The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Opinion http://www.pressherald.com Wed, 04 May 2016 13:56:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.3 Leonard Pitts: When social change presents quandary, choose reflection over fear-mongering http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/leonard-pitts-when-social-change-presents-quandary-choose-reflection-over-fear-mongering/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/leonard-pitts-when-social-change-presents-quandary-choose-reflection-over-fear-mongering/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 10:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=864281 Our question for today: What is the proper etiquette when confronted with an unexpected penis?

That’s from Roz, a Baltimore-area reader who emailed me a few days ago. Roz describes herself as a left-wing progressive, a “long-time supporter of gay rights,” a feminist and a Democrat who worked for President Obama’s election.

But Roz is concerned about transgender people in the bathroom – more accurately, the locker room. “I am all for trans people having equal rights,” she writes, “but what about when they collide with non-trans people’s privacy?”‘

Roz’s question grows from an experience years ago at a spiritual retreat in California; she says she “freaked out” when a naked guy appeared in the group shower. “I was raised in the ’50s to think I am not supposed to expose my naked body to strangers of the opposite sex,” writes Roz, who says she swims three times a week for exercise and walks through the women’s locker room in the buff.

“I have no problem with trans people of whatever biology or stage of transition in bathroom stalls” she says, “but what about locker rooms where nudity is normal? I would be very uncomfortable if I was unclothed and someone two feet away from me took off their clothes and a penis appeared.”

Roz wants to know if she is prejudiced and needs to “get over this,” or whether it is fair to ask trans people to make accommodations in common areas where it is normal for people to walk around starkers.

I think it’s a good question. Wish I had a good answer, but I don’t. I toss the question out in hopes someone more qualified than I will offer some insight. If anything of interest comes through, I’ll share it.

Meantime, Roz’s email offers a valuable primer in the way thoughtful people confront the inevitable quandaries and conundrums raised by social change. They question conscience, they search soul, they struggle to find the answer that best respects the needs and dignity of all involved.

Her example stands in sharp contrast to those being offered in North Carolina and elsewhere, where laws and rules are being pondered and passed in a panicky haste to restrict transgender people to the restroom corresponding with their birth gender. This, we are told, is necessary to prevent sexual molestation of children in public facilities.

Which is, of course, nothing more than a new iteration of the old canard about lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people as sexual predators. You will notice that nobody is contemplating new laws to protect children from Dennis Hastert.

That’s because protecting children is not the point. The exploitation and manipulation of fear is.

Increasingly, this is what our lawmakers do. How many times have you seen laws promulgated to address things that never happen?

Remember California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bid for a constitutional amendment to outlaw flag burning? Remember when Oklahoma tried to amend its constitution to stop the use of Sharia law?

These bathroom bans, then, are of a piece with the new American ethos. Home of the brave?

Try fiefdom of fear. And not even fear of stuff that might happen. No, fear of stuff that never will.

For many Americans, fear is the reflexive response to social change. They are threatened by what is outside their experience, by whatever is new, or different, or odd. And too often, those fears get enshrined into law by pandering legislators, building walls to restrict what they don’t even try to understand.

Roz’s email is a timely reminder that a person can choose to be better than that. She can challenge herself, grapple the fears to which other people surrender. She can reject the false security of walls.

And maybe even build a few bridges instead.

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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Greg Kesich: Backing away from vote, Timmons, cohorts show no backbone http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/backing-away-from-vote-timmons-cohorts-show-no-backbone/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/backing-away-from-vote-timmons-cohorts-show-no-backbone/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=864440 In a couple of weeks the John F. Kennedy Library will announce this year’s Profiles in Courage award, honoring a public official for standing up to political pressure.

They won’t release the winner’s name until May 29, but we can be pretty sure who’s not getting it: (spoiler alert) Mike Timmons.

That’s because the Republican House member from Cumberland and four colleagues ended the Legislative session last week by “taking a walk” (more like hiding in an office) to avoid voting to override a veto of a bill that they had previously backed.

Without them, the bill – LD1649, a modernization of the state’s solar power market – failed to get the two-thirds support it needed to become law over the governor’s objection, wasting an opportunity to create jobs and provide a predictable framework for millions of dollars in private investments.

So much of what goes on in the Legislature is invisible to the public. It’s all about process and rules and “yes” can mean either “yes” or “no,”depending on how the question is asked. Legislators make thousands of votes and most of the time there is no way of knowing what influenced them.

But votes like this shine a bright light on how things work. When lawmakers vote to pass a bill and then vote to uphold the governor when he vetos it, it’s pretty clear what’s going on – they are more afraid of dissappointing him than they are about letting down the people back home. And when they purposely hide out rather than vote at all, it means that they don’t want the people back home to know about it

Timmons’ walking partners were Kathleen Dillingham of Oxford, Mary Anne Kinney of Knox, John Pichiotti of Fairfield and Brian Hobart of Bowdoinham. A sixth member, Timothy Theriault of China, joined the walkers after reportedly giving the bill’s supporters the impression that he would reverse his previous “no” vote.

None of the members who hid in the House Republican office during the crucial second override vote was particularly courageous, but Timmons deserves special recognition because he has been here before: A year ago he voted to sustain a veto of a bill that would have forced the release of land conservation bonds that included key financing for two projects in his district. These projects were overwhelmingly supported by his constituents, and the bill had been backed by Timmons himself – until it came back vetoed. Then he changed his vote.

Last July he went home for a blistering session at the Cumberland Town Council, where he squirmed before a panel of councilors, who let him know about how they felt about him turning his back on them.

“You knew it was going to kill our (land) trust, it was going to kill the money for Knight’s Pond, it was going to kill (funding) for Wormell’s (farm),” Town Councilor Michael Edes told Timmons. “The people from the town of Cumberland want these projects. To think that my representative, and the person representing Cumberland, deep-sixed this thing, submarined it … we needed your vote.”

You would think that any legislator who had an experience like that would want to avoid a repeat, but Timmons must find the governor very persuasive.

The solar bill was the product of a six-month collaborative process, in which utilities, solar installers, environmental groups and the state’s public advocate devised a system that would quickly expand solar power in Maine in a way that would not be a burden to nonsolar rate payers. It was exactly the kind of government most people say they want – various interests working together to find common ground.

Then Gov. LePage put on his full-court press.Now what happens?

The LePage-appointed Public Utilities Commission will take over a review of solar power policy, which could take the rest of the year, chilling most solar investment in 2016.

If, as some suspect, the PUC drastically cuts the rate that utilities pay solar customers for the power they supply to the grid, it would threaten to kill off what’s left of the state’s solar industry.

Then we can expect an all-or-nothing referendum in the next year or two that would sweeten the deal for people who want solar panels on their roofs. It won’t be a compromise like the 2016 solar bill, but why would anyone want to compromise in this political environment?

To do that kind of governing, you need something that’s been missing in Augusta, and the six House members who “took a walk” show what it is – the courage to stand up to LePage.

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Another View: Ruling supporting free speech a victory for nonprofit donors http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/another-view-ruling-supporting-free-speech-a-victory-for-nonprofit-donors/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/another-view-ruling-supporting-free-speech-a-victory-for-nonprofit-donors/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=864488 Free speech is crucial to our democracy. And after explicitly backing candidates or initiatives, essential to free speech is financial privacy. It’s good to know, for example, who is giving money to a political candidate because politicians have direct control over our lives. But if nonprofit groups and foundations cannot keep donor lists secret, then the donors can be harassed into ending their gifts, silencing the groups’ work.

That’s why we cheer federal Judge Manuel Real’s decision last month to keep secret the donor lists of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. In order to solicit donations in the state, California Attorney General Kamala Harris demands that nonprofits reveal donor names, claiming that the so-called Schedule B forms are needed to look for violations of state law.

Real replied, “Over the course of trial, the Attorney General was hard pressed to find a single witness who could corroborate the necessity of Schedule B forms in conjunction with their office’s investigations.”

Harris said the forms would be kept private. But the judge found that the attorney general has failed to keep the lists confidential.

Harris has been investigating ExxonMobil on whether it “lied to the public and shareholders about the risks of climate change, and whether the company’s statements over the years constitute violations of securities laws,” as The New York Times reported. But the oil giant also has free speech rights and can express itself as it wishes.

Now that Harris, who is running for the U.S. Senate, has been chastened over Schedule B disclosure, we urge her to drop her probe of ExxonMobil. As Thomas Jefferson said, “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”

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Our View: Rise in child shootings should provoke action http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/our-view-rise-in-child-shootings-should-provoke-action/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/our-view-rise-in-child-shootings-should-provoke-action/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=864581 Twenty-three times so far this year, according to The Washington Post, a child age 3 or younger has found and fired a gun. In 11 of these shootings, somebody – usually the child – was killed. Incidents like these are shocking, tragic and largely preventable. But that means fully, and finally, committing ourselves to policies and technology that help keep firearms out of kids’ hands.

The figures presented by the Post on May 1 show an acceleration in the pace of toddler shootings. However, they’re just a small part of the gun violence involving children in our country. In 2015, at least 265 people in the U.S. were unintentionally shot by children under 18. Eighty-three died, including 41 of the children who carried out the accidental shootings.

There are proven ways to stanch this epidemic. For example: Twenty-eight states have child access prevention laws, which, to varying degrees, hold gun owners liable if a child accesses their firearms. Over 800 injuries were prevented and $37 million in medical costs were saved in 2001 in 10 of the states that have these laws, according to a 2005 study for the National Bureau for Economic Research.

On the technical side, guns are now being designed with features that prevent the wrong person from pulling the trigger, such as biometric sensors (like fingerprint readers) and “James Bond”-style grip recognition. One such “smart gun,” the iP1, requires the single authorized user to enter a five-digit PIN into a special watch before firing. (The code is good for eight hours at a time.)

But the company that makes the iP1 hasn’t been able to sell it because of boycott pressure from the National Rifle Association and its allies. Invoking fears that mandating gun-safety technology will pave the way for greater gun control, gun-rights advocates have also come out against a recently announced White House plan to use federal funds to help develop smart guns and to subsidize their purchase by police agencies.

President Obama should focus on fighting terrorism, an NRA spokeswoman declared after the president’s announcement last week. But the threat that militants present to Americans must be put into context. Twenty Americans died at the hands of potential or suspected terrorists in Paris, San Bernardino, California, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2015. Accidental shootings by children, on the other hand, took over four times as many American lives last year.

When it comes to protecting children versus protecting rapid access to guns, our priorities should be clear. Most Americans want safer firearms – just as they support policies to require that guns be stored out of children’s reach. It’s time for this silent majority to speak up and demand action.

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Maine Voices: Forward-thinking policies put Portland on the path to end homelessness http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/maine-voices-forward-thinking-policies-put-portland-on-the-path-to-end-homelessness/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/maine-voices-forward-thinking-policies-put-portland-on-the-path-to-end-homelessness/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=864275 Portland City Manager Jon Jennings has proposed that housing developers using city funds agree to set aside 10 percent of units in resulting developments to house people who have been languishing in city homeless shelters.

I think it is a brilliant strategy.

When placing people in its properties both in and out of Portland, Community Housing of Maine has gone out of its way to seek and house those who have been homeless the longest – and the results have been nothing short of amazing. The city’s staff have done an outstanding job referring tenants who turned out to be a good match for each property, and have provided more-than-adequate support services to ensure the success of each resident.

The most compelling result is the transformation of the individuals served. When people were moved directly from years and often decades of homelessness right into housing, they changed in front of our eyes.

Three years later, a gentleman who had been homeless for at least 16 years before moving in looks significantly younger already. Instead of drinking on the streets, he is perfecting his hobby of cooking, and makes a regular habit of watching cooking shows with his neighbor, who also came from long-term homelessness. When you stop in to visit him unannounced, there is no sign of alcohol – just a calm, kind, amicable, pleasant individual, now with a short haircut and a nice, neat apartment (with cooking programs on).

In one 30-unit Portland property for people aged 55 and older, Community Housing has housed 24 “long-term stayers” so far. Ten percent would be three people; Community Housing has certainly exceeded that.

Though the property has been open only three years, seven people have died from within this population: evidence of long-term stress and the 25 years of extra physiological age borne by people who endure chronic homelessness. A number of people have moved successfully to other apartments, and 14 people have stayed.

These are all success stories. Even those residents of this building who died did so with the dignity and peace that come with having a home. Not a single person returned to the homeless shelter, and by all accounts, the building is a calm, quiet and pleasant place to live.

How could this be? It has to do with the underlying causes of long-term homelessness. People with serious and persistent mental illness are often psychotic when homeless. This is not surprising: The incidence of psychosis increases with stress, and chronic homelessness is arguably the most stressful situation one can experience (hence, 55-year-olds present like 80-year-olds). But housing nearly erases that stress. And along with that, the incidence of psychosis diminishes.

People do well because, for this population, housing is health care. It doesn’t do it all, but it sets that stage for success in the community. The rest is a combination of adequate support, and individuals doing their part to be reasonable in the housing – which they do, time and time again.

Portland is on track to be among the first places in the country to end chronic homelessness; we can get there within a year with forward-thinking policies like this. Community collaboration will ensure we will achieve success.

Almost exactly a year ago, nine community organizations came together to help the city solve overcrowding at the Oxford Street Shelter. The goal was to house the people staying the longest. City staff have done much of the heavy lifting, building relationships with sometimes very distrustful people entrenched in homelessness and helping them move into housing.

But the other organizations – including Community Housing, Shalom House, the Frannie Peabody Center, the Milestone Foundation, The Opportunity Alliance, Preble Street, Catholic Charities, Amistad and the Department of Veterans Affairs – have all played significant roles in housing people and keeping them housed with effective support services.

This scattered-site, housing-first model has an 85 to 90 percent success rate across the country. The city’s housing-first placements – 68 in the last year – have done even better, evidence that their support is effective. Out of the 68 placements, they have had only four returns. This is working.

Portland’s city manager is saying, in effect, “Please, let’s do more of this,” and I agree.

There are fewer than 50 people left in the shelter who have been there long-term. It is a disservice to keep anyone in homelessness – it is a major system failure.

I applaud City Manager Jennings’ stance. With everyone lifting, we can easily end chronic homelessness in Maine. Let’s house them all – one at a time. Portland will be better for it.

— Special to the Press Herald

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Charles Lawton: Going beyond Portland to understand 4 regions key to state growth http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/03/charles-lawton-beyond-portland-understanding-4-regions-key-to-state-growth/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/03/charles-lawton-beyond-portland-understanding-4-regions-key-to-state-growth/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=862463 Whenever I, or anyone else, use the phrase “the two Maines,” there follow two immediate responses. The first is: “Well, everything south of Portland is just northern Massachusetts anyway.” The second is: “What a terrible disservice to all the unique places in ‘the rest of Maine’!”

With that in mind, and with full knowledge that no amount of evidence is ever a match for any individual’s sense of terminal uniqueness, I have been led again to consider two questions that have long bedeviled Maine policymakers:

 Short of dealing with each of the nearly 500 municipalities in Maine, what grouping makes sense for trying to design and successfully implement development policies?

What are the key commonalities and distinct differences that make any combination of villages, towns, cities and counties similar to each other and distinct from other regions?

Setting aside the Portland metropolitan area (York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties), the “rest of Maine” can usefully be thought of as four regions organized around rivers, the ocean and the Canadian border.

The first (in the sense simply of geographic sequence) is the midcoast region (Lincoln, Knox, Waldo and Hancock counties); the second is the Androscoggin region (Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties); the third is the Kennebec region (Kennebec, Somerset and Piscataquis counties); and the fourth is the eastern region (Penobscot, Washington and Aroostook counties).

Each of these regions is bound together by a pre-20th century, water-based transportation spine (often later mirrored by a highway) and a downriver or coastal urban hub. Each also has an upriver, inland or seaward periphery that is forest-, agricultural- or fishing-based and from which, over the past two centuries, industrialization has come and, over the last 30 years, largely departed.

Analyzed according to the simple metric of employment growth between 2010 (the end of the Great Recession) and 2015, the regions exhibit a clear pattern relative to distance from the south.

For the Portland area, total employment growth over the five-year period was 3 percent; for the midcoast region, it was 2.3 percent; for the Androscoggin region, it was just above 1 percent; for the Kennebec region, just below 1 percent, and for the eastern region, it was minus 1.7 percent.

And like Russian nesting dolls, each of these regions exhibits a pattern of declining employment growth that similarly mirrors the distance from its urban center. In the Androscoggin region, for example, five-year rates of employment growth go from 3.6 percent in Androscoggin County to 2.2 percent in Oxford County to minus 2.8 percent in Franklin County.

In the Kennebec region, the employment growth rate was 2.5 percent in Kennebec County, 0.8 percent in Somerset County and minus 0.2 percent in Piscataquis County. The Penobscot-Washington-Aroostook cascade is, respectively, 1.7 percent to minus 2.2 percent to minus 4.5 percent.

Similarly cascading declines are true for total retail sales and for the subset associated with the tourism and hospitality sector: lodging, restaurant and “other merchandise” sales (meaning non-department store, non-big box and specialty stores).

Looking at these patterns, the question naturally arises, “Does geography, then, equal destiny?” Is the effort to replace the rapidly disappearing rural manufacturing base futile?

Will employment simply flow down from the mountains and streams to downriver urban centers and out to sea like so much water following the dictates of natural laws it doesn’t understand? Or is there some strategic action we might take to interrupt this flow, to dam it up (so to speak) and use it to generate new forms of economic activity within each region?

The answer seems to me to lie in picking our battles, in resisting the urge to spread scarce investment dollars evenly all over, trying to solve every little problem. We will be better served by focusing on the urban centers in each region and making them more internally sustainable (and thereby more useful to their peripheries).

The investments along Bangor’s waterfront have paid significant dividends. Tourism sales are up 12 percent over the last five years in Penobscot County, compared to growth of 6 percent in Washington County and a drop of 3 percent in Aroostook County. The growth of Athena Health in Belfast has had significant effects throughout Waldo County. The expansions of The Jackson Laboratory in Ellsworth and Collaborative Consulting in Waterville promise similarly broad benefits throughout, respectively, Hancock and Kennebec counties.

Economic growth is less analogous to the field-by-field, seed-by-seed expansion of crop agriculture than to the spread of strawberries, where a strong plant sends out runners in search of the most fertile location in all directions. Somewhere one runner finds a good spot, sinks roots and a strong new plant arises, often far from its origins. We need to prepare our soil and welcome the runners around us.

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

clawton@planningdecisions.com

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Kathleen Parker: Trump’s derogatory words against women condemn him as a candidate http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/03/kathleen-parker-trumps-derogatory-words-against-women-condemn-him-as-a-candidate/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/03/kathleen-parker-trumps-derogatory-words-against-women-condemn-him-as-a-candidate/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=862469 One of the most effective political ads of the season features women repeating the many derogatory statements Donald Trump has made about the fairer sex.

No editorial comment is needed when a candidate’s own words stand alone to expose his flaws, and thus to condemn him.

Just ask Mitt Romney, whose 47 percent remark effectively ended his presidential aspirations. Saying that he wasn’t worried about the 47 percent of people who are on some form of welfare was perceived as exposing a lack of compassion for the poor. His ruin on that account may not have been fair, but it was enough.

