “will.” The best way to ensure that they realize whatever “will” we may have is not to insist that they promise that they will vote a specific way on a specified list of questions, but to insist that they give us a clear definition of their methods of dealing with colleagues, regardless of party.

Our state and our nation face two sorts of problems: factual and procedural. Those in the first set are obvious to all: Our climate is changing and confronting us with only vaguely understood costs of adaptation; the costs of health care are astronomically high, unnecessarily complicated and, for our population as a whole, produce abysmal results; our education system is failing to provide entry into the labor market for too many students; and our tax code is an impenetrable maze of special favors that hamstrings our economy.

The second problem is “How do we address the first set?” One option is to raise the volume and ferocity of partisan politics at the ballot box? Another is to direct our elected representatives to address problems without regard to existing programs or partisan proposals.

We must, I believe, move from partisan programs to problem statements, from a priori litmus tests (How will you vote on X, Y and Z?) to assessments of ability to collaborate (How do you try to resolve disputes?) The approach of focusing not on some ethereal “will of the people,” but on the qualifications of those who would represent their portion of “the people,” will serve us far better. Choosing our representatives less on the basis of where they stand today on any particular issue and more on their ability to govern throughout their terms will produce both better solutions to our problems and a healthier democracy.

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

cttlaw3@gmail.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/14/charles-lawton-elect-politicians-for-ability-to-collaborate-on-progress-not-their-stances-on-issues/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/11/983379-20171107_Election-3.jpgBUXTON, ME - NOVEMBER 7: Voters cast their ballots at Buxton Town Hall. (Staff photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer)Mon, 13 Nov 2017 20:41:17 +0000
Our View: Land for Maine’s Future board proves that conservation program has integrity http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/13/our-view-land-for-maines-future-board-proves-that-conservation-program-has-integrity/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/13/our-view-land-for-maines-future-board-proves-that-conservation-program-has-integrity/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1286646 Gov. LePage has never been a big fan of Land for Maine’s Future.

He shared his idea of how he thinks the popular land conservation program works in a radio interview in 2015.

“It’s the culture of status quo,” the governor told the hosts of the morning show on WVOM. “You rub my back, I’ll rub your back and we’ll make some money.”

So when one of his campaign contributors applied for $1.25 million for the development rights to a 23,000-acre commercial maple sugar forest along the Quebec border, a lot of people worried that LePage might be right.

Even though the project did not offer any public access opportunities, or preserve a unique asset, it had the backing of the governor, who had named a majority of the board members who would make the final decision.

But last week the board put all those worries to rest.

It turned down funding for the Big Six project. Although its deliberations are held in executive session, it was clear that board members were not impressed with the project, and did not list it among the 15 projects that received preliminary approval.

Landowner Paul Fortin of Madison, a donor to LePage’s campaigns and political action committee, was seeking $1.25 million from LMF funds to complete the sale of a conservation easement on the land.

The project had already received $3.8 million in federal Forest Legacy funds to purchase the $6 million easement, which would keep the land in Fortin’s hands but permanently extinguish development rights while allowing for continued maple sugar and timber operations.

But even LePage appointees expressed skepticism about the project, which is accessible only from Canada even though the land is on this side of the border. “I can’t imagine it to be worse for Americans,” said board member Harry Ricker, whose family runs a large apple orchard in Turner. “It’s awesome for Canadians, but I don’t think I was brought in to represent them.”

This is an important development in the history of a program that has received unfair criticism during the LePage years. Maine has one of the lowest ratios of publicly owned land in any state, and as development pressure spreads, LMF is one of the only ways Maine citizens can be sure that beloved forests, farms, beaches and working waterfront will be accessible in the future.

The state issues voter-approved LMF bonds to provide matching funds to groups like land trusts or municipalities to make joint investments with the restriction that the land has to be open to the public.

The grant proposals are scored according to painstaking standards. This is no favor dispenser for the politically connected.

With the Big Six decision, the board proved that the governor had been wrong. Considering that means taxpayer money has not been wasted all these years, even he should be happy to hear that.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/13/our-view-land-for-maines-future-board-proves-that-conservation-program-has-integrity/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/725311_849469-bix-six.jpgJean Francois Faucher repairs a sap line in April 2015 on the LaRiviere sugarbush in Big Six Township. The property has more than 300,000 maple syrup taps.Mon, 13 Nov 2017 07:54:57 +0000
Maine Voices: Equal rights for U.S. women have been held hostage by the past http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/13/maine-voices-equal-rights-for-u-s-women-have-been-held-hostage-by-the-past/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/13/maine-voices-equal-rights-for-u-s-women-have-been-held-hostage-by-the-past/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1286673 BROOKLIN — Women demonstrating for their right to cast a ballot were the very first group to form a picket line in front of the White House – and they stayed there for over two years.

