Opinion – Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com Thu, 25 May 2017 20:07:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Bill Nemitz: After a few misses, LePage nails argument against nips http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/bill-nemitz-lepage-reaches-eureka-moment-on-nips/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/bill-nemitz-lepage-reaches-eureka-moment-on-nips/#respond Thu, 25 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1201191 Ever heard of the infinite monkey theorem?

It’s a fancy name for the theory that a monkey, pounding away at a typewriter for an infinite period, sooner or later will replicate a great work of Shakespeare or some other literary masterpiece.

Which brings us to Gov. Paul LePage.

Last week, after flailing away at the Legislature for daring to slap a 5-cent deposit on those tiny bottles of liquor, or “nips,” cluttering Maine’s roadsides, LePage stumbled upon a remarkably sound rationale for banning the little buggers altogether.

“The problem isn’t the waste stream,” LePage said in an interview on WGAN’s morning show last Thursday. “The problem is people drinking behind the wheel with the little nips. They throw them out of the car because they don’t want to keep the evidence in the car.”

Eureka. LePage is 100-percent, hit-the-nail-on-the-head correct.

Of course, he did not come by his Shakespeare moment easily.

He got here only after tripping over himself in search of a good reason to veto the Legislature’s overwhelming approval of the nip deposit.

“This is yet another anti-business vote that threatens jobs, increases costs to do business and puts the state’s financial health at risk,” LePage fumed in a prepared statement two days earlier. “Unfortunately, this kind of secretive backroom deal that burdens the taxpayers is what I’ve come to expect.”

See that? Pure babble.

He also vowed to have overseers of the state’s liquor industry remove, or “delist,” any and all nips from retail shelves. That way, he said, “they are not sold in Maine, and fewer of them end up as litter.”

Warmer … but not quite there yet.

Finally, even as his threat undermined the carefully brokered deal behind the legislation, LePage finally said what too few have during this entire, environmentally driven debate: “This issue is drinking and driving. That’s the issue.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we have achieved Shakespeare. To tolerate swilling alcohol in automobiles or to not tolerate swilling alcohol in automobiles, that is the question.

Don’t get me wrong. I get as incensed as the next guy when I head out to get the mail and stoop down to collect the latest crop of empty, grimy, sun-bleached nips of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, Jim Beam Bourbon and Black Velvet Toasted Caramel embedded in the roadside sand.

But of more immediate concern than the litter – at least for those of us crossing the street – should be how all those shots-in-a-bottle got there in the first place.

People inside passing cars drank them and threw them out the window. And in doing so, they broke the law not only by littering but also by having an open alcoholic container, however fleetingly, in their moving vehicle.

Oh yes, and there’s a decent chance they were on their way to operating under the influence.

Testifying at a legislative hearing on the deposit bill back in February, Greg Mineo, director of the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, noted that the state’s agency liquor stores sold 8.4 million nips in 2016.

This year, Mineo projected, those sales will jump to a whopping 12 million of the 50 ml bottles – a phenomenon that he said “exists up and down the East Coast.”

Think about that. A product clearly designed for easy, surreptitious consumption while pulling out of the parking lot of the nearest liquor store finds itself in the political spotlight not because it flies in the face of public safety.

Rather, it’s because the numskulls who imbibe while behind the wheel are cagey enough, as LePage so accurately put it, to immediately chuck the evidence out the car window.

(How careful are they? Of the six empty nips I just picked up within 50 feet of my mailbox, three actually had the caps tightly screwed back on.)

Liquor peddlers and their apologists will tell us that we’ve got nips all wrong: They’re for people who need a dollop of liquor for a food recipe, or people who only drink a little, or people who want to try out a particular brand for 99 cents before investing their hard-earned cash in a 200 ml or 750 ml bottle.

Right. And all those little bottles around my mailbox were dropped by drunken fairies.

Mark Brown, the CEO of Sazerac Co., which bottles Fireball Cinnamon Whisky at its plant in Lewiston, told Senate President Mike Thibodeau in a letter last week that Fireball alone accounts for 50 percent of all nip sales in Maine. (That’s no easy feat – the state liquor website lists close to 350 nip brands.)

What’s more, Brown said, nips sales are on their way to comprising 15 percent of the state’s total annual liquor sales.

“While we could have lived with a 5-cent redemption sticker if the state really thought that would solve the littering problem, we can no longer support the legislation while under the threat of having the 50 mls delisted,” Brown wrote.

Translation: Sure, we’ll help you clean up the roadside. But don’t you dare go after our hottest selling product – even if the lion’s share of it is consumed on the wrong side (wink, wink) of the law.

The simple truth is that, deposit or no deposit, every empty nip lying on the side of a Maine road is evidence of a crime that went unpunished.

And so it will continue as long as nips multiply like weeds and companies like Sazerac entice the dimwitted (or addicted) with website sales pitches like this one for their red-hot Fireball:

“If you haven’t tried it yet, just imagine what it feels like to stand face-to-face with a fire-breathing dragon who just ate a whiskey barrel full of spicy cinnamon. Live it, love it, shoot it – what happens next is up to you.”

Or not, assuming LePage sticks to his guns and, after vetoing the nips bill between now and June 2, then moves to take them off the shelves altogether.

So don’t stop now, Governor. Keep pounding away against the clowns who chase the “fire-breathing dragon” down our highways and byways because … they can.

As Shakespeare himself once put it, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/bill-nemitz-lepage-reaches-eureka-moment-on-nips/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/09/Top-Story-Block-Bill-e1412944716710.jpgPORTLAND, ME - MAY 15: Images of Portland Press Herald news reporters and columnists, Wednesday, May 15, 2014. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)Wed, 24 May 2017 23:32:42 +0000
Our View: When it comes to Maine teachers’ pay, keep it simple http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/our-view-when-it-comes-to-maine-teacher-pay-keep-it-simple/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/our-view-when-it-comes-to-maine-teacher-pay-keep-it-simple/#respond Thu, 25 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1201285 At least everyone can agree that Maine teachers need a raise.

Everyone, that is, on the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, which this session has been hashing out ideas for making teachers’ salaries more equitable across the state, so that poorer districts don’t lose talented, experienced educators to wealthier communities.

One of those ideas – to raise the minimum annual salary from $30,000 to $40,000 – is simple and straightforward, and should be put into law. Another – to create a state-negotiated teacher contract – has potential but came to lawmakers with too many questions and still needs work.

The latter idea began as a true statewide teacher contract. As originally conceived, L.D. 864, sponsored by state Rep. Matthew Pouliot, R-Augusta, with support from the LePage administration, would have given the state the power to negotiate one teacher contract covering all Maine school districts, with the state picking up the full cost of wages and benefits.

In a way, that’s remarkable, as in one swoop it would raise state funding to more than the 55 percent set in law – a requirement the Legislature has never met.

However, the money would have been distributed unfairly, with no regard for a district’s ability to pay. As a result, communities like Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth would have seen their state funding increase six- or seven-fold, while Lewiston and Waterville would have received less than before.

In response, the bill was amended to make the statewide contract voluntary, with the state focusing particularly on 38 economically disadvantaged districts.

A lot of good could come from that. Teachers in Maine’s smaller, poorer districts could be assured of competitive pay. The districts could have some degree of budget certainty, knowing wages and benefits were taken care of. School boards could be spared the time-consuming process of negotiating wages and benefits.

But the proposal, which was voted down along party lines in committee and now goes to the full Legislature, still lacks detail. Who will decide if a district participates? Will teachers have any input? How will the funding through the state-negotiated contract work alongside other districts that receive money through the state funding formula, with all of its mechanisms for equity?

Those are just a few of the questions surrounding a bill that was introduced with little detail, with the idea that the Department of Education and school districts could figure it out. And that was before significant changes were made in committee. That’s no way to implement such a major initiative. Group contracts may work in some form, but before lawmakers go down that road, they should know a little bit more about where it is headed.

Far easier is simply raising the minimum teacher salary, with the state picking up the difference for poorer districts, as proposed in L.D. 818. That bill, sponsored by state Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, passed the education committee by a 7-2 vote.

It wouldn’t completely solve the inequity issue – nothing will, as long as districts are allowed to set local salaries, and no one is proposing to take that away.

But it would give poorer districts the ability to raise the salary floor, nudging all salaries upward. Along with additional state education funding – such as that approved at the polls in November but now the subject of intense partisan fighting in the Legislature – a higher minimum salary would help attract and retain good educators.

Together, they’d help struggling districts expand academic offerings, buy the right supplies and generally make schools a better place for students and teachers.

That’s the best and simplest way to solve the problem, and until there are more answers on a state-negotiated contract, it’s the way lawmakers should go.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/our-view-when-it-comes-to-maine-teacher-pay-keep-it-simple/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/1201285_36343_20150403_mathteache_2-e1495732382329.jpgHow to stem turnover in smaller districts by making teacher pay more equitable across Maine has been a focus of debate in Augusta this session.Thu, 25 May 2017 13:13:14 +0000
Commentary: Portland’s skyrocketing rents, rising property taxes are soaring concerns http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/commentary-portlands-skyrocketing-rents-rising-property-taxes-are-soaring-concerns/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/commentary-portlands-skyrocketing-rents-rising-property-taxes-are-soaring-concerns/#respond Thu, 25 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1201089 As a candidate for the at-large seat on the Portland City Council, I have had a lot of conversations with Portland residents lately. The two issues that come up most often are the skyrocketing cost of rent, and ever-increasing burden of property taxes.

I have been both a renter and a property owner in Portland. As a young renter, I saw firsthand the negative effects of rapidly rising rents. Many of my friends worked in retail or in one of Portland’s many popular restaurants.

As rents went up year after year – sometimes by as much as 25 percent at once – they were forced to take up second jobs or relocate to Westbrook, Biddeford and more affordable communities with fewer career opportunities.

We must do more to address the issue of skyrocketing rents; this November, Portland voters will likely decide whether to begin a program of rent stabilization, and that’s an effort I fully support. But we shouldn’t ignore the flip side of the housing affordability coin: ever-rising property taxes.

Now as a property owner and as a candidate for City Council, I have come to understand how the burden of property taxes is having a similar negative effect on our seniors and retirees.

In the last few months I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with many of these people on their doorsteps. I’ve met people who have spent their whole lives in Portland and raised their families here. Some of them are seriously considering moving to the suburbs because they increasingly can’t afford their property tax bills. One person told me they couldn’t vote for me because they were moving this summer.

These are people who have thoroughly paid their dues to society and served our community, and yet they feel that our city has forgotten about their needs by raising their property taxes by 2.5 percent or more, year after year.

It’s just not fair that lifelong Portlanders are being forced to relocate as a limitless supply of new luxury housing on the Peninsula is snapped up as second homes for people from out of state.

You can trace the plight of renters and the plight of property taxpayers to the same problem: income inequality. In the same way that stagnant wages and student loans have made rental housing less affordable for young people, stagnant wages, disappearing pensions and meager Social Security benefits have made housing less affordable for our seniors. Both are progressive issues.

Last year, together with many affordable housing advocates, I encouraged the Portland City Council to pass meaningful protections for renters. In the end, no significant protections were passed. Similarly, this year there has been some talk of the burden of property taxes, but I have yet to see any proposals. The time for talk has passed; the people of Portland want to see solutions.

You don’t have to look far for a program we could emulate: Just go eight miles south to Scarborough. There, residents have had a highly successful targeted tax relief program for years.

Here’s how it works: If you’re over 62 years old, you’ve lived in town for at least 10 years and your household’s annual gross income is less than $50,000, you can apply for tax relief. The town will then write you a check for the amount that your property tax bill exceeds 5 percent of your income up to a maximum of $500.

It’s that simple.

They also designed the application process to be exceedingly easy to navigate: The application itself is just a single page, available on the town’s website.

You print it out, bring it to the town hall and they tell you on the spot whether you qualify for tax relief.

It’s so easy that I was told that the tax assessors are some of the most popular people in Scarborough.

There is absolutely no reason why the city of Portland can’t pursue a similar program, and – if elected to the City Council in November – I intend to work with residents and councilors to do just that.

The diversity of our residents is our strength, and that extends from the 20-something working in an Old Port restaurant to the retired 70-something living in Stroudwater. We have a duty to help them both. There are ways to make housing more affordable for renters and there are ways to keep housing affordable for seniors. The first step is acknowledging these problems, but then we must seriously explore solutions and take action.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/commentary-portlands-skyrocketing-rents-rising-property-taxes-are-soaring-concerns/feed/ 0 Wed, 24 May 2017 19:12:34 +0000
Minimum-wage hike as godsend: $30 more per week changes my life http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/maine-voices-minimum-wage-hike-as-godsend-30-more-per-week-changes-my-life/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/maine-voices-minimum-wage-hike-as-godsend-30-more-per-week-changes-my-life/#respond Thu, 25 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1201092 AUGUSTA — I’m 73 years old, and I never thought I’d be working this late in my life – let alone for minimum wage.

When I was in my late 50s, my husband and I thought that we would have another 10 years or so to work and save money for retirement, but that all changed when my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I found myself, for the first time, alone and unable to care for my husband and support myself on just Social Security. Today I’m working part time, doing administrative work for the minimum wage, between visits to see my husband at the Maine Veterans’ Home.

When you are living paycheck to paycheck, things that seem like little annoyances for many can become big crises, often forcing people to make impossible choices. Do I get the car repaired, or do I fill my prescriptions? Do I pay my heating bill, or put food in my cupboard?

There are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck – valued workers in our emergency systems, health care systems, educational systems. They’re the hardest-working people I know. I voted “yes” on Question 4 last November to raise the minimum wage because I believe we need fair wages for all Mainers who are working. Every family, every single mom or dad, every senior citizen. Mainers clearly agreed, since Question 4 passed with 55 percent of the vote.

I was so happy to see this increase pass. For me personally, that increase has already had a positive impact on my life. In January, the minimum wage went from $7.50 an hour to $9 an hour. I began receiving $30 per week more than I had been for my part-time job. For most people, $30 is nothing. Pocket change. Coffee money. But for me, it changes my life. That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. That little extra bit of money each paycheck changes major crises into simple incidents.

For example, on one of those icy, sleety, freezing rain days in February, I realized that the rubber had separated and was falling off my windshield wiper blades. Just weeks before, this would have been an emergency – a crisis – complete with stress, fear and anxiety. I’d have had to decide if I should go ahead and drive to work using the windshield wipers and take the chance of scratching the windshield with the metal blades, or not go to work, worsening my financial situation, or take a chance and drive without wipers and perhaps cause an accident.

As it happened, because of the increase in the minimum wage, I had $20 in my bank account and was able to avoid the stress, anxiety and nights of sleeplessness that this situation could have caused. There have been many incidents like this since January, situations that would previously have caused feelings of anxiety and helplessness – and unbelievable stress. But because of that small increase in the minimum wage, my life is easier and I feel more secure.

I know that I’m not the only person who has seen a benefit. According to Mainers for Fair Wages, more than 180,000 Mainers, 1 in 3 workers, will see an increase over time as Question 4 goes into effect. Many of those Mainers are women, and some, like me, are seniors who are still working well past retirement.

Despite this increase having such an immediate impact on so many Mainers – and despite winning by a comfortable majority – some legislators don’t seem to have gotten the message. There are nine bills before the Legislature to do everything from cut wages outright, to stop them from increasing in future years, to cutting raises for tipped workers and younger Mainers.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that legislators in Augusta want to cut the minimum-wage increase that was just passed by voters. Why? Why would they want to change something that is not only very popular but is also making a real difference in the lives of so many working Mainers?

Raising the minimum wage has already made a difference in the lives of so many Mainers. Legislators should heed the message that voters sent last November when they supported Question 4 and make sure all workers get the raise they deserve.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/maine-voices-minimum-wage-hike-as-godsend-30-more-per-week-changes-my-life/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/08/489133_521959-20140820_minwage_1.jpgBruce Merson, left, and Asher Platts, both of Portland, advocate for a $15 an hour minimum wage Wednesday outside a forum in the Portland Public Library on whether the city should establish its own minimum wage.Thu, 25 May 2017 13:59:18 +0000
Dana Milbank: U.S. allies get firsthand look as Trump bumbles his way through Mideast trip http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/dana-milbank-u-s-allies-get-firsthand-look-as-trump-bumbles-his-way-through-mideast-trip/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/dana-milbank-u-s-allies-get-firsthand-look-as-trump-bumbles-his-way-through-mideast-trip/#respond Thu, 25 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1201105 President Trump arrived in Jerusalem this week with a most curious bit of information for Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

“We just got back from the Middle East,” Trump announced. “We just got back from Saudi Arabia.”

At this, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, put his forehead in his palm.

Did Trump not know Israel is in the Middle East? Did he not know he was in Israel? There was little time to contemplate this mystery, because Trump was moving on to generate more puzzlement at his meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.

The two men had wrapped up a news conference and reporters were shouting questions when Trump volunteered a confession. “Just so you understand,” he announced, “I never mentioned the word or the name ‘Israel’ in conversation. Never mentioned it during that conversation. They are all saying I did. So you had another story wrong. Never mentioned the word ‘Israel.’ ”

Thus did Trump apparently confirm that Israel was the unnamed ally who had provided sensitive intelligence to the United States that Trump then handed over to Russia. U.S. officials were concerned that if the ally were identified, Russia might try to disrupt the source.

Mark Twain wrote “The Innocents Abroad” in 1869 while traveling through the Holy Land and Europe. This week, Trump wrote his own chapter as he bumbled his way through Saudi Arabia and Israel before heading for Rome. Americans by now have become accustomed to perpetual chaos. Now lucky friends and allies are seeing the Trump tornado firsthand.

After Monday night’s attack at a concert in Manchester, England, Trump reacted with outrage and sorrow for those “murdered by evil losers in life.” But then he made this aside: “I won’t call them ‘monsters’ because they would like that term. … I will call them from now on ‘losers’ because that’s what they are. They’re losers.”

Thus did the president apply the same label to murderous terrorists that he had previously bestowed on Rosie O’Donnell, Cher, Rihanna, Mark Cuban, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Maher, Ana Navarro, Chuck Todd, the attorney general of New York, an astrologer in Cleveland, Gwyneth Paltrow, Howard Stern, Jeb Bush, John McCain, Marco Rubio, Karl Rove, Megyn Kelly, the Huffington Post and the New York Daily News – among many others.

Beyond that, did Trump run a focus group to find out terrorists prefer being called “monsters” to “losers”? And does he suppose that taunting them as losers will be an effective counterterrorism strategy? If so, he might form an “L” on his forehead with thumb and forefinger when he invokes terrorist losers.

Presumably Trump didn’t think it through. Likewise, he didn’t mean to offend his hosts in Saudi Arabia by referring to “Islamic terror” rather than “Islamist terror.”

He was “exhausted,” an aide explained. Perhaps fatigue also made him turn Saudi Arabia’s King Salman into “King Solomon” – he was off by 3,000 years – and expand the Strait of Hormuz into the “Straits of Hormuz.”

Less clear is what made him leave a cheerful message in the guestbook at the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem: “so amazing and will never forget!”

Trump does best when he sticks to the script that others have written for him, as he did in his well-received speech in Saudi Arabia.

It’s when he ad-libs that he gets in trouble, as when he proclaimed recently that Mideast peace is “maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.” Diplomats of the past 70 years must have been losers.

Problem is, Trump has trouble sticking to the script. The White House distributed Trump’s prepared remarks for his meeting with Rivlin, making it possible to identify his ad-libs, a clutter of asides and superlatives. “Amazing.” “Very holy.” “And that’s No. 1 for me.” “There’s no question about that.”

Had the president’s predecessors employed such filler, these immortal words might be etched in marble near the Potomac:

“Four score and seven years ago – that’s a long time ago, very long – our fathers, who spoke about this at great length, did what perhaps has virtually never been done before: brought forth on this continent a new nation, a very great new nation – there’s no question about that – conceived in liberty – and that is so important! – and dedicated to the amazing proposition – and they felt very strongly about this, I can tell you – that all men are created equal. No. 1 for me.”

The world, hopefully, will not long remember the gaffes Trump made over there. But it can enjoy a good chuckle.

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

dana.milbank@washpost.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/25/dana-milbank-u-s-allies-get-firsthand-look-as-trump-bumbles-his-way-through-mideast-trip/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/10/Columnist-Milbank.jpgWed, 24 May 2017 20:10:46 +0000
Leonard Pitts: It’s hard to argue with conservatives who ignore facts, blindly defend Trump http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/leonard-pitts-its-hard-to-argue-with-conservatives-who-ignore-facts-blindly-defend-trump/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/leonard-pitts-its-hard-to-argue-with-conservatives-who-ignore-facts-blindly-defend-trump/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 10:00:26 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1200646 I call it pouring water on concrete. You make a splash, but nothing sinks in.

That’s what it has felt like lately when arguing via tweet and email with supporters of President Dumpster Fire who insist there is “no evidence” he did anything to merit the investigations and talk of impeachment he now faces.

It is, of course, an astounding claim.

Donald Trump stands accused not simply by a contemporaneous memo from then-FBI Director James Comey and a series of rather damning reports, but also by his own words. Such as when he told Russia’s foreign minister and U.S. ambassador that he had just fired Comey, who was investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians last year when they meddled in the U.S. election.

“He was crazy, a real nut job,” said Trump. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

And you wonder: How is that not obstruction of justice? If Bill Clinton lying about oral sex and Richard Nixon sacking a special prosecutor merited impeachment, how can anyone really believe there is “no evidence” Trump did wrong?