Trump, by contrast, can say nearly anything and escape judgment from a majority of Republican primary voters. Hearing him refer to women as “bimbo,” “dog” or “fat pig” has left him sufficiently unscathed.

Moreover, Republicans rarely suffer for criticizing Hillary Clinton. “Hating Hillary” is a chronic obsession on the right, especially among men for whom Trump spoke when he recently told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough that it was too early in the morning for him to listen to Clinton’s “shouting.”

There’s no denying that a woman’s raised voice is every man’s nightmare – for so many obvious reasons. For similarly obvious reasons, it is never politic for a man to point this out.

Unless it seems, you’re Trump.

He and Scarborough were chatting about Trump’s recent comment that all Clinton had going for her was the female vote and accused her of playing the “woman’s card.” Just being a woman apparently is playing this card in Trump’s world.

Despite the daunting competition, nothing else Trump has said has been further from the truth. That is, until he said it. In no time, Clinton’s campaign was offering a pink, credit card-sized “Woman Card” to online donors. Trump also provided Clinton the sort of touché moment atheists pray for:

“Well, if fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in,” she said in an impassioned voice. (Trump-lator: Screeching like a wounded owl.)

Adding confetti and champagne to his gift, Trump went on: “And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. … And the beautiful thing is that women don’t like her, OK?”

Oh, thank you, roared the columnist from her bunker. Do we hear a hallelujah? Hallelujah!

Thus heralding the obvious question: What if Trump were a woman? Imagine a Donna Trump running as a Republican who:

n Got her start with more than $1 million from her father’s business, parlayed into billions via four bankruptcies and various business failures.

n Wouldn’t disclose tax returns and donated to many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton.

n Ran a university wracked by allegations of fraud.

n Imported two of her three husbands from overseas, one of them on a “model” visa, and dumped the second husband days before their prenuptial agreement could hurt her wallet.

n Said that if abortion were illegal, women who had abortions should be punished.

n Knew nothing about foreign policy or even how to pronounce the names of countries.

n Routinely cursed, called people names, demonized her opponents, Mexicans, Muslims and others, and called men “dogs,” “morons” and “fat slobs.”

If Trump were a woman, not only would he not get 5 percent of the vote, he’d be tarred, feathered, branded and ridden out of town backward on a donkey. Voters male and female would recognize immediately that such a woman was inappropriate, lacking in quality and character – and utterly unqualified to be president of the United States.

The only thing Trump’s got going for him, one’s tempted to say, is the men’s vote, which is no way to deflect accusations of a Republican war on women. But as Trump himself would assert, at least he’s keeping it classy.

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

kathleenparker@washpost.com

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Maine Voices: Legislators score a victory for those at risk of overdose and those who love them http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/03/maine-voices-maine-lawmakers-score-a-victory-for-a-woman-named-cheryl/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/03/maine-voices-maine-lawmakers-score-a-victory-for-a-woman-named-cheryl/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=862508 Last Friday was a victory for a woman named Cheryl.

On Jan. 6, 2010, Cheryl died of an opioid overdose on her kitchen floor. She was 52.

Last Friday, 161 Maine lawmakers – Democrats, Republicans and independents – joined together to tell our governor that Cheryl was not an addict, but a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister, a neighbor and a friend who happened to have suffered from a disease called addiction.

They told him she was a small-business owner who started her own nail salon, a volunteer at her church, a gourmet chef who loved to entertain and an animal lover who found joy in walking her dogs, even when she barely felt like getting out of bed. They told our governor that she had value, that her life was worth saving. They told him how much she still loved the world, and that she still meant the world to the people who loved her.

I wonder every day what more my family could have done to save my mother’s life. What if someone had checked on her 30 minutes sooner? What if my dad had quit his job to care for her? What if we’d had a supply of Narcan in the house?

And ever since Gov. LePage vetoed a legislative proposal to make Narcan easier to obtain, I’ve spent every day wondering how the governor of a state – a man who was elected to represent 1.3 million human beings – could suggest that my mother should have been left to die, as Narcan only would have extended her life “until the next overdose.”

It doesn’t matter that my mother lived in Texas instead of Maine, because it would be ridiculous to suggest that where you live determines the value of your life. Nor does it matter that she died from prescription painkillers rather than heroin, because it would be ridiculous to suggest that the form that your addiction takes has any bearing on your worth as a person.

So, too, it would be ridiculous to suggest that my mother’s life was somehow worth more than that of someone who fits the “junkie” stereotype the governor is so fond of disparaging. Dying at home with a bottle of pills by your side is no different than dying under a bridge with a needle in your arm.

We should do something about the opioid epidemic not because it’s affecting suburban middle-class white women who don’t conform to the clichés we associate with heroin addicts. We should do something about the opioid epidemic because no human life is disposable, and because we are all fundamentally the same.

I don’t think of last Friday’s vote as a victory for my political party, as people of every political party struggle with addiction. Rather, it was a victory for my mother. It was a victory for every one of us who loves someone at risk of overdose. It was a victory for our state. And it was a victory for humanity.

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Our View: Riverview Psychiatric Center gets right man for turnaround http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/03/our-view-riverview-gets-right-man-for-turnaround-effort/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/03/our-view-riverview-gets-right-man-for-turnaround-effort/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=862628 Rodney Bouffard, a special education teacher by training, has become a turnaround expert of sorts for some of Maine’s most troubled institutions.

After overseeing the closure of the Pineland Center in New Gloucester, a state-run home for the developmentally disabled that was beset by dysfunction, Bouffard became superintendent of the Augusta Mental Health Institute and helped forestall a federal investigation, getting the psychiatric hospital in line as it wound down toward its eventual closure.

Then he led the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland as it addressed allegations of abuse and became a model juvenile corrections facility.

Those experiences make him the right person for his new job: superintendent of Riverview Psychiatric Center, AMHI’s successor, where low staff morale and a nearly three-year fight for federal recertification have hindered the hospital’s ability to deliver care.

It won’t take long to find out if the confidence in Bouffard is warranted.

Just a few days into his tenure, Bouffard is confident that he can fix almost immediately what is Riverview’s foundational problem – staffing shortages that have run direct-care workers to the bone in the last year-plus, threatening worker safety and making clinical gains more difficult.

As of late January, nearly one-third of nursing positions and one-tenth of mental health worker positions were empty, about one-seventh of all positions at the hospital.

As a result, Riverview staff endured more than 2,000 hours of overtime a month over the last year, much of it mandated and handed out at the last minute, forcing workers to extend shifts without notice.

The situation has left nurses and mental health workers tired and frustrated. Many have left Riverview for better pay and hours, and the ones still there are struggling to do their jobs in a difficult atmosphere.

Bouffard will have some help on that end, as lawmakers last week approved, over a veto by Gov. LePage, a bill to provide raises to nurses and mental health workers at Riverview and Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Hospital in Bangor, making the pay in those positions more competitive with other employers.

These workers are on the front lines at the hospital, providing day-to-day, face-to-face interactions with patients in desperate need of good, attentive care. There is no fixing Riverview without first fixing the staffing problems, and Bouffard knows it.

“That hospital is only going to be as good as the people who essentially are interacting with the patients, so if (the workers) can plan on whatever their day is going to be, they’re going to be a lot happier,” Bouffard told the Kennebec Journal. “My sense is if I can resolve that, get a little more infrastructure on the units, I think we can really be moving the place in the right direction.”

The staffing shortage can be solved in four to six weeks, he said, setting the stage for other improvements. If so, it’s a good shot that Riverview will be another successful turnaround for Bouffard.

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Another View: Sentence recognizes true victims of Dennis Hastert’s betrayal of trust http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/03/another-view-sentence-recognizes-true-victims-of-hasterts-betrayal-of-trust/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/03/another-view-sentence-recognizes-true-victims-of-hasterts-betrayal-of-trust/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=862718 A federal judge sentenced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert to 15 months in prison, more than prosecutors had recommended. The judge apparently was unmoved by Hastert’s poor health, his courtroom appearance in a wheelchair and pleas from the likes of ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who wrote the court, “He doesn’t deserve what he is going through.”

We say: Good for the judge.

Hastert is not the victim here. The victims are the men who, as teenage boys, were sexually abused by Hastert when he coached their wrestling team in Yorkville, Illinois, decades ago.

“A serial child molester,” said U.S. District Court Judge Thomas M. Durkin last week. Hastert, 74, had pleaded guilty to a banking violation, not sexual abuse, but his aim in illegally structuring bank transactions was to cover up his predatory behavior. Hastert falsely told investigators that one victim – to whom he was voluntarily paying money as recompense for pain and suffering – was extorting money from him.

That Hastert’s molestation of multiple victims was uncovered almost by happenstance points to the difficulties in detecting these crimes. One victim, before his death, told his sister he had never said anything because he didn’t think he would be believed.

Hastert has now admitted to the sexual abuse, but he can’t be criminally or civilly held liable, which underscores the need to change laws that give victims and prosecutors too short a time in which to seek redress. Defenders of restrictive laws argue the need to protect people against latent claims, but that’s why we have juries. As Judge Durkin said, “Some conduct is unforgivable no matter how old it is.”

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Our View: Hiking Maine’s minimum wage could narrow enforcement gap http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/02/our-view-hiking-maines-minimum-wage-could-narrow-enforcement-gap/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/02/our-view-hiking-maines-minimum-wage-could-narrow-enforcement-gap/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=860255 A $10.10-an-hour minimum wage has been in place in Portland since January, but it’s unclear whether workers are actually getting all the money they’ve earned. That’s because enforcement depends on employees coming forward and reporting wage violations. And many workers fear retaliation if they speak up.

Exact figures on the extent of wage-law compliance and violations are hard to come by. But the annual loss to workers totals in the hundreds of millions, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The left-leaning think tank based its estimate on the total amount of money recovered for employees who retained private lawyers or complained to federal or state agencies in 2012.

When Portland joined the growing number of U.S. cities and counties that have raised local base pay above state minimums, it also took over the responsibility of enforcing the new ordinance.

Like many other small cities with legislated higher wages, Portland’s enforcement model calls on underpaid workers to turn in their employers. Elsewhere, violations are uncovered in court – like SeaTac, Washington, where over a dozen class actions have been filed since its wage ordinance took effect in 2014.

Of course, many workers who’ve been shortchanged never sue or contact the government. They don’t have the time or the money, or they’re worried that they’ll lose their job, have their hours cut or be demoted for whistleblowing.

This could change if Maine voters were to pass the $12 minimum that’s on November’s statewide ballot. Unlike Portland, the Maine Department of Labor has designated staff to handle investigations of minimum-wage complaints.

And researchers have identified best practices that governments can adopt to ensure that workers get promised minimum-wage hikes, such as:

Partnering with community organizations to educate workers and businesses.

Tightening penalties to deter retaliation and further wage-law violations.

Focusing resources by targeting high-risk industries and repeat offenders to find violators before employees turn them in.

Wage violations hurt not only employees but also honest businesses, whose labor costs are undercut by unscrupulous employers, and state and local economies, which lose out when fewer dollars are circulating to businesses. Passing a $12 state minimum would pave the way for stronger enforcement, rewarding fair-minded Maine employers and helping make sure all Maine workers get paid what they’ve earned.

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Another View: Congress has no reason to delay Zika funding http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/02/another-view-congress-has-no-reason-to-delay-zika-funding/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/02/another-view-congress-has-no-reason-to-delay-zika-funding/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=860261 Over two months after the White House asked Congress for more than $1.8 billion to fight the Zika virus, Congress has yet to provide it. President Obama, Republicans claim, has failed to explain in sufficient detail how his administration would spend the money.

Most of the money will go to help states control the mosquito that carries the virus, expand programs to test for it and work on developing a vaccine.

The case for action now is overwhelming. Come summer, the Zika-bearing Aedes aegypti mosquito will begin to spread the disease across much of the continental U.S. Pregnant women who contract the disease are at greater risk of giving birth to children who are stillborn, have microcephaly or experience eye and brain lesions.

Among the questions Republicans say remain unanswered is what portion of the money is needed for the current fiscal year. That level of detail wasn’t necessary in 2005 when President Bush requested and received emergency funding to combat avian flu.

Republicans also argue that the federal government has enough money left over from the fight against the Ebola virus to deal with Zika. But the administration has already transferred $600 million in Ebola funds to fight Zika, and it claims that taking more could leave Americans exposed to another outbreak; there have been Ebola cases recently in Guinea and Liberia.

Finally, House Republicans say that any request for new money to combat Zika should come through the regular appropriations process, not as an emergency request. But if a disease that could endanger newborns across the southern half of the U.S. by July doesn’t qualify as an emergency, it’s hard to say what does.

This is a delay that could endanger lives. There have already been 891 cases of Zika in the U.S., including 81 pregnant women. Republicans need to move, and quickly.

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Maine Voices: Portland Community Health Center standing by with safety net http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/02/maine-voices-portland-community-health-center-standing-by-with-safety-net/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/02/maine-voices-portland-community-health-center-standing-by-with-safety-net/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=860273 The city of Portland recently announced a proposed budget initiative that includes closing the city-funded India Street Public Health Clinic and reallocating city resources to support other essential public health functions, while moving many direct clinical services to Portland Community Health Center, an existing nonprofit funded by the federal government. This would happen in two phases: A portion of India Street’s patients and services would move by Jan. 1, 2017, with all others to follow by June 30, 2017.

The services at India Street have a long and well-loved history among patients, staff and the community. To ensure that current India Street patients continue to receive the comprehensive health care they need, city officials asked Portland Community Health Center to work with them to develop a comprehensive plan for the seamless integration of patients and systems into our care.

This transition plan will provide patients with continued access to the services they need at a practice that is nationally recognized as meeting standards for team-based, patient-centered medical homes.

Portland Community Health Center has appeared in the news quite frequently lately, and there have been some inaccuracies concerning our history, programs and services. I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight about who we are as an organization, and whom we serve.

Portland Community Health Center is a community nonprofit that provides comprehensive primary care services to 6,646 patients who represent Portland’s diverse population with the full spectrum of ages and medical needs. Our mission is to provide a safe and welcoming health care environment for anyone in need, regardless of ability to pay. As a federally qualified health center, we receive a comprehensive reimbursement rate for programs and services, so patients are charged on a sliding-scale fee based on income and insurance, or lack thereof.

At our five locations in Portland and South Portland, our services include not only primary medical care for every age and gender, but also mental health counseling, treatment for substance abuse, preventive dental care, and management of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, HIV/AIDS, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension and heart disease.

We support patients with health and wellness education and coaching, assistance obtaining health insurance coverage, case management and coordination of care.

We abide by rigorous quality practice standards and demonstrate a systematic, organization-wide commitment to uncompromising service to patients through our quality assurance and quality improvement program. As part of this program, we track key clinical outcomes, using performance data to help us manage the health of everyone in our care. We also conduct quarterly patient satisfaction surveys, on which we scored in the 96th percentile in January.

We understand that changing health care providers is a sensitive issue, particularly when dealing with a life-threatening illness or managing a chronic condition, and we empathize with the concerns of India Street patients, staff and community members about this proposed change.

We also recognize community concerns regarding the transfer of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. Because this program funds primary medical care and critical support services to uninsured or underinsured HIV patients in the United States, it is essential for many of the current patients who receive treatment at India Street. While we currently provide primary care to HIV patients, we are looking to further integrate HIV specialty care and treatment into our practice in a thoughtful way that strengthens services to people living with HIV.

We understand that some India Street patients may feel concerned about what will happen to them if the city decides to close the clinic. If the city decides to make this transition, we want to assure the community that we will willingly expand our services to accommodate all patients and provide continuity of care.

It is important to remember that the proposed transition time provides ample opportunity to create a thorough, thoughtful plan that puts the safety and care of patients at the forefront. We are dealing with people’s lives, and are therefore responsible for the well-being of all patients. Our top priority is to make sure no one will fall through the cracks.

Portland Community Health Center is standing by to be of service in whatever way we can. Most important, we are committed to continuing to offer excellent care and a positive, safe environment for all.

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Maine Observer: Diamond-class memories beat a trophy http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/maine-observer-diamond-class-memories-beat-a-trophy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/maine-observer-diamond-class-memories-beat-a-trophy/#comments Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=859388 When I was 10 years old, baseball was my life. When I wasn’t playing some form of it with my youthful contemporaries, I was thinking about it, talking about it or arguing about it with friends, family or strangers too kind and/or slow to escape from a babbling, sports- obsessed pre-adolescent.

However playing baseball all the time didn’t necessarily mean excelling at it. During a recent spring cleaning, I came across a pair of ancient trophies I recognized instantly as the only two such awards I ever received.

Ironically, I did very little to earn either of those dusty keepsakes.

I got the first one as a third-grader, in my initial season of organized baseball. I was on the Hawks, our community’s Little League kingpins. We steamrolled every other team because we had three large, athletic, scary 12-year-olds who could out-hit, out-pitch and out-run just about every other kid in town.

As an undersized first-year player, my contributions consisted of shouting shrill encouragement to teammates, chasing foul balls, coaching first base and warming up pitchers between innings.

The only times I actually played was when our opponents were the Lions, a team so inept that no amount of harm the other two Hawks 9-year-olds and I could do during the first half of the game was so horrific that it couldn’t be undone by the studs alongside us in the starting lineup, or by the far more competent kids who took our places at the start of the fourth inning.

Nearly two decades later, I collected my second athletic memento.

The slow-pitch softball team I was playing for had gotten off to a promising start when, in midseason, I was offered a terrific job in my chosen field of endeavor. The only drawback: Accepting it involved moving 4,000 miles away, and doing so within a week’s time.

I felt guilty about abandoning my teammates, even though they all professed to be far more thrilled about my getting a long-sought-after opportunity than disappointed about losing their leadoff hitter and left-centerfielder.

I shouldn’t have worried. The team, which had triumphed in seven of ten games with me in the lineup, won 21 of 22 after my departure, storming to the league title.

I played on lots of other teams during my extended boyhood, but all my teammates and I got for engaging in healthy exercise while being members of numerous non-winning squads were a whole lot of great memories of having fun with our friends.

Which, in retrospect, was infinitely more meaningful than any tangible award. Because unlike 4-inch metallic batters posing atop tiny slabs of faux marble, treasured recollections can become more vivid with time.

And they don’t require dusting off every three decades or so.

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Alan Caron: What one immigrant can teach us http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/alan-caron-what-one-immigrant-can-teach-us/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/alan-caron-what-one-immigrant-can-teach-us/#comments Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=858866 Hamdi Ulukaya grew up in a family of semi-nomadic shepherds and cheese-makers in the Kurdish region of Turkey, not far from the Euphrates River. In 1994, he managed to make his way to New York to attend college and learn English.

Three years later, while working at a farm in upstate New York, he added a few business classes at the nearby state university.

While his father was visiting him there, they found themselves commiserating about the poor quality of the local feta cheese and the watered-down, over-sweet goo that Americans called yogurt. Ulukaya’s father urged him to begin importing the family’s feta cheese, and he agreed. By 2002, Hamdi had opened a small factory making the kind of authentic feta cheese he’d grown up with.

In 2005, he bought an abandoned Kraft yogurt factory in New Berlin, New York, with help from the Small Business Administration and state government. He wanted to make the kind of strained yogurt that he’d known in Turkey – thicker and richer, with more bite and protein.

