The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Opinion http://www.pressherald.com Wed, 31 Aug 2016 21:43:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.5 Leonard Pitts: Upon further review, boycott of ‘Birth of a Nation’ will be reconsidered http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/31/leonard-pitts-upon-further-review-boycott-of-birth-of-a-nation-will-be-reconsidered/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/31/leonard-pitts-upon-further-review-boycott-of-birth-of-a-nation-will-be-reconsidered/#comments Wed, 31 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1037346 I had decided not to see Nate Parker’s new movie.

This was a tough choice. I had been looking forward with great eagerness to the October release of “Birth of a Nation,” Parker’s acclaimed account of Nat Turner’s 1831 slave uprising. But this was before I heard about the rape.

Meaning the 1999 rape that Parker, as a matter of legal fact, did not commit when he and his roommate, Jean Celestin, had a sexual encounter with a drunken woman while they were students at Penn State.

Parker was acquitted – he said the act was consensual and that they’d had sex previously. Celestin was convicted, but the conviction was overturned.

The alleged victim also accused Parker, Celestin and their friends of harassing her when she pressed charges. She dropped out of school and twice attempted suicide. On the third attempt, in 2012, she was successful.

All of which was troubling enough. Then came the recent interviews in which Parker addressed the incident. “Seventeen years ago,” he told Variety, “I experienced a very painful moment in my life. It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that.”

Observers were predictably appalled by such self-centered dismissiveness. “The solipsism is staggering,” wrote Roxane Gay of The New York Times. Writing in The Root, Maiysha Kai scored Parker’s “seeming disconnect and lack of empathy.”

He has since apologized. And you should know: This was not the non-apology apology so common now for misbehaving celebrities.

It was not Donald Trump’s vague “regret” for unspecified sins against unspecified people, nor Ryan Lochte describing his lie as a failure to be “careful and candid.”

No, in an interview posted Saturday by Ebony, Parker comes across as a man honestly appalled by his own “selfish” behavior. “I wasn’t thinking about even the potential hurt of others. I was thinking about myself.”

He said he has read his critics’ criticisms to figure out “what do I need to learn about the situation? … If I’m really serious about changing my attitude … then what do I need to be feeling?”

He confessed that when he initially spoke, he didn’t know his alleged victim had killed herself.

“I was acting as if I was the victim,” he said. ” … Why didn’t (my words) come off more contrite? Because I wasn’t being contrite. Maybe I was being even arrogant. And learning about her passing shook me. It really did. It really shook me.”

“I’m sorry for all the women who are survivors who were hurt by my words,” he said, “because they were insensitive and they were nonchalant.”

Parker seems belatedly to realize how little it means that, as a legal matter, he didn’t commit rape.

As a legal matter, after all, George Zimmerman didn’t commit murder. Nor did O.J. Simpson.

Granted, Parker has reason to sound convincing. He’s trying to save a movie. On the other hand, Trump was trying to save a presidential run and Lochte, a career.

Me, I believe him. I’m just trying to figure out what that should mean.

I offer no sophistry about separating art from artist. No such separation exists for any art worthy of the name. If Phil Spector, Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski prove nothing else, they prove human beings and human art are complicated, a latticework of shadow and light.

As a man, it’s not my place, nor is it within my power, to absolve Nate Parker. I’m just trying to decide whether to see his movie – whether doing so is consonant with the moral man I try to be.

He’s got me thinking about it. That’s more than I could have said a week ago.

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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Maine Voices: All should be aboard for Maine-to-Montreal train with stop in Lewiston http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/31/maine-voices-all-should-be-aboard-for-maine-to-montreal-train-with-stop-in-lewiston/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/31/maine-voices-all-should-be-aboard-for-maine-to-montreal-train-with-stop-in-lewiston/#comments Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1037070 It’s time to expand passenger train service in Maine. The Amtrak Downeaster connecting Brunswick to Boston demonstrates the demand for and benefits of this clean, efficient transportation choice in the Pine Tree State. However, we need a modern train system that connects to more Maine communities, and eventually to Montreal.

The first step toward new Maine-to-Montreal train service and rebuilding our state’s passenger rail network is running commuter rail from Portland to Lewiston-Auburn on existing state-owned rail lines.

The good news is that in 2015 the Maine Legislature passed a bill directing the Maine Department of Transportation to create a plan for this route between Maine’s two largest metropolitan areas. Together, the cities of Lewiston and Auburn and the state of Maine have pledged $500,000 to conduct the plan, and the idea has garnered the support of a strong coalition that includes Republican and Democratic legislators, the business community and environmentalists.

Unfortunately, nearly two years later, MDOT has yet to get going on the train plan. It is imperative that the agency move forward now so that Mainers can take advantage of real transportation choices in the near future.

Mainers support passenger trains because they provide safe, reliable and affordable transportation, reduce traffic congestion and pollution, and help to revitalize our town centers with new economic development opportunities. Trains attract commuters and visitors who want to be able to travel without the expense, dangers and hassles of automobile dependence.

Importantly, trains also address seniors’ transportation needs, and they provide access to jobs, school and entertainment for the many who do not own cars. As has been proven elsewhere, when quality passenger service is available, people will use it.

Passenger trains should be seen as not just a smart transportation option but also a key economic development strategy. Connecting Maine’s two largest economic hubs would be a catalyst for expanding jobs, housing, health care and education. It will connect people to entertainment and cultural events while providing affordable access for everyone.

From an environmental and energy use perspective, passenger trains are the most efficient transportation choice. Considering that cars now account for the largest source of global warming pollution in Maine, passenger trains will be an important solution to address worsening climate disruption.

In addition, the costs of maintaining our highways, roads and bridges are astronomical. Maine is borrowing $100 million to $125 million every year for roadwork. A mile of road costs about the same as a mile of rail line, but a road must be rebuilt every decade or so. In contrast, rail lines last more than a half of a century. Also, by reducing the number of cars on our road system, trains reduce road repair costs substantially.

There is a consensus among Maine residents, public officials and transportation experts that our state must improve its transportation infrastructure. A good road system for cars, trucks and buses is essential, but a roads-only network is not enough to address the transportation needs of Mainers going forward.

On Thursday, the public can learn more about the proposed Maine-to-Montreal passenger rail plan at a public forum at 6 p.m. at the Stroudwater Distillery, 4 Thompson’s Point, Portland. Co-sponsored by the Maine Rail Transit Coalition, Sierra Club and AARP Maine, the event includes a panel of Maine and Canadian rail experts and representatives from the sponsoring organizations. (For more information, call 207-761-5616.)

Maine is fortunate to own and have the Portland-to-Lewiston railroad tracks in place. This valuable piece of transportation infrastructure – purchased with public funds for the purpose of passenger rail – is ready and waiting for re-investment. Since the administration of Gov. Angus King, Maine has spent more than $2 million on passenger rail studies. The studies are done.

Now’s the time to move forward on a plan.

— Special to the Press Herald

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Greg Kesich: LePage hasn’t just talked himself past the point of no return http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/31/greg-kesich-lepage-hasnt-just-talked-himself-past-the-point-of-no-return/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/31/greg-kesich-lepage-hasnt-just-talked-himself-past-the-point-of-no-return/#comments Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1037373 I’ve only gotten to meet Gov. LePage one time, and I liked him a lot.

It was during the 2010 primary campaign when he was running for the Republican nomination. After sitting down with the editorial board, he stuck around for a few minutes to talk.

Someone asked him how a Republican ever got elected mayor in a Democratic town like Waterville. This is when most politicians would brag about how they work across the aisle with people of good will, blah, blah, blah. Not LePage.

“I’m French,” he explained. “And the one thing the French (voters) like better than Democrats is French.”

Used to the usual bull, we were all stunned.

So when people say they like LePage, I get it. He is blunt, direct and unguarded. It’s his greatest strength.

It’s also his greatest weakness, as everyone who has heard the enraged voicemail message he left for state Rep. Drew Gattine now knows.

It was one particular really bad word that has attracted the world’s attention (no exaggeration – it’s been on the BBC), but everyone should be clear: That one word is not why he might be forced out of office.

No one is shocked because LePage says what he thinks – most people like that. They are offended by the things that LePage thinks – especially his belief that black and Hispanic people from out of state are responsible for Maine’s heroin crisis.

Yes, there are black and Hispanic drug dealers from other states who do business in Maine. But if they sent only left-handed white Episcopalians to deliver their heroin, we would still be drowning in the stuff.

LePage’s fixation on the drug importers’ race and their taste for “white Maine women” should be enough to say that he is not fit to head a state in which people of color and mixed-race families are trying to live their lives in peace.

LePage said he lost his temper because he thought Gattine had called him a racist, which Gattine denies. But is LePage a racist?

He says he isn’t. But what do you call someone who blames a crime problem on a group of people defined only by the color of their skin or national origin? He’s the head of state government and has enormous power over people’s lives. If he keeps saying and doing racist things, it doesn’t really matter whether he has prejudice in his heart; the effect is the same.

LePage has said outrageous things before and he has not been under as much pressure as he is today. This time his speaking from the heart has taken on a new dimension.

Thirty-four seconds of rage on Gattine’s voicemail showed a side of LePage that most Mainers had never seen. He was out of control, consumed with rage and on the edge of violence. The response from some Republicans has been telling

“I share your deep concerns regarding the governor’s behavior,” Republican Sen. Amy Volk told her friends on Facebook. “What I do not know is whether it is due to substance abuse, mental illness or just ignorance.”

On Monday, Senate President Michael Thibodeau said Volk “is not on an island” among Republicans and that “corrective action” is required.

Volk’s post and Thibodeau’s response is telling. Unlike Le-Page, most politicians are careful about what they say. They don’t throw around terms like “substance abuse” and “mental illness” lightly. When people so close to the governor describe his actions in those terms, he is really in trouble.

It doesn’t seem to be in LePage’s character to quit, but he should give it some serious thought. His days as a meaningful figure in Maine government may be over.

He couldn’t work with the Legislature even before he shot his mouth off. His last two budgets were dead on arrival and replaced by compromise deals that were passed over his veto. His plan to bypass the Legislature and take policymaking straight to the people has been a disaster.

He couldn’t get enough signatures to put his tax and welfare reform referendums on the ballot. His unfiltered town hall meetings are the forums he has used to explain his theories on race and crime. Now the Westbrook Teen Center has told him that he’s not welcome to hold a meeting there.

Even if he hangs on, the next two years will be miserable for LePage. He might keep enough Republican House members in his pocket to sustain a veto now and then, but he won’t have the power to push the major reforms that he ran for office to achieve.

If he’s wondering what to do after he resigns, I think I could help him out.

We could always use a new columnist, and I like writers who tell you what they really think.

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

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Our View: New federal adult education law leaves too many behind http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/31/our-view-new-federal-adult-education-law-leaves-too-many-behind/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/31/our-view-new-federal-adult-education-law-leaves-too-many-behind/#comments Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1037460 A new federal law has adult education programs in Maine and across the country retooling to stress career readiness. But thousands of adults in our state could be left behind because they lack basic reading skills, and Maine won’t be able to build its workforce without additional federal funds for adult literacy education.

Almost everybody can read and write simple sentences. But about 7 percent of Maine adults – over 70,000 people – can’t read well enough to grasp information presented in short, simple paragraphs, according to the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, the most recent comprehensive survey.

And because they can’t do things like fill out an application for a new job or earn the post-high school credentials needed to advance in the workplace, people without basic literacy skills remain stuck in low-skilled employment, no matter how hardworking or committed they may be.

Maine’s adult education programs – frequently partnering with Literacy Volunteers groups – do the heavy lifting when it comes to helping adults develop these basic skills. But under the federal Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act – passed two years ago and implemented July 1 – adult education is now going in a different direction. In order to qualify for crucial federal funds, adult education providers are being called on to work with businesses and workforce development groups to create specific training programs.

This emphasis on job training certainly has a place in a state like Maine, especially in areas that have persistently high poverty and unemployment rates. Indeed, this approach has resulted in new programs that provide high-paying jobs in fields like forestry, Peter Caron, adult education director for the Fort Kent school district, told the Maine Public Broadcasting Network last week.

But adult education advocates worry that the new law is focusing on funding job advancement and post-secondary education programs at the expense of services to people who aren’t equipped to meet these goals.

That doesn’t bode well for the future, considering the straitened circumstances that most adult education programs in the U.S. are already dealing with. Over two-thirds of all adult education programs have months-long waiting lists and annual budgets of $150,000 or less, according to Pro Literacy, a partner of the Maine Adult Education Association and the nation’s largest organization of adult education programs.

By supporting people who want to better themselves, adult literacy education programs help build a stronger economy and a stronger community – and we should all press Washington to fully invest in these critical services.

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Another View: Voters deserve to know more about candidates’ health http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/31/another-view-voters-deserve-to-know-more-about-candidates-health/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/31/another-view-voters-deserve-to-know-more-about-candidates-health/#comments Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1037493 Like all of us, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are going to die. Will it be in the next four years? Probably – ideally – not. But for voters, that’s a reasonable question, especially given that Clinton is 68 and Trump, 70. Unfortunately, the candidates have refused to divulge the kind of information that would enable anyone to arrive at an informed opinion about their health.

If a candidate is past the traditional retirement age, and especially if voters have concerns about his or her vice-presidential pick, health may weigh heavily. That was the case for some Americans in 2008, when John McCain, who was 72 on Election Day, chose Sarah Palin as a running mate.

McCain, however, allowed reporters to see eight years and over 1,000 pages of his medical records. The public learned details about his bouts with skin cancer, kidney stones, an enlarged prostate and other conditions. That level of transparency was unusual, but given Clinton and Trump’s age, it should be their model.

Instead, both have released only perfunctory letters from their personal doctors. Clinton’s doctor provided at least some information on her medical history and current vital signs, similar to what Barack Obama released in 2008. But Obama was then only 46. And just four years ago, Clinton suffered “a terrible concussion that required six months of very serious work to get over,” according to her husband.

Trump’s doctor issued an even shorter letter calling Trump’s blood pressure and unspecified lab results “exceedingly excellent.” He ended the letter by declaring, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest person ever elected to the presidency” – giving new meaning to the term “spin doctor.” Trump has tweeted that he has “no problem” releasing detailed medical records, but so far has not done so.

Mandating disclosure of candidates’ medical records would be a step too far; it might not even be constitutional. But voters should demand that Clinton and Trump be more forthcoming.

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Our View: State spending cuts slow recovery in Maine’s drug crisis http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/30/our-view-state-spending-cuts-slow-recovery-in-maines-drug-crisis/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/30/our-view-state-spending-cuts-slow-recovery-in-maines-drug-crisis/#comments Tue, 30 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1035695 Lost amid the clamor over Gov. LePage’s racist and expletive-filled tirades last week was his statement that people struggling with opiate addiction are a lost cause. It is not the first time the governor has made that point, but following a report in the Maine Sunday Telegram, it’s clear that this misguided belief has gone beyond words and into action.

Last year, amid a worsening crisis, Maine reduced spending on drug treatment and prevention, and as a result, far too many people are struggling to find help for their addiction. The governor may say that his anger is aimed solely at traffickers, but his policies and priorities say otherwise.

According to the Maine Sunday Telegram, state spending on treatment and prevention fell 6.6 percent between fiscal years 2014 and 2015. That comes after spending dropped from 2010 to 2014, as the epidemic built steam, and as the state prioritized its shrinking spending toward prevention, at the expense of the state’s already weak treatment infrastructure.

With so many people sick and seeking help, that is simply unconscionable.

Mary Mayhew, state commissioner of health and human services and someone who is often mentioned as a possible successor to LePage, said that programs should not be judged on their cost, but on their effectiveness.

Fine.

Should we look at fatal overdoses, then, with a record 272 last year, and another 189 through June 30?

Or how about the growing waitlists at Maine’s underpaid methadone clinics, or the treatment providers who have been pleading for more resources since the opiate epidemic began taking hold?

For years now, LePage and Mayhew have defended this approach by stating the need to use “best practices” and “evidence-based” programs to fight the drug crisis.

But there’s no indication what those programs are, when they’ll be in place or whose “evidence” was used to justify them. The few they have mentioned – a pilot program using the medication Vivitrol, treatment beds to be built at the Maine Correctional Center – are limited in scope and years off.

And the approach most supported by actual facts? Well, LePage doesn’t think that medication-assisted treatment with methadone works – despite all the evidence to the contrary.

So instead of receiving treatment that is proven to work, Mainers are relegated to waitlists, giving their illness that much more time to consume them. It’s no wonder more people are ending up in the emergency room, in jail or dead.

Mayhew told the Telegram that it is the Legislature that decides spending. But it is LePage who has stood in the way of MaineCare expansion, which would allow more people to get treatment. It is LePage who has no appetite for otherwise providing more support for methadone – in fact, the DHHS wants to put further burdens on providers.

And it’s LePage who has put the emphasis on prevention and law enforcement over treatment.

To the last point, the governor offered some insight last week. Speaking to reporters Friday, before he called people of color “the enemy” while trying to make a simplistic point about the drug trade, LePage said that a doctor told him the only way to beat the drug epidemic was to focus on prevention and wait until “after this generation dies.”

That’s not the way most Mainers respond when they have a father, mother, sister, brother or friend fall under the sway of addiction. But under the LePage administration, it has become state policy.

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Commentary: Myriad benefits of higher wages give workers their fair share http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/30/commentary-myriad-benefits-of-higher-wages-give-workers-their-fair-share/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/30/commentary-myriad-benefits-of-higher-wages-give-workers-their-fair-share/#comments Tue, 30 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1035578 Minimum-wage workers in Maine have not received a raise since 2009, when the state’s wage floor increased a mere 25 cents above the federal rate. That’s seven years of wage stagnation, all the while the cost of living has gone up. But this could change if voters approve statewide Question 4 this November, which would raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2020, and gradually eliminate the subminimum tipped wage.

 Raising the minimum wage would benefit Maine’s working families. Maine’s minimum wage of $7.50 adds up to just $15,600 for full-time, year-round work, assuming workers do not take a single day off – not for vacation, to recover from a cold or even to attend a parent-teacher conference.

Raising the minimum wage to $12 could bring significant relief to struggling families. Over 159,000 workers would see their annual incomes rise by $3,560 on average. Over 52,000 children whose parents earn less than $12 per hour would also benefit.

Raising the minimum wage would benefit more adults than teens. Opponents point to teens as the typical minimum-wage workers. But the truth is that the vast majority (90.3 percent) of workers who would benefit from a minimum-wage increase are 20 years or older, and 1 in 5 workers are over the age of 55.

Opponents also claim that increasing the minimum wage will cause teen unemployment to skyrocket, but the most credible research shows that higher wage floors do not affect teen employment. Rather, teen unemployment rates are the result of variables not related to the minimum wage.

Raising the minimum wage for tipped workers is an issue of basic fairness. Current law allows employers to pay tipped workers like waiters and waitresses as little as $3.75 per hour, expecting customers to pay the rest in tips. But because tips vary so dramatically from shift to shift, most tipped workers make just $8.72 an hour, including tips, and cannot rely on gratuities for a reliable income.

Raising the minimum wage would level the playing field for small businesses. Data shows that small employers in the retail sector pay significantly higher hourly wages than large employers: on average, $12.72 and $10.07, respectively. This harms not only affected workers, but also small businesses, which are undercut by their larger competitors.

As Mary Allen Lindemann, co-owner of Coffee by Design with locations in Portland and Freeport, explained recently: “Local businesses in Maine already pay higher wages, and raising the wage floor would allow them to make even greater investments in their employees without having to worry about losing business to out-of-state competitors who are more likely to pay poverty wages.” This is why 500 other small-business owners throughout the state have endorsed Question 4.

Nationally, businesses of all sizes overwhelmingly support raising the minimum wage. According to a leaked poll conducted by a consultant for state chambers of commerce, 80 percent of business owners and executives support raising the minimum wage in their states, recognizing the importance of investing in their workforce. Opposition to the minimum wage does not primarily come from businesses, but from industry lobbyists that often represent the interests of large corporations.

Raising the minimum wage is a win-win for Maine, despite claims to the contrary by the Maine Heritage Policy Center – a free-market think tank with ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council and other groups opposed to worker rights. Opponents argue that raising the minimum wage will result in economic disaster, and accuse minimum-wage advocates of “trying to pull the wool over the eyes” of voters.

But if anyone is trying to fool voters, it is MHPC and other cheerleaders for big business interests. These organizations are so out of touch with the priorities of Mainers that they have positioned themselves to the right of state Republicans, who earlier this year declared low wages a public emergency.

The fact is that more adults are working low-wage jobs and earning poverty wages – and raising the minimum wage is a proven means of boosting their incomes. The fact is also that the most rigorous research on the minimum wage shows little effect on jobs, and that the benefits of raising the wage floor vastly outweigh any possible adverse effects.

That’s why 58 jurisdictions – including neighboring Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont – have raised their minimum wage over the past three years, and they are finding that higher wages go hand in hand with strong economic growth.

Will Maine partake in these gains, too? This November, it will be up to the voters to decide.

 

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Commentary: Linking minimum wage, inflation would add to harm done by Maine base-pay hike http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/30/commentary-linking-minimum-wage-inflation-would-add-to-harm-done-by-pay-hike/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/30/commentary-linking-minimum-wage-inflation-would-add-to-harm-done-by-pay-hike/#comments Tue, 30 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1035599 As Nov. 8 approaches and Maine voters begin to familiarize themselves with the ballot questions, it’s worth digging deeper into Question 4, the plan to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour, tie it permanently to inflation and phase out the tip credit for service employees. Though much could be written about the dangers of all three of these provisions, the potential impact of linking – or “indexing” – the minimum wage to inflation should be particularly concerning to voters going to the polls.