Anderson Cooper might feel my pain. You may have caught the CNN anchor last Friday watching in mounting disbelief as Trump surrogate Jeffrey Lord stumbled through one of his transparently disingenuous defenses of the president’s misbehavior. Finally, Cooper had had enough. “If he took a dump on his desk, you would defend it,” Cooper said.

It was a coarse thing to say, yes. Cooper promptly apologized for it, as he should have. But one tends to empathize all the same. Because while the words might have been inappropriate, they were not incorrect.

Not that they will make a bit of difference. That’s the great frustration of political discourse in this era. Nothing seems to mean anything anymore. The idea of principled debate got run over by the Trump Train.

In its place, we have what Lord and an increasing number of like-minded sycophants represent: a brazen repudiation not simply of the facts, but of the fact that facts matter.

We are trapped in a Groucho Marx routine: “Who are you going to believe, me, or your lying eyes?”

Consider that America was already a nation of ideological silos. If this is any indication, that’s about to get worse.

I say that reluctantly, as someone who has long prided himself on the ability to listen to and joust with those with whom I disagree. There’s always a chance you can learn something worthwhile from the other person. At a minimum, you’ll sharpen your own arguments.

But it has grown progressively more difficult to have those debates.

One longs for an intellectually vibrant marketplace of ideas, but there is nothing intellectual or vibrant about what these days passes for conservatism. That once robust ideology has been shriveled by an intellectual dishonesty so profound that the same people who tirelessly investigated Barack Obama’s birth certificate and inveighed against his choice of mustard can look at the mountain of malfeasance rising from the White House and say with a shrug and all evident sincerity, “What evidence?”

How can you engage with that?

The good news is that facts remain factual, whether the somehow-still-employed Jeffrey Lord and people like him acknowledge that or not. Moreover, the facts in this case are already persuasive – and the investigations have miles yet to go.

Let that be enough. After all, one gets tired of wetting concrete. Better to save your water for places where there’s a chance something might actually grow.

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/leonard-pitts-its-hard-to-argue-with-conservatives-who-ignore-facts-blindly-defend-trump/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/04/PITTS_LEONARD_1_TNS2.jpgTNS Columnist Leonard Pitts. (Olivier Douliery/TNS)Tue, 23 May 2017 19:54:39 +0000
Commentary: Dunlap badly mistaken in agreeing to serve on Trump voter fraud panel http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/commentary-dunlap-badly-mistaken-in-agreeing-to-serve-on-trump-voter-fraud-panel/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/commentary-dunlap-badly-mistaken-in-agreeing-to-serve-on-trump-voter-fraud-panel/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1200583 Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is making a serious mistake by agreeing to participate in a sham “voter integrity” commission established by President Trump to validate his ludicrous claims about voter fraud. But it is not too late for Dunlap to withdraw, and it’s the right thing to do.

Arguments about the extent of voter fraud and voter suppression are not new, with Republicans tending to claim that voter fraud is a major problem that requires laws making it harder to register and vote, such as strict voter identification laws. Democrats see these laws as aimed at suppressing the votes of those likely to vote for Democratic candidates.

While there is no question that there is a small amount of voter fraud, there is virtually no proven impersonation voter fraud (where one person goes to the polling place claiming to be another) – the only kind of fraud that voter ID laws prevent. For my 2012 book “The Voting Wars,” I tried to find a single instance anywhere in the United States of an election being called into question by impersonation fraud, and I could not find one. Whether or not voter ID laws actually suppress a lot of votes, it is clear that they don’t prevent any measurable fraud or do anything to promote voter confidence.

President Trump raised the voter fraud rhetoric to an unprecedented extent by claiming before the election that there was massive voter fraud taking place in “urban” (read: minority) areas of Pennsylvania and elsewhere. After the election, he made a totally debunked claim that 3 million or more noncitizens voted in 2016. So far, the most credible count of such votes, by the Brennan Center for Justice, is 30 possible noncitizen votes across the entire country. That’s right: not millions, not thousands, not even hundreds.

No responsible election professional or academic has supported Trump’s claims of massive fraud. There’s only one election professional I know of who has: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who said, without credible evidence, that there could be a million or more fraudulent votes in the election. Kobach has a reputation for hyping unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud for his own political agenda.

Of course, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have put Kobach in charge of a so-called “Election Integrity” commission nominally headed by Pence. Prior commissions examining election problems have been bipartisan and headed by party elders: former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in 2000, Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III in 2004, and Bob Bauer and Ben Ginsberg in 2012. There’s no Democratic co-chair of this commission.

No one expects this commission to do what the other commissions did: consult experts, hear testimony and issue a data-driven report on ways to improve the electoral process for all Americans, Democrat or Republican. Instead, the commission’s report is likely to echo the president’s unsubstantiated allegations that fraud – or the potential for fraud – is serious. So serious, the commission will likely urge the passage of national legislation making it harder for people to register and vote. It is a means to suppress votes on a national scale.

And this is where Maine’s secretary of state fits in. He’s going to be used like a patsy.

The new commission is supposed to have up to 15 members; so far, Pence has named just seven, only two of whom are Democrats: New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, and Maine’s Matthew Dunlap.

Republican supporters of the commission are desperate to have Democrats serve on the commission so that they can claim it is “bipartisan.” They are looking for anything to give this commission legitimacy. Bob Bauer, the former White House counsel for President Obama and former co-chair of the 2012 Presidential Commission on Election Administration, has warned everyone to stay away from this commission. (The 2014 report by Bauer and Mitt Romney’s election lawyer, Republican Ben Ginsberg, with bipartisan recommendations for improving the election process, was quickly removed from government websites shortly after Trump’s inauguration, with no explanation.)

Dunlap is skeptical of Trump’s claims, and has said his purpose in serving on the commission is to work from the inside, with a seat on the table. There is no reason to believe he can serve this purpose, even if he issues a minority report disagreeing with its findings. The report will still be trumpeted as a “bipartisan” commission that reached certain conclusions.

Dunlap is making a mistake, but it is not too late. People around the country are watching his participation with concern. Maine residents who disagree with his decision to join the commission should let their voices be heard. It’s a necessary step to prevent the further deterioration of voting rights.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/commentary-dunlap-badly-mistaken-in-agreeing-to-serve-on-trump-voter-fraud-panel/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/12/1126974_608938_dunlap-e1494550064442.jpgMATTHEW DUNLAPWed, 24 May 2017 18:03:13 +0000
Greg Kesich: Court gives new life to flawed election system that gave us LePage http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/greg-kesich-court-ruling-gives-new-life-to-flawed-election-system-that-gave-us-lepage/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/greg-kesich-court-ruling-gives-new-life-to-flawed-election-system-that-gave-us-lepage/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1200641 Welcome back to the horse race!

Six months after Maine voters got rid of the first-to-the-post electoral system that made Paul LePage a two-term governor without ever cracking 50 percent in any poll, the state Supreme Court, in all its wisdom, has overruled them.

Ranked-choice voting is unconstitutional, according to the justices. But since lying, demonizing and bullying are all still OK, we can look forward to an exciting 2018 campaign.

The court answered one question: In a multi-candidate race, is it OK to have multiple rounds of vote-counting where a voter’s second or third choice can help form a majority, even though the Maine Constitution says certain elections must be decided by “a plurality”? Their answer was “no.”

But that leaves a long series of other questions unanswered.

The first ones fall to the Legislature, which will have to do something about the law that’s been on the books since voters passed it. The court issued an advisory opinion that has no force of its own. Lawmakers have a range of options before them, including honoring the will of the voters by approving a constitutional amendment that would make the ranked-choice voting pass constitutional muster. But since legislators tend to think that voters don’t know what they are doing (unless they are voting for their favorite legislator), that seems like a long shot.

They could repeal just the part of the law that the justices found fault with – the election of a governor, state senator or representative – and leave the new system in place in all primaries and the general elections for members of Congress.

Or they could repeal the whole thing and start over, making pretty sure that the electoral system that gave us LePage will stay in place for the next gubernatorial race, shrinking the amount of support needed to win.

Because let’s be clear: They can make ranked-choice voting go away, but they can’t make the reasons people put ranked-choice voting on the ballot go away. They will be on display next year.

LePage showed that in Maine’s balkanized political environment, you don’t need a broad coalition to finish first. In 2010, LePage only had the support of about one-third of Republican voters when he ran away with a seven-way primary, and only 37.6 percent of the vote when he won the general election in a five-way race.

Maine is ripe for the same thing to happen next year, but this time from the left.

In some ways, 2018 is shaping up as the mirror image of 2010, the year LePage caught the tea party wave. President Trump is far less popular than Barack Obama was that year, and left-leaning activists are more organized than the tea partiers were back then.

Last year’s presidential vote tallies in Maine show that there is an opportunity for a minority candidate from the progressive-left to do what LePage did in 2010. You’ll recall that Hillary Clinton won the statewide vote, even though she got smoked in the more conservative 2nd Congressional District. That cost her one electoral vote, but there is no such penalty in the race for governor.

It’s conceivable that a candidate with a Bernie Sanders-type agenda – free college tuition, say, or universal health coverage – could run up the vote in the more populous southern part of the state and let the other candidates divide up what’s left. Is there someone like that out there? Who knows, but how many people had heard of Paul LePage in the spring of 2009?

The biggest loser here may be State Treasurer Terry Hayes, the former Democrat who has announced that she is running as an independent with the fundraising support of two-time gubernatorial hopeful Eliot Cutler.

In a ranked-choice system, Hayes would have a chance to talk about her ideas for governing the state and compare them to the other contenders’ proposals. She would have been every other candidate’s best friend because no contender would risk alienating her voters.

Now, until Hayes wins the election or concedes defeat, she will not have a single interview in which she is not asked whether she is a “spoiler” for the Republican candidate. Cutler’s failure to answer that question dominated coverage of the 2014 race.

All of this would change, of course, if Sen. Susan Collins decides to come home and run for governor. She would be the clear favorite in any race, and her presence would probably narrow the field. But barring her entry – she says she will make a decision in the fall – this is likely to be a tight race for the angriest (and most motivated) chunks of the electorate.

Thanks, Maine Supreme Judicial Court! It’s almost post time.

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

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

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter: @gregkesich

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/greg-kesich-court-ruling-gives-new-life-to-flawed-election-system-that-gave-us-lepage/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/10/Columnist-Kesich-e1441211688709.jpgJohn Patriquin/Staff Photographer.Wed. July,25, 2012. News room mug shots Greg Kesich. (Photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer)Wed, 24 May 2017 12:27:10 +0000
Our View: Buying hijabs for student-athletes an important step forward http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/our-view-hedy-4/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/our-view-hedy-4/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1200659 Muslim girls and women shouldn’t have to choose between their religion and their sport. And at Deering High School in Portland – the first school in the U.S. to provide female Muslim athletes with hijabs designed for physical activity – they don’t have to. In a state that’s the least diverse in the country, and at a time when bias against people from other countries and faiths is escalating, this is a significant step forward.

Thick and prone to unraveling, the traditional hijab, a headscarf that many Muslim women and girls wear to reflect their faith, isn’t practical for sports practice and competition – any more than it would make sense for an athlete to try to shoot baskets while wearing a dress and heels. So it was a milestone when small companies (often spearheaded by women) started making and selling lightweight, sweat-wicking hijabs, designed to be pulled on rather than wrapped around the head.

But the concept didn’t get widespread attention until this spring, when athletic wear giant Nike announced plans to release its own Pro Hijab in 2018. Inspired by a Nike ad, the Deering girls’ tennis co-captains launched a fundraising campaign to help the school buy 25 sports hijabs from a small Minnesota company. They quickly raised $425 (almost double their original goal of $250). An anonymous donor kicked in the other $700 needed.

The decision’s been a win. Ten of the hijabs are now in use. Female Muslim students say the school has paved the way for them to take part in an activity that they’d been left out of before, and they’re heartened that Deering is listening to their concerns and taking them seriously.

No doubt, naysayers will rush to decry the move as embracing “radical Islam” by enabling faith-based oppression of women. Their argument overlooks the fact that involving young people in team sports works against radicalism by making them part of a community. And these supposed champions of feminism are usually nowhere to be found when it comes to making things like effective contraception, equal pay under the law and protections from domestic abuse available to women of any creed.

Deering athletic director Melanie Craig has a common-sense view of the issue: “If I’m going to buy a football helmet, I’m going to buy a hijab,” she told the Maine Sunday Telegram. Other schools across the country should heed her words and take steps to make the playing field a welcoming venue for all girls and women.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/our-view-hedy-4/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/1200659_538953-20170503_tennis-hi2.jpgBy outfitting Muslim athletes like sophomore Tabarek Kadhim, above, with hijabs designed for physical activity, Deering High School is showing that it values their participation and their feelings.Tue, 23 May 2017 23:35:52 +0000
Another View: Lawlessness literally killing off Mexican journalism http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/another-view-lawlessness-literally-killing-off-mexican-journalism/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/another-view-lawlessness-literally-killing-off-mexican-journalism/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1200664 When one of his colleagues at Mexico City’s daily newspaper was gunned down in March, Javier Valdez issued a passionate statement about the importance of the work of journalists who cover the organized crime, drug trafficking and corruption that plague Mexico. “Let them kill us all, if that is the death sentence for reporting this hell,” he tweeted. “No to silence.”

The words proved horribly prophetic when Valdez last week became the latest casualty of the drug-fueled violence that has claimed tens of thousands of Mexican lives over the past decade. His life and death should serve as inspiration and prod to the Mexican government to undertake reforms needed to end the impunity that allows the country’s lawlessness to flourish.

Valdez, 50, was shot and killed at midday May 15 on a busy street in the state of Sinaloa. Sinaloa is a trafficking destination perhaps best known as the home of Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Valdez, a correspondent for La Jornada, co-founded a regional weekly newspaper there in 2003 because of his belief in the need for honest reporting of the crime and corruption that victimize Mexicans.

He is the sixth journalist to be killed in Mexico this year and one of over 100 journalists who have been murdered since 2000. Eleven days before Valdez’s death, a delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists met with President Enrique Peña Nieto to present its newly released report “No Excuse: Mexico Must Break Cycle of Impunity in Journalists’ Murders.” Among the recommendations were better protections for at-risk journalists, timely investigation of threats and training prosecutors in how to pursue crimes against freedom of expression.

It’s good that Peña Nieto strongly condemned Valdez’s murder, but that is clearly not enough. Recommendations of the CPJ report should be embraced, and the chronic failure of the judicial system in investigating and prosecuting crimes must be addressed.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/24/another-view-lawlessness-literally-killing-off-mexican-journalism/feed/ 0 Wed, 24 May 2017 12:23:10 +0000
Podcast: Threats to shut down the state and defy the voters, plus why Trump won’t get impeached http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/podcast-threats-shut-state-defy-voters-plus-trump-wont-get-impeached/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/podcast-threats-shut-state-defy-voters-plus-trump-wont-get-impeached/#respond Tue, 23 May 2017 17:39:21 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1200477 Portland Press Herald Editorial Page Editor Greg Kesich, and columnists Bill Nemitz, Alan Caron and Cynthia Dill discuss the State budget and if conflict over the voter-approved surcharge on high-income earners could lead to a state shutdown. Then they weigh in on why some think it’s unlikely that President Donald Trump will be impeached.

Podcast Links:

Press Herald Podcast RSS Feed

Subscribe to the Press Herald podcast on iTunes

Subscribe on Android

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/podcast-threats-shut-state-defy-voters-plus-trump-wont-get-impeached/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/PodcastMic-1.jpgTue, 23 May 2017 13:39:21 +0000
Our View: LePage lacks leadership in prison shutdown flap http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/our-view-lepage-lacks-leadership-in-prison-shutdown-flap/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/our-view-lepage-lacks-leadership-in-prison-shutdown-flap/#respond Tue, 23 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1200103 Gov. LePage is always teaching us new lessons about what a chief executive can really get away with in Maine.

Can he refuse to issue voter-approved bonds?

It turns out he can.

Can he refuse to spend money, either appropriated by the Legislature or shipped up from Washington?

If that’s what he wants to do, yes.

Can he threaten to withhold public funds to bully a private nonprofit into firing a political rival?

You wouldn’t think so, but he’s done it.

We are about to learn another lesson about the elasticity of executive power in Maine government, when the Legislature responds to the governor’s unilateral decision to shut down the Downeast Correctional Facility in Washington County.

It’s still an open question whether he can really do that, but we do know one thing beyond any doubt: In his seventh year in office, LePage still doesn’t know anything about leadership.

Our system of government is built on compromise. The governor may hold more of the cards than anyone else, but he doesn’t hold them all. As he has proven in the past, he has the power to block things from happening, but when it comes to getting something done, he looks lost.

LePage has proposed saving money in the Department of Corrections budget by shutting down the minimum-security facility in Machiasport, but he did not have any support in the Legislature, and the idea was rejected by both Republicans and Democrats on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

The Downeast Correctional Facility serves an important function. It is a transitional setting for inmates who have served long sentences and are preparing to be re-introduced back into society.

Since the inmates are eligible for work release, they play an important role in the sparse Washington County job market, providing much-needed labor to meet seasonal demands in the blueberry and Christmas wreath industries. The inmates are able to earn a wage that can be applied to fines or court-ordered restitution, and get work experience that will be useful when they complete their terms.

But instead of working with lawmakers to find a way to save money while still carrying out the important functions of the Downeast Correctional Facility, LePage looked for another way to achieve his goal.

First, the governor issued layoff notices to the 55 employees of the facility Friday, and announced that the Department of Corrections would find other beds for the roughly 100 prisoners housed there. Since there aren’t enough places in the state’s other prisons, the governor is rumored to be considering commuting the sentences of 75 or so current inmates and letting them loose in the community.

With no staff and no inmates, the facility would be as good as closed, but would the state do as good a job transitioning prisoners without Downeast? What about the Washington County economy? What preparation would it get for the shock of the prison suddenly shutting down?

These are the kinds of issues that could be worked out through the legislative process if we had a governor who was interested in governing.

Instead, this governor is just interested in seeing what he can get away with.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/our-view-lepage-lacks-leadership-in-prison-shutdown-flap/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/666041-AP_17122673468529.jpgMaine Gov. Paul LePage, from left, with Utah Public Lands Coordinating Office Director Kathleen Clarke and Quimby Family Foundation Board Member Lucas St. Clair of Portland, Maine, testifies during a House Natural Resources subcommittee oversight hearing on Antiquities Act. on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)Mon, 22 May 2017 21:19:09 +0000
Charles Lawton: Isn’t low unemployment good? Yes, until companies can’t find workers http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/charles-lawton-isnt-low-unemployment-good-yes-until-companies-cant-find-workers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/charles-lawton-isnt-low-unemployment-good-yes-until-companies-cant-find-workers/#respond Tue, 23 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1200127 When it works – this column-writing business – it’s a two-way street. A light goes on at both ends of the line. This heel-of-the-hand-to-the-forehead insight came to me courtesy of a reader who questioned my apparent concern in last week’s column about Maine’s declining unemployment rate.

“Isn’t it a good thing that the number of unemployed people in Maine has declined?” he asked. “Doesn’t that mean that more people have jobs?”

Clearly, what I thought went without saying needed to be said. This time, the light went on at my end of the line.

Yes, it is clearly a “good thing” that the number of unemployed Mainers declined by nearly 30,000 between 2010 and 2016. That, however, does not mean that 30,000 of the 57,000 Mainers who were looking for but didn’t have a job in 2010 had, by 2016, found jobs. Yes, some of those 57,000 people probably did have jobs in 2016. But others had retired, given up looking for work, moved away, qualified for disability or died. We simply can’t know for sure.

Figures about employment, unemployment and labor force participation come from sample surveys of households. They are true (within certain limits of statistical probability) for the universe they are designed to estimate at a given time and place. The status of any particular person in a sample at one time (say, 2010) cannot be known by the results of another sample taken at another time (say, 2016).

This problem is similar to that found in opinion polls of all sorts. Other than from personal contact, one cannot know today what any particular person who voted for Donald Trump last Nov. 8 thinks about the president today. We can only estimate opinions from current approval rating polls taken today from samples of various segments of the population.

So, just as we attempt to understand structural changes in the nature of political opinions through sample polls, so do we attempt to understand changes in the structure of our economy through sample questionnaires of households and employers. And it is through careful analysis of the results of these questionnaires over time that we can design policies designed to address the problems the data reveal to us.

And the central problem that analysis of Maine’s current labor force data reveals is quite clear. We simply cannot continue to increase the number of people with jobs while the number of people in the labor force continues to decline. Yes, it is wonderful that the number of unemployed people has declined dramatically, but that can’t continue forever. If we are to maintain a thriving economy, we simply must address not the jobs problem, but the labor force problem.

Perhaps this distinction risks seeming too clever. “What’s the difference? ‘Jobs’? ‘Labor force’? Isn’t it all the same thing?”

No, it isn’t. From the 1970s through the 1990s, the greatest change in Maine’s and the nation’s labor force was the vast increase in the percentage of women participating in the labor force.

This change did not result simply from large numbers of women saying, “I want a job.” It reflected major structural changes in social expectations and social structure. Although glass ceilings on job opportunities and pay rates have not all been shattered, the idea of women in the workplace is clearly no longer “unusual,” and the idea of “women’s work” has all but disappeared. This change was accompanied and made possible by opening up educational opportunities to women, by a vast expansion of child care options and by major (if not complete) restructuring of domestic responsibilities within dual working households.

