The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Columns http://www.pressherald.com Sat, 25 Jun 2016 04:32:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.4 Charles Krauthammer: Clinton would lead us into an empty future of platitudes http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/24/charles-krauthammer-hillary-clinton-would-lead-us-into-an-empty-future-of-platitudes/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/24/charles-krauthammer-hillary-clinton-would-lead-us-into-an-empty-future-of-platitudes/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=939971 “I believe in an America always moving toward the future.” – Hillary Clinton, June 21

This was not the most important line in Clinton’s Ohio economic policy speech, only the most amazing. Surely there cannot be a more meaningless piece of political rhetoric. Every terrestrial entity from nematode to the United States of America moves forward into the future quite on its own, thank you. Where else is there to go?

To be fair, however, spouting emptiness is tempting when you’re running as the de facto incumbent in a ragingly “change” year. Clinton is the status quo candidate, Barack Obama’s heir, running essentially on more of the same when, after two terms and glaring failures both at home and abroad, Americans are hardly clamoring for four more years.

Historically speaking, they almost invariably do not. Which is why for the last 60 years, with only one exception, whenever one party has held the White House for two terms, it’s been unceremoniously turfed out. (The one exception: 1988, when Ronald Reagan was rewarded with a third term to be served by George H.W. Bush.)

How little does Clinton have to offer? In her recent speeches, amid paragraph upon paragraph of attacks on Donald Trump, she lists the usual “investments” in clean energy and small business, in school construction and the power grid, and of course more infrastructure.

Ever heard a candidate come out against infrastructure? Even Trump waxes poetic about the roads and bridges he will rebuild, plus putting up that beautiful wall.

Haven’t we been here before? All those shovel-ready infrastructure projects to be funded by Obama’s $830 billion stimulus? Where did the money go? Yet the one area of agreement among all candidates of all parties is that our infrastructure is crumbling still.

Defending the status quo today is a thankless undertaking. It nearly cost Clinton the Democratic nomination. Bernie Sanders campaigned loudly and convincingly against the baleful consequences of the Obama years – stagnant wages, income inequality and a squeezing of the middle class. Clinton was forced to echo those charges while simultaneously defending the president and policies that brought on the miseries.

Not easy to do. She is left, therefore, with a pared and pinched rationale for her candidacy. She promises no fundamental change, no relief from the new normal of slow growth, low productivity and economic stagnation. Instead, she offers government as remediator, as gap-filler. Hillaryism steps in to alleviate the consequences of what it cannot change with a patchwork of subsidies, handouts and small-ball initiatives.

Hence the $30 billion she proposes to soften the blow for the coal miners she will put out of business. Hence her cure for stagnant wages. Employers are reluctant to give you a wage hike in an economy growing at 1 percent. So she will give it to you instead by decreeing from Washington a huge increase in the minimum wage.

Hillaryism embodies the essence of modern liberalism. Having reached the limits of a welfare state grown increasingly bureaucratic and dysfunctional, the mission of modern liberalism is to patch the fraying safety net with yet more programs and entitlements.

It reflexively rejects structural reform. (That’s the project of Paul Ryan and his Reformicons.) The triangulating Bill Clinton was open to structural change, most notably in his 1996 welfare reform. Hillaryism is not.

She is offering herself as safety-net patcher. A worthy endeavor, perhaps, but, compared to the magic promised first by Sanders, now by Trump, hardly scintillating. Hence her campaign strategy: platitudes (the future), programs (a dozen for every constituency) and a heavy dose of negativity. Her speeches go through the motions on “vision,” while relentlessly attacking Trump as radical, extreme and dangerous.

Her line of argument is quite straightforward: I’m the devil you know – experienced, if flawed; safe, if devious; reliable, if totally uninspired. I give you steady incrementalism. Meanwhile, the other guy is absurdly risky. His policies on trade, immigration and national security threaten trade wars, social unrest and alienation from friends and allies abroad.

The only thing missing from the Clinton campaign thus far is the nuclear option. Lyndon Johnson charged that Barry Goldwater was going to blow up the world. Literally. Johnson’s “Daisy” commercial counts down to a mushroom cloud.

Somewhere at Clinton headquarters, a smart young thing is working on a modern version. Look for it on a TV near you.

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

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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M.D. Harmon: Clinton, Trump or neither? Readers share their opinions http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/24/m-d-harmon-hillary-clinton-or-donald-trump-readers-share-their-opinions/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/24/m-d-harmon-hillary-clinton-or-donald-trump-readers-share-their-opinions/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=940031 Two weeks ago, I asked readers what voters should do who find Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump unappealing, but who don’t want to abandon their obligation as informed citizens to participate in our democracy.

Their responses have been edited for length and grammar, but are otherwise intact.

First, some who thought my diagnosis was in error:

Faye wrote: “I would like to see a person from each party who is honest, sincere and knowledgeable declare themselves as candidates. That is highly unlikely. Do I still plan to vote? Yes. For whom? The lesser of two evils, Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is a liar, a cheat and a murderer. I deplore the thought that our men and women in the military would be required to salute her as their commander in chief.”

 Ken disagreed, with equal vehemence: “I do plan to vote for Clinton. Though she is a flawed candidate, she is at least psychologically sound as best I can tell, and not the uninformed, xenophobic, narcissistic, racist, global warming-denying, constantly lying (expletive) we have in Trump.”

 Eva wrote: “I will hold my nose and vote for Trump only because of the Supreme Court. If two or three (judges) need to be replaced in the coming years, I would like a Republican president choosing them. Anyone is better than Hillary!”

 Pem wrote: “My wife and I will vote, and we will vote for the Republican nominee. And the more the Illuminati scold us for our inclinations, the more defiantly we will vote for Trump. For more years than we can count, we have been fed up with the say-anything, do-nothing ‘leaders’ of the Republican Party, and have been screaming ‘throw them all out’ at the TV.”

Bill wrote: “I don’t care for either Trump or Clinton, but I will vote for anyone but Clinton. Unfortunately, there is no real chance that a viable third-party candidate could win, because it is too late to get a name on the ballots in most states … .”

 Jeff wrote: “I’ll be voting for two reasons. First: the direction of the Supreme Court, which will determine which direction the country will take for decades. … Every four years we’re told that ‘this is the most important election in our lifetime.’ This time it happens to be true. The second reason? To honor the countless men and women who have given their lives so that I may have the privilege of taking part in our democratic process.”

Others saw different paths:

Mary wrote: “A (Bernie) Sanders option … would be for him to take his votes to an independent ticket, not necessarily in top position but as vice president to lessen the fear of socialism by some voters. Actually, if we could attract a worthy dark horse candidate like Sen. Angus King to head a ticket to which Bernie could bring his supporters … that would be an attractive alternative … .”

Elinor wrote: “I am a Republican, but at this point a man of integrity with the necessary attributes to run this country and a decent approach to the rest of the world would be mandatory. Regretfully, I will not vote for the two choices out there at this time.”

Elaine wrote: “I cannot bring myself to pull the lever for either Trump (my usual party) or Hillary. I had been considering Libertarian (Gary Johnson’s a loose cannon but Bill Weld added weight) until I read a column in the Wall Street Journal … and will follow that lead: a write-in for Paul Ryan (second choice of John Kasich if I change my mind about Ryan before November).”

Joanne wrote: “I cannot believe Trump will win the nomination; what is wrong with the people in this country? … My dream ticket would be Michael Bloomberg/Susan Collins and I believe they would overwhelmingly beat Trump and Clinton. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there will be a third party. If not, I think I’ll just stay home.”

Mark wrote: “My answer is Gov. Gary Johnson. As you are aware, he is a Libertarian (I’m a compassionate conservative), and the other two candidates make me ill. I heard Johnson speak on a number of recent ‘talking-head’ shows, and he made sense to me on every topic he addressed – taxes, foreign policy, illegal aliens, etc.”

“SUR” wrote: “I’d vote for Sanders because I believe the separation of powers will keep him in check. At least he is honest and has a few ideas and can develop a complex thought beyond sound bites. Plus, and most important, he won’t lead us into the pointless, unwinnable wars that are ruining us. … The country will be better served by the implosion of both (major parties).”

Thanks for participating, folks. Things continue to percolate, so let’s see where it all goes from here.

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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Maine Voices: Ban Muslims from entering the U.S.? I live among 20 million of them http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/24/maine-voices-ban-muslims-from-entering-the-u-s-i-live-among-20-million-of-them/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/24/maine-voices-ban-muslims-from-entering-the-u-s-i-live-among-20-million-of-them/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=940154 The assumption undergirding the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States is simple: More Muslims equal more terrorism and a less secure United States. And while there is utterly no evidence of a relationship between increased Muslim immigration to the U.S. and increased rates of domestic terrorism, as many as 50 percent of Americans support at least a temporary ban, one poll has found.

The question that no one is asking is: Why? Why would half the U.S. electorate think that banning nearly one-quarter of the world’s population from entry is a good idea? Are we just a country of bigots?

No, we are not. As the push for marriage equality demonstrates, we are actually very tolerant – once we get to know the group or the idea. But that’s precisely the problem with relation to Muslims: We don’t really know any.

Muslims are only 1 percent of the U.S. population, and they’re disproportionately concentrated in a handful of urban areas. A 2011 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 40 percent of respondents had never spoken to a Muslim and 24 percent had done so occasionally. Only 6 percent reported speaking with a Muslim daily.

What these numbers lay bare is that for the average American, their only reference points for Muslims are the occasional glimpse of a foreign-looking woman in a veil and, well, the likes of Omar Sadiq Mateen, San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook or the Boston Marathon bombers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Combine that with the so-called Islamic State, and more than a decade of war and terrorism in the majority-Muslim Middle East, and it’s not that hard to comprehend why opening the doors to Muslim immigrants might give the average American some pause. Since we barely know the 3.3 million already here, we have no idea what it could mean to live with 3 million, 4 million or 5 million more.

Well, I do. For 10 months out of the year, I live with 20 million Muslims.

That’s right: 20 million Muslims.

Since accepting a position at the American University in Cairo, I have lived cheek by jowl with Muslims. Cairo, an urban megalopolis of 22 million to 24 million, is just plain teeming with them. In fact, in a city with a population density of 50,000 per square mile, I am literally surrounded by Muslims.

From the moment I open my door in the morning until I close it at night, there are Muslims at every turn. The family down the hall from me is Muslim, as are four of the five families on the floor below. The crossing guard who scolds my son for not looking twice before crossing the street is a Muslim, and so are the guards checking IDs at the entrance of his school. I sit next to Muslims on the bus to work and gripe with them about the traffic.

I argue with Muslims in faculty meetings, and go to them for advice. I teach them in my classes, and mentor them on career paths or options for higher study. I wait in long lines with them at the bank, buy groceries from them and watch them fix the air conditioner in my apartment for the umpteenth time. And when I manage to drag myself to the gym, I work out with them.

You see, when you live with 20 million Muslims, their Muslim-ness is just the backdrop for all those other characteristics that matter in being a neighbor, an anonymous bystander, a friend or a threat.

In an environment where being Muslim is the common denominator, it is absolutely certain that the person committing an act of terror will be an adherent of the faith. But Muslims are also the victims, the police coming to investigate, the reporters covering the event, the people queuing to give blood and the leaders charged with devising the best policy to counter what they and their constituents know is radical extremism promoted by groups of extremists.

One of the most important facts missing from the current discourse around terrorism and Islam is that Muslims are the most common victims of radical Islamist extremism. And when you live with 20 million Muslims, you hear them talk about this danger to their lives, their nations and their faith every single day.

So before jumping on board with the idea of a comprehensive Muslim ban, it might be worthwhile to focus instead on the realities faced by Muslims around the world, and maybe, just maybe, get to know one or two.

— Special to the Press Herald

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Maine Voices: Steer prison philosophy toward reintegrating prisoners into society http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/23/maine-voices-steer-prison-philosophy-toward-reintegrating-prisoners-into-society/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/23/maine-voices-steer-prison-philosophy-toward-reintegrating-prisoners-into-society/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=938330 WARREN — Today in the world of criminal justice, virtually everything is being questioned and we need to take a hard look at rehabilitation.

In Maine, overcrowding in the county jails and prison system has been the constant theme. Releasing an inmate who has a felony record and little or no education and social skills is a recipe for failure. Without the means to succeed outside prison, untrained and uneducated former prisoners will increase the recidivism rate.

According to the National Institute of Justice, recidivism rates are high. One study tracked 404,638 prisoners in 30 states after their release from prison in 2005. The researchers found that within three years of release, about two-thirds were rearrested. Within five years of release, about three-quarters of released prisoners had been rearrested.

The 2014 Maine Crime & Justice Databook reflects a lower rate for Maine; however, the methodology may be different and anecdotal evidence tells us our recidivism rate remains too high.

In other countries, such as Germany, the psychology is far more focused on reintegrating prisoners into society. The future of the American correctional system can change from its current prospects if we incorporate new thinking more conducive to a work and therapy mindset.

For example, if correctional officers can be viewed not as enforcers, but as resources for prisoners – and if prospective correctional staff can be trained to help the incarcerated understand that their job is to improve prisoners, not humiliate them – then the job of a corrections officer can become interesting work indeed.

In my 30 years in prison I have known some amazing corrections officers, and we could gain a lot by finding ways to expand and enhance their roles. Congress and the constitutional courts are looking for new ways to bring American correctional system into a much different light. If action can be taken to propel the correctional system further along the path of facilitating prisoners’ re-entry into society, this would be a start.

Converting correctional facilities into “showcase prisons” and getting away from oppressive and heavily guarded compounds would be consistent with the German philosophy and bring about a less troublesome correctional system.

We lock up nine times as many people per capita as Germany, but Germany is far safer, with a murder rate about one-fifth of ours. There can be no doubt that prisons are big business in the United States. No matter how many prisons are built, there is a judge and district attorney ready to fill the prison beds. Unless and until we change the American correctional philosophy, no matter how many prisons are built, they will always be filled to capacity.

The most powerful force governing the behavior of prisoners is hope. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to realize that even the sanest and most law-abiding person will be moved to irrational behavior if hope is removed from their existence.

Parole has been a neglected resource for too long in Maine. If the state were to upgrade, extend and explore the full potential that exists in parole or some type of positive re-entry program, it would improve the overall structure of corrections and enable inmates to function with the proper incentives needed to contribute to society.

This would also mean a reduction in the prison population. That would reduce or eliminate the need for the state to commit capital to the construction of prisons.

A prime example of our misdirected correctional systems is that Maine has several “good-time” laws in place for a small prison population. Over the years, law and order measures have been taken to reduce earnable good-time credits for sentence reductions, which in turn have left people in prison longer at great expense to the taxpayers.

The state’s 1983 good-time law, for example, requires that an inmate serve at least 57 percent of their imposed sentence. Under the good-time laws now in place, dating from 1995 and 2004, inmates now must serve at least 85 percent of their prison term.

Just as people come to prison because they fail to live by society’s rules, once people are ready to become an asset rather than a liability in the community and are corrected, they should be afforded the opportunity to demonstrate the change and to speak out about their desires to live a productive life in society.

Germany reminds us that someday, most in prison will be back among society and that they, in many respects, are society. If nothing else, the German model ought to make us reflect on our approach.

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Commentary: New food nutrition labeling unlikely to help those who need it the most http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/23/commentary-new-food-nutrition-labeling-unlikely-to-help-those-who-need-it-the-most/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/23/commentary-new-food-nutrition-labeling-unlikely-to-help-those-who-need-it-the-most/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=938342 CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Food and Drug Administration recently unveiled significant changes to nutritional labels. The new labels will give consumers greater insight into how much added sugar is hidden in the food we eat. Calories will be displayed more prominently and serving sizes will better reflect actual portion sizes. Public health advocates, consumer groups and the FDA have touted these new requirements as essential to combating America’s obesity epidemic.