Under the proposal, the minimum wage would increase every Jan. 1 to reflect the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index, a statistic that tracks changes in the cost of living. Using inflation projections calculated by the Congressional Budget Office, Maine’s minimum wage would reach $15 an hour in 2030.

Supporters of indexing argue that the provision is necessary to prevent the purchasing power of the minimum wage from eroding over time. “Inflation indexing guarantees low-wage workers a wage that keeps pace with the rising costs of goods and services and provides a sustainable solution to the problem of declining real wages for the lowest-paid workers,” wrote the Maine People’s Alliance in 2012.

However, as the Employment Policies Institute pointed out in a 2009 report, “indexing puts into motion an unending cycle of rising labor costs and reduced job growth, the annual disappearance of job opportunities for entry-level workers, and constant pressure on prices.”

Despite its intuitive appeal, indexing would severely exacerbate the minimum wage’s detrimental effects. Given costly capital investment and transition costs, businesses may be reluctant to dramatically change their workforce and production methods in response to a nominal minimum-wage increase under the expectation that such an increase will gradually be eroded by inflation.

A small business is unlikely to invest in expensive automation to replace low-skilled workers if the impact of a minimum-wage increase will wane after a few years. On the other hand, if companies think they will have to cope with higher minimum wages over the long term, they will be more willing to adjust their operations, especially their labor forces, in response to the increase. Businesses’ decisions to enter or exit the market will also be influenced by the prospect of permanently higher labor costs.

A seminal study by the American Enterprise Institute, whose results were released in February, found that “the disemployment effect of indexing minimum wages to inflation is over 2.5 times the magnitude of the disemployment effect associated with nominal minimum wage increases” in the restaurant industry.

According to economists at Miami University and Trinity University, a nominal increase in the minimum wage could cause a loss of up to 4,191 jobs among full-service restaurants in Maine. Indexing the wage would potentially lead to a total of 10,478 restaurant jobs lost.

Indexing the minimum wage to inflation could have particularly devastating consequences during recessions, when low-skilled workers have the hardest time finding or retaining employment.

While the rate of inflation tends to fall in response to economic downturns, the Consumer Price Index consistently reported positive inflation rates in the aftermath of the financial crisis. As economists from the Federal Reserve noted in 2013, “inflation remained remarkably stable in the face of serious economic weakness over the last five years.”

Raising the minimum wage in the midst of upheaval in the business sector is a recipe for significant job losses, an experience familiar to several states that indexed their minimum wage before the 2008 economic crisis nationwide.

In Oregon – which indexed its minimum wage in 2002 – unemployment grew from 5.2 percent in December 2007 to 9 percent in December 2008, a 72 percent spike that exceeded the national trend in job loss by more than 25 percent. Florida, which indexed its minimum wage in 2004, saw an equally high rise in unemployment during the same 12-month period. Examining the experiences of these states confirms that indexing can have significant effects on employment, especially during economic downturns.

The Employment Policies Institute warns that “no matter how attractive it may be to index the minimum wage while the economy is booming, setting wages to go up automatically inevitably leads to calamitous results when the economy softens.”

 

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Maine Voices: Partnership with industry gives new life to USM engineering program http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/30/maine-voices-partnership-with-industry-gave-new-life-to-usm-engineering-program/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/30/maine-voices-partnership-with-industry-gave-new-life-to-usm-engineering-program/#comments Tue, 30 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1035611 GORHAM — I moved from California to Maine in 1995, to teach in the University of Southern Maine’s then-new engineering program. That fall, I walked into a store in town wearing a USM sweatshirt and the clerk asked me what I did. My answer was met with a statement that has been seared into my memory: “I didn’t know USM had an engineering program.”

Not everyone may have known about USM’s engineering program back then – or now – but they should, because our program helps support local industry and fuel our regional economy.

Up until 2005, USM’s engineering program was small but stable, graduating about 10 engineers per year. We knew we needed to grow, so we asked our industrial partners in the region for advice on starting an additional engineering program. The responses were remarkably consistent: They were looking for mechanical engineers with strong electromechanical skills.

That was an interesting response for two reasons. First, a traditional mechanical engineering degree does not typically include that component; in that sense, our degree would be unique and distinctive. Second, such a mechanical engineering degree would benefit from substantial synergy with the existing electrical engineering infrastructure.

Administrators like the word “synergy,” because it translates into efficiencies and cost reduction. Both reasons formed the core of our proposal. The new degree was approved in 2007, and enrollment (both in electrical and mechanical engineering) has grown exponentially since then, attracting 220 students and graduating 50 engineers per year as of last spring.

Growth is not expected to subside any time soon. Recently, our mechanical engineering program joined our electrical engineering program in being fully accredited. Accreditation is important because Maine, like most other states, won’t grant a professional engineer license unless you’ve graduated from a nationally accredited engineering program.

USM and the University of Maine are the only two universities in the University of Maine System with fully accredited engineering programs. The schools work together to ensure that a student may start his or her engineering program at either institution and transfer to the other for the completion of the degree with minimal disruption.

USM is also developing a stronger relationship with Southern Maine Community College, making it possible for a student who isn’t quite engineering-ready yet to start at SMCC and then transition to USM for the completion of their degree.

Our collaboration with the University of Maine and SMCC is so important to fueling our economy. The State of Maine needs engineers, as documented by the U.S. Department of Labor State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates. Maine is also unique in the sense that recruiting – and especially retaining – skilled professionals from out-of-state is a challenge. We must grow our own if we want to sustain the economy in the state and attract new businesses.

Meanwhile, are local companies getting what they’ve asked of us back in 2005? We believe so. A survey last spring revealed that more than half of our students are either employed or interning at a local company.

We counted 22 different engineering companies in southern Maine where our students had a paid internship. A recruiter from one of those companies gave a presentation to our students last fall and stated that he viewed internships as a very long job interview. Not surprisingly, most of our graduates end up employed right here in southern Maine.

Large, traditional engineering schools encourage their students to pursue an internship during the summer, and then come back to school in the fall to resume their full-time studies. USM is different. Proximity to technology companies both large and small makes it possible for our students to pursue internships year-round. For some, it may be possible to pay their way through college and graduate virtually debt-free. And having an internship is like starting a career before you graduate.

At the same time we are supporting local companies, our engineering students are giving back. The USM chapter of Engineers Without Borders is working on a project to design and install a solar hot water heater for an orphanage in Guatemala. Students in the Engineering Economics class develop service-learning projects for multiple area school districts ranging from energy-efficient lighting to cost-effective HVAC systems.

USM’s engineering program is making a substantial contribution to our economy and communities. And it made my day when I walked into a store the other day wearing my USM Engineering sweatshirt and heard back: “Oh yeah, I knew that.”

 

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Our View: DEA stance on cannabis has silver lining for patients in Maine, nationwide http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/29/our-view-dea-stance-on-cannabis-has-silver-lining-for-patients-in-maine-nationwide/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/29/our-view-dea-stance-on-cannabis-has-silver-lining-for-patients-in-maine-nationwide/#comments Mon, 29 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1033759 A recent decision upholding the federal ban on medical cannabis was a letdown in Maine and the 24 other states where the drug can be prescribed to ease the symptoms of illness.

But the Aug. 11 announcement also offered reason for a more optimistic prognosis: The Drug Enforcement Administration is removing a major roadblock to medical studies of marijuana and advancing long-stalled efforts to research the plant’s value as a medication.

For 46 years, marijuana (along with heroin and LSD) has been a Schedule I drug, with no known medical benefits and “a high potential for abuse.” So when the DEA announced in April that it would soon decide whether to reclassify cannabis, there was widespread hope that the government was rethinking its long-held stance on the drug.

The production, distribution and consumption of marijuana all remain illegal under federal law – a fact that keeps medical cannabis patients and state-licensed suppliers in limbo.

FEDERAL-STATE DISCONNECT

Maine families have had to establish residency in Colorado in order to obtain the cannabis extract that helps their children’s epilepsy. Why? Because that particular strain, Charlotte’s Web, is grown in Colorado. And if parents can’t find something that works at home, they don’t have the option of crossing state lines to get it somewhere else.

Under federal law, that’s drug trafficking, even if they’re transporting strains like Charlotte’s Web that are low in THC, the chemical compound that’s the source of the high.

The disconnect between state and federal law is also tough on Maine’s medical cannabis growers. Handling the proceeds of a marijuana business puts federally chartered banks at risk of money-laundering penalties. So medical cannabis companies can’t take customers’ credit or debit cards, often can’t write checks for their payroll or business expenses and can’t get loans. They wind up doing business in cash, making them targets for robbery and raising concerns about accountability.

Granted, the Obama administration has made a point of saying that medical cannabis businesses are not an enforcement priority. And a U.S. appeals court ruled unanimously Aug. 18 that the Justice Department may no longer spend money to prosecute medical marijuana suppliers who comply with state laws.

But the federal ban on marijuana remains in place, and federal officials have gone after users and suppliers of medical cannabis even in states where medicinal use is legal.

Nonetheless, there are signs of a high-level shift in thinking – namely, that on the same day that the federal government affirmed its prohibition on pot, it also announced that it will expand the number of places allowed to grow and conduct studies with marijuana.

MISSISSIPPI MONOPOLY STALLS STUDIES

Under the previous guidelines, just one federal facility, in Mississippi, could produce and distribute cannabis for federally approved study. To get this government-grown cannabis, scientists had to have a DEA license and the approval of the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which has favored studies focusing on the risks of marijuana use.

As a result, there aren’t many reliable studies on medical cannabis, though preliminary research suggests it can be an effective treatment for conditions including chronic pain, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.

Now, anyone with a government-approved research proposal can apply to become a federally authorized cannabis grower, a DEA spokesman recently told the journal Nature.

Scientists won’t have to wait as long to get the plant (slow delivery was an issue with the Mississippi monopoly in place). And because they can grow it themselves, they’ll have a more diverse and reliable supply of cannabis, allowing for the development of specific strains to meet specific medical needs.

Accelerated cannabis research could have obvious benefits for patients. More Maine caregivers are certifying patients to use medical cannabis – over 300 doctors and nurse practitioners in Maine are now giving patients the green light to use marijuana – but it’s not enough to keep up with the number of people who want to try it.

BUILDING AN EVIDENCE-BASED CASE

If studies confirm that medical cannabis is safe and effective, its use as a medication could get FDA approval, making it more affordable (health insurers won’t cover drugs that don’t have the FDA’s endorsement) and paving the way for its acceptance by medical practices and physicians.

For too long, cannabis’ classification as a drug with no medical value has blocked research into whether it does have legitimate uses. The DEA’s decision to expand federal grow sites will facilitate the kind of high-level studies that, as they accumulate, can bolster the case for permanent change to marijuana’s status under federal law and the development of information-based policy that benefits both patients and caregivers.

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Maine Voices: Strimling’s housing proposals seem more political than practical http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/29/maine-voices-strimlings-housing-proposals-seem-more-political-than-practical/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/29/maine-voices-strimlings-housing-proposals-seem-more-political-than-practical/#comments Mon, 29 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1034464 Last Wednesday, I attended the Portland City Council Housing Committee’s discussion on proposed new regulations regarding rent control, notification to tenants of rent increases and discrimination against tenants who receive subsidized housing vouchers.

One thing that I thought was interesting was the general feeling that all is dark and gloomy in our city. How quickly we forget the boarded-up storefronts along Commercial Street, the lack of restaurants on Congress Street and the auctioning of waterfront condominiums. We should all – residents, politicians, businesses and landlords – take a minute to congratulate ourselves on creating a city where so many people want to come live, work and play.

This is not to ignore the challenges this success brings with it, which was the impetus for the creation of a City Council committee focusing on housing. But while most of the council seems open to common-sense regulation that will address the actual problems related to housing in Portland, Mayor Ethan Strimling’s proposed Portland Rental Housing Security Ordinance seems designed for political gain over practical solutions.

I own 23 residential apartments in Portland scattered among five buildings. Our rents are hundreds of dollars below market rate. Our apartments are clean, safe and secure. In more than two decades we have never had a reported robbery, rodent issue or fire. Several months ago I sent the mayor a copy of my rent rolls at his request, but I never heard anything back. Perhaps an undermarket rent roll did not fit his political agenda.

This will be my 24th year as a landlord. My tenants are good, hardworking blue- and white-collar professionals, retirees and students. I have three tenants who receive public assistance, though they were required to pass our rental application process.

The mayor would like to restrict and, in some cases, eliminate my ability to run a credit check as a way of determining eligibility. In 24 years, each time I have not followed my own process, we have regretted it: trashed apartments, unsanctioned pets, domestic abuse and, last year, a heroin overdose.

If we are no longer allowed to use credit checks to choose tenants from the pool of applicants, we will either decide to sell or to raise rents to cover the potential costs of damages from bad tenants. Understand one thing: The people we won’t rent to in today’s good market are the same people we would not have rented to in yesterday’s high-vacancy market.

The other aspect of the mayor’s proposal is rent control. Aside from the fact that landlords are already dealing with high property taxes, the new rainwater tax and the safety tax, the housing stock in Portland is old and requires major capital investments – investments that typically must be depreciated over 39½ years.

We should also keep in mind that the cost of many of these improvements, such as boilers, heat pumps, rubber roofing and replacement windows, is the same as and sometimes more than the cost of improvements in much larger metropolitan areas where the rents are higher.

If rent control is implemented, the first thing we will do is raise our rents by hundreds of dollars per apartment so that we are at market rates as a starting point. The City Council report itself pointed out numerous arguments against rent control. These included tighter vacancy rates, as people are afraid to give up their apartments, and a slowdown in the construction of new housing.

And, as we have seen in cities like New York and San Francisco, market rents often increase drastically because of the shrinking vacancy rate as fewer tenants move. The result is that rent control often benefits those who do not need the financial benefit of rent control.

Finally, it is important to remember that Portland’s current housing issues are recent and, with hundreds of new units under construction, may be short-lived. It was also just a few years ago that vacancy rates were so high that landlords were offering a free month’s rent. Some were even losing their buildings to foreclosure.

In fact, according to U.S. Census statistics cited by the website Department of Numbers, as recently as 2014, rent in Portland as a percentage of median household income was trending down and remained lower than the national average.

If the city wishes to force small landlords who offer below-market rents and good workforce housing out of the business, then Mayor Strimling’s proposal should accomplish just that.

 

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Maine Voices: Moosehead region no place for wind farms http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/maine-voices-moosehead-region-no-place-for-wind-farms/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/maine-voices-moosehead-region-no-place-for-wind-farms/#comments Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1032642 ‘You see that view? That’s my business,” says Ruth McLaughlin, co-owner of Blair Hill Inn in Greenville, as she points to the scenery overlooking Moosehead Lake and the Moose Mountain range.

She explains how people come from all over the globe to enjoy the sunsets and sunrises, the undeveloped mountains, pristine waters and the unusual wildlife in a natural setting that doesn’t exist where they live. She is among many business and property owners who are worried about how mountaintop industrial wind development will harm our scenery and local economy.

The tourism economy now sustains the beautiful North Woods as the forest products economy wanes. If industrial wind development prevails, 300 miles of our mountain ridges will be bulldozed to supply southern New England energy at the expense of our forest treasures and livelihoods.

When Maine wind developer SunEdison filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April, local residents and others concerned about the impact of SunEdison’s 26-turbine Somerset Wind proposal near Moosehead Lake breathed a sigh of relief.

However, earlier this month, Houston-based industrial wind development giant NRG bid $144 million to purchase and continue Somerset Wind. I urge all Maine residents who value our real economy and the state’s last great scenic places to contact your state senators and representatives and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Do it now, because once the mountains are defaced, we can never get them back. Maine’s mountains are not renewable.

Lobbyists with eyes focused on large federal subsidies have pushed legislation in Maine to allow for fast-track permitting. Corporate and legislative moves abound, disguising what they don’t want citizens to know: that industrial wind development, the way it is presently structured, is neither reliable nor economical.

The U.S. Department of Energy has identified Maine’s coastal areas as having greater, more consistent winds than our inland mountains.

Turbines generate power only about 30 percent of the time, and the power in the wind is less on hot summer days when electricity is needed most. Power needed during their downtime has to be purchased from other sources.

Since 2012, Maine ratepayers have been paying for upgrades to transmission lines, even though citizens concerned about the impact of wind development have found that at least 85 percent of the energy will be sent to southern New England. These upgrades were implemented specifically for power not needed in Maine.

The London School of Economics found in 2014 that residential property values plummet near industrial wind development. That same year, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland released the results of a study that showed that the overall quality of tourists’ experiences is lower when industrial wind development turbines are in view.

Even billionaire investor Warren Buffett has said that his company’s energy unit gets “a tax credit if we build wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

But despite wind development’s drawbacks, legislators in Maine favor wind developers, not the people of Maine.

In 2007, then-Gov. John Baldacci’s wind task force, whose members included attorneys with ties to industrial wind development, met with developers in closed sessions. The product of this meeting was a new fast-track permitting law that rezoned 14.6 million acres of Maine’s North Woods and removed the requirement that a project “must fit harmoniously into the landscape.” Representatives of one of the largest economic sectors of our North Woods, tourism and recreation, were not invited to the table.

This expedited wind law is now luring developers to our mountains, since New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Connecticut have restricted or even banned wind development on their own mountains.

All the power generated from these turbines will go to southern New England. Promised jobs for Maine’s citizens are greatly exaggerated.

Recently, a national branding plan funded by Plum Creek Timber Co. named the Moosehead Lake region “America’s Crown Jewel” to market the area as one of the most stunningly beautiful places in the U.S. Simultaneously, Plum Creek/Weyerhaeuser is leasing the Moosehead mountaintops to be lined with turbines that can rise as high as 643 feet. What are they thinking?

The Moosehead Region Futures Committee isn’t anti-wind. We want smart solutions that balance renewable energy with Maine’s inland economy, and we plan to present them soon on our website.

But as committee President John Willard, owner of the Birches Resort in Rockwood, has said, if industrial wind development prevails unencumbered, the turbines sitting atop our blasted and bulldozed mountains will turn America’s Crown Jewel into nothing more than a “crown of thorns.”

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Our View: Maine Republicans should speak out against LePage http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/our-view-maine-republicans-should-speak-out-against-lepage/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/our-view-maine-republicans-should-speak-out-against-lepage/#comments Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1032660 Maine gave the country a good laugh last week, providing a late-summer diversion from the presidential campaign.

Our governor offered a series of textbook racist comments to refute allegations that he has created a “toxic environment” regarding matters of race. He followed that performance the next day by recording an obscenity-filled rant on the voicemail of a lawmaker – who LePage then publicly joked to reporters about killing.

Wow! No other state in the country has a governor quite like that. He’s one of a kind, leaving the nation’s eyebrows raised, jaws gaping and heads shaking in disbelief. It’s quite a show.

But no one in Maine should be laughing, particularly not Maine Republicans. They are the only ones who could rein in the governor at this point, so they bear special responsibility for what he does next.

The governor is erratic, reckless and apparently unable to control his behavior. He doesn’t have the emotional make-up to do his job, or the skills he would need to bring people together – an absolute necessity in our system of government. The next two years under his leadership will be a time of stagnation at best, and likely a period of decline.

For the good of the state, LePage should resign. We encourage him to do it, but we have not seen anything in his character to indicate that he would ever be that generous to the people of Maine.

Democratic leaders have also called for him to resign and seek the help he needs. If he doesn’t do that, they warn, he could be forcibly removed from office, but that is just as unlikely as a voluntary retirement. This looks like it will be a divisive political battle that will last through the election and over the next two years.

That’s what makes what Republicans do now so important. If they line up behind their leader and allow this to look like a typical partisan dispute, nothing meaningful will get done in Maine until there is a new occupant of the Blaine House. But if they stand up to him and say that there are standards of common decency that are more important than partisan ties, they will set an example of statesmanship that would undo much of the damage LePage has done to Maine’s reputation and political culture.

Republican lawmakers and party officials should declare that LePage is unfit for his high office, and join Democrats in calling for his resignation. If he won’t step down, they should pledge to work with Democrats to do what they can to limit his ability to do harm for the rest of his term, and do as much as possible to work around him for the good of the state.

If there are any Republican lawmakers still deciding how to respond, they should take half a minute and listen to the message that LePage left on state Rep. Drew Gattine’s voicemail. They should listen not only to the words, but also to the anger behind them.

These lawmakers should ask themselves: What would happen at their workplace to an employee who left a message like that for a co-worker? What do they think would happen to a student at a Maine school who recorded a message like that, and then made comments about shooting the recipient between the eyes?

The Republicans know what would happen. The offenders would be gone, and they would have to have a long talk with a mental health professional before they could come back.

As state Rep. Sara Gideon said Friday, what LePage is doing is not normal. It’s not just an example of a highly stressed public official slipping up. He’s not going to change. We are going to see more of this and maybe worse for the rest of his term, unless someone does something extraordinary.

So far, the Republican response has been nothing but ordinary. House Minority Leader Ken Fredette attended LePage’s Friday news conference and tried to equate LePage’s outrageous behavior with a false claim that Gattine had called the governor a racist.

Nice try. Even if it were true, and it’s not, there is no adequate provocation for the governor’s tirade. Listen to the tape.

If the Republicans are going to try to play this as normal political banter, we are in for a long two years. The outrage might blow over until the next time LePage finds a new line of civil behavior to cross, but the state will suffer.

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Another View: Maine gun referendum would outlaw activities that are already illegal http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/another-view-maine-gun-referendum-would-outlaw-activities-that-are-already-illegal/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/another-view-maine-gun-referendum-would-outlaw-activities-that-are-already-illegal/#comments Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1032678 Last Wednesday night, FOX 23 news had a short blurb on National Rifle Association official Chris Cox’s visit to Maine. At the end of it, they also featured a spokesman for the universal background check referendum (Question 3 on Maine’s ballot).