Hamdi was inspired to name the company Chobani, which derives from the Turkish word for shepherd.

Soon, he brought in specialists from Turkey and scoured the country for the equipment he would need. Then he rehired some of the laid-off workers from the plant, and together they went to work. While the employees repainted the facility and set up new production lines, Hamdi spent two years perfecting the process of making what came to be called Greek yogurt.

By 2012, Chobani had reached $1 billion in sales and Hamid was a billionaire employing more than a thousand manufacturing workers. When he started, Greek yogurt represented just 1 percent of all yogurt sales in the country. Today that number is 50 percent.

Last week, Hamdi announced that he was giving 10 percent of his company to his employees, based on their length of service. For most, that will mean a $100,000 to $150,000 windfall. Some will become instant millionaires.

There are many lessons for Maine from Hamdi’s story. One is that turning energetic and skilled immigrants away is a crazy thing to do, especially in an economy like ours that needs those things. It reminds us that immigrants come in all sizes and shapes. Some are unskilled and simply looking for opportunity. But a great many others, particular those who are fleeing wars and famine, come with extensive education, skills and talent. And they tend to create jobs at a faster rate than we do now.

Blending all immigrants together into one big group may help politicians build coalitions of anger, but it is dumb economics. Growing economies need infusions of energy and talent, wherever those ingredients come from. Trying to grow an economy without those things is like baking bread without yeast. It doesn’t rise.

The Chobani story also demonstrates that tomorrow’s big companies are often incubating among today’s small ones – and that great ideas and new products often come from other cultures that we can learn from. That cross-fertilization is how human societies have grown, and how America grew. In this case, it’s about yogurt. Who knows what it will be tomorrow?

We’ve had a hard time, over these last few years, with this issue of immigration. With little thanks to our current governor – the child of not-distant immigrants himself – our long-standing uneasiness with people from away has been fanned into open hostility to people who are “different.”

In a recent speech, the governor went so far as to mimic foreign accents, in the way we might expect from either an insecure and deranged adult or a child who doesn’t yet know better.

All of it has created a shameful spectacle for a state that was once known for its decency, common sense and ingenuity but is now seen around the country as a place consumed with angry division. This has been a period in our history that we’ll spend a long time repairing.

The issue of immigration has become one of the defining moral and economic challenges of our time. It is one that none of us can simply observe from the sidelines. The immigration discussion asks us to choose between inclusion and exclusion, and between hope and fear. And it challenges us to reject the ancient human fears of “the others” in order to make Maine a welcoming state for everyone who wants to help us build the future together.

How we decide that question will define what kind of Maine the next generation will inherit from us.

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

alancaroninmaine@gmail.com

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Our View: Maine education task force should focus on achievement gap http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/our-view-maine-education-task-force-should-focus-on-achievement-gap/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/our-view-maine-education-task-force-should-focus-on-achievement-gap/#comments Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=859613 A “blue ribbon” commission created by Gov. LePage began work last week on an important review of the way Maine funds and delivers education. The panel represents a wide range of views and constituencies, and for it to produce anything meaningful, the members will have to find common ground.

In that way, there are parallels to be drawn with the diverse group of stakeholders that for months worked to find a bill on solar power that was acceptable to (almost) all sides, only to have it killed by LePage’s unwillingness to compromise.

But if you’re choosing to be hopeful, there are signs that this case could be different.

Speaking last week at events in Portland and Auburn, Bill Beardsley, Maine’s education commissioner-in-waiting, outlined what should be one of the tenets of his department, saying that it is the state’s “moral obligation to help the kids most in need.”

That should be the commission’s starting point, and its focus.

FINDING COMMON GROUND

At both of last week’s lectures, Beardsley laid out in broad strokes the challenges he sees facing Maine schools. Enrollment is falling, he said, yet costs continue to rise, test scores are not rising along with spending, and teachers are being asked to do too much.

There’s a lot of room for debate in that simple statement, and the members of the commission will no doubt find it, and find themselves, stuck in a familiar political morass.

The question of equal opportunity for all Maine students, however, could make for some common ground.

Beardsley last week talked about the widening gap between the performance of students in Maine’s most affluent school districts, most of which are found in the southern and coastal parts of the state, and the students in its poorer districts, largely in northern and western Maine.

“Somehow we have got to break that achievement and income gap,” he said in Auburn.

That is not by any means an easy goal, but it is the right one. There is a wide disparity in the resources available to school districts in Maine, and thus a big difference in what those districts are able to offer students.

What’s more, the less affluent districts have to educate more students who come from low-income families, and who are more likely to come to school hungry and tired and thus have a harder time learning.

THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP

Together, those circumstances create the achievement gap. Students start off ahead or behind based on where they were born and who their parents are, and that gap only grows as they go through school.

We can see the effect in third-grade reading proficiency, one of the best predictors of future academic success and another of Beardsley’s topics this week.

Well-funded, well-run preschool programs are proven to help close the achievement gap for young students, but those improvements tend to slip away in the ensuing years as funding falls away and the demographic realities take hold.

Conservatives may not like to hear it, but part of solution is additional spending. In order to close a gap based on available resources, it has to be. One study suggested Maine spend an additional $250 million to fully fund state school aid and special education.

But spending is not the only answer. As we’ve argued before, there are school districts doing more with less, and others should learn from them.

In fact, that’s one of the commission’s goals, and it should be the basis for finding bipartisan solutions to the growing achievement gap.

That’s not an easy task – the fate of the solar bill shows as much.

But for the sake of Maine students, we hope Beardsley’s comments are a sign the same won’t happen to the education commission.

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Commentary: Preparing for the end of life http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/commentary-preparing-for-the-end-of-life/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/commentary-preparing-for-the-end-of-life/#comments Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=858869 As doctors, we are trained to solve problems.

If an arm is broken, we set it. If a heart valve is leaking, we replace it. If infection strikes, we do our best to cure it. There is real satisfaction when, as physicians, we make an accurate diagnosis and deploy an effective treatment.

Perhaps that’s why, when there is no problem to be solved, we don’t always do our best work. Death, after all, is not a solvable problem. All our patients will die. We can’t fix that. And too often, as a result, we don’t do all we should or could to help our patients accept the inevitable.

Physicians are not alone, of course. Our society generally does a poor job of seeing death as a natural outcome of life. Many of us maintain the myth of our own invincibility long past our 20s. And where death was once something that typically happened at home, in the presence of family and friends, it more often happens today in a hospital or nursing home.

When confronted with the question, “How do you want to die?” many of us might answer, “I don’t.” But this question, the kind of death we want for ourselves, lives with us every day of our lives. It is true that extending life is a desirable and legitimate goal of our health care system, but the quality of our lives – and of our deaths – have a place as well.

None of us can solve death as if it’s a problem, but we can all have goals for the end of our lives. And it is that change, from problem-solving to goal-setting, which can lead us as physicians to do better by our patients when it comes to end-of-life care.

Of course, better end-of life-care, like better health overall, is not just the doctor’s responsibility. Just as everyone needs to do their part in the work of extending and improving life by not smoking, exercising and eating a healthy diet, so, too, must our patients take an active and informed role in good end-of-life planning.

The rewards can be a bit counter-intuitive. Research shows that among those who are given a terminal diagnosis, having an end-of-life plan that includes goal-directed care like hospice leads to care that is not only less costly, but patients on average are happier and actually live longer than those who exhaust every treatment option.

The good news is members of the medical community are beginning to embrace these changes. Across the MaineHealth system, for instance, events were planned around National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16, organized to raise awareness of better end-of-life planning. And every day the conversation is growing among doctors, nurses and other practitioners about the need to talk to our patients about the benefits of creating advanced directives for health care and thoughtful end-of-life options such as hospice care.

For all this good work, though, the most important lessons I learned about death and dying didn’t come as part of my medical training. They came from my parents.

During my internship year, my dad, a relatively young man in his late 50s, had to struggle with the decision of whether to undergo chemotherapy for advanced lung cancer. He decided that his goal was not to pursue more days alive, but rather, to live the rest of his life meaningfully.

He chose to forgo chemotherapy and identified the goals he wanted to meet before dying. He completed the design of a church he was working on. He deliberately and intimately connected with family and friends. He put his financial affairs in order. He even planned his entire visitation service and funeral, including designing the memorial card handed out at his wake.

Importantly, he didn’t do this alone. He had to talk with a lot of people. Everyone important to him knew the plan. His family, his doctor, his business associates and his close friends all understood what to expect. And we all knew that my dad was living the way he always had, in a thoughtful and loving manner.

And, he spent time conversing with his God. “I don’t have a problem with dying,” he would say. “I’m just not sure I agree with the timing.”

My father was able to have the kind of death he wanted because he thought about it beforehand and took steps to insure that he died the way he had always lived.

Years later, my mother died from Parkinson’s disease. I am grateful to this day for the afternoon she spent with me not long after her diagnosis putting her thoughts down into a medical directive that would guide my family through the end stages of that illness. It was a natural and rewarding conversation in part because we didn’t set out to produce a perfect document, just one that would work for my mom and our family.

As a doctor, I have seen the alternatives to these thoughtful deaths.

I remember the first time I responded to a code in the hospital. I was a young medical student. A “code” or “code blue” is called over the intercom system of a hospital when a patient has had an unexpected cardiac arrest.

Amongst all the commotion, the thing that stood out the most to me was the patient. She was very frail, very old – and lifeless. The whole scene struck me as too much. It felt invasive and out of place.

Despite the apparent futility of the efforts, the “code” continued for what seemed to be a very long time. As is the case with the vast majority of “code blues,” the effort was not successful.

There is a reason why 65 percent of older physicians have an advanced directive, compared to 20 percent of the population generally. We know the limits of modern medicine. As a result, we know how we would like to die.

As physicians we must resolve to build end-of-life conversations into the care of all our patients. The time to start the conversation is long before a terminal diagnosis. And as with smoking cessation, progress will depend not on one conversation but instead on an ongoing dialogue.

If you are a patient and your doctor hasn’t brought up end-of-life care, don’t be shy. Ask. The time to start is now, and it is a conversation that should include not only your doctor, but all those close to you.

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Cynthia Dill: Democrats must unite to stack deck against Trump http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/cynthia-dill-2/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/cynthia-dill-2/#comments Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=858881 “If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.

If they’re shouting after you, keep going.

Don’t ever stop. Keep going.

If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

Even in the darkest of moments, ordinary Americans have found the faith to keep going.”

That paraphrase of Harriet Tubman was intoned by Hillary Clinton as she moved the nomination of Barack Obama to be the party’s torchbearer at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

These words of perseverance, tenacity and steadfastness sum up what Clinton’s supporters deeply admire about her – as well as reflect the energy and passion of the Bernie Sanders campaign as it fervently works to stretch and challenge the Democratic Party to do better.

The New York Times captured that magical moment of unity eight years ago: “The unanimous vote made Mr. Obama the first African-American to become a major party nominee for president. It brought to an end an often-bitter two-year political struggle for the nomination with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who, standing on a packed convention floor electric with anticipation, moved to halt the roll call in progress so that the convention could nominate Mr. Obama by acclamation. That it did with a succession of loud roars, followed by a swirl of dancing, embracing, high-fiving and chants of ‘Yes, we can.’ ”

Yes, we did. And we will again.

What is past is prologue. Democrats came together in 2008, and unity is in the cards again for 2016 because the alternative is terrifying. The stakes are simply too high. A Trump all-white house of cards will collapse.

Look no further than Vacationland to see what happens when a wild card is given the power to govern. Maine has a chief executive playing with a few cards short of a full deck, and we are losing.

We are losing money. We are losing people. And most damaging is that we are losing faith in institutions and our collective ability to make progress, solve problems and live in peace. It’s depressing and demoralizing to live under a LePage administration, and Trump Nation would be even worse.

Trump laid his soiled cards again on the table last week, accusing Clinton of playing “the women’s card,” after he said last week Tubman’s face isn’t worthy of appearing on the $20 bill.

A pair of strong women beats a Joker, of course, but we can’t risk electing a boor. Even one with big hands.

Say what you will about the foul smell of party politics, but you can’t deny the dignity displayed by Democrats this election season – and dignity has extrinsic value, like fresh air. Clinton and Sanders fiercely debate while respectfully addressing each other by their formal names. Formality is a hallmark of the United States presidency because being president is an awesome responsibility. Sophomoric name calling has been the hallmark of the Republican contest and their candidates should be ashamed of themselves.

It is a safe bet that Democrats will coalesce around their nominee because their contest is one of ideas, not personality, and it’s ideas plus action that make this country strong.

“We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country. Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t keep us safe,” said Obama in 2008, and then he proved it.

“The United States flag does not belong to an ideology or political party,” said John Kerry in 2008, and what came next were eight years of a scandal-free administration and beautiful first family who serve as shining beacons of hope around the world.

“Democracy is not a guaranty but rather an opportunity. Will we seize this opportunity?” asked Al Gore in 2008, to which we responded with a resounding “yay,” and the American economy is better for it.

“The private sector has added jobs for 73 consecutive months – some 14.4 million new jobs in all – the longest period of sustained job growth on record. Unemployment, which peaked at 10 percent the year Obama took office, the highest it had been since 1983, under Ronald Reagan, is now 5 percent, lower than when Reagan left office. The budget deficit has fallen by roughly $1 trillion during his two terms. And overall U.S. economic growth has significantly outpaced that of every other advanced nation,” according to Andrew Ross Sorkin in The New York Times.

So let’s call a spade a spade. Donald Trump is not a strong leader, has no viable plan for growing our economy, does not bring people together and will not protect us or improve the quality of our lives. He lacks a moral compass. He’s a fake, and his presidency would be a disaster.

It’s up to the Democratic nominee to call Trump’s bluff, and she or he can only do that if everyone who believes in equal opportunity and justice ante’s up after the convention and places their chips on the winning candidate.

“People are more impressed with the power of our example than the example of our power,” said Bill Clinton in 2008. “Last night Hillary told us in no uncertain terms that she is going to do everything she can to elect Barack Obama,” Mr. Clinton also said. “That makes two of us.”

Democrats need to follow suit in 2016 to stack the deck against Trump.

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

dillesquire@gmail.com

Twitter: dillesquire

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Another View: British can’t be excused for brutally suppressing Irish http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/another-view-british-cant-be-excused-for-brutally-suppressing-irish/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/another-view-british-cant-be-excused-for-brutally-suppressing-irish/#comments Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=859265 I know of no one in my Irish network who would agree with John Henderson (“Maine Voices: Honoring the Irish fight for freedom,” April 24) that “Britain can be excused its harsh response to the (Easter) Rising.”

In World War I, 210,000 Irish served under the British flag and 49,647 Irish died while Ireland continued to be an occupied country after 700 years.

The greater tragedy was that when Ireland sent a memo in 1919 to the Paris Peace Conference, to petition to put its case to exercise the right of a democratic people for self-determination, it was ignored.

History still asks two questions “What if the Irish envoys had been admitted to the Paris Peace Conference?” and “What if President Woodrow Wilson’s principle ‘governments derive power from the consent of the governed’ had been applied to this small nation?”

Would not the Irish War of Independence, the Irish Civil War and the Troubles have been avoided?

Beneath the rivers of ink about the 1916 Rising, this fact is ignored: Britain made a colossal mistake in Paris in 1919 and, in doing so, committed, once again, an assault on the exercise of democracy by the Irish people.

What England rebuffed in 1919, it would be forced to negotiate in 1921 in the peace treaty with Ireland.

Ireland put forth a vision to the Paris Conference that is as refreshing now as it was nearly 100 years ago: “The international ambition of Ireland will be to re-create, in some new way, that period of her ancient independence of which she is proudest, when she gave freely of her greatest treasures to every nation within her reach and entertained no thought of recompense or of selfish advantage.”

That was and still is the desire and legacy of one of the world’s youngest nations and oldest civilizations.

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Maine Voices: The college experience should not foster a career at the expense of character http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/maine-voices-the-college-experience-should-not-foster-a-career-at-the-expense-of-character/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/maine-voices-the-college-experience-should-not-foster-a-career-at-the-expense-of-character/#comments Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=859352 Over the next few weeks, thousands of graduates will walk across the stage to receive college diplomas marking an achievement and commencing the next phase of their lives.

Today’s graduates, parents and educators might learn from Ben Braddock, Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie “The Graduate,” about the challenges in taking that next step in life. After a successful collegiate career – track star, editor of the school newspaper and a Frank Helpingham Award Scholar – Ben returns home adrift, with no sense of direction.

Ben’s parents have high expectations for him, and a family friend offers him advice: “Plastics. … There’s a great future in plastics.” But a synthetic will not do in a situation that cries out for authenticity.

Former Yale English professor William Deresiewicz, author of “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life,” might call Ben a professional hoop-jumper, an “excellent sheep” who’s spent his life fulfilling societal expectations – acing exams, amassing extracurricular activities and building an impressive resume.

Ben’s education at a prestigious institution positioned him for worldly success, but failed to furnish him with a rich inner life, high ideals and a passion to serve others to build a better society. Ben’s collegiate education has given him no direction, no purpose in life and no vision of the world.

The purpose of college is for students to build a self, argues Deresiewicz, which involves introspection, exposure to new ideas, challenging received assumptions, nurturing intellectual curiosity and pursuing big questions about life, society and the world. It requires time to read, think and engage in conversations about a wide range of human experiences.

Students who receive a diploma without this kind of education have missed out on a critical aspect of the collegiate experience. Deresiewicz claims the elite universities have drifted away from giving students this experience. At its best, the college experience promises personal transformation. As John Henry Newman, the 19th-century author of “The Idea of a University,” observed: “A university education should ensure that students do not stand where they did, but have a new center, a new range of thoughts to which they were before strangers.”

But personal transformation is only half the collegiate story. Increasingly, college students are not privileged hoop-jumpers like Ben Braddock but first-generation students from blue-collar families who recognize that the type of jobs available with only a high school education in today’s economy block entry into the middle class.

Much has been made of the decline in manufacturing jobs that limit employment opportunities to flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s or serving coffee at Starbucks. Global competition and automation have reduced the number of manufacturing jobs, and employers in our post-industrial society are increasingly seeking a workforce with more advanced skills

For many students, pursuing a career is the primary motivation for going to college, which is why business – for better or worse – has become the most popular major on college campuses. These students know college graduates earn on average $1 million more over a lifetime than those without the education. It’s also why students over the age of 25, weary of working dead-end jobs and hitting a ceiling without the degree, are coming back to get an education.

Today, seven out of every 10 college students work while going to school, and one in 4 both work full time and attend college full time. Working students gain practical experience, but full-time jobs often deprive students of the leisure required to explore ideas.

“The Economy Goes to College,” a 2015 report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, found that the percentage of American workers with high-skilled wage jobs is larger today than ever before. Over a 40-year period between 1967 and 2007, high-skilled jobs increased from 21 to 35 percent of the workforce while low-skilled jobs declined from 39 to 29 percent. The fastest-growing sectors – business services, finance, health care and education – overwhelmingly require a college-educated workforce.

To serve students and society, better universities might more deliberately provide all students with both transformational experiences and career preparation. Universities and employers might mutually profit from ongoing conversations about competencies to be built into the curriculum and ways to infuse educational outcomes into student work experiences. Students (and their parents) might find a focus on developing character and career preparation highly attractive.