The only problem is that these new-and-improved labels may not help those who need nutritional information the most.

To grasp the details on the back of a bag of chips or a can of soda, a consumer needs to understand grams and complicated ingredient names, calculate how many servings the item contains and put everything together in the broader context of the amount he or she consumes each day. These calculations require English and math skills, time and motivation.

It should come as no surprise, then, that consumers who are already more informed about the connection between diet and health are more likely to take advantage of information presented on nutritional labels, or that people who already eat healthfully tend to use labels more than others. Research reveals that factors such as income, gender, age and race also influence label use.

A study published in 2010, for instance, showed that about 65 percent of whites report using labels, compared with 41 percent of Mexican-Americans and 55 percent of blacks. The same study found that about half of low-income respondents report using labels, compared with 70 percent of high-income people.

The same patterns hold for calorie counts at restaurants. Much of the research on this subject comes out of New York City, the first jurisdiction to require chains to post calories on menus and menu boards in an effort to steer consumers toward healthier choices.

Even though New Yorkers notice and favor menu labeling, only wealthier patrons seem to actually use the information. For example, menu labeling reduced the calories purchased at Starbucks, but not at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC. (Starbucks attracts a more educated, more affluent clientele than fast-food establishments.)

Similar patterns were found in Philadelphia, where menu labeling does not seem to have altered purchasing behavior among black, high school-educated fast-food customers.

Thanks to the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, we’ve had nutritional labels in this country since the early 1990s. Yet over two decades, research shows a widening nutritional quality gap between the diets of college-educated Americans and those of people with a high school diploma. The gap in obesity rates between minority communities and whites has also widened. There’s no reason to think the FDA’s new labels will improve the situation.

This is not to say that lack of information – or lack of ability to process information – is wholly responsible for poor diets. The link between nutrition and health is much more complex. Other factors play a role, including access to healthy foods, and influence from peers. Still, information matters. And while labels make information available for everybody, they apparently translate into healthier eating only for those who are best equipped to pay attention to the information and are motivated to act on it.

The answer isn’t to scrap transparency measures, but to improve them.

Public health advocates in Britain have recommended revising nutritional labels to include exercise equivalents. By switching to a more comprehensible metric – from calories to minutes spent exercising – they believe the data provided can be translated more easily into action.

And in fact, there’s good reason to think the British experts are right. Black teens drink an average of two cans of soda a day, which puts them at high risk of obesity. Researchers tried to change that by showing low-income black teens in Baltimore the calorie information for each soda they consumed, including absolute calorie numbers, calories as a percentage daily value and calories expressed as an exercise equivalent. It turns out that telling teens they would need to run 50 minutes to work off a bottle of soda was the most effective way to steer them to healthier beverages.

In California, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s “Sugar Pack” campaign helped consumers visualize the number of table-top sugar packets in each bottle of sugary drink. Over 60 percent of surveyed residents reported they were likely or very likely to reduce soda consumption as a result of the campaign.

We shouldn’t accept the simple notion that more information is always better. Unless it is comprehensible and actionable, transparency can end up empowering those who are already well-equipped to understand the information, and leave the rest behind.

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Dana Milbank: Trump candidacy mirrors his tactics in failed Taj Mahal casino http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/23/dana-milbank-trump-candidacy-mirrors-his-tactics-in-failed-taj-mahal-casino/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/23/dana-milbank-trump-candidacy-mirrors-his-tactics-in-failed-taj-mahal-casino/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=938306 Not long ago, Donald Trump set a $1 billion fundraising goal for his presidential battle against Hillary Clinton.

Now he says there’s “no reason” to raise that much, and his operatives fear they will struggle to raise even $300 million. He brought in only $3.1 million in May to Clinton’s $27 million, leaving him with $1.3 million in the bank to her $42 million.

He has virtually no campaign apparatus, has sacked his campaign manager and has one-tenth the staff that Clinton does. Yet in May he managed to spend over $1 million in payments to Trump companies and in travel reimbursements to his family members.

Republicans are panicky, for good reason. We have seen this movie before. It’s called the Trump Taj Mahal Atlantic City.

In that, the first of his enterprises’ four bankruptcies, he convinced regulators that he could raise plenty of money to complete the $1 billion project, claiming his golden name meant he wouldn’t have to rely on high-interest junk bonds, as other developers did. But then he issued junk bonds. Gamblers didn’t show up and spend the money he needed. Costs got out of control. Six months after the Taj opened in April 1990, it was in default, and nine months after that it went bankrupt, followed by two other Trump casinos.

The former head of the casino regulatory authority told The Washington Post’s Robert O’Harrow Jr. that Trump had built a “Potemkin village.” Atlantic City never quite recovered, but Trump “got out great,” as he told O’Harrow.

Now Trump is doing to the Republican Party what he did to Atlantic City.

Substitute voters for gamblers, “contributors” for bankers and the Republican Party for gambling regulators, and the arc has been eerily similar. Call it the Taj Technique.

Trump did well at first, winning control of the Taj – much as he won the primaries – with what one regulator called a blend of “hyperbole, contradictions and generalities,” making grand promises that his name alone guaranteed success. He threatened to walk away from the project if he didn’t get full ownership – not unlike his threat to bolt the Republican Party if he didn’t secure the nomination. The massive resort got brisk business at first because of the free publicity Trump generated – much as he benefited from free publicity during the primaries.

But once he gained full ownership of the Taj, he quickly failed in his vow to secure prime lending, just as he quickly abandoned his fundraising goals after locking down the nomination. Then, as now, he made sure the Taj generated money for other Trump businesses. Then, as now, he alienated many who had supported him, and regulators suspected deception – but they continued to support his ownership of the floundering casino (much as Republican leaders support his nomination) because they were already in too deep.

O’Harrow’s definitive January account of the Taj Mahal bankruptcy presents a tale of overpromising and underdelivering that will sound familiar to those who watched Trump’s triumph in the primaries and subsequent swoon.

Trump had based his purchase of the Taj on a basic untruth: He didn’t need junk bonds. “I can build at the prime rate,” he told regulators. “I mean, the banks call me all the time. ‘Can we loan you money?’ ” He said, “It’s easier to finance if Donald Trump owns it.”

But he walked away from this pledge, claiming this year that doing so was his “prerogative” and that “I would do it again.”

Trump ignored stark and repeated warnings that he would not be able to attract enough gamblers to pay the bills – just as many warned last year that Trump’s coalition of angry white men was not large enough to win a general election.

Trump expanded the Taj into the biggest, costliest casino ever built at the time. He got fired a securities analyst who warned, correctly, that after the initial “free publicity,” the Taj “won’t make it.”

The analyst was correct, and Trump ultimately had to sell his yacht and give up some casino interests. But his investors, large and small, suffered the most, and Atlantic City didn’t rebound the way Trump did.

Now that Trump has clinched the nomination with outlandish promises and free publicity, polls show that the “market” isn’t there for his mix of bigotry and strongman promises. Donors are fleeing, and party officials would like to cut him loose but could lose even more if they abandoned him now.

In short, the promissory notes are coming due, and Trump doesn’t have the cash to back up his big boasts.

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

dana.milbank@washpost.com

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Leonard Pitts: Violence against Trump won’t solve what’s eating America http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/22/leonard-pitts-recent-attempt-on-trumps-life-violence-wont-solve-whats-eating-america/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/22/leonard-pitts-recent-attempt-on-trumps-life-violence-wont-solve-whats-eating-america/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 10:00:24 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=937115 On Saturday, someone tried to kill Donald Trump.

You may not have heard about it. The story didn’t get much play, the attempt wasn’t well-planned and the candidate was never in jeopardy.

Still the fact remains that authorities arrested one Michael Steven Sandford, 19, after he allegedly tried to grab a gun from the holster of a Las Vegas police officer with the idea of using it to kill Trump at a campaign rally.

Authorities say Sandford, who carried a UK driver’s license but who had been living in New Jersey for about a year and a half, had visited a nearby gun range to learn how to handle a firearm. They say he has wanted to kill Trump for a year.

Let us be thankful he was not successful. The assassination of Donald Trump would have been a new low for a political season that is already the most dispiriting in memory. It would have deprived a family of its father and husband. It would have traumatized a nation where political murder has been a too-frequent tragedy.

And it would have imparted the moral authority of martyrdom to Trump’s ideas. That would be a disaster in its own right.

Like most would-be assassins, what Sandford apparently did not understand is that you cannot kill an idea with a bullet. Even bad ideas are impervious to gunfire.

Trump, of course, has been a veritable Vesuvius of bad ideas in the year since he took that escalator ride into the race for the presidency. From banning Muslim immigrants to building a wall on the southern border to punishing women who have abortions to advocating guns in nightclubs to judging judicial fitness based on heritage, to killing the wives and children of terror suspects, if there has been a hideous, unserious or flat-out stupid thought floated in this political season, odds are, it carried the Trump logo.

It is understandable, then, that even people who wish Trump no bodily harm might feel as Sandford presumably did: that if he were somehow just … gone, the stench of his ideas – of his anger, nativism, coarseness and proud ignorance – might somehow waft away like trash-fire smoke in a breeze.

But it doesn’t work that way. Martin Luther King’s dream of racial equality did not die on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Nor did Adolf Hitler’s dream of racial extermination perish with him in that bunker beneath Berlin. Ideas, both transcendent and repugnant, are far hardier than the fragile lives of the men and women who give them voice.

So, any hope that Trump’s disappearance would somehow fix America is naïve. America’s problem has nothing to do with him, except to the degree he has made himself a focal point.

No, America’s problem is fear. Fear of economic stagnation, yes, and fear of terrorism. But those are proxies for the bigger and more fundamental fear: fear of demographic diminution, of losing the privileges and prerogatives that have always come with being straight, white, male and/or Christian in America. It was the holy quadfecta of entitlement, but that entitlement is under siege in a nation that grows more sexually, racially and religiously diverse with every sunrise.

Trumpism is only the loudest and most obvious response to that, and it will not disappear when he does. Indeed, there is no instant cure for what has America unsettled. There is only time and the hard work of change.

In a sense, we are bringing forth a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men and women really are created equal. If for some of us, that fires the imagination, it is hardly mysterious that for others, it kindles a sense of displacement and loss. The good news is that their Trumpism cannot survive in the new nation.

In the end, you see, only one thing can kill a bad idea.

And that’s a better one.

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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Maine Voices: Bus information at a glance would benefit business, environment, health http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/22/maine-voices-bus-information-at-a-glance-would-benefit-business-environment-health/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/22/maine-voices-bus-information-at-a-glance-would-benefit-business-environment-health/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=936809 It’s just below freezing, sleet is blowing sideways off the water and you want to know when the next bus is coming. You’re two bitter blocks from the nearest bus stop – with no idea what’s going on.

Passing a cozy coffee shop, you glance enviously and see a screen in the window displaying arrival times for the next three buses. You step inside and wait for the bus in comfort, drinking a soothing cup of java while confidently monitoring bus arrivals on another screen inside.

When you need a ride, two questions suddenly become the most important information in your life: When will the bus (or train, ferry, etc.) be here, and why is it late? A key reason people don’t take the bus is that they have no confidence when it will show up. But we have the technology to provide this information, much of it real-time, at a modest cost, ubiquitously along transit routes throughout communities.

In an innovative model of collaboration, signage vendors and content aggregators can work with local leadership – including business improvement districts, economic development boards, chambers of commerce, advocacy groups, hospitals, schools, local employers, franchises, merchants, transit agencies and city government – to fund and establish transportation information networks through which transit arrival times and related information can be distributed and displayed.

Take a look next time you walk down the street or when you’re in stores, banks, restaurants, hotels, theaters, sports arenas, building lobbies, etc. There are digital screens everywhere. They display TV programming, menus, news headlines, sports scores, weather, local messages or local events. Location-specific, real-time transit information should also be part of this mix.

Venues use widely available operating and content management systems to choose which content to display, and when and where it should appear. Organizing existing screens into an ad hoc network, and supplementing them with screens dedicated to transit information, creates a transportation information network that displays location-specific transit arrival times.

Consider the benefits. Riders can walk down the street and easily see when transit is coming instead of fumbling for phones in bad weather or unsafe conditions. Businesses can provide better experiences for guests and customers by displaying useful and relevant information – and drive attention to their promotional messages. They can also promote their participation in transportation information networks to attract more foot traffic – “Come in, buy your coffee here, stay safe, dry and warm and we’ll let you know when the bus is coming.”

Making it easy for people to find out what’s going on with transit allows venues to give something back to the community and strengthen their local identity. Giving riders more confidence in transit also encourages environmentally sustainable and healthy behavior. More people on buses and fewer in cars means less congestion, less pollution and more walking, which combine to improve air quality and personal health. More people using transit also creates a sense of public safety.

Cities and transit agencies also benefit. Traditionally, dedicated outdoor “countdown clocks” have large capital and maintenance costs, making them too expensive to be deployed ubiquitously (e.g., $20,000 to buy and install the sign and another $20,000 in maintenance over five years). These countdown clocks are generally dedicated to the single transit mode operated by the agency that installed the sign.

A new indoor screen is about 10 percent the cost of a countdown clock. So utilizing a mix of existing signage at public and private locations along with some new screens saves significant money and provides benefits to many more riders.

If better transit information displays can get just a few drivers out of their cars and into buses, other savings are possible. A new indoor parking space costs about $40,000. Imagine how much transit signage could be deployed for the cost of a few parking spaces, while relieving traffic congestion.

Cities can create transportation information networks to avoid high costs and reach communities that are dependent on public transit. Plus, it’s possible to combine on a single screen all of the available options, including bike sharing, car services and other options, not just those from a single agency.

As more people choose urban lifestyles without cars, cities are investing heavily in transit. Transportation information networks offer an innovative, collaborative public-private partnership model that makes it easy for transit riders to find out what’s going on – simply by looking up.

 

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Greg Kesich: As we honor city visionary, affirm our own vision for Portland http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/22/greg-kesich-as-we-honor-city-visionary-affirm-our-own-vision-for-portland/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/22/greg-kesich-as-we-honor-city-visionary-affirm-our-own-vision-for-portland/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=937109 Cities don’t stand still. They grow. They shrink. They can flourish. They can die.

No one seems to have understood that better than Portland native John Menario, who was honored this week by the City Council.

The plaza in front of the Nickelodeon movie theater will soon be named for the former city manager, who between 1967 and 1976 laid the groundwork for an economic rebirth of the downtown commercial center, creating the Portland that we know today.

Standing in the plaza at Temple and Spring streets, we can tick off the testaments to Menario’s vision, with tall office buildings at every corner of the intersection and a pedestrian mall leading to Monument Square.

The key to it, Menario has said, was Franklin Arterial, seven-tenths of a mile of divided highway that carries traffic between I-295, the central business district and the waterfront. It was built in 1969, and he says it made all the rest possible.

So it’s funny that Franklin Arterial is the Menario-era project that gets so much criticism.

To many who care about development in Portland, turning Franklin Street into a “cross-town expressway” with an enormous median strip was a huge, expensive mistake.

The city took out a neighborhood full of houses – something that’s in short supply today – and created a barrier for people who want to walk or ride a bike between the East End and downtown.

And it’s emblematic of the sterile, auto-centric development of the ’60s and ’70s, when walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods were razed to make a place for overbuilt roads, parking lots and strip malls.