Words cannot express my disgust at how ridiculous his reasoning was. Essentially, he said we need this law because some guns find their way from Maine to Massachusetts crime scenes.

“We owe it to our neighbors” to pass this legislation, he said.

Apparently, as he tells it, drug dealers come up here to sell their goods and go back with guns. This ties in nicely with a news report I read last week about a man who stole a gun and traded it for drugs.

Has anyone stopped to think that stealing a gun is already illegal?

That buying drugs is already illegal?

That a Mainer selling a gun to an out-of-stater is already illegal under federal law?

Does any sane person really think that criminals who break all of those laws will comply with one that says they need to have a background check before selling a gun to fuel their drug habits?

Really? Seriously? You must be joking!

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Cynthia Dill: A monument to Obama’s leadership http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/cynthia-dill-a-monument-to-obamas-leadership/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/cynthia-dill-a-monument-to-obamas-leadership/#comments Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1031886 A person who recognizes a good idea and has the courage to wield – and risk – his power to make it reality is a leader in the best sense of the word. President Obama is such a person, and the world is a better place under his leadership, despite the challenges he has confronted.

Staring down congressional gridlock in the face of economic instability and ominous environmental signs, Obama made a solemn vow to Americans yearning for progress in his State of the Union address in January 2014.

“Whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” Obama promised then, and Thursday, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, he kept his word by designating the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Our new national public space – which will be managed by the National Park Service and supported financially by a generous philanthropic Maine family – will protect approximately 87,500 acres, including the East Branch of the Penobscot River and a big enough chunk of Maine woods to make a positive difference in the quality of life here in the Pine Tree State as well as move the needle in the urgent effort to resist the impact of climate change.

On Friday, Obama went a step further to expand the public domain, conserve our national heritage and safeguard the planet. With a stroke of his pen, the 44th president of the United States created the largest protected area on Earth. By expanding a national marine monument off the coast of Hawaii designated a decade ago by President George W. Bush, Obama sheltered 582,578 square miles of land and sea – one of the most biologically diverse areas of the world, where over 14 million birds from 22 species gather. It’s also home to endangered Hawaiian monk seals, Hawaiian green sea turtles and Laysan albatrosses.

In fact, Obama has used his executive authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect more than 548 million acres of federal land and water – more than double any other president – and that’s in addition to rolling out a series of regulatory schemes intended to fight global warming.

Fighting climate change expands opportunities for families by creating new market incentives and jobs for the future; reducing rampant illness and devastation caused by bad air and ocean acidification; and improving the quality of our most basic sustenance: food and water.

Creating a public space in the woods where all are welcome to partake in pristine and peaceful energy also will improve community morale and increase creativity.

To do nothing would be to succumb to the status quo – or worse – and allow heat accumulation from human emissions roughly equal to the heat of 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs explode across the planet every day. Without action to reduce emissions, scientists say the Earth’s ability to sustain its growing population is severely threatened. The Katahdin woods – in addition to being a wonderful place to explore and escape to – are some of the much-needed lungs our congested planet needs to cool down.

Maine’s big, healthy trees breathe in carbon and exhale much-needed oxygen, but not only will a national monument be a plus for the environment, it will be good for the economy, too. Look at what a national monument that later became Maine’s biggest national park does for Bar Harbor.

Acadia National Park began as a national monument, designated by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. It became a park three years later. Last year Acadia was the nation’s ninth most visited national park and attracted close to 3 million visitors, who spent an estimated $247.9 million in the local community, supporting thousands of local jobs.

Obama’s push to preserve and protect public space comes on top of his bold creation of new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks and regulations to reduce toxic emissions from power plants. Relentless political attacks and court challenges have not stopped our president from moving the country forward toward solutions and good ideas.

Despite protests from businesses that profit from pollution and people with their heads buried in the sand – and notwithstanding a Congress that is broken – our president pulls the levers of power available to him to do good, and for that Obama will go down as one of the greatest presidents in American history. He is not perfect, but Obama’s mark on the White House of placing the quality and dignity of human life and Mother Earth over the financial greed and willful ignorance of naysayers is epic and wonderful, if not yet fully appreciated.

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

dillesquire@gmail.com

Twitter: dillesquire

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Bill Nemitz: LePage, just stick to shooting off your mouth http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/bill-nemitz-lepage-just-stick-to-shooting-off-your-mouth/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/bill-nemitz-lepage-just-stick-to-shooting-off-your-mouth/#comments Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1033165 Dear Governor LePage,

Look at you! Getting all historical on us!

Not to mention hysterical.

I’ve got to tell you, Big Guy, I thought the days you could surprise us with your special brand of crazy were long gone.

From the ladies with chemically induced “little beards” to the invasion of the “ziki flies,” from a political opponent’s “black heart” to our “Gestapo”-like Internal Revenue Service, I counted myself among the many Mainers who have developed an immunity of sorts to your endless litany of fluffernutters.

The shrinks undoubtedly would call this a defense mechanism, a way to keep ourselves from going stark raving mad between now and that glorious day you leave office.

But now you want to go dueling.

With pistols.

And you want to shoot your opponent – state Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook – “right between the eyes.”

Go see if your powder is dry while I see if I have this story straight.

On Thursday, one day after you threw another tantrum at a town meeting about all those black and Hispanic drug dealers whose photos you keep in a weird personal scrapbook, you got into spat with a few reporters about critics who reportedly have referred to you as a racist.

Gattine’s name came up, although to date there’s no hard evidence out there that he actually has called you a racist.

No matter. Within minutes, you were on your phone leaving Gattine a voice mail so raunchy that … well … let’s just say if the nuns still could get their hands on you, you’d be speaking in soap bubbles until Labor Day.

Then what did you do? You challenged Gattine to make the message public!

Which he did. And so there the raw recording now sits on the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram website, racking up more clicks than a nude photo of Melania Trump.

I’ve got to hand it to you, Governor. For a guy who hates these newspapers, you sure know how to drive up those page views.

But back to the duel.

You’d no sooner stomped away from those reporters to go have lunch – telling them, paradoxically, “You make me so sick!” – than you summoned them back for a 30-minute chat inside the Blaine House.

There, you said you wished it was 1825 again “and we would have a duel, that’s how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you, I would not be (Alexander) Hamilton. I would point it right between (Gattine’s) eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he’s been in this Legislature to help move the state forward.”

Point of information, Governor?

Alexander Hamilton was fatally shot by Aaron Burr in 1804, not 1825.

(Interesting that you should pick 1825, though. It marked the end of the “Era of Good Feelings,” an eight-year stretch during which partisan rancor was at a low ebb under the administration of President James Monroe.)

But back to the issue at hand: Considering that you’re publicly itching for a duel, and that you also warned Gattine in that voice mail, “I am after you,” you’ve now managed to stir more than a few Mainers out of their self-protective slumber. Some even think you’ve committed a crime this time.

They may have a point. Maine state law defines criminal threatening, a Class D crime, as “intentionally or knowingly plac(ing) another person in fear of imminent bodily injury.”

The threat “I am after you” followed by fantasies of an old-fashioned pistol shot between the eyes?

Yeah, I can see that might make someone weak in the knees, especially a “little son-of-a-bitch, socialist (expletive)” Democrat from southern Maine. Your words, Governor, not mine.

Still, for all the hoopla you’ve generated – CNN, Politico, that obsessive Rachel Maddow on MSNBC – we’ve been down this road before, haven’t we, sir?

You’ve grumbled in the past about assassinating legislators from Lewiston, bombing the Press Herald and shooting a political cartoonist from the Bangor Daily News.

Heck, you even once said you were “about ready to punch” then-Maine Public Broadcasting Network reporter A.J. Higgins, who shrugged it off and went on about his business.

Gattine, much to his credit, appears to be doing the same.

“Obviously that message is upsetting, inappropriate and uncalled for,” Gattine told Press Herald reporter Scott Thistle. “It’s hard to believe it’s from the governor of the state of Maine, but … we need to stay focused on the drug problem we are facing here in Maine and cannot allow this story to be about the governor’s inappropriate and vulgar behaviors.”

Bummer, huh, Big Guy? Looks like no duel after all.

By Friday, in fact, you were in full retreat – or what passes for it in LePage Land.

You apologized to “the people of Maine” for your potty mouth. (Can’t you just see all those chortling young kids from Kittery to Fort Kent, playing that voice mail over and over and over on their smartphones while their parents throw up their hands in despair?)

But you offered no such apology to Gattine, who’s sticking to his guns (no, sir, he’s never dueled) that he didn’t, nor would he ever, call you a racist in the first place.

In fact, at a press gathering on Friday, you doubled down on Gattine, claiming that the voice mail was “intended for his ears and his ears only” and that “he chose to put it on the Portland Press Herald.”

Let’s go back to the tape, Governor. The part in which you say, “I want you to record this and make it public.” Ring a bell?

I watched the whole 36-minute video of Friday’s press conference and I’ve got to say, Big Guy, there were times when I swore you were channeling the late Richard M. Nixon in those dark, final days of his failed presidency.

The way you railed about how all those legislators upstairs are out to get you, the way you fumbled through your drug-dealer scrapbook as if it held the answers to all life’s difficult questions, I half-expected the ghost of Alexander Haig to walk in and order the room cleared in the name of national security!

But alas, you won’t quit like Nixon did, will you?

Nor will you take any responsibility for this latest mess, starting with an honest answer to this most basic of questions: Why does the race of all those drug dealers matter in the first place?

You mention it repeatedly, you told reporters, “because it’s a fact.”

Actually, Big Guy, it isn’t. But grab ahold of this fact:

A modern-day cellphone has a much wider range than a 19th-century dueling pistol.

And the entire country can hear you now.

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Alan Caron: This is Hillary Clinton’s election to lose http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/alan-caron-this-is-hillary-clintons-election-to-lose/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/alan-caron-this-is-hillary-clintons-election-to-lose/#comments Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1031895 By almost any measure, the presidential election is nearly over, even with 10 weeks left. Of course, things can change. There are still some fireworks to enjoy in the debates. A real scandal could drop in October, flattening either candidate. But since the conventions, Hillary Clinton has widened her lead in national polling averages from about 4.5 percent to 6 percent, which, in presidential elections, borders on landslide territory.

In critical swing states, if Clinton wins the states where she’s currently five or more points ahead, she will be the next president. The challenge for Donald Trump, on the other hand, is daunting. He has to win all of the remaining “toss-up” states, including Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, where he’s now behind by a three point average, and Georgia and Arizona, where the race is currently tied. Then he has to win either Pennsylvania or Virginia, where Clinton is so far ahead she’s stopped advertising.

Clinton is winning in virtually all other measures of a campaign’s success, ranging from fundraising to ground operations. She has greater support among Democrats (82 percent) than Trump has among Republicans (72 percent), according to a recent Reuters-Ipsos poll. Her campaign already has spent $80 million dollars advertising in swing states, compared to Trump’s $4 million. And her swing state ground organizations are fully mobilized where Trump hardly has any.

That last point isn’t a small one. In 2012, President Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s ads essentially canceled each other out, but Obama’s organization increased his turnout in key states by 7 to 8 percent.

For months, prognosticators and ruminators have been trying to help Trump by providing free advice. Mostly, they’ve urged him to move to the center and leave the primary behind, put together a viable campaign organization and stop being crazy. Trump has responded by lurching left and right, this week promising to be more kind about deporting millions of people and then hiring a new campaign director closely tied to the anti-immigrant far right.

Here is Trump’s best remaining chance to win: Clinton and Democrats hand the election to him with a big, shiny ribbon on it. Here are four ways that could happen:

 Democrats celebrate too early. There is still a sizable block of Bernie Sanders Democrats who remain uncomfortable with Clinton. If they go into the voting booth thinking Clinton has this election wrapped up without their support and feel liberated to make a protest or feel-good vote instead, Democrats could wake up with a terrible hangover on Nov. 9.

• New scandals arise. Were it not for the “private server” email issue, a case could be made that Clinton would be ahead now by 10 to 15 points rather than six. That issue has been effectively used by Republicans to redefine Clinton as a liar and cheat – not terms that were used by most Americans to describe her prior to the start of this election cycle three years ago.

But none of it, apparently, has been enough to derail Clinton, thanks in large part to Trump’s follies. By now, much of the voting public has heard all about it, weighed it against other factors and made a decision. But if a new major scandal arises and Trump has been a good boy for a few weeks, this election could still flip.

 She forgets to campaign. Clinton has a long track record of running front-runner campaigns until she’s behind. She did it against Obama in 2008 and nearly did it again earlier this year against Sanders. Granted, lying low this year and letting Trump destroy himself has proved to be an effective strategy, but at some point Clinton needs to be playing offense, not defense, expanding her lead, or at least protecting it aggressively.

 She doesn’t stand up to Trump. All bets are on Clinton in the debates starting late next month. She’s a smart and seasoned debater. She also doesn’t shoot herself in the foot every time she has a microphone in front of her. She’s got tons of ammunition from Trump’s statements over the last year. And Trump won’t have the adoring fans he needs to be comfortable.

What she has to avoid is thinking that the winner of a debate is always the smartest one, or that debates are won exclusively in the head rather than the heart. When the opportunity arises, she needs to expose Trump’s lazy indifference to facts, then show that she can stand up to a bully.

It’s not over, by any means, but with 10 weeks left, I’d take Clinton’s hand over Trump’s.

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

alancaroninmaine@gmail.com

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Commentary: Judeo-Christian and Islamic values http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/commentary-judeo-christian-islamic-values/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/commentary-judeo-christian-islamic-values/#comments Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1031898 For as long as I can remember, I have been intrigued by the use of the term “the Judeo-Christian ethic” to describe the values and the moral, ethical and spiritual teachings that define American exceptionalism and this nation’s understanding of itself and its mission in the world.

That Jews and Judaism, a community that makes up less than three percent of the American population, can be equated with Christianity, a religion to which the majority of Americans adhere, is nothing less than astonishing. But a close look at the historical record belies this concept. Until very recently, no more than 50 or 60 years ago, there was practically no precedent whatsoever for understanding Judaism and Christianity as sharing a common core of beliefs, practices or morals. It was not until 1952, perhaps with an eye toward the devastating effects of the Holocaust that destroyed more than two-thirds of European Jewry, an event whose consequences he personally witnessed, that President Dwight D. Eisenhower made the concept a part of our national religious vocabulary. In connecting the term with the ideals of the Founding Fathers, he stated that ” ‘All men are endowed by their Creator.’ In other words, our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is. With us, of course, it is the Judeo-Christian concept, but it must be a religion with all men created equal.

What Eisenhower did not say was that from its very creation, the U.S. Constitution was denounced by anti-Federalist opponents as a “godless”document. The separation of church and state, so important to the vision of the Founding Fathers, and the role of religion in political life became major issues in the 1860s and 1870s, a period where “Know Nothing” nativist sentiment increased in response to the growth of immigrant populations. The National Reform Association, a coalition formed in 1863 by 11 American Protestant denominations emphasized the “Christian” character of the nation and advocated an amendment to the Constitution that would permanently and officially align the United States with Christianity. Roman Catholics were not included in this effort to “baptize” the American Constitution, and Jews were clearly not a part of this vision.

Although the efforts of the National Reform Association never reached beyond the House Judiciary Committee, where it languished for years, and even though it was periodically reintroduced with no success, the “Christian” character of America was self-understood by large parts of our nation.

For American Jews, a Christian America meant quota restrictions to Ivy League universities, as well as to medical and law schools, jobs that were advertised as “Christian only” and a growing national antipathy that revealed a dislike of Jews at the beginning of World War II only exceeded by negative feelings toward Germany and Japan.

Much of that pronounced anti-Semitism disappeared or went underground in the years after 1945. It became “uncool” to be connected to openly anti-Semitic feelings although Jews were systematically excluded from certain exclusive neighborhoods, summer establishments and private clubs well into the 1960s and beyond. Such restrictions were a part of Maine’s history as well.

But in the early 1960s, a sea change occurred in Christian-Jewish relations, highlighted by the Roman Catholic Church’s Nostra aetate (In Our Time) declaration, promulgated during the Second Vatican Council in 1965. American Catholic bishops were in the forefront of the efforts to remove the charge of deicide, the crucifixion of Jesus by the Jewish people, and the recognition that Judaism maintained an eternal covenant with God, a fact that was denied in the church’s centuries old Adversus Judaeos, its teaching of contempt against Jews and Judaism.

In response, segments of Judaism recognized the legitimacy of Christian scriptures as a means of helping Jews understand themselves in the period after the death of Jesus Christ.

The idea of a Judeo-Christian ethic and the growing importance of interreligious dialogue helped to give credence to a new era of positive relationships between the Christian and Jewish communities.

Then the nation was traumatized by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. A year after this national tragedy, a group of Jews, Christians and Muslims, representing an organization called Interfaith Maine, that was founded in the months before 9/11 (I was one of the co-founders) stood on the grounds of Blaine House, the home of Maine’s then-Gov. Angus King and declared in part that “We are people who worship God, yet we acknowledge and respect our differences; the Jewish people worship God and await the coming of the Messianic age; Christians worship God as revealed in their Savior, Jesus Christ; Muslims worship God and believe Muhammad to be his last prophet.

“We want to send a message of reconciliation to the people of Maine and the world. On the first anniversary of the September 11 tragedy we join together and follow the light of peace. We invite members of all Maine’s faith communities, its political leaders, its educational leaders and all of its residents to join us by signing their names to this declaration.

“We ask the people of Maine, the peace state, to discover their common humanity and to appreciate and to live peacefully and constructively with the profound differences that define the religious pluralism of our nation and our world.”

What I fear is that in the past 15 years since 9/11, the events of our world, highlighted by a heretical radical terrorism that distorts the teachings of Islam, have reshaped the notion of a Judeo-Christian concept to become once again a term of exclusion rather than inclusion. It has become a term that means a belief that the United States can accept Jews into the social contract while Muslims are permanently excluded.

If we are to rely on the religious roots of America as a beacon of freedom, both religiously and politically, should we not offer an equal seat to a religious community that shares the inherited values of Judaism and Christianity while bringing its own set of definitions to the trialogue? How else can the religions grow to understand and respect one another? The Jewish experience in America is a reminder of how an idea so relevant in its implication as a thing of profound faith and understanding can be manipulated for purposes of hate and exclusion.

Expanding the national vocabulary from the Judeo-Christian tradition to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition is overdue. How else can American Muslims feel a part of the national religious conversation and add to it?

Indeed, isn’t our interreligious table large enough to seat Buddhists, Hindus and Bahais (who are monotheists), among other smaller religious communities, which also bring great spiritual values that include a firm belief in the Golden Rule?

If we can do it in Maine, perhaps that can be the model for a larger national reinterpretation of the religious values we hold dear and that help to guide us through perilous times. After all, don’t we still believe in the maxim “as Maine goes, so goes the nation?”

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Maine Observer: The way life should be didn’t come easy http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/maine-observer-the-way-life-should-be-didnt-come-easy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/28/maine-observer-the-way-life-should-be-didnt-come-easy/#comments Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1032114 Barbara LaChance’s description of life in southern Maine in the 1950s (Maine Observer, July 24) is idyllic. I agree that it is the way life should be.

I too grew up in southern Maine in the ’50s, but I didn’t have that idyllic life because my family was poor. My father was hardworking, industrious and a skilled machinist, but without a high school education. He was unemployed off and on while I was growing up in Kennebunk.

By the time I graduated from high school, we had lived in 12 different rental apartments in Kennebunk. They were all walking distance to town. They had to be because we didn’t have a car. (I still remember the day it was repossessed when I was 4.) Without a car, my parents couldn’t take us to lakes or ponds. I got to the beach once each summer with the summer program for children provided by the town. I finally got to enjoy Kennebunk’s beaches when I was 13 and began living and working summers at a beach hotel.

Fall brought a financial crisis when my parents had to find enough money to buy winter coats and boots for my sister and me. (There were no charitable programs to help with these needs back then.) I remember the day our electricity was turned off and my sister and I paid the bill with our meager savings. We didn’t get a TV until long after everyone else had one.

What I did have was the opportunity for a wonderful public education. I attended Kennebunk’s public schools and had some great teachers. My teachers told me if I worked hard and got good grades, I would get scholarships for college. I worked hard and graduated first in my class. The scholarships awarded me at graduation and the student aid loans I received, along with my savings from my summer jobs, didn’t cover my first-year costs at the University of Maine in Orono. I left for college with the dream of becoming a lawyer but not knowing how I would make it through financially.

I made it through college (graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1966) mostly on government-guaranteed student loans and work in the cafeteria for 20 hours a week at 90 cents an hour. By my junior year I was married, and my widowed mother was living with us in Orono.

What really helped that year was an on-campus research job at the $2.30 minimum wage funded by President Johnson’s War on Poverty Program. I entered law school years later after Congress passed Title IX of the Civil Rights Act in 1972, opening up student aid for women at professional schools. I received my J.D. in 1978 from the University of Maine School of Law and finally began practicing law in 1985.

I am ever grateful for the roles that Kennebunk, the state of Maine and the federal government played in helping me achieve a life that is the way life should be.

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Another View: Jill Stein running a fairy tale campaign http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/27/another-view-jill-stein-running-a-fairy-tale-campaign/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/27/another-view-jill-stein-running-a-fairy-tale-campaign/#comments Sat, 27 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1032366 Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein argues that Americans should not vote for the lesser of two evils. Instead of voting out of fear, they should vote for the most deserving candidate. Unfortunately for Stein, even if you accepted the logic, it would not lead this year to a vote for her.