Today’s labor force challenge poses just as great a change in social attitudes toward work and just as great a change in the social structures preparing people for work and supporting them in the workplace. Such changes will affect all elements of the economy.

Employers can no longer simply complain that they can’t find qualified workers; they have to help prepare the workers they need, both by working with local educational institutions to inform them of their needs and by developing clearer job training and job advancement paths within the workplace. Similarly, educational institutions must drop the old saw that “everyone has to go to college” and return to a diverse set of educational programs explicitly linked to clearly defined and documented job attitudes and skills.

Yes, it is a very good thing that many Mainers without jobs in 2010 now have jobs. But if our state is to address its all too real social and fiscal challenges, it must count on far more than reducing the unemployment rate.

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

cttlaw3@gmail.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/charles-lawton-isnt-low-unemployment-good-yes-until-companies-cant-find-workers/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/10/hiring.jpgMon, 22 May 2017 21:04:22 +0000
Maine Voices: Bill would help restore Maine’s ailing public health nursing system http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/maine-voices-bill-would-help-restore-maines-ailing-public-health-nursing-system/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/maine-voices-bill-would-help-restore-maines-ailing-public-health-nursing-system/#respond Tue, 23 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1200082 BUCKSPORT — Our ongoing Maine public health nursing debate echoes our national debate about what basic health services and personal protections every democratic government should provide.

The LePage administration has chosen to “save money” by destroying public health nursing as we know it. In 2011, 59 public health nurses were serving people from 13 offices across Maine. Now, only 23 positions are filled, although 48 full-time positions are budgeted and funded, and the division is the only one mandated by law. Nurses have no workspace or clerical help and are criticized for not seeing enough patients, though national standards recommend 350 public health nurses in a rural state with our population.

I recently attended the Health and Human Services Committee hearing on L.D. 1108, a bipartisan proposal to rebuild Maine’s public health nurse corps. Over 40 health care providers and system administrators, and a well-spoken patient, testified for over four hours in support of the bill, describing a flawed system where referrals for help from a public health nurse are lost in an unresponsive back office.

I delivered written testimony from Dr. Mark Brown, chief of pediatrics and the neonatal intensive care unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center. I then spoke as a retired EMMC ER doctor, a former Maine Emergency Medical Services Region 4 medical director and Maine EMS Board member, and citizen representative on the post-9/11 Task force to Examine Maine’s Homeland Security Needs.

Dr. Christopher Pezzullo, the state’s chief health officer, provided the only testimony in support of the present system and against L.D. 1108. He proposed hiring a diffuse team of amateurs to make most home visits and coordinate these private and unstable situations. He proposed that a colorful brochure be engineered and that patients “self-refer” for care by leaving a message with a care provider.

Imagine a single mom with several children, no transportation and maybe even no phone, a partner on drugs and/or abusing her and/or the kids physically and/or sexually, and both partners afraid of the law stepping in. One or both may have an exacerbation of a previous mental and/or physical illness. The mom may have post-natal depression. Imagine her pleading for life-saving help to an answering machine!

Babies born of substance-addicted moms are themselves addicted, and can undergo catastrophic withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures and sudden death from cardiac arrhythmias or infections. Withdrawal symptoms are numerous and widely varied, and may occur alone or together in unusual patterns.

The most important thing is to actively and expertly listen to the patient. Many patients intuitively understand much of what is troubling them physically and emotionally, but a scared new mother is not going to confide such intimate issues to a stranger.

A skilled medical practitioner must quickly synthesize multiple symptoms, environmental factors and physical findings into what we call a “working diagnosis.” Then they must make a comprehensive assessment of the entire situation and a treatment plan. This is exactly what public health nurses are trained to do.

Are any bruises from falls or slaps? Are there clear and present dangers in the woman’s or child’s physical or emotional environment? Is the mom worried about getting pregnant again? Does she know how to administer her medicines and the baby’s medicines? Does she really know how to breast-feed?

Is the child screaming from an ear infection or because of life-threatening narcotic and/or sedative withdrawal? Are the vomiting and diarrhea “just the flu”? Is the rash “just a rash”?

During all my years of medical practice, we often talked about the doctor-patient relationship. It was important to know what was going on in our patients’ personal lives, in order to diagnose their physical complaints. The same holds true of the nurse-patient relationship today.

A fully funded and functional public health nursing system would save money in the long run. Home monitoring by nurse specialists can save two to three weeks in the pediatric ICU, costing as much as $28,000 to $56,000.

Newborn babies should be at home bonding with moms and dads in the first few weeks, when it is most crucial. Smiling and talking, cuddling and swaddling and breast-feeding are most important for mild withdrawal, but only under close nursing supervision.

Public health nurses are also fundamental for controlling infectious disease outbreaks. We read daily about the likes of Ebola and Zika; our nurses have also addressed small, local outbreaks of hepatitis, gonorrhea, whooping cough and tuberculosis so well that they never even made the news.

We must all now actively support Maine’s public health care nursing system, and be sure our legislators understand our concerns.

 

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/maine-voices-bill-would-help-restore-maines-ailing-public-health-nursing-system/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1181613_807699-20170413_Nurses_6803.jpgRep. Anne Perry, D-Calais, at a news conference Thursday, said of public health nurse staffing, "Maine people have suffered and the remaining nursing staff is being stretched to the breaking point." Perry is a family nurse practitioner.Mon, 22 May 2017 21:12:15 +0000
Maine House speaker: Republicans must do their part to fully fund schools http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/maine-house-speaker-republicans-must-do-their-part-to-fully-fund-schools/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/maine-house-speaker-republicans-must-do-their-part-to-fully-fund-schools/#respond Tue, 23 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1200088 AUGUSTA — Students across Maine are counting down the days until their long-awaited summer break. After a school year filled with creative and dedicated instruction, kids are now anxiously looking forward to field trips, summer camp and swimsuits. Our teachers are ready to issue their report cards, wish their students farewell and reflect on how they will make their classroom even stronger next year.

At the same time, legislators in Augusta are in the midst of budget negotiations that center on these very students, these same teachers, the future of our classrooms and, indeed, the future of Maine. Now is the time we meet our obligation to fund these schools at 55 percent of their cost, as required by law.

As speaker of the House, and the proud parent of three children in our public schools, this negotiation is one of my biggest responsibilities, on both a personal and a public level. We must ensure that all Maine kids receive an education that allows them to compete anywhere in the world.

Fifty-five percent is more than a number on a spreadsheet. It means equal opportunity and fair access to education. It is a commitment to excellent learning standards. It represents a dedication to equity, so an 8-year-old kid in Frenchville is getting the same quality education as a third-grader in Freeport.

Democrats know that adequately funding our schools is fundamental to building a strong economic future, too. A skilled, well-educated workforce will attract more companies and jobs to our state. We must provide our kids with the skills they need to stay and succeed here in Maine – that’s something we all agree on.

Beyond education, we also have an opportunity to ease the property tax burden too many Mainers are struggling with. Failing to appropriately fund our schools creates more pressure on local communities who are forced to make up the state’s shortfall by increasing property taxes. Ultimately, we all end up suffering.

Mainers are in agreement that our students deserve to be a top priority. That’s exactly why they voted in 2004 to establish this 55 percent state-funding requirement. When lawmakers still didn’t meet that expectation, another referendum was placed on the ballot in 2016, demanding full funding for education. But this time, recognizing that for 14 years the Legislature said there was not enough money, voters endorsed a funding source in the form of a 3 percent surcharge on incomes over $200,000.

Democrats have been clear since November. This biennium, we will be meeting our obligation to fully fund the state’s share of education. This is what Mainers have undeniably directed us to do, not only because our kids and our teachers deserve our support, but also because we recognize it is the key to a strong economic future for Maine. We have been steadfast in this message, but we also opened the door to considering an alternative funding source if it is both sustainable and progressive.

Since November, our Republican colleagues have sounded a different message. They say that the 3 percent surcharge to fund education is unacceptable, but they’ve been mostly silent on the most important part of this issue, and the real intention of the voters in November. Will they support full education funding, and how do they propose to get there?

It is time for a critical conversation. If Republicans are serious about the surcharge being an impediment to negotiations, now is the time to come forward with a plan.

Democrats are at the table. We are willing to hear alternative ideas for funding, as long as they are sustainable biennium after biennium. As long as they ask those who can most afford to contribute to do so. As long as they do not put the biggest burden on those least able to pay.

But make no mistake: Until those ideas are brought forward, until the idea of full funding of education is embraced, our position is supported by the law that a majority of Maine people passed with their votes at the ballot box.

Despite the obstacles along the way, I’m optimistic about the path forward. We’re all in agreement that our children deserve a world-class education. Democrats will honor the will of voters that the state fund 55 percent of education costs, and we’ll get there in a fair and equitable way.

In a little over a month, when legislators end this session and reflect on our accomplishments, anything less would be unacceptable.

 

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/23/maine-house-speaker-republicans-must-do-their-part-to-fully-fund-schools/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/shutterstock_91783064.jpgshutterstock.com Ninety-two percent of school bus drivers believe it’s “their job” to step in when a student is being assaulted, taunted or threatened, a survey found – but only 56 percent say they’ve been trained in how to intervene in bullying incidents.Mon, 22 May 2017 21:24:03 +0000
Our View: Lawsuit probes weaknesses in Maine records laws http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/22/our-view-suit-probes-weaknesses-in-maine-records-laws/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/22/our-view-suit-probes-weaknesses-in-maine-records-laws/#respond Mon, 22 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1199527 When a Portland law firm requested public information from the LePage administration last year, it got a response that would be familiar in newsrooms around the state.

The silent treatment.

No documents have been turned over. No explanation has been given for ignoring the request. The governor’s office acknowledged receiving the request in January, but that was it.

The incident is just one of many examples of an administration that treats public information as its private property. Although it likes to pretend that it is just fighting back against what it paints as a hostile and biased news media, they give the same treatment to private citizens who are looking to get the information they are, by law, entitled to receive.

The firm Andrew Schmidt Law has filed suit against the state to get the governor’s office moving. We hope that others will keep the pressure on as well. Bad things happen when powerful institutions believe that they can do public business in secret.

Maine’s Freedom of Access Act makes almost all government records public, and requires the government entity to make a “good faith effort” to deliver the information within a “reasonable” time frame.

Those plain-sounding words have been twisted and stretched beyond recognition by the LePage administration. There are many horror stories.

This newspaper fought for months in 2015 and 2016 in an unsuccessful attempt to secure records of communications between the Maine Warden Service and a television production company, which was filming undercover police operations here. The agency even resisted releasing a policy manual, at one point turning over a document that was almost entirely redacted.

State Sen. Brownie Carson, D-Harpswell, recently complained that he has been denied answers to questions about a public health program that is the subject of a bill he is sponsoring.

The Bangor Daily News reported that a Maine Department of Health and Human Services employee whose job it was to disseminate public information was fired. The cause? Turning over a public report to the newspaper.

Peter Mancuso, an attorney with the Andrew Schmidt firm, requested information about Gov. LePage’s decision to join two out-of-state lawsuits and pull Maine out of a refugee resettlement program. These should not be complicated records to obtain, and there should be no reason to keep them sealed.

That they haven’t been produced in five months should show that this administration has a definition of “reasonable” and “good faith” that does not correspond with reality.

The law firm may win its case, but that won’t be enough to fix the problem.

Maine needs tougher laws with strict deadlines that will force this administration and its successors to meet its public disclosure obligations. The silent treatment has got to end.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/22/our-view-suit-probes-weaknesses-in-maine-records-laws/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/1199527_shutterstock_73051795.jpgMaine's Freedom of Access Act makes almost all government records public, but the state needs stricter compliance deadlines.Sun, 21 May 2017 18:50:25 +0000
Another View: Russia’s aims still drive friction as attention to Ukraine fades http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/22/another-view-russias-aims-still-drive-friction-as-attention-to-ukraine-fades/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/22/another-view-russias-aims-still-drive-friction-as-attention-to-ukraine-fades/#respond Mon, 22 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1199542 Ukraine has receded from world attention since its peak in 2014, when it changed presidents, Russia annexed Crimea and fighting was active in its east. The world reacted, for the large part, with words rather than actions.

Independent since 1991 in the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, Ukraine, Europe’s second-largest country, with a population of 45 million, is in the center of a tough region, with borders on Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia and Slovakia. None of these seven countries is particularly prosperous. Russia is far and away Ukraine’s most important trading partner, taking 18 percent of its exports and providing 22 percent of its imports.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and its continued military involvement in Ukraine’s rebellious east, is the current cause of tension, intermittent fighting and complex relations between the two. It bears noting that Crimea was part of Russia until 1954 and that 60 percent of the population of Crimea is Russian speaking.

Russia and President Vladimir Putin, seeking to bolster his popular political support through successful aggression in Ukraine, are very much the villains of the piece in the trouble in eastern Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea and Western European and American reaction, including economic sanctions against Russia.

Seeking to make lemonade from the lemon of current relations, the Russians and the Trump administration could serve as the vehicle through which the Ukraine problem, as a regional issue, could be cleaned up. The U.S. could stop pushing to incorporate Ukraine into Western Europe through NATO and the European Union, Russia could withdraw its military support for the eastern Ukrainian rebels, and Crimea could become some sort of internationally observed territory as a step toward restoring it to Ukraine.

Putin and Trump need to meet soon, in any case. Ukraine has to be on the agenda.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/22/another-view-russias-aims-still-drive-friction-as-attention-to-ukraine-fades/feed/ 0 Sat, 20 May 2017 21:24:09 +0000
Maine Voices: An open letter to the American Ghetto and its disenfranchised http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/22/maine-voices-an-open-letter-to-the-american-ghetto-and-its-disenfranchised/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/22/maine-voices-an-open-letter-to-the-american-ghetto-and-its-disenfranchised/#respond Mon, 22 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1199557 Today, I write to the child whose attendance at the third funeral this month has become hollow. Whose heart, at this hour, is filling up with fear, churning inevitably into hate. Whose variations of melanin create a feeling of unconscious inferiority. The child who can no longer walk down the street without holding paranoia’s hand. The American boys and girls who have been forgotten, left running behind the bus. The same children caught in the loophole of the 13th Amendment. You are the casualties of a broken nation, and I write to you.

Our roots are as one, our skin, a coat in which we share. However, your home, the 405, the OKC, falls defeated to the ground, blood pouring from the bullet wound, as an American boy in blue holds steady aim. My home, the 207, the Vacationland of red, white and blue, applies the duct tape to my mouth, for the brotherhood of the good ol’ boys runs deep. I will not lie to you. I know not of the feeling of losing my father, my brother, mother or friend, and I will not sit here and tell that I do. In this world, I am seen more as a fetish of flesh than a threat to society. I can walk outside my home without the overbearing cloud of hoodlum society.

Today, I write to the little boy who grows up to be the American black man. The man who must always say “yes sir,” “no sir,” “please do not shoot, sir.” The man who must dodge profiling; dodge mass incarceration; dodge bullets. The man who is my father, my brother, my friend. The man who is their enemy, another body, another quota. The men who are forced to prove themselves as noncriminals from the moment of their birth. The men who have been seen as cattle, burdens of society, prison commodities, but never truly human. The men who have had to fight the stereotype of being rapists and criminals, the mockery of D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” (1915).

To the boy: Be more than a stereotype, more than a minstrel show puppet. To the man: Do not let them tell you that you are a monster; put down your fist and raise your voice: for your words are your weapon.

I write to the little girls with skin of cocoa, embracing and loving their natural hair and curves. I write to the women they grow up to be, strong, leaders. The women who challenge social constructs, change legislatures. The women who must prove their beauty in a porcelain domain. The women who excel in academics, yet get no recognition apart from twerking and weaves. The women who are more than America’s comic relief, more than Madea’s shadow. The daughters of the Nile and the Mississippi. I write to the mothers who lost their husbands and sons. The women who, when their brothers are knocked to the ground and silenced, they pick up the speaker and lead a movement: for their words are their weapon.

Yesterday, I could have offered you no more than a timid plea. A scared child in the arms of my grandfather, Jim Crow. I did not believe in the reality of America, the struggle that so many of my brothers and sisters endure. Today, I offer you my voice, my brain, my soul. I offer to you the thoughts of a light-skinned girl living in the community surrounding “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” A place without action, without the enthusiasm for change. Tomorrow, I will offer you communication, dialogue. I will offer you the mind of compromise, and the destruction of a system.

No longer must you run behind the bus. The fear of your own voice will cease to exist. Give me your hand and I will give you my voice: for my words are my weapon.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/22/maine-voices-an-open-letter-to-the-american-ghetto-and-its-disenfranchised/feed/ 0 Sun, 21 May 2017 18:53:56 +0000
Jim Fossel: How about this for a casino solution – gamble and pass it http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/jim-fossel-casino-solution-gamble-and-pass-it/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/jim-fossel-casino-solution-gamble-and-pass-it/#respond Sun, 21 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1198968 With the prospect of yet another casino referendum headed to the ballot, a few legislators from both sides of the aisle are taking a look at a creative approach to circumvent it: Pass it.

With every citizen initiative, the Legislature has the option to pass it as is rather than sending it to the people for a vote, and Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon, and Rep. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, have proposed doing that with the casino initiative, then coming back and repealing it.

It’s understandable that Mason and Luchini are frustrated with a new casino vote, and they’re to be applauded for their creative strategy. Legislators can always pass a referendum or craft a competing measure to it, and both of these are tools that ought to be considered more often. However, even if their gamble is successful, that shouldn’t be the end of this current phase in the discussion of casino gambling in Maine.

If the new casino initiative is successfully circumvented, that doesn’t mean casino developers and their compatriots will be done with Maine. On the contrary, there’s every reason to believe they will just come back and try, again, until they manage to push this scheme – or some other one – through. That’s why it’s high time for the Legislature to create some permanent regulations governing the establishment of casinos in Maine, so backers have a normal process to use to try and open one.

Legislators, to their credit, have tried to address this issue in the past, but opponents of casino gambling in any form (from both the left and the right) have squashed these efforts. Lately they’ve been joined by supporters of Maine’s current two casinos in Oxford and Bangor, who don’t want to see those facilities done in by any additional competition. It’s long past time for the Legislature to move past these objections and establish a normal regulatory regime for gaming facilities, the same way we have for other businesses from car dealerships to hotels to restaurants.

Now, that’s not to say that opening a new casino should be easy – it shouldn’t. If someone wants to open a casino, they should absolutely face a large hurdle to do so. However, the Legislature can establish new regulations that are at least as burdensome – if not more so – than what some out-of-state developer has to pay to get a citizen initiative on the ballot. The process established by the Legislature can involve not only state agencies, but local government as well, ensuring that any new casino built has the support of the people nearby.

Now that Maine has two casinos, we no longer face the question of whether to allow them, but of how they are established and what regulations they operate under. There’s no reason to believe that creating a reasonable process to allow more casinos to open in Maine will lead to a dramatic expansion of gaming in the state. Just as with any large business, casino developers will take market forces into consideration. That will impose some natural restrictions on the expansion of gaming in Maine in addition to any regulatory restrictions the state imposes.

It’s right to be sick and tired of these endless referendums about casinos, but we can’t just ignore the problem. We don’t need a market so wide open and unregulated that casinos become a ubiquitous part of life all over the state. However, we also can’t afford to completely shut off the market, as we have now, thanks to our citizen initiative process. If we do that, continuing with the status quo, we’ll continue to have to do battle with deceitful ballot initiatives trying to set up new casinos in Maine.

The solution to the problem of these endless casino referendums is not to go after the referendum process, or to use one-time loopholes to work around them. The latter might work with this referendum, but it shouldn’t be used every time a citizen initiative – whether about casinos or anything else – is headed to a vote.

If the York County casino does make it to the ballot, Mainers would be wise to reject it, as it’s a poorly written proposal intended to benefit a few people. After it’s rejected at the polls, we should demand that our legislators return to work on the issue and institute a new process to allow limited casinos in the state, as Massachusetts has done. That would be the reasonable approach, and that’s what our state deserves.

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

jwfossel@gmail.com

Twitter: @jimfossel

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/jim-fossel-casino-solution-gamble-and-pass-it/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/Jim-Fossel-002-e1492814164620.jpgFri, 19 May 2017 18:25:43 +0000
Our View: In Gov. LePage’s view, no one has right answers but him http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/our-view-in-gov-lepages-view-no-one-has-right-answers-but-him/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/our-view-in-gov-lepages-view-no-one-has-right-answers-but-him/#respond Sun, 21 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1198985 It should have been a story about how government and industry came together to quietly solve a problem through compromise. Instead, it became another example of dysfunction emanating from the office of Maine’s chief executive.

When Gov. LePage last week inserted himself, without cause or caution, into the debate over adding so-called “nips” to Maine’s bottle deposit law, it was the last six years distilled down to a 50-milliliter shot, with the governor’s petty gripes and shallow prejudices once again stirring the drink.

LEPAGE GETS IT WRONG

At issue is L.D. 56, which would place a 5-cent deposit on the smallest liquor bottles sold in Maine. Sales of nips have skyrocketed in recent years – largely because of the popularity of Fireball, a cinnamon-flavored liqueur produced in Maine — and the discarded tiny bottles are now making up a significant portion of roadside trash.