A plan to reclaim Franklin and turn it back into an urban street was approved last year but is languishing at City Hall. The ceremony honoring Menario would be a good time for the city to thank him for what he built and recommit itself to getting the new Franklin Street project off the ground.

There’s no contradiction: You can love the city that Menario helped create even if you don’t like the road that made it happen. You can revere the man and not be wedded to the past.

After all, he certainly wasn’t.

People who are critical of Franklin Arterial and Menario should remember where Portland was in the 1960s. It had been in economic free fall since the end of World War II, when thousands of shipbuilding jobs disappeared overnight. The Maine Mall vacuumed retail business off Congress Street, and middle-class people were escaping to the suburbs.

Back then, out-of-control rents weren’t a problem – but neglected and abandoned buildings were.

Menario and others recognized that the city would have to be more car-friendly to survive. They built parking garages and “urban highways,” and they got the result they were looking for in an unprecedented building boom that gave us the downtown business district we see today.

But just because that might have been the right move in the 1970s doesn’t mean it’s what we need now.

Just like mutton-chop sideburns and bell bottoms, not every popular idea stands the test of time.

Franklin’s future is a question of value. A city street is a place for economic activity. Streets create wealth. They create jobs. They generate taxes. They should be cherished.

Roads just move vehicles. They are an expense, not a source of revenue.

You need both streets and roads in a city, but why build a road when you could have a street?

Among its many charms, the Franklin Street Reclamation Project would liberate somewhere around 5 acres of developable land, right in the heart of the city. The buildings could be tall without blocking any views and create places for people to live, work, play and do business.

And since transportation planners have learned a lot since the 1970s, the redesign would improve traffic flows, not restrict them. That’s why it has the approval of the Maine Department of Transportation, hardly a hotbed of radical urbanism.

Portland is not competing with the suburbs as it was in Menario’s day.

It’s competing against other cities all over the country for people to move here with their talent and capital to start the businesses that will mark the next phase of development.

Portland is already a magnet for young people, and they are not coming here for the parking. They are looking for the kind of neighborhoods the new Franklin Street would create.

Portland is rightly honoring Menario for having vision and showing leadership at a time when the city needed it.

That was his vision. What’s ours?

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Commentary: Natural Resources Council of Maine says ‘No’ to good-paying jobs, LePage charges http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/21/commentary-natural-resources-council-of-maine-says-no-to-good-paying-jobs-lepage-charges/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/21/commentary-natural-resources-council-of-maine-says-no-to-good-paying-jobs-lepage-charges/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=935354 AUGUSTA — The Natural Resources Council of Maine held a news conference June 1 to complain about a letter I wrote to some of its donors. To no one’s surprise, the Maine media was quick to take the NRCM’s side.

The truth is that the NRCM is a wealthy nonprofit organization run by environmental activists whose public face masks its true intent. Quite simply, the NRCM is fiercely opposed to any economic activity that would provide good-paying career jobs for rural Mainers who are desperate for employment. You won’t read about this in newspapers or see it on TV.

The NRCM is funded by hundreds of wealthy donors, many of whom most likely do not understand the job-crushing intent of its activist agenda. It is easy to convince out-of-state visitors, residents of wealthy coastal towns and those living in southern Maine to financially support the perceived policies of the NRCM. However, these well-meaning donors enjoy low rates of unemployment, nice homes, clean and safe neighborhoods and thriving local businesses.

Most are almost certainly unfamiliar with the harsh economic crisis facing rural Maine, especially in northern and Down East Maine. They’ve probably never heard of towns such as Danforth, St. David or Athens, which are some of the communities in desperate need of prosperous jobs. As these well-meaning folks send in their annual donations, they probably don’t realize that the NRCM’s anti-business policies are preventing poor, rural Mainers from getting the kind of jobs they need to raise themselves out of poverty.

The NRCM is the chief supporter of the aggressive movement to preserve – not conserve – the environment, which is holding Maine back from prosperity. The organization has blocked reasonable mining regulations that would provide high-paying jobs to rural families in northern Maine; promoted unilateral executive action to establish a national monument that would eliminate hunting and timber harvesting from thousands of acres; and has proudly blocked any significant hydroelectricity development over the last 40 years. These policy decisions have contributed to the decline of the manufacturing base that has been an anchor for rural Maine and has employed generations of sportsmen and women.

Maine has traditionally balanced the stewardship of our environment while ensuring our population has economic opportunity. A Maine Department of Environmental Protection official who is leaving the position to be with family in Massachusetts told me that over the past few years, many people have thanked the department for finally allowing them to be treated fairly on environmental issues. The DEP has worked hard to restore the concepts of good science and common sense into its mission, while still striving to protect our environment.

We have seen great success. Maine now has one of the cleanest energy portfolios in the country and millions of acres of green-certified forest. The Maine lobster fishery is certified sustainable through the Marine Stewardship Council, which is widely considered the gold standard in sustainability certification.

However, a balance is vital to providing opportunities for prosperity to rural Mainers. If we support economic development at the expense of the environment, we will have a natural disaster. If we support the environment over any kind of economic development, we will continue to have severe poverty.

The NRCM is not interested in this balance. The NRCM never says, “Let’s work together.” It just says “no” to every opportunity that would allow Mainers to prosper, and it is working to make rural Maine a national park virtually devoid of human activity or meaningful employment.

Donors may not realize that their financial support of the NRCM pays for a lavish office building just a block from the State House – a short walk for its highly paid lobbyists to push their agenda on legislators – while residents of places like Calais, Millinocket or Mars Hill cannot afford even modest, middle-income homes. NRCM recently spent donors’ money to rent buses and transport activists from southern Maine to a meeting in Orono to push for a national monument in the Katahdin region, something the Legislature and town after town in rural Maine have voted to oppose.

Folks in rural Maine have neither the time nor the resources to attend these meetings or travel to the State House and lobby for the good jobs they need. The NRCM should not be leading the charge to deny life-changing economic opportunity to poverty-stricken people in rural Maine. That’s why I have invited the NRCM to meet with me and discuss how we can work together to create long-term, good-paying career jobs for Maine people.

I understand and appreciate donors’ desire to support Maine’s environment and precious natural resources. However, they should know their financial support of the NRCM is costing rural Mainers good jobs and keeping them mired in poverty. I urge supporters of the NRCM to take a balanced approach to protect our environment and provide prosperity for the Maine people who live in it.

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Maine Voices: As debate over pesticides ramps up, let’s dispel a number of myths http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/21/maine-voices-as-debate-over-pesticides-ramps-up-lets-dispel-a-number-of-myths/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/21/maine-voices-as-debate-over-pesticides-ramps-up-lets-dispel-a-number-of-myths/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=935432 Towns and cities nationwide are going organic in the management of land within their jurisdictions because it eliminates the use of chemicals that have known environmental and public health hazards.

Maine is on the forefront for good reason, being a coastal state with waterways that need protection and steeped in the tradition of marine biologist Rachel Carson, who, with the publication of “Silent Spring” over 50 years ago, alerted the nation to the adverse effects of DDT and other pesticides on people and wildlife.

Since the 1960s, as U.S. pesticide use to kill insects, weeds and fungus has climbed to nearly a billion pounds a year, with per-acre use in parks, home lawns and golf courses in some cases higher than in agriculture, a number of safety myths have emerged and are voiced in Charles McNutt’s June 17 Maine Voices on South Portland’s proposed lawn-pesticide ban.

 Myth 1: Our health is adequately protected by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Maine Board of Pesticides Control.

While Maine relies on the EPA for the underlying assessment of pesticides’ legal use patterns and allowable harm, epidemiologic and laboratory studies link pesticide use to disease outcomes, including cancer, neurological and immune system effects, reproductive disorders, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, respiratory problems and learning disabilities.

The effects on vulnerable population groups, such as children and those with pre-existing health conditions, are elevated. The American Academy of Pediatrics concluded in 2012: “Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity. … Recognizing and reducing problematic exposures will require attention to current inadequacies in medical training, public health tracking and regulatory action on pesticides.”

 Myth 2: The environment is adequately protected by the EPA and the state.

The ecological hazards of pesticides and their impact on complex biological systems in nature are even less studied than human health effects. With the severe decline of bees and other pollinators, the EPA recently acknowledged that bees experience many indirect exposure pathways to a widely used bee-toxic insecticide, such as contaminated surface water, plant sap, soil and leaves, and said it “lacks information to understand the relative importance of these other routes of exposure and/or to quantify risks from these other routes.”

This deficiency extends to the life-sustaining microbiome, or microbes, in the soil and in mammalian species, performing critical digestive, immune and biological functions.

 Myth 3: EPA toxicity classifications assess the full range of acute and chronic effects.

The toxicity classification of pesticide products does not tell the full story because it is limited to immediate effects and not long-term illnesses, such as cancer. Equally important, incomplete data are not a part of the classification. So the public is not aware that the pesticides have not been tested for their ability to disrupt the endocrine system, the message center of the body, or the increased toxicity associated with mixtures of multiple pesticides on a treated lawn or playing field.

 Myth 4: Pesticides used on private and public property stay where they are used.

Pesticides move off the use site through drift and runoff. Those not allowed for indoor use find their way into houses through air currents and being tracked inside. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the overwhelming majority of the most popular pesticides have been detected in surface waters, including popular herbicides.

In referring to various pollutants, including pesticides and fertilizers, the Maine Department of Environment Protection states on its website, “Individually small amounts of pollutants may seem insignificant, but collectively they add up to create the largest source of pollution to Maine’s waters.” As a result, pesticide use on all property is a community public and environmental health concern.

 Myth 5: Beautiful lawns require toxic pesticides.

Toxic pesticides are not necessary for beautiful turf, just as they are not needed in a $40 billion organic food industry. Organic turf systems focus on building soil health to support healthy lawns that do not threaten the health of children and pets that play on them.

Numerous practices and organic-compatible products work in concert with nature to enhance soil biology and the resiliency of grass and other plants, and cycle nutrients naturally. They also reduce energy and water use, sequester atmospheric carbon and provide business opportunities for retailers and service providers. It’s a win-win for health, the environment and business.

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Charles Lawton: Our state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem should look outside Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/21/charles-lawton-maines-entrepreneurial-ecosystem-should-not-focus-solely-on-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/21/charles-lawton-maines-entrepreneurial-ecosystem-should-not-focus-solely-on-maine/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=935450 I have long viewed entrepreneurship as a critical element of Maine’s economic development, particularly in this long era of deindustrialization, which has seen the withering of so many of our state’s traditional sources of employment. We need new sources of jobs to replace the old ones that have been lost. What better way than to start new businesses?

The logic of this argument is sound. And Maine has made great strides in recognizing and working to enhance its entrepreneurial ecosystem – the complex system of people, attitudes and support institutions that constitute the soil in which new enterprises can start and grow.

The recently released 2016 Kaufmann Index of Growth Entrepreneurship ranks Maine 19th among the 25 smaller states, a ranking that’s bounced up and down over the past several years with no clear trend.

It is useful, therefore, to look at Maine’s performance in each of the three components of the index: rate of startup growth, share of scale-ups and density of high-growth companies.

 The first – rate of startup growth – measures the average employment size of newly formed businesses in a given year against the average size of the surviving companies of that cohort five years later.

By this measure, Maine ranks seventh among the 25 smaller states and has maintained slow but steady growth over the period since the end of the Great Recession, rising from an average growth rate of about 25 percent for the five-year survivors in 2006 to about 60 percent for the 2013 survivors.

Terrific! Maine startups are adding employees. But from the perspective of a three- or four-person startup growing to five or 10 employees after five years, this measure announces good but not great news.

 The third element of the Kaufmann Index – density of high-growth companies – is the ratio of high-growth companies, as defined by Inc. magazine, to all employment-reporting companies in a state.

By this metric, Maine ranks 13th among the 25 smaller states and has enjoyed relatively steady growth from 2008 to 2013 before a substantial drop in 2014 (the year used for calculating the 2016 Kaufmann Index).

Again, good but not great news, considering that Maine’s high-growth density score of 32.3 means that for every 100,000 total employment-reporting companies, there are 32 Inc. high-growth companies (firms with “at least $2 million in annual revenue” that have seen three years of 20 percent growth in annual revenue).

 The second (and, from Maine’s perspective, most significant) element of the Kaufmann Index – share of scale-ups – is a measure of the percentage of newly formed companies that survive for 10 years, reach at least 50 employees by year 10 and didn’t start with at least 50 employees.

By this measure, Maine ranks 20th among the 25 smaller states, with a rate of 1.06 percent. More importantly, this measure fell steadily from 2001 to 2009 and has remained around this level since.

In a word, what the Kaufmann Index tells us is that Maine is falling short in the most transformative element of its entrepreneurial ecosystem: the growth of startups into employment-generating dynamos capable of bringing a significant share of the population along on its path of growth. And this fact is precisely why Maine should look not just within its own boundaries when thinking about its entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Consider, for example, our southern neighbor Massachusetts, ranked fourth among the 25 larger states. Its 2016 score on rate of startup growth (59.2 percent) was lower than Maine’s score (62.1 percent), but its rate of scale-ups (1.69 percent) was half again as large as Maine’s (1.06 percent), and its high-growth density score (104.7) was more than triple Maine’s score (32.3).

This is meant neither to accentuate some failure in Maine’s entrepreneurial ecosystem nor to invite comparisons to levels of activity that Maine cannot reasonably hope to match. Rather, it is to call attention to all the experience and energy close at hand.

Welcoming Massachusetts residents to visit our state and spend wads of money at our hotels, restaurants and parks is not saying that we want them all to move here.

Similarly, getting Massachusetts entrepreneurs to think of Maine both as a place to come to learn about entrepreneurship and – just perhaps – as a good place to bring their new companies someday would be a great way to strengthen our entrepreneurial soil without having to spend an inordinate amount of money trying to create our own unique Miracle-Gro.

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

clawton@planningdecisions.com

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Maine Voices: Prioritizing early childhood education would pay off for children, Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/20/maine-voices-prioritizing-early-childhood-education-would-pay-off-for-children-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/20/maine-voices-prioritizing-early-childhood-education-would-pay-off-for-children-maine/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=933851 FALMOUTH — Every student deserves the chance to succeed. But for too many Maine kids, by the time they enter a kindergarten classroom, the deck is already stacked against them.

Eighty-five percent of a child’s brain development occurs before they turn 5, and whether or not a child has access to a nurturing educational environment during those earliest years can have a significant impact on his or her success in school and in life.

The research about the importance of quality early childhood education is resounding and conclusive. Adults who experienced quality early care as kids are more likely to graduate from college, be employed and make higher wages. They are less likely to enter the criminal justice system or rely on public assistance. The military has even labeled lack of early education as a national security issue because so few young men and women are qualified to serve.

Despite the overwhelming evidence in favor of investing in this critical, formative stage of life, the United States trails far behind other developed countries in access, investment and quality of early childhood education programs.

We are not just failing our kids; we’re also missing out on a powerful economic development tool. Investments in high-quality early education generate economic returns of over $8 for every $1 spent.

Like most of the country, Maine lacks a comprehensive early childhood education system, and we need to do something about it. Expensive and less effective correctional interventions later in life are too little, too late. We need to make investments when they count the most – even before kids begin to learn their ABCs and 123s.

Children from low-income families are less likely to have access to quality early care than their middle-class peers. They are more likely to face an uphill battle in school, reinforcing the achievement gap and compounding the other challenges they already face.

If we are serious about closing the achievement gap, strengthening our economy and breaking the cycle of poverty, this investment is the single most effective public policy tool we have.