At issue was the democracy called America. They believed that with a democracy comes a vote for every citizen, and in 1917 women could not vote. These were the suffragists, and they were standing up for half of the population of the United States – the women.

The women persisted, taking turns on the picket line, leaving their homes to travel to Washington, D.C., and maintain a peaceful demonstration for women’s suffrage. They were repeatedly arrested (for obstructing the sidewalk), jailed and force-fed during hunger strikes. This picket line was the final stage of a campaign for women’s rights that had been running for decades.

On the night of Nov. 14, 1917 – 100 years ago Tuesday – the protesters were beaten and jailed for insisting on their rights. Following press coverage of the beatings and the ensuing public outrage, they were released.

The years of protest and pressure finally paid off in 1920, when the women of America were granted the right to vote by the 19th Amendment. It was touch and go until the final ratifications by the states; there was a struggle in every state. But because of the persistence of those women, because of their determination to have the rights they thought they should have, our democracy became more complete and today American women can vote.

The right to vote is the only right explicitly granted to women in the U.S. Constitution. Ours is one of very few developed nations not to have equal rights for women spelled out in its constitution.

Our Constitution is also one of the oldest constitutions still in force, written in the 18th century when it was written by and intended for white men. That is why many of the laws designed to protect women from discrimination tend to fail. Laws pertaining to pay equity fail. Laws prohibiting sex discrimination in the workplace fail. Laws addressing violence against women fail.

Women have the right to vote, but in the United States they do not have full equality under the law. Without clear constitutional backing, protective laws aren’t enforced and are at risk of being repealed. Women won’t have full equality under the law until more voting Americans see that equal rights for women will not harm us – that equality will help women, families, children and men. We all benefit when our working women are paid fairly, when girls grow up being respected as much as boys are and when there is a strong defense against sex being used as a weapon.

The U.S. Constitution clearly protects Americans from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion and national origin. It does not similarly protect Americans from sex discrimination.

The Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution says what needs to be said, and it says it simply: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

The ERA was first proposed in 1923, by those same women picketing the White House. They knew that their work was not complete after the right to vote was achieved. Ensuring equal rights for women was the next step. Those rights are as fundamental to our democracy as the right to vote.

The ERA came close to becoming law in the 1970s when it was overwhelmingly approved by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. It failed to be ratified by three of the required 38 states. At that time, 35 years ago, the open opposition to the ERA focused on marriage and divorce law, same-sex marriage, women in combat, abortion and shared bathrooms.

In the intervening years, most of these issues have been resolved in the courts, where they belong. More concealed opposition came from some influential business lobbying. For example, until the Affordable Care Act, women had been paying higher insurance premiums without cause. Women continue to be paid lower wages than men for equal work. Those inequalities remain. Is the outdated fear of the social change that has already happened worth denying women the respect of being included in the Constitution?

Equal rights for women have been held hostage by the past. Efforts are underway in most states across the nation to bring this basic issue of American democracy to the attention of the public once again. The ERA is not dead, but it is still unratified. This is a national disgrace. We do not have those rights, and we need them.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/13/maine-voices-equal-rights-for-u-s-women-have-been-held-hostage-by-the-past/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/11/1286673_National_Womens_Party_pick.jpgSuffragists picket the White House in 1917. Their years of protest and pressure paid off in 1920, when women were granted the right to vote – the only right explicitly granted to women in the U.S. Constitution.Tue, 14 Nov 2017 11:00:01 +0000
Another View: Flake’s speech, like Smith’s, should inspire colleagues http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/12/another-view-flakes-speech-like-smiths-should-inspire-colleagues/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/12/another-view-flakes-speech-like-smiths-should-inspire-colleagues/#respond Sun, 12 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1285905 Re: “Commentary: Flake’s Senate floor speech rekindles memories of Margaret Chase Smith” (Oct. 28):

Although only a few Republicans muttered comments of support for Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s declaration of conscience speech about President Trump and “the Republican leadership largely looked the other way,” his action throws down the gauntlet for others to consider their stand.