We don’t know what kind of adult Ben Braddock became or the career he pursued, but hopefully he discovered that commencement means lifelong learning – an ongoing education in developing the self and one’s career skills to better serve society.

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The humble Farmer: Clothes make the man … or at least make him feel comfortable http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/30/the-humble-farmer-clothes-make-the-man-or-at-least-make-him-feel-comfortable/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/30/the-humble-farmer-clothes-make-the-man-or-at-least-make-him-feel-comfortable/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=859094 At the beginning of World War II, my father wore very black, very shiny, very pointed shoes. He might have dressed in the manner of Sonny Corleone, or someone you might call “Dapper Dan.” At the time, Papa had only been in this country for a dozen years, so he was like many other transplanted Swedes in St. George who were most comfortable dressing like they did in Sweden in the 1920s.

A few years ago while traveling, I looked up at a young man who had stepped out of a motel room next to mine. I spoke to him in Swedish.

How did I know he was Swedish?

He had Swede written all over him. You could tell by just one glance at his haircut, his clothes, his shoes. We chatted.

Two weeks ago at a public sale, I saw a man and woman who might have been 50 years of age. I could not place their nationality. They weren’t Americans, but neither were they German, French or Scandinavian. I figured they might be Russians, so I asked the woman where she was born. Yes, they were from what I would call Yugoslavia.

Just their clothes and the way they wore them made them stick out at this sale like a hungry coyote at a chicken picnic. I studied them. Although they were what I would call easygoing, they were, at the same time, aggressive buyers.

She told me they were American citizens. But just becoming a citizen of any country doesn’t mean that you can pass for a native, even if you are consciously trying to do so. When you move to another country, you are uncomfortable leaving who you are behind. Some of us wouldn’t even know how to do it.

Twenty or so years ago my wife, Marsha, and I were squired about Madrid by a handsome young Spanish lawyer who had once attended a Maine summer camp where Marsha had ruled as the queen bee.

It was early evening. We walked into a huge, colorfully illuminated plaza where hundreds of people were eating or drinking at individual tables. Many would remain there in full party mode, talking or singing until sunrise.

Proud of his social prowess, our young friend invited us to watch him pick up some American girls. I asked him how he could tell which ones were Americans. He scanned the hundreds of seated people and quickly pointed, “Those two are Americans.”

Within minutes he seated himself at their table and commenced to charm them with his patter.

Marsha and I talked about this many times in the days and weeks that followed. How did he know they were Americans?

It was their weird foreign threads.

Yes, perhaps they did not sit or hold a glass or even make eye contact in the manner of a young Spanish woman who had been socializing at these tables since she was 15. But clothes give one away immediately.

People are most comfortable in their own culture and their own clothes. When they move, they usually take both with them because it feels right.

Our elderly neighbors also resist change and are likely to dress the way they did 40 years before.

In 1953, old folks who showed up at the St. George High School reunion were dressed like old people. The same was true when you saw them at Grange. At church, my grandmother and the other old women wore tiny hats with veils. They probably wore the same veils when they were fashionable for young folks back in 1910. They would have been uncomfortable dressing in any other way.

Men who have been single for 40 years often have no idea of what they are wearing or the effect it has on other people. Thirty years ago, I once showed up on the doorstep of a lady friend to be greeted with, “Here he is. All dressed up in his rags.” I have never forgotten it.

The top paid women on television squeeze their toes into spiked heels that are guaranteed to destroy their feet. Should we dress for our own personal comfort or to please the social whims of others?

If I were in London, I would feel like a fool rigged out in a bowler hat and clothes that fit me.

I’d even feel uncomfortable in Portland in clothes that fit me.

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

www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html

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Commentary: How do you ask someone to stop watching porn in public? http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/30/commentary-how-do-you-ask-someone-to-stop-watching-porn-in-public/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/30/commentary-how-do-you-ask-someone-to-stop-watching-porn-in-public/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=859115 Have you ever been intruded upon by somebody else’s public porn consumption?

A quiet young woman in one of my classes wanted to know if she could ask a question about college “etiquette” (her term). A sophomore who appeared not to be feeling quite at home on our big campus, I expected her to ask about a roommate squabble or a tricky club membership issue.

Instead, she surprised me with this: “Is it impolite for me to ask the guy who sits in front of me in one of those huge lecture courses to turn off his porn while the teacher’s speaking? It’s, like, really distracting.”

The tone she used was one she’d employ to inquire which fork to begin with at a formal dinner or whether she should fold her napkin between courses. This student watches entire dirty movies on his laptop – during a 9 a.m. class – and “not just clips.” She doesn’t want to move because she’s left-handed and snagged one of the few seats designed for lefties.

Naturally, the university where I teach has a detailed policy against discrimination and harassment explicitly saying that “academic and professional excellence can exist only when each member of our community is assured an atmosphere of safety and mutual respect.” Sexual harassment may include the “public display of pornographic” materials, so my bet is that the kid watching hard-core movies could be disciplined were he brought up on charges.

But my student didn’t want to press charges or even tell the professor. I asked if she’d permit me to act on her behalf but she declined. She wouldn’t name the course. All she wanted, she insisted, was to figure out how to pay attention in class without making the porn-watcher feel “uncomfortable” or making herself seem like “the sex police.”

But watching porn in class raises other questions as well, such as: Why on earth would anybody do that?

Seriously, kid? Do you watch porn in class while you’re having your first cup of coffee and then watch the professor’s lectures at home and take notes by yourself?

I also want to know who’s paying for this kid’s education, because somebody is picking up the bill: either his family, the state or the institution is securing him the right to occupy that seat. Porn Boy is here at the expense of someone else: Another applicant was rejected so that Porn Boy could have the privilege of attending class.

Yes, pornography has existed since the beginning of time. Folks have created dirty pictures since we first drew in the mud with sticks, but one thing I can tell you is that the final exam will not include a matching quiz based on “Virgins from the Planet Pleasure.”

It isn’t just where I teach, either, and it isn’t even just college. In a recent issue of Time magazine, Belinda Luscombe describes a 28-year-old named Gabe Deem as growing up “in an era when what used to be considered X-rated was becoming mainstream,” so that he and his friends watched “explicit videos constantly … even during class on their school-issued laptops.”

I wanted to help my student understand that the problem was not hers – even though she was upset by it.

I remembered that Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, addressed the issue of dealing nicely with smut-watchers at work. As if to illustrate my ignorance, when we searched online for “Miss Manners,” I tripped over a startling number of sites featuring a “Miss Manners” having nothing to do with the distinguished 77-year-old Washington Post columnist. (As my friend Angel once said, “Not all searches for ‘blonde ponies’ get you where you thought you’d get.”)

We did finally locate Judith Martin’s line. It was in response to a woman asking how she might innocuously make her male co-workers stop showing her degrading material. Martin summed it up wonderfully: “Your question is almost like asking for a polite way to let a flasher know that his trousers are open.”

I suggested that my student needed to embrace some outrage, find some humor and use a loud-girl voice to say, “Hey, friend, how about keeping your private tabs closed? Don’t do that here. Thanks.”

Some things transcend etiquette. Watching porn in public is one of them.

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Maine Voices: Elephants won’t forget that a long crusade on their behalf began here http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/30/maine-voices-elephants-wont-forget-that-a-long-crusade-on-their-behalf-began-here/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/30/maine-voices-elephants-wont-forget-that-a-long-crusade-on-their-behalf-began-here/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=859181 FALMOUTH — On Sunday in Providence, Rhode Island, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is scheduled to have its last performance using elephants. The 146-year-old tradition, which has been deeply ingrained in our culture, will end.

The past three decades have been a tumultuous time for Feld Entertainment, the parent company for Ringling circuses, as the public learned how circus elephants are trained, kept, used and disposed of. The plight of these great creatures grew into a major issue within the animal protection movement.

As columnist Alex Beam recently wrote in The Boston Globe: “In 1955, Ringling paraded 50 elephants down Manhattan’s Second Avenue on their way to Madison Square Garden. A Ringling circus now has only five elephants, and they often steal into cities at nighttime to avoid animal rights protesters.”

Cruelty to circus elephants involves their submission to painful bullhooks and being chained at the ankle much of their lives, forced and beaten to learn unnatural acts, and eventually sold off to roadside exhibitors when no longer useful – in total, a miserable existence for such a free-roaming, immensely intelligent and social gentle giant.

The end of this tradition brings much joy and relief among many in the animal protection movement. It has been a long, hard battle, one in which Maine was very much a part.

In 2000, animal advocates in Maine, led by Maine Friends of Animals, came together to mount a statewide campaign to support accompanying legislation to ban circuses with elephants from performing in the state. The effort was inspired by the young daughter of the bill’s sponsor, who testified that she thought it was horrible how circus elephants had to live.

The campaign culminated with the Maine House of Representatives voting in favor of the legislation in 2001 by a wide margin of 88-58. It was the first time in the country any such legislation had passed in any state legislative body. Unfortunately, Feld hired lobbyists, and the bill was defeated in the Maine Senate.

We immediately set up another two-year campaign, hired our own lobbyist and, in 2003, won a rules and regulations resolution in the Legislature. Ultimately, it was a disappointing end to four years of work, but on the positive side, the campaign generated an unusual amount of newspaper stories, television coverage and public discussion.

The seeds for change to end an outdated and cruel business model were planted in Maine. Ordinances were passed to ban animal-based circuses from municipalities across the country, including major cities such as Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. Promoting an alternative, we encouraged the public to go to increasingly popular circuses like Cirque du Soleil that are not animal-based.

The end did not come quickly or easily. Feld earned a reputation as being aggressive in handling adversaries and spent millions fighting federal violations of the Animal Welfare Act and litigation from activist groups. This final elephant performance is a huge victory, but it did not come because Feld had a change of heart. It came from the cumulative and increased outcry from activists and the general public.

We did our part in 2000-2004, albeit with much discouragement. However, being discouraged by the lack of measurable results does not mean giving up and going away, which is exactly what the opposition wants.

One can be demoralized by the seeming lack of progress, but remember that all such social movements, such as civil rights, gay rights and medical marijuana use, have similar cycles, and critical mass is needed to fully effect change.

On July 19 and 20, 1848, the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. On Aug. 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting the women the right to vote, was ratified – 72 years later.

Animal advocates should appreciate any success, realizing that progress often occurs through agonizingly small steps. Here in 2016, we see that the seeds we helped plant over a decade ago have germinated into meaningful change. Win each battle to end cruelty, no matter how seemingly insignificant, and animal advocates will win the war to bring animal protection into mainstream thinking.

As in all social movements, activists must continue to strive to achieve their goals, and, most importantly, never doubt that their causes are just. Regardless of some inevitable setbacks, the more we work toward that just goal, the sooner a more humane world will be had by those such as circus elephants.

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Another View: GOP convention city in spotlight after Rice case http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/30/another-view-gop-convention-city-in-spotlight-after-rice-case/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/30/another-view-gop-convention-city-in-spotlight-after-rice-case/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=859259 Cleveland’s proposed $6 million settlement with the family of Tamir Rice is a reminder that its Police Division needs to get its house in order for the Republican National Convention, to be held there in late July.

Tamir Rice was the black 12-year-old fatally shot in 2014 by a white police officer while holding a pellet gun outside a recreation center. His death was one in a string of incidents damaging police-community relations in Cleveland. Two weeks after Tamir’s death, the U.S. Justice Department released a report – in the works well before the youth’s shooting – concluding that the Police Division “engages in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force.” Last year, Cleveland agreed to take corrective action. The $6 million settlement with Tamir’s family, which is pending court approval, would include no admission of wrongdoing by the city. That itself is a crime. But lessons learned from Tamir’s death and other incidents should be ingrained in officers in time for the GOP convention, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors. Those numbers likely will include protesters of various stripes, and the risk of more violence in a campaign season already punctuated by it is very real.

Managing a political convention would be a challenge even for the most respected police department, let alone a troubled one that plans to supplement its ranks with hundreds of officers rented from other communities.

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Our View: Portland mayor, council having wrong fight on city budget http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/30/our-view-portland-mayor-council-having-wrong-fight-on-city-budget/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/30/our-view-portland-mayor-council-having-wrong-fight-on-city-budget/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=859334 There’s nothing wrong with conflict in city government, as long as people are fighting over the right things.

In Portland, a contentious budget process derailed this week, and elected officials and city staff will have to work hard to get it back on track.

The heart of the dispute is the city-run India Street Public Health Center, which would be closed under City Manager Jon Jennings’ budget proposal, and replaced by services provided by the nonprofit Portland Community Health Center. India Street is the primary care provider for about 2,000 people. It also has special services like a needle exchange and care for people with HIV/AIDS that are interrelated and not easily transferred to another facility.

The conflict arose when Mayor Ethan Strimling criticized the budget, pointing out that Jennings proposed increasing spending to fix streets and sidewalks at the same time that he would cut a clinic. “Does choosing public works over preventative health reflect our shared values?” Strimling asked rhetorically.

The answer he got was a rebuke from a majority of city councilors, who considered the comparison a low blow.

The criticism is largely deserved. Strimling knows that budgets as large as Portland’s are the product of many independent decisions that have little to do with each other.

Public infrastructure doesn’t get better when it’s neglected. The city has a responsibility to maintain public assets, regardless of what goes on in other departments. It’s true that the public health budget is under fire, but the attack comes from Augusta, not the city manager’s office. Portland is losing close to $1 million of grants funded by tobacco settlement money, because the Healthy Maine Partnerships program was changed by the LePage administration. That’s part of what’s driving these proposals.

However, the city councilors’ response was also off base.

According to the city charter, the mayor has a duty to comment on the manager’s budget, not rubber stamp it. He just won a citywide election, and he is supposed to represent public opinion.

Strimling expressed valid concerns about the aggressive pace for a decision on the India Street clinic closure. There are only three weeks to go before a final vote on the plan, with the details of the transition to be worked out later. That’s creating anxiety among the clinic’s patients and the people who advocate for them.

The council should be having a debate over whether it’s wise for the city to provide direct clinical services, or whether those services would be better delivered elsewhere.

It’s not a question of public works over preventative health, but of the most effective way to marshal limited resources to take care of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents .

That’s the debate that should be taking place – through this budget process and beyond. There is nothing wrong with conflict when it’s a fight worth having.

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M.D. Harmon: When the Donald calls, people listen http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/m-d-harmon-when-the-donald-calls-people-listen/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/m-d-harmon-when-the-donald-calls-people-listen/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=857087 I got to the office late this morning, as it had snowed and the tires on the old jalopy are as thin as a presidential promise.

(For those of you reading this in Florida, it occasionally snows in Maine in April. Don’t knock it – it keeps the alligators away.)

Anyway, I tore the yellow “Crime Scene” tape away from my door and went in. There was enough of it to nearly cover up the “Dick Richards, P.I.” sign on the glass (it’s the landlord’s idea of a subtle reminder to pay my rent, but he overdid it this time).

Then I noticed I could see my breath inside just as easily as I had outside, and realized the owner had decided to escalate his case for moving up the payment priority scale by cutting off the heat, too.

So, I kept my hat and coat on and decided to open the week’s worth of mail I’d been ignoring on my desk.

I worked my way through ads to buy gold and silver from some guy who always plays the president on TV (and is more convincing than the real one) or put my money into a numbered account in the Bank of the Marianas Trench (somebody’s anticipating a Democratic win in November).

Then there were the pleas for donations to the Save the Plastic Bag Foundation, the Environmental Offense Fund, the Social Justice Warriors Scholarship Pledge Drive (a mind is a terrible thing to waste, all right) and the Campaign to Raise Conservatives’ Taxes (that one came on official IRS stationery, I noticed).

Then I saw the phone’s message light blinking. My last secretary, Sheila, had quit weeks ago, having finally realized that actually being paid wasn’t in her job description.

So I punched the button, to hear an instantly recognizable voice say, “Hey, jerkface, call me now!” So I dialed the number he left and said, “This is Dick. The Donald called for me.”

“OK, jackwagon,” his aide said (the boss likes to keep the branding consistent). “He said to put you right through.”

And then he was on the line: “Dick, first thing is, your nickname is ‘Rotten Richard’ from now on out, got it?”

“Sorry, Donald, my mother already beat you to it. What’s up this time?”

“Did you see Lena Dunham from that show ‘Bimbos’ promised to move to Canada if I won? She said, ‘I know a lot of people say this, but I really will!'”

“It’s called ‘Girls,’ Donald, and I figure your potential support just went up a half-dozen points.”

“Yeah,” he replied, “I already said that. You don’t get endorsements like that every day. But how come nobody ever says they’ll move to Mexico? Is it the wall thing?”

“Yeah, that’s it,” I said. I knew he hadn’t really called to tell me that, he just likes to boast. But you already knew that.

“What’s really on your mind, Donald?”

“Couple of things. One is the new George Washington University Battleground Poll this week that has me within the margin of error against Hillary Clinton, just 3 points apart. How about that, huh?”

“You know I’m not surprised. I said a long time ago you could win this, but I still don’t support you. And your negatives are still higher than hers – even though both of you are in uncharted territory there.”

“Ah, who cares? You’re not going to vote for Hillary, are you?”

“No, it may have snowed here, but I don’t think the freezing temperatures got all the way down to Hades.”

“Hey, Ted Cruz and John Kasich worked out a deal to be my only opponent in their strongest states, but couldn’t hold on to it for two days in a row. All the high negatives mean is that people who don’t like either one of us won’t vote at all, and Republican primary voters have outnumbered Democratic ones by a ton.”

“True dat,” I said, “but more of them voted against you than for you. How are you going to win them and independents over?”

“A lot of the Bernie Sanders socialists are going to stay home, because they’ll think Wall Street has two candidates in the race. And you and I both know Hillary is a terrible campaigner.”

“Uh, I wouldn’t be too quick to jump on that comparison. Are you counting on the FBI email and corruption probes to pay off?”

“I already noted that ‘crooked’ is her first name, and lots of people agree. I’m not going to let up, so whatever the feds do is just gravy.”

“Do you really think you can win?”

“Hey, it’s like the old joke about the two guys being chased by the bear. I don’t have to outrun some ideal candidate like Honest Abe. I just have to outrun Crooked Hillary.”

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

mdharmoncol@yahoo.com

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Our View: Solar bill offers right answers for Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/our-view-solar-bill-offers-right-answers-for-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/our-view-solar-bill-offers-right-answers-for-maine/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=857108 It’s easy to tear apart a complicated piece of legislation by latching onto a few details and blowing them out of proportion.

But lawmakers who are considering voting to sustain Gov. LePage’s veto of L.D. 1649, the modernization of the state’s market for solar energy, should take a hard look at his arguments. They simply don’t hold up.

The bill sets four-year targets for a 10-fold expansion of solar power in Maine, from small rooftop installations to large commercial ones that would feed power onto the grid. Through long-term contracts at fixed prices, the state would agree to buy a certain amount of electricity generated by various kinds of solar installations.

The major arguments against the bill run from misleading to just plain wrong. No legislator should vote to kill this bill until they have taken this quiz.

True or False: The solar bill would drive up the cost of electricity.

False. There would be an increase in electric rates in the near term, peaking in the fourth year of the plan, adding an estimated 31 cents a month to the average home electric bill. But by locking solar power producers into long-term contracts, the price for solar would stay constant while other sources of electricity get more expensive. Over 20 years, every customer, whether they have solar power or not, would benefit from downward pressure on rates.