The first problem to tackle is access. Public preschool programs are available in just 64 percent of Maine school districts, and only about a third of 4-year-olds in Maine are enrolled. When private preschool is included, participation rises to 42 percent for 3- and 4-year-olds, but that’s behind the New England rate of 56 percent. For children from families who make less than 200 percent of the poverty level, or about $40,320 a year for a family of three, participation is even lower, and the prohibitive cost of private programs is a big factor.

In 2014, the Maine Legislature passed a law to establish public preschool programs at all Maine school districts by the 2018-2019 school year. Participation would be voluntary, but universal access would help expand opportunities for Maine kids, no matter where they live or what their parents can afford. However, without adequate funding for this expansion, this goal will not be attained. We must prioritize funding to help school districts fill this gap in the public education system.

In addition to access, the biggest factor that affects current participation is cost. According to a 2015 report by the Economic Policy Institute, childcare for a 1-year-old accounts for 61.3 percent of the salary for a full-time minimum-wage worker.

But even middle-class families struggle with the high cost. In fact, a year of daycare for an infant is more than the cost of in-state tuition for a year at the University of Maine. Many parents are forced to quit their jobs or scale back their hours to stay home, representing a loss for the economy.

Finally, we need to ensure that early childhood programs are high quality, employing best practices for childhood development.

One way to do that is by valuing early care teachers more. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average income for a full-time child care professional in 2014 was just $21,710. It is challenging to draw skilled and passionate child care professionals to the field when the pay is so low.

Maine has the opportunity to be a leader in the field of early childhood education. We could attract more young families in a state that is currently the oldest in the country and on track to grow older.

There is no time to waste. On average, about 35 babies are born in Maine each day, and they each deserve the chance to succeed.

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Maine Observer: The deeper meaning of ‘congratulations’ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/19/maine-observer-the-deeper-meaning-of-congratulations/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/19/maine-observer-the-deeper-meaning-of-congratulations/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=931940 June is often thought of as a season of endings and beginnings when graduations and weddings abound. Families celebrate the past as they anxiously and excitedly look toward the future.

Since the school year really starts in September and ends in June, it’s also often time for another type of ending – the retirement of veteran and beloved teachers.

Two colleagues I worked with in a past school district will be retiring at the end of this school year. I started writing them each a card by saying “Congratulations on your retirement,” and then I stopped and remembered how odd that had seemed to me when I retired a few years ago.

It seemed strange that someone would congratulate me on something that I was just doing – ending a career in education. I simply wrote a letter to the superintendent and was done. It didn’t seem much to warrant praise. But then I started remembering these two exceptional teachers and I had a bit of a paradigm shift concerning the definition of the word “congratulations.” So I think perhaps people are really saying a number of things when they say “Congratulations on your retirement,” particularly in the case of these two remarkable women. I think they are really saying:

Congratulations for being able to find just the right key to unlock a child. It might have been introducing a child the wonderful world of Arnold Lobel and the “Frog and Toad” reading books, or helping a student continue to try different musical instruments to find that one that fits perfectly. Double congratulations for doing it with those students who were quiet and shy – those easily missed in the craziness of elementary school.

Congratulations on watching out for those students most needy: the ones who couldn’t afford to purchase a band instrument or perhaps looked longingly at your lunch one day. Congratulations for being an advocate for them and bringing their needs to the attention of school counselors and administrators, thus allowing them to become more successful at their studies and in their student life.

Congratulations on being superb professionals, attending staff meetings, planning student activities and very rarely complaining. Extra kudos for taking that unexpected bus or playground duty and smiling about it.

Congratulations on being mentors to the younger teachers in your buildings, providing training on a reading assessment, or helping them fill out their first report cards, or being there with an encouraging word and maybe even a tissue if needed.

Congratulations on connecting with parents and families and making them feel comfortable as partners in their child’s school career, perhaps reaching out with night program at the local library or creating musical performances that brought the audience to their feet with tears in their eyes.

So to my dear colleagues, thank you for making a difference in so many students’ lives and in so many teachers’ lives. Congratulations on your retirement, indeed.

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Maine Voices: Citizens can help prevent terrorism http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/19/maine-voices-citizens-can-help-prevent-terrorism/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/19/maine-voices-citizens-can-help-prevent-terrorism/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=931988 CAPE ELIZABETH — While the nation’s attention was focused on Orlando, another significant but underreported homeland security event took place in California that highlights America’s most powerful counterterrorism weapon: citizen involvement.

The West Coast incident underscores the vision of Maine Emergency Management Agency officials who are about to update our statewide homeland security strategy with a strong re-emphasis on “See Something, Say Something.”

As the details surrounding the Orlando attack emerge, it becomes clear that there were multiple opportunities for the killer’s family, friends, fellow nightclub patrons and workplace colleagues to recognize increasingly aberrant statements and behavior. Those opportunities were wasted when that information was not passed along to authorities.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have been urging Americans to notify authorities of suspicious activity so that pre-operation patterns of activity can be detected and attacks prevented – “See Something, Say Something.”

In the California neighborhood, they exercised that policy in classic fashion and may have prevented an Orlando-style horror.

The Santa Monica residents observed someone in their neighborhood early Sunday acting in a manner that raised their suspicions. They phoned police, who searched his car and found three assault rifles, a handgun, high-capacity ammunition magazines taped together to enable rapid re-loading, a knife, a stun gun, a security badge and a 5-gallon bucket of chemicals that could become ingredients in an improvised explosive device. They also found camouflage clothing and a black hood in the car.

The driver told police that he was headed to the gay pride parade in Los Angeles.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Santa Monica suspect’s Facebook site includes political posts, including one in which he compares Hillary Clinton to Adolf Hitler. In another, he repeats conspiracy theories that the government was behind notorious terrorist attacks, including Sept. 11, 2001. That post shares a video claiming that last year’s terror attack on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was a hoax and attributable to the “New World Order.”

He was arrested and taken into custody, and is being held for trial. It may develop that he is completely innocent of all charges. We don’t know his intentions. That’s up to our judicial system.

Here’s what we know for sure: There were over 100 people dead or wounded in Orlando, and zero in Santa Monica. The resolution of the California event was not triggered by images from a spy satellite or a drone, an FBI undercover team or a massive electronic surveillance program. A citizen made a phone call.

On Tuesday, MEMA will host a gathering of emergency management and homeland security practitioners from across Maine – state, county, cities, federal, private-sector reps – to update our statewide homeland security strategy. Against the background of recent events they will address key issues, survey current capabilities and identify gaps, assess risks to critical infrastructure and set objectives to reduce exposure to threats, both natural and man-made.

It promises to be a timely and significant discussion leading to tangible improvements in our posture. (To MEMA’s credit, these brainstorming sessions were scheduled long before the recent tragedy in Florida.) Since the last iteration of the statewide strategy in 2010, for example, cyber security has risen in importance and domestic terrorism has evolved. Mass casualty incident response, interagency cooperation, and interoperable communications are always issues.

Mainers can take some reassurance from the fact that these professionals are actively engaged in updating their plans and policies, that they are regularly talking to each other across traditional turf boundaries, sharing information and applying lessons learned from the latest events across the globe. Good prevention and response depend upon good preparation.

Importantly, MEMA leadership plans to re-energize every sector’s commitment to increased participation in the practice of “See Something, Say Something” across Maine. That will be a good thing.

We all should become involved citizens in this common-sense practice to honor past victims and help prevent future ones.

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Commentary: How should Mainers deal with cultural divide over guns? http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/19/commentary-guns-a-cultural-divide/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/19/commentary-guns-a-cultural-divide/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=931778 He was at the end of the driveway, thrashing around, starting to cross the road, then pivoting awkwardly back in the direction of the house. I watched him for a minute, as cars slowed and people stared, and then did what most people would do in the central Maine village where I live. I went inside to get a gun.

The raccoon had distemper or some other disease. He couldn’t raise himself up on his feet, and he appeared to be blind. I shot him with a .22-caliber handgun, then put him in a bag and disposed of him at the far side of the back field. It had to be done, and the task fell to me because the sick animal was on my property.

If he had showed up in one of my neighbors’ driveways, they most likely would have done the same thing.

This was a couple of weeks ago, and the incident has stayed with me since, not just because it was unpleasant – I love wildlife and nature – but because I’ve spent months thinking a lot about guns. I write mystery novels and my latest, “Straw Man,” published last month, involves the gun culture in Maine – and the very different ways guns are used in places to our south.

I say this as the nation reels from the horror of Orlando and is confronted yet again by the thorny question of gun rights. Once again, we ask, who needs a gun? And for what? I’ve been asking myself that question for months.

Researching “Straw Man,” I shopped online in Uncle Henry’s, that iconic Maine publication, and talked to gun sellers who ranged from full-time dealers to a guy who wanted to trade a 12-gauge shotgun for a four-wheeler. Everyone I spoke with or emailed was polite and helpful, whether they were offering a Montgomery Ward .22 rifle, a Glock .40 or an assault rifle.

There is an assumption among Maine gun sellers that you share their views on what a gun is for – hunting, target shooting, home protection or just plain collecting. Most sellers eventually ask for an ID, and I didn’t run into anyone who seemed to be the type to sell to someone they found sketchy – or from that other category of suspicious character: “from away.”

It’s a self-policing sort of community, for the most part, ruled by common sense and an underlying belief in the Second Amendment. But the jurisdiction of that policing only extends so far.

I say this because the other part of my research involved riding with plainclothes police in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, teams that patrol the streets in an effort to get guns out of the hands of young people. It’s an endless task, punctuated mostly by small victories: stopping known gang members and finding firearms in the car or seeing a kid on the sidewalk with a bulge in his pants and taking that handgun away before it can be used.

It’s very different from when I was growing up in a city not far from Dorchester, where the most heated disagreements were resolved behind the high school. The combatants were typically surrounded by a ring of spectators who were treated to a clumsy version of mixed martial arts. Often the two combatants would shake bloody hands at the conclusion of the match. Sometimes, like in a bad movie, they came away friends.

Disagreements among gang members in Dorchester are more likely to end with somebody dead.

Guns in that world – from cheap revolvers to machine pistols – are displayed with bravado, flashed in YouTube rap videos. When they aren’t showing up as props, the guns are used to settle scores, and the severity of the punishment is inversely proportionate to the seriousness of the offense. An insult can mean a bullet to the head. Ditto for disrespecting somebody’s girlfriend or, even worse, ratting somebody out. Each shooting demands reprisal, which calls for somebody to shoot back. And in a place where drive-by shootings are known by cops as “spray and prays,” the victims are likely to be people whose only offense was being in the general vicinity of the shooter’s target.

This isn’t Orlando, a horrific mass killing of innocents. But these still are tragedies, especially when both the perps and victims are just kids.

We hear of only the saddest of these cases in the news. A child shot on the way home from church choir practice. A high school sports star killed by a stray bullet. We don’t see the “routine” murders, where young people are killed or wounded on Boston streets, deaths that barely merit mention in the bigger media. I kept track of them on the website universalhub.com, where Boston crime is reported with chilling matter-of-factness:

“Another person shot in Codman Square, this time fatally … Woman shot in arm near Codman Square … Woman leaving church grazed by bullet … gunfire at East Cottage and Leyland streets … Two shot in Ashmont …”

There are some big victories for the police who have taken on the task of breaking this cycle, the latest just two weeks ago. Sometimes some good intel leads to a bust, or an undercover operation yields a roundup of major gang members. Either way, that bust is marked by press releases that include photos of piles of cash, drugs – and guns.

And some of those guns are likely to have come from Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont, all classified by the federal Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms as “source states” that sell to “market states” in the rest of New England.

The numbers are a little fuzzy, but the cases are not.

A Maine gun that got some press was the 9 mm handgun used by Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to kill Sean Collier, an MIT police officer. That gun was originally bought at a Maine gun shop, and years later it surfaced in Boston. In another case, a Boston gang member was convicted in 2009 of using straw buyers to buy 40 guns in Maine. The buyers were paid in crack cocaine. The guns were sold on the streets in Boston.

Last year a member of the Red Side Guerilla Brims, a New Haven, Connecticut, gang, was sent to Maine to trade cocaine and heroin for 20 firearms. Last fall a man from Bangor was convicted of using straw buyers to pick up more than 20 guns from private sellers and pawn shops in Maine. The guns were sent to New Haven for distribution.

The fact is, Maine isn’t Mayberry. The opioid epidemic that’s ravaged the state has been matched by what seems like daily drug busts in small towns across the state. Bag a drug dealer and you’re likely to find one of the tools of the trade: a loaded handgun. But gun violence here is nothing like gun violence in places like Dorchester. A fatal shooting on the streets of Portland or Bangor or Lewiston still makes the front page.

Here in Maine, we’re a world away from the never-ending gang feuds around the Dorchester projects. So how does their problem become our problem? If a gun makes its way south into the hands of criminals, how is that our fault? If a Maine car dealer sold a car used years later at a Boston bank robbery, do we lock down the car dealers? If you sell your old beater off your front lawn, are you culpable if the new owner drives drunk?

Of course not. But a car isn’t a gun. You can’t carry a loaded Subaru in your waistband.

I say all this knowing full well that guns are the tools of my trade, too. Many of the characters – good and bad – in my dozen or so crime novels carry guns and sometimes use them. In “Straw Man,” death threats against my protagonist, reporter Jack McMorrow, and his family have him carrying a loaded handgun. McMorrow is backed up by a Marine Corps veteran named Clair who can be depended upon for sound judgment and firepower. When the New York Times assessed the book, the review noted that in “Straw Man,” Clair offers McMorrow sage advice – and a Glock with an extra clip.

But that said, as I did my research I couldn’t help but be struck by – and even haunted by – the contrast in gun cultures in these two nearly adjoining states. In rural Maine, a gun is like a chainsaw or a riding mower. I know for a fact that in my small central Maine village, most of my very law-abiding neighbors – from middle-aged hunters to elderly women – keep at least one gun in the house, and many keep several. The other neighbors? I’m not sure. It hasn’t come up in conversation. (As I write this on a Sunday morning, I hear shots nearby. Target shooting to start the day.)

So should private gun sales in Maine be better regulated? Should all sellers be legally required to demand ID and report that information to the state? If I trade a shotgun to my neighbor for an old snowmobile, do I take down my neighbor’s information and mail it in to somebody in Washington?

The idea rankles many of us Mainers, I know, being people who are independent by nature and able to run our lives just fine without Augusta, thank you very much. And if we thought a potential gun buyer intended to use that gun to commit a crime, we’d refuse to sell that weapon, get the license plate number and call the cops – law or no law.

But here’s the rub, the part that I can’t shake. In Dorchester riding with the gang unit, we passed occasional makeshift memorials, flowers and candles and stuffed animals set out on sidewalks and tenement stoops. Each marked a spot where someone very young had been shot very dead. Life over. No second chance.

For some reason I thought of this as the raccoon was writhing at the side of the road. A few kind people stopped to ask if I was going to call the animal rescue. I said no because the “rescue” would end the same way, and waiting for someone’s arrival would just prolong the animal’s suffering.

So the deed was done, the gun put away until next time. But I couldn’t help but wonder if those people who were distressed by the raccoon’s plight would be just as moved by the tragedy of teenagers shot and killed on the street an hour from the Maine border. And if so, would they feel at all responsible? Would they feel a need to change our own gun culture? If not, why not? If so, where do we begin?

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Alan Caron: Don’t let Donald Trump ruin your summer http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/19/alan-caron-dont-let-donald-trump-ruin-your-summer/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/19/alan-caron-dont-let-donald-trump-ruin-your-summer/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=931787 Maine Democrats have been traumatized by two successive victories by Gov. Paul LePage. Faced now with a similarly insurgent Donald Trump candidacy, they’re seeing shadows of LePage lurking everywhere. And they worry about a déjà vu experience in November, on a national scale.