Stein sat down with our editorial board Thursday, as Republican Donald Trump and Libertarian Gary Johnson have done previously. She stressed some important issues, especially climate change. As an activist in her home state of Massachusetts, she worked to shut down polluting, coal-fired power plants, and she says she would bring that activist’s sensibility to the Oval Office.

But Stein’s policy ideas are poorly formed and wildly impractical. Her “activist” approach, she said, involves building “broad coalitions,” but she criticized Hillary Clinton for reaching out to Republicans. She proposes to end all use of coal, oil, gasoline and nuclear power by 2030, guaranteeing a federal job to anyone who wants one along the way, and says she can accomplish this revolution for $500 billion – less than the cost of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus. Even this trifle would be recouped in health savings, she said, as her “Green New Deal” reduced the incidence of asthma, diabetes and other illnesses.

There would no doubt be health benefits.

But Stein is nevertheless spinning a fairy tale – an appealing fairly tale to some, but still a fairy tale. To support the feasibility of her plan, Stein cited experts whose models in fact envision an energy transition taking decades longer than she posits. To support her health prognostication, she improbably cited Cuba’s experience losing access to Russian oil after the fall of the Soviet Union, after which, she pointed out, Cubans became healthier. In fact, they became healthier because they could no longer afford to smoke or drink alcohol and because so many involuntarily lost weight. “Cubans survived drinking sugared water, and eating anything they could get their hands on, including domestic pets and the animals in the Havana Zoo,” Richard Schiffman recounted in the Atlantic. “They became virtual vegans overnight.”

On foreign policy, Stein expressed general accord with her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, who has decried the “unimaginable atrocities fomented by a demented and dying U.S. empire . . . and the gangster states of NATO,” though she said she might choose different language. Stein would “take a good hard look at NATO” and radically reduce U.S. military activity, preferring diplomacy to respond, for example, to Russian President Vladimir Putin. But when we asked what would make her diplomacy more successful than the Minsk process that has failed to end the fighting in Ukraine, there was not much of a response.

Stein did not exactly convey a sense of awe about how tough the presidency is. “I don’t believe that it is rocket science,” she said of administering the federal government. But that blitheness may not be surprising from a politician who cites climate change as a global emergency – and then argues the country would be no better off electing Clinton, who promises to continue Obama’s progress on warming, than Trump, who has said the whole thing is a hoax invented by the Chinese.

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Commentary: Warming up to the late Sen. Ted Stevens after his initial cold shoulder http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/27/commentary-warming-up-to-the-late-sen-ted-stevens-after-his-initial-cold-shoulder/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/27/commentary-warming-up-to-the-late-sen-ted-stevens-after-his-initial-cold-shoulder/#comments Sat, 27 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1031997 I am on a ship cruising around Alaska this week, hoping that fabulous natural grandeur might distract me from the election, but it isn’t working. Every morning I go online and peruse three newspapers for the political news, no city hall meetings or pennant race, no story about the poor self-image of a famous rich person.

It is politics 24/7 now. I haven’t looked at the arts section for months. I love the arts section – those generic profiles of actors, the story about orchestras trying to attract a more diverse audience by hiring more minority players, the review of a performance artist who sits motionless in a chair while humming and the reviewer talks about its lyric angularity. I love that stuff, but I’m off the arts for a while.

I really thought grandeur would take my mind off it: craggy mountains, deep forests, enormous glaciers, dramatic waterfalls, rocky coastlines, sunsets, that sort of thing. But in my mind, glorious scenery is associated with inspirational posters that say “You Are Only As Successful As You Dare To Dream” or words to that effect. Inspirational cards people send you that say “Every Triumph Begins With A Single Footstep” and “The World Is A Canvas on which We Paint Our Masterpiece.”

No, it is not and I am not 13 years old. I didn’t just fall off the potato wagon. Anything worthwhile you do in this world involves hard work and a lot of boredom and you are never sure if it’s good enough. Dreaminess has nothing to do with it.

What’s interesting about Alaska isn’t the scenery as much as the people who came here to live among it. They are a hardy lot. One winter in Fairbanks with 20 hours of darkness a day and St. Francis would’ve been strangling those birds, not preaching to them. Winter in Juneau is like living in a coal mine. The Aleutians are utter desolation: If that is grandeur, then give me an RV on a parking lot in Waco.

No wonder Alaska is a state for curmudgeons. Tea party types. Cranky libertarians. When they look at Mount Denali, they don’t think of spiritual things, they see a government conspiracy to conceal the fact that there is gold in there and caverns full of emeralds.

I once sat at a black-tie dinner across from Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, who was a curmudgeon of the first water. He sat and glowered at me and was not impressed by my attempts to make conversation. He knew that I was in public radio, and that marked me as a scavenger at the public trough.

His wife, Catherine, sitting next to me, was gracious and funny, and we chattered for a couple hours about children and Washington and museums, and she told me that Ted didn’t like formal dinners, which clearly he didn’t. In the course of the evening, I came to admire him for being so determinedly unpleasant. You never see this in an elected official: Smarm is the norm, and a politician without a grin is like a pitcher without a change-up.

Ted Stevens was an honest man. He was out to serve Alaska and I had nothing to offer in that regard, so nuts to me. I have admired him ever since.

In 2008 he was indicted on corruption charges that were bogus, but a jury convicted him; he was narrowly defeated for re-election, after which his conviction was thrown out on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct. It was a miserable ordeal for an honest old man. He died in a plane crash near Dillingham two years later. The Anchorage airport is named for him.

My fellow passengers on this ship are off whale-watching, hiking on glaciers, climbing mountains, watching the salmon swim upstream to their deaths. In the tradition of Ted Stevens, I am sitting in my cabin reading the newspapers. He was of a breed of moderate Republicans of impeccable integrity who are in short supply today. He was too flinty to run for president. The guy who is running this year puts on a cantankerous act, but he has no soul and no idea what he’s talking about and he lies a lot.

Ted Stevens was who he was: He looked at a forest and he saw lumber. He fought hard for oil drilling on the North Slope, and that oil money made Alaska the Republican state it is. I’m an old liberal and as such am in favor of preservation of wilderness. I am also glad not to be out there in it. Go sit on your thumb, Henry Thoreau, and leave me alone.

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Port City Post: Answering the call of rural Maine’s wild since childhood http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/27/port-city-post-answering-the-call-of-rural-maines-wild-since-childhood/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/27/port-city-post-answering-the-call-of-rural-maines-wild-since-childhood/#comments Sat, 27 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1032027 Don’t think for a minute that growing up in Maine guarantees one access to the ocean. Don’t assume that all Mainers have climbed Katahdin. Don’t assume we all grew up being stuffed into kayaks. It’s not like that for most of us.

If you grew up inland, like I did, it’s more likely that you spent your free time in a public pool than in the ocean. It’s more likely that you went to a lake once or twice a year and thought yourself lucky. It’s more likely that you hiked down to the local drugstore for a pack of Marlboro Lights than up to a majestic vista overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s likely that you had more in common with a kid from the landlocked Midwest than you did with a kid from Kennebunkport.

The Maine we read about in glossy magazines does not, and never did, exist for most us locals.

Don’t believe me? Drive north. Stay inland. Don’t head for the water, and you will see houses and farms for sale at dirt-cheap prices, begging to be inhabited.

My parents, who still live in central Maine, have bought and sold several houses that were destined for rubble. It will never make them rich, but it does generate some income and improve a neighborhood.

So, go. Please go. Buy a house or two. Rural Maine needs you.

 Transformation in the North Woods: Camp Natarswi sits at the entrance to Baxter State Park between Upper Togue Pond and Lower Togue Pond. Founded in 1936, it still exists as a Girl Scout camp and just happens to be located at the base of one of the most glorious places in the world.

But hey, don’t take my word for it.

To quote President Obama: “Katahdin Woods and Waters’ daytime scenery is awe-inspiring, from the breadth of its mountain-studded landscape, to the channels of its free-flowing streams with their rapids, falls and quiet water, to its vantages for viewing the Mount Katahdin massif, the ‘greatest mountain.’ The area’s night skies rival this experience, glittering with stars and planets and occasional displays of the aurora borealis, in this area of the country known for its dark sky.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

Like so many young Mainers, I might never have seen this “awe-inspiring” landscape had not my parents scraped together enough cash to send me and my sister to camp.

 The junk in your trunk: We dragged our trunks through the wooded paths to our platform tents. Our vintage footlockers weighed about 700 pounds and were filled with cutoffs, socks and underwear (but probably not a raincoat, because we did not own clothes for the in-between weather).

Sneakers, yes. A towel, yes. Washcloths, wool blankets in place of a sleeping bag, paper, a pencil, stamps, maybe a book, sheets, a bathing suit (that would not be washed for two weeks) and a flashlight. Definitely a flashlight.

The trunk was then lifted onto the platform and stowed at the end of our cots. It carried everything we needed for our two-week adventure in Maine’s North Woods.

• Choose your journey: At Natarswi, a camper chose to hike or canoe. Once you made your decision, the next two weeks were filled with skill-based-learning activities that either got you to the top of Katahdin or to an island for a two-day canoe adventure. I chose the water and my sister Jill chose the mountain.

I thought going to camp was about getting away from my boring townie life. I wanted an adventure, but learning to hike or canoe was nothing I had ever experienced, so I could not imagine doing it.

Sometime in the middle of this escape from my boring townie life, I learned how to “thread the needle.” With my perfected J-stroke, I steered a beautiful Old Town canoe between two giant boulders.

The pride and purpose gained from this singular accomplishment prepared me for surviving the two nights on an island in a country known for its dark skies. That, and the six or seven silver metal canoes filled with boy campers who landed on the same island for their own adventure.

And my sister, weighing in at about 65 pounds, climbed the greatest mountain.

“With a half of a peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich squished in a used bread bag tied to my belt, it was the most amazing sandwich I had ever eaten – one mile high,”she recalled.

This was the summer we claimed Maine as our own.

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

respondtoportcitypost@gmail.com

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Maine Voices: When the globalists bring a world of trouble to the working American http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/27/maine-voices-when-the-globalists-bring-a-world-of-trouble-to-the-working-american/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/27/maine-voices-when-the-globalists-bring-a-world-of-trouble-to-the-working-american/#comments Sat, 27 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1032126 HOLDEN — Americans never asked for free trade. We never complained about the cost of our cellphones and TVs. We never marched in the streets demanding more cheap stuff.

We had no idea that free trade agreements would eviscerate American manufacturing, outsource millions of good jobs, replace family businesses with big box behemoths and turn Americans into a nation of consumers, not makers. No wonder these free trade monsters are negotiated in secret and passed without amendments. Nope. They weren’t our idea. They were done to us, for our own good.

The American people never asked Congress to deregulate banking. Remember the Great Recession of 2008? It wasn’t our fault. We didn’t think up deregulating banks.

And finally, Americans never asked Congress to quadruple immigration. According to the Migration Policy Institute, immigrants and their children have added 81 million people to the U.S. population. Some immigration is good. But this number? Did we tell Congress: “Send more people! Please, help us! We’re too homogenous for our own good”? No, we never said those things.

So there it is, the globalist’s trifecta: the plan to build a borderless world based on the free flow of goods, people and capital. The globalist’s trifecta was sold to Congress by economists, academics and cheap-labor business lobbies as a plan to “make the economy grow.” And it did! Our gross national product has doubled since 1986.

But as economists are fond of saying: There are winners and losers. Bankers and investors – the 1 percent – grew obscenely rich. But wages for working Americans stagnated, good jobs vaporized, the middle class shrank and our infrastructure is crumbling from the weight of so many people.

The winners have done a masterful job of framing political discourse, convincing the leadership of both parties that America requires an incessant infusion of foreign labor.

Even in Maine, the globalist trifecta is shaping our political debates.

Example: Maine is shrinking. We need more people.

But the wages employers offer aren’t competitive. Our kids don’t stay, and millions of tourists who love Maine don’t settle here because they have better-paying jobs elsewhere.

The solution? We’re told that Maine needs immigrants to “make the economy grow.” And we’re told it over and over. See editorials in the Portland Press Herald and its sister papers, the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. And what makes immigrants special? Employers don’t have to compete with each other to attract these workers, as long as they convince Congress to continue expanding immigration.

And that’s why the Partnership for the New American Economy is feeding data to gullible journalists and shaping editorials all over America, including Maine, about the need to expand immigration, what they call “comprehensive reform.”

What is the Partnership? It’s a coalition of billionaires, corporate CEOs and their politicians. Their membership includes the CEOs of Facebook, AOL, Marriott, Hewlett-Packard, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Xerox and Morgan Stanley. Get the picture? The 1 percent on steroids.

As the richest and most privileged people in America, they know how to tell the story their way. Their website is a masterful ode to immigration, full of “facts” without links, and industry-funded “studies,” but nothing about costs or labor impacts.

Maine editorial writers frequently cite data from the Partnership website to support the “Maine needs immigrants” bandwagon. They’ve drunk the trifecta Kool-Aid. If the American Petroleum Institute produced “studies” proving that global warming didn’t exist, most journalists would be suspicious. But Maine editors largely swallowed the Partnership’s data and their “studies” on immigration without a blink. And like one big echo chamber, they nod their heads in perfect agreement, as though they were repeating an obvious truth.

Big Money isn’t satisfied with outsourcing good jobs, or storing huge profits in foreign banks to avoid taxes. They also want to reduce American wages and force all of us, immigrant and native-born, to compete against each other. Big Money sticks together. They don’t plan to compete with each other. And the 81 million already here is not enough for them. They want more. And more.

Yes, Maine faces a demographic transition. We need to think about it. But let’s think for ourselves. If employers want the benefits of doing business in America, access to our consumer markets and our infrastructure, then they need to offer livable wages. Unless they’re deprived of foreign workers, they won’t.

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Charles Krauthammer: Our high standard for bribery is Hillary Clinton’s only saving grace http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/26/charles-krauthammer-our-high-standard-for-bribery-is-hillary-clintons-only-saving-grace/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/26/charles-krauthammer-our-high-standard-for-bribery-is-hillary-clintons-only-saving-grace/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1030058 Bernie Sanders never understood the epic quality of the Clinton scandals. In his first debate, he famously dismissed the email issue, it being beneath the dignity of a great revolutionary to deal in things so tawdry and straightforward.

The central problem with Hillary Clinton’s emails was not the classified material. It wasn’t the headline-making charge by the FBI director of her extreme carelessness in handling it.

That’s a serious offense, to be sure, and could very well have been grounds for indictment. And it did damage her politically, exposing her sense of above-the-law entitlement and – in her dodges and prevarications – demonstrating her arm’s-length relationship with the truth.

But the real question wasn’t classification but: Why did she have a private server in the first place? She obviously lied about the purpose. It was concealment, not convenience. What exactly was she hiding?

Was this merely the prudent paranoia of someone who habitually walks the line of legality? After all, if she controls the server, she controls the evidence, and can destroy it – as she did 30,000 emails – at will.

But destroy what? She set up the system before even taking office. It’s clear what she wanted to protect from scrutiny: Clinton Foundation business.

The foundation is a massive family enterprise disguised as a charity, an opaque mechanism for sucking money from the rich and the tyrannous to be channeled to Clinton Inc. Its purpose is to maintain the Clintons’ lifestyle (offices, travel, accommodations, etc.), secure profitable connections, produce favorable publicity and reliably employ a vast entourage of retainers, ready to serve today and at the coming Clinton Restoration.

Now we learn how the whole machine operated. Two weeks ago, emails began dribbling out showing foundation officials contacting State Department counterparts to ask favors for foundation “friends.” Say, a meeting with the State Department’s “substance person” on Lebanon for one particularly generous Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire.

Low-level stuff, said the Clinton defenders. No involvement of the secretary herself. Until – drip, drip – the next batch revealed foundation requests for face time with the secretary herself. Such as one from the crown prince of Bahrain.

To be sure, Bahrain, home of the Fifth Fleet, is an important Persian Gulf ally. Its crown prince shouldn’t have to go through a foundation – to which his government donated at least $50,000 – to get to the secretary. The fact that he did is telling.

Now, a further drip: The Associated Press found that over half the private interests who were granted phone or personal contact with Secretary Clinton – 85 of 154 – were donors to the foundation. Total contributions? As much as $156 million.

Current Clinton response? There was no quid pro quo.

This is the very last line of defense. Yes, it’s obvious that access and influence were sold. But no one has demonstrated definitively that the donors received something tangible of value – a pipeline, a permit, a waiver, a favorable regulatory ruling – in exchange.

It’s hard to believe the Clinton folks would be stupid enough to commit something so blatant to writing. Nonetheless, there might be an email allusion to some such conversation. With thousands more emails to come, who knows what lies beneath.

On the face of it, it’s rather odd that a visible quid pro quo is the bright line for malfeasance. Anything short of that – the country is awash with political money that buys access – is deemed acceptable. As Donald Trump says of his own donation-giving days, “when I need something from them … I call them, they are there for me.” This is considered unremarkable.

It’s not until a Rolex shows up on your wrist that you get indicted. Or you are found to have dangled a Senate appointment for cash. Then, like Rod Blagojevich, you go to prison. (He got 14 years.)

Yet we’re hardly bothered by the routine practice of presidents rewarding big donors with cushy ambassadorships, appointments to portentous boards or invitations to state dinners.

The bright line seems to be outright bribery. Anything short of that is considered – not just for the Clintons, for everyone – acceptable corruption. It’s a sorry standard. And right now, it is Hillary Clinton’s saving grace.

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

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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M.D. Harmon: Man on a mission brings message of Gospel-driven political activism to Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/26/m-d-harmon-man-on-a-mission-brings-message-of-political-activism-to-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/26/m-d-harmon-man-on-a-mission-brings-message-of-political-activism-to-maine/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1030079 Franklin Graham’s a tall man, as is his father, Billy, who’s 97 now and mostly housebound at his North Carolina homestead.

I’m a skosh over 6 feet, and I had to look up to gaze into the younger Graham’s eyes as we spoke.

But the famous evangelist’s offspring has his father’s squared-off face, gray-blue eyes and a voice that speaks with resolute certainty in a soft Tar Heel accent.

And, the younger Graham said when he spoke at a prayer rally at Augusta’s Capitol Park on Tuesday, his present message of prayer, active commitment to public life and the restoration of a God-centered worldview to American society would be exactly what his father would be preaching today if he were able.

Graham runs a charity, Samaritan’s Purse, that sends relief supplies to disaster areas worldwide. He’s collecting now for flood victims in Louisiana.

But unlike some other Christians, he hasn’t forgotten that the Gospel message is twofold, including substantive faith as well as charitable works.

So he’s on a mission to preach in all 50 state capitals before the November election. Augusta was No. 36 on his Decision America tour, which winds up at home in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Oct. 13.

Labeling his talk “controversial” would be both accurate and misleading – because it depends on the audience.

To nearly all the estimated 3,000-plus evangelical Christians that organizers said had gathered to hear him (the media estimate of 1,500 was a woeful undercount), a better word would be “challenging.”

His plea for traditional Christians not only to repent and pray for their communities, their states and their nation, but also to move actively into influential social and governmental roles, was a call to action whose outcome remains to be seen.

In some ways, the rally was a typical evangelical gathering, starting off with a call for repentance of personal, familial and national sins, followed by a request to repeat the standard “sinner’s prayer” for a commitment to following Christ, “the only road to Heaven.”

To outsiders, it probably seemed like boilerplate recitation, but to many people there, it was a chance to commit (or recommit) themselves to Christianity’s life-changing dynamic of belief and growth.

Still, while it may have been standard Graham-family fare up to that point, what followed was not.

Moving from practical spirituality to what might be called “spiritual practicality,” Graham proclaimed a powerful call for Christians to move from the back benches to the front lines of social and political issues.

Quoting from his father’s sermons, and asking people to text the words “Decision” or “America” to 21777 (for either commitment or political information), Graham called on his hearers to combat “secularism” with activism, to become “community organizers” for a restoration of God’s standards in society.

“I’m not telling you who to vote for,” he said, “that’s up to you. But I do want you to educate yourselves about the different party platforms,” and then personally commit to either running for office or finding someone of similar views to back in that pursuit.

He explicitly linked that call with a plea to resist liberal social policies such as abortion on demand and same-sex marriage. It seems clear that among this part of our culture, orthodox biblical teachings still have more to say to believers than changes in secular laws.

“They will call you ‘intolerant,’ ” he said, “but that is just a way to shame you into being quiet.”

The crowd wasn’t unanimous. I ran into Tom Waddell of Litchfield, head of the Maine chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who was there specifically to promote atheism and secularism, and who called Graham a purveyor of “hate, division and inequality.”

In a brief interview after the rally, I asked Graham about that charge. “You were here when I spoke,” he replied. “Did you think anything I said showed hatred of anyone?”

No, but I know that some people will interpret the rejection of actions with rejection of individuals, even if that is not remotely what is intended.

And for those who believe their personal choices outweigh a moral code they reject, calling them to change on the basis of its principles isn’t likely to happen.

That’s the key, isn’t it? I sympathize entirely with Graham’s message, but even if his call for political activism succeeded, the point of the faith is not electoral victories (though they are not incompatible with it), but conversion of hearts.

If people are converted, lasting victories will follow. If they are not, any electoral triumphs will be secondary achievements at best.

Rally attendees may follow Graham’s call for political activism, and more power to them. However, telling one’s friends, family, neighbors and even total strangers about the freedom found in Christ is, I fear, far harder.

But it remains believers’ principal challenge – and obligation.

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

mdharmoncol@yahoo.com

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When it comes to running government, Donald Trump is in over his head http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/26/maine-voices-when-it-comes-to-running-government-donald-trump-is-in-over-his-head/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/26/maine-voices-when-it-comes-to-running-government-donald-trump-is-in-over-his-head/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1030097 BRUNSWICK — Preoccupation with the presidential horse race hides part of the big picture. Every four years, we elect not only a president but also a government at large.

Most voters are aware of the stakes this year, including the possibility of Democrats gaining control of the U.S. Senate. They also know that the court system hangs in the balance, underscored by the Republican boycott of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

However, the executive branch of government is generally overlooked. Sen. Elizabeth Warren coined the phrase “Personnel is policy” to describe the importance of federal managers. “Legislative agendas matter,” she said, “but voters should also ask which presidential candidates they trust with the extraordinary power to choose who will fight on the front lines to enforce the laws.”

Presidents appoint more than 4,000 agency heads, top managers and special assistants to run the ship of state. These political appointees are entrusted to enforce the law, but their daily influence permeates policymaking, research and analysis, funding, program development and communications.

The big unknown of this election is whether Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, can effectively manage something as large and complex as the federal government. Although the Trump real estate and investment empire is substantial, it pales in comparison to Uncle Sam’s vast array of 15 major departments and 78 independent agencies.

Mr. Trump touts his success as a businessman, but his case is marred by bankruptcies, contract lawsuits, foreign outsourcing and alleged consumer fraud. It is also weakened by his refusal to release personal tax returns.

More troubling is Mr. Trump’s lack of political and government experience. It has already led to a bewildering Republican convention, a rocky transition to the general election and Mr. Trump’s firing of two campaign managers. These events do not bode well for a future government transition. Moreover, someone who has run as an outsider and slammed the establishment will have a hard time attracting the best and the brightest to his administration.

Mr. Trump also believes 100 percent in the biggest myth about government – that it can be run like a business. This fallacy is evident to federal employees, whose ranks I served in for 30 years under six administrations, three Democratic and three Republican. Corporate financial values are square pegs that don’t fit the round holes of government, which are shaped by transparency, information sharing, coordination, fairness concerns and other safeguards.

Another sign of inexperience is Mr. Trump’s cavalier approach to seeking the nation’s highest office. For instance, it was truly astounding to see Mr. Trump suspend his presidential campaign while sojourning to Scotland to promote his new golf and hotel resort. How do you make this mistake unless you’re not fully committed?

It has been suggested that Mr. Trump relishes running for president more than the prospect of being president. This may explain why he cares so little about accuracy, like calling the Environmental Protection Agency – an agency he vows to abolish – the “Department of Environmental.”

The most ardent supporters of Mr. Trump forgive such misstatements because they love his shotgun volleys at Washington and the political establishment. If you’re alienated from the system and angry at politicians of all stripes, it doesn’t matter who becomes president.

The Republican brain trust knows that Mr. Trump still has to sell moderate voters on his management ability. One interesting piece of advice for Mr. Trump came from commentator Hugh Hewitt, who suggested that he announce several Cabinet picks before the election. This novel approach would demonstrate how Mr. Trump will surround himself with qualified people, showcase his chairman-of-the-board leadership style and calm the jittery nerves of potential supporters.

Many Republican leaders are sticking with Mr. Trump to avoid a Democratic landslide. But for people who remain objective, it is worth asking which candidate can best manage our multifaceted government of 2.7 million civil servants and 1.5 million servicemen and women.

Normally, this question is moot because both major-party candidates have public experience, appreciate the complexities and strive to learn. This year, however, one candidate is in over his head, while the other is arguably among the most qualified in history. For those who value government and care about its efficiency, the choice could not be clearer.

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Our View: Message to America: Sorry we gave you LePage http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/26/our-view-message-to-america-sorry-we-gave-you-lepage/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/26/our-view-message-to-america-sorry-we-gave-you-lepage/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1030118 Dear America: Maine here. Please forgive us – we made a terrible mistake. We managed to elect and re-elect a governor who is unfit for high office.

He has a gruff exterior and blunt way of talking that some of us find refreshing, but he has shown again and again that he governs by grudge, and uses his power to beat up on people who cannot fight back.

You probably heard about the latest episode. He was asked about the toxic racial environment that he created in the state with insensitive statements about people of color. The questioner, an entrepreneur from New York, wondered how he could ever bring a business here.

This should have been an easy one for the governor: Maine is a state where more people hit retirement age than graduate from high school, and our traditional industries are shedding jobs. We desperately need new businesses and young people – of all races – who would be willing to move here to work.

The question was an opportunity for the governor to undo some of the damage that he has caused by giving members of minority groups around the country the impression that Maine is a white state where no one else is welcome.

Instead, the governor repeated one of his worst libels: That Maine’s drug crisis is the fault of black and brown transient thugs who come here not only to sell their poison but also to take advantage of “white Maine women.” It’s a matter of fact that heroin comes to Maine from other states – they don’t produce it here – but the governor is adamant about identifying the drug runners by race, leaving it to his audience to fill in the blanks of why that might matter.

This was not a slip of the tongue. He has said the same thing before, denied saying it, and then said it again before the latest incident. This time, he offered it as proof that the racial divide in Maine was not his fault – that it was the fault of black and Hispanic criminals that he keeps track of in a three-ring binder on his desk.

LePage knows that his words are widely understood to mean that he thinks that the color of their skin makes some people more likely to commit crimes. Rather than clarify or withdraw those statements, he repeats them.

We wish we could say that he is the only one in the state who feels that way. When LePage makes these comments, some of our fellow Mainers applaud him for defying what they consider to be oppressive political correctness.

But as a famous Mainer once said: “Rejecting the conventions of political correctness is different from showing complete disregard for common decency.”

Those words were written by Sen. Susan Collins in her denouncement of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Like Trump, LePage is a repeat offender.

It would be nice to think that Le-Page would reflect on what he says and learn from these incidents, but he appears to be completely incapable of change. He will probably blame the media again for any embarrassment he suffers, but everyone has heard the tape and knows what the governor said.

On the bright side, America, Le- Page isn’t going to be governor forever, and when his successor takes office in 2019, Mainers of all political parties will have to work together to fix the damage he has done to our reputation. We hope that this person will be a leader who will welcome people of all races to live in Maine, and invest in our wonderful state.

Until then, please accept our apology. We’ll try not to do it again.

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Dana Milbank: Stein unwittingly adds fuel to Trump’s firebrand campaign http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/25/dana-milbank-stein-unwittingly-adds-fuel-to-trumps-firebrand-campaign/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/25/dana-milbank-stein-unwittingly-adds-fuel-to-trumps-firebrand-campaign/#comments Thu, 25 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1028513 Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential nominee, favors alternative energy – and she leads by example. On Tuesday, she burned one of her own supporters.

Stein, making an appearance at the National Press Club in Washington, took her campaign on an unexpected detour when she accused the famed leftist Noam Chomsky of being cowardly. The 87-year-old icon of the left, though a backer of Stein’s, has said that the only “rational choice” for swing-state voters is to support Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

“How do you get past that hurdle?” Sam Husseini from VotePact, a group that supports third parties, asked Stein from the audience.

The candidate, in reply, accused Chomsky of embracing “this politics of fear that tells you have to vote against what you’re afraid of rather than for what you truly believe. So, Noam Chomsky has supported me in my home state, you know, when he felt safe to do so. I think it’s fair to say my agenda is far closer to his than Hillary Clinton. But he subscribes to the politics of fear.”

If opposing Trump is subscribing to the politics of fear, then put me down for a lifetime subscription.

In ordinary times, a voice such as Stein’s contributes to the national debate. But these are not ordinary times. Trump’s narrow path to the presidency requires Stein to do well in November, and polls indicate Trump does better with her in the race. But, 16 years after Ralph Nader helped swing the presidency to George W. Bush from Al Gore, liberals (including Bernie Sanders supporters) who otherwise agree with Stein are more inclined to recognize that she makes more likely the singular threat of a President Trump.

That’s why, even in this year of change, she’s polling about 3 percent in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. And that, in turn, is why only about half of the 20 seats were full when I arrived in the Press Club’s Bloomberg Room (even the Green Party nominee can’t escape those billionaires) a few minutes before her news conference.

There is much to like about Stein, 66. She arrived by cab and took all questions – in marked contrast to Clinton, who has gone more than 260 days without a news conference. Stein spoke with a passion for policy, remarking unbidden on the plight of the “Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota” and speaking with a physician’s authority about “air pollution and its various sequelae.”

“We have a climate emergency,” said Stein, “an absolutely devastating sea-level rise that would essentially wipe out coastal population centers, including the likes of Manhattan, and Florida” in 50 years. She called this “a Hail Mary moment,” and one in which “we’re really looking our mortality in the face.”

Stein offered a refreshing break from the 2016 debate, which ricochets from Clinton’s emails to Trump’s outrages and staff shake-ups but rarely settles on substance. “Our future is imperiled,” she said. “There are more important things for us to be talking about.”

But a moment later, there was Stein saying Clinton “put at risk” national security and the names of CIA agents. Stein said Clinton’s character is “not compatible with someone that you want to trust as the leader of the country.” She continued to talk this way about Clinton with reporters in the hallway after the session, which naturally led to headlines not about climate change but along the lines of this from David Weigel’s article in The Washington Post: “Jill Stein: Clinton emails reveal security risks, ‘special deals’ for donors.”

Stein complained about the 15 percent polling threshold keeping her and Libertarian Gary Johnson out of the presidential debates. But can she expect more than her 3 percent when she talks of boycotting Israel, spreads unwarranted fears about vaccines and WiFi, and has a running mate – Ajamu Baraka – who called President Obama an Uncle Tom?

Most disturbing is the Green Party nominee’s creation of a phony equivalence between Clinton, a flawed and unloved but conventional candidate, and Trump, who is running a campaign of bigotry, xenophobia and intimations of violence.

“Donald Trump says terrifying things. Hillary Clinton actually has an extremely troubling record,” Stein said Tuesday, calling the Democrats the “party of fracking,” the “party of expanding wars” and the “party of immigrant deportations.”

This is the sort of stuff I heard driving between campaign stops with Nader in 2000. It wasn’t entirely true then. Now, with Trump on the ballot, any attempt to draw parallels between the two parties is preposterous.

Noam Chomsky knows that. It appears voters do, too.

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

dana.milbank@washpost.com

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Maine Voices: Connected Pathways further tightens the bond between SMCC, USM http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/25/maine-voices-connected-pathways-further-tightens-the-bond-between-smcc-usm/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/25/maine-voices-connected-pathways-further-tightens-the-bond-between-smcc-usm/#comments Thu, 25 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1028522 Beginning this fall, many admitted students to Southern Maine Community College will be in for a very pleasant – and meaningful – surprise. They will be informed that upon successful completion of their associate degree at SMCC that they will be admitted to the University of Southern Maine without even having to apply.

It’s all part of a new agreement between the two schools called Connected Pathways. In real terms, it means that upon graduation from SMCC, students who successfully complete Connected Pathways requirements can enroll at USM without having to go through the USM admissions process. The aim is to provide more students with an affordable and personalized path to success – a partnership that benefits students and the community.

For the students, moving from SMCC to USM will now be easier and more seamless than ever. And well before they ever enroll at USM, they’ll get one-on-one guidance. There is already in place a dedicated USM staff person whose job it is to answer all questions, ease the transition to USM, guide students in any way they need and advise them along their way to receiving their bachelor’s degree.

Connected Pathways has been made possible by the work being done statewide between our community college and university systems to streamline the transfer process, reduce costs for students and speed their time to degree completion.

Connected Pathways builds on these efforts and will be immediately available to newly accepted students in selected SMCC programs. The programs were selected, because they offer a clear path to a similar USM program. Over 600 SMCC students are now enrolled in these programs.

For students who are enrolling in an SMCC program that has no equivalent at USM, the staffs at both USM and SMCC are working diligently to expand the Connected Pathways opportunity to as many SMCC students as possible. Also, USM is ready and eager right now to work with every SMCC student – regardless of program – who is interested in enrolling at USM. USM can find a place for you.

As provost of USM and dean of academic affairs at SMCC, the two of us are excited about Connected Pathways because it is removing hurdles and paperwork for students, offering seamless support that follows the student from one institution to another, and ensures a smooth path that makes transfer simple and straightforward.

And, in the end it will save our students time and money.

In short, this is a uniquely innovative student-centered effort where we are partnering to better support our students and ensure their success from start to finish.

Proud as we are of Connected Pathways, however, it is not the only example of SMCC and USM working in partnership to ensure student success. It is, in fact, just the latest in a series of undertakings we have embarked on together. For example:

Starting this fall, a new faculty member will be shared between the schools. The new faculty member will chair SMCC’s hospitality management and culinary arts programs while teaching courses in both SMCC’s hospitality management program and USM’s tourism and hospitality program. This represents not just an efficient use of resources, but will also strengthen the relationship between the two schools’ programs.

Last spring, our two schools’ admissions, advising and student support staff were proud to play a leading role with community agencies to organize a special event to help our refugee population navigate the college application and financial aid process.

Last year, SMCC assisted USM in developing the USM Bridge Program, modeled after SMCC’s My Success program, which had been successfully implemented the previous year. Both programs work intensely with incoming freshmen to prepare them for the academic and social transition from high school to higher education.

Since 2009, USM and SMCC have also supported each other in seeking federal TRIO Student Support Services grants, despite actually being competitors for limited funding.

With respect to all these student support programs and activities, USM and SMCC staff work in close consultation with each other, sharing information and best practices.

The partnership between SMCC and USM on all levels has matured and grown over the years. Where at one time we may have felt like competitors for the same students, today our relationship has shifted to something far richer and rewarding.

From the staff to the faculty to the presidents’ offices at both SMCC and USM, there is no commitment we hold greater than ensuring student success. It is and must be what we are all about, and to do that well, it is clear we must act as partners.

And so we do.

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Commentary: To counter Gov. LePage’s disrespect for women, more of them should run for office http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/25/commentary-to-counter-gov-lepages-disrespect-for-women-more-of-them-should-run-for-office/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/25/commentary-to-counter-gov-lepages-disrespect-for-women-more-of-them-should-run-for-office/#comments Thu, 25 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1028585 At a town hall last week in Sanford, Gov. LePage and state Rep. Patty Hymanson, D-York, argued about the number of people on the state’s Medicaid wait list. Local media used an array of verbs to describe the conflict, including “scuffle” and “spar“.

Given the governor’s aversion to both facts and diplomacy, the story came as no surprise. Gov. LePage has little patience for anyone who disagrees with him. He has stated, flatly, that he does not talk to reporters. He has come under fire for holding closed-door meetings – most likely in order to limit the number of people who might challenge him. He even cut short a speech he was giving at a dedication ceremony after he was rattled by signs held by silent protesters.

Yet LePage’s conflict with Hymanson was tinged with coded language clearly intended to undermine her credibility by attacking her gender. Though his tone toward women isn’t as blatantly biased as it often is toward people of color, there is no denying the intent behind his choice of words.

He called her too “emotional,” a word rarely, if ever, used to describe male politicians. When she challenged him, he chided, “You were talking out of turn. That’s disrespectful,” as though he were scolding a child. And he casually dismissed her legitimate criticism of his claims with the simple command, “Remove her, please” It is doubtful that even Gov. LePage would have taken such liberties were he talking to a male legislator.

It also isn’t the first time Gov. LePage has condescended to a female legislator at a public forum. At a town hall in Freeport in February, the governor lectured Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon on how she should work with her “bosses” in Augusta, including House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond (who doesn’t even serve in the same chamber as Gideon). Gideon, a Freeport Democrat, quickly responded that Eves, D-North Berwick, and Alfond, D-Portland, are her peers, not her superiors.

When Gov. LePage suggests that a woman’s opinion doesn’t matter, he is suggesting that she doesn’t matter. And when politicians believe, whether consciously or not, that women don’t matter, then government will never really work for women.

For example, in the last legislative session, every Republican in the Maine Senate voted against a bill that would have protected women from being discriminated against by their employers on the basis of their reproductive health decisions. Furthermore, 14 Republicans in the Senate voted to increase regulations on abortion providers that tend to serve low-income women.

Restricting access to women’s health services has real and devastating effects. In Texas, the pregnancy-related death rate doubled between 2010 and 2012 – the same period in which that state drastically cut funding to women’s health care providers, including Planned Parenthood.

The Maine abortion bill would likely never have seen the light of day were more women in the Legislature. Currently, less than a third of the members of the Maine House of Representatives are women, while women make up less than a quarter of the members of the Maine Senate. In fact, there are fewer women in the Maine Legislature today than there were in 1991. Maine is also the only state in New England where a woman has never served as governor.

That’s why programs like Emerge Maine, which trains Democratic women to run for office, are so important. Now in its 10th year, the organization, which works in close partnership with the Maine Democratic Party, has trained more than 170 women, including more than 60 who have run for office. Eleven Emerge alumnae currently serve in the Maine House of Representatives, accounting for 15 percent of the House Democratic caucus. This November, 21 Emerge alumnae will be on ballots across the state.

The governor has joked that he wouldn’t give his wife his checkbook, and state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, has even likened a procedural maneuver to rape. These remarks are unbecoming of the offices of the men who made them. It’s time to replace them, if not with women, then with men who respect them.

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Bill Nemitz: Maine’s voter guide offers political influence – for just $500 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/25/bill-nemitz-political-influence-for-the-price-of-a-few-rolls-of-stamps/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/25/bill-nemitz-political-influence-for-the-price-of-a-few-rolls-of-stamps/#comments Thu, 25 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1028705 Citizens! Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap invites you to be heard!

The “Citizen’s Guide to the Referendum Election” soon will go to press, and Dunlap recently issued a reminder that you’d think would be too good for political activists to refuse.

For a paltry $500, proponents and opponents of the six questions appearing on this fall’s statewide ballot can have a published word – actually, as many as 300 words – with Maine voters on whether to legalize marijuana, increase funding for education, expand firearm background checks, raise the minimum wage, institute ranked-choice voting or approve a $100 million infrastructure bond issue.

Such a deal?

“Not many people take advantage of it,” Dunlap conceded in an interview.

Not many indeed.

By law, the state’s voter guide must accommodate a maximum of three comments for and three against each question on the ballot – meaning this year there’s room for 36 people or organizations to sound off on why this or that question should pass or fail.

As of Wednesday, however, the secretary of state’s Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions had received just one – a plea to vote for Question 2 from Citizens who Support Maine’s Public Schools.

A little background:

The public comment sections in the voter guide have been around since 2006, when the Maine Legislature decided that simply listing the boilerplate information on each referendum wasn’t enough.

Lawmakers agreed that voters needed some context, some guidance, some back-and-forth debate to jump start their critical thinking before they grabbed their ballots and headed into the booths.

Or not.

Of the 42 questions that have appeared on the ballot since 2008, only five have attracted any public comment whatsoever.

That could mean one of two things: Either very few political organizers see much value in making their pitch in the voter guide, which is available before elections at every town hall and public library in Maine, and on the secretary of state’s website.

Or, in this age of Twitter, Facebook, mass emails and other forms of highly targeted, speed-of-light campaigning, many of today’s messaging wunderkinds don’t even know the voter guide exists.

Either way, the secretary of state thinks they’re missing out on a golden opportunity for “the price of a few rolls of stamps.”

“Yeah, this is 500 bucks,” Dunlap said, noting that the money goes to cover printing costs and to “weed out the frivolous ones.”

But in exchange for that money, he continued, “you’re going to reach thousands upon thousands upon thousands of voters. Because people do turn to this. They look for it.”

Go ahead and chuckle. But first answer this question honestly: Before you began reading this, could you rattle off the six questions that you’ll be asked to answer when you head out to vote on Nov. 8?

And since we’re on the subject, when was the last time you stood there in the voting booth, reading and rereading a referendum question and telling yourself, “Geez, I wish I’d taken the time to look into this sooner …”

You’re far from alone.

“Even in the modern information age, there are still people – and plenty of them – they still don’t get a newspaper, they don’t have a television, they don’t have a computer,” Dunlap said. “And they walk into a polling place with absolutely no knowledge of what’s on the ballot.”

And voter guide readers? Also known as the most engaged citizens on Earth?

“They’re looking for the information,” Dunlap noted. “They’re a highly motivated voter. They want to know a little bit more about what’s on the ballot. So they go down to the library, they go down to city hall, they find the voter guide and they start looking at the language and these advocacy pieces that tell them why somebody thinks they should vote for this and why somebody thinks they shouldn’t.”

Better yet, for anyone looking to snag their vote, some voter guide readers peruse the public comments literally seconds before they actually receive their ballots. Can there be a more strategic time to make a strong impression?

The good news, for those average folk with the money and inclination to weigh in – not to mention those highly paid political consultants still asleep at the switch – is that there’s still time.

The Secretary of State’s Office will accept public comments until the end of business on Tuesday. If you’re one of the first three in favor or opposed to whichever question rattles your cage, you’re in.

The rules? Pretty simple.

You must be for or against the question. Nobody wants to waste their precious time on a fence straddler.

You message must be “in plain English.”

That 300-word limit is firm. “Spend some time reading Hemingway,” Dunlap advised. “Learn how to keep things tight.”

Be forewarned that “no grammatical, spelling or textual changes will be made,” so don’t go blaming the secretary of state for your dangling prepositions or mixed metaphors.

That said, your comment cannot contain any “obscene, profane or defamatory language,” “incite or advocate hatred, abuse or violence toward any individual or group,” or “contain any language which may not be circulated through the mails.”

Just out of curiosity, exactly what kind of language “may not be circulated through the mails?”

“I can’t really define what that would mean,” Dunlap replied. “And if I could, you couldn’t print it.”

Finally, be advised that nothing in the rules protects you from criminal or civil liability should your words defame someone or otherwise get you into legal hot water.

Translation: This is a state publication, for crying out loud, not some anonymous internet chat room.

Is it worth it? That’s for you to decide.

But know this: Of the 10 public comments submitted on those five referenda since 2008, eight have turned out to be on the winning side.

Coincidence? Perhaps … or perhaps enough people actually read those mini-treatises and were persuaded.

So go ahead, make a little Maine electoral history. Or at least take pride in knowing you tried.

“As long as it follows the guidelines, I don’t care how coherent it is,” Dunlap said. “That’s their problem.”

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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Our View: Roxanne Quimby’s historic gift marks new era for Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/24/our-view-roxanne-quimbys-historic-gift-marks-new-era-for-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/24/our-view-roxanne-quimbys-historic-gift-marks-new-era-for-maine/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 23:40:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1028648 Some of the sting of the paper industry’s retreat could be eased by a more diverse economy.

When historians look back on Aug. 24, 2016, what will they say about the decision to take 87,000 acres of land in the heart of Maine’s northern forest out of production and turn it into a national monument?

We have heard a lot of predictions. Opponents claim that it represents a toe in the door for an ever-expanding federal presence in Maine and a disruption of the already struggling forest-products industry, the region’s primary source of jobs for more than a century.

Supporters of the monument envision a future in which tens of thousands of visitors will come to the Katahdin region every year to experience woods and wildlife that they can’t find at home, creating a new industry for a region hit hard by the permanent loss of two paper mills.

We think the supporters are right, but now it’s time to put the talking points away. Fighting against the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument will do no good for the people who hope to build a new diverse economy in the region. The designation of this monument marks another step in a painful transition away from reliance on a single industry, and changes this big are never easy.

The arguments have been boiling for two decades, since RESTORE: The North Woods first proposed putting 3.2 million acres into permanent conservation as a national park. That drew an understandable negative reaction from the businesses community and residents, who depended on working the largest forest east of the Rockies and enjoyed hunting, fishing and snowmobiling, which had been allowed on commercial forestland.

In the intervening years, philanthropist Roxanne Quimby quietly bought almost 90,000 acres east of Baxter State Park through her family foundation, with the plan of donating the land to the people of the United States. Her plan inherited most of the opposition that had been aroused by RESTORE’s idea, and she and her son Lucas St. Clair have spent years listening to their neighbors and trying to put their suspicions to rest, not always successfully.

The plan that resulted in the new national monument divides the land into two parts, with everything east of the East Branch of the Penobscot River remaining open for hunting and snowmobiling. Forestry operations will retain the right to cross the preserved land to log remote woodlots. Quimby is donating $20 million to the National Park Foundation to serve as the basis of an endowment that will support the development of visitor amenities. She also has pledged to raise another $20 million for the endowment.

People will have to travel a long way from the nation’s major population centers if they want to walk in these woods that so many Mainers take for granted. Maine Conservation Commissioner Walt Whitcomb denigrated the parcel Wednesday, calling it “swampy woodlands” that no one would want to visit. We suspect he’ll be proven wrong.

There probably will never be another large national park created in the eastern half of the country. Population growth and development elsewhere could make this precious piece of forest a refuge for anyone who wants to see the stars or spy a moose.

But that is a prediction of what might happen, and we should put speculation aside as the people of Maine work with the National Park Service to make the monument as successful as it can be. The park is open right now, and local businesses should be given the support they need to provide services to its first guests.

In the meantime, what do we say today about the decision by the president to accept Quimby’s gift of land and money to benefit this and future generations? There is only one thing to say: Thank you.

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Leonard Pitts: The right may have broken reality, but it’s up to everybody to repair it http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/24/leonard-pitts-the-right-may-have-broken-reality-but-its-up-to-everybody-to-repair-it/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/24/leonard-pitts-the-right-may-have-broken-reality-but-its-up-to-everybody-to-repair-it/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 10:00:52 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1027202 Ordinarily, I might gloat.

Last week, a prominent conservative pundit conceded a point that yours truly and countless others have been making for a long time. Namely, that in their constant assaults on mainstream news media, conservatives have wrecked the very idea of objective, knowable fact. In effect, they broke reality. And Donald Trump came oozing out of the ruins.

“We’ve basically eliminated any of the referees, the gatekeepers,” said Wisconsin radio host Charlie Sykes in an interview excerpt that was tweeted by Oliver Darcy of Business Insider. The net effect, he said, is that Trump will say some stupid thing Sykes knows to be false, but that his listeners still expect him to parrot. And if he doesn’t, “then suddenly, I have sold out.”

“When this is all over,” he mused, “we have to go back. There’s got to be a reckoning on all this. We’ve created this monster.”

He added that, “At a certain point, you wake up and you realize you have destroyed the credibility of any credible outlet out there.” As a result, he said, conservatives “are reaping the whirlwind.”

Sykes would want you to know he is not backing down from the idea that mainstream news media are biased against conservatism. Nor should he.

News media, like any institution created by human hands, harbor biases, including against the political right. I still remember the light that went on in my head when a conservative media critic decried the frequent use of the modifier “arch” to describe those who hold staunch right-wing views. After all, when’s the last time you heard someone on the left called an “arch liberal”?

That’s one example: There are others. But instead of calling out biases in the mainstream media structure or simply creating a parallel media structure to tell their side of the story as women, African-Americans, LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities have done, conservatives sought instead to raze mainstream media to the ground.

Sykes, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others advanced a narrative in which no institution or authoritative source – not statistics, not science, not history, not polls, not CBS, CNN, The Miami Herald or The New York Times – is legitimate if it contradicts conservative orthodoxy or simply questions the latest harebrained conspiracy theory.

The result has been nothing less than the unraveling of the American mind. We have become a nation of junk history, junk science, junk fact, junk logic, junk thought, a nation where not knowing things is no longer a bar to high office and may even be an advantage, a nation where it is necessary to debate whether a birth certificate is really a birth certificate and Donald Trump followers think the election will be “rigged.”

Nor are bizarre conspiracy theories limited to the right. As anyone who has ever argued the supposed link between vaccines and autism can attest, they have infiltrated the left, too.

This, then, is the legacy of modern conservatism: a nation where left and right have no real ability to communicate across the issues that divide because, in a fundamental sense, they have no language in common. We cannot confront our most pressing problems because we cannot even discuss them.

It’s gratifying to hear Sykes admit conservative culpability, but any temptation to gloat is drowned by the reality of America’s plight. Don’t forget: We’ve now had a generation of young people come of age with ignorance, intransigence and incoherence as their daily norm. The damage from that is profound and will not be easily fixed. It took us years to get here.

It will take years more to find our way home.

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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Maine Voices: Court deals a blow to prospects of natural-gas pipeline expansion http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/24/maine-voices-court-deals-a-blow-to-prospects-of-natural-gas-pipeline-expansion/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/24/maine-voices-court-deals-a-blow-to-prospects-of-natural-gas-pipeline-expansion/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1027046 CONCORD, N.H. — On Aug. 17, the Massachusetts supreme court vacated a ruling by the state’s Department of Public Utilities that would have permitted electric utilities to charge ratepayers for pipeline capacity – and then sell the gas to generators. This could be the swan song for the last major natural gas pipeline expansion project on the table for New England.

One of the failures in our electricity markets is that there is no mechanism that gives generators an incentive to subscribe to firm natural gas capacity.

ISO-New England, which produces power via generators throughout the region, will soon launch its “Pay-for-Performance” program, designed to penalize generators that cannot operate (usually for lack of fuel supply) during tight supply/demand periods. The program will also reward generators that can operate at critical times.

Even with this pending carrot-and-stick program, however, no natural gas generators signed up for capacity on either of the major proposed pipelines – Spectra’s Access Northeast and Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct.

While the merits of ratepayer financing of pipelines are debatable, the Massachusetts ruling ostensibly quashed the prospects of any pipeline expansion that could ease the volatility of natural gas and electricity prices in the region. This will be especially true in winter, when local distribution companies, which do subscribe to capacity, are using the most gas for home heating. Any new natural gas plants will still provide power in the summer, but will do nothing to ease our wholesale electricity price volatility, which is not good for New England’s families and businesses.

As much as high electricity prices are a problem, volatility is just as big a concern. Many businesses, especially seasonal ones, find it difficult to contract for reasonable long-term rates and have been forced to buy on the volatile spot market.

This makes it difficult to make capital or hiring plans, and can put entire businesses at risk during an especially cold winter or hot summer. As well, when suppliers secure electricity for homeowners, volatility forces them to charge families more to cover the potential price extremes in the real-time market.

The Massachusetts ruling leaves New England with only one choice when it comes to future baseload power that can smooth winter volatility – imported hydroelectricity from Canada. Significant barriers to entry exist for new coal, oil and nuclear plants, and now also expanded gas pipeline capacity.

Fortunately, there are several proposed projects that will bring imported hydroelectricity to the New England grid. Ultimately, we will need all of them, as the plants traditionally supplying us with baseload power and stable prices are closing under the strain of distorted markets and policy initiatives favoring intermittent and unreliable renewables.

One transmission project, New England Clean Power Link, has received its state permits from Vermont, and its presidential permit has been recommended by the Army Corps of Engineers. Yet one wonders if publicly released cost estimates are understated as the project has yet to reach any agreements with generators to lease capacity on its transmission line.

Of the proposed hydroelectricity projects in the region, only one, Northern Pass, has a generator agreement to supply power on its transmission line. However, it still needs approval from the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee.

After the project’s developer dramatically altered its route and agreed to bury lines through the White Mountain National Forest, a final Site Evaluation Committee decision on Northern Pass should be made by next summer. While there has been opposition to overhead transmission lines, the cost of additional burial, if mandated by the state, could make the project financially unfeasible, and the repercussions will have a serious impact on the future of our grid.

Policymakers and bureaucrats went to great lengths to deregulate New England’s electricity markets by forcing vertically integrated utilities to divest of their generation assets. The prohibition of investor-owned utilities from owning generation was supposed to make our markets competitive and less costly.

Unfortunately, lawmakers and regulators have followed that with policies like renewable portfolio standards, which subsidize renewables, and the winter reliability program, which subsidizes oil and gas generators. This has led us right back to a quasi-regulated marketplace, price volatility and (worst of all) a frighteningly limited baseload supply situation.

In a perfect world, truly competitive electricity markets would result in participants competing to provide consumers with the lowest-cost electricity. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. In the world we live in, large-scale hydro, particularly Northern Pass, is looking absolutely essential for the survival of New England’s electricity system.

– Special to the Press Herald

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Greg Kesich: Online detractors won’t spell the end of ‘Mark Trail’ comic strip http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/24/greg-kesich-online-detractors-wont-mark-the-end-of-james-allens-trail/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/24/greg-kesich-online-detractors-wont-mark-the-end-of-james-allens-trail/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1027130 Dig deep in this newspaper and you will find a window into another world.

It’s a nature preserve where you can be on a snow-covered mountain one minute and in a desert or by the ocean the next. It’s a place where bears and wolves vie for territory with human predators who want to smuggle drugs or assassinate the president.

And most amazingly, it’s a world where a freelance reporter can make a comfortable living writing for a monthly nature magazine.

Ah, fantasy …

This, of course, is the world of Mark Trail, the hero of Lost Forest and the star of the long-running comic strip of the same name that appears here and in 174 other newspapers around the world.

It’s not always been easy for Mark. Earlier this year, he was stuck in a cave on the Mexican border with a pudgy chiropterologist (bat expert) named Gabe, and the lovely and alluring Carina, an aspiring speleologist (cave expert).

As their confinement dragged on, we started getting a string of letters to the editor, and the writers were not rooting for Mark and the others to find their way out.

A typical sentiment was expressed by Joan E. Herzog of South Portland, who wrote, “Please, please, please let Mark Trail die.”

Mark did not die, he has not even aged in his 70 years of existence. The strip has been around so long that readers might consider it a naturally occurring phenomenon that grows like a fungus when you mix ink and paper in the D section. But you may be surprised to learn that Mark is the work of a real person who has feelings, too.

After publishing some of the letters, I heard from James Allen, the current creator of the strip, one of only three people to have held that title since 1946. He told me a story that may not have been as violent as a Mark Trail plot, but it’s almost as unlikely.

In 2004, Allen was working as a manager for UPS in the Atlanta area, drawing independent comic books as a hobby. A friend introduced him to Jack Elrod, the 79-year-old artist and writer who had been involved with Mark Trail for 40 years, starting as an assistant to its creator, Ed Dodd, and then taking over when Dodd retired in 1978. Allen said the meeting changed his life.

“Here’s what I’m supposed to do,” he suddenly realized.

Allen, now 49, had grown up in Gainesville, Georgia, the hometown of both Dodd and Elrod. He said there were streets named after “Mark Trail” characters, and some of Dodd’s tools and artwork were set up in a small museum in his honor. As a child Allen could always draw better than the other kids, and knowing that there were two professional artists from his hometown gave him the idea that it could be a career.

As he got older, he gravitated toward horror and science fiction, but “Mark Trail” had always been on the back of his mind.

After the fateful meeting, Allen started assisting Elrod, gradually taking over a bigger share of the work. In 2014, Elrod retired officially and Allen took over. Elrod died this year at the age of 91.

Some things have changed on Allen’s watch. There are a lot more characters wearing bikinis now, and Mark is using a cellphone. Unruly facial hair is no longer prima facie evidence that the character is a villain (“I have friends with goatees,” Allen said).

But some things will never change, like the elasticity of time.

The strip is aways in the present day, but no one ever gets any older. Mark and his shiny black hair have been 33 since 1946. His adopted son Rusty is permanently 12. Andy, the St. Bernard, has stayed in robust good health for decades.

I got half a year older when Mark was stuck in that cave, but Allen said it took only two days in Lost Forest time.

Allen has to deal with one thing that his predecessors never had to face: daily attacks from online commenters, who savage the strip the way they attack everything else in the newspaper.

“The internet and the false sense of anonymity that comes with it seems to bring out the worst in people,” Allen said. “I’d be the first one to admit that maybe the cave story could have ended a few weeks sooner, but there’s an actual human being behind those daily strips.”

And he’s an actual human being who is living out his childhood dream. Some fantasies are true.

Listen to Press Herald podcasts, including one for this column, at www.pressherald.com/podcast.

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

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter: @gregkesich

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Our View: Maine legislators should seize reins, reallocate slot machine revenue http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/24/our-view-maine-legislators-should-seize-reins-reallocate-slot-machine-revenue/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/24/our-view-maine-legislators-should-seize-reins-reallocate-slot-machine-revenue/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1027223 The 2003 citizens initiative to allow slot machine gambling in Maine was presented to voters as a way to revive the state’s long-suffering harness racing industry.

The initiative was approved, but harness racing is still in bad shape despite receiving over $100 million in slot proceeds since Maine’s first legal gambling venue opened 10 years ago, a stunning MPBN report revealed last week. It’s a safe bet that the sorry situation won’t improve unless Maine legislators finally speak up and stop letting the gambling industry dictate public policy.

Allotted part of the net take from Maine’s two casinos – in Bangor and Oxford – the harness racing industry has received at least $7 million a year in stipends since the opening of Hollywood Slots in Bangor in 2006, the Maine Public Broadcasting Network reported. (Oxford Casino opened in 2012.)

Despite this influx of revenue – in the form of higher racing purses, aid to the state’s agricultural fairs and direct payments to Bangor Raceway and Scarborough Downs – the number of harness-racing stallions, mares and foals registered in Maine has declined steadily, MPBN found. So has the amount of money bet each year on horse races in the state.

Who determines how casino proceeds are divvied up in Maine? The same people who’ve written the many casino ballot questions that Maine voters have weighed over the years – namely, the casino operators. Maine legislators have consistently taken a back seat, abdicating their responsibility to regulate the industry, set limits on its growth and determine how to spend the state’s share of gaming revenue.

Casino proponents have argued that slot machine revenue will help protect farmland from development and support a traditional Maine industry. There are other ways, however, for property owners to preserve open space, such as working with a land trust. And if at least $7 million a year in subsidies isn’t enough to shore up harness racing, why should the shrinking industry keep getting the stipends?

As state Rep. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, who co-chairs the committee that oversees gambling in Maine, told MPBN: “If you’re giving $100 million to something, you really have to make sure that it works.”

Exactly. Instead of allowing gambling interests to lead the way, it’s time for Maine lawmakers to seize the reins and the opportunity to advocate for the people they serve.

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Another View: Governments use wrong weapon against misguided activists http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/24/another-view-governments-use-wrong-weapon-against-misguided-activists/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/24/another-view-governments-use-wrong-weapon-against-misguided-activists/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1027250 If you think a boycott is wrong, should you boycott those who engage in it? That’s up to consumers and investors to decide – but for governments, the answer is no.

The question arises in the context of the movement to punish and isolate Israel – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey signed a bill last week barring the state’s pension fund from investing in any company that supports the BDS movement. Illinois and Florida also have passed such laws, and other states have banned these companies from receiving state contracts.

Anti-BDS laws are an understandable reaction to a movement that is wrong on both moral and geopolitical grounds. Israel is a democratic nation in a region dominated by autocrats, and it is committed to protecting freedoms – including religious expression and equal rights for women – that its neighbors do not recognize. Israel is also America’s strongest regional ally in the fight against terrorist groups that strike at liberal democracies wherever they find them. Trying to wage war on its people through economic deprivation is as foolish as it is dangerous.

But the best way to combat and marginalize wrong-headed political movements such as BDS is through popular opposition, not state law. Pension fund trustees, along with state legislators and governors, have a fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers. When political considerations displace financial ones in selecting investments or awarding contracts, taxpayers lose.

Attempting to discriminate against companies because of their political views or policies will become increasingly problematic as more and more companies take positions on controversial issues. Consider a company that supports expanding abortion rights or gay rights. Should a conservative legislature prohibit that company from winning state business?

By all means, oppose the BDS movement vociferously. But do it without putting public dollars at stake.

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Our View: Maine doesn’t need more barriers to addiction treatment http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/23/our-view-maine-doesnt-need-more-barriers-to-drug-treatment/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/23/our-view-maine-doesnt-need-more-barriers-to-drug-treatment/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1025536 Gov. LePage’s budget proposal last year sought to remove all state funding for methadone treatment, following through on his years-long promise to close clinics providing what is perhaps the best course of therapy for opioid addiction.

Thankfully, that effort failed. Unfortunately, the governor has another plan that would have a similar effect, albeit much more slowly.

New MaineCare rules proposed by the state Department of Health and Human Services would put additional burdens on methadone clinics at a time when they are already struggling to deliver services, and when delays in addiction treatment are exacerbating the state’s opioid crisis.

The new rules would, among other changes, increase counseling requirements for new patients.

Counseling is an important part of treatments involving methadone, a low-level opioid that eases the withdrawal symptoms and cravings of heroin users, allowing them to function without illegal drug use and the criminal activity and other negative behaviors that go with it.

But since lawmakers cut MaineCare reimbursement rates for methadone treatment – from $80 per patient per week in 2010 to $60 today, giving Maine one of the lowest rates in the country – clinics have been unable to serve as many patients, or to give their patients as much attention as they need.

Acadia Healthcare, for instance, was treating 611 patients at its Bangor clinic in 2010. That’s down to around 500 now, with those patients having fewer counseling opportunities.

The low reimbursement rates were also cited in the closure of programs in Westbrook and Sanford last year, and the burden is being felt elsewhere.

In drug treatment in Maine, waitlists are the order of the day. Acadia said it had around 80 people waiting for treatment, while another Bangor clinic recently cited a waitlist of 173.

With drug treatment, people are ready when they are ready, and failures to capitalize on that moment can be deadly. People waiting for treatment need to fend off withdrawal, so they’ll continue to buy drugs, contributing to the demand that drives the crisis. Some will end up in the emergency room or jail. All will suffer to some degree, as will their family and friends.

Maine has too few doctors prescribing Suboxone, another form of medication-assisted treatment, leading to the same end result.

With so many people waiting for treatment, it’s not hard to see why the problem is not going away – overdoses and arrests continue to rise.

State Sen. David Woodsome, R-North Waterboro, earlier this year proposed raising the reimbursement rate to $80, which is what it was when Maine first established methadone clinics in the mid-1990s, bringing into question whether even that is enough. But the effort failed.

Now, the DHHS wants to make it even more difficult for clinics to operate.

It is inconceivable that the LePage administration wants to erect more barriers to treatment when it should be knocking them down. Officials should listen to doctors and treatment advocates, scrap this plan immediately and go about giving methadone clinics the tools they need to fight a crisis that is growing by the day.

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Kathleen Parker: New campaign manager could give Trump change we can believe in http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/23/kathleen-parker-new-campaign-manager-could-give-trump-change-we-can-believe-in/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/23/kathleen-parker-new-campaign-manager-could-give-trump-change-we-can-believe-in/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1025425 When my syndicate editor told me a few clients had been asking, “Don’t you have anyone over there who can write something positive about Donald Trump?” I thought, well, that could be fun.

But hard.

Then, as if the Muses and Fates had conspired to help me in this Olympian task, everything in Trump World changed. Not only did Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort resign following reports of his involvement in Ukrainian politics, but Trump hired a woman, Kellyanne Conway, to become his new campaign manager.

And: He suddenly started being nice.

Call it a woman’s touch or the desperation of a faltering candidate, but Trump was even kind of cute last Thursday when he expressed regret for some of his ill-chosen words during the campaign, especially those that might have caused personal pain, presumably in others. What’s next – a prayer for forgiveness of sins?

If his comments weren’t strictly an apology, they at least were an acknowledgment of error. They also indicated that Trump can learn new tricks. He’s trainable and, apparently, is open to ideas not his own.

Clearly, this was a tectonic plate-shifting moment in a campaign previously defined by insult and arrogance.

“Sometimes I can be too honest,” he said, brilliantly setting up his opponent’s fatal flaw: “Hillary Clinton is the exact opposite. She never tells the truth.”

It’s no coincidence that Conway, a veteran of the anti-Clinton wars, is also a pollster. Who better to turn things around than someone who pays her bills by measuring the public’s temper? More important, Conway specializes in women voters. Her firm, The Polling Company, Inc./WomanTrend, has monitored women’s thinking on a wide variety of issues since 1995.

Her handiwork, which previously has included telling Republicans to stop using the four-letter word “rape” in campaigns, is in clear evidence with her newest client.

Which means, I suppose, that this positive Trump column is really about Conway.

Will her magic work to shift women and swing voters toward Trump? Which is the real Trump? The guy who insults everybody, or the one who almost says he’s sorry and wants to bring the country together? Can he sustain this new persona and for how long? Attention span isn’t his strong suit, but then neither is it America’s.

We’ll wait and see. Unless Trump has been projecting someone else the past year just to capture the conservative, white male voter who was never going to vote for Clinton anyway, there’s every reason to believe his impetuousness will prevail.

Moreover, it’s questionable whether voters can be swayed by a sudden personality change, even among those who readily grant second chances to the penitent.

Will women suddenly forget everything Trump has said while being “too honest”? Will African-Americans buy Trump’s promise that their lives will be “amazing” if they vote for him? Will the seed Trump planted of Clinton’s bigotry, seeing blacks only as votes, take root?

Such a statement from any other Republican would burst into flames from the volatile combination of hypocrisy and absurdity, but nearly everyone understands that Trump isn’t really a Republican.

The outsider non-politician who regrets saying hurtful words, who is sometimes “too honest” but “will never lie” to the people may surprise us. At least he has offered a sliver of decency to those looking for something to cling to – a little humility, a smattering of remorse, a human connection – to help them justify voting for anybody but Clinton.

Trump has been losing ground essentially because of the cumulative effect of his persistent nastiness. Add to this his off-the-cuff remarks about maybe using nukes, leaving NATO to its own resources, his praise of dictators and strongmen, and he was someone you wouldn’t want anywhere near the football.

Or oneself, as Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt wrote so brilliantly, saying Trump was the person you hoped wouldn’t be seated next to you at a dinner party. On the other hand, I’ve long admired the sentiment popularized by Alice Roosevelt Longworth: If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.

Who better than Trump?

The man is funny, even at his meanest. What many have found repugnant about his style was indeed the secret to his success. People love hearing said aloud what they’re really thinking.

But that was then – and for now at least, it appears to be Conway’s show: No more insults, stick to script, focus on Clinton’s dishonesty.

It just might work.

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

kathleenparker@washpost.com

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Commentary: Anti-government state leaders undercut services to constituents, Alfond says http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/23/commentary-anti-government-state-leaders-undercut-services-to-constituents-alfond-says/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/23/commentary-anti-government-state-leaders-undercut-services-to-constituents-alfond-says/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1025434 In my eight years in the Maine Senate, I’ve met and worked with lawmakers of all stripes, including lots of Republicans. Working together to get results is the pragmatic tradition that Mainers value.

But things are changing. We come together less frequently. That change has come as more and more of my colleagues have adopted anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist’s vision of a government that’s “small enough to drown in a bathtub.”

Adherence to that vision doesn’t make them bad people, but I think it’s wrong.

There’s plenty of opportunity for vigorous debate about the proper role of government. That debate will continue. We should welcome it.

But there’s a difference between debating the role of government, and embracing a harmful worldview that sees government itself as the enemy.

For a few decades, the Republican Party has been dominated by an ideology that says government is robbing Americans of their freedom. Today, that ideology has spun out of control. Its adherents view government as a societal evil to be incapacitated, no matter the cost.

When this ideology takes over, the results can be disastrous. In Maine, there’s been no bigger anti-government crusader than Gov. LePage, who’s been joined by most of the Republicans in the Legislature.

The casualties are all around us: Look at Maine’s infrastructure. You’ll see roads littered with potholes and bridges in desperate need of replacement. High-speed internet is still unavailable in much of our state. In most regions, public transportation is nonexistent. The bottom line? A lack of investment in infrastructure is hurting our economy.

In the past, we would have come together to find an answer. The result wouldn’t have been a Democratic plan or a Republican plan, but a compromise and a solution that moved our state forward. Instead, ideologues in state government draw lines in the sand. Their belief in small government at all costs means we can’t even begin a conversation about investing in our future. Meanwhile, the roads continue to crumble. Opportunities remain unseized.

As a business owner, I know that success isn’t created by making your investment as small as possible, but making it as smart as possible. In government, we should expect the same. Saying “no” to every opportunity will not put our state on a path to success.

Our infrastructure is just one example. Rigid adherence to the “small government” ideology has limited investments in higher education that would help us create the skilled workforce businesses need to grow and thrive. Flat funding has meant cuts at our community colleges, and fewer opportunities for their 18,000 students and our economy. Refusal to maintain our corps of public health nurses makes us less prepared to deal with an unexpected health crisis.

This refusal to invest in Maine is heralded by the proponents of limited government as “tough decisions.” In reality, it’s sabotage. It undermines government’s ability to improve people’s lives.

Meanwhile, half of Mainers are so financially insecure that they say it would be difficult or impossible to come up with money to cover an emergency expense, according to a recent Portland Press Herald/University of New Hampshire poll.

We have to do better.

What we need isn’t smaller government. What we need is effective government. We need a government not afraid to invest in Maine, where collaboration and results are the norm. We need to be willing to partner with businesses, educational institutions and nonprofits for economic growth and for the collective good.

We know that an empowered government can work for Maine people. For several years, federal, state and local leaders made major investments in our port infrastructure here in Portland. Collaborating with the private sector all along, those investments brought one of the world’s biggest and best shipping companies, Eimskip, to Portland.

The result? New jobs for Maine, new markets all over the world for the top-quality products made here in our state, and additional private development, such as the cold storage facility planned for Commercial Street.

A new generation of conservatives has been raised on the destructive idea that government is best when it does the least. But an engaged, effective and efficient government can be a force for good. It is the mechanism by which we turn our vision for a better society into a reality.

Reasonable, good people can debate the best way to meet our shared goals. But Mainers want their elected officials to get results. They deserve a government that works, not one paralyzed by the very people elected to run it.

 

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Maine Voices: State’s warming waters create both reasons to change and opportunities http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/23/maine-voices-states-warming-waters-create-both-reasons-to-change-and-opportunities/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/23/maine-voices-states-warming-waters-create-both-reasons-to-change-and-opportunities/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1025482 We know that the threat of climate disruption to Maine is real, in part because we are experiencing early warning signs. The science is also clear that the problems will escalate if we do not act to further reduce carbon pollution.

There are now many important examples of how a warming climate threatens Maine, and here is one that strikes close to home for many Mainers: Our changing marine environment could spell serious trouble for commercial fishing and all those who rely on it for a living. Consider the following:

 The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans.

Maine’s shrimp fishery has been closed for several years now, partly because of warmer waters.

Lobstermen and other fishermen are bringing up in new species from warming waters with their catch – and the presence of new species is not usually a good sign. For example, warming weather contributes to large increases in green crabs, which ravage Maine clam flats and eelgrass beds.

Clams and other shellfish face an existential threat: The same carbon pollution that is warming the globe is making ocean water more acidic, and that makes it more and more difficult to build a shell.

These problems affect many Mainers, from commercial fishermen to all the households and businesses that they interact with. Commercial fishing is a $2 billion part of Maine’s economy, employing roughly 39,000 people.

We still have time to avoid broad-scale impacts, and the solution is very clear: We must reduce the carbon pollution that is warming our land and seas and acidifying our oceans.

Maine has done a lot over the last 15 years to lead on climate and clean energy, but more needs to be done. Gov. LePage has joined governors of other states in the region in setting a good achievable goal, consistent with science, of reducing carbon pollution by 35 percent to 45 percent by 2030.

The question is: What are the most cost-effective ways to reduce this pollution? That’s where the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative comes in.

The RGGI is the Northeastern states’ market-based initiative to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, the number one source of carbon pollution across the nation and region. The pact sets a limit on carbon pollution and lets competition and market forces determine the best way to reduce pollution. Maine is part of the RGGI, which has proven to be a great tool for doing our part to cut climate-changing pollution, while boosting our economy and jobs and saving money, too.

Studies show that the RGGI is one of our most successful climate policies. The RGGI has reduced harmful carbon pollution while lowering energy costs and strengthening our overall economy. Since the RGGI launched, member states have reduced emissions by 16 percent more than other states and seen 3.6 percent more economic growth. That’s something we should be proud of and build on.

One thing that makes the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative so successful is that Maine uses most of our RGGI-generated funds to invest in energy efficiency improvements for homes and businesses. Improving energy efficiency is one of the best ways to lower energy costs and pollution.

RGGI funding has helped 10,000 homeowners add insulation or improve heating efficiency. RGGI funds have also helped many large facilities cut energy costs – from paper mills to hospitals. For some businesses, these savings have made it possible to weather a recession or keep production in the state.

Another provision of the RGGI calls for the states to review the program every three years to update and improve it, as needed. That review is happening now, and it offers important opportunities to make the most of the RGGI’s success.

Because it is so cost-effective and helps us lower energy costs, the RGGI should be the core part of meeting the region’s 2030 carbon pollution reduction target. At each stage, the RGGI has proven more successful than expected. We urge the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to continue to work with other states to set a long-term RGGI carbon cap that would help meet our overall carbon reduction goals and be in line with our rate of progress to date.

Since tackling climate change also helps address other challenges Maine faces, such as growing the economy, making energy affordable and creating jobs for the young people we want and need to inhabit Maine, we can and should find solutions like the RGGI that advance multiple goals. It’s good economic policy – and the long-term livelihood of our marine economy depends on it.

 

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Maine Voices: Why ranked-choice voting would be the smart choice for Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/22/maine-voices-why-ranked-choice-voting-would-be-the-smart-choice-for-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/22/maine-voices-why-ranked-choice-voting-would-be-the-smart-choice-for-maine/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1023126 Many of us will feel stuck with a “lesser of two evils” choice on this year’s presidential ballot. It’s familiar and discouraging – we yearn for more choices. Some of us will look to the Green or Libertarian parties (Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, respectively), and maybe the late entry of an independent candidate.

But even if we favor one of these “outside candidates” – one who doesn’t have a “D” or an “R” after his or her name – we often feel reluctant to vote for that candidate we like best, out of fear that we might help elect the one we like the least. Get ready for “a vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Trump” or “don’t vote for Johnson, or you’re voting for Hillary.”

So we play it safe and vote strategically. This phenomenon is a result of the “spoiler effect” – the suppressive force of this effect is strong enough to discourage additional viable parties and candidates. That’s right: The spoiler effect is one of the main factors that cause us to have just two dominant parties and thus just two viable choices on our ballot.

Ross Perot is often accused of spoiling George H.W. Bush’s re-election prospects in 1992, and Ralph Nader is probably better known for his spoiler role in the 2000 presidential election than for anything else in his long career. But we shouldn’t blame Perot, Nader or any other third or fourth candidates. We need more choices on our ballot, and we should instead fix our broken and archaic system of electing our leaders.

What causes the spoiler effect? In a two-person race, the winner will have greater than 50 percent of the votes – no problem. In a race of three or more candidates, however, the winner may have less than 50 percent. By drawing votes away from a similar candidate (sometimes called “vote-splitting”), one or more of those third or fourth candidates in a race may cause the most-preferred candidate to lose – spoiling the better outcome.

So while it sounds like a boring detail, allowing a candidate to win with less than 50 percent of the votes is what causes the spoiler effect. Many countries, and some states in the U.S., have an initial election and then hold an actual runoff election between the top two finishers in the first round, to ensure a majority outcome. But actual runoff elections are expensive, draw few participants and disenfranchise absentee and overseas voters, including active-duty U.S. service members who are stationed abroad.

What’s the solution? Ranked-choice voting is a proven and efficient mechanism that eliminates the spoiler effect and requires us to go to the polls only once.

Simply stated, ranked-choice voting is a series of automatic runoffs of the strongest candidates. With use of voters’ second and third choices, ranked choice voting immediately answers the following question: “What are the results of the election if the least successful candidate is eliminated, and everyone votes again?” That process, which repeats until one candidate has reached a majority, eliminates the spoiler effect. Voters can vote based on their hopes, not based on their fears.

Ranked-choice voting also encourages more civil campaigning, as candidates need to woo second-choice rankings from supporters of rival candidates. Candidates A and C may knock on the door of a voter who’s put up a lawn sign for Candidate B, and ask to be that voter’s second choice – a strategy that could make the difference for Candidate A or C to win, should Candidate B finish in last place.

While we won’t solve how we elect our president this year, Maine has a real chance to set an example for the rest of the country.

In November, Mainers will vote whether to implement ranked-choice voting to elect our state’s lawmakers and governor. If we vote “yes,” we’ll be voting to restore majority election outcomes and to give those third and fourth candidates a greater chance for our votes – without fear. We’ll be voting for greater choice – no more “lesser of two evils.” We’ll be voting for more positive campaigns.

But perhaps most importantly, we’ll be voting to leave to our children and grandchildren a better system for electing our leaders.

To do all of this, vote “yes” on Question 5 on November’s statewide ballot.

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Our View: Westbrook police chief stands with threatened Muslim residents http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/22/our-view-westbrook-chief-stands-with-threatened-muslim-residents/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/22/our-view-westbrook-chief-stands-with-threatened-muslim-residents/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1024396 Terrorism came to Maine last week, and Muslim residents of Westbrook were its victims.

Several found notes – three on the ground and another stuck to a car bumper – threatening their lives because of their religion. That’s terrorism, which is the practice of using violence or intimidation for political ends. It’s also terrorizing, which, under Maine law, is to threaten to commit “a crime of violence dangerous to human life.”

If the notes were intended to frighten the Muslim families, who are also recent immigrants to America, and make them question whether they could trust their neighbors, the terrorists succeeded.

Fortunately, Westbrook Police Chief Janine Roberts stood with the victims, and she may have been able to undo some of the damage that had been caused. That’s leadership.

Roberts met with members of the Muslim community last Thursday and assured them that the authorities would investigate the incident and seek to prosecute the perpetrator. She also pledged that law enforcement would take the threats seriously and take the steps needed to protect the families.

“Some members of our community have been truly traumatized by this experience,” Roberts said Thursday. “For the people out there who thought this wasn’t much of anything, have some empathy and try to put yourselves in their shoes.”

After the meeting, Westbrook resident and Iraqi refugee Sahib Altameemi, seemed relieved by the response. He said, “People in America are good. The police are good.”

Roberts’ stand is inspiring, especially when compared with the lack of leadership shown by Gov. LePage on a related issue last week.

When LePage heard that an Iranian refugee and former Freeport resident had died in 2015 fighting for the so-called Islamic State, he took advantage of the situation to beat two of his favorite drums: the alleged public safety danger posed by immigrants and welfare fraud.

The governor ordered his Department of Health and Human Services to investigate how many legal immigrants are receiving aid through federal programs and promised to take action against them, even though he has no authority to do so. Nevertheless, he has created suspicion throughout Maine that people should be wary of the new Americans in their neighborhoods, promoting the unfounded notion that they could be disloyal to the country as well as be welfare cheats.

We obviously don’t condone welfare fraud, and we believe the state should take every reasonable step to maintain the integrity of the programs it administers, but the governor’s thoughtless reaction to incendiary news last week is damaging the very state he is supposed to serve. LePage’s ranting legitimizes the emotions behind the threatening notes.

As Roberts said Thursday, “members of our community” have been victimized by someone who uses terror as a weapon. Instead of supporting the victims, LePage gave aid and comfort to the person who threatened to do them harm.

It’s easy to sow fear and suspicion, but it takes a real leader to bring people together. It’s time for LePage to step up and be a leader.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 3:27 p.m. on Aug. 22, 2016 to clarify where the notes were found.

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Maine Voices: Licensing midwives in Maine has many pluses http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/21/maine-voices-licensing-midwives-in-maine-has-many-pluses/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/21/maine-voices-licensing-midwives-in-maine-has-many-pluses/#comments Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1022159 YARMOUTH — The state of Maine recently passed a law that will require licensure and training standards for midwives practicing outside of hospitals. For many midwives, including those of us who also practice as naturopathic doctors, we say it’s about time.

Licensure for midwives is a major step on our path toward full acceptance within the health care community, and toward ensuring that women in Maine receive the safest, most thorough care.

Maine’s midwives are highly skilled professionals. Most are certified professional midwives or certified midwives or have been practicing as midwives for an extended period of time. For years, they have served in a very important role, without any regulation. Because midwives in Maine have long been viewed by lawmakers as assets to their communities – and not as any threat to public safety – previous efforts to seek licensure never gained traction in Augusta. Basically, midwives were doing a good job, so the expense of overseeing them was not considered worthwhile.

This was a disappointing viewpoint. For years, midwives continued to push for state oversight, arguing that licensure was critical for legitimacy. Finally, after much hard work and collaboration with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Maine Medical Association, Maine Family Planning and the Alliance for Maine Women, midwives have convinced the state that childbirth is important enough to be regulated.

Licensure not only gives midwives credit for what they do, it also extends the scope of their practice, giving them the ability to order laboratory tests and ultrasounds, bill insurance companies and use emergency medication. With this new legislation, more families will have access to out-of-hospital midwives, who will be able to provide more thorough, safer care. In addition to the improvement in scope of practice for midwives, the educational requirements for licensure will also ensure that midwives have met state and national standards in their training.

The midwifery model of care provides holistic support for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. It is steeped in the importance of providing nurturing, hands-on care, and building a trusting relationship with the mother. In a healthy, low-risk pregnancy, out-of-hospital birth is a safe, natural, gentle, healing and rewarding option for women and their families.

As a naturopathic doctor and certified professional midwife, I’m happy to see this law pass. I graduated from Bastyr University in 2007, and have attended more than 300 births during and since my training. Standards of education and training for midwives are very important to me. With so many unaccredited courses in naturopathy and midwifery available online and in other parts of the country, I want Maine families to know they are getting care from a well trained, experienced professional who graduated from an accredited program.

I’m also concerned about safety in our profession. We do not want to limit access or options for families choosing out-of-hospital birth, but we do know that some deliveries are not as safe as others. This law will call for mandatory reporting and disciplinary action if midwives are not making safe decisions.

Naturopathic doctors faced a similar struggle to earn the right of licensure in Maine. The law allowing NDs to be licensed was passed by the Legislature in 1996. In the past 20 years, more naturopaths have moved to Maine, more patients have chosen to receive naturopathic care, and the profession has an exceptional safety record.

I would expect a similar, positive effect over the long run for out-of-hospital midwives, with the passage of the new law. The number of families choosing home birth is increasing nationally, and especially in Maine, where out-of-hospital births have nearly doubled in the last 10 years. More and more encouraging and empowering stories of out-of-hospital births are in the media, and many families feel they would be more comfortable having their baby outside of the hospital setting.

Regulation and licensure for midwives support what these practitioners are doing to naturally care for families throughout their pregnancy, delivery and postpartum period.

Congratulations, midwives, this has been a lot of hard work.

 

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Commentary: A teachable moment http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/21/commentary-a-teachable-moment/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/21/commentary-a-teachable-moment/#comments Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1021937 WASHINGTON — Election Day is coming soon, and Rashida Tlaib is making sure her two sons understand what a watershed event this could be for American Muslims like them. The political climate is ugly, she warns, and the rhetoric is getting nastier by the day.

They need this victory, Tlaib explained. He’s simply got to win.

No, no, not him. The candidate they’re rooting for is local: Abdullah Hammoud, a Muslim Democrat running for the Michigan legislature. Hammoud’s sweeping primary victory this month in a little-watched race is giving Muslims across the country a pick-me-up at a time when Republican nominee Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-Islam proposals dominate the presidential campaign.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Tlaib, who lives in Detroit. “I want my sons to sit down with Abdullah and shake his hand and say, ‘He has a cool name like mine, and he has the same face, and he prays in the same way – and he has access to be a member of the Legislature.’ ”

Hammoud’s ascent provides one answer to a question that Muslim parents are asking themselves every day: How do I talk to my kids about this election? To Tlaib and other Muslim parents, the Michigan race is a positive aside in an otherwise wrenching election-year conversation involving thorny questions of faith, democracy and identity.

Last month, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign released a TV political ad called “Role Models,” featuring children listening to Trump’s offensive words about women and minorities – a direct appeal to many parents’ unease with his rhetoric.

Among Muslim parents, anxiety over the election runs even deeper. Already, families say, their American-born children ask whether Trump is going to arrest or deport them. The experience of 8-year-old Sofia, who packed up her dolls to await forcible removal from her home, triggered the hashtag campaign IWillProtectYou, with U.S. military personnel vowing to defend Sofia and other Muslims from infringement of their constitutional rights.

To avoid planting such fears, some Muslim parents have opted to tune out election talk altogether, abstaining from TV and radio to shield their children from attacks on their religion. Others prefer to charge headfirst into the fray, urging their children to volunteer at phone banks so that they learn the importance of political participation. And many more parents are caught somewhere in the middle, still unsure of how and when to have the dreaded Trump talk.

“I’m a bit paralyzed,” said Svend White, a Chicago-based Muslim father who’s facing the issue with his 10-year-old daughter. “I don’t know exactly how to broach it. I’m trying to preserve my daughter’s natural pride in her community and her background before it starts to get tainted by the fear and prejudice that’s out there.”

Aamir Nooruddin, a Muslim father in Maryland, said he decided to have an in-depth Trump talk with his 8-year-old daughter, Sakeena, after visiting a grade school where the students peppered him with questions about whether he worried about his children’s future in the country.

The fears telegraphed in the students’ questions made him wonder how his own daughter was dealing with the ubiquity of Trump’s message. When Nooruddin asked, he was dismayed to hear a girl who’d only known a black president respond matter-of-factly that Trump doesn’t like “brown people” or Muslims.

Rather than “pile on,” Nooruddin said, he emphasized that bigotry isn’t confined to one person or one political party. But then Sakeena caught him watching a New York Times montage of unfiltered scenes from Trump rallies, with supporters yelling racial slurs. She looked at her dad and asked: “Do they really hate us?”

That was tough, Nooruddin said. He came up with a response that discussed the angst among many Americans over economic hardship and the country’s changing demographics. He wrapped it up by urging her to be living proof that the bigots are wrong – just work hard, be polite, smile.

“I feel bad because what I really mean is, ‘Don’t come off as a threat,’ ” Nooruddin said. “And that’s a tragedy in itself, that as a parent you have to tell your child not to appear as a threat.”

Fatima Khalaf’s three sons and a daughter are older – 10, 15, 18 and 20 – and are already veterans at brushing off the occasional slur of “terrorist” from their classmates in Las Vegas. Khalaf said that living in Nevada, a closely watched swing state, gives her the chance to stress the importance of participation as an antidote to bigotry and xenophobia.

Khalaf is proud that one of her sons is already dipping a toe in politics: He worked on Capitol Hill in Washington this summer and was included in the photo of diverse Democratic interns that circulated after the Republican intern photo went viral because the class was overwhelmingly white.

“A Trump presidency is scary to a lot of minorities because he is so threatening,” Khalaf said. “But for a lot of us in these communities, it’s also been a rallying cry to get more civically engaged, and to talk about politics with our children.”

Sameena Karmally had a morning ritual of listening to NPR with her children but stopped it when Muslims became a staple of the news shows, whether because of Islamic State attacks or Trump’s anti-Muslim remarks. Then Karmally went a step further, banning all discussion of Trump inside her home. Even when dinner guests bring up the man of the hour, she said, “I politely say, ‘This is a no-Trump zone.’ ”

And still her children are keenly aware of Trump and his stances. Karmally said her 6-year-old daughter asked whether the family would have to move to Canada if Trump is elected.

“Every Muslim kid is asking their parents that,” she said. “My kids were born here and he’s made them feel like they don’t have a place in this country. I tell them, ‘There’s enough good people, and you know your neighbors and friends would never let that happen.’ ”

Trump is the worst offender, Muslim families say, but he’s hardly alone. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton doesn’t get a pass, either. Many American Muslims resent Clinton’s habit of describing ordinary Muslim citizens as the first line of defense from terrorism – an idea echoed by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in his speech to the Democratic National Convention last month.

Tlaib, the Michigan mother, was aghast when another Muslim mom shared a story about a classroom game where the children were separating themselves into groups: those who could stay and those who’d be deported. Tlaib’s own sons have told her “Mama, don’t worry, if anybody asks if we’re Muslim, I’ll lie,” and “We’re lucky – we don’t look Muslim.”

The psychological effects of Trump’s words on children so infuriated Tlaib that she and a couple dozen other mothers began a Michigan-based activist group called Moms Against Trump. Tlaib was among the protesters to heckle the candidate during his economic speech in Detroit this week; security escorted her out as Trump’s fans jeered.

“One of the things we tell people is, if he doesn’t win, great, but guess what? The damage is out there and the damage is pretty deep. And it’s going to take us years to rectify what he’s done to our country and our kids,” Tlaib said. “No matter how much we try to protect them and keep them away from him, it’s out there.”

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Bill Nemitz: Leaks sink what’s left of LePage’s credibility http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/21/bill-nemitz-lepages-leaks-sink-whats-left-of-his-credibility/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/21/bill-nemitz-lepages-leaks-sink-whats-left-of-his-credibility/#comments Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1023084 Fair warning to anyone whose confidential information may be on file with the state of Maine: Stay on the good side of Gov. Paul LePage.

Last week, amid one of his chronic tirades against Maine’s immigrants and refugees, LePage did an interview with the Boston Herald – his apparent go-to newspaper when he wants to spout off without any of those troublesome follow-up questions.

The source of his ire: Adnan Fazeli, the Iranian refugee who became radicalized after moving to Maine in 2009, left his home in Freeport to go off and fight with the Islamic State in Syria in 2013, and died in battle with the Lebanese army in early 2015.

(All of which LePage learned about from a story on the front page of Tuesday’s Portland Press Herald. A newspaper he insists he never reads.)

That LePage would be upset at the news of a jihadist springing from our midst came as no surprise. Many shared his sentiment.

But here’s where it got ominous: The Herald, citing only “Maine officials,” reported that Fazeli “was on food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for at least four years until 2013.”

“LePage said he is now calling for a review of all such benefits in his state,” the Herald continued. “He also said Fazeli’s wife is no longer in Maine.”

Let’s turn now to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 7, Part 272.1, which clearly states that those with legal access to information on food stamp recipients “must adequately protect the information against unauthorized disclosure to persons or for purposes not specified in this section.”

Now, I’m no lawyer, but I’d be willing to bet that a politically charged leak to the Boston Herald falls way outside the tightly limited disclosures (to state bureaucrats, law enforcement and immigration officials) permitted under the federal code.

And while LePage denied through his spokesman on Friday that he whispered said leak into the Herald’s ear, the governor expressed no dismay whatsoever that “Maine officials,” on his watch, clearly broke the law by posthumously outing Fazeli.

(Of course, LePage had no problem telling the world that Fazeli’s widow and three children – who, wink-wink, must have been on welfare too – no longer reside in Maine.)

Before LePage lets himself off the hook so easily, however, it’s worth noting that he became at least a de facto party to this federal violation the moment he invoked Fazeli as his newfound reason for instructing the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to “look at our welfare rolls closer.”

“This is very embarrassing to the state of Maine, and I point the finger at (President Obama) and say, ‘How did this happen?’ ” LePage told the Herald. “If the federal government doesn’t do their job, we don’t know what we’re getting.”

(Not to nitpick, but he had the wrong president. When Fazeli arrived in the United States in 2008, George W. Bush occupied the White House.)

The point here is not to defend Fazeli, who pretty much got what he deserved after he decided to take up arms with a band of lunatics bent on destroying civilization as we know it.

Rather, by ignoring the fact that legal confidentiality was violated in this case and then using it to further his own anti-immigrant agenda, LePage has sent a chilling message to anyone who might rub him the wrong way personally, politically or philosophically: State government has private information on you. And you never know when, or how, it just might become public.

Ditto for Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, who picked up where LePage left off on Wednesday when she told WCSH that her department is already hard at work rooting out welfare fraud in Maine’s immigrant community.

“There are certainly a number of cases, investigations underway right now, that involve welfare fraud and abuse, that pertain to immigrants, that we are going to continue to devote the necessary resources to guard against the misuse of taxpayer dollars, that in several cases include concerns around criminal activity and terrorism,” Mayhew told the TV station.

Now suppose for a moment that I was to write a column about, say, my “concerns” that senior members of the LePage administration routinely get plastered after work and then drive home drunk.

The appropriate response? How dare I say that! If I’m going to make such a serious allegation, I’d darn well better back it up with some specifics!

Which is why neither I, nor any of my colleagues here at the Maine Sunday Telegram, would ever do such a thing.

Not so for Mayhew. She drops the word “terrorism” like a ticking time bomb at the end of her rambling quote, knowing full well that’s the one word many in her audience will remember – along with, of course, the aforementioned “welfare fraud” and “immigrants.”

Evidence? It’s, ahem, confidential. (At least until it isn’t.)

Accountability? Hey, it’s television. People will remember what was said long after they’ve forgotten who said it.

Compassion for the least fortunate among us? Sure, as long as they don’t have hard-to-pronounce surnames.

Click on the reader comments beneath the online version of this column and I guarantee you’ll find a pack of LePage apologists whining that I can’t seem to sit down at the keyboard lately without zeroing in on the governor or those aligned with him.

You’re damn right I can’t.

Maine is stuck with Paul LePage for another two-plus years. Mary Mayhew has made no secret of her interest in taking his place.

Both have a sworn duty to uphold the law as they go about their official business. Instead, they raise nary an eyebrow while the law gets sucker-punched in the name of political opportunism.

Both have a moral obligation to treat all Maine residents equally, regardless of skin color, ethnic origin or time spent living here.

Instead, to an incessant far-right drumbeat, they single out immigrants and refugees with not-so-subtle undertones of suspicion and contempt.

Both, by virtue of their lofty titles, would have us regard them as leaders.

They’re nothing of the sort.

And as they now turn their blind eyes and deaf ears to the notion of personal privacy, their shame has reached new depths.

 

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Alan Caron: No escaping the election, even abroad http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/21/alan-caron-no-escaping-the-election-even-abroad/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/21/alan-caron-no-escaping-the-election-even-abroad/#comments Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1021949 We are drifting slowly down the Rhone River in southeastern France, through occasional locks and past ancient Roman cities and vineyards on the surrounding foothills. In just a few days, we’ve learned a surprising amount about the history of the many regions of this 500-mile valley and the personalities of the grapes that define them: Pinot Noir and Merlot. Black Gamay in Beaujolais. Hermitage at the entrance to Provence.

We had never imagined doing a river cruise. But here we are, drifting in a lap of luxury, moving ever so slowly toward the Mediterranean. None of it would have happened, of course, without the subliminal power of the many Viking River Cruises ads that preceded each episode of PBS’ hit series “Downton Abbey,” which we watched with anticipation for years.

Not that you’ll hear any complaints from us. We’ve already decided that we could do this for another year or so, were it not for the pesky details of losing our jobs and having to say au revoir to our savings. For now, at least, we’ll enjoy a few more days of being pampered, enlightened and overstuffed with local foods and wines while enjoying the vibrant pastels of Provence.

One thing we didn’t expect is how closely the people here and, it seems, throughout Europe are following our presidential election. When the topic of politics has arisen, and in the ceaseless press coverage of the U.S. election, we’ve heard everything from confusion to outright fear at the prospect that America is seriously entertaining the idea of electing Donald Trump, a man who seems to be universally regarded on this side of the pond as both clueless and dangerous.

“What are you Americans thinking?” one man indignantly asked some in our party. “Why have you not stopped this?”

Of course, the first instinct when your country is attacked is to offer a spirited defense. But the best we could offer is that the election is a long way from over, and that Winston Churchill was right when he said that “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing, once they’ve exhausted every other option.”

Despite those rousing assurances, it would seem that people here, as across America, remain nervous.

Looking at this election through the eyes of Europeans makes it easy to see why they’re so concerned. The election of the president of the United States is a decision that can affect the whole world – friends and foes alike. And all those people who will be affected beyond our shores have no vote. But that doesn’t mean they have nothing to say.

The Europeans, in particular, have hard-learned experience with angry and divisive leaders and the destruction they can bring. As we traveled these last few days through villages and towns where thousands of lives were lost to extremist madness in World War II, we can see why Europeans wish they could sit Americans down and talk some sense into us.

While we Americans are inclined to believe that we are the global experts on democracy, it turns out that the French, the British and the Germans also know a thing or two. The French, in particular, whose revolution came just a few years after ours, did more than defeat a distant king to earn their freedom. They overturned an ancient system that was the foundation under that king.

More immediately, they know firsthand the horror that extremism on both the left and the right can bring. And they know from a kind of experience that we have so far been able to avoid how tyrants and demagogues arise – and how they move from novelties and clowns to monsters.

What Europeans understand is that emerging tyrants start by tapping into the deepest pools of anger in a society. They give voice to festering complaints and ancient prejudices bubbling just below the surface of society. They give license to the urges for vengeance against enemies real and imagined. And they promise greatness.

In the beginning, they say they are for the little people while offering simple solutions to complex problems. They attack elites and knowledge while promoting superstitions and conspiracies. In time, if given power, they will move toward eliminating opposition, ignoring constitutions and making all who disagree with them the enemies of patriotism.

We should listen carefully to these voices coming from Europe. They have something important to teach us. Our friends here are trying to warn us not to be seduced by a demagogic showman. Because a step in that direction can take us down a path of no easy return.

Europeans have seen this show many times, Americans hardly at all. They know what they’re talking about.

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

alancaroninmaine@gmail.com

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Cynthia Dill: The Trump Bros: Ryan Lochte’s new team? http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/21/cynthia-dill-the-trump-bros-ryan-lochtes-new-team/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/21/cynthia-dill-the-trump-bros-ryan-lochtes-new-team/#comments Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1021952 How much do you want to bet that Ryan Lochte is a Donald Trump supporter? He’s got the hair for it, right? Lochte’s blue locks with Trump’s red pelt and the white hair of Roger Ailes will look so beautiful on stage at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, with hundreds of foreign workers slaving away in the background.

And is it me, or does shirtless Lochte in the pool resemble shirtless Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, Trump’s idol, on a horse? But it’s not just Lochte’s appearance that suggests he might soon be another white face of the Trump campaign; it’s his winning attitude. So Lochte said on the world stage he was a victim of armed robbery when really he got caught drunk vandalizing private property and urinating in public. He won the gold medal, didn’t he?

And look at those hands.

Lochte isn’t yet old enough to be a Trump Bro Daddy like Ailes or Stephen Bannon or the recently departed Paul Manafort, but he’s got what it takes to be a basic Bro like Corey Lewandowski. Lochte’s got physical prowess and dudeliness and isn’t afraid to throw a punch at an advertisement in a metal frame in a fit of Olympic pique. Lewandowski started his political career with a lawsuit to get on the ballot in an election he lost 7,157 to 7. Lewandowski’s other early accomplishments include bringing a loaded handgun into a federal building and working for guys caught up in the Jack Abramoff scandal. Lewandowski’s capstone political performance was assaulting a female reporter (and lying about it, of course) before being “fired” as Trump’s apprentice. Now Lewandowski makes money adulating Trump on CNN.

For Lochte, the Trump campaign could be a springboard from the pool to cable punditry while he’s still wet behind the ears.

Bro Daddy Manafort brought to Team Trump his experience working for Russian oligarchs and international dictators and surely is the mastermind of Trump’s invitation to Putin thugs to hack into U.S. pipes and troll for Hillary Clinton’s email. Does she really go to yoga and like her in-laws, or are there those more crooked lies foisted on the American people and rightfully the subject of another congressional investigation? Having a Russian sympathizer on your campaign also makes a lot of sense if your campaign promises include a crackdown on First Amendment rights. Putin wrote the book on how to outlaw protests, and Team Trump can steal a page from Melania Trump’s playbook and copy it.

Ailes is in the Trump camp, and so what if he has been accused of sexual harassment by an army of professional women, including Megyn Kelly? The old dog could teach Lochte a few good tricks. Ailes managed to get paid $40 million to leave Fox News, so why shouldn’t Lochte get paid $40 million for leaving Rio?

Lochte’s inexperience with politics is sure to catch the eye of Trump’s new chief executive, Stephen Bannon. Here’s a guy who reinvented himself from Goldman Sachs banker to budding filmmaker to CEO of the worst presidential campaign on record. You remember Bannon’s documentary, “Fire From the Heartland: The Awakening of the Conservative Woman,” starring none other than Michele Bachmann? Bannon could be Lochte’s ticket to Hollywood, or maybe Lochte can get a job working at Breitbart News, Bannon’s right-wing media shop.

Breitbart recently accused President Obama of “importing more hating Muslims”; compared Planned Parenthood’s work to the Holocaust; called conservative commentator Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew”; and advised female victims of online harassment to “just log off” and stop “screwing up the internet for men,” illustrating that point with a picture of a crying child.

If Trump is going to win in November, he needs to build a winning coalition, and getting Lochte on board would be a good sign that things are coming together. That a special bromance is happening – a movement – this election cycle that has the potential to pick up more and more Bros and grow bigger and bigger as it rolls down hill like a giant snowball. After picking up Lochte, there would be no stopping the Trump Bros. Surely there’s room under the tent for A-Rod and Michael Vick. Who else are these guys going to vote for?

There’s even hope for Hope Solo to cross over to the dark side and become a Trump Bro. She demonstrated in Rio that she’s got the Trump brand of a winning attitude. Did you see how she called the Swedes cowards when they beat her and the U.S. soccer team? Name-calling is a hallmark of any aspiring Trump Bro, and Solo’s got that skill down pat. With a little coaching, she can devolve and go even lower. Blame the crooked refs. The game was rigged!

On Team Trump, there’s no limit to how low the Bros can go.

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

dillesquire@gmail.com

Twitter: dillesquire

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Our View: Gov. LePage shirks duty to Maine paper industry http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/21/our-view-gov-lepage-shirks-duty-to-maine-paper-industry/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/21/our-view-gov-lepage-shirks-duty-to-maine-paper-industry/#comments Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1022093 New ideas and strong public-private partnerships are critical in determining the next life of Maine’s pulp and paper industry. Unfortunately, Gov. LePage has time for neither.

Representatives of eight federal agencies joined local officials and statewide business leaders last week for a tour of communities affected by changes in the industry. The purpose was to find a way forward for a sector that despite its challenges still employs thousands of Mainers, and still displays a lot of potential.

The effort will produce recommendations for how federal expertise can help Maine capitalize on the new products and processes that are moving the industry beyond the manufacturing of paper. It should be an exciting prospect for anyone wondering what’s next after the closure of five paper mills in two years.

LePage, though, has pulled all state involvement in the effort.

It may be a negotiating tactic over an ongoing tariff dispute, a sign of his continued antipathy toward the federal government, or an indication he has no patience for solutions other than his own. But all he’s really doing is hurting communities that need the forest products industry to thrive.

CLOSURE PROMPTS ACTION

The federal agencies were called in after Madison Paper Industries announced in March that it would close, costing the state more than 200 jobs.

The Department of Commerce offered the services of an economic development assessment team, which provide the resources of multiple federal agencies to areas in trouble. Teams have previously been deployed to help after the collapse of the New England fisheries and for the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, among other places and industries in peril.

The team arrived last Wednesday for a three-day tour that included stops in Bucksport, Dover-Foxcroft, Millinocket, Old Town and Skowhegan alongside the congressional delegation, business development and industry leaders, and local officials. The co-chairs of the team are local – the directors of the Maine Development Foundation and the Maine Forest Products Council.

The team will formulate a long-term economic plan with the help of nearly $8 million in federal grants. The funds will help grow an airplane manufacturing company, facilitate the move of a paper company’s research and development facility from Canada to Orono, support University of Maine research into making jet fuel from biomass, and expand the precision machining technology center at Central Maine Community College.

It is those kinds of investments that are the building blocks for a new economy in rural Maine. But to LePage, they represent “another failed stimulus package” that provides “false hope,” as he wrote in a July 5 letter to the Department of Commerce.

NEW IDEAS NEEDED

Instead, LePage said Maine has to reduce taxes and energy costs, and improve its forest management. He also asked for the federal government to remove tariffs placed on Canadian paper companies that employ Maine workers. Until those challenges are acknowledged, he said, his administration won’t be involved.

LePage’s single-minded focus on energy and taxes misses important changes in how and where paper is manufactured. They are certainly factors, but so too are transportation costs, product demand, automation and others that Maine and even the federal government have little control over. The international conglomerates that operate mills like Madison Paper are making decisions based on global forces, not only – or even predominantly – the cost of doing business in Maine.

So while taxes and energy costs may be too high, and the tariffs may be harmful, they are part of a much bigger picture that the governor fails to acknowledge.

That kind of thinking will only leave former mill towns in the past, when the future could be so bright if we choose to invest in Maine businesses and their innovative new products.

U.S. Sen. Angus King made that point late last month, when he said Maine has to “think about what comes next – not instead of lumber, not instead of paper, but in addition … What products can we create that we can’t even imagine from the gold mine of fiber found in this state?”

That’s the future of Maine’s forest products industry. Too bad Gov. LePage wasn’t there to hear it.

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Another View: Beach to Beacon is generous supporter of Maine charities http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/21/another-view-beach-to-beacon-is-generous-supporter-of-maine-charities/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/21/another-view-beach-to-beacon-is-generous-supporter-of-maine-charities/#comments Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1022102 We are compelled to correct what we consider to be mischaracterizations of the Beach to Beacon 10K road race in both an Aug. 7 Maine Sunday Telegram article and an Aug. 17 Press Herald editorial.

People are drawn to Maine to experience this challenging road race that inspires them to achieve their best. As correctly stated in the article, nonprofits are not required to give to charity but many nonprofit road races do. Many don’t. We do. And we do much more. We fulfill our primary mission of staging a world-class road race in Maine that draws the best runners in the world alongside 6,500 recreational runners from almost every state. Our 2016 online registration filled in under four minutes – faster than any other race in the country.

We carefully align expenses with income from entry fees and sponsors’ contributions to close each race year with a balanced budget. Our focus is not on profit.

Each year the cost of putting on the event grows, from tents to sustainability initiatives to medical innovations that save lives. Our race revenue goes to bringing forth a safe, world-class event. Above all this, we also give back to the community. The race’s Beneficiary Bib Program has generated more than $1.5 million over 19 years for our race charities, in addition to the $570,000 generously donated by the TD Charitable Foundation. We integrate sponsorship partners who give back proceeds to support our charities, we have volunteers who collect every recyclable bottle and give proceeds to the beneficiary, and we allocate PR resources to maximize awareness and support for the race beneficiary. And these are just a few of the things we do.

We are proud of our commitment to both the running community and how we give back to the charities we work with. The paper’s view of what our goals should be will not deter us from continuing our mission to produce a professionally run, world-class road race that has truly become a part of the fabric of people’s lives.

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