And it is misleading to look at only one side of the transaction. By aggregating all of the power produced on Maine rooftops into a single pool, the state would be able to sell renewable energy credits to companies that pollute, offsetting the impact on Mainers’ rates. Without this bill, the state is leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table that could be used to help Maine consumers.

True or False: The solar bill steals from the poor to give to the rich.

False. The solar bill was designed to share the benefits of solar power among solar customers and non-solar customers alike. Aside from having a positive long-term effect on everyone’s rates, the solar bill provides ways for people without solar panels to benefit from low-cost power from the sun. Renters and people with small roofs, for instance, would be able to participate in community solar farms, and earn credits that lower their bills. Municipalities would be able to cut energy costs by installing solar arrays that would take pressure off property taxes.

True or False: The solar bill would kill jobs.

False. In its current form, this bill is projected to generate 650 jobs in sales, installation and maintenance of solar systems and maintain the 300 jobs that currently exist. These are good-paying jobs that are dispersed all over the state, including areas like Somerset County that have been hit hard by job losses in the paper industry.

Large manufacturing facilities and other businesses that have competitors in states with lower electric rates would have an ability that currently does not exist to install solar capacity on their buildings, sell the power they don’t use and cut their electric bills. The real job killer would be voting against this bill.

True or False: The solar bill was cooked up by environmentalists and people who make money off renewable energy.

False. Yes, environmentalists and representatives of the solar industry were part of the task force that created this compromise, but so were Central Maine Power and Emera Maine, utilities that have been no fans of solar power in the past. Tim Schneider, Maine public advocate, was also on the task force. He is a state official, appointed by Gov. LePage to represent ratepayer interests at the Public Utilities Commission, not to promote renewable energy.

Lawmakers have a choice: They can create a system where Maine can take advantage of new technologies that would provide low-cost, clean power now and in the future, or they can cling to an antiquated system that will become more expensive over time.

That’s a quiz that we cannot afford Maine to fail.

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Commentary: Override the veto so Maine can benefit from modern solar policy http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/commentary-override-the-veto-so-maine-can-benefit-from-modern-solar-policy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/commentary-override-the-veto-so-maine-can-benefit-from-modern-solar-policy/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=857171 AUGUSTA — When we truly listen to one another, we can accomplish so much.

That’s exactly what happened with the comprehensive solar bill the governor vetoed this week.

Here we were, a group of very different people. We’re not just talking about the differences between Republicans and Democrats, but folks representing a wide range of stakeholders – local businesses, municipalities, utilities and environmentalists – who don’t necessarily see eye to eye. We all came to the table, along with the state official charged with representing the interests of utility ratepayers, and dug into the work before us.

And we listened to each other. We listened to each other as we analyzed complex information, as we engaged in give and take and put our heads together. It was hard work.

The result was truly good policy: a path forward for Maine that increases solar installation tenfold, creates 650 new jobs and protects 300 existing jobs and makes it easier for residents, communities, companies, farms and forestry businesses to take advantage of solar power. The bill, L.D. 1649, does this while lowering electricity bills for all electric customers – an estimated $58 million to $110 million in savings – and mitigating climate change.

This was collaboration in the true Maine spirit. You didn’t see any Washington-style bickering and gridlock here.

Gov. LePage and some of his supporters have opposed the efforts around this new solar policy. But recently, the governor reached out to Rep. Sara Gideon, the Democratic whip. This was in the final stretch of the legislative session, after many months of work by stakeholders and lawmakers, including a significant amendment from two Republicans on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee – Sen. David Woodsome, the co-chairman from North Waterboro, and Rep. Norman Higgins of Dover-Foxcroft – that put a focus on agriculture and increased protections for ratepayers.

We welcomed the opportunity to find common ground with the governor. Putting a modern solar policy in place together would be good for Maine.

Rep. Gideon went into the talks in good faith, willing to listen and knowing that another perspective could further improve our bill. She took his two proposals back to the coalition, which agreed to them.

We were delighted to be on the verge of a deal. But then the governor added a new demand.

This was an additional price cap on contracts – the bill that the Legislature passed already has three different ones to protect ratepayers – that was so radical and would be implemented so rapidly that it would put Maine’s local solar businesses in jeopardy. We investigated whether there was a way to make this work without destroying the integrity of the legislation. There was not.

We draw the line when it comes to Maine jobs – good-paying jobs of the future that provide opportunity for young people. We rejected this final demand, and the governor signed the veto letter in front of Rep. Gideon.

We now ask our colleagues in the Legislature to listen to the constituents who want this veto overridden.

Maine workers will benefit from the new markets the legislation opens up. It creates new opportunities, including grid-scale, community, commercial and industrial and agricultural.

Maine farms and forestry businesses rely heavily on electricity. The bill will help lower costs and even provide a possible additional source of income.

Maine solar businesses need the predictability the legislation provides. Maine’s outdated billing and credit system could be defunct in the near future, plunging businesses into uncertainty and putting the existing 300 solar jobs in danger.

Maine municipalities want to take advantage of new opportunities that will open up. Municipally developed community solar projects are an economic development tool that lowers costs for businesses as well as for residents and the towns and cities themselves.

Maine families will be better able to reap the benefits of solar power because of eased restrictions on participation in community projects. Residents can participate even if they are renters or if their houses are in deep shade. And the growth of good-paying clean energy jobs will create more opportunity for the young people in these families so they can build their lives in our state.

Maine has been lagging for too long in solar. As the only New England state without a comprehensive solar policy, it should be no surprise that we’re in the region’s last place in solar job creation and solar development.

This landmark legislation puts us in a position to lead the nation in 21st-century energy policy. We must embrace this opportunity and make this legislation law.

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Maine Voices: University of Southern Maine making strides in all areas of student success http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/maine-voices-university-of-southern-maine-making-strides-in-all-areas-of-student-success/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/29/maine-voices-university-of-southern-maine-making-strides-in-all-areas-of-student-success/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=857255 Last August, at the onset of a new academic year, we wrote in this space about a new era we jointly envisioned for the University of Southern Maine. We declared that this new era would be predicated on civility, respect and inclusiveness; an era where the entire campus community would be committed to working together with a focus on student success.

There are three broad elements to student success: facilitating meaningful connections between our students and faculty and staff; providing a path to graduation that is affordable; and creating an enriched academic experience inside and outside the classroom.

So, as we close in on an end to this academic year, how are we doing in these three areas?

To succeed, students need to feel valued and supported and a part of the campus community. It is well documented that there is a direct correlation between a student’s success and the building of a strong relationship with a professor or adviser. Faculty and staff have always been strongly committed to forming these relationships.

In recent months we have launched several new initiatives to further strengthen student connectedness. These new initiatives include living and learning communities in our residence halls; regular activities for our commuter students; enhanced advising and tutoring, especially for our first-generation college students, and a new student services center, which will enable our students to get the services and support they need in one place.

With respect to providing our students an affordable path to graduation, we are making excellent headway here, too.

While USM’s public tuition rate (which has not increased in five years) is an excellent value, students on tight budgets need more to make their educational dreams come true. So we have begun to offer even better stronger financial aid packages, including, for the first time, significant grants to transfer students. Meanwhile, we have just launched a new plan to raise $50 million in new scholarship over the next five years.

For our students who aspire to graduate school, affordability is also about expediting their path to their final degree. Here, USM has also made great progress through a series of arrangements between our undergraduate and graduate programs that shave a full year off a student’s education.

These types of arrangements – which we have established with the Maine School of Law and our Muskie School of Public Service, as well as our programs in public health, business, nursing, social work, occupational therapy, counseling, leadership and more – save our students time and money and enable them to move more quickly into the workforce.

Finally, with respect to an enriched and meaningful student experience inside and outside the classroom, this is where our existing assets have always been incredibly strong.

Our faculty take tremendous advantage of our unique location in the economic and cultural heart of our state to offer our students wonderful internships and other hands-on learning opportunities with area businesses, health care and human service agencies, arts institutions, cruise ships and professional sports teams.

Such community-based learning opportunities are now available in 45 of our 50 programs of study. And we’re moving ahead to make that 50 of 50, so that every USM student has the opportunity to graduate with an authentic, real-world experience in their chosen field of study.

While our faculty takes students out of the classroom and into the community, we are also expanding opportunities to take our students to other countries. Indeed, thanks to a generous bequest from the estate of Carolla Haglund ’51, paired with a grant from the Maine Economic Improvement Fund, we recently announced that every incoming student to USM’s Honors Program will be guaranteed an international experience within their first two years at USM.

So on all three fronts of student success, USM has made great progress. While there are still challenges ahead, there is a very different feel at USM. Indeed, anyone who has not visited USM in recent months will quickly note a palpable sense of new energy, optimism, high hopes and a renewed belief in the promise of the University of Southern Maine.

The best news of all is that we are just getting started.

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Dana Milbank: Sanders seeks leverage but will ultimately bow out gracefully http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/dana-milbank-sanders-seeks-leverage-but-will-ultimately-bow-out-gracefully/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/dana-milbank-sanders-seeks-leverage-but-will-ultimately-bow-out-gracefully/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=855842 Eight years ago, I spent an election night in a basement gymnasium in Manhattan, watching Hillary Clinton and her campaign advisers take up residence in a parallel universe.

It was June 3, 2008, and Barack Obama had just clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, making official a victory that had seemed inevitable for months. But Terry McAuliffe, then the campaign chairman and emcee of this Clinton “victory” party, recited a list of Clinton’s primary wins and introduced her as “the next president of the United States.”

Clinton that night didn’t mention her defeat, boasting that she won “more votes than any primary candidate in history.”

Yet four days later, Clinton graciously bowed out of the race. In a concession speech at the National Building Museum in Washington, she said she and her supporters would “do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.” Some in the hall booed – but Clinton delivered her supporters to Obama in November.

Recalling this serene end to the bitter and extended 2008 Democratic primary battle, I’m not inclined to join in all the hand-wringing about the damage Bernie Sanders is doing to Clinton’s chances in November by remaining in the race.

Tempers flared this week after a Sanders supporter, actress Rosario Dawson, mentioned Monica Lewinsky at a campaign rally. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., a Clinton supporter, demanded Sanders tell his supporters “to stop providing aid and comfort to Donald Trump and the Republican Party.”

This, in turn, caused Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver to accuse the Clinton campaign and her supporters of using “language reserved for traitors to our country.”

Why the hysteria? It doesn’t matter if Sanders continues his candidacy until the last votes are cast in June. What matters is that he quits gracefully, and there should be every expectation that he will, for a simple reason: Sanders is not a fool.

Sanders showed no sign of retreat Tuesday, even as Clinton extended her lead by winning the night’s biggest prize, Pennsylvania, as well as Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut; Sanders won only Rhode Island. He gave a defiant speech in which he said he was “taking on the most powerful political organization in America.” The reference to Clinton drew boos.

Sanders sounded like an extortionist Monday when he said that Clinton, if she won the nomination, would have to earn his supporters’ votes by embracing single-payer health care, free college tuition and a carbon tax – all things Clinton rejected in her campaign against Sanders. But seconds later, Sanders, prodded by the moderator, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, added a qualifier: “I will do everything in my power to make sure that no Republican gets into the White House in this election cycle.”

That’s the crucial part. Sanders wants to exert maximum leverage to move Clinton toward his populist policies. But he is a practical man, and he certainly doesn’t wish to see a President Trump or President Cruz. This is why there’s no cause for all the fuss over him remaining in the race until he is mathematically eliminated.

Elimination is coming. Even before Clinton padded her lead with Tuesday’s wins, Sanders needed to win 59 percent of remaining delegates, or 71 percent if you include superdelegates. That isn’t going to happen.

Clinton loyalists worry that Clinton will suffer general-election consequences from Sanders’ suggestions that she is unqualified and in Wall Street’s pocket. And Trump has echoed these attacks and said he’d like Sanders “to keep going.”

Still, this doesn’t qualify as ugly campaigning – particularly compared with a Republican race in which candidates have called each other liars and argued about genital size. Or compare it with the Obama-Clinton standoff of 2008 – a much closer contest. At a May 31, 2008, meeting of the Democratic National Committee, the two campaigns clashed with accusations of cheating. There were hecklers, howls and foul language, and extra security had to be called in to keep order. At the time, Clinton aides, sounding much like this year’s Sanders aides, were threatening that Obama “has work to do” to convince Clinton backers to go his way.

But a week later, Clinton was out, and the party was on a path to unity.

And so it will happen this time. Sanders, when he quits the race, can justifiably declare victory in moving the debate – and Clinton – in his direction on his key issues. His campaign has exceeded all expectations, and he isn’t about to jeopardize his movement by handing the presidency to Trump.

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

dana.milbank@washpost.com

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Our View: High parental incarceration rate puts Maine children at risk http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/our-view-high-parental-incarceration-rate-puts-maine-children-at-risk/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/our-view-high-parental-incarceration-rate-puts-maine-children-at-risk/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=855851 The children of incarcerated parents lose a mom or a dad for the length of their sentence, but it doesn’t stop there.

Once the sentence is over, and after the child has endured the separation and disruption that came with it, the parent still has to face the stigma, loss of income and loss of opportunity that result from their time behind bars. Those effects can linger for years, and as much as they keep the parent from moving forward, they often also condemn the child to an early life of instability and poverty, ensuring that the effects will echo even longer.

It’s a cycle that cannot go unaddressed in Maine, where in 2011-12 roughly one in 12 children had at least one parent who was incarcerated at some point during their childhood. That’s the highest rate in New England, and the 14th highest nationally, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

LOSING A PARENT

Nationally, the number of children with incarcerated parents has, not surprisingly, soared along with incarceration rates. From 1980 to 2000, there was a 500 percent increase in the number of kids with a father in prison or jail, driven largely by tough sentencing guided by drug-war policies.

More recently, those policies have been affecting women caught up in the opiate crisis – women make up a bigger proportion of the prison population than ever.

In Maine, the population of the one women’s prison, in Windham, has grown from fewer than 80 inmates in September 2014 to a daily average of 135 now, with another 70 or so women in a pre-release facility in Alfred.

That has left a lot of kids without at least one parent, putting pressure on the remaining parent – if he or she is involved – and grandparents to provide a home, guidance and the basic necessities while short a major source of income. It has forced the adults left in the child’s life to balance child care and employment. Often, it forces the child to move again and again as those arrangements are sorted out.

The various pressures and challenges push families further into impoverishment. One study cited in the Casey Foundation report found that the U.S. poverty rate would have fallen by 20 percent in one 24-year period were it not for the increase in incarceration.

And once the parent’s sentence is over, new problems arise. They often have court fines, legal fees and accumulated child support to pay, and a new life to start, but their conviction makes it difficult to find a job, and the time apart – and whatever behavioral problems caused it – can make it difficult to reconnect.

SUPPORT AND TRAINING

The Maine Department of Corrections said that in the past few years it has initiated new programs to help women in prison stay connected to families, including peer-parenting groups and the availability of online video chatting between inmates and their children.

But, as the foundation report suggests, additional supports are necessary to make sure children are being adequately taken care of, and inmates are receiving the training and education they’ll need when they are released.

Maine also has to continue to reform sentencing and bail guidelines so that parents are not unnecessarily incarcerated when alternatives exist that would keep their family intact.

And, of course, better access to drug treatment and a continuation of the good work being done with juvenile offenders would help keep Mainers out of jail in the first place.

It should be the goal to reduce the use of prisons and jails and spend the savings on community-based treatment, housing and re-entry support.

Maine should also join the “ban the box” movement. Twenty-three states, as well as federal agencies, do not allow employers – with some exceptions – to ask about criminal convictions on the initial employment application. That would keep employers from dismissing out of hand the applicants with criminal records, denying them an opportunity to showcase their skills and potential.

When too many people are incarcerated, and too little is done to help transition them back into society, the cost is enormous. When children are involved, the cost increases exponentially, and right now, Maine is paying that price far too often.

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Commentary: Rather than vilifying Andrew Jackson, note his significant achievements http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/commentary-rather-than-vilifying-andrew-jackson-note-his-significant-achievements/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/commentary-rather-than-vilifying-andrew-jackson-note-his-significant-achievements/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=855875 One would think we could celebrate the recognition that Harriet Tubman will be given on future $20 bills without demeaning former President Andrew Jackson as a “genocidal slave owner,” as a recent Huffington Post headline did. And summarizing his legendary tenure as being “known primarily for a brutal genocidal campaign against Native Americans,” as reported in The Washington Post, indicates how far political correctness has skewed our national consciousness.

This dismissive characterization of one of our great presidents is not occurring in a vacuum. Any white person whose ancestry traces to the American South now risks being characterized as having roots based on bigotry and undeserved privilege. Meanwhile, race relations are at their worst point in decades.

Far too many of our most important discussions are being debated without full regard for historical facts. The myth of universal white privilege and universal disadvantage among racial minorities has become a mantra, even though white and minority cultures alike vary greatly in their ethnic and geographic origins, in their experiences in the U.S. and in their educational and financial well-being.

Into this uninformed debate come the libels of “Old Hickory.” Not unlike the recently lionized Alexander Hamilton, Jackson was himself a “brilliant orphan.” A product of the Scots-Irish migration from war-torn Ulster into the Appalachian Mountains, he was born after his father’s death. His mother and brothers died in the Revolutionary War, where he himself became a wounded combat veteran by age 13.

Self-made and aggressive, he found wealth in the wilds of Tennessee and, like other plantation owners such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, owned slaves. Hated by the reigning English American elites, he brought populist, frontier-style democracy to our political system.

Jackson became the very face of the New America, focusing on intense patriotism and the dignity of the common man.

On the battlefield he was unbeatable, not only in the brutal Indian Wars but also in his classic defense of New Orleans during the War of 1812. His defense of the city (in which he welcomed free blacks as soldiers in his army) dealt the British army its most lopsided defeat until the fall of Singapore in 1942.

As president, Jackson ordered the removal of Indian tribes east of the Mississippi to lands west of the river. This approach, backed by a string of presidents, including Jefferson and John Quincy Adams, was a disaster, resulting in the Trail of Tears where thousands died. But was its motivation genocidal? Biographer Robert Remini wrote that Jackson’s intent was to end the increasingly bloody Indian Wars and to protect the Indians from certain annihilation at the hands of an ever-expanding frontier population. Indeed, it would be hard to call someone “genocidal” when years before, after one bloody fight, he brought an orphaned Native American baby from the battlefield to his home in Tennessee and raised him as his son.

Today’s schoolchildren should know that Jackson’s July 1832 veto of a bill renewing the charter of the monopolistic Second National Bank prevented the creation of a permanent aristocracy in our country. Jackson was virulently opposed in this decision by America’s elites. Historian Vernon Louis Parrington called this veto “perhaps the most courageous act in our political history.”

Just as significantly, in November 1832, South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union. Jackson put a strong military force in position, letting it be known that if it attempted secession he would have 50,000 soldiers inside the state within 40 days, with another 50,000 to follow shortly after. Wisely, South Carolina did not call Jackson’s bluff, and civil war was averted for another 28 years.