If it happened here, they ask, wide-eyed with fear, can it happen to the whole country? OK, Democrats. Time to come down from the tree limb. Leave your keyboard up there. Turn off Facebook. Stop tweeting.

It’s summer in Maine. The birds are singing, the gardens are growing and the cookouts and beaches and golf courses are beckoning. Let’s see if we can’t get everyone to relax a little. Take a deep breath. Exhale slowly. There we go. That’s it.

Look at the bright side. You don’t have half the apprehensions that Republicans have right now. Oh sure, you’ve got your ritual dispute between the candidate of the left, who are always pure and noble, and the mainstream candidate who lives in the nasty real world and can actually win. Sure, you have to slog through that healing process with all those unpleasant steps of denial, anger, grief and acceptance, and then take it to unity at your convention.

But those things pale against the problems that Republicans have. They have Trump. Some Republicans like that, of course, seeing Trump as the billionaire version of the second coming. Social media sites are abuzz with loud bravado and predictions, as though baying at the moon somehow persuades people.

Most Republicans, though, are quietly agonizing over the long-term damage that the Republican brand will endure after producing a presidential candidate so obviously unqualified for the office. In their heart of hearts, they know that Trump would be damaging to the country and that he’s going to lose in the fall. And they won’t do much to stop it.

Their worst fear is that in the course of this election, when the pressure becomes too great, Trump will simply explode into little pieces that will rain down on other candidates in races across the country, costing the Republican party control of the Senate and perhaps even the House.

My Democratic friends are always asking me whether I think Trump could win. Well, yes. Anyone can win. His opponent could be run over by a bus. We could be struck by a massive asteroid. The gravitation fields of the Earth could suddenly take a siesta.

That apparently hasn’t been reassuring enough, because lots of them are still walking around with deeply furrowed brows, looking blankly ahead and muttering to themselves: “LePage did it. What about LePage? Will it happen again? It might, right? It will, won’t it? Tell me!”

I want all those folks to have a nice summer and enjoy the conventions. So here’s what I hope they’ll think about:

Trump has had a miserable six weeks as the presumptive nominee, including his recent response to the Orlando tragedy. This week, for the first time, polling shows that a majority of Americans will not vote for him. As much as 30 percent of Republicans say they won’t vote for him. And, 25 percent of Americans now describe him as a racist. Major Republicans, including all former Republican presidents, haven’t endorsed him, four weeks before their convention.

There is no national equivalent to our three-way elections. While there will be others on the national ballot, mounting a national campaign without the national infrastructure and money of a party is more than anyone, including the immensely popular Teddy Roosevelt, has been able to do.

Hillary Clinton is a seasoned campaigner and debater. Though she has a tendency to run lackluster front-runner campaigns, Clinton knows a lot about presidential campaigns and how the country and the world works. She’s also a very tough debater who comes armed with the facts. Trump has trouble doing his homework and gets things mixed up a lot. Enjoy the show.

Presidential elections are not like state elections, where all the votes get totaled. There are 50 different state elections. This one will be decided in 10 states, and nine of them lean Democratic in recent presidential elections.

Clinton’s lead in national polling is growing, after Trump’s clumsy responses to the tragedy in Orlando. Last week’s average of about a 4 percent lead against Trump is now climbing and may be at 8 percent or even 10 percent by the end of the week.

Both candidates will get a bump after their conventions. The thing to watch is how big the bump is and how much of it dissolves two weeks later.

So relax, friends. It’s summer in Maine. Go have a cookout!

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 courage of her convictions http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/19/cynthia-dill-the-courage-of-her-convictions/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/19/cynthia-dill-the-courage-of-her-convictions/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=931790 When Anne Verrill heard the news of another mass shooting by a man wielding an assault-style rifle – this time targeting young people in Florida – she thought “there but for the grace of God go my kids” and then jumped out the window of her safe echo chamber into the snake pit of gun zealots.

The owner of Grace Restaurant and Foreside Tavern had exhausted the conversation about gun violence with people she agreed with and saw the futility of signing another online petition. Words, thoughts and prayers aren’t enough, and Congress, awash with gun-lobby money, is impotent to do the political work necessary to make changes. Senators in Washington live in a gun-free bubble opposing reasonable gun laws while the rest of us live in a glass house surrounded by people who love to throw rocks.

So Verrill put her money where her mouth is. She served up an announcement on Facebook that owners of assault-style weapons are no longer welcome in her establishments, with a picture of an assault weapon on the side.

“You don’t privately own this weapon to protect your family, or to hunt. I understand that I may be offending members of my community, but this is a human issue, not a gun owners’ issue, or a Second Amendment issue, it is about humans,” she continued. “I cannot, in good conscience, accept anyone inside of my restaurants who believes that this is OK.”

And so up went a red flag that quickly beckoned the usual army of right-wingers waving their yellow Gadsden flags and screaming about their right to bear arms, while spewing filth and spittle on Verrill’s rights and all people of her ilk who believe repeated massacres of innocent civilians by military-style assault weapons is a human-rights issue.

Verrill’s concern is not without merit. Since last July, seven out of eight of the high-profile mass shootings have been carried out by assault-style weapons. Terrorist groups around the world are buying U.S. guns to kill our citizens and our allies.

“America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms,” American-born al-Qaida spokesman Adam Gadahn said in a video. “You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

The easy access to military-style weapons designed to kill large groups of people quickly is so ridiculous – so completely moronic – that even Donald Trump agrees it’s a bad idea to let people on a terrorist watch list buy them.

Time will tell whether Verrill shot herself in the foot for taking a stand, or whether her courage will inspire business people everywhere to get off the sidelines and into the ring. Corporations may be the only “people” immune from high-capacity magazines of ammunition, and clearly there’s a market for gun-violence solutions.

Let’s out and shame all those who profit from mass murder. Let’s report people who make threats and say incendiary and disgusting things online to their employers. Let’s take away public benefits from people who use the town square we now call the internet to threaten and harass.

We don’t have to accept the extraordinary amount of gun violence in America. It’s not inevitable – it’s a choice, and everyone who throws up their arms in despair and avoids difficult conversations about it are complicit. And we don’t have to tolerate bullying by gun fanatics online or surrender the internet to terrorists and organizations intent of harming people.

Business owners can refuse customers with a fetish for assault-style guns designed primarily to kill people, and they should. There’s a difference between banning people who own guns from your restaurant and refusing to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple or a black man.

“There is nothing intrinsic to the human person about owning a gun. Being a gun owner is not a protected characteristic under the Maine Human Rights Act,” according to Mary Bonauto, the Maine lawyer who successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the historic case Obergefell v. Hodges, establishing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide and winner of a 2014 MacArthur Fellowship award.

You may have a right to own and carry certain guns, but not all guns. You can’t own and carry a shoulder-fired missile, for instance. There is a line between what guns citizens can have and what weapons are reserved for the military. Until lawmakers adjust the line and make it bright, there are actions we can take and should. Send your thoughts and prayers to Verrill for her courage, and then jump out of the box you’ve been thinking in.

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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Commentary: One of the last ducktails left in captivity is running for president http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/18/commentary-one-of-the-last-ducktails-left-in-captivity-is-running-for-president/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/18/commentary-one-of-the-last-ducktails-left-in-captivity-is-running-for-president/#comments Sat, 18 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=931955 It is the most famous ducktail in America today, the hairdo of wayward youth of a bygone era, and it’s astonishing to imagine it under the spotlight in Cleveland, being cheered by Republican dignitaries. This is the guy who sat behind you in history and poked you with his pencil and smirked when you asked him to stop. That smirk is now on every front page in America. It is not what anybody – left, right or center – looks for in a president. There’s no philosophy here, just an attitude.

He is a little old for a ducktail. By the age of 70, most ducks have moved on, but not Donald Trump. He is apparently still fond of the sidewalls and the greasy sweep in back and he is proud as can be of his great feat, the first punk candidate to get this close to the White House. He says that the country is run by a bunch of clowns and that he is going to make things great again and beat up on the outsiders who are coming into our neighborhood.

His followers don’t necessarily believe that. What they love about him is what kids loved about Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious: that he horrifies the powers that be. When you are pro-duck, you are extending your middle finger toward Congress, the press, clergy, lawyers, teachers, big muckety-mucks, VIPs, all those people who think they’re better than you. You have the power to scare the pants off them, and that’s what this candidate does better than anybody else.

After the worst mass shooting in American history Sunday, 49 persons dead in Orlando, the bodies still being carted from the building, the faces of horror-stricken police officers and EMTs on TV, the gentleman issued a statement on Twitter thanking his followers for their congratulations, that the tragedy showed that he had been “right” in calling for America to get “tough.”

Anyone else would have expressed sorrow. The gentleman expressed what was in his heart, which was personal pride.

We had a dozen or so ducktails in my high school class, and they were all about looks. The hooded eyes, the sculpted swoop of the hair, the curled lip. They emulated Elvis but only the look, not the talent. Their sole ambition was to make an impression, to slouch gracefully and exhale in an artful manner.

In the natural course of things, they struggled after graduation. Some tried law enforcement for the prestige of it. Others became barflies. If they were drafted, the Army got them shaped up in a month or two. Eventually, they all calmed down, got hitched up to a mortgage, worried about their blood pressure, lost the chippiness, let their hair down.

But if your dad was rich, then the ducktail could inherit enough wealth to be practically impervious to public opinion. This has happened in New York City. A man who could never be elected city comptroller is running for president.

The dreamers in the Republican Party imagine that success will steady him and he will accept wise counsel and come into the gravitational field of reality, but it isn’t happening. The Orlando tweets show it: The man does not have a heart. How, in a few weeks, should House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell teach him basic humanity? The man they see today is the same man New Yorkers have been observing for 40 years. A man obsessed with marble walls and gold-plated doorknobs, who has the sensibility of a giant sea tortoise.

His response to the Orlando tragedy is one more clue that this election is different from any other. If Mitt Romney or John McCain had been elected president, you might be disappointed but you wouldn’t fear for the fate of the republic. This time, the Republican Party is presumably nominating a man who resides in the dark depths. The only greatness he knows about is himself.

So the country is put to a historic test. If the man is not defeated, then we are not the country we imagine we are. All of the trillions spent on education was a waste. The churches should close up shop. The nation that elects this man president is not a civilized society. The gentleman is not airing out his fingernail polish – he is making an obscene gesture. Ignore it at your peril.

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Maine Voices: Memories come tumbling out during dive into overstuffed clothes closet http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/18/maine-voices-dive-into-a-fully-stocked-closet-to-sort-through-memory-lanes-shirt-collection/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/18/maine-voices-dive-into-a-fully-stocked-closet-to-sort-through-memory-lanes-shirt-collection/#comments Sat, 18 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=931772 YORK — My wife was annoyed with me the other day. I was sent to my closet to get rid of items I no longer wore. These included T-shirts, sweatshirts, pants, jeans, shorts, hats and every other thing I’ve covered my body with for the past 50 or so years.

As always, my wife had the right idea. When I opened my closet, it looked like it was filled with a solid block of multi-colored cloth. There was not a space, either hanging or on the shelf, that could fit another item. How the shelf didn’t fall from the massive weight of sweatshirts and sweaters is above and beyond my comprehension.

Shoes and old worn-out sneakers covered the floor of the closet, over what I assumed was a rug. It was possible that the shoes were actually on top of even older sweaters. I decided to start at the top and work my way down.

When I reached and grabbed what I thought was a single sweatshirt, the entire contents of the shelf came tumbling down. I don’t understand how I survived the resulting avalanche. After I got over the shock and awe, I started to dig through what I would later consider a history of me.

Black, gray, blue and even gray sweatshirts were strewn in front of me. Some had logos of teams, businesses and schools I had long since forgotten.

I also found sweatshirts that had the insignia of every Boston sports team that has won a championship since the mid-1970s. The one that put the widest grin on my face was the one from Super Bowl XX, held in Louisiana in 1986. Actually, it looked almost new, because I was so impressed that the New England Patriots had been AFC champions that season, I didn’t want it to lose its glow.

After stuffing the sweatshirts in a large black plastic garbage bag that was heading for the big yellow Salvation Army collection bin in the back of the parking lot of the closest shopping center, I found a haberdashery of baseball caps. Many were Red Sox and Patriots championship caps, which I will never get rid of. They represent too many great times and ecstatic feelings.

Others had no insignia but were worn to the point they could never again fit any head. One was especially interesting because it advertised “Kerrybunkport.” It dates from 2004 and has never been worn, but it will be placed with the rest of the hats that provided too many memories to be thrown away.

I then dug through the shirts, which clearly demonstrated where my mind had been over the past few decades. Very colorful shirts represented the 1980s. Some had buttons leading up to the top of the shirt, where there wasn’t any collar. Others were dress shirts, with little wear because I had little use for them with the exception of weddings, meetings and the occasional award presentation.

Digging deeper I found half-sweater, half-shirt combinations that were a favorite during the coldest of our winters. Toward the bottom of this part of the pile lay flannel shirts that in my youth I swore I would never wear. These could become a favorite part of my future.

I have no concept of why I would have ever purchased the number of T-shirts that now lay at my feet. It took at least an hour to go through them.

Some of my favorites had statements like “Independent Variable,” “What Stress?” and others that could never be printed in a family publication. Of course, I had T-shirts representing every championship team ever assembled. I also had T-shirts representing the absolute bums of their sport.

I didn’t have the heart to throw any of the shirts out. I guess this is what the space under the bed should be used for.

I thought the cleaning and organizing of my closet would take no longer than an hour. Four hours later I was still astounded by how eclectic a life I’ve had. H.G. Wells should have known that if one were looking for a time machine in this universe, all they had to do was look in an old man’s closet.

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Port City Post: Silence feels right after yet another horrific shooting http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/18/port-city-post-silence-feels-right-after-yet-another-horrific-shooting/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/18/port-city-post-silence-feels-right-after-yet-another-horrific-shooting/#comments Sat, 18 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=931892 That time when the news is too distressing to discuss. That time when another mass shooting is not talked about, because it has happened so often that we understand that it is better to go about our day as if nothing has happened than to trivialize the tragedy with our worn-out expressions of grief.

Silence, not chatter, feels right after yet another one of the horrific shootings that have become our new norm.

I was gardening Sunday morning when I overheard my neighbor say to her roommate, “Did you hear about what happened in Orlando? 50 dead.’ ”

And then they drove away to wherever they were headed on that beautiful, windy Sunday last weekend.

I continued to garden for another 20 minutes, thinking to myself that everything that day, so far, was good: All family units were accounted for and relatively happy. There were no fires to put out, so to speak; no deadlines to meet; no looming decisions, and no bad news to cope with.

“Life is good,” as my friend and neighbor Nancy says when her family members are all in their places with bright, shiny faces. She knows that the expression is a cliché and that the clothing company of the same name is a brand giant, but she says it anyway, because when life is good, it’s good to say it.

Because one never knows.

I hoped that I had misheard my new neighbor. Perhaps she was sharing old news. Perhaps this had already happened and I had already read about this tragic event and therefore had already mourned. Perhaps, I thought, obviously grasping at straws, she meant that there were 50 people being held hostage, not dead – as if 50 people being held hostage were something to be grateful for.

I planted the last marigold and then went inside to face my computer.

“Orlando Gunman Attacks Gay Nightclub, Leaving 50 Dead.”

It happened. It’s done. Past tense. Fifty people were dead, and dozens of others were wounded. (The death toll was revised to 49 Monday to exclude the gunman.)

That club-goers, club employees, police, first responders and ER doctors and nurses all helped save lives during and after the shooting is the good news.