Maine Republican Sen. Margaret Chase Smith’s declaration of conscience speech in 1950 was more than just “a piece of stirring rhetoric” by a senator “speaking through a petticoat,” in the words of Republican Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy. She eventually became an icon for all who prize decency and morality in government.

It took some years for others to arrive at her judgment about McCarthy’s immorality. History has not been kind to McCarthy. An English newspaper wrote of him, “America was the cleaner by his fall.”

We remain in a situation where “everybody feels the evil, but no one has courage or energy enough to seek the cure,” as the political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1838 in “Democracy in Action.” The rising chorus of women empowered to speak out publicly to unmask male predators and abusers in elective office and the media gives some hope that our collective moral edge is being sharpened.

Despite the degrading and dangerous behavior of President Trump, there has yet been no call to remove him. The faux appearance of unity and support for Trump displayed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cannot conceal the fact that their moral position is precisely identical in every respect: that is, it doesn’t exist. It is two dogs fighting for the same bone of a once-grand old party. Republicans of strong conscience may yet “seek the cure.”

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Trump takes away chance for Americans to get a Cuban education http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/12/maine-voices-americans-will-get-a-cuban-education/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/12/maine-voices-americans-will-get-a-cuban-education/#respond Sun, 12 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1285922 Sitting in a rocking chair on a porch the color of Pepto-Bismol, I listened as my Cuban host, Mary, told me about her life.

Mary had grown up in Viñales and never left; now a grandmother, her granddaughter sat on the ground near us, rolling a toy car around her in circles. It felt like the first time in years I’d seen a kid without an ipad screen absorbing their attention.

This was how I traveled through Cuba, casually hopping from town to town, sharing taxis that I picked up outside of the local bus stops, knocking on doors of houses that displayed the small blue triangle out front signifying that they would rent rooms to travelers.

It felt intimate, staying with these families, all of them with children, some with grandchildren that would tumble through at unexpected times. The opportunity to share space with the people who lived there – the real Cubans, the ones with individual desires, strong opinions, and a history with their island nation – gave me the best education I could have hoped for.

Last week, President Trump reversed the ability for Americans to travel to Cuba individually, an opportunity that had been granted to us only last year, after over six decades of icy relations between the two countries. It is still possible to visit with a structured group, one that will ensure that you have no free time, spend your money in specific places, and stay in designated locations. Somehow, this is supposed to be about insuring that American money doesn’t go to support the Cuban military or the Castro regime – though in reality, this move will only hurt people like the host families that supplemented their small monthly salary by opening their homes to travelers, the guides who take visitors to see the sights, and the local farmers who pulled their produce and eggs down the street every day in a small wooden cart.

My trip to Cuba occurred in December 2016, just as direct flights became available and visas were simple to obtain. Most Cubans I met were still surprised when I explained to them that I was American, but all were warm and welcoming. Many of them praised President Obama and expressed enthusiasm over the thawing of relations between our countries, which geographically are a mere 103 miles apart – a distance short enough that American swimmer Diana Nyad made the water crossing in one go. It is possible to literally swim from Florida to Cuba.

And yet, since the Cuban Revolution in 1959, in which the people around the island nation revolted against the corrupt Batista dictatorship, the United States has enforced an embargo which has crippled their economy and caused an enormous amount of suffering. No rationale can justify the economic embargo, and the United Nations has proclaimed it against international law and the U.N. Charter every single year for the last 25 years.

I do not claim to be an expert on Cuban history or politics, but I do know this: that during my three weeks in Cuba, I never once saw a homeless person. When I explained to Cubans how remarkable this was, coming from the San Francisco Bay Area where thousands of people sleep in the street, they didn’t believe me at first. “Are they immigrants?” they’d ask.

“No, they are Americans. Many of them are veterans, some of them are women and children.”

This information did not seem to match up with what they expected of the glamorous San Francisco. And this, itself, is the beauty of travel, the real reason why I uproot myself from my home and my warm and comfortable bed in order to go on these trips – because for a brief moment in time, I can have a window into another person’s reality, and the more windows I look through, the clearer my own reality becomes.

I now know that Cubans are, more or less, just like Americans.