The simple solution was adding the 50-milliliter bottles to the state’s enormously successful “bottle bill,” which in 2010 returned for deposit 90 percent of the 750 million redeemable cans and bottles sold in Maine, clearing the roadways of an untold amount of litter.

Adding to bottles a state-specific deposit is neither easy nor cheap, though, so industry leaders were brought into the discussion with legislators. In the end, the deposit was reduced from 15 cents to 5 and the starting date was delayed until 2019. Everyone, it seemed, was happy.

But after the bill passed initial votes in the House, 111-34, and the Senate, 32-3, LePage chimed in. If it ultimately passed, the governor said, he would have no choice but to ban the sales of 50-milliliter bottles in Maine.

Why? Well, LePage said, the bill was the result of a “secret backroom deal” made by dishonest legislators, never mind that lawmakers from both parties worked appropriately with distillers and distributors to find common ground, the best outcome in any legislative endeavor.

Stretching further, LePage said the alleged high cost of the bill would jeopardize other programs – you know, those government programs the governor is oh, so fond of – never mind that members of the relevant committee foresaw no such funding problems.

Finally, he said the bill was “anti-business,” never mind that the chief executive of the Lewiston company that produces Fireball, which makes up more than 40 percent of nip sales, said the real danger was not the bill, but LePage’s threat to ban sales.

The governor found a better argument later, when, during a radio appearance, he said that selling nips promotes drunken driving, a reasonable point of view he failed to mention in his extensive public statement.

But that’s a separate issue – this bill is simply aimed at reducing litter, and like the bottle bill before it, there’s little doubt that it would. Remarkably, that might be why LePage dislikes this bill so much – he sees it as prioritizing the environment over industry, when the legislative compromise shows that both sides can be satisfied.

ARGUMENTS JUST A COVER

With LePage, though, arguments – whether reasonable or uncoupled from reality – are just cover for his anitipathy toward, well, just about anyone who contradicts his world view or questions his narrow perception of what Maine should be.

Take, for instance, solar power, for which the governor last year also negated a hard-fought bipartisan compromise aimed at fixing the thorny issue of net metering. LePage says he doesn’t want to pick winners and losers in the energy market, but fails to apply the same philosophy when bailing out the biomass industry, or stumping for more natural gas pipelines.

But it’s not philosophy that matters, only that solar, as the governor sees it, is the domain of liberals and coastal elites – not “real Mainers.” It’s not a new opportunity to capitalize on, but a threat to traditional Maine industries. Never mind that nationwide, more people work in solar than in coal, natural gas and oil power plants combined.

And that’s only the start.

Land conservation? More hippie nonsense aimed at killing jobs, backed by corrupt legislators and rich, liberal landowners looking to make a quick buck. Never mind that state conservation has saved properties of all kinds and purposes in all 16 counties, and drives our tourism economy.

Methadone and naloxone? Spa day for weak-willed addicts, backed by namby-pamby coddlers, never mind the drugs’ proven effectiveness.

Senior housing? Corrupt legislators again, this time in concert with shady developers.

A new mental health facility? Only on his terms, because lawmakers from both parties care only about making headlines.

That’s Paul LePage as he sees himself – the only honest man in politics, surrounded by liars, schemers and layabouts. The only one with pure intentions, and with a real handle on the problems facing Maine. No one but him with good intentions. No one but him with the right answers.

That truly seems like a terrible world. We’re glad we don’t live in it.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/our-view-in-gov-lepages-view-no-one-has-right-answers-but-him/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/1198985_719975-LePage.jpgWhether the topic is "nips" deposits, solar energy, senior housing bonds or naloxone access, Gov. LePage's arguments are just cover for his antipathy toward anyone who contradicts his world view or questions his narrow perception of what Maine should be.Fri, 19 May 2017 18:39:47 +0000
Maine Observer: Horses have their way with people http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/maine-observer-horses-have-their-way-with-people/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/maine-observer-horses-have-their-way-with-people/#respond Sun, 21 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1198508 In May, three friends looking for adventure.

In May, this ad in the paper:

“Good rider without a horse?

“Good horse looking for a rider!”

It was a “meet cute,” as they say in the movies.

A challenging opportunity? A stroke of luck? Too risky an undertaking? It would depend which friend read the ad. “A stroke of luck” friend was the reader.

Weekly they came to be near the horses. Weekly they left with their lives changed. Horses have that effect on people.

The friends were different in many ways: age, background, work history, life and horse experience. The youngest had never ridden before and was timid around horses. The middle friend had been wild-riding all her life. The big sister of the trio had a horse as a youngster, but after a serious fall she spelled “afraid” with a capital “A.”

What does an owner do with three such different riders? Simple. It wasn’t about riding. It was about the horse. Start with a little western, a little classical and a lot of ground work. Add aspects of dance, tai chi, centered riding and lots of imagery. Six months ago three friends started on the ground. Now three friends are confident on the ground and in the saddle.

Horse work was just the opening chapter to this adventure. The real story is the effect the horses had on their lives. Skills they learned with the horses had a way of creeping into their daily lives.

Two of the friends decided to change careers. This is a serious life change. Ask anyone who makes a living around horses. It’s long hours, hard work and little income. Ask these same people if they would do anything else. The answer: “No.”

The two friends spent the summer attending clinics, watching DVDs and practicing with the horses. They reached out to the horse community for hands-on experience. Now the youngest is an apprentice manager at a stable with an assigned horse to train. The middle friend, already an animal care provider, is now being asked to ride and train horses.

On the summer solstice, they took a midnight ride under the full strawberry moon. It was a rare full moon, not to be seen again for almost a century.

Full moons are a time to let go of things in your life. The third friend let go of the fear in her life. She was the most scared of the three, yet on the first riding day she swung her leg up and rode bareback. Now she leads the rides and laughs when the horse spooks.

Three friends, six months and an adventure. Six lives changed for the better: three friends, two horses and one owner.

As the year drew to an end, so did the adventure. For the three friends, new and even bigger adventures await. For the owner, the fledglings were riding away. It was as it should be.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/maine-observer-horses-have-their-way-with-people/feed/ 0 Fri, 19 May 2017 18:18:15 +0000
Another View: Dill makes dubious case in favor of FBI director’s firing http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/another-view-dill-makes-dubious-case-in-favor-of-fbi-directors-firing/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/another-view-dill-makes-dubious-case-in-favor-of-fbi-directors-firing/#respond Sun, 21 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1198829 James Comey is and was universally respected and admired by his employees and senior executives in the law enforcement and intelligence communities. He should not have been fired.

Columnist Cynthia Dill (May 14) got it wrong: She starts with the conclusion that he should have been fired and then “reasons” backward – just like the president.

Proper logical and legal analysis should start at the beginning: the private meeting between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the husband of a presidential candidate, at the time that Lynch knew that the candidate was then the subject of a Department of Justice and FBI investigation. That unprecedented event made it impossible to follow the customary procedure wherein the FBI would provide the results of its recommendations to the Justice Department.

If that procedure had been blindly followed, and the Justice Department (with or without Lynch’s participation) had told the American public that it would not prosecute Hillary Clinton, everyone would have cried “foul.” Justifiably, they would have asserted that her husband had tainted the process and that his private meeting with Lynch was the reason why there would be no prosecution. Comey made the correct choice: to be transparent with the American people and advise them of the FBI’s independent and objective recommendation.

But we now know that the Clinton emails had nothing to do with the firing. Rather, it was the continued effort to derail the investigation into the connection between the Trump campaign and Russia. While some may suggest that there is no connection, what happened to Michael Flynn, and why has Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from that investigation? The “Trumped up” memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, upon which Sessions based his recommendation to fire Comey, was just another effort by the White House to mislead the American people.

Ms. Dill is wrong. Comey did not deserve to be fired. He should have been allowed to continue his outstanding and professional job as the leader of the most ethical and independent law enforcement and intelligence agency in this country or any other.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/another-view-dill-makes-dubious-case-in-favor-of-fbi-directors-firing/feed/ 0 Fri, 19 May 2017 18:20:03 +0000
Maine Voices: A list of principles for health reform http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/maine-voices-a-list-of-principles-for-health-reform/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/maine-voices-a-list-of-principles-for-health-reform/#respond Sun, 21 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1198833 MOUNT VERNON — In 1975, the dean of the Harvard School of Public Health likened the medical care challenges of that day (high cost, uneven access and quality) to the “tragedy of the commons,” which describes what happens when a decision that makes sense for individuals can have disastrous results if everybody does it. For example: When herdsmen do not restrain their herds’ grazing on common land, the land will become depleted and all will suffer.

That same year, my first boss opined, “There are more people living off cancer than there are dying from it.” If the challenges of 40 years ago haven’t changed much, the solution probably remains the same: give and take, and collaboration. Here’s a top 10 list for the U.S. senators working on their own replacement for the Affordable Care Act to consider:

 10. Focus on the tougher issue of reducing the cost of health care instead of the sledgehammer approach of covering a lower percentage of the cost of fewer services for fewer people. Under current law, the cost of health care claims makes up at least 80 percent of the cost of health insurance, so remember: “It’s the claims, stupid.”

 9. Require hospitals and doctors to publish their prices in a manner that eighth-graders can understand. For example: “We charge 120 percent of Medicare for patients covered by Blue Cross, 125 percent for those covered by Aetna and 175 percent if you are not insured.” That will do more to increase competition than all the rhetoric we’ve heard in the last year.

 8. Require sponsors of employment-based health insurance – which covers over half of all Americans – to choose from one of a few dozen standard benefit plan designs instead of the over 100,000 different plans administered for them today.

This would bring down the direct administrative cost of the coverage from over 10 percent to closer to Medicare’s two percent and would reduce the administrative burden on doctors and hospitals.

 7. Tax and reduce the demand for sugared snacks and drinks, which contribute to the diabetes epidemic, and increase federal taxes on tobacco products. Reducing the number of sick people will reduce the total cost of claims.

 6. Set a ceiling of the “best price globally” for drug prices in the largest prescription drug market in the world: the United States. Markets typically support volume discounts. Change patent terms and protections to maintain an incentive for high-risk research and development investment to keep their miracle pipeline flowing.

 5. Set national standards for what constitutes the adequacy of benefit plans where “in-network” benefits are greater than “out-of-network” benefits. For example: All covered individuals must have access to a choice of at least three primary care practitioners who are accepting new patients within 20 minutes’ travel time.

 4. Doctors and patients should engage in documented and evaluated shared decision-making on overused procedures or ones for which effective options exist. Recommended by a blue-ribbon panel during the Reagan administration, shared decision-making calls for certified, third-party information about alternative treatments – for example, surgery vs. physical therapy – and a post-visit survey of the patient about their conversation with the doctor (“Did the doctor answer all of your questions?”).

Shared decision-making helps patients make a decision with which they are comfortable and empowers them with better information – thus increasing quality and reducing costs..

 3. Ease antitrust laws so that employers can band together to negotiate hospital and doctor prices in the local markets where health care is bought and sold.

Today, individual employers and their insurers typically represent a negligible portion of hospitals’ and doctors’ revenues, though collectively, they represent the largest single share. This fragmented purchasing power leads to their paying at least 20 percent more than Medicare and Medicaid for the same services, though the government programs pay for less patient volume than the employer segment.

• 2. Maintain the requirement that insurance policies cover essential benefits, set maximum amounts for out-of-pocket costs and eliminate most annual and all lifetime limits on benefits. Or you could buy a policy with a $10 annual deductible for $5 per month that covers one blood pressure test at a pharmacy 20 miles from your home, albeit with no pre-existing condition exclusions.

• 1. Amend the U.S. Constitution to set down as a right what Congress stated as a “finding” in the National Health Planning and Resources Development Act of 1974: “The achievement of equal access to quality health care at a reasonable cost is a priority of the federal government.”

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/maine-voices-a-list-of-principles-for-health-reform/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/1198833_edipic_0223.jpgStandard plan designs would bring down administrative costs and save everyone in the long run.Sat, 20 May 2017 20:40:38 +0000
Cynthia Dill: You can forget about impeachment http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/cynthia-dill-impeachment-what-impeachment/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/cynthia-dill-impeachment-what-impeachment/#respond Sun, 21 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1198867 Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Republicans to impeach Donald Trump for saying, “I hope you can let this go,” to then-FBI Director James Comey, allegedly referring to Comey’s investigation of former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn. This is the Washington, D.C., version of what we saw in Maine after Paul LePage was elected. Protests! Outrage! Calls for impeachment!

Re-election.

There will be no impeachment, but there’s plenty of memo drama.

Comey finds himself smack dab in the middle of the latest Washington crisis, again. Surprise, surprise. The two-page memo Mr. Comey apparently typed up following an alleged conversation with President Trump about Flynn, “the nice guy” who resigned after getting caught lying to Vice President Mike Pence, will be enough fodder for the voracious Washington press corps for several news cycles, if not days.

If “Comey, the People’s Warrior” were a Netflix series, this week’s episode would open showing Comey – calm, handsome and scrubbed – receiving the news he was being fired because of a memo written by Rod Rosenstein, the well-respected deputy attorney general. At the mention of the Rosenstein memo, the TV camera would zoom in to Comey’s face, showing for a split second a knowing glimmer in his eye. The audience would hear Comey say confidently to himself, “What they don’t know is that thanks to my impeccable integrity, I have a better, stronger memo I’ve been keeping semi-secretly in my proverbial back pocket.”

Rosenstein memo meet the Comey memo, Act 1.

A battle of memos written by federal prosecutors? Be still, my beating heart. Memo drama out of D.C. is every wonk’s delight. Lawyers write memorandums like artists paint portraits. The good ones are so good they look real.

Forget about impeachment. Curiosity about the metadata of the memos is killing people who write memos for a living. How do these two legal giants compare when it comes to revising and editing? My money says Comey is the alpha-editor with superior political instincts. I bet Comey stays up late polishing his carefully chosen words knowing some day they might be at the center of the world’s attention.

And, voila, as the French would say, but not type up in a memo.

Rosenstein’s memo is textbook. He identifies the issue – lack of public trust in the FBI after Comey influenced the 2016 presidential election – and the conclusion that because Comey can’t understand the gravity of his mistakes he lacks what it takes to restore it.

Every word of each memo will be carefully scrutinized by international media. Imagine an embarrassing typo or the careless misuse of a word or, God forbid, a dangling participle or all three.

The Freedom Caucus and other Republican House members are too busy enjoying their work making America great again to quibble over memos. These guys think justice is repealing Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood and deporting refugees. Memo-gazing is off their radar. Donald Trump has helped Republicans achieve their goals. Immigration arrests and detention are up. Funding for crazy liberal things like contraception is down. White guys are back in charge. The odds of them voting to impeach Donald Trump for obstructing justice for saying “I hope you can let go of this” are like the odds you are going to lose 10 pounds and read more.

After he denigrated Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan and called federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel a “hater” who the presidential candidate claimed to be unfair because he is “Hispanic” and “Mexican,” Republicans supported Donald Trump. After the “Access Hollywood” tape of then-candidate Trump showing him boast about his privilege and proclivity to grope women, they supported him. Trump said he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose votes before he was elected president. “I hope you can let this go” seems practically innocent and one of the nicer things that’s come out of the guy’s mouth.

Lyin’ Ted Cruz and Lil’ Marco Rubio jumped in line behind Trump after being spanked and humiliated by him. Didn’t Trump accuse Ted Cruz’s father of murder? And the contorted about-face of John McCain on Trump was painful. These Republican senators did not suddenly have an epiphany that Trump is crazy like a fox or misunderstood. They are conditioned by their political careers to follow the money, as they say, or follow the power.

Previews for next week’s episode of “Comey, the People’s Warrior” are as predictable as the day is long. The audience sees Rosenstein pulling another memo. This one newer, sharper and appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the Russian connection. The memo of all memos. For now, anyway.

Stay tuned.

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

dillesquire@gmail.com

Twitter: @dillesquire

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/cynthia-dill-impeachment-what-impeachment/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/02/20150928cynthiadill0032-e1456164666846.jpgPORTLAND, ME - SEPTEMBER 28: Cynthia Dill, a new columnist, was photographed on Monday, September 28, 2015. (Photo by Yoon S. Byun/Staff Photographer)Sun, 21 May 2017 15:07:43 +0000
Alan Caron: As week went on, Trump wounds grew ever worse http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/alan-caron-as-week-went-on-trump-wounds-grew-ever-worse/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/alan-caron-as-week-went-on-trump-wounds-grew-ever-worse/#respond Sun, 21 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1198873 This has been an extraordinary week in Washington. The White House seemed to be experiencing an electrical overload, with lights flickering on and off wildly. Every day presented a new scandal involving FBI Director James Comey’s recent firing or former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Turkey and Russia, intelligence leaks, mysterious tape recordings and memos and, of course, Donald Trump’s kneejerk tweets.

White House staff valiantly tried to answer the tide of accusations, with mixed success. In almost every instance, President Trump contradicted them, within hours, with another tweet.

By the end of the week, the president – arguably the most powerful man in the world – was forced to endure the selection of a special counsel to head a deeper investigation of his campaign and subsequent actions. That reduced him to spouting self-pity about being the victim of a “witch hunt.” All of it was another stain on the office of the presidency.

Through the week, there were discernible and growing signs that Republicans in Congress were beginning to look toward the lifeboats, and to saving themselves if Trump goes down in a storm of his own making. On Monday and Tuesday many were defending the president. By the end of the week, there was broad support for the naming of a special counsel, and Republicans were heading for cover.

Welcome to the most chaotic few months of any presidency since the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln – not that there are any other similarities between Honest Abe and Trump. In Lincoln’s defense, his rocky first months were the result of Southern states seceding from the Union. Trump’s are almost entirely self-inflicted.

The president has made a lot of mistakes in his on-the-job training as president, but four rose to the top this past week. One was the decision to hire Flynn as national security adviser, even though Trump’s transition team – and, presumably, Trump – knew that Flynn was under federal investigation for receiving $500,000 from Turkey. The second, if it proves to be true, was pressuring Comey to limit or stop the investigation of Flynn. The third was firing Comey, who was leading the investigation of the Trump- Russian links. The last was the leak of sensitive intelligence to – of all people – the Russians, in the White House.

By the end of the week, Congress was in full boil. Despite the naming of a special counsel, they want Comey to testify before their many committees, knowing that a Comey appearance will produce a blockbuster public spectacle – and perhaps feeling that their search for truth goes through a door marked “Comey,” not “Trump.”

This was the week that the conversation about Trump moved from a kind of nervous anxiety about his intellectual and emotional fitness to lead to something far more serious. Has the president interfered with the FBI investigation, and was the Comey firing part of that effort?

By week’s end, many scholars and political leaders were, for the first time, beginning to use the “I” word – impeachment. Comparisons with Richard Nixon were flying everywhere. There was breathless excitement on the Democratic side and sagging shoulders among Republicans, many of whom never supported Trump in the first place.

We would all be wise to slow down the impeachment talk. The full extent of Russian involvement in our elections is not yet known. The existence of memos and tapes and what they confirm or dispute is also not known. And the investigations are still in the early stages, rather than approaching their conclusion.

Impeachment is a solemn matter that deserves to be above partisan politics. That’s something that Republicans forgot during the Clinton years, when they launched years of investigations against Bill Clinton, on Whitewater, that produced nothing until they stumbled upon Monica Lewinsky. In some sense, the chickens are coming home to roost for them, but one party’s mistakes should not be an excuse to repeat the error.

The focus now should be on the special counsel and what the scope of his investigation will be. There are three key questions that deserve answers:

 Seventeen intelligence agencies in the U.S. have now declared that the Russians meddled in our elections in an unprecedented way. What was the nature and scope of that meddling?

 What, if any, connections were there between the president, the Trump campaign and agents of the Russian government?

 What, if any, efforts have been undertaken by the president, or those working n his behalf, to undermine, thwart, delay or derail any investigations into these matters by Congress or law enforcement agencies?

When we have the answers to those questions, the facts will dictate whether or not any action is warranted that will either discipline or remove the president.

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

alancaroninmaine@gmail.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/21/alan-caron-as-week-went-on-trump-wounds-grew-ever-worse/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/03/Columnist-Caron_thumb.jpgFri, 19 May 2017 18:22:45 +0000
Gina Barreca: Emotional forecast calls for anxiety, with winds of change http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/20/gina-barreca-emotional-forecast-calls-for-anxiety-with-winds-of-change/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/20/gina-barreca-emotional-forecast-calls-for-anxiety-with-winds-of-change/#respond Sat, 20 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1199006 It was probably a mistake to read Psychology Today magazine while my husband was watching The Weather Channel. He’s absorbed by a story focused on the world’s most extreme weather and I’m reading an article about how to avoid toxic colleagues at parties. He’s finding out about the devastating effects of long-term drought and I’m reading about social anxiety at office events.

My husband has the advantage: He and his fellow meteorologists (isn’t every man who watches The Weather Channel a meteorologist?) can see the future through the magical yet scientific power of Doppler radar. I’m stuck with a quiz asking if I need salty snacks and/or alcoholic beverages in order not to run screaming out of the room when co-workers approach me at a party. (Answer: If there are Popchips, I don’t mind.)

After more about floods, tornadoes and erosion (on TV, not in Psychology Today), I decide that what I need is the equivalent of Doppler effect radar for my emotional life. I want to know what’s ahead for the next 24 hours and I want to be offered a 10-day outlook. In addition, I’d like to be reminded of my historic highs and lows for this time of year to know whether my mood this week is going to set any kind of record.