Perspective.

I’m not sure if it’s a mother-bear thing, but my first impulse was to be with my daughter. My daughter, who is home from her first year of college, is usually the first one in our house to report the latest news. The phone attached to her right hand alerts her.

When I asked her if I could walk with her to a class she was taking down the street, she looked at me funny. She hadn’t heard yet, and I was grateful.

Remember when our children couldn’t read and we could pick and choose what we wanted them to know?

On the walk, we talked about nothing, but it felt good to be close to her and to know that she was safe.

When I returned, I walked directly to my husband, who was gardening at the front of the house. He took one look at my face and asked, “What happened?”

I told him. We kept gardening. Silence, at least for that moment, felt right.

It took me a full day to decide what action I would take this time regarding this shooting. My strategy, so far, has been to call my elected officials and say whatever comes out of my mouth. I’ve tried in the past to organize my thoughts, but as soon as I start to speak, I start to cry.

This time I decided to write to my U.S. senators. So, on Monday morning, I sat down at my computer and I wrote a letter to my senators, two of 100 people in the United States who can do something about this mess.

“Go directly to the source,” my mother the reporter always said.

Period.

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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Charles Krauthammer: Donald Trump is running as Donald Trump – big surprise! http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/17/charles-krauthammer-donald-trump-is-running-as-donald-trump-big-surprise/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/17/charles-krauthammer-donald-trump-is-running-as-donald-trump-big-surprise/#comments Fri, 17 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=930288 When in his 1964 Republican acceptance speech Barry Goldwater declared that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” a reporter sitting near journalist-historian Theodore White famously exclaimed: “My God, he’s going to run as Barry Goldwater!”

Six weeks into Donald Trump’s general election campaign, Republicans are finding that he indeed intends to run as Donald Trump. He has boasted that he could turn “presidential” – respectful, respectable, reticent – at will. Apparently, he can’t.

Republican leaders who fell in line behind Trump after he clinched the nomination expected, or at least hoped, that he would prove malleable, willing to adjust his more extreme positions and tactics to suit a broader electorate.

Two problems. First, impulse control: Trump says what he actually feels, whatever comes into his head at any moment. Second, a certain logic: Trump won the primaries his way – against the odds, the experts and the conventional rules. So why change now? “You win the pennant,” Trump explained, “and now you’re in the World Series – you gonna change?”

Hence his response to the Orlando terror attack. Events like these generally benefit the challenger politically because any misfortune that befalls the nation gets attributed, fairly or not, to the incumbent party (e.g., the 2008 financial collapse). And Hillary Clinton is running as the quasi-incumbent.

The textbook response for the challenger, therefore, is to offer sympathy, give a general statement about the failure of the incumbent’s national security policy, then let the resulting national fear and loathing, amplified by the media, take effect.

Instead, Trump made himself the story. He offered himself unseemly congratulations for his prescience about terrorism. (He’d predicted more would be coming. What a visionary.) Then he went beyond blaming the president for lack of will or wisdom in fighting terrorism, and darkly implied presidential sympathy for the enemy. “There’s something going on,” he charged. He then reiterated his ban on Muslim immigration.

Why? Because that’s what Trump does. And because it worked before. It was after last December’s San Bernardino massacre that Trump first called for a Muslim ban. It earned him lots of opprobrium from Republican leaders and lots of support from Republican voters. He shot up in the polls. So why not do it again?

Because the general election is a different game. Trump assumes that the Republican electorate is representative of the national electorate. It’s not. Take the Muslim ban. Sixty-eight percent of Republican voters support it. Only 38 percent of Democrats do. And there are about 7 million more Democrats in the country. (Independents are split 51-40 in favor.)

The other major example of doing what’s always worked: the ad hominem attack on big-dog opponents. It worked in the primaries. Trump went after one leading challenger after another, knocking them out sequentially.

Hillary Clinton is a lousy campaigner, but her machine is infinitely larger and more skilled than that of any of Trump’s 16 Republican competitors. More riskily, Trump is now going toe-to-toe with a sitting president.

Barack Obama is a skilled campaigner who clearly despises Trump and relishes the fight. And he carries the advantage of the gravitas automatically conferred by 7½ years of incumbency. Moreover, he now enjoys an unusually high approval rating of around 53 percent. Trump’s latest favorability is 29 percent (Washington Post-ABC News).

It’s no accident that Trump’s poll numbers are sliding. A month ago, when crowned as presumptive nominee, he jumped into a virtual tie with Clinton. The polls now have him losing by an average of 6 points, with some showing a 9- and 12-point deficit (Reuters/Ipsos and Bloomberg).

This may turn out to be temporary, but it is a clear reflection of Trump’s disastrous general election kickoff. His two-week expedition into racism in attacking the Indiana-born “Mexican” judge. His dabbling in conspiracy, from Ted Cruz’s father’s supposed involvement in the Kennedy assassination to Vince Foster’s (“very fishy”) suicide. All of which suggests, and cements, the image of a man who shoots from the hip and is prone to both wild theories and extreme policies.

Reagan biographer Lou Cannon thinks that the Goldwater anecdote is apocryphal. How could anyone (even a journalist) have thought that Goldwater, who later admitted he always knew he would lose, was going to run as anything but his vintage, hard-core self?

Same for Trump. Give him points for authenticity. Take away for electability.

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

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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M.D. Harmon: Law-abiding gun owners unfairly blamed in Islamic extremist’s Orlando attack http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/17/m-d-harmon-nearly-50-killed-and-dozens-wounded-in-gun-free-zone/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/17/m-d-harmon-nearly-50-killed-and-dozens-wounded-in-gun-free-zone/#comments Fri, 17 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=930303 Why is it that when a man motivated by a foreign ideology attacks a group of Americans, many of us ignore the perpetrator and attack each other instead?

It’s been more than a little sickening to see commentators, celebrities and politicians from our top national leadership on down (all of whom seem to lack an effective strategy for defeating jihadists, “homegrown” or otherwise) blame gun owners, traditional Christians, Republicans and conservatives in general because a U.S.-born son of immigrants from Afghanistan killed dozens and wounded many more in a vicious attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

I doubt that quail hunters in Wisconsin, target shooters in Arizona or gun collectors in Maine were responsible for this massacre. And it’s more than hypocritical for people who have armed guards protecting them 24/7 to tell free Americans they can’t even defend themselves with guns.

In addition, while this attack should have put to rest the canard that moral qualms about baking a cake for a gay wedding are equivalent to wishing deadly harm to its participants, people who hold to biblical moral standards on sexual issues are also being criticized for somehow contributing to it.

Further, it’s extremely doubtful that any of the calls for increased laws restricting firearms sales would have prevented this crime, because the killer was employed as a security guard by a company that had a contract with the Department of Homeland Security to transport illegal aliens around the country.

Thus, he had already passed a number of background checks. And warnings of his repeated radical statements and threats were apparently ignored by his employer (a security firm, remember) and discounted by the FBI, which investigated him twice.

As has been noted elsewhere, it doesn’t do much good to say, “If you see something, say something,” if when you say something you get slammed for “not respecting diversity.”

There’s little doubt the gunman was motivated by Islamic extremism. Of course, most Muslims don’t hate gays – but being gay is illegal in at least 10 Islamic nations, and punishable by death in several. They include our new treaty partner Iran and the Islamic State, to which the Orlando shooter pledged fealty during his rampage.

In truth, however, this could just as easily have been a church or a synagogue – or a shopping mall or school – as a gay club. Jihadists hate us all equally.

And since I fall into two of the categories listed above for criticism – firearms civil rights supporter and orthodox Christian – I want to counter those slurs with action.

So, I think I’ll take my cue from a group called “Pink Pistols.”

It’s a international gun-rights organization (pinkpistols.org) started by gays with the motto: “Pick on someone your own caliber.”

Why? “We advocate the use of lawfully-owned, lawfully-concealed firearms for the self-defense of the sexual minority community.”

I’ve read dozens of stories on this attack, but the headline I haven’t seen yet is the most pertinent: “Nearly 50 people killed and dozens wounded in shooting in gun-free zone.”

Thus, Gwendolyn Patton, the Pink Pistols’ “First Speaker,” said, “This is exactly the kind of heinous act that justifies our existence. At such a time of tragedy, let us not reach for the low-hanging fruit of blaming the killer’s guns.”

Patton’s concerns are that “knee-jerk gun-control efforts may make preventing future events harder rather than easier, as only the law-abiding potential victims will be affected by such laws.”

And she suggests that in bars and clubs, “Just as one might have a designated driver who stays sober, one might have a designated carrier with a concealed-carry permit who goes armed and does not drink.”

So, let me chip in. I’m not rich, so I can’t buy people guns (even if that weren’t already illegal).

So I will offer my expertise instead. As a retired Army officer (and Vietnam vet) who has fired everything the Army has to offer, up to and including a 105 mm tank cannon, I will consult for free with first-time gun buyers, male or female, gay or straight, who want to acquire a weapon for self-defense.

I can also put people in touch with range officials and firearms instructors who can teach them how to shoot safely and maintain their firearms, both critical components of their use.

And here’s a special bonus: For the first five people who contact me and prove they have acquired a gun since the Orlando attack, I will buy them a standard-sized box of ammunition.

Now, ask yourself: Would I do that for people I hate?

Don’t forget that Maine has recently become a constitutional-carry state, so no permit is required to carry concealed.

And learn to beware of “gun-free zones.” We’ve seen how quickly they can end up being dangerous places.

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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Maine Voices: South Portland plan to ban pesticides a needless and harmful overreach http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/17/maine-voices-south-portland-plan-to-ban-pesticides-a-needless-and-harmful-overreach/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/17/maine-voices-south-portland-plan-to-ban-pesticides-a-needless-and-harmful-overreach/#comments Fri, 17 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=930453 SOUTH PORTLAND — As a member of the South Portland Conservation Commission, I find it difficult to take a position contrary to what many believe is a positive step forward in the pursuit of environmental stewardship, sustainability and healthy living.

However, despite my reservations about doing so, the proposed ordinance banning pesticides in South Portland needs to be exposed for the unsubstantiated and flawed policy that it is. What started out as an earnest effort 18 months ago has now devolved into a quagmire of misleading claims and overreach.

Local pesticide ordinances are allowed in Maine because we are one of seven states in the country where the state constitution doesn’t pre-empt that exercise.

Presumably, the other 43 states have precluded that option based on the logical and reasonable assumption that the thousands of scientists who work for the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state environmental agencies and Boards of Pesticides Control have more expertise to regulate these chemicals than do local citizens, as well-intentioned as they may be.

But let’s assume for the moment that the city of South Portland and other Maine communities have a vested interest and, indeed, a responsibility to protect their citizens and the local environment, which, in our case, includes part of Casco Bay.

Unfortunately, the South Portland pesticide ordinance is not based on relevant science, and if it takes effect, very few of our citizens will understand its implications. The fact is that the average homeowner who follows the clearly spelled-out application and safety directions on the pesticide label is not at any more risk than he or she would be when handling household cleaning materials, solvents, paints and any other chemical not classified as pesticides.

The truth is that the EPA undertakes extensive testing of these products, and each one of them is categorized as to the level of toxicity and the risk to humans, animals and the environment. Beyond that, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Maine Board of Pesticides Control have an active role in the regulation and management of pesticides, in addition to their responsibility for testing and licensing professional applicators.

To build their case, the framers of this ordinance and their supporters in local environmental groups have crafted “Whereas” statements that cite the supposed linkage between diseases, harm to the environment and pesticides. The problem is that these statements are less than valid unless one considers studies that have no relevance to our situation here in South Portland.

As the result of a Freedom of Access Act request, I was able to obtain a list of approximately 50 case studies that were used to justify their position. After randomly selecting many of these studies and reading through them, I was not able to find a single case study relevant to the theoretical rationale for this ordinance: i.e., residential use. This is a local ordinance prohibiting homeowners from doing something that is not only legal, but also approved by the EPA and the Maine Board of Pesticides Control.

Regarding the impact of pesticides on the environment: Despite the claims that sampled data from Casco Bay indicate that stormwater runoff is creating significant environmental problems, the truth is that to date, we have seen virtually no data to substantiate that claim.

In fact, the last data we have regarding the outflows in South Portland are from a sampling done in 2001. At that time, there were two pesticides detected from one of the city’s outflows, one of which was de-listed by the EPA in 2004.

So where are the baseline data to measure the success of this ordinance? There aren’t any, and that alone should be a disqualifier for an ordinance that is little more than a feel-good expression of our desire to protect the environment and ensure that our citizens are protected from cancer and other diseases. Noble objectives, to be sure, but at what price?

Without the data, without the baseline, without a massive education program, this ordinance is a draconian regulation of the worst kind. It negatively affects retailers, applicators and citizens for little or no reason – at least none that is discernible.

When compelling evidence is provided to make the case, I will be the first to sign on. Until that time, this ordinance is a bad idea. I urge Mayor Tom Blake and the City Council to step back, think about the lack of material justification for this ordinance and reconsider their support.

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Commentary: Obama’s failure to prepare us for aging population will taint his legacy http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/16/commentary-obamas-failure-to-prepare-us-for-aging-population-will-taint-his-legacy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/16/commentary-obamas-failure-to-prepare-us-for-aging-population-will-taint-his-legacy/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=928644 WASHINGTON — President Obama unintentionally damaged his legacy the other day by urging an expansion of Social Security benefits and thereby reminding everyone (and particularly future historians) that he failed to deal with one of the largest issues facing the country: an aging society.

“It’s time we finally made Social Security more generous, and increased its benefits so that today’s retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they’ve earned,” he said in Elkhart, Indiana.

Actually, it isn’t.

Obama perpetuates the outdated myth that, by and large, the elderly are a poor, needy group. They deserve more financial help. The 65-and-over population exceeds 46 million. Some fit this description. Most do not.

Various statistics on income and wealth can be adduced to prove, depending on one’s political purpose, that the elderly are well-off or almost destitute. What’s more instructive is how the elderly view their own financial situation and how this compares with other age groups. The evidence is conclusive: The elderly do better.

The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago conducts a respected opinion poll (the General Social Survey) that asks whether people are “satisfied,” “more or less satisfied” or “not at all satisfied” with their financial situation. In every year since 1973, the elderly have been the most satisfied by a wide margin.

It’s no contest. Other surveys are similar, says Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute. A recent Gallup poll asked, “Do you have enough money to live comfortably, or not?” Among retirees, 75 percent said “yes” compared with 67 percent of non-retirees.

There are two reasons for this.

First, expenses in retirement are often lower than expected. It’s frequently said that retirees should have 80 percent of their preretirement income to maintain their lifestyles. A study by Peter Brady of the Investment Company Institute suggests that 60 percent may be adequate. Many costs (work expenses, mortgage payments) disappear or drop sharply.

Second, retirement incomes may be higher than reported by government statistics. According to Biggs, many withdrawals from IRAs or 401(k)s aren’t counted as income for largely technical reasons. The total, he says, may exceed $200 billion a year. That’s more than $4,300 for every American 65 and over.

What justifies increasing payments to an age group that is more satisfied financially than any other? This is what Bernie Sanders proposes with across-the-board Social Security hikes that would cost $1.2 trillion over a decade when fully phased in, estimates the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Sanders would pay for this expansion with stiffer taxes on the upper middle class and wealthy.

Hillary Clinton and now Obama have jumped on the bandwagon, though they’ve been vague about precisely what benefits or taxes they’d expand. Donald Trump has pledged not to cut benefits.