For eight years Jackson dominated American politics, bringing a coarse but refreshing openness to the country’s governing process. Jefferson called him “a dangerous man.” Quincy Adams termed him a “barbarian.” But as Parrington put it, “he was our first great popular leader … one of our few Presidents whose heart and sympathy … clung to the simple faith that government must deal as justly with the poor as with the rich.”

Mark Twain once commented that “to arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man’s character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours.” By any standard we should respect both Jackson’s and Tubman’s contributions. And our national leaders should put aside their deliberate divisiveness and encourage that we do so.

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Maine Voices: Surviving an overdose often turns a life around – and Narcan makes it possible http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/maine-voices-surviving-an-overdose-often-turns-a-life-around-and-narcan-makes-it-possible/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/maine-voices-surviving-an-overdose-often-turns-a-life-around-and-narcan-makes-it-possible/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=855920 Imagine you’re 17, 18 or 19 again. You’re programmed to push the envelope, experiment, rebel. You have to, to find out who you are, what you’re capable of, to leave the nest and be able to make it on your own.

Unfortunately, what you have to experiment with in 21st-century America are drugs and alcohol. The drugs are deadlier than ever before, and they’re everywhere. A lot of it’s pharmaceutical, too, Food and Drug Administration-approved, so why not? Why not try taking a handful of pills at a party, or snort some cocaine or heroin? It’s fun, relaxing, you loosen up, get high or just black out.

Imagine next how it could happen to you, how you could go from partying to panhandling, from being a young man full of promise, a young woman with a world of possibilities before her, to an addict, homeless, shooting up in alleyways and hustling to stay alive.

Use opiates for long enough, maybe even as little as a month or two, and you become dependent on them. If you don’t have them, you feel sick, very sick. You need more and more to get high, but you never achieve the original effect.

Meanwhile, your brain is changing, your dopamine is depleted. Soon you find you’re using not to feel good, but to avoid feeling bad, having no energy, no motivation to do anything and getting sick from withdrawal. You start to crave opiates. You become obsessed with seeking them out, and you use them compulsively. You’re in survival mode, and your brain is telling you that you need opiates to survive.

Now, you’re 21 and you’re addicted. You are taking drugs every day just so you can function at the most basic level. You’ve dropped out of college, your parents have kicked you out, you’re living on your best friend’s couch and washing dishes for $9 an hour to get by.

You buy your usual supply of heroin and inject your usual dose. Only this time it’s purer, more potent, or it’s really fentanyl. You go out. You fall on the floor.

Maybe you’re in the bathroom at home or at work, or even in your favorite coffee shop (two recent overdose deaths occurred at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts). If someone else has to use the bathroom, you’re in luck: 911, sirens, Narcan and a trip to the ER. If no one else is around, you’re out of luck, dead.

Next, picture yourself cold, clammy, blue, your breathing’s shallow, barely audible or non-existent. Someone’s given you a shot in your thigh that you can’t even feel. You wake up abruptly, sick as a dog, shaking, sweating, puking, cramping.

The Narcan has displaced the opiates in your brain. Your whole being is in acute withdrawal, and all you want to do is take another shot of heroin to stop it. But some part of you realizes the awful significance of what has just happened. You are stunned that you’ve overdosed, that you actually died and came back. You lived to tell the tale.

This is a turning point for many, many patients. I see them every week at the Milestone Foundation. They’ve just overdosed, and they want to quit. They are desperate for treatment.

And some of them are lucky. They have insurance or a wealthy family, so they can get treatment. But most of them have no choice but to go back to the streets and the shelters. I always ask, “When you leave here, what will you do?” They often answer, “Try not to die.”

Many of the patients I know in recovery on methadone and Suboxone have overdosed, been revived with Narcan and transformed their lives. They get medical treatment and counseling, they reconnect with their families, find jobs. They want things to be better for their kids. They start to dream again, of going back to school, of owning a house. They work hard toward their goals and achieve them.

They tell me that Suboxone or methadone saved their life, or that I did. But it was none of these things. It was an awakening, an epiphany, an act of grace. They realized the enormity of what happened. They saved their own lives. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to help them.

And Narcan made it possible.

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Narcan veto override presents Maine lawmakers with a life-or-death choice http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/narcan-veto-override-is-a-life-or-death-choice/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/28/narcan-veto-override-is-a-life-or-death-choice/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=856238 Picture yourself with your finger poised over two buttons – a green one that says “yea” and a red one that says “nay.”

Push the green one and someone lying unconscious at death’s door will live.

Push the red one and that person will die.

Your choice.

That choice actually awaits members of the Maine Legislature as they reconvene Friday to slog their way through the many and varied vetoes issued this session by Gov. Paul LePage.

None looms larger than LePage’s veto of L.D. 1547, “An Act to Facilitate Access to Naloxone Hydrochloride,” or Narcan, for people who have experienced opioid-related drug overdoses.

Choose the “yea” button and override LePage’s veto, as the Senate is widely expected to do, and pharmacists statewide will be allowed to dispense the lifesaving antidote pre-emptively to family members, friends and anyone else who wants to rescue an overdose victim while precious seconds tick away.

Choose the “nay” button against an override, as just enough House Republicans who voted earlier against the bill could do, and at least some of those frantic bystanders will watch helplessly as another Mainer dies from the disease – and, yes, it is a disease – of drug addiction.

Put more simply, those Republicans can fall in behind LePage, who stunned many in Maine and around the nation last week when he opined in his veto letter that “naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.”

Or they can step back from that hopeless rhetoric, take a deep breath, and consider what’s truly at stake with this simple push of a button.

It’s all reminiscent of the “Milgram experiment,” conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram while Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was being tried in Jerusalem back in 1961.

The experiment aimed to determine how people from a variety of occupations and backgrounds would respond to an authority figure’s orders (a la Adolf Hitler) to do something they normally might find abhorrent.

In this case, the test centered on a subject’s ability (or not) to comply with an order to administer electrical shocks at increasing voltages to another person hidden away in an adjacent room whenever that person answered incorrectly to a series of word-match questions.

It was, of course, all a setup. There were no shocks, and the screams from the other room, which grew more blood-curdling with each uptick in the voltage, were also staged.

But the people at the electrical button didn’t know that. And at the repeated prodding of the authority figure, even as some laughed nervously and others sweated profusely, an astounding 65 percent of them kept administering the “shocks” up to what they thought was a maximum of 450 volts.

As Milgram later concluded, “Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process.”

That terrible destructive process, in this case, is drug addiction.

And lest we lose ourselves in the legislative wrangling, L.D. 1547 is by no means a hypothetical exercise: According to the Maine Attorney General’s Office, 272 people died from drug overdoses in Maine in 2015, a stunning 31 percent increase over the previous year.

“I think there’s a great deal of desperation,” said assistant House Democratic leader Sara Gideon of Freeport, the bill’s sponsor, in an interview Wednesday. “If you go out and talk to people, you are hard-pressed to find somebody who hasn’t been touched by this … who doesn’t know somebody in their circle who has experienced either a loved one who is addicted to drugs or who has overdosed.”

So why not help these people?

In LePage’s increasingly dark world, they’re apparently not worth the effort.

As he put it so clumsily in his veto letter last week, “Creating a situation where an addict has a heroin needle in one hand and a shot of naloxone in the other produces a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.”

He then doubled down Tuesday in a radio interview with WVOM, saying, “I don’t think Narcan saves lives. I think Narcan extends lives.”

If only he’d included the obvious: In cases of lethal overdose, the absence of Narcan ends lives.

To be so devoid of hope, so lacking in compassion, doesn’t just erode LePage’s standing as Maine’s chief executive. It diminishes him as a human being.

Just as standing up to LePage’s ignorance, as Milo Police Chief Damien Pickel did in a recent department Facebook post, is a sign of utmost integrity.

“Your recent veto of LD 1547 . . . only shows how uninformed you are,” Pickel wrote in an open letter to the governor. “By saying (Narcan) ‘does not truly save lives,’ you are being disingenuous and are doing a disservice to those of us who have administered it. It does save lives. It’s not a safety net for the addict that will ‘perpetuate the use of heroin.’ When an addict is overdosing, they lack the skills to administer it themselves. In fact, an addict hates Narcan because it reverses the effects of the opioid and they immediately go into withdrawal.

“You should listen to your police, fire, EMS and medical professionals before you make any further uninformed statements.”

Sorry, Chief, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

The only question now is who still listens to LePage – starting with you Republican lawmakers who, we can only hope, will do some serious soul-searching before you show up for your last day of work on Friday.

Will you be like Milgram’s hapless subjects and obediently push that “nay” button, even as you know deep down that real lives hang in the balance?

Or will you tune out what you’re hearing from the governor’s office and the party leaders who do his bidding and, on this matter of life and death, do the right thing?

So go ahead. Picture someone you know, maybe even someone you love, lying there on the ground.

Green button or red button.

It’s your call.

 

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Leonard Pitts: Restoring voting rights to ex-offenders: Right action, but odor lingers http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/leonard-pitts-restoring-voting-rights-to-ex-offenders-right-action-but-odor-lingers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/leonard-pitts-restoring-voting-rights-to-ex-offenders-right-action-but-odor-lingers/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 10:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=854282 The Republicans are probably right.

Last week, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, issued an executive order restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 ex-offenders. The sweeping order applies to those who have completed their sentences and any probation or parole.

The Republican Party was unimpressed. William Howell, speaker of the Virginia House, pronounced himself “stunned” by the governor’s action, which he said was designed to deliver November votes to presumed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“It is hard to describe how transparent the governor’s motives are,” said Howell in a written statement. “The singular purpose of Terry McAuliffe’s governorship is to elect Hillary Clinton president of the United States.”

McAuliffe denied all this, but there is every reason to believe he was less than forthright in so doing. The mass incarceration phenomenon is no less real in Virginia than elsewhere in the country, so a disproportionate number of those getting their ballots back will be African American, a group that reliably votes Democratic.

Add to that the fact that McAuliffe is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee who headed up Clinton’s 2008 campaign – and that he is a Clinton friend and fundraiser. With all that in mind, it would be naive to believe he did what he did without thought of the political benefits.

On the other hand, there are also political benefits to denying those ex-felons the right to vote – except that those benefits accrue to the Republican Party. Howell’s statement is unsurprisingly silent on that point.

Pot, meet kettle.

We find ourselves, then, caught between dueling political agendas. And if you didn’t know better, you might not realize something fundamental was at stake, something far more important than the desire of Democrats and the Republican Party to headlock one another in the eternal mud-wrestling match that is politics.

Meaning, of course, the ballot. Without it, you are mute in the great chorus of democracy. You have no way to hold accountable the people who purport to lead you.

Too many Republicans, albeit not all, are appallingly OK with that where ex-felons are concerned. Note Howell’s preferred plan for the restoration of voting rights: Ex-felons, he said piously, “deserve the opportunity to demonstrate they once again deserve their civil rights.”

“Deserve.”

Beg pardon, but civil rights, by definition, are rights that come with citizenship. They are automatic – you don’t have to “deserve” them – and they should be abridged or denied only upon serious deliberation and only in extreme cases. Getting busted for selling marijuana, or even for committing armed robbery, does not fill the bill.

One is pleased, then, by McAuliffe’s executive order. But that pleasure is tempered by the conviction that he has done the right thing for the wrong reason.

Granted, the right thing done for the wrong reason is still the right thing. But it also suggests a lack of guiding principles, a willingness to flow like water, shaping oneself to the circumstances of the moment.

Who can say where McAuliffe’s loyalties would lie if restoring voting rights carried no political benefit or, for that matter, if it exacted a political cost?

So as much as one is tempted to take the victory and run, one can’t.

As much as one is gratified to see more than 200,000 returning citizens get the chance to reintegrate into society, one is also chagrined by superfluous evidence of political cynicism and opportunism.

This is no profile in courage. This is an act of expedience for which, unfortunately, the only proper response is anatomically impossible.

You cannot applaud while holding your nose.

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/leonard-pitts-restoring-voting-rights-to-ex-offenders-right-action-but-odor-lingers/feed/ 19 Tue, 26 Apr 2016 19:36:26 +0000
Greg Kesich: Once again, LePage blames it on immigrants – because it works http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/greg-kesich-once-again-lepage-blames-it-on-immigrants-because-it-works/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/greg-kesich-once-again-lepage-blames-it-on-immigrants-because-it-works/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=854477 Early in the 15-year run of “American Idol,” commentator Tony Kornheiser asked a crucial question about the show’s host, Ryan Seacrest.

“Is he an idiot?” Kornheiser wondered. “Or is he a genius pretending to be an idiot?”

That’s the same question I have about Paul LePage, and I go back and forth. Right now I’m going with “genius,” as long as we can add “evil” to the title.

LePage’s bizarre rant last weekend at the Republican state convention about hard-to-understand foreign workers is worth a second look.

“You already have restaurants in the summer, if you go on the coast, it’s hard to hear what they’re saying. Do you ever try to say ‘What’s the special of the day?’ to someone from Bulgaria?” LePage said. “And the worst ones if they’re from India. I mean, they’re all lovely people, but it takes ’em … you’re going to have an interpreter.”

On one hand, it’s classic LePage – a mean joke that flouts prissy rules of political correctness. Nothing more than an attempt to amuse a room full of native-born white people by making fun of foreigners, especially those with brown skin. It’s just a joke, his supporters say, get over it.

But it’s important to remember what he was talking about when he made this apparently unscripted detour.

It was the minimum wage.

And if anyone wonders how LePage is going to fight the minimum-wage referendum, which is probably going to be on the November ballot, we just got a preview: The minimum wage is for foreigners, and all it will do is take money out of the pockets of good, hardworking Americans like you and give it to people who can’t even speak our language.

I know, it doesn’t make any sense. Maine is 96.3 percent native-born, so how is the other 3.7 percent going to swallow up a big share of anything?

And besides, Maine’s population is aging quickly. Why would someone who is responsible for the state’s economy take a position that would discourage foreign-born people from coming here to work? Don’t we need them?

But if you have to ask those questions, you haven’t been paying much attention to Gov. LePage. This is how he operates. LePage has been going after immigrants since he came to office, not because Maine has a problem with too much immigration, but because we have so little. There are so few foreign-born people in the state, he can turn them into any scary demon he needs. He has made a career out of beating up on the weak.

Remember his 2014 campaign ad, the one that juxtaposed images of worried-looking white people with scenes of shadowy figures walking across a desert, wading a stream and then standing in what looked like a underground tunnel? The unspoken message was clear: If Mike Michaud gets elected, immigrants will be coming out of Maine sewers to get welfare.

Then LePage followed that up with his oft-repeated false statement that asylum seekers are bringing diseases to Maine.

With no evidence or logic, he repeatedly blamed an uptick in HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and tuberculosis on immigrants, without noting that those blood-borne diseases are spread by the use of dirty hypodermic needles, which are used almost exclusively by good old Mainers. He even accused immigrants of putting us at risk by introducing the “ziki fly,” a bug that exists only in his imagination.

He does it all the time and it works. Instead of holding LePage accountable for Maine’s lousy economy, even people on welfare are blaming welfare for the lack of good jobs.

Raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 is projected to help nearly 160,000 workers, about a quarter of Maine’s workforce, not just the relatively few people who are currently earning the $7.50 minimum. But watch LePage’s rhetoric turn it into a windfall for a few immigrants.

A campaign strategist once told me that he could win a referendum election by telling voters that a measure would help others, but that it’s much better when you can tell voters it would help them directly. And the absolute best is being able to tell people they have to vote your way or someone else will come along and take what’s theirs.

And this has been LePage’s genius, if you want to call it that, since coming to office in 2011. He can always point to the outsider who is taking food off the table of hardworking Maine families, and put himself in the role of their defender.

LePage may find foreigners hard to understand, but some of us are getting better at reading him. And even without his name on the ballot, there is no telling how ugly he will be able to make this campaign.

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

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter: @gregkesich

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Another View: ‘Fog of lies’ clouds case for how military prosecutes sex crimes http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/fog-of-lies-clouds-case-for-how-military-prosecutes-sex-crimes/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/fog-of-lies-clouds-case-for-how-military-prosecutes-sex-crimes/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=854489 In war, the confusion generated by fighting and killing is often referred to as “the fog of war” at the Pentagon. According to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group committed to changing how the military handles sexual misconduct allegations, a “fog of lies” has been standard operating procedure at the Pentagon, too.

Protect Our Defenders uncovered an effort by the Pentagon to undercut support for a Senate bill that would strip military commanders of their authority to decide which sexual assault complaints go forward to trial. According to internal government records used to buttress the Pentagon’s argument, civilian authorities are less likely to hold people in the military responsible for sexual assault than military prosecutors are.

Not so. The number of cases brought by local district attorneys and police against those in the military was either dramatically low-balled or omitted completely. This shady data even alleges that military authorities aggressively prosecute sexual assaults where civilian authorities refuse to, which is the opposite of what happens in reality.

The Pentagon’s testimony before Congress was a series of untruths designed to undermine efforts to move jurisdiction for prosecuting sex crimes from the military to civilian authorities. Protect Our Defenders wasn’t able to find one case of sexual assault that was prosecuted over the objections of civilian authorities.

The military stands by its characterization of the data, which is a standard response. Someone in the Pentagon hierarchy should be held responsible. Even if the military wasn’t consciously lying during its testimony, this episode doesn’t bode well for its ability to interpret straightforward data.

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Maine Voices: National monument proposal a historic opportunity for Katahdin region, chamber chief says http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/maine-voices-national-monument-proposal-a-historic-opportunity-for-katahdin-region/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/maine-voices-national-monument-proposal-a-historic-opportunity-for-katahdin-region/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=854147 MILLINOCKET — Many residents and organizations in the Katahdin region support a proposed national monument east of Baxter State Park. This national monument would be created with land donated, along with an endowment to pay for operating expenses, to the American people. It would be the first step toward the creation of a national park and national recreation area on up to 150,000 acres.

This would be a huge benefit to the people of the Katahdin region, as well as the people of Maine and the nation. The national monument could provide important economic benefits to our region at a time when we urgently need positive developments. That is why there is much support for the proposal in the region.

The board of directors of the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously to endorse the proposed national park and national recreation area. The Katahdin Area Chamber represents 140 members in the communities of Millinocket, East Millinocket, Medway, Lincoln, Patten, Sherman, Brownville and the surrounding unorganized townships.

As a third-generation lifelong citizen of Millinocket, with deep roots in the community, I am intimately familiar with the challenges we are facing on a daily basis. The Millinocket mill is now gone for good. The East Millinocket mill has been sold for salvage. The Old Town mill is closed, and the Lincoln mill has filed for bankruptcy. Bucksport has also shut down and is being dismantled; for the first time in 140 years, there are no paper mills in the entire Penobscot River watershed.

Once we had businesses that catered to working folks with good incomes; now we have emergency food pantries and thrift stores. If our homes are selling at all, they are selling for pennies on the dollar. Our property tax rate is high – one of the highest in the state; municipal services are being cut, and our school systems are skeletons of their former selves compared to when Millinocket-area teachers were some of the highest-paid in Maine.

For many, despair has settled in as the situation has gone from bad to worse. Although we will continue to work hard to maintain as many forest products jobs as possible, we also need economic diversification – which a national monument can help provide.

A national monument and eventually a national park would create desperately needed jobs in the region.