I want to know whether I need an umbrella or whether I need to use my smile as one.

I want this information provided by a well-dressed professional – flanked by cheerfully colored quasi-scientific diagrams and models – who, with undiminished poise and equanimity, will alert me to bright, sunny days or the immediate need to evacuate using only designated emergency routes.

These professionals would receive their information from a national Institute of Mood Safety, and they would keep us up-to-date with “First Alerts” and “Early Warnings”: “After an unsettled and humid night, expect a morning of mixed emotions, with anger gusts sweeping in right before lunch.” After all, predictions, precautions and preparation would keep us far more secure and sanguine if we could arrange, in advance, for whatever changes might be coming our way. Is it going to be gloomy? Is a sense of dread gathering out to our west, or perhaps an unusual amount of high pressure looming right over our shoulders?

Since weather is getting so unnervingly local that we’ll soon be able to tell not only whether raindrops will be falling on our heads but also whether they’ll fall on our elbows or on our left foot or our right foot, I would hope that our moods could be traced with the same exactitude.

I want to know if there’s going to be a downpour of sentiment, a drought of generosity, a mix of sun and clouds causing buyer’s remorse and whether there are going to be mood swings coming over the mountains when they come. Is there a chance of a panic attack on Tuesday afternoon? I would like to know not only how to dress appropriately but what to postpone: I would know whether or not a picnic was appropriate or whether a cage match might be more in order.

Finally, I’m not interested so much in tropical depressions as I am in topical depressions, which leads me to believe that we should also have a Doppler radar to predict what’s going on politically. I believe I’m not the only one going through this: I could be having a genuinely lovely day, only to turn on the news and fall directly into the slough of despond. That’s what I call a “topical depression” – it will be a sudden change in climate having to do with what happened during the last 15 minutes in Washington, D.C.

“Who wants to be foretold the weather?” asks Jerome K. Jerome, one of my favorite humor writers. “It is bad enough when it comes, without our having the misery of knowing about it beforehand.” But foretold can be forearmed. Perhaps we’ll figure out how to protect ourselves against the winds of a changing political climate. Or perhaps we’ll learn how to cope with a suddenly urgent sense of social anxiety aroused by witnessing the end of human history as it comes hurtling toward us. I’ll break out the Popchips.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/20/gina-barreca-emotional-forecast-calls-for-anxiety-with-winds-of-change/feed/ 0 Fri, 19 May 2017 19:33:17 +0000
Garrison Keillor: New York City is so beautiful that you forget about Trump http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/20/garrison-keillor-new-york-city-is-so-beautiful-that-you-forget-about-trump/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/20/garrison-keillor-new-york-city-is-so-beautiful-that-you-forget-about-trump/#respond Sat, 20 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1199014 Here’s what they say in New York – Donald J. Trump is a grandstander, a showboat. Not doing his job. Totally incompetent. The White House has been in turmoil for months. You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that. So what are we talking about? Enough about him. Who needs an investigation? Guy is a total loser. Tell me something I don’t know.

It’s beautiful in New York now that spring has landed. Winter tries to hang on, like an old drunk at closing time who staggers around and takes a swing at you and spits on your shoe but eventually you heave him into a cab and it’s spring. “All the merry little birds are flying in the floating in the very spirits singing in are winging in the blossoming,” as e.e. cummings down on 10th Street and Greenwich Avenue wrote. “And viva, sweet love.”

I flew into New York from Dallas, where the cabdriver told me the airport is bigger than Manhattan, and he seemed quite proud of that. He’s right: DFW is almost 27 square miles, Manhattan less than 23. But it’s like saying, “My sofa is bigger than Joyce Carol Oates.” (And has your sofa written a novel lately?)

DFW is concrete and fast food and miles of plastic chairs. It only goes to show how gorgeous 23 square miles can be, from the Staten Island Ferry terminal to the Trinity churchyard (R.I.P. Mr. Hamilton) to the Tenement Museum, the cast iron buildings on Spring Street, the starry ceiling of Grand Central, the majestic reading rooms of the Public Library, the marquees of Broadway, the schist outcroppings of Central Park and Teddy Roosevelt on his horse defending the Natural History museum, the apartment palaces of the Upper West Side, the cheese department at Zabar’s, where you gain weight with every deep breath you take, Harlem, the Cloisters, the mighty Hudson – “When you’re tired of New York, you’re tired of life,” Samuel Johnson did not say, but only because he never made it across the Atlantic nor into the 20th century.

When spring is here, or rumored to be near, the city opens its doors and spills out onto the sidewalks. Cafes retract their front walls and set up tables, benches come out, greenmarkets set their flowers out on wooden pallets, people sit on the steps of brownstones or lean against parked cars, and everybody is talking at once.

On Sunday, I walked to 83rd Street to mail some letters and passed a little Victorian firehouse, one truck wide, wedged in the row of brownstones holding off the invasion of high-rise condos, a few of which tower on the horizon. A truck double-parked on 83rd, with “Integrity General Contractors” written on the door.

An African man sat watching his wares on a card table, talking on a cellphone to someone in Africa. A papa stood on the corner, embracing one tall daughter, then the other. Skateboarders swooped along the bike lane, helmeted kids on scooters. Brisk walkers passing us amblers, dog people walking their livestock, who strained to sniff the food on the cafe tables. The sun was out after a gray Saturday and there was good feeling everywhere you looked.

What made New York so great was many things, including the coastline and rivers and proximity of water, the mix of commercial and residential, the five-story blocks, five stories being how high our great-grandparents cared to climb in the pre-elevator days, leaving plenty of sunshine for pedestrians to bask in. And also the decision not to have alleys, so everything happens out on the street. People truck in the goods, truck out the garbage, you’re living on a loading dock, you have to deal with it.

Back where I’m from, in Grid City out on the flatlands, you say, “Oh, pardon me” if you come within 2 feet of someone. You’re always apologizing, sidestepping, backing away, excusing yourself. In New York, in the milling throng, you learn to speak up.

At 81st, I went down into the subway and the downtown train rolled in just as I reached the platform, one of those transformative moments – every little thing you’ve done all day up to that moment feels perfectly timed – and squeezed into the car without actually touching anyone. I hung on to the overhead bar, feet nicely spread, as we rumbled south, six complete strangers within a few inches of me, everyone in his or her own space, avoiding eye contact, thinking their own thoughts. Riding from 81st to 42nd is a good antidote to narcissism. Too bad that some people only ride in limos with police escorts and miss out on this essential and beneficial experience.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/20/garrison-keillor-new-york-city-is-so-beautiful-that-you-forget-about-trump/feed/ 0 Fri, 19 May 2017 19:38:05 +0000
Coast Guard and state of Maine unified on paddlecraft safety http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/20/maine-voices-coast-guard-and-state-of-maine-unified-on-paddlecraft-safety/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/20/maine-voices-coast-guard-and-state-of-maine-unified-on-paddlecraft-safety/#respond Sat, 20 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1199024 With warmer temperatures and longer days rapidly approaching, rivers, lakes, ponds and bays are coming to life as people take to the water. Unfortunately, the waters they are hoping will reward them with peace and relaxation are fraught with hidden dangers, including deadly cold temperatures, treacherous currents and unpredictable weather.

Just last year, 49 people in New England were killed in recreational boating accidents, with nine occurring in Maine alone. Of those, 89 percent were not wearing life jackets. In fact, there have already been five deaths in northern New England in early May, well before the traditional start of boating season.

This season, the Coast Guard and the state of Maine are especially focused on paddlecraft safety. The paddlecraft industry continues to expand as more and more people of varying skill levels are accessing New England waters. Nearly all of them return home safely after a fun-filled day, but every year we continue to see preventable deaths and injuries.

Whether it’s a successful search and rescue case or a tragic loss of life, we frequently find that people are not prepared for the conditions they encounter. Survivors often say, “I can’t believe how quickly things went bad.” One minute, they were enjoying a peaceful day in perfect conditions, and the next minute, they were fighting for their lives. Our intent is not to scare people off the water, or to discourage them from trying an activity they may come to love for a lifetime – it’s simply to make sure they are prepared.

National Safe Boating Week runs from May 20 through 26, but given our ever-changing environmental conditions in Maine, every day must be a safe boating day. Regardless of the kind of boating activity you enjoy or how safe you think it may be, you always need to consider what can go wrong. If you find yourself submerged in 50-degree water, unable to get back into your kayak or onto your paddleboard, will you be able to stay afloat, signal a nearby boater or contact the Coast Guard? If not, regardless of your skill level, your life will be in jeopardy.

To avoid that possibility, good safety practices are always important: Wear a life jacket; have a way to communicate ashore (ideally with a marine radio); consider buying a personal locator beacon; monitor the weather for changing conditions; dress for the water temperature and not the air temperature; let people know where you will be; know your limits; avoid alcohol, and consider using a guide. It’s also important to know who you are sharing the waterway with and what to do when you encounter them.

Anyone with experience in the coastal waters of Maine knows that boating traffic is increasing. At any given time, there could be tankships transporting millions of gallons of oil, cruise ships carrying thousands of tourists, ferries loaded with passengers headed to the islands, fishing vessels working their gear and countless recreational boats and paddlecraft darting across the water. This magnifies the potential for an accident, making it vital for commercial and recreational boaters to understand how to share the waterway.

Large ships are constrained to where they can go because of water depths, and they cannot change course and speed quickly if a small boat ends up in their path; believe it or not, they typically have the right of way over almost all other vessel traffic. Tugboats are needed to help these ships safely navigate through tight bridges and alongside piers. Fishing vessels may be hauling traps that makes it difficult for them to maneuver.

To minimize the risk of collision and disaster, every vessel on the water – from the largest commercial craft to the smallest vessel capable of being used for transportation (yes, even paddleboards!) – must follow the navigation rules.

Regardless of how a person ends up in trouble – be it inexperience, Mother Nature’s unpredictability or a boating accident – the Coast Guard will respond with every available resource. However, a number of factors can delay our ability to get to you quickly, including any uncertainty about your location, poor communications, weather conditions and remote regions where response capabilities are limited.

For these reasons, you need to do everything possible to guarantee you can call us for help, stay afloat and survive in cold water so you are still with us when we get there. We want everyone to live to boat another day.

Be prepared, be safe and have fun out there.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/20/maine-voices-coast-guard-and-state-of-maine-unified-on-paddlecraft-safety/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/07/866128-evepaddle-1-KB.jpgOrrington, Maine--06-30-2015--Butch Minson of Verona Island launches his kayak as he joins other paddlers for an evening on the water of Fields Pond to explore birds and nature as part of the Maine Audubon's evening paddle. Kevin Bennett PhotoFri, 19 May 2017 22:47:21 +0000
Another View: You might be helping computer hackers http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/20/another-view-you-might-be-helping-computer-hackers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/20/another-view-you-might-be-helping-computer-hackers/#respond Sat, 20 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1199040 Authorities worldwide are mopping up after an international ransomware attack disrupted hospitals, factories, government agencies, banks and businesses in 150 countries. The latest clues point to hackers possibly linked to North Korea.

In what looks to be an unrelated cyberattack, hackers reportedly shanghaied the Disney film “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” The crooks threatened to splash it onto the internet before the film’s scheduled May 26 release if Disney didn’t fork over a ransom in bitcoin, according to deadline.com.

Experts warn that worldwide ransomware attacks could bloom again in the coming weeks. They warn that many computers running outdated (or stolen) software could be vulnerable to hackers who pilfer data, or hold it hostage for ransom.

Hmm. When have we read about similar breaches and often heard similar warnings about computer vulnerabilities?

Oh, right. In 2016, when the Russians were roaming through the Democratic National Committee’s email system.

Or in 2015, when the U.S. government revealed that hackers stole a massive trove of data from the federal Office of Personnel Management, exposing sensitive information about millions of people, including federal employees, contractors and their families and friends.

Or when hackers spread Sony’s secrets across the internet in 2014.

Or when Russian cybercriminals stole data on more than 500 million Yahoo accounts the same year.

Or earlier this year after WikiLeaks revealed CIA computer hacking secrets for criminals, spies and other foreign malefactors to exploit. (We haven’t heard much about the fallout from that, but stay tuned.)

Before the latest series of attacks, officials at Britain’s public health system ignored several warnings that many of its computer systems were unprotected and ripe for exploitation, The New York Times reported.

Apparently, the official attitude there is the same as it is around the world as people are bombarded by cyber warnings (and invitations to reap riches from people they don’t know): What, us worry?

The big questions: Will this latest spate of attacks be a wake-up call to upgrade protections around the world? Or will many people hit the snooze button again?

Microsoft blamed the U.S. government for “stockpiling” software code wielded by the hackers in ransomware attacks. The company’s top lawyer argued that the government should report the weaknesses it discovers rather than hold them as weapons to use later. Microsoft attorney Brad Smith wrote that “an equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.”

Not quite. Tomahawks hit targets and the blast damage is contained. But cyber attacks can damage computers, and disrupt lives, around the world. Ask all those British patients who couldn’t be treated.

Nor is the U.S. immune. Hackers have targeted hospital systems in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Boston and Kentucky, The Washington Post reported.

The criminals who unleashed this latest ransomware virus didn’t have to be computer geniuses. New tools make this kind of cyber extortion much easier. Mad skills aren’t needed.

What is needed, however, is for computer users – all of us – to neglect to upgrade security or change passwords. To click on attachments willy nilly. To assume that because our devices haven’t yet been captured, they won’t be.

The crooks and spies are counting on us. And so far, they haven’t been disappointed.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/20/another-view-you-might-be-helping-computer-hackers/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/1199040_Britain_Hospital_Problems_9.jpgA recent international ransomware attack locked British hospitals out of their computer systems and kept doctors from calling up patient files. Lax security practices leave computer users vulnerable to such breaches.Fri, 19 May 2017 19:45:25 +0000
Podcast: Reporter Randy Billings explains how Portland’s city council works http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/explainer-podcast-portland-city-council-works/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/explainer-podcast-portland-city-council-works/#respond Fri, 19 May 2017 16:26:36 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1198752 For this week’s episode, Portland Press Herald City Hall reporter Randy Billings joined Editorial Page Editor Greg Kesich to explain our city’s unique government structure and how it may contribute to drama in a municipal government with no partisan difference.

This week’s fight was over the city budget… kind of. The city council passed a $240 million annual budget with a very small cut (.02% of the budget) that exposed deep discord: they eliminated a position for Mayor Ethan Strimling’s assistant, which was held by Jason Shedlock. Now Strimling is threatening to veto, an act that would likely be symbolic since the council has the right to override.

The arrangement of our city council, mayor, and city manager has lead to confusion over job roles and decision making power. On this episode Billings opens up his reporter’s notebook from the fraught budget debate, explains why the two men who have held the new-ish role of elected mayor have interpreted the job description differently, and how the city might solve this confusing issue.

Related:

Portland Mayor Strimling says he may veto budget over council’s vote to cut his assistant

Portland councilor: Use funding for mayor’s aide to hire waterfront manager instead

Portland council confirms Jon Jennings as new city manager

Podcast Links:

Press Herald Podcast RSS Feed

Subscribe to the Press Herald podcast on iTunes

Subscribe on Android

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/explainer-podcast-portland-city-council-works/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/1195006_155361-20170511_assistant_0.jpgMayor Ethan Strimling, right, and special assistant Jason Shedlock often discuss work matters on the steps of Portland City Hall. Some councilors predict Shedlock's position will be cut from the city budget next week.Fri, 19 May 2017 13:15:42 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: No guardrails of our democracy can contain the chaos of Donald Trump http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/no-guardrails-of-our-democracy-can-contain-the-chaos-of-donald-trump/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/no-guardrails-of-our-democracy-can-contain-the-chaos-of-donald-trump/#respond Fri, 19 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1198340 The pleasant surprise of the First 100 Days is over. The action was hectic, heated, often confused, but well within the bounds of normalcy. Policy (e.g., health care) was being hashed out, a Supreme Court nominee confirmed, foreign policy challenges (e.g. North Korea) addressed.

Donald Trump’s character – volatile, impulsive, often self-destructive – had not changed since the campaign. But it seemed as if the guardrails of our democracy – Congress, the courts, the states, the media, the Cabinet – were keeping things within bounds.

Then came the last 10 days. The country is now caught in the internal maelstrom that is the mind of Donald Trump. We are in the realm of the id. Chaos reigns. No guardrails can hold.

Normal activity disappears. North Korea’s launch of an alarming new missile and a problematic visit from the president of Turkey (locus of our most complicated and tortured allied relationship) barely evoke notice. Nothing can escape the black hole of a three-part presidential meltdown.

 First, the firing of James Comey. Trump, consumed by the perceived threat of the Russia probe to his legitimacy, executes a mindlessly impulsive dismissal of the FBI director. He then surrounds it with a bodyguard of lies – attributing the dismissal to a Justice Department recommendation – which his staff goes out and parrots. Only to be undermined and humiliated when the boss contradicts them within 48 hours.

Result? Layers of falsehoods giving the impression of an elaborate cover-up – in the absence of a crime. At least Nixon was trying to quash a third-rate burglary and associated felonies. Here we don’t even have a body, let alone a smoking gun. Trump insists there’s no there there, but acts as if the there is everywhere.

 Second, Trump’s divulging classified information to the Russians. A stupid, needless mistake. But despite the media hysteria, hardly an irreparable national security calamity.

The Israelis, whose asset might have been jeopardized, are no doubt upset, but the notion that this will cause a great rupture to their (and others’) intelligence relationship with the U.S. is nonsense. These kinds of things happen all the time. When the Obama administration spilled secrets of the anti-Iranian Stuxnet virus or blew the cover of a double agent in Yemen, there was none of the garment-rending that followed Trump’s disclosure.

Once again, however, the cover-up far exceeded the crime. Trump had three top officials come out and declare the disclosure story false. The next morning, Trump tweeted he was entirely within his rights to reveal what he revealed, thereby verifying the truth of the story. His national security adviser H.R. McMaster floundered his way through a news conference, trying to reconcile his initial denial with Trump’s subsequent contradiction. It was a sorry sight.

 Is it any wonder, therefore, that when the third crisis hit Tuesday night – the Comey memo claiming that Trump tried to get him to call off the FBI investigation of Michael Flynn – Republicans hid under their beds rather than come out to defend the president? The White House hurriedly issued a statement denying the story. The statement was unsigned. You want your name on a statement that your boss could peremptorily contradict? Republicans are beginning to panic. One sign is the notion now circulating that, perhaps to fend off ultimate impeachment, Trump be dumped by way of the 25th Amendment.

That’s the post-Kennedy assassination measure that provides for removing an incapacitated president on the decision of the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet.

This is the worst idea since Leno at 10 p.m. It perverts the very intent of the amendment. It was meant for a stroke, not stupidity; for Alzheimer’s, not narcissism. Otherwise, what it authorizes is a coup – willful overthrow by the leader’s own closest associates.

Moreover, this would be seen by millions as an establishment usurpation to get rid of a disruptive outsider. It would be the most destabilizing event in American political history – the gratuitous overthrow of an essential constant in American politics, namely the fixedness of the presidential term (save for high crimes and misdemeanors).

Trump’s behavior is deeply disturbing but hardly surprising. His mercurial nature is not the product of a post-inaugural adder sting at Mar-a-Lago. It’s been there all along. And the American electorate chose him nonetheless.

What to do? Strengthen the guardrails. Redouble oversight of this errant president. Follow the facts, especially the Comey memos. And let the chips fall where they may. But no tricks, constitutional or otherwise.

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

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/no-guardrails-of-our-democracy-can-contain-the-chaos-of-donald-trump/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/10/Columnist-Krauthammer.jpgThu, 18 May 2017 19:48:01 +0000
Rep. Cebra: Gun-free campuses are magnets for murderers http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/rep-cebra-gun-free-campuses-are-magnets-for-murderers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/rep-cebra-gun-free-campuses-are-magnets-for-murderers/#respond Fri, 19 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1198345 Would you post a sign announcing that your home is a gun-free zone? Would you feel safer? Criminals don’t obey these signs. In fact, these signs actually attract criminals. To criminals, places where their victims are disarmed look like easy targets.

So why do we put up these signs in other places? The Maine Legislature will soon vote on whether to lift the ban on permitted concealed handguns on school or university property. Opponents’ fears over this are exactly the same as their fears regarding the original permitted concealed handgun law, and they are just as wrong.

Today, 12 other states have laws mandating that public college campuses allow permitted concealed handguns. An additional 23 states leave it up to the university. Prior to the early 1990s, states allowing concealed handguns didn’t have legal restrictions. Gun control advocates can’t point to any problems with permit holders carrying gun in these states, but it hasn’t stopped them from fighting against the new law.

Police are very important to fighting crime, but stopping mass public shootings is a uniquely difficult challenge. For police, wearing a uniform is often akin to wearing a neon sign saying “Shoot me first.” This makes them easy targets for attackers. The benefit of concealed carry is that the attackers won’t know who is a threat to them. In addition, putting police in schools is also incredibly costly, much more so than staff and volunteers who are already working at the schools.

Permit holders are historically known to be extremely law-abiding, committing any type of firearms-related violation at thousandths of 1 percentage point, and most violations are trivial. Using available data, a study by the Crime Prevention Research Center found that college-age permit holders in Michigan, Nevada and Texas are at least as responsible as older permit holders.

Over the decades, there have been only five accidental discharges by permit holders on university property. All cases involved very minor injuries. None involved someone other than the permit holder getting hold of the gun.