If taxes are raised, there are more worthy uses for the added revenues than higher across-the-board Social Security benefits. The most worthy would be reduced budget deficits, which shift the costs for today’s government onto today’s youth in the form of higher debt, higher taxes and lower government services (squeezed by rising Social Security and Medicare spending, $1.6 trillion in 2016).

Generational fairness seems anathema to today’s “progressives.” Although there is a case for targeting Social Security increases to the poorest beneficiaries, this expansion ought to be financed with modest cuts in benefits for the wealthiest recipients. As important, the long-run costs of the programs ought to be reduced by higher eligibility ages and still-lower benefits at the top, all introduced gradually.

What’s missing in the skimpy discussion of these issues – it’s hardly a debate – is candor. Only the president can challenge outdated ideas. Obama didn’t do so. He has not used the “bully pulpit” to educate the public about the demands of an aging society: the pressures on government budgets; the need for Americans to work longer, accommodating greater life expectancy; the conflicts between generations.

None of this will escape historians. It will affect their verdict on the failure of Obama and congressional Republicans to reach a Grand Bargain on the budget, a failure reflecting both Republican resistance to higher taxes and Democrats’ unwillingness to make meaningful reductions in Social Security.

The historians will ask: Why didn’t we better prepare for a predictable future? Obama’s record does not provide a flattering answer.

 

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Maine Voices: Lives lost in Orlando shooting were part of the rainbow of humanity http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/16/maine-voices-lives-lost-in-orlando-shooting-were-part-of-the-rainbow-of-humanity/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/16/maine-voices-lives-lost-in-orlando-shooting-were-part-of-the-rainbow-of-humanity/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=928683 FALMOUTH — I am watching the Tony Awards on Sunday night. Host James Corden opens: “Hate will never win. Together, we have to make sure of that.”

The press calls what happened Sunday morning “terrorism.” Reporters note “mass casualties.” Nearly 50 dead. More than 50 wounded. Nearby hospitals in lockdown. I weep at the news of one more shooting. One more massacre. Again.

This time in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It was Latin Night. People were dancing, ordering drinks, singing along to lyrics, swaying with drumbeats.

This time, the horror is too close to my mom-of-a-gay-kid heart.

Why?

My son Zac, his friends – they could’ve been there. When Zac first moved to New York, his closest pals were from around the world. They called themselves “the gay U.N.” I had never met souls so inclusive. Open. Fun. Funny. Loving. Diverse.

One was in the Norwegian military. Gerry from Mexico was a dentist; Willy from Hong Kong, a CPA. Ian from Croatia had a radio show. Thomas, an Armenian, was studying for a doctorate. They work all day, commute home, walk their dogs, fold their laundry, either cook or get takeout. Just like me.

Our son sold furniture in an upscale Manhattan store, fitted wigs at Radio City and baked cookies to give away (or to sell when asked to cater baby showers for his friends). Just like me in my 20s, he struggled to make ends meet, worked a few jobs, pieced life together. Just like me, he eventually found his way.

And as a young adult he hung out with friends on weekends, just like me. A Saturday night out? Innocent civilians? The Orlando shooting victims could have been any of us – or they could’ve been our sons and daughters.

My dad wondered why people say, “You know my friend Saul? He’s Jewish.” Or, “there’s a new lawyer in town. He’s black.” My dad added, “No one says, ‘This is Ray. He’s Catholic’ or ‘This is Dr. Lebel. He’s white.’ ”

Why do we label, target, marginalize? Why can’t we see the rainbow in humanity, the beauty of difference? Why can’t we embrace the gifts we all add to the world? Why can’t we know that beneath our differences, we are all the same, that there is no us and them?

On TV now, Frank Langella accepts his Best Actor award for “The Father.” He tells us: “When something bad happens we have three choices: We let it define us, we let it destroy us or we let it strengthen us. Today, in Orlando, we had a hideous dose of reality. And I urge you, Orlando, to be strong. Because I’m standing in a room of the most generous humans on Earth, and we will be with you every step of the way.”

“Generous humans,” gay and straight alike, laugh at life’s absurdities and cry at sad movies. They love their parents and shop for gifts for nieces and nephews. They get attached to their favorite toothpaste or flavor of ice cream. Did the shooter know this? Did he ever watch both gay and straight people plant and water gardens? Or lovingly raise kids?

Just like everyone else, my son and his pals want to be happy, do not like pain and wish to avoid suffering. None of us deserves to be a victim of gun violence in our country. None of us.

Speaking of the U.N.: Eight centuries ago, Persian poet Saadi wrote these words, which later adorned the entrance to the United Nations: “The sons of Adam are limbs of each other, having been created of one essence. When the calamity of time affects one limb, the other limbs cannot remain at rest.”

The Tonys are ending. The new musical “Hamilton,” with its line, “We cannot let a stray gunshot give us away,” sweeps the awards. I am left with the words of the sonnet that “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda delivered in place of an acceptance speech: “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.”

Together we have to make sure of that.

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Dana Milbank: Media should turn the tables on mistreatment by Trump http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/16/dana-milbank-media-should-turn-the-tables-on-mistreatment-by-trump/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/16/dana-milbank-media-should-turn-the-tables-on-mistreatment-by-trump/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=928599 Donald Trump’s ban of Washington Post journalists has left other news outlets with a stark choice: your ratings or your responsibility as journalists in a free society?

Trump’s announcement that he is barring Post journalists from his events follows similar bans he put on reporters from Politico, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Gawker, Foreign Policy, Fusion, Univision, Mother Jones, the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Des Moines Register and the Daily Beast. Trump goons have been known to kick out undesirable reporters at Trump events.

For those journalists and media executives who still don’t share the view of Post Executive Editor Martin Baron that Trump’s action “is nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press,” it won’t be long before Trump comes for you, too.

Trump has said he’d “open up” libel laws – in other words, dispense with the First Amendment – to make it easier for him to sue news outlets. He has suggested that, if president, he would use antitrust laws to harass Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who owns the Post. And longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone has proposed that a President Trump seek retribution against CNN: “Turn off their FCC license.”

This goes beyond even Nixonian hostility. Before Trump events, all journalists – blacklisted or not – must apply for permission to attend. They are then notified if their applications have been approved.

But there is a just response to Trump’s blacklist: a Trump blackout. An outright ban of Trump coverage would be shirking our responsibility. But I suggest an end to the uncritical, free publicity that propelled him to the Republican nomination:

No more live, wall-to-wall coverage of Trump’s rallies and events; this sort of “coverage,” particularly by cable news outlets, has been a huge in-kind contribution to Trump.

No more Trump call-ins to TV shows; this enables him to plant falsehoods with little risk of follow-up.

Real-time fact-checking, pointing out Trump’s falsehoods in the stories in which they’re reported. That’s not injecting opinion – it’s stating fact.

Beyond that, news organizations should demand that the Republican National Committee, at next month’s convention, reinstate and credential all media outlets that Trump has banned. Does the RNC want to join Trump in opposing a free press?

Politicians have long tried to freeze out critical reporters and news organizations by refusing to return phone calls or denying them questions at news conferences; I got that treatment covering George W. Bush’s White House. But this is fundamentally different: If Trump were to behave this way in office, he could choose which journalists and outlets would be admitted to the White House briefing room, participate in the press pool or join presidential events.

A push-back against Trump’s authoritarian actions could work. Trump relies almost entirely on free media attention. He lacks a traditional campaign apparatus with the ability to target and mobilize voters with advertising and field organizing.

Trump won the nomination using what the British call the “dead cat” tactic: Throw a dead cat on the table, and that’s what people will talk about. Trump kept hurling cats, thereby staying a step ahead of the media watchdogs.

In a report out Monday, Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center found that eight top news outlets gave Trump the equivalent of $55 million of free advertising last year, and about two-thirds of Trump coverage was positive. Taking the news media as a whole, the center said the claim that Trump’s media coverage was worth $2 billion in ads “might well be correct.”

Shorenstein’s Thomas Patterson suggests a “corrective” response by the media to Trump’s blacklist. “Too many journalists are hung up on the old balance of ‘he said, she said’ and are silent about putting their finger on the scale and saying which viewpoint has the larger weight” of truth, he told me. “One would hope that would change.”

That has begun to change in the past month. The focus has shifted from Trump’s dead cats to serious probing of Trump’s past, falsehoods and racial politics. Nobody has done this better than my colleagues at the Post – which is the real reason for Trump’s blacklisting.

Covering Trump will be more difficult if Post reporters are denied seats on the Trump press charter and news conferences and access to Trump rallies. But their coverage will be as vigorous as before. The question is whether other news organizations will recognize that Trump’s ban is a call to conscience for all who believe in a free press.

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

dana.milbank@washpost.com

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Leonard Pitts: Good will from Ali’s funeral knocked cold by hatred in many forms http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/15/leonard-pitts-good-will-from-alis-funeral-knocked-cold-by-hatred-in-many-forms/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/15/leonard-pitts-good-will-from-alis-funeral-knocked-cold-by-hatred-in-many-forms/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 10:00:19 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=927044 I am supposed to be writing about a shooting in Orlando, but my thoughts keep circling back to a funeral in Louisville.

About the shooting, you have doubtless already heard your fill of grisly details. Suffice it to say that in the dark hours of Sunday morning, a Muslim man armed with a military-style assault rifle opened fire on Latin Night at a gay nightclub, killing 49 people, wounding dozens more.

The atrocity, the biggest mass shooting in American history, ignited another dreary spasm of Islamophobia, led by Donald Trump. In short order, the presumptive Republican Party candidate for president bragged about “being right on radical Islamic terrorism,” suggested that President Obama is sympathetic to terrorists and renewed his call for a ban on Muslim immigration, though he did not explain how that would have stopped the killer, who, like Trump, was born in New York City.

For good measure, Trump’s Islamophobia was met by the homophobia of one Roger Jimenez, a Baptist preacher in Sacramento who told his congregation it was “great” that “50 pedophiles were killed today” and went on to call for the government to “round them all up and put them up against a firing wall and blow their brains out.”

So yes, this is what I need to be writing about today, the hatred, the division and the rhetorical and actual violence they spawn. But I keep coming back to that funeral for Muhammad Ali.

Perhaps you caught some part of the ceremony on television the Friday before the shooting. If you did, perhaps you were struck, as I was, by the fact of ministers, rabbis, Iroquois spiritual leaders, a Jewish comic, a black TV personality and a white politician born in segregated Arkansas, all coming together under one roof to honor an African-American Muslim. Perhaps it spoke to some deep part of you of the potentialities beneath our animosities, the commonalities within our separations.

We are taught to regard the animosities and separations as definitive and unavoidable, part and parcel of what it means to be human. That this is a lie is reflected in all the tributaries of color, faith and tribe that flowed together to honor Ali. Animosities and separations are not conditions you are born with. Rather, they are conditions you choose.

Jimenez, sadly, made that choice. So did Trump. And so did the man who walked into that nightclub and butchered all those people. They are all alike. Only in degree and choice of weapon do they differ.

And as appalled, sickened and repulsed as the massacre leaves me, I am also disgusted by the response from these people in putative positions of responsibility and by the fact that their enablers on the political right will justify, rationalize or otherwise make excuses for these acts of human malpractice. I am tired of chalking this sort of thing up to ideological disagreement.

This is not about ideology. No, this is about the mainstreaming and normalizing of hatred in ways not seen for more than 50 years. It is about how people deserve to be treated, about whether we are a country where the exclusion and even execution of vulnerable peoples are bandied casually about from platforms of authority or whether we are a country with the courage of its convictions.

I don’t expect much from a mass murderer. But you’d like to think you can hope for a little – I don’t know – grace, dignity, statesmanship from a preacher and a would-be president. Is simple decency too much to ask?

God help us, if it is.

Friday saw all sorts of people cross all sorts of cultural lines in order to pay tribute to a man they all somehow recognized as one of their own. It offered shining proof of what human beings can be.

Then came Sunday, and an awful reminder of what we too often are.

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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Maine Voices: Sound of penultimate glass ceiling smashing is music to women’s ears http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/15/maine-voices-sound-of-penultimate-glass-ceiling-smashing-is-music-to-womens-ears/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/15/maine-voices-sound-of-penultimate-glass-ceiling-smashing-is-music-to-womens-ears/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=926900 FALMOUTH — I perched on my couch and listened to the sound of another glass ceiling shattering. On television, Hillary Clinton spoke to her de facto status as the first woman presidential nominee of a major political party.

Women in positions of political power are nothing new in Maine. We claim sisterhood with U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, after all. But there is a difference between competing on the national stage and coming within reach of the highest office in the land. Sitting in my living room, I thought about the women who preceded this moment and the ones for whom this will be the new norm.

It is a rite of passage in our family to learn to recite the names of my grandmother and her siblings. Imagine this string, spoken very fast: Papa, Mama, Tilly, Emma, Hilda, Ole, Josie, Johnnie, Guerina, Mae Belle, George and Charlie.

Eighth in line in this first-generation Norwegian clan, Nana was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in 1897. Both of Nana’s parents died when she was in elementary school, and she was raised by her older siblings. That’s a benefit of a large family – when you are orphaned, there’s someone there to pick up the pieces and keep the family intact.

But no parents meant no college, so Nana went to work after graduating from high school. As often happens in life, what was initially heartbreaking turned into a hidden blessing, since she met my grandfather at her job.

He brought her Hershey chocolate bars at her desk, winning her over with a sweetness that remained throughout their 63-year marriage. Nana saw the passage of the 19th Amendment when she was 23, but in her 100 years of life, she never had the opportunity to vote for a woman for president.

Nana ensured that my mother, Jane, had the opportunity to attend college. Mom’s major was home economics – probably not an academic offering we’d see these days. But she turned that gendered choice into a varied food career in magazines, television and new-product development. We were often the taste testers for her recipe creations, and I can assure you there is a good reason why microwave cakes never became standard.

Mom’s income was important to our family, yet she watched men advance with greater speed and less judgment. Her peer group also thought that work was a hobby for her.

In our suburban, middle-class town, she dreaded going to the grocery store, where she would be greeted in the aisles with the awkward question, “Oh, are you still working?” Her salary was not used for incidentals or extras; rather, it carried equal weight with my father’s, paying the mortgage and educating my sisters and me.

Mom worked the second shift as well, serving as Girl Scout leader, class parent and chief cheerleader for her kids and grandkids. She led by example, pulled the family up in times of challenge and showed what a rich broth could be created from a recipe of love, optimism and grit.

Mom lived until she was 78 but never had the option of voting for another working mother who could carry her experiences to the Oval Office.

In my all-female high school, girls were everything – the best student, the captain, the editor, the first violin, the class president. We could do or achieve anything, provided we put in the hard work. This was our girl power. We launched into college and beyond confident that we would have a seat at any table we chose. We know that many women hear the opposite message: They’re not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough.

I worked with domestic violence victims during law school in the mid-1990s, when the dialogue about personal safety was shifting. What had been a silent, private issue became a public priority.

Our laws and perspective have progressed in many respects, yet still we debate, and sometimes limit, women’s choices about their own bodies and autonomy. But now I’ll have the chance to bring a woman’s voice and perspective to the White House.

Glass is made by fusing together sand with other minerals at very high temperatures. The penultimate political glass ceiling has been broken. Instead of tossing those shards aside, let’s take the pieces – educational access for all women, equal pay, personal safety and autonomy, among others – and meld them together to create a glass pedestal. We now have a woman candidate to stand on it.

I think Nana and Mom would appreciate that choice on Election Day. I know that I do.

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Greg Kesich: Selective outrage in the aftermath of our worst mass shooting http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/15/greg-kesich-selective-outrage-in-the-aftermath-of-our-worst-mass-shooting/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/15/greg-kesich-selective-outrage-in-the-aftermath-of-our-worst-mass-shooting/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=926963 Remember “freedom fries”? That was the name supporters of the war in Iraq created when they couldn’t stomach the idea of eating anything with “French” in its name.

France had not joined America’s “coalition of the willing” in 2003, and the country was trashed by politicians and other war fans for being effete and weak.

The French were mocked for being invaded by Hitler in 1940. The New York Post called them weasels, and photoshopped a weasel head onto a picture of a French diplomat on its cover to make the point. The ultimate diss came from President George W. Bush, who referred to England as “our oldest ally,” even though back when we were still fighting wars with England, France had been on our side.

That all changed quickly last year when French civilians were massacred in a coordinated attack by operatives of the so-called Islamic State.

Some of the same people who had rejected France back then suddenly considered them their new meilleurs amis. Runners in local races wore berets in solidarity. The new supporters put a tricolour screen over their Facebook profile picture or replaced it with a picture of the Eiffel Tower. “We stand with France” were the watchwords of the day.

What happened?

Easy – when you have a political ideology that feeds on resentment and victimhood, it’s hard to keep getting offended often enough to maintain your outrage. You have to glom on to the misery of others, and you can’t be too picky about where you get your victims.

I’m afraid there is some of the same amnesia in the public grief over 49 dead and 53 wounded at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last weekend.

How many of the people who today are saying that “we are all Americans” and “we stand with Orlando” were fighting last week to keep transgender boys and girls out of the bathroom that’s right for them?

How many were insisting that personal religious conviction should be enough to exempt them from laws that protect other people from getting fired, evicted or denied service by a business because of their sexual orientation?

Before Orlando, how many were protesting the steady beat of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people that persists year after year?

What’s changed is that the Orlando attack had the right kind of villain. Omar Mateen, a Muslim who claimed allegiance to ISIS, was cast as the vanguard of a foreign army in the terror war. The facts aren’t supporting the image very well. With the information that’s come out so far, calling him a member of ISIS is like calling a drunk in the bleachers a member of the Red Sox. And the reports that he was seen regularly at the club and used a gay dating app suggests he may have had more complicated motivations than simply wanting to establish a global caliphate.

It doesn’t matter. Hatred of Muslims beats prejudice against LGBT people this week. But what about next week?

Just as the men and women in Orlando did not deserve to die, they did not deserve to live with less than full civil rights. How about honoring their memory by recognizing their humanity?

Instead of calling for the flags to be lowered to half-staff, maybe Gov. LePage could just take his name off that stupid lawsuit challenging a federal directive on transgender students’ use of public school facilities.

Out of respect for the people who were killed last weekend, all leaders could repudiate the North Carolina “bathroom bill,” which puts the government in charge of intimate details of personal hygiene while denying victims of discrimination the protection of the courts.

To honor the memories of the Orlando victims, everyone could stop suggesting that where transgender people go to pee puts children at risk.

And the best memorial would be if we all would stand up against hate crimes, not just when they are perpetrated by terrorists, but every time.

Real mourning should come with a change of attitudes. Otherwise, it’s just another plate of “freedom fries.”

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

gkesich@pressherald.com

Twitter: @gregkesich

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Commentary: Stings indicate thin line between entrapment and just prosecutions, Yarmouth legislator says http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/14/commentary-stings-thin-line-between-entrapment-and-just-prosecutions-legislator-says/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/14/commentary-stings-thin-line-between-entrapment-and-just-prosecutions-legislator-says/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=925160 YARMOUTH — The use of undercover agents and informants sometimes can be the only way to crack especially tough cases. The technique, however, also invites abuse. For both types of operatives, the incentive and ability to cut corners are always present. Reputations and rewards are improved when targets are found guilty, especially when the defendants are well known and the crimes are significant. But even in less important cases, undercover operatives are hard to control, because they operate on their own and report only what they want.

The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram series on undercover operations by the Maine Warden Service shed light on sting practices that rarely are aired outside a courtroom. Since the first exposé, additional Mainers have come forward with similar complaints: that they were tempted into illegal activities by an agent who provided them with abundant alcohol and who took the lead in hatching illegal plans.

Defendants assert that the agent was the primary lawbreaker in these episodes. Some say they pleaded guilty to avoid expensive litigation; some don’t deny their guilt. But for all, the question arises: Is this a fair way to conduct criminal investigations?

When I was a young lawyer with the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights, the panel decided to take a close look at how FBI sting operations were conducted.

Congress and the nation were still reeling from Abscam, the FBI sting that nabbed several members of Congress who accepted large amounts of cash from a “sheikh” who was actually an undercover FBI agent. None of the defendants was acquitted; “entrapment” is difficult to establish. Nor were they otherwise able to explain the payments.

But these men had not been suspected of corruption before, and the FBI took the initiative in tempting them. They may have been legally guilty, but is it fair to go after someone just because of his or her position? If so, anyone can be targeted for a sting.

The subcommittee wanted to know upon what evidence FBI stings were launched or targets chosen. Was supervision adequate? I spent an entire summer in a small room in the FBI building on Pennsylvania Avenue, filled to capacity with boxes of records and tapes from several closed cases. Subsequently, the subcommittee held hearings and questioned FBI and Justice Department officials charged with overseeing these operations.

What we found was that supervision was negligible and standards non-existent. In one case, an FBI undercover agent was on the verge of arresting several Ohio judges for bribery. Then he accidentally learned that the bailiff who was telling him that bribes from the agent were being delivered to certain judges was actually stinging the agent: The “judges” were actually the bailiff’s buddies, playing the roles of judges for a cut of the “bribes.”

The agent who met with the supposed judges had never gone into the real judges’ courtrooms to see what they looked like, nor even looked at their photographs hanging in the courthouse hallway. The FBI supervisors relied on reports written by the agent alone, and backed up by taped conversations that the supervisors apparently never heard.

I read all the reports and listened to the tapes. Although hindsight is 20/20, I think it is fair to say that red flags were evident. The supposed judges did not sound like judges. The scheme was implausible. The transcripts did not match the tapes in several crucial respects.

But you had to listen closely. The agent undoubtedly expected to hear conspiratorial words, and so he did. And the supervisors trusted their well-trained agent.

As a result of the subcommittee’s review, the Attorney General of the United States issued guidelines for FBI undercover operations that included standards for targeting and requirements of close monitoring. The guidelines were made public. When a new version was published several years ago, it, too, was made public.

If the country’s premier domestic investigative agency needs close monitoring, why should we assume otherwise for our state? Why are the Maine Warden Service’s guidelines not public?

Lawyers say that hard cases make bad law. Here, we have good cases in the sense that the defendants are not drug-dealing low-lifes, but our neighbors. We can identify with their plight. We should demand standards for undercover operations that protect all of us, not just the bad guys. That’s what good law is supposed to do.

— Special to the Press Herald

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Maine Voices: Support the referendum to increase Maine’s minimum wage http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/14/maine-voices-support-the-referendum-to-increase-maines-minimum-wage/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/14/maine-voices-support-the-referendum-to-increase-maines-minimum-wage/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=925193 There’s a reason why every good sitcom features an iconic local restaurant. “Seinfeld” had Monk’s Cafe, “Friends” had Central Perk and “Cheers” had, well, Cheers. These shows reflect what’s true for so many of us, that our favorite local diner, grill, pub or eatery is an important part of our lives and our communities.

As Maine restaurant owners, we’re proud to be part of so many people’s stories. We’re deeply invested in our customers, our employees and our local communities. We believe that all of our neighbors who work hard should be able to support their families. That’s one of the main reasons why we support the referendum on the ballot this November to increase Maine’s minimum wage, including raising the subminimum wage for restaurant servers and other workers who receive tips.

The proposal, advanced by Mainers for Fair Wages, would raise the state’s hourly minimum wage from the current $7.50 to $9 in 2017 and then a dollar a year until it reaches $12 in 2020. The subminimum wage would be raised from $3.75 to $5 in 2017 and then a dollar a year until it reaches $12 in 2024. The wage would then increase with the cost of living, so Mainers never fall so far behind again.

This week, we’re proud to announce that our restaurants are among the more than 50 from Kittery to Lubec that are showing our support for this initiative as part of the Maine Small Business Coalition’s Fair Wage Restaurant Week. Show your support for giving all Mainers a fair wage by visiting our businesses or any of the restaurants listed at mainesmallbusiness.org this week, June 13-19. Share a photo of your meal on social media with the hashtag #FairWageME, and you will be entered in a drawing to win a gift certificate from a supportive local restaurant.

This campaign will succeed if voters know the truth about how many Mainers live on low wages and how hard it is to make ends meet. Working full time at minimum wage, a single mother takes home only $12,300 a year, or around $300 per week. That means working parents can’t support their children, and working seniors can’t afford to retire.

Almost 160,000 Mainers would see their wages increase if the referendum passes. That’s nearly a quarter of the state’s entire workforce. Women, who are more likely to work low-wage jobs, would be most affected. One in three single parents, including highly skilled working Mainers such as paramedics, home health aides and education techs, would see their incomes increase.

We are among more than 500 business owners who support this referendum. It’s the right thing to do, and it makes good business sense. This initiative would generate millions in new consumer spending, creating jobs and helping to build an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few.

Basically, we want more people to be able to afford to eat out at our restaurants. You can see the full list of 500 business owners at www.mainesmallbusiness.org.

We know it works. In the seven states with higher minimum wages, and with no subminimum wage for tipped workers, restaurants do better than in the rest of the country. The National Restaurant Association predicts that restaurant industry and job growth will be higher than the national average in those seven states this year. Rates of tipping are just as high in those states as well.

The most fundamental reason we support raising the wage, however, is that we respect our employees and believe they deserve a fair wage. We run family businesses, not international chains, and our workers aren’t disposable. Food wouldn’t be cooked or served, and our restaurants wouldn’t succeed without them. They work hard for us; they should be able to support their families and save up for the future. You can’t do that on $300 per week.

Thank you for making us an important part of your lives and please join us this week at one of our restaurants or at any of the many establishments across the state that have endorsed this referendum to raise the minimum wage. Together, we can build a restaurant industry and an economy that works for everyone.

 

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Charles Lawton: Too many growing businesses assume Maine lacks skilled workers http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/14/charles-lawton-too-many-growing-businesses-assume-maine-lacks-skilled-workers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/14/charles-lawton-too-many-growing-businesses-assume-maine-lacks-skilled-workers/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=925205 Some people formulate problems around the concept of physical limits – there is only so much of something (gold, oil, people), and when we use it all up, it’s gone. Current examples concern the ever-changing predictions of when the globe will reach the “peak” level of oil production, when we will run out of some critical metal and when we will fall over an irreversible cliff by changing our climate.

Other people formulate problems around the concept of the limitless capacity of human imagination – the ability to recognize problems before they occur and adjust by finding new ways to get more value out of existing resources and altogether new resources. Witness the revolution in oil production brought about by shale fracking technology and the exploration of ways to get energy from the sun, the wind and other natural elements never before considered “resources.”

In a similar way, this same intellectual struggle is now playing out in the far less technologically deterministic world of the labor market.

Some people say, “There aren’t enough workers. I can’t find the people I need. We have a skills gap.” Others say, “There are plenty of people. We just have to find better ways to find them, to prepare them to do the work we want done; and, perhaps most importantly, to pay them enough to attract them to where we want them to do the work.”

One side says, “We’ve reached ‘peak labor,’ and we’ll just have to go to the few places where the high-value labor exists.” The other side says, “We’ve got to be far more imaginative and precise about what we want labor to do and far more thorough in where and how we hunt for that labor.”

Just as there are mental, legal and regulatory barriers to finding imaginative solutions in the physical world, so are there similar barriers in the labor market. One of the most significant of these barriers is the increasing discrepancy between the boundaries of today’s labor markets and political boundaries that are centuries old.

Physical landforms define watersheds – areas upon which rain falls and water flows. Similarly, economic landforms, including businesses, housing stock, transportation infrastructure and community amenities, define labor sheds – areas through which workers commute to work.

Increasingly, labor sheds cross municipal and state boundaries. People live and work where they choose. Unfortunately, most labor market data are collected by political entities of long standing that are – increasingly – not synonymous with today’s labor sheds. This discrepancy is a major barrier to Maine’s economic growth.

Far too many businesses dismiss investments in Maine because “there aren’t enough skilled workers there.” This cliché ignores two important facts.

The first is that many skilled Maine workers work in businesses outside Maine and are thus not counted in a labor market defined by surveys of employers located in Maine. The second is that many skilled workers who now neither live nor work in Maine would love to relocate to Maine if they could find a comparable job (or for couples, jobs) in Maine.

To solve this problem, we need to get business decision-makers to identify, look for and use the labor market data that actually apply to their problems rather than the data that are most easily obtained.

Another barrier to finding imaginative solutions to labor market problems is a failure to ask the right questions regarding the application of new technologies. Today, the vast majority of labor market activity (at least at the initial stages) takes place online.

Every day, millions of employers post ads looking for workers, and millions of applicants post resumes looking for jobs. At the same time, scores of companies scour these sites hunting for key words – “C++ programmer,” “marketing experience,” “team player,” on and on – trying to cull from this flood of claims about jobs and skills what matches there seem to be (or not) and what jobs or claims are “trending” without any idea of what “trending” actually means.

All this robotic activity reminds me of the old saw about trying to understand “elephant” from the descriptions of five blind people describing the small part of the animal that they are feeling. How much better will our understanding be if we have 500 blind people offering their understanding?

To me, the answer to this second failure of imagination is to identify and seek the really valuable information rather than just the information that happens to be available. And this really valuable information is not what the employer and would-be employees claimed before the fact, but the criteria by which employers made their actual hiring decisions after the fact and the experience of the new employee in the job.

This post-employment information is really the area to be explored if we are to get the most value out of the people we already have. And it will be information obtained not by bots crawling online job sites, but by more imaginative extraction of post-employment information by employers.

Only by imaginatively exploring the depths of our human resources will we be able to accelerate sluggish job growth and restore prosperity, both in Maine and the nation as a whole.

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

clawton@planningdecisions.com

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Maine Voices: Collins’ conscience on hold while she waffles on condemning Trump http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/13/maine-voices-collins-conscience-on-hold-while-she-waffles-on-condemning-trump/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/13/maine-voices-collins-conscience-on-hold-while-she-waffles-on-condemning-trump/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=921873 Maine Sen. Susan Collins now faces the most critical decision of her 19-year career in the U.S. Senate: whether to support or oppose the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump.

A month ago, Collins suggested that she could support Trump if he toned down his rhetoric: “I think Donald has shown over and over again that he’s smart enough to tailor his approach. … I think we’re going to see a new stage of this campaign as it starts to go into the general election.”

Sorry, Sen. Collins. You thought wrong.

A few weeks ago, Trump charged that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had a conflict of interest in the Trump University case because of his “Mexican heritage.” He repeated his denunciation of the judge last Sunday on “Face the Nation,” challenging the fairness of any judge if they were Hispanic or Muslim. Never mind that Judge Curiel was born in Indiana. Even Republican pooh-bahs such as Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan thought Trump had crossed the line. While dancing around his reluctant endorsement of Trump, Ryan labeled Trump’s attack “racist.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Trump’s attack was “the most un-American thing from a politician since (Sen. Joseph) McCarthy,” the disgraced Wisconsin senator who used lies and Trump-like smears in his reckless and false “red-baiting” scare of the 1950s. To her credit, Sen. Collins called Trump’s comments “absolutely unacceptable.” However, she kept open the possibility of supporting Trump. She merely suggests that Trump should apologize to the judge and that he should “stop insulting people.”

Wishful thinking