Over the past two years, I’ve witnessed a major shift in attitudes about the proposed national park and national recreation area. I support the project because I care so deeply about the future of our communities.

We are surrounded by natural resources that could be used in new ways to create jobs, attract people to the region and help us move forward. I also believe that a national monument and eventually a national park could help shine a spotlight on our proud forest-sector heritage and history.

The proposed national monument is no silver bullet. It is but one piece of a larger puzzle that needs to be assembled. But it is an important piece – for our region and for the state of Maine.

As national parks and monuments have been created over the last 100 years, they have faced initial opposition. Many of our nation’s treasured national parks, monuments and forests were opposed, but then strongly supported once they were established.

An excellent report by the Center for Western Priorities looked closely at places like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier Bay, Redwood National Park and more. Their conclusion is that “in each case, early criticism was eventually overwhelmed by strong public and political support that remains today.” In each case there were opponents who found themselves eventually on the wrong side of history. Visitation, job creation and dollars infused the economies of the local communities and proved them wrong.

That is why the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce has been joined by the Katahdin Area Rotary, the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce, the Bangor City Council, the Maine Innkeepers Association and hundreds of other businesses in northern Maine to support the proposed national park and recreation area.

With the centennial of the National Park Service being celebrated now, in 2016, the step we can take on that path is to support a national monument. Please join the many supporters of the proposed national monument in the Katahdin region and show your support for this addition to the national park system. This is a historic opportunity for the Katahdin region.

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Our View: Fine would teach Maine education funding panel about open-meetings law http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/our-view-fine-would-teach-maine-education-funding-panel-about-open-meetings-law/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/our-view-fine-would-teach-maine-education-funding-panel-about-open-meetings-law/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=854432 The first meeting this week of a special state commission on education funding has made clear that the panel has a lot to learn about government transparency and accountability. The group flouted Maine’s open-meetings law by getting together behind closed doors. Each member of the commission could now face a hefty fine – and they should, if the public’s right to know is to stand for anything.

Those who came to Augusta for Monday morning’s education task force gathering could be forgiven if they thought they’d been transported to a New York nightclub with a rigorous screening policy. LePage policy adviser Aaron Chadbourne stood outside the Blaine House, where the event was being held, and repeatedly informed legislators, reporters and others that the meeting was off limits.

“If you were not invited, then the governor has asked that you not be allowed into the breakfast,” Chadbourne told state Rep. Brian Hubbell, a member of the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, in a video recorded by a state teachers union staffer.

But under Maine’s sunshine laws, the case for allowing a closed-door meeting of the commission is weak at best. The task force was created by publicly elected state legislators to develop recommendations on how best to spend the taxpayer money allocated to Maine’s K-12 public schools. And there’s no evidence that the meeting’s agenda included any of the very few topics that a public group is allowed to discuss in private.

Attorney General Janet Mills and state public access ombudsman Brenda Kielty have both declared that the LePage administration violated state law by holding the education commission’s inaugural meeting in private. If the Attorney General’s Office decides to proceed with sanctions, each person at the meeting could be fined up to $500.

We believe that the attorney general can’t let these violations go by. Twelve of the 15 people at Monday’s meeting are elected or appointed officials who are expected to know the state Freedom of Access Act, which includes the open meeting law. But nobody left Monday’s gathering – which indicates that they either don’t know what state public access regulations entail or that they’re not worried about being penalized for violating them. Neither is very comforting. And it will go on this way unless officials are held responsible for conducting the public’s business where the public can see them.

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Maine Voices: A few modest proposals for spring cleaning address Portland’s visual pollution http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/26/maine-voices-a-few-modest-proposals-for-spring-cleaning-portlands-visual-pollution/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/26/maine-voices-a-few-modest-proposals-for-spring-cleaning-portlands-visual-pollution/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=852533 Maine prides itself on its landscapes and seascapes. We recognize their beauties are intrinsic; lovely, for having been left alone.

The same cannot be said of our cityscapes. They require work, and now’s the time for streets to be swept and porches painted – and maybe, just maybe, it’s time for some larger initiatives.

There’s this pesky little problem, though: Our eyes often don’t see all that’s in need of our attention.

Take Sumner Park up on Munjoy Hill. On a clear day, one can see Mount Washington from the park. What’s impressive is the mass of the mountain. Even at 65 miles’ distance, it looms large, hopefully reminding us that humility’s a virtue.

What’s not impressive is what’s in the foreground. Yes, there’s a trash container by the park entryway. Unfortunately, there’s not another receptacle out by the benches presumably situated for folks to enjoy a sandwich and soda while taking in the view.

Instead, the land drops off there into littered high grasses. Sadly, we humans seem intent on leaving unlovely stuff in lovely places.

No, another Sumner Park trash can wouldn’t be a cure-all, but it would be a start. What else is needed? The total cleanup of an adjacent hillside property that’s filled with broken pallets and choking on unruly vegetation run amok.

Are there means for a communal remedy here? A conversation with a private property owner? Some selective pruning? A homeless crew given wages and a sense of usefulness by helping clean our city’s litter fields?

Perhaps. But let me catalog some other spring cleanup prospects.

Might Oakhurst Dairy find a way to quell the dirt devils that rise from its truck parking lot at the corner of Chestnut and Somerset streets in Bayside? After all, shouldn’t a venerable Maine company whose stated focus is on “being green” find a way to improve its own in-town dirt parking lot?

Might the city also finally bring together the resources needed to get rid of that forest of pilings inside our Ocean Gateway pier? Or is this really the first view of Portland we want to offer the swelling numbers of cruise ship passengers visiting our city?

How about tackling some of the city’s other visual pollution?

Who in their right mind thought attaching 21st-century antennas to the 19th-century Portland Observatory was a good idea? Can you imagine the same being done to the Washington Monument?

And who thought it so all-fired important that, over a Fire Department substation, a communications tower that’s spindly, ugly and taller than that same Portland Observatory should be erected right next door to it?

Arrogance and obliviousness need not rule the day.

In Portland’s case, some of the most egregious offenses against the contours of an otherwise human-scaled town are three high-rises: Portland House and Promenade East condos on Munjoy Hill, and Franklin Towers, across the street from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

All severely mar views of Portland while also walling off notable views from the city. If someone can catalog their redeeming architectural value for me, I’d invite them to try.

Until then, I’d suggest beginning efforts to get all three torn down. Admittedly, we’re talking here about something slightly more ambitious than spring cleaning.

However, a new Franklin Towers surely could offer the same number of public housing units that it now provides and do so without rising above the roofline of the Immaculate Conception cathedral. Is there not something to be said for paying deference to the spiritual?

In the case of the yellow brick wall that is Portland House and the brutalist block that is Promenade East, replacements certainly could be designed that offer greater luxury while better hugging Munjoy Hill and offering better views for everyone.

So let’s consider one last prospect: Making something more of the very pinnacle of our fair city – the blinking sign atop our Time & Temperature Building. Something tells me we can make something more of our town’s crown. I’m imagining a less cryptic, colorful kaleidoscope of art and information that brightens our hearts night and day.

Yes, spring’s the mischief in me, and so I cast these seeds upon the city to see what takes root.

 

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Charles Lawton: Digital and physical connections are key for rural economy http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/26/charles-lawton-digital-and-physical-connections-are-key-for-rural-economy-y/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/26/charles-lawton-digital-and-physical-connections-are-key-for-rural-economy-y/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=852572 Before the Great Recession, policy analysts used to fret about “the two Maines” – one a northern, resource, manufacturing and rural economy, and the other a southern, service and largely urban economy.

On a regular basis, they’d scratch their heads, think hard and hold conferences devoted to finding ways “to spread the prosperity,” to somehow bring whatever was generating growth in southern Maine to northern Maine. While the boundary between north and south was always vague – north of Portland, north of Augusta, north and east of Bangor – the motivation was always similar: Let’s make Maine one.

The recent release of the newest Measures of Growth report from the Maine Economic Growth Council and the Maine Development Foundation led me to revisit the topic of regional divisions while widening the scope. Let’s look for a moment at three regions:

The Boston metropolitan area (five northeastern Massachusetts counties plus Rockingham and Strafford counties in New Hampshire).

The Portland metropolitan area (York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties).

 The rest of Maine.

Viewed from this broader regional perspective, the cascading nature of economic growth is striking. Over the period of recovery since the “official” end of the Great Recession (2010 to 2014 – the latest period for which comparable data are available), total production in private industry grew by 16 percent in the Boston area, 8 percent in the Portland area and 3 percent in the rest of Maine.

Total employment grew by 8 percent in the Boston area, 4 percent in the Portland area and 2 percent in the rest of Maine. Total population grew by 4 percent in the Boston area and 2 percent in the Portland area; in the rest of Maine, it fell by 1 percent.

For individual sectors, the growth rates move up and down, but the same relative pattern holds. For example: Total production in professional and business services grew by 23 percent in the Boston area, 19 percent in the Portland area and 10 percent in the rest of Maine.

Total production in retail trade grew by 14 percent in the Boston area, 9 percent in the Portland area and 4 percent in the rest of Maine.

Only in the government sector did the pattern vary, with growth of 7 percent in the Boston area, 0 percent in the Portland area and 3 percent in the rest of Maine.

Arts, entertainment, recreation and accommodations (the travel industry) was the only sector in which the Portland area and the rest of Maine (both with growth rates of 16 percent) approach the Boston-area rate of 21 percent.

While helpful in clarifying Maine’s position within northern New England (or at least its eastern corridor), these figures seem to present no obvious answers. Instead of the challenge of figuring out how to spread the prosperity around the “two” Maines, we’re now faced with the same problem of spreading the prosperity around three sections of a broader region.

A closer look at one element of the data, however, sheds some light on how a good deal of “spreading around” is already taking place.

The federal Bureau of Economic Analysis distinguishes between earnings by place of work (the location of an employer) and earnings by place of residence (the home of an employee). In 2014, employees who worked in the Boston area but did not live there earned over $14 billion more in that region than residents of the region working elsewhere brought back into the region.

For both the Portland area and the rest of Maine, in contrast, the flow of out-of-region earnings was positive. In 2014, Portland-area residents earned nearly $415 million more elsewhere than nonresidents earned in the Portland area. Much of this income came, undoubtedly, from the Boston area, some from the rest of Maine and some from wherever around the globe Portland-area residents can convince employers to pay them.

Workers in the rest of Maine earned even more outside their home region in 2014 – just over $431 million more than nonresidents earned in the rest of Maine. Unfortunately, this is actually down from $470 million in 2010, probably reflecting a decline in the overall population and a failure to develop the skills needed in other regions.

The point here is that the most important way to “spread prosperity around” is to make it easier for workers to move around, first in the old-fashioned way by driving, second in the digital way by navigating the Internet and, most importantly, by creating more widely available, shorter-term and less-expensive ways for residents of rural Maine to acquire the skills needed to get on either of these highways.

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

clawton@planningdecisions.com

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Kathleen Parker: Sanders fails to realize that Southern black votes matter – a lot http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/26/kathleen-parker-sanders-fails-to-realize-that-southern-black-votes-matter-a-lot/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/26/kathleen-parker-sanders-fails-to-realize-that-southern-black-votes-matter-a-lot/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=852644 African-Americans in the South can’t get a break when it comes to voting, as history can’t deny.

After all they’ve endured through slavery, Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, their voices are still treated dismissively by tone-deaf politicians who would ask for their votes.

If you’re thinking Bernie Sanders, you’re partly right.

Earlier this month, having lost massively to Hillary Clinton across the Southeast, Sanders said that the bevy of early Southern primaries “distorts reality.” Soon thereafter, perhaps covering for a lapse in political acumen, he clarified that those early states are the most conservative in the country.

Not really. And not really.

While some segments of the South are undeniably conservative, Dixie is also home to a large and reliably Democratic cohort – African-Americans. Many of the most liberal people serving in today’s Congress were elected by Southerners, especially black ones. Sanders failed to earn their votes in part by treating the South as a lost cause.

Many took Sanders’ remarks as insinuating that the black vote isn’t all that important. Adding to the insult, actor Tim Robbins, a Sanders surrogate, said that Clinton’s win in South Carolina, where more than half of Democratic voters are African-American, was “about as significant” as winning Guam.

Not cool, Mr. Robbins, though you were great in “The Shawshank Redemption.”

The gentleman from Vermont (black population: 1 percent) and the gentleman from Hollywood failed to charm Southern Democratic leaders, who recently responded with a letter condemning Sanders’ remarks. The signatories, including the Democratic Party chairs of South Carolina (an African-American), Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, expressed concern that Sanders’ characterization of the South minimized “the importance of the voices of a core constituency for our party.”

The letter writers also pointed out that some of Sanders’ victories have been in Oklahoma, Utah and Idaho, states that are more conservative than Southern ones.

That black voters would prefer a familiar candidate such as Clinton over someone whose personal experience among African-Americans seems to have been relatively limited, notwithstanding his participation in civil rights demonstrations, is hardly surprising. For decades, the Clintons have worked for issues and protections important to the African-American community.

But the Clintons, too, have been dismissive toward black voters when things didn’t go their way. During the 2008 primaries when it was clear that Barack Obama would trounce Hillary Clinton in South Carolina, Bill Clinton remarked that Jesse Jackson also had won the state in both 1984 and 1988.

No one needs a translator to get Clinton’s meaning. His next hastily drawn sentence – “Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here” – did little to distract from the implication that Obama would win because he was black.

Not cool, Mr. President.

Hillary Clinton got herself into a hot mess in 2008 when she asserted that President Lyndon Johnson was responsible for the Civil Rights Act, which many saw as dismissive of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s legacy. She scrambled to mitigate the damage, but feelings once hurt are hard to mend.

Then again, time works miracles, and all is apparently forgiven. Hillary Clinton has been duly rewarded for her loyalty, patience and sportsmanship. She played nice with Obama, crushing her resentment beneath her sensible shoes and erasing from memory Obama’s condescending “You’re likable enough, Hillary” during a debate.

On the campaign trail, Clinton now tosses rose petals at Obama’s feats, promising to carry on his policies not because she necessarily agrees with them but because it’s politically savvy. For his part, the president has all but endorsed Clinton, returning the favor of her indulgence and her husband’s vigorous support.

The truth is, only Obama could have defeated Clinton for the 2008 nomination, and he probably did win at least partly because he was African-American. The country felt it was time for a black president, and Obama’s message of hope was intoxicating. He was a dazzling diamond in the rough world of partisan politics.

Clinton shares none of Obama’s sparkle, but she has more than paid her dues and African-American voters have rewarded her loyalty. For his part, Sanders not only confirmed African-Americans’ concerns about his disconnect from their daily lives but was also badly mistaken about the South’s distance from reality.

In the South, black votes matter – a lot – and no one has understood this better than the Clintons.

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

kathleenparker@washpost.com

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Another View: Democratic candidates give up on education reform http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/26/another-view-democratic-candidates-give-up-on-education-reform/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/26/another-view-democratic-candidates-give-up-on-education-reform/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=852689 Neither Bernie Sanders nor Hillary Clinton is defending one of President Obama’s most important legacies: education reform. Instead of taking on the teachers’ unions, as the president did, both candidates offer an agenda that amounts to spending more and demanding less. It’s not a winning combination.

Sanders beats the drum for his plan to provide free college tuition for rich and poor alike, yet remains virtually silent on how to improve failing elementary, middle and high schools. His campaign website provides explanations of his position on more than 30 issues – but not K-12 education.

Clinton at least devotes more words to the issue on her website. She calls for implementing a law Congress passed last year, the Every Child Succeeds Act, which gave states more leeway in setting (and lowering) standards, investing in teacher training, and helping students with disabilities. In debates, she has hardly gotten more specific, calling for an “education SWAT team” to rescue failing schools.

The past two decades have produced some encouraging gains in student achievement. Teachers are vital to this progress. But they are not the only constituency, or even the most important one, whose interests candidates should consider. If this generation of children is to succeed in the global economy, and if the achievement gap between the haves and have-nots is to continue shrinking, voters will have to demand better.

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Our View: Enhanced food stamps help Maine farmers, families http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/26/our-view-enhanced-food-stamps-help-maine-farmers-families/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/26/our-view-enhanced-food-stamps-help-maine-farmers-families/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=852767 Spring has finally arrived, and with it comes the reopening of local farmers markets. Fruits and vegetables fresh from a nearby farm are among the things that some Mainers dream about over the course of a long, dark winter.

Now a program called Harvest Bucks is helping to extend this seasonal bonus to people who might otherwise not be able to afford to partake. Money distributed through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, goes 50 percent further when spent at participating farmers markets. That not only sends nutritious food to homes where it’s desperately needed, but also puts money in the pocket of hardworking farmers, expanding the market for their goods.

It’s rare to see a program that provides such a clear benefit for both sides of the transaction, and more farmers markets and individual vendors should make sure that they have the technology to participate.

Food insecurity is a serious problem in Maine, affecting 16 percent of the population. It’s even higher among children (24 percent) and seniors (23 percent).

When food is scarce, good nutrition becomes a luxury. Low-income families might not have a grocery store in their neighborhood or own a car to drive to one, but fast food is everywhere. Refined grains and processed food with sugar can make a cheap meal, even though they’re bad for long-term health.

Fresh local produce is a much healthier choice, but it looks to be much too expensive.

Maine’s farmers have struggles of their own. Although the state is in the midst of an awakening around the pleasure and benefits of local food, growing it is still a tough way to make a living.

Farmers markets and farm stands are a way for the people who grow the food to keep more of the proceeds. Anything that will expand the number of people shopping at farmers markets can only help farmers, and we all benefit when working farms stay in business and conserve valuable open space.

People often forget that food stamps is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and was designed to help farmers as much as people with low incomes. The beauty of the enhanced SNAP benefits is that some of the help will go to Maine farmers instead of agribusiness giants far away.

There has been a dramatic increase in food stamp usage at farmers markets in the five years the program has been in place, going from $12,560 in 2010 to $120,549 last year. Mainers received $321 million in food stamp benefits, and more of that should be kept in Maine.

About one-third of farmers markets have the ability to read electronic benefit transfer cards. Some farmers have their own EBT readers and can give premium credit, but most do not.

The experience of the last five years has shown the Harvest Bucks program is something that deserves to grow.

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Maine Voices: LePage’s ignorance of addiction science worsens health crisis http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/25/maine-voices-lepages-ignorance-of-addiction-science-worsens-a-health-crisis/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/25/maine-voices-lepages-ignorance-of-addiction-science-worsens-a-health-crisis/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=850361 I recently attended the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s annual conference in Baltimore, where I listened intently to the nation’s leading physicians, scientists and policymakers speak about innovative developments and strategies to treat the disease of addiction.

Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont gave a rousing speech on the many aggressive measures he has employed to address the heroin crisis in his state, including expanding health insurance coverage and decriminalizing drug use in favor of expanding access to treatment. He also spoke about increasing the availability of naloxone, a life-saving medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.

As a board-certified addiction medicine physician practicing in Portland, the more I heard about the proactive measures being taken around the country to address the terrible epidemic of heroin addiction, the more frustrated I became at the lack of evidence-based action taken by our officials in the state of Maine.

Last week, Gov. LePage vetoed a bill, L.D. 1547, that would have expanded access to naloxone. Naloxone (brand name Narcan) is an opioid antagonist that acts as an antidote to drugs such as heroin, fentanyl and oxycodone. This medication is effective, fast-acting, safe and non-addicting.