Fears that students will get intoxicated and misuse guns were unfounded. However young people behave as a group, those who go through the process to get a permit are very responsible.

Those advocating gun-free zones raise other concerns over mass public shootings: that permit holders will accidentally shoot bystanders or that arriving police will shoot the permit holders.

In the dozens of cases where concealed carry holders have stopped mass public shootings in malls, churches, schools, universities and busy downtowns, no permit holder has ever shot a bystander. Nor have the police ever accidentally shot a permit holder.

Since at least 1950, all but four public mass shootings in America have taken place where general citizens are banned from carrying guns. In Europe, every mass public shooting has occurred in a gun-free zone. And Europe is no stranger to mass public shootings. It has been host to three of the four worst K-12 school shootings and over the last eight years a per capita casualty rate 50 percent higher than the U.S.

With dozens of recent cases where permit holders stopped what clearly would have become mass public shootings, unsurprisingly killers try avoiding resistance.

Last year, a young Islamic State sympathizer planned a shooting at one of the largest churches in Detroit. In a wiretap, the FBI recorded his explanation of why he had picked the church as a target: “It’s easy, and a lot of people go there. Plus people are not allowed to carry guns in church. Plus it would make the news.”

These killers might be crazy, but they aren’t stupid. They want to kill as many people as possible. Killers consistently pick defenseless targets where they know no one will have a gun. Just look at the Charleston church, Colorado “Batman” movie theater and Santa Barbara, California, attacks.

In late 2013, Interpol Secretary General Ron Noble warned, even with “extraordinary security,” it was virtually impossible to keep weapons out of soft targets and that meant only the terrorists will have weapons.

Making campuses gun-free zones also means that people are disarmed on their way to or from school.

Gun-free zones are magnets for murderers. Even the most ardent gun control advocate would never put “Gun-Free Zone” signs on their home. Let’s finally stop putting them elsewhere.

 

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/rep-cebra-gun-free-campuses-are-magnets-for-murderers/feed/ 0 Mon, 22 May 2017 10:58:38 +0000
Oysters can truly help save the planet, if we would only let them http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/maine-voices-oysters-can-truly-help-save-the-planet-if-we-would-only-let-them/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/maine-voices-oysters-can-truly-help-save-the-planet-if-we-would-only-let-them/#respond Fri, 19 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1198421 SCARBOROUGH — It’s oyster tour season once again on my small farm, and I find myself talking about the concept of “merroir” a lot. Never mind the implied French accent, we should all be using the word!

Merroir conveys an important concept that not only helps us understand why oysters along the East Coast taste different from one place to another. It also makes us mindful of the sensitivity of marine life to seemingly minor changes in the ecosystem. As we turn to planting gardens, tending lawns and launching boats, we should all take heed.

With its root “mer,” the French for “sea,” merroir refers to the specificity of the marine environment in which an oyster is grown, and its impact on the oyster itself. The expression is borrowed from vintners who use “terroir” to refer to the impact of the land (“terre,” in French) in which grapes are grown on the taste of the wine. This explains why a chardonnay grape grown in the relatively cold, overcast and mineral soil of Burgundy produces a very different wine from a chardonnay grape grown in sunny California.

With few exceptions, oyster farmers on the Eastern Seaboard grow Crassostrea virginica, also referred to as the “Virginica,” “Eastern” and “American” oyster. These are direct descendants of the oysters shucked along the Damariscotta River thousands of years ago, and feasted on by early European settlers of what is now Manhattan.

What distinguishes a Pemaquid oyster from a Fisher Island oyster and an Apalachicola oyster – and they are, oh, so different – is the impact of the local environment. The merroir.

Even within the boundaries of my own small farm, the idea of “merroir” plays out in dramatic ways that even I have trouble getting my head around. The two oysters pictured above are the same species and from the same hatchery. But they grew at different depths in the water column: the oyster on the right on the riverbed, while the one on the left was suspended in gear. That small difference of just a few feet at low tide has an extraordinary impact on their color, texture and taste.

If a few feet in the water column make such a vivid difference, imagine the effect on merroir and our oysters when we start pouring fertilizer and pesticides into our environment, or dumping trash and human waste overboard from our boats!

Books like “American Catch” and “The Big Oyster” remind us how careless human waste disposal destroyed the massive oyster beds of New York Harbor at the turn of the century and turned our oyster-loving (and oyster-exporting) nation into a nation of Thai shrimp eaters (and importers).

Ironically, pollution killed off one of nature’s best pollution remedies. Filtering up to 50 gallons of water a day as they eat, oysters absorb toxins and excess algae, keeping the water clean and oxygen levels balanced for other marine life. They also prevent erosion and form barriers to storm surge. Oysters can truly help save the planet, if we let them.

Fortunately, oysters are being summoned back in reseeding and restoration projects aimed at cleaning up once-plentiful harbors like New York Harbor.

It’s easy to think of polluted waters as a New York problem, but miles of Maine’s coastline are also closed to shellfish harvesting because of fecal contamination.

We can make a difference. Both the Biddeford and Scarborough Shellfish Conservation Groups, entities that manage local clamming, have, with the support of state agencies, reopened waterways to shellfish harvesting simply by pinpointing leaky septic systems and outhouses and repairing them.

Each time this resulted not just in enhanced opportunities for shellfish harvesters to make a living, but also in cleaner water and less risk of excessive algae blooms, which can in extreme cases lead to dead zones barren of all sea life.

Nobody is too far from the ocean to be exempt: The Gulf of Maine watershed extends into Canada. So when you plant your garden, tend your yard or launch your boat this year, think of the oyster. Maine shellfish lovers present and future will thank you. And so will the sea itself.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/maine-voices-oysters-can-truly-help-save-the-planet-if-we-would-only-let-them/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/10/984092-20150917_oyster-fa4.jpgYARMOUTH, ME - SEPTEMBER 17: Oysters harvested by Mark Green and his crew off the coast of Yarmouth wait to be rinsed aboard a raft Green operates as part of his business, Basket Island Oyster Co. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer)Fri, 19 May 2017 14:22:05 +0000
Our View: Tycoon’s avocado economics lesson is a hard one to swallow http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/our-view-tycoons-avocado-economics-lesson-is-a-hard-one-to-swallow/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/our-view-tycoons-avocado-economics-lesson-is-a-hard-one-to-swallow/#respond Fri, 19 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1198450 When it comes to scapegoating entire generations’ spending habits, avocado toast is the new latte: an indulgence that those in their 20s and 30s are yielding to instead of saving or investing their money. But to say that today’s young people are financially strapped because they’re blowing their money at brunch is just as gross – and groundless – a generalization as blaming “the latte factor” was in the late 1990s.

Avocado toast leapt from the menus to the headlines thanks to Tim Gurner, a 35-year-old Melbourne real estate mogul who recently told Australia’s “60 Minutes” that frivolous spending was the reason for the low rate of homeownership among millennials.

“When I was buying my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each,” he said. “We’re at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high. They want to eat out every day; they want to travel to Europe every year.”

Tim Gurner is right. He is different from others his age: When he was 18, his boss fronted him $180,000 for his first investment property, News Corp. reported Tuesday. After renovating the structure, Gurner got the $12,000 profit from its sale; with that money, plus $34,000 from his grandfather, he secured a $150,000 loan to buy a gym that he sold a year later.

Most young people, to say the least, don’t get this generous a helping hand. Which is too bad, because they could use it.

Using Census Bureau data, Business Insider found that median 2014 personal income for workers born between 1981 and 1997 ranges from a low of $18,000 in Montana to a high of $43,000 in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, the median for all employees in Montana was $30,000; in D.C., it was $55,000. At $19,200, the median 2014 income for millennials in Maine was fourth lowest in the U.S. (the median for all Maine workers was $33,400 that year).

Some of the disparity can be explained by youth and inexperience, but millennials are also hamstrung by other factors.

 They entered the workforce in a recession. This has what economists call “a persistent negative effect on earnings” over a lifetime: When your first job is a low-paying one, it’s hard to make up ground later on.

 Because education debt is higher than ever (the average Maine student graduates from college owing $30,908 in school loans), “the median college-educated millennial with student debt is only earning slightly more than a baby boomer without a degree did in 1989,” The Associated Press reported in January.

 High housing costs make it hard to save money for a down payment. It’s been documented that average rents in Portland, for example, are hundreds of dollars more than what many tenants can swing, and the crisis is growing in other parts of the state. The cost of owning a home is also climbing: The median home price in Maine in 2016 was $189,400, up 4.9 percent over the year before.

 Health care is out of reach for many millennials. According to a new survey, 27 percent of Americans age 18 to 34 said they’d put off visiting a doctor because of the expense, and 29 percent were worried about whether their policy would cover basic costs.

With all of this on their minds, it’s no wonder that millennials like Mike Dang, co-founder of the finance-focused site The Billfold, have lost their appetite for stereotypes like Tim Gurner’s. “If millennials are having trouble controlling their spending, the data does not show it,” he said in a Longreads blog post, pointing out that The New York Times recently reported that the percentage of Americans under 35 with credit card debt is lower than it’s been in nearly 30 years.

What’s actually eating away at millennials’ paychecks is the cost of necessities, not luxuries. Compounded by stagnant wages, it’s a recipe for financial stress that’s far too deep-rooted to be mitigated by going cold turkey on eating out. That’s the message that deserves to go viral – not the sermonizing from someone born on third base who thinks he hit a triple.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/our-view-tycoons-avocado-economics-lesson-is-a-hard-one-to-swallow/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/06/New-Home-Sales_Byun.jpgThis June 4, 2015 photo, shows a sold sign at a new home development under construction in Nashville, Tenn. The Commerce Department releases new home sales for May on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)Thu, 18 May 2017 23:31:54 +0000
Our View: Cold-storage building will keep the ‘port’ in Portland http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/18/our-view-cold-storage-building-will-keep-the-port-in-portland/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/18/our-view-cold-storage-building-will-keep-the-port-in-portland/#respond Thu, 18 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1197759 The city of Portland gets its name and identity from its sheltered, deep-water harbor, where for hundreds of years people have loaded and unloaded ships, moving cargo up and down the coast and both ways across the Atlantic.

That port activity is the reason the rest of the city exists, and it is the root of all other branches of our economy, influencing growth patterns here and throughout the state. But for such an important part of the city, the actual “port” in Portland takes up very little space.

Right now, the cargo port is the narrow strip of waterfront that curls along the Fore River between the Casco Bay and Veterans Memorial bridges, encompassing the city’s International Marine Terminal and several privately owned parcels. The Planning Board will resume work Thursday night on a zoning amendment that would permit construction at the marine terminal of a 68-foot-tall cold-storage warehouse, 23 feet higher than what would be allowed under current rules.

This is no ordinary zoning change. This is a historic opportunity to modernize the port with private investment that is projected to create hundreds of jobs and generate millions of dollars in economic activity, both directly and through new business growth. But the game-changing potential of this warehouse is drawing neighborhood opposition.

Those concerns should not drive the decision-making process, however. This is not just a series of questions about sight lines, traffic patterns and a single building’s height – it’s also about what kind of city Portland has been and what it will be in the future. If Portland is to remain a port, it needs to make this change.

The port of Portland is in the middle of a period of rapid change that may look sudden, but has been planned for decades.

More than 20 years ago, the western waterfront was set aside for industrial uses. Ten years ago, the state Port Authority took over management of the marine terminal and began directing improvements to the facility, including the extension of a rail line paid for with public money.

In 2014, the work paid off when Eimskip, the Icelandic steamship company, picked Portland as its North American headquarters. The last missing piece in Portland is a cold-storage warehouse, which would allow the port to function as a logistics hub for food and beverage producers large and small.

Because of the volume of business that Eimskip brings to Portland, Americold, the national leader in cold storage, has proposed building a $30 million facility on leased land at the site. To make the project cost-competitive, the company says it needs a 68-foot-tall building (roughly the same height as the Pierce Atwood law firm’s building farther east on Commercial Street).

Residents of the adjacent neighborhoods have objected to the zoning amendment, calling the building “out of scale” for the city and arguing that it would generate too much truck traffic, moving freight that neither arrives nor leaves by ship.

We find the neighbors’ complaints to be well-intentioned, but ultimately shortsighted and selfish.

Portland’s port is already so small that any new structure is going to stick out. There is no way that this industrial zone is ever going to blend in with the residential neighborhoods that look down on it from the Western Promenade, nor should it. The port is unique in the city and can’t be expected to fit in.

And there is no “Plan B.” Even though cold storage has been an identified need since the 1990s, no company has proposed building a smaller facility at this site, because it would not be economically viable.

We have no reason to believe Americold or anyone else would build one now if the zoning change were turned down.

And a greater volume of cargo moving on and off the site by truck should be viewed as a problem to be solved – not avoided. There are much better ways to control Commercial Street traffic (which is mostly caused by commuters) than by preventing the only industrial waterfront zone in the city from generating jobs and economic opportunity.

The Planning Board and City Council should not look at this zoning amendment as a neighborhood issue, or even just a city issue.

This is about whether Portland will continue its historical role as a regional transportation hub, accepting all the benefits and challenges that come with it, or if the city will let this opportunity pass it by, maybe forever.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/18/our-view-cold-storage-building-will-keep-the-port-in-portland/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/AerialRendering.jpgThu, 18 May 2017 12:03:26 +0000
Commentary: The life-changing power of simply taking a person seriously http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/18/commentary-the-life-changing-power-of-simply-taking-a-person-seriously/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/18/commentary-the-life-changing-power-of-simply-taking-a-person-seriously/#respond Thu, 18 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1197725 BROOKLINE, Mass. — Unlike with most of the important changes I go through, I can pinpoint the exact moment when I stopped grieving a recent traumatic event in my son’s life. This unexpected shift happened during one of those crazy-hot days we had in April. I had taken my son, Nat, home with me for the afternoon – he lives in a group home with other intellectually disabled adults. He’s supposed to stay at the home on weekends, to get used to this new house, to become independent of us. But on that sunny Sunday, I just wanted him with me.

On our drive to our house, I realized that I had no plans for him. That’s usually the case, though, and most of the time it weighs heavily on me. It is hard to know what to do with Nat because most of his happiness comes from within, and from unknowable things – not from engaging with others. Instead, he prefers to sit quietly in a sunny spot and talk to himself in his own language. I think that talking to others is Nat’s hardest task, and I believe he invented his “Silly Talk” – at the age of 5 – as a way to keep our words out. People see Nat chattering these apparently nonsensical words, and they conclude that he can’t understand them, that they shouldn’t even try to talk to him.

He cannot tell me so many things. He could not even tell me that his ribs were broken last summer, or how it happened. I found out when I saw the fist-shaped bruise on his chest. And I have been grieving, beating myself up ever since because I did not know, and because I failed to protect him. I could not stop feeling this way because I am his mother and somehow should have known.

I didn’t want to just sit around with those sad feelings on such a beautiful day, so I opted for the easiest solution: a trip to Starbucks. It is an easy thing to do with him. Going for treats is something we both like. It would get us outdoors, and I would get an iced coffee out of it. And of course Nat would have his favorite cookie – “chaw-chih coogie” is how he pronounces it.

Nat can order a chocolate chip cookie. Just like he can tie his shoes, or step on a scale at the doctor’s office. But still the nurse or the person at the counter speaks to me as if he is not even there. When they do speak to him, it’s “good boy!” He’s 27.

So when we got into line at Starbucks that afternoon and waited our turn, I was prepared for the usual twinge, the reminder of the chasm between Nat and the world. That, on every level, he is a stranger to most human beings.

The barista, a slim, pale young man with brown hair, looked over and asked what he could get us. Nat said, “Chaw-chih coogie,” and I got ready to translate, embarrassed for Nat, and for the barista. I was about to step in and help, when in that split second, I don’t know why, I just looked away. I could not do it. After all, Nat had told the guy loud and – well, kind of, clear. I waited.

So the barista simply repeated to Nat, “Chocolate chip cookie?” I glanced at Nat, my mouth still shut.

Maybe he sensed the guy was actually taking him seriously. Maybe he noticed I was holding back. Whatever it was, Nat answered him with a perfect, soft, “Yes.”

And off the guy went. Just like that, like nothing at all had happened. “Oh, you want it warmed up?” he shouted.

“Yes,” Nat said, again.

No one was even looking, no one cared. Why should they? It was just a guy buying a cookie. But to me Nat was like Abraham, stepping forward and saying to God, “Here I am.”

I fished a dollar out of my wallet and stuffed it in the tip jar, my meager offering of thanks. Nat collected his cookie and found us seats at the window. I floated my way over to him, so light, so proud. And hopeful. I hadn’t felt that way with Nat for so long. We sat side by side with too much sun in our eyes, not talking, because everything important had already been said.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/18/commentary-the-life-changing-power-of-simply-taking-a-person-seriously/feed/ 0 Wed, 17 May 2017 19:08:16 +0000
It is time for all the discrimination against mental illness to end http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/18/maine-voices-people-with-mental-illness-need-all-to-unite-against-deep-stigma-they-face/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/18/maine-voices-people-with-mental-illness-need-all-to-unite-against-deep-stigma-they-face/#respond Thu, 18 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1197730 BRUNSWICK — What is discrimination? According to Webster’s dictionary, it is “the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people.”

What is stigma? According to Webster’s dictionary, it is “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.”

Discrimination has a long history in this country. We have developed an understanding that it is not OK to discriminate against people based on their race, color, religion, sexual orientation, culture or mental or physical disability. Conversely, we still have a long way toward acceptance of each other because of our fear. What do we fear? We fear what we do not understand.

I regularly hear discriminatory comments such as “psych patient,” “loony bin,” “that patient,” “repeat customer” and the worst: “Why bother? They will be back” or “They’ll do it again!” The thing is, these statements are made not just by others in the community who are observing them but also by the humans who happen to have an illness themselves! So, although we have come a long way, there is much to be done to reduce stigma, reduce discrimination and to build our acceptance and understanding of mental illness.

Why do we separate the physical and the mental? Because historically, we did not know enough about the mind. The human body itself is still discriminated against. The physical body vs. the mind: Is the mind part of the body, or something we carry around with us?

Our body is our body, and sometimes it becomes ill. We get a cold; we recover. It does not mean we will never get a cold again, but we learn how to prevent colds and how to recover faster. Well, guess what? This concept is the same with mental health. Here is where the problem is – stigma, or a better term: discrimination!

I grew up with parents who had mental illness and a brother with substance abuse issues. My parents never received help because of their fears of discrimination; as a result, my childhood was a horror story. In 1996, I was diagnosed with what eventually would be called Type 2 bipolar disorder, complex post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

I began my journey to recovery, but it takes time. It is not just about picking yourself up by your bootstraps. However, some forms of media have historically turned mental illness into a horror movie, reinforcing stigma and discrimination, reinforcing the idea that there is no hope and that people with mental illness are to be shoved aside.

This leads me to say: If you have a heart attack, who diagnoses you? Your health insurer? Your government? No! A trained physician, who then treats and helps you manage your illness. If you have a mental illness, the providers who diagnose you should be the ones who determine your treatment.

A person cannot recover when there is discrimination by government administration. This creates barriers, and when there are barriers, humans get tired, humans do not know what to do and human lives are lost. It should not matter if you have the “best” insurance or you are on Medicaid: Humans all have a purpose, as I found out this year. Humans can give back to the community.

Humans need help with any illness in the body, which includes the brain. We do not need the discrimination of our governing parties making crucial, life-threatening decisions, as the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has done by restricting Section 17 community support services.

All illness is major! The definition of major is “important, serious or significant.” Having any illness is significant! Therefore, do not judge, do not divide and do not discriminate!

I encourage all who have experienced mental illness in their families or in themselves to join me in standing up against discrimination in its many forms, whether it’s statements you overhear or policies that cause harm.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/18/maine-voices-people-with-mental-illness-need-all-to-unite-against-deep-stigma-they-face/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/12/553687_shutterstock_210400111.jpgIn any given year, mental illness affects one in four adults in the U.S. and up to one in five children.Thu, 18 May 2017 21:35:39 +0000
Dana Milbank: What Trump does may be legal, but that doesn’t make it right http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/18/dana-milbank-what-trump-does-may-be-legal-but-that-doesnt-make-it-right/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/18/dana-milbank-what-trump-does-may-be-legal-but-that-doesnt-make-it-right/#respond Thu, 18 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1197742 National security adviser H.R. McMaster had been cut off at the knees, but somehow he managed to make himself visible above the lectern in the White House briefing room Tuesday.

The night before, he had declared “false” a Post report that President Trump had given highly classified information to Russia, saying “it didn’t happen.”

But Trump himself acknowledged in a tweet Tuesday morning that it did happen, saying he had “the absolute right” to share “facts” with Russia.

And so McMaster marched to the lectern with a new line. Trump, he said, “shared information in a way that is wholly appropriate.” McMaster was on message: He used the phrase “wholly appropriate” nine times in his brief appearance.

But in one of these iterations he let slip why he thought Trump’s behavior was appropriate: “It is wholly appropriate for the president to share whatever information he thinks is necessary to advance the security of the American people.” In other words, it’s appropriate for Trump to say anything he wants. If Trump says it, it’s by definition appropriate.

This aligns nicely with a defense already being offered by some Trump loyalists, including Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, who said Trump’s handing of secrets to the Russians was legal because “he has the ability to declassify anything at any time without any process. So it’s no longer classified the minute he utters it.”