They want to see their economy grow so that more people have opportunities for work, they want to see their children be happy and healthy, and they are both fiercely proud of their revolutionary history and critical of many things their government does. Cubans and Americans have so much in common, and are close enough to swim to each other. We were finally entering a time in history where people would be able to see this for themselves, but now we have one man standing in our way.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/12/maine-voices-americans-will-get-a-cuban-education/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/11/1285922_cuba_ready_for_tourists___5.jpgOld American cars used as collective taxis traverse a street in Havana. New restrictions on American travel to Cuba will hurt host families, guides and local farmers. Mon, 13 Nov 2017 12:55:06 +0000
Cynthia Dill: Dunlap can sue, but election commission was always a sham http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/12/cynthia-dill-dunlap-can-sue-but-election-commission-was-always-sham/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/12/cynthia-dill-dunlap-can-sue-but-election-commission-was-always-sham/#respond Sun, 12 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1285940 The federal lawsuit brought by Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap demanding prompt communication from and meaningful participation on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity – which is studying nothing, in order to give advice to President Trump, who will ignore it – expends a lot of taxpayer money and judicial resources, but at least it’s deductible.

“Voter fraud” is not a real thing, but like a Pet Rock it has become a commercial success. The political issue harkens back to Jim Crow-era literacy tests and poll taxes, but the latest voter-suppression push is relatively recent. Republicans work to disenfranchise an important chunk of the Democratic voting base – minorities and young and low-income people – by making it harder for them to vote. They do this by passing laws that restrict voting registration times and polling places and require government-sponsored identification, among other means.

All over the country Republican legislators sponsor bills backed by special interest groups to restrict voting, and Democrats and other interest groups fight them. Maine’s same-day voter registration referendum was fought and defended along partisan lines. The battle is over winning elections – nothing more.

Matt Dunlap knows that voter fraud is not a real thing. A Maine panel appointed by his Republican predecessor studied it and reached that conclusion, consistent with every other reliable analysis.

President Trump does not take advice nor is he an evidence-based kind of guy. As long as something is on Twitter, gets votes or makes money, it’s real. The president gins up his base with fear mongering about voter fraud and made a splash when he chose as the commission’s vice chair a leading Republican proponent of voter-restriction laws: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is now running for governor on a voter-restriction platform.

The Commission on Election Integrity has been widely deemed dysfunctional and a sham, thanks in part to its multiple public records requests and the shameless use of its “work” to promote Kobach’s run for governor. A commission staffer was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography, and 15 states have refused to provide information allegedly needed by the commission to fulfill its duty “to study the registration and voting process used in federal elections.” An email written by commission member Hans von Spakovsky says plainly that with Democrats or mainstream Republicans on the commission, it will be impossible to find voter fraud. He’s right.

The one official act of the commission was a letter sent to all 50 states – seeking voters’ names, addresses, dates of birth, party affiliation, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and their voting history back to 2006 – and it has held two meetings. The commission has been marred by multiple lawsuits, document requests and controversies. On the advice of Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, who cited privacy concerns, Dunlap as secretary of state refused to comply with the commission’s request. Maine has been joined by over a dozen other states that are still refusing to comply with the commission’s information request, which is why last week’s lawsuit is peculiar.

Having not been presented with a legitimate concern about voter fraud or more data to study it, Dunlap sued 10 separate entities in federal court claiming “irreparable harm” because less than two months after requesting “information or updates” about the phony issue – from a phony commission, which is embroiled in litigation and to which Dunlap has refused to turn over information – he hasn’t received it.

How does he sleep at night without the “information or updates”? Emergency! Dunlap needs “material gathered or received by individual commission members, either as part of their own research or sent to them by third parties, but not shared with other commission members of staff,” among the many categories of materials denied him, according to his complaint.

The lawsuit will likely show that Dunlap “has received no communications regarding the substantive work of the commission” because no substantive work has been performed. The panel is too busy defending itself in lawsuits. The public is stuck with the tab for litigating which came first, the chicken or the egg.

Luckily, Dunlap is represented by, among others, American Oversight – a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, according to its website. Get a tax deduction litigating whether Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has an enforceable legal right to meaningful participation on a meaningless commission.

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

dillesquire@gmail.com

Twitter: @dillesquire

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/11/12/cynthia-dill-dunlap-can-sue-but-election-commission-was-always-sham/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/02/20150928cynthiadill0032-e1456164666846.jpgPORTLAND, ME - SEPTEMBER 28: Cynthia Dill, a new columnist, was photographed on Monday, September 28, 2015. (Photo by Yoon S. Byun/Staff Photographer)Fri, 10 Nov 2017 19:46:50 +0000