The legislation would have allowed pharmacists to dispense naloxone to at-risk individuals and their friends and family members without a prescription. The bill also would have allowed police and firefighters to obtain supplies of naloxone.

Public health experts (such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have called for such measures in an attempt to stop the rising number of Americans whose lives are being cut far too short because of drug overdoses. Last year, this number soared to 272 in Maine.

Literally adding insult to injury, LePage speculated in his veto message that “naloxone does not truly save lives, it merely extends them until the next overdose” and that the medication “produces a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.”

His statements are not only offensive to those struggling with the disease of addiction, they are also wrong. The medical literature has repeatedly shown that naloxone does, in fact, save lives. Communities that employ overdose prevention programs with naloxone have lower rates of drug overdoses than those that don’t, according to the CDC. Furthermore, many studies show that increased access to naloxone does not result in increased levels of heroin use – in fact, it may actually reduce usage of the drug.

The governor’s statements would seem to indicate that he believes that those who are addicted to drugs will never get better and should be punished by not having access to a life-saving medication.

Would he deprive family members’ access to an epinephrine pen for their loved one who has a severe allergy because it may enable them to irresponsibly eat peanut butter? How about restricting access to insulin for diabetics or chemotherapy to those with lung cancer because it may enable them to continue to eat ice cream or smoke cigarettes? His logic is faulty, and his statements serve only to perpetuate the stigmatization of individuals with addictions as bad people who make bad choices.

I have treated many patients in recovery from the chronic brain disease of addiction who have either experienced an overdose themselves or witnessed one among their friends. Never have I heard that they considered using more drugs because they knew that if they overdosed, they would be rescued later.

Addiction is characterized by impulsivity and the continued use of a substance or behavior despite negative consequences. What I have heard are many heartbreaking stories of promising young individuals who suddenly died, leaving behind distraught parents, friends and sometimes young children.

I have come to accept that many in the public would hold misconceptions about those with addictions. However, I find the continued ignorance of the governor of a state of over 1 million people absolutely inexcusable and irresponsible.

There is no doubt in my mind that LePage’s decision to veto bill L.D. 1547 will needlessly endanger the lives of Mainers. It calls into question his ability to lead our state during a time of unprecedented public health crisis.

As a physician on the front lines, I strongly encourage the governor and other policymakers to educate themselves on the science of addiction (www.drugabuse.gov) and to craft informed, evidence-based policies (such as those that expand affordable access to addiction treatment medications such as buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone). Enough is enough.

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Our View: Maine DOT should stop nickel-and-diming safety http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/25/our-view-maine-dot-should-stop-nickel-and-diming-safety/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/25/our-view-maine-dot-should-stop-nickel-and-diming-safety/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=850367 Use it up. Wear it out. Thriftiness is a quality Mainers value with an almost religious reverence.

No state agency better displays this way of thinking than the Maine Department of Transportation, which every year manages to make do with inadequate resources.

It’s admirable, except for one thing: The resources actually are inadequate.

Nickel-and-diming safety is a poor way to make decisions, but that’s just what the state has been doing for too long. The age of Maine’s roads and bridges, combined with legislators’ stubborn refusal to raise the gas tax, is delaying needed maintenance and putting people at risk.

Earlier this month, an SUV crashed through a railing on the Bath viaduct, tumbling down to the street below and landing upside down in the bed of a pickup truck. The safety of the railing had been the subject of two inspections since 2014, but recommended repair work had been put off.

A visual examination of the viaduct by a Press Herald reporter revealed over a dozen places where anchor bolts attaching the rail to the bridge were broken or missing, and places where the concrete was cracked and crumbling.

The viaduct is scheduled to be replaced this year, but there are 30 other Maine bridges with the same design, which should be raising alarms throughout the state about the safety of our roads.

Maine DOT engineers have the difficult job of prioritizing maintenance work on the state’s transportation infrastructure. When the department delivered its work plan to the Legislature, it projected a $168 million gap between the cost of the work that needs doing and the money available.

Gaps like that every year are partially filled with state bonds, which have to be repaid by all taxpayers, largely state residents. But even with the borrowed money, there are still a number of projects that are sloughed off from one year to the next.

That kind of budgeting might work for a homeowner, but it’s a dangerous way to operate for a state that needs roads and bridges that can safely move both heavy trucks and light vehicles.

The deficit is created by a gas tax that doesn’t bring in enough to meet Maine’s need. An effort to increase the 30-cent-per-gallon levy was thwarted in the Legislature this year. If they had been able to raise it only 5 cents, Maine would have $35 million more to maintain its roads, with much of it coming from tourists and out-of-state trucking companies.

A modest increase in the gas tax would help, but it would not fix the problem. The gas tax should be based on the state’s actual maintenance needs, not on what some politicians think that their constituents want to pay.

Maine has missed an opportunity to modernize its infrastructure during the recovery from the Great Recession, when interest rates were at historic lows and construction companies hungry for work bid aggressively. It would be a mistake to get further behind by clinging to a 30-cent gas tax.

The DOT deserves credit for finding efficiencies and managing resources. But we are not going to scrimp our way out of this problem.

Letting state infrastructure fall apart is not thrifty – it’s just dumb.

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Cynthia Dill: Telling the true story of our nation isn’t ‘political correctness’ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/24/cynthia-dill-telling-the-true-story-of-our-nation-isnt-political-correctness/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/24/cynthia-dill-telling-the-true-story-of-our-nation-isnt-political-correctness/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=848897 Making Harriet Tubman the new face of the $20 bill is no more “politically correct” than having Andrew Jackson’s smug mug on it all these years for reasons no history buff can explain. Jackson was opposed to a national bank and against paper money – why does his face best represent it?

“Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill,” Donald Trump said after Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s announcement that Tubman’s portrait will appear on the front of the double sawbuck and the seventh U.S. president’s will be on the back.

Rough for who? All those great Americans who made tons of money off slaves while pretending to fight for the little guy? The therapy establishment would call Trump’s reaction “political projection,” but I digress. Let’s keep our eye on the money.

Two-faced currency will be a powerful and accurate symbol of America’s struggle for a more perfect union. A black face and a white face. Man and woman. Slave and slave owner. What’s the problem?

Trump says he’s not opposed to Tubman; he opposes what he calls “political correctness,” but what really is simply progress on our collective journey as a country toward more freedom and justice. Trump is really opposed to critical thinking that might destabilize the patriarchal power structure to which his followers desperately cling.

“I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic. I would love to leave Andrew Jackson and see if we can maybe come up with another denomination. Maybe we do the $2 bill or we do another bill. … Yes, I think it’s pure political correctness.”

The $2 bill? We might as well put Tubman on a wooden nickel and go back to the gold standard. It’s only the 21st century.

For decades, Republicans have been on the losing side of practically every major intellectual argument this country has had except one – until now. Gay marriage, abortion rights, the use of torture, background checks on gun purchases, immigration, tax cuts, health care – you name it, the GOP has lost the argument and as a result continues to lose members. The red tent keeps getting smaller.

One thing conservatives have done well is point out the hypocrisy of some on the left who use bullying and other means of censorship to impose their world view. Take, for example, the student protest of Condoleezza Rice speaking at Rutgers because of her involvement in the Iraq war. Not hearing what she has to say was better than hearing it? No. Of course not.

It was President Bush who correctly said in the early ’90s that “the notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land, and although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudice with new ones.”

Amen. Robust public discourse is what tests ideas and ideology. A battle of wits is the best workout for a democracy. Winning hearts and minds must be the goal of political parties because without a worthy opponent, anybody will get lazy and fat.

Arguing against political correctness was the last worthy arrow conservatives had in their quiver in the battle against liberals who bully in the name of equality – until Trump and other right-wing wackos took over their party. In their world, “anti-establishment” is just another code word for “anti-intellectual.” Dumb is the new black in Trump’s camp, and if they win, we all lose. The anti-establishment left is not much better.

Tubman was born the property of a plantation owner and died an unsung American legend, until now. She escaped slavery and then aided and abetted the escape of others on the Underground Railroad. Born Araminta Ross, she later took the name Harriet and became a spy for the Union Army. She was a nurse in the Civil War and fought for women’s voting rights on top of taking care of her elderly parents and fighting for fair compensation for her life’s work building America. Establishment conservatives applaud her inclusion on U.S. currency for her extraordinary contribution to the country. That she was a gun owner and is replacing a former Democratic folk hero doesn’t hurt, either.

But anti-establishment is now anti-logic, as standing up for moral values is now “PC.”

The anti-establishment wings of both parties are militant, uncompromising and unwilling to see another point of view. These are bullies posing as patriots, but bullying in the name of justice is antithetical to the deeply held American values of free speech and intellectual discourse. The battle of ideas in the bedrock of democracy.

It was a Republican president who first thrust the concept of political correctness into the national political dialogue and raised important issues about the need to balance tolerance and free speech with righteousness and causes, and now it’s a Republican presidential candidate who is putting a stake through the heart of that sound argument.

Jackson was an orphan who fought great battles and rose to be president while amassing great personal wealth from slavery. Tubman was a slave who fought great battles amassing freedom for others. It’s not political correctness or incorrectness to juxtapose the portraits of these two Americans. It’s the true story of this country.

Truth isn’t correct or incorrect, and the historical record matters. Whether it’s money, monuments or portraits on the wall of government institutions, symbolism is the currency of political capital, and there’s enough to go around among all those who have made contributions.

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

dillesquire@gmail.com

Twitter: dillesquire

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Bill Nemitz: A time to bear the weight 
of supporting our troops http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/24/bill-nemitz-a-time-to-bear-the-weight-%e2%80%a8of-supporting-our-troops/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/24/bill-nemitz-a-time-to-bear-the-weight-%e2%80%a8of-supporting-our-troops/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=850379 Words cannot begin to describe the burden Ray and Martha Goyet will carry every day of their lives.

High school sweethearts who grew up in Westbrook and then embarked on a life in the military, they looked on with pride as their son, Mark, enlisted in the Marines right out of his Texas high school in 2008.

And then, three years later, they watched in horror as his flag-draped casket came home from Afghanistan.

He’d volunteered for the deployment, his second to a war zone. Two months later, he died from small arms fire during an ambush on his convoy in Helmand Province.

“Civilians read about it, they hear about it, but it’s like in a different life,” said Ray Goyet, who retired last fall after 38 years in the Navy, in a telephone interview on Friday. “It doesn’t impact them.”

The man knows of what he speaks. For the vast majority of Americans, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq required no personal sacrifice, no loss of a loved one, no heavy lifting whatsoever.

Greg Johnson, a Marine veteran determined to keep names like Mark Goyet’s front and center in our collective memory, has a plan to change that.

On Saturday, May 7, Johnson invites civilians far and wide to bring a backpack down to East End Beach in Portland, load it up with however much weight you think you can handle and then set out on the Husky Ruck Memorial 10K around the Eastern Promenade and Back Cove in honor of Mainers who lost their lives while serving in the military.

Why? Two reasons.

One is to spend a few hours feeling the weight, literally, that extended families like the Goyets – “Ninety percent of them are in Greater Portland,” said Ray – continue to bear while the rest of the world shakes off the Iraq and Afghanistan wars like a pair of bad dreams.

The other is to raise money, via the Corporal Mark Goyet Memorial Foundation, for scholarships to benefit military veterans at the University of Southern Maine.

Johnson, who will graduate from USM next month with a degree in criminology, first connected with the Goyets through Johnson’s work with The Summit Project.

Founded in 2013 by Marine Maj. David Cote of Waterville, the project honors 77 members of the military with Maine connections who have died serving their country since 9/11.

Each is commemorated with a rock, engraved with the deceased’s initials, retrieved from a place that was special to that person. Family members, friends and volunteers take the rocks on annual hikes up Mount Katahdin and on other excursions to keep the memories of the fallen alive.

Mark Goyet’s rock, one of The Summit Project’s first, came from a pile accumulated over the years by his grandfather on the family’s property in Westbrook where Mark once played as a young boy.

“Mark’s was the first stone I carried up Katahdin,” explained Johnson, who never met his fellow Marine but still came away wanting to do more in his memory.

Last year, Goyet’s parents created the foundation in Mark’s name to, among other things, help returning veterans pursue their education upon leaving the military.

Upon learning of that, Johnson approached the powers that be at USM with his idea for the ruck – normally a military training exercise, only this one would be for civilians.

Worth noting here is that Military Friendly, a rating service operated by Victory Media Inc., recently named USM one of the top 25 public colleges and universities in the country when it comes to how it treats its student veterans.

It shows.

The USM Foundation has already kicked in $2,500 toward expenses for the Husky Ruck Memorial 10K, according to foundation President George Campbell. What’s more, Campbell said Friday, the university’s scholarship fund will match the total amount raised by the event.

“These (veteran) students are just amazing,” said Campbell. “We’re excited.”

So is Johnson, who deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan during his 10 years as a Marine.

He’s lined up a 30-by-50-foot American flag that flew over both the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, and at Ground Zero in Manhattan to be raised over the start-finish line.

He’s enlisted Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck to serve as keynote speaker.

He’s landed a sponsorship from Student Veterans of America, which will send representatives from Washington, D.C.

He’ll even have The Summit Project’s rocks, including Cpl. Mark Goyet’s, on hand should anyone be looking to add some truly meaningful weight to their rucksack.

What he needs are more Mainers who have long said they “support our troops” but have never exactly broken a sweat doing it. To join the 80-plus who have already registered, or to donate, go to facebook.com/HuskyRuckMemorial10K.

“While this is a race, the emphasis is not on competition,” said Johnson. “The emphasis is about bringing the community here together, challenging yourself, helping people to your left and to your right if you see them struggling, getting everybody through it and carrying forth the legacy that Mark believed in.”

That legacy is embedded in the Gold Star rings that Ray and Martha Goyet now wear in honor of their son.

“He actually had nine months left in his enlistment and he was done. He didn’t have to do any more deployments,” recalled Ray Goyet. “His goal was to use the GI bill to go to school and come back (into the Marines) as an officer.”

But then Mark heard that the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, decimated by casualties from a previous deployment, was looking for volunteers to return with the unit to Afghanistan. And so he stepped forward.

“He said he had brothers who had been killed in action or who had suffered traumatic injuries and he felt he owed it to them,” his father said. “You want to say, ‘No, no, no. You’re done. You’re safe.’ But you can’t argue with that logic. You have to respect that.”

Ray and Martha Goyet will travel here next week from their home in Virginia Beach for the Husky Ruck Memorial 10K. Greg Johnson will be first in line to greet them.

“It’s extremely tough to understand what these families are going through unless you experience it yourself,” Johnson said. “We can imagine, but that’s the best we can do.”

Or we can help shoulder the load.

 

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Maine Observer: This critter’s never met a fence it didn’t like http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/24/maine-observer-this-critters-never-met-a-fence-it-didnt-like/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/24/maine-observer-this-critters-never-met-a-fence-it-didnt-like/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=849050 It’s spring at last and the start of gardening season. My wife tells a good story about her ex-husband, an animal lover and first-time gardener driven to uncharacteristic violence, tender mercy and, ultimately, hopeless resignation by one of Mother Nature’s most humble creatures.

From childhood J.B. wanted his own garden. He’d grown up in a Massachusetts suburb, so he didn’t get the opportunity until he married and moved into a semirural house in Maine. One spring, he and his new wife prepared a plot of ground behind their house and planted lettuce and other leafy vegetables. J.B. obsessively watered and tended his garden. The plants grew and matured, promising many delicious salads and table greens. Then, one morning, disaster.

Overnight, his beautiful plants had been mowed down.

Devastated, he consulted with a garden-savvy friend who told him the culprit was probably a woodchuck. J.B. moved to action. He bought a roll of chicken wire and constructed a protective fence. This worked for a few days. Protected from harm, the plants quickly grew back. J.B. was pleased; problem solved. Until once again he discovered his garden eaten. He returned to the hardware store and bought an electric fence, which he put in front of the chicken wire.

Confident he’d outwitted the woodchuck, J.B. watered his garden and watched it slowly come back to life. His chewed-up plants sprouted tender new leaves, and again he was hopeful. But his optimism was premature. Despite J.B.’s double-fence barricade, the persistent woodchuck regrouped and attacked once again, climbing over both fences.

The woodchuck had clearly crossed a line. Now it was war. J.B. added another wire fence in front of the electric one. The triple-enclosed garden now looked like a miniature maximum-security prison.

But J.B. knew the war wasn’t going well when one day he watched the woodchuck climb over the first fence, get zapped by the electric fence, and then nonchalantly climb over the third.

His friend told him the only way to stop this critter was to shoot it. Reluctant but desperate, J.B. borrowed his friend’s rifle and stationed himself in the upstairs bathroom window, feeling a little like Elmer Fudd. He’d never shot a gun before. When the varmint appeared, he pulled the trigger. The woodchuck yelped and ran squealing into the woods. J.B. raced outside and followed the blood spoor to the animal’s den.

He felt terrible. He loved animals, and now he’d shot one. Despairing, he jumped into his car and raced to the grocery store, returning home with a head of lettuce.

Daily, for weeks, he placed a few leaves of lettuce or cabbage at the opening of the wounded woodchuck’s den. In the meantime, J.B.’s garden grew back.

You can probably guess the ending to this story. Healed, well-fed and happy – thanks to J.B.’s guilt-ridden and animal-loving ministrations – the ungrateful woodchuck made a final assault on the regrown garden, decimating it.

Defeated, J.B. abandoned his lifelong desire for a vegetable garden. Victorious, the woodchuck was never seen again.

 

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Another View: Columnist wrote false claims about ‘thugs’ at Trump rally http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/24/another-view-columnist-wrote-false-claims-about-thugs-at-trump-rally/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/24/another-view-columnist-wrote-false-claims-about-thugs-at-trump-rally/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=849071 The Portland Press Herald must take responsibility for publishing columns by Charles Krauthammer. Krauthammer has entered the realm of the truly dangerous.

His column of March 18, “Campaigns on both sides engage in dangerous political thuggery,” shows Krauthammer joining the demagogues when he implies that protesters at the Chicago Donald Trump rally were “thugs.”

The protesters were college students (the rally being held on campus) and local community members. There are plenty of news articles on who these people were. There’s no evidence to support Krauthammer’s claims of outside organizing or support, certainly not from Moveon.org or the like.

Like the Trump protest in Portland, the Chicago protest appears to have been spontaneous, inspired by Trump. Krauthammer’s column chooses to vilify this group of students as being of some “totalitarian left that specializes in the … silencing of political opponents” and says of this imaginary group that “its pedigree goes back to early 20th-century fascism and communism.”

Pardon me? There is no truth in these statements. Krauthammer, by these statements, acts the authoritarian, who hates the educated because they see through their lies.

Let’s set this right: Those who protest Donald Trump are not “thugs.” There is no conspiracy. They are people who have the right to protest. Free speech applies for all; rally attendees and protesters of Trump’s demagoguery.

The “thug” is Donald Trump, making xenophobic statements and encouraging violence (as supported by the New York Times’ recently published list of Trump events where he has called for or endorsed acts of violence).

As Alexander Hamilton warned: “Of those men who have overturned the liberty of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by playing an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants.”

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