But that dangerously distorts the president’s role. Just because it’s legal for a president to do something doesn’t mean it’s right. A president could do all kinds of things that are legal but disastrous. Our system relies on having a chief executive who practices some self-restraint that keeps him from testing the limits of power. Trump lacks such control – and that’s what is so alarming.

He can fire the FBI director, even one leading an investigation of him – although reports that he pressured James Comey to drop the investigation of former Trump aide Michael Flynn, if true, suggest possible obstruction of justice. He can have all kinds of undisclosed business conflicts of interest and use the presidency to enrich himself. He can share secrets with adversaries, compromising the cooperation of allies. The assumption is – or was – that a president wouldn’t.

“The troubling fact is the president has sweeping authority to wreak virtual havoc on this country and the world if he chooses to do so,” said George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. And Trump, he said, “seems to have a better understanding of the exemptions governing presidential conduct than the expectations.”

A president could, if he chose, legally release the names of all covert operatives spying for the United States around the world. He could start a war if he claimed an imminent threat. He could launch a nuclear attack. He could recognize North Korea and cut off diplomatic relations with Germany. He could close the White House to all reporters and visitors, end all contacts with the media and declare any information – even information already published in newspapers – to be classified. And with some unspecified provocation – say, a terrorist attack – he could suspend habeas corpus.

Certainly, a president could be impeached for such actions – but that wouldn’t stop him in the short term.

Institutional restraints – the checks and balances in the Constitution – “can never fully obviate the need for certain human virtues,” Christopher Nadon, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College, wrote recently for the conservative Weekly Standard. Chief among these: self-control. The Founding Fathers, Nadon told me, wrote often of the president guided by “honor” and “decorum” and reined in by public scrutiny and humility. “They certainly thought the type of person who would get through to that office would have self-restraint,” he said.

The Constitution gives the president both specific powers (veto, appointments, treaties) and inherent powers in his role as executive. Modern presidents have stretched the bounds of executive authority. George W. Bush claimed new powers to conduct military trials and even to torture detainees. Barack Obama tested the bounds with executive actions on health care and immigration.

But those abuses both seem quaint now that we have a president governing with a terrifying combination of impulsivity and ignorance. McMaster, in the closing lines of his briefing Tuesday, offered an admission about the intelligence Trump gave Russia: So Trump gave secrets to Russia – but that’s OK because he didn’t know what he was doing. This is supposed to make us feel better?

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

dana.milbank@washpost.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/18/dana-milbank-what-trump-does-may-be-legal-but-that-doesnt-make-it-right/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/AP17136573816842.jpgALTERNATE CROP OF DCSW103 - National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster takes to the stage after being introduced by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, left, during a briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. President Donald Trump claimed the authority to share "facts pertaining to terrorism" and airline safety with Russia, saying in a pair of tweets he has "an absolute right" as president to do so. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)Thu, 18 May 2017 11:11:51 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Sadly, I told you so – voter racism and bias were big factor in Trump’s victory http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/leonard-pitts-sadly-i-told-you-so-voter-racism-and-bias-were-big-factor-in-trumps-victory/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/leonard-pitts-sadly-i-told-you-so-voter-racism-and-bias-were-big-factor-in-trumps-victory/#respond Wed, 17 May 2017 10:00:29 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1197199 ‘White people riot by voting.”

Years later, I no longer recall who first shared that bit of wisdom with me, but I’ve always found it striking. Not, of course, that it is literally true.

As is attested by any fair reading of the history of urban uprisings – New York City in 1863, Chicago in 1919, Los Angeles in 1943, San Francisco in 2012 – white people riot by rioting, same as anyone else. But I’ve always considered the aphorism’s larger point unassailable. Namely, that when confronted with unwelcome racial or cultural change, many white people seek salvation and, yes, retaliation, at the polls.

I spent a good part of last year arguing in this space, in speeches and in panel discussions, that this was a much underrated and overlooked factor in the rise of Donald Trump. That reasoning met with, at best, limited success – at least among my white listeners.

They would regard the point with skepticism before allowing that, while perhaps racial or cultural enmity played some supporting role, the real culprit was something they called “economic anxiety.”

In other words, white working-class voters were primarily drawn to this blustery nincompoop because the factories were shutting down.

Well, a new study by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic brings some clarity to the question and, I must admit, economic anxiety played a role I didn’t expect. The analysis – it is only preliminary – says white people who described their finances as fair or poor were nearly twice as likely to vote for Hillary Clinton as those who were better off.

On the other hand, nearly 80 percent of white working-class people who see the American way of life as under siege from foreign influences and who agree that “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country” supported Trump. So the “anxiety” that most influenced them wasn’t economic. They didn’t fear not making the rent so much as they did black neighbors or a mosque in the local strip mall.

In words of one syllable: I told you so.

There was a neon line leading straight from the lavish abuse heaped on Barack Obama to this dumb bigot who asks a black reporter to set up a meeting for him with the Congressional Black Caucus (“Are they friends of yours?”) and tries to hang a “No Muslims” sign on the Statue of Liberty. Yet many white journalists, pundits, authors and academics simply could not see it.

Sure, it’s fair to criticize Obama for his Syrian policy or his health care plan. But his birth certificate? Really? “Subhuman mongrel“? Seriously? And you mean to tell me that a brother can’t even get a hearing on a Supreme Court nominee?

No, that all bespoke an animus deeper than politics. Yet when the white working class chose a Klan-backed candidate to save itself from Obama, some of us nevertheless blamed it on mine closures. As Vann R. Newkirk II, a writer for The Atlantic, pointed out on Twitter: “People of color have faced existential and economic crises for all of American history and have managed to not become Nazis.”

Amen.

No, I’m not calling white working-class people Nazis. But I am saying many of them turned eagerly to a manifest incompetent whose saving grace was that he channeled their racial and cultural animus.

And it’s no accident, six months later, that as I prepared to write this column, I chanced upon video of a white man on a Texas beach cursing and harassing a Muslim family while invoking Trump’s name like a mantra. Such scenes have become common since November.

It’s obvious what this is. The only question is what some of us will choose to call it instead.

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/leonard-pitts-sadly-i-told-you-so-voter-racism-and-bias-were-big-factor-in-trumps-victory/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/04/PITTS_LEONARD_1_TNS2.jpgTNS Columnist Leonard Pitts. (Olivier Douliery/TNS)Tue, 16 May 2017 21:23:35 +0000
Maine Voices: Jeopardizing environmental assets makes no economic sense http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/maine-voices-jeopardizing-maines-environmental-assets-makes-no-economic-sense/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/maine-voices-jeopardizing-maines-environmental-assets-makes-no-economic-sense/#respond Wed, 17 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1197148 As readers of this paper are no doubt aware, the Trump administration has proposed draconian cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection receives a substantial portion of its operating budget from the federal agency. Reducing that funding means possible severe cutbacks for DEP staff, who are tasked with safeguarding one of our most important economic assets: our natural environment.

I say “assets” because, in the business world, assets are used to ensure future economic growth. Maine’s assets are its natural resources and environmental quality. Jeopardizing them does not make economic sense.

Any businessperson worth his or her salt knows that drawing down wealth for short-term gain can have devastating long-term consequences for his or her financial future. So it is for the proposed budget cuts. It may seem as though the cuts will save money in the near term, but the risk to the country’s (and the state’s) natural capital could be a long-term disaster. I will focus on just two examples: the proposed cuts to the nonpoint source reduction program and to the brownfield redevelopment program.

Let’s begin with the proposal to roll back the nonpoint source reduction program. Nonpoint source pollution (like runoff from roads or agricultural fields) can contribute to water quality issues such as algal blooms or red tide. The result can be very real economic harm to some of our most important industries.

For example, last October, a harmful algal bloom led to the closure of clamming and mussel harvesting up and down the Maine coast, as well as a costly shellfish recall by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The economic costs associated with such a closure and recall are not just the lost income for the fishermen. It also includes the lost income for the processors as well as the supermarkets that sell their product, the restaurants that serve the shellfish, the workers in those markets and restaurants and so on, through the multiplier effect.

Even more than that, the full economic costs of that event include the lost opportunities for investment.

Aquaculture, one of Maine’s burgeoning industries, depends on clean water as its most important input. The fact that algal blooms have been increasing in number and severity during the past decade leads to a climate of uncertainty – and uncertainty leads to lower investment. If we want healthy fishing, shellfishing and aquaculture industries, we have to protect the assets that make investment in such industries possible.

Still more costs resulting from nonpoint source pollution (outlined in my most recent blog post) include beach closures, health expenditures and decreased property values.

One more example concerns brownfield redevelopment. This program enables municipalities to receive funding, technical support and low-interest loans for the cleanup of former industrial sites. Let me be clear: The cleanup of these sites is not solely for environmental purposes (although many of these sites do contain hazardous materials that, if not disposed of properly, could imperil our rivers, stream, land and air). We need that land to be reclaimed for development and investment purposes.

The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, for example, has identified over 20 former industrial sites that have high redevelopment potential but are still too contaminated to utilize. The recent closure of several paper mills throughout the state highlights this need. In order to attract much-needed industry in the most economically challenged parts of the state, previously contaminated land must be cleaned up to where it can be used for other purposes. Yes, we have a lot of available land in Maine – but not so much that we can afford to let our existing assets depreciate.

All this is not to say that reducing pollution and cleaning up brownfields won’t cost money. Of course it will. But it’s money that’s used to safeguard and improve our assets. In my world, that’s called “investment.” Let’s not sacrifice future economic growth for short-term political gain.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/maine-voices-jeopardizing-maines-environmental-assets-makes-no-economic-sense/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1144310_559162-20170126_DEP_fundin.jpgAmong the brownfield projects potentially affected by a funding freeze at the Environmental Protection Agency is the former Maine Energy Recovery Co. site at Lincoln and Pearl streets in Biddeford. The 8.4-acre property was purchased by the city in 2012.Wed, 17 May 2017 12:14:14 +0000
Greg Kesich: The right needs a hug as it decides when Trump has crossed the line http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/greg-kesich-republicans-need-hug-as-they-decide-when-trump-has-crossed-the-line/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/greg-kesich-republicans-need-hug-as-they-decide-when-trump-has-crossed-the-line/#respond Wed, 17 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1197161 If you know any Republicans, you might want to give them a hug.

This can’t be easy for them. Most of them did not support Donald Trump for their party’s nomination – he never did poll much above 40 percent among Republican primary voters. But almost all of them ended up voting for him last November (with a few notable exceptions like Sen. Susan Collins).

Hillary Clinton had no appeal for conservatives, and all the polls said she was going to win anyway, so she was easy to vote against, regardless of the opponent.

Now, just a few months into his administration, they have to be feeling “mildly nauseous,” like former FBI Director James Comey when he realized that the man he helped put in control of the government has no self-control. Oops.

There is not enough space here to recount the events of the last week: Let’s just say that one of the most dangerous places to be in the world these days is defending the president, and that can’t be pleasant for those Republicans who never really liked him to begin with.

Rod Dreher, editor of The American Conservative, captured the feeling in a blog post Sunday: “Last night a friend, a staunch populist conservative, texted to say, ‘We are having our Caligula moment.’ ”

Caligula, you may recall, was the mad Roman emperor who killed on a whim, married his sisters, promoted a horse to the Senate and insisted on being worshipped as a god. Dreher appears to be referring to the moment when the Praetorian Guard, whose job it was to protect the emperor, decided that they would protect the empire instead and stabbed him to death.

Dreher’s not calling for a coup, I don’t think. He is doing what all responsible Republicans should be doing – drawing a line in their minds over which Trump cannot cross, and then figuring out what the consequence for crossing it would be – because you know he’s going do it eventually.

It would be good for them to figure out how much is too much, because Trump will get away with everything Republicans want to let him get away with.

He fired the head of the FBI while the FBI is investigating clandestine support of his campaign by organs of Russian intelligence.

You OK with that, Republicans?

What’s that, you say? Comey was not fired because of the Russian investigation? Maybe you should listen to the man’s own explanation for the abrupt dismissal: “When I decided to do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election they should have won.’ ”

Then The Washington Post tells us that the day after firing Comey, Trump boasted to the Russian foreign minister and U.S ambassador about the “great intel” he’s been getting and blurted out highly sensitive classified information.

That sent National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster out of the White House to issue a meticulously worded non-categorial denial, saying that Trump had not compromised any “sources or methods” and had only discussed military conflicts that were already known to the public.

By that standard, Franklin D. Roosevelt could have told Hitler about the date of the D-Day landing and it would have been fine because everybody already knew about World War II.

It was the most incomplete evasion since candidate Bill Clinton was asked if he’d ever smoked pot (“I have not broken the laws of the state of Arkansas”).

Still, Republicans were clinging to that slim reed until Tuesday morning, when Trump set us all straight with a tweet.

“As president I wanted to share with Russia … which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety,” Trump tweeted. “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

In other words, “Yes, I did it. Do you have a problem with that?”

Well, Republicans, do you?

I imagine that Republicans feel defensive when the attacks on Trump pile on, especially when they come from people who oppose the Republican agenda on health care, taxes, immigration and reproductive rights.

But even if he wasn’t their first choice, Donald Trump was the Republicans’ ultimate choice to serve in the most important job in the world.

He could not have gotten this far without the backing of rank and file. When he goes too far, Republicans will have to embrace their “Caligula moment.”

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

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

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter: @gregkesich

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/greg-kesich-republicans-need-hug-as-they-decide-when-trump-has-crossed-the-line/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/10/Columnist-Kesich-e1441211688709.jpgJohn Patriquin/Staff Photographer.Wed. July,25, 2012. News room mug shots Greg Kesich. (Photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer)Wed, 17 May 2017 12:38:45 +0000
Our View: Give economic panel the funding it needs to plan for Maine’s future http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/our-view-give-economic-panel-the-funding-it-needs-to-plan-for-maines-future/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/our-view-give-economic-panel-the-funding-it-needs-to-plan-for-maines-future/#respond Wed, 17 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1197177 Building a thriving economy is in the interest of everyone who lives in Maine – Republican, Democrat or independent. But our state’s growth initiatives gain and lose momentum according to who’s in power in Augusta. That’s why we support a measure enabling the creation of a long-term economic development strategy sound enough to weather political storms.

L.D. 367 is a long-overdue effort to fully implement an initiative dating to 1993, when the Legislature, under then-Republican Gov. John McKernan, launched the Maine Economic Growth Council. Though the council delivers a well-regarded annual report card on Maine’s progress on fundamental economic indicators, it hasn’t had the resources to fulfill the statutory mandate to develop a long-term economic growth strategy.

As a result, economic development programs have come and gone as control of the Legislature or the Blaine House has changed hands. One high-profile example: The Brookings Institution’s 2006 report “Charting Maine’s Future” was the state’s economic blueprint during the Democratic administration of John Baldacci but was cast aside as soon as Paul Le-Page, a Republican, took office.

It’s no wonder that, as a state-sponsored report found last year, businesses don’t trust Maine economic development organizations to make good on their promises in a constantly shifting political landscape.

The new bill would provide $150,000 for the council to develop the initial statewide strategic economic development plan – including goals and objectives for Maine’s economic improvement, benchmarks that measure the state’s progress toward these goals and strategies based on other states’ best practices. To allow for regular reviews of and updates to the plan, the council’s annual budget will increase from $55,000 to $175,000.

The measure also requires the governor, the Legislature and state agencies to take the strategic plan’s objectives into account when overseeing or allocating resources to programs that have connections to Maine’s economy.

Both of these provisions are essential. Changing Maine’s economic picture for the better requires state policymakers to stay on task and follow through on commitments to the business community – so to keep everybody focused and on the same page, the plan has to be used. At the same time, the plan won’t be useful unless it’s revised to reflect changing circumstances.

It’s time to give the Maine Economic Growth Council the tools it needs to do its job. No doubt, there will be kneejerk resistance to spending money on planning rather than on immediate crises, but prudent lawmakers will realize that the cost of failing to plan is far higher.

Correction: This story was updated at 12:35 p.m. on May 17, 2017, to correct the amount of the council’s annual budget increase.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/our-view-give-economic-panel-the-funding-it-needs-to-plan-for-maines-future/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/stagnation.jpgWed, 17 May 2017 14:30:17 +0000
Another View: On Portland cold-storage proposal, opponents’ math doesn’t add up http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/another-view-on-portland-cold-storage-proposal-opponents-math-doesnt-add-up/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/another-view-on-portland-cold-storage-proposal-opponents-math-doesnt-add-up/#respond Wed, 17 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1197182 We have a generational opportunity before us, and we should seize it. We can help our food and beverage industry compete in global markets while ensuring the revival of our historic port. The construction of a state-of-the-art cold-storage facility on the Portland waterfront would provide that opportunity.

But opponents are pushing an alternative plan that would never get built because it is economically unfeasible.

In a May 12 Maine Voices column (“City on brink of huge mistake: Cold-storage facility far bigger than needed“), Mark McCain and Sidney St. F. Thaxter say we should build a smaller facility or one just for Eimskip.

Their argument raises the question: Who would build it?

The city of Portland has spent 18 years investigating the possibility of bringing cold storage to the waterfront. Until Americold submitted its proposal in 2015, no entity had been convinced that such a facility would be viable. Now this project is possible because of Eimskip’s presence here, and their position as the premier carrier of refrigerated cargo in the North Atlantic.

Opponents say a smaller warehouse is good enough. But that is wishful thinking. A smaller facility would lack the efficiencies of scale needed to operate competitively.

Opponents say we should build a warehouse just big enough for Eimskip. But no one would build a facility for a single customer. A diverse customer base is necessary to lower risk and make the project financially viable.

We should not stifle the potential of homegrown Portland businesses by building a facility that is not only overly modest but also uncompetitive. Doing so would forgo the opportunity to advance an industry that could be an important part of our future.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/17/another-view-on-portland-cold-storage-proposal-opponents-math-doesnt-add-up/feed/ 0 Tue, 16 May 2017 21:42:22 +0000
Maine Voices: It’s time to end the government’s assault on the poor http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/16/maine-voices-its-time-to-end-the-governments-war-on-the-poor/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/16/maine-voices-its-time-to-end-the-governments-war-on-the-poor/#respond Tue, 16 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1196616 FALMOUTH — There’s a war on the poor in Maine, and it’s getting worse. Besides proposed budget cuts in Augusta in General Assistance, health care and food assistance and the possibility that Congress may gut the Affordable Care Act, now there’s something else.

The state Department of Health and Human Services, which includes “compassion” as one of the core values in its mission statement, wants a waiver from the federal government in order to drastically restrict its Medicaid program, known as MaineCare.

Among the changes are requirements that the able-bodied poor work for their health coverage; pay premiums for their health coverage; pay $20 for an emergency room visit if they’re not admitted; and pay $20 if they miss a doctor’s appointment – even if their transportation is unreliable or they can’t find child care.

The effect would be devastating to many of the 270,000 recipients of MaineCare. It is unclear exactly how many would be affected, but it is expected to be thousands.

We at the Maine Council of Churches, which also includes “compassion” in its mission statement, say “Enough is enough.” Already, 40,000 have been taken off the MaineCare rolls; we don’t need more people punished and humiliated because they are poor.

Our nine member denominations are grounded in the Christian belief that we must care for the impoverished, the outcast and the stranger – for all our brothers and sisters. We are Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Swedenborgians, Unitarian Universalists and members of the United Church of Christ. We have 550 churches and congregations among us.

Making it increasingly difficult for the poor to obtain medical care is unconscionable and violates the moral principles that are at the core of our faith.

Past administrations have not allowed states to force poor people to work for health care benefits, but advocates for the poor are concerned that could change under the Trump administration. Other states are watching the outcome of requests by Maine and Wisconsin, the first two states to apply to the new administration under the Section 1115 waiver provision in the federal Medicaid Act.

Earlier this year, we worked with Maine Equal Justice Partners, a secular nonprofit organization that advocates for the poor, to alert state legislators about the effect of proposed cuts to General Assistance and food assistance programs and to express to Maine’s congressional delegation our opposition to repealing Obamacare.

But despite the dramatic impact of the Section 1115 waiver, it does not need approval of elected officials – unlike budget cuts and the fate of Obamacare in Congress. All that is needed is approval from the federal agency governing Medicaid.

Waivers are supposed to be used like pilot projects that are likely to promote the objectives of the Medicaid Act: helping states provide medical assistance to residents who can’t afford the health care they need. Instead, it appears that Maine’s proposed DHHS waiver will create barriers that reduce access to timely and appropriate health care for thousands of Mainers struggling to make ends meet.

As part of the application process, the DHHS is holding two hearings, one in Portland on Wednesday at the Cross Insurance Arena on Spring Street, and one Thursday in Augusta at the Augusta Civic Center on Community Drive. Both will begin at 9 a.m.

It is particularly important that decision-makers be aware of the real-life experiences of Mainers who have already dealt with issues that are being addressed: struggles with the work and community engagement requirements for other benefit programs; visits to emergency rooms with serious illnesses that did not result in a hospital stay; and doctor appointments that were missed because of unreliable transportation or lack of child care.

We urge readers to attend the hearings or submit comments to the DHHS by May 25 in order to show their opposition to these proposed cuts, even if they aren’t on Medicaid. Clergy will be gathered in prayer outside the hearings as a prophetic reminder of the faith community’s commitment to the poor, as exemplified in these words from Christian Scripture: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

 

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/16/maine-voices-its-time-to-end-the-governments-war-on-the-poor/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1162120_421945_20131212_mehealthe_4.jpgDuring a period of extra-high volume this week, the hospital emergency room automatically accepted trauma and pediatric cases, and also walk-in patients and transfers from other hospitals. (John Patriquin/Staff Photographer)Mon, 15 May 2017 21:08:00 +0000
Charles Lawton: Labor force numbers show extent of worker flow to Portland area http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/16/charles-lawton-labor-force-data-shows-extent-of-worker-flow-to-portland-area/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/16/charles-lawton-labor-force-data-shows-extent-of-worker-flow-to-portland-area/#respond Tue, 16 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1196618 Nothing crystallizes Maine’s employment problem like a careful perusal of the basic labor force numbers. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of employed Mainers increased by 25,380, or 4 percent. Over the same period, the number of unemployed Mainers decreased by nearly 30,000, or 53 percent. As a result, we gained over 25,000 jobs while our labor force actually declined by nearly 4,600 people.

Clearly, this is not a sustainable path. We simply cannot continue to create more employment opportunities – or, more precisely, we cannot continue to fill these opportunities – while our labor force keeps declining. We must attract more younger workers to Maine – both young natives who have left and any others we can convince to come.

Given this “attraction” problem, it is enlightening to examine the basic labor force numbers noted above for various urban centers and their surrounding rural peripheries throughout Maine.

In Aroostook County, for instance, unemployment dropped 46 percent from 2010 to 2016, while employment fell 5 percent and the labor force declined by 9 percent. In Presque Isle, the numbers were even more bleak, with unemployment dropping by 63 percent, employment falling by 6 percent and the labor force declining by 9 percent. Here, the labor force problem was even more pronounced in the county’s urban center than in its rural surrounding towns.

In Penobscot County and Bangor, a somewhat different pattern emerges. Here, there is no appreciable difference between the labor market performance of the county as a whole and its urban and rural components. In Bangor, unemployment fell by 56 percent between 2010 and 2016, employment grew by 2 percent (328 jobs) and the labor force declined by 2.7 percent (a net loss of 470 workers). In percentage terms, these changes were virtually the same for Penobscot County as a whole and for communities in the county other than Bangor. In sum, the labor market performance was about the same throughout the region.

For Portland and Cumberland County, a different pattern emerges. In Cumberland County, employment increased by 10,125 jobs between 2010 and 2016. This growth was fed by a 54 percent decline in unemployment (about 5,500) and a 3 percent growth in the labor force (just over 4,600 people). This, of course, was a welcome trend for economic growth – one almost certainly fed by a southern migration of people from the state’s western, northern and eastern hinterlands. However, in this region, the greater labor market dynamism was found in the rural periphery rather than in the urban core.

In Portland, unemployment fell by 58 percent (nearly 1,500 people) and employment grew by 5 percent (about 1,760 people), with the result that the labor force increased by 266 people, or 0.7 percent. (Note: These figures refer not to jobs located in Portland, but to households in the city in which one or more members has a job.)

In Cumberland County but outside of Portland, labor market numbers were even stronger. Unemployment dropped by 4,000 (53 percent), and employment grew by nearly 8,400. As a result, the labor market in this suburban area grew by nearly 4,400. While some businesses undoubtedly grew in this area, the bulk of the jobs held by residents of suburban Cumberland County are, in fact, located in the city of Portland.

The conclusions to be drawn are:

• The economic engine of the state is clearly the Portland area. The growth of the labor force in Cumberland County over the past six years (4,633 people) is virtually equal to the overall decline in the state’s labor force over the same period (4,558 people). In many ways, it may simply illustrate the fact that able-bodied Maine workers are simply “voting with their feet” by moving to where there is some job growth.

 The continued success of the Portland region clearly depends on an effective interplay between urban jobs and suburban housing, transportation and social services. Continued job growth in the region depends on city and town governments working with employers to facilitate all the conditions necessary for growth. It does “take a village” to create the conditions for sustainable economic growth.

• The urban-periphery interplay so important to the Portland area’s continued growth is also the model for trying to spread that growth to other areas. It would be a waste of resources to try to have all communities across the state seek a return to their economic glories of the past. The model for healthy economic regions is the combination of a competitive urban-village employment center surrounded by pleasant, safe and easy-to-get-to communities.

Consulting economist Charles Lawton, Ph.D., can be contacted at:

cttlaw3@gmail.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/16/charles-lawton-labor-force-data-shows-extent-of-worker-flow-to-portland-area/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/04/680387-20160406_HousingC7.jpgMon, 15 May 2017 20:51:48 +0000
Our View: War on drugs, take 2, won’t be any better http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/16/our-view-war-on-drugs-take-two-wont-be-any-better/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/16/our-view-war-on-drugs-take-two-wont-be-any-better/#respond Tue, 16 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1196620 The harsh treatment of low-level drug offenders ruins lives and destroys communities. It should be on the scrap heap of history. Instead, the Trump administration is bringing it back.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent federal prosecutors a memo last week ordering them to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable charge,” effectively rescinding a 2013 policy that gave prosecutors and judges flexibility when dealing with people arrested for low-level, non-violent drug crimes.

Sessions said the memo is aimed only at drug traffickers, and is meant to make it clear that the Justice Department is taking a hard line during the nationwide heroin epidemic.

But we’ve been down this road before, and we know how it turns out – with prisons full of young men, mostly of color, drugs just as prevalent, and communities no more safe than before.

Under Sessions’ order, just as in the three-plus decades of the failed “war on drugs,” prosecutors will seek the harshest penalties for the crimes that come across their desks. As a result, more offenders will go before the court facing mandatory minimum sentences that give judges no flexibility. Those offenders will be disproportionately black or Hispanic, not because they are more likely to sell or use drugs, but because they are far more likely to be stopped and searched than whites.

We know what will happen because we just watched it happen. For decades, federal prosecutors were “tough on drugs,” a philosophy that bled down to state courts as well, and as a result, between 1980 and 2014, the number of incarcerated people in the United States grew by 450 percent. In what should be our great shame, the incarcerated population in the U.S. is now four times the world average – we have 5 percent of the world’s population, but 22 percent of its prisoners.

The explosion of the prison population, and its racial makeup, was propelled by the harsh prosecution of drug crimes. Drug dealers make up half of the federal prison population, and drug users account for more than 70 percent of the people in U.S. jails and prisons. Blacks and Hispanics, who make up 30 percent of the U.S. population as a whole, account for more than half of all prisoners.

Where has that left us? For one, communities have been decimated – millions of children have lost a parent to prison, and millions of young men and women have had their earning power permanently hindered, if not destroyed. Incarceration itself costs billions of dollars a year.

We are not more safe. The drop in crime over the same time period can be attributed to other factors, and longer sentences have not been shown to reduce recidivism – in fact, they may increase it.

And drugs are more readily available and more potent than ever before, starting with a heroin epidemic that began not because of lax drug laws, but many other factors – the overprescription and unlawful dissemination of opioid pain medications, lack of drug treatment, economically hurting communities, more organized drug cartels (already subject to the harshest criminal penalties).

Then-Attorney General Eric Holder’s directive in 2013 to use more flexibility when prosecuting low-level drug offenders should have been the beginning of the end for this heinous miscarriage of justice – federal prison populations have dropped 14 percent as a result, the first decrease in 40 years. States, too, at the same time began rolling back mandatory minimum sentencing.

But now Sessions wants to end that progress to pursue a strategy just recently and conclusively shown to be ineffective and destructive. We were told once before that strict sentencing guidelines would improve our communities – let’s not fall for it again.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/16/our-view-war-on-drugs-take-two-wont-be-any-better/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/1196620_20131014_court_01-e1494953632385.jpgHarsh drug sentences handed down in courthouses like this have disrupted families and ruined lives, but they have not loosened the grip of addiction.Tue, 16 May 2017 12:54:27 +0000
Kathleen Parker: In Donald Trump’s world, reality isn’t real and the truth isn’t true http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/16/kathleen-parker-in-donald-trumps-world-reality-isnt-real-and-the-truth-isnt-true/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/16/kathleen-parker-in-donald-trumps-world-reality-isnt-real-and-the-truth-isnt-true/#respond Tue, 16 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1196596 Facts aren’t facts; truth isn’t true; reality isn’t real.

This is where we are.

It’s no wonder that “Orwellian” is the most widely used adjective derived from the name of a writer. We are living in the most surreal of times.

But Orwell’s days may be numbered as “Trumpian” has swiftly emerged to describe the president’s apparent intent to de-fictionalize Orwell’s dystopian vision. Either that, or he’s just plain addled. Or, it must be considered, the alien being that has inhabited the former Donald Trump’s body has been slow to absorb the intricacies and nuances of the spoken word.

Trump’s daily scrimmages with the English language make Bushisms seem like “Bartlett’s Best.” When not syntactically challenged, they’re jaw-droppingly mystifying. What possibly could he have intended when he suggested to NBC’s Lester Holt that he doesn’t know for sure if there’s an FBI investigation into “this Russia thing”? So the president doesn’t believe what every intelligence agency has said and what he has personally been told in briefings?

Choosing one’s truth is the essence of Trumpian logic. But the emanations from the White House can no longer be dismissed as mere incompetence. Something is very wrong at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Inside the Oval Office golden walls, where even flies dare not land, democracy rocks perilously between the forces of light and darkness.

How perfectly evocative one recent night when press secretary Sean Spicer huddled with staffers behind a bush after news broke of FBI Director James Comey’s firing. The beleaguered Spicer finally agreed to come out and speak to the gathered media, but only if they extinguished their lights.

“Democracy Dies in Darkness,” read The Washington Post banner, seeming ever-more-apt by the day.

So what are we to make of Trump’s constantly shifting facts and truths? Is he lying? Pretending? Or is he so certain of America’s abbreviated attention span and willing self-delusion that he can speak nonsense with the same impunity as when he claimed he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his base wouldn’t care?

Or is it just possible that his campaign really is guilty of collusion with Russia? Does Vladimir Putin have something on the American president? There may, indeed, be nothing, as Trump insists, but the president goes out of his way to appear guilty. How difficult is it to say why he fired Comey? The variety of explanations over a matter of days was obviously a flailing for justification. Trying to track them felt like trying to solve a maze where the cheese keeps moving.

First, it was Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation. Next it was the Justice Department’s recommendation. Then it was neither. Trump was always thinking about firing him, he himself said. (Note to staffers: Trump is always thinking about firing everyone.)

The latest to slip Trump’s tongue was that Comey was a “showboater,” which the showboater-in-chief would see as competition. Also, Comey had lost the confidence of the bureau, said Trump, despite FBI testimony to the contrary. Finally, Comey wasn’t good at his job, which would be a rational basis, if only he’d thought of it sooner. Most agree that Comey exercised poor judgment in issuing Clinton investigation updates that could have affected the election outcome.

Several months forward, however, what could have prompted Trump to take action? In a Trumpian world, stalled somewhere between second grade and a prep school locker room, even the ridiculous seems plausible. So, let’s try a wild one: Maybe Trump fired Comey for being taller, at 6-feet-8. In light of his infatuation with size, one can easily imagine that a 6-foot-3-inch Trump would resent having to look up to the guy who was investigating possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.

In the adult world, however, the eye tends to land on other likelihoods, as in Comey’s Trump campaign/Russia investigation, his recent request for more resources for the investigation, his denial of Trump’s claim that former President Obama had wiretapped his office, and his refusal during a dinner with Trump to pledge loyalty.

Trump disputes all of the above, surprising no one.

But Trump couldn’t leave it alone. Friday, he launched a Twitter tirade that seemed to threaten Comey, saying the fired director had better hope there’s no tapes of their conversations if he starts leaking to the press. Just as Trump projected himself in calling Comey a showboater, one could reasonably extrapolate that Trump is the one concerned about what next might surface.

Then again, maybe it’s just that alien thing messing with Trump’s mind.

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

kathleenparker@washpost.com

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/16/kathleen-parker-in-donald-trumps-world-reality-isnt-real-and-the-truth-isnt-true/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/AP17124563436133.jpgMon, 15 May 2017 20:57:21 +0000
Our View: Maine’s secretary of state provides dose of reality to voter fraud panel http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/15/our-view-maines-secretary-of-state-provides-dose-of-reality-to-voter-fraud-panel/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/15/our-view-maines-secretary-of-state-provides-dose-of-reality-to-voter-fraud-panel/#respond Mon, 15 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1195947 Asked about his invitation to a Trump administration commission on voter fraud, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said, “I think the outcome of the commission’s work, without prejudging it, is that they are probably not going to find a hell of a lot.”

That skepticism will serve Dunlap well as he starts work on the panel headed by Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state whose fanatical pursuit of voter fraud led his home-state paper to compare him to the obsessive Javert from “Les Miserables,” though it has gotten him no closer to finding any proof of consequential fraud.

That has been the outcome of nearly every study and exhaustive investigation into voter fraud, often conducted by people like Kobach who would like nothing more than to find it.

The inability of Republicans to accept the mountain of overwhelming evidence that voter fraud does not exist in any significant manner is so obtuse that something else must be at play.

That evidence includes, but is by no means limited to, a two-year investigation by the Republican secretary of state of Iowa that found just 117 possible fraudulent votes and led to only six convictions; a 2011 Wisconsin task force that charged 20 people with illegal voting, mostly felons confused about the reinstatement of their rights; a 10-year audit in North Carolina that found 50 instances of dead people voting, with mistakes attributed to poll workers; and a 2012 Florida investigation of non-citizen voting that led to just one conviction.

Then there’s Kobach himself, who, in his crusade, looked at 84 million votes in 22 states – and referred just 14 cases for prosecution.

Time and time again, voter fraud is found to be exceedingly rare – rates between 0.0003 and 0.0025 percent, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 31 credible instances out of 1 billion votes over 14 years, according to The Washington Post.

But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from saying that it is out there. Gov. LePage has done it over and over again, as has President Trump, who after losing the popular vote by 3 million votes, claimed for no reason other than his own ego that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally.

That’s one of the reasons for the commission – Trump is belatedly following through on his promise to investigate the fraud there is no reason to believe actually exists.

The other is to find justification for laws, such as mandatory voter ID, that keep largely Democratic voters from casting a ballot.

That’s what happened in Maine in 2011, when an investigation by then-Secretary of State Charlie Summers meant to prove state elections were being gamed found only one case of voter fraud, and none by the college students whom Republicans had targeted as lawbreakers.

Still, the same rhetoric that provoked the study led the Republican-controlled Legislature to repeal earlier that year Maine’s same-day voter registration law, a move that was itself repealed by voters later.

It’s the same rhetoric, too, that has led to the proliferation of restrictive voting laws throughout the United States, including in North Carolina and Texas, where courts ruled that the laws were put in place specifically to target African-American and Hispanic voters.

And it’s the same rhetoric that without question will be rolled out by Kobach. The commission will no doubt find that dead people, noncitizens and out-of-state residents don’t vote in anything approaching meaningful numbers, but history shows he will still seek restrictive measures meant to deny people their right to vote.

We’re glad that when he does, Dunlap will be there to offer a dose of reality.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/15/our-view-maines-secretary-of-state-provides-dose-of-reality-to-voter-fraud-panel/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/1195947_741766-Dunlap-e1494856827707.jpgSecretary of State Matt Dunlap speaks in Augusta during the Secretary of State's Office's Student Mock Elections last Oct. 26. Dunlap is justifiably skeptical when it comes to allegations of voter fraud.Mon, 15 May 2017 10:00:37 +0000
Maine Voices: An immigrant-friendly state would work for the betterment of us all http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/15/maine-voices-an-immigrant-friendly-state-would-work-for-the-betterment-of-us-all/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/15/maine-voices-an-immigrant-friendly-state-would-work-for-the-betterment-of-us-all/#respond Mon, 15 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1195953 Ordinarily, we would celebrate Maine’s unprecedented 3 percent unemployment rate as a sign of a robust economy. In fact, Maine’s southern and midcoast economies are thriving by many measures.

But a crisis is looming as Maine’s workforce shrinks because of baby boomers’ retirements, combined with a steadily declining birth rate. Maine’s Department of Labor projects that 88 percent of annual job openings are the result of retiring workers. Job vacancies range from the highest-skilled professionals to entry-level and unskilled positions. Chronic labor shortages can cause employers to leave Maine, cutting economic growth off at the knees.

There is no simple remedy for Maine’s aging workforce or the mismatch between employers’ needs and many job seekers’ skills and geographic locations. From remedial education and job-specific training, to employment counseling, to improved public transit or relocation assistance, Maine needs more public investment to support our underemployed working people.

Maine’s influx of immigrants can also contribute to our state’s economic prosperity and community vitality. This essay sketches how mobilizing “New Mainers” talents will enable us to “do well by doing good.”

Maine’s immigrants are a welcome addition to our labor supply. Maine’s recent immigrants are highly educated, with 34 percent of those aged 25 or older having a bachelor’s degree or post-graduate education, compared to 29 percent of Mainers. They are also in their prime earning years, with those arriving since 2010 having a median age of 28, compared to Maine’s median age of 44.

Many immigrants become business owners and operators. About 10 percent of Maine’s immigrants have started their own businesses, far exceeding their 3.7 percent share of Maine’s population. Most hire from the local labor pool, and buy supplies from, pay taxes to and provide goods and services to their local communities.

New Mainers also contribute to local economies and job creation through consumer spending and neighborhood revitalization. The more fully New Mainers can utilize their skills and entrepreneurial talents, the larger these contributions.

All told, former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin – a Republican – estimates that immigrants will boost U.S. gross domestic product by 3 percent to 3.9 percent, looking out 10 years.

Nonetheless, critics warn of two supposedly negative effects of immigration: taking jobs from local workers and increasing tax burdens.

Empirical studies yield varying estimates of “job displacement.” A typical finding is that in “normal” labor market conditions, the earnings of low-skilled native-born workers are depressed by 1 to 2 percent. But the threat of job displacement in Maine’s current labor market, with over-full employment and labor shortages at every skill level, is minimal. Indeed, according to the American Enterprise Institute, expanding the supply of highly educated immigrants fills skill gaps, enabling businesses to grow faster and create still more quality jobs.

Research indicates that while in the very short run, state and local governments may spend more on immigrants than they receive in additional taxes, within a few years, the fiscal impact turns positive. Both the rapidity and the size of the budgetary turnaround hinge on the effectiveness of programs to speed immigrants’ transition into jobs making full use of their skills.

Underemployment affects roughly a quarter of college-educated immigrants nationally, with an estimated annual economic “opportunity cost” of $26,000 a person in lost productivity and earnings. The policy challenge is to shape programs that will minimize that waste.

The Maine Legislature is considering L.D. 1492, sponsored by state Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta. It will create a web of community-focused work-readiness initiatives, building on successful cost-effective experiences here and elsewhere, to prepare New Americans for skilled employment and entrepreneurship.

Strengthening English proficiency is a clear priority. L.D. 1492 would expand traditional adult English-language education, as well as job-specific English instruction integrated into vocational training, and coordinated with prospective employers. An inspiring example is the work of the New Mainers Resource Center, which would be expanded under L.D. 1492, with Southern Maine Community College, to help immigrants with prior medical backgrounds master English technical terminology in a hands-on setting, to fill critical EMT shortages.

New Mainers deserve our support from an American values and humanitarian perspective. But they are also underutilized community assets who, with smart public and business investments, can contribute much more to our shared prosperity.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/15/maine-voices-an-immigrant-friendly-state-would-work-for-the-betterment-of-us-all/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/1189646_703371-20170501_Immigrati4.jpgAbove, protesters hold signs during a rally for immigrants Monday at Congress Square Park in Portland. Below, Sandra Scribner Merlim, whose husband, Otto Morales-Caballeros, was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, speaks at the rally.Mon, 15 May 2017 14:55:48 +0000
Another View: Columnist wrong to dismiss Democrats’ budget proposal http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/14/columnist-wrong-to-dismiss-democrats-budget-proposal/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/14/columnist-wrong-to-dismiss-democrats-budget-proposal/#respond Sun, 14 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1195473 Democratic legislators in Maine have responded to Gov. LePage’s proposed budget with the Opportunity Agenda.

It should be no surprise to many that the governor’s budget falls most heavily on the poor and vulnerable, gives token relief to the middle class and rewards the rich.

Columnist Jim Fossel apparently agrees with LePage’s budget, for, in his May 7 diatribe against the Opportunity Agenda, he says that “we need to toss the fancy schemes out the window and focus on cutting spending at all levels of government.”

The Opportunity Agenda, among other things, fully funds public schools, increases the homestead exemption to $30,000, offers additional revenue sharing from the state to our towns, proposes bonding to provide student debt relief, invest in infrastructure, support research and development and expand broadband access across the state, and explains how all this would be paid for. Apparently these are what Fossel calls “fancy schemes.” Democrats call them “priorities.”

They understand that with this Legislature and a looming LePage veto, they need to work with all their colleagues to forge a workable budget that is fair, and they know they will have to compromise.

But at least these offer the possibility of a bright future for all Mainers and are paid for in part by the 3 percent tax surcharge for those earning a net income of more than $200,000. (So, for example, if their net taxable income is $200,001, their additional tax will be $3.)

To read more, go to OpportunityAgendaMaine.com.

]]>
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/14/columnist-wrong-to-dismiss-democrats-budget-proposal/feed/ 0 Fri, 12 May 2017 18:40:51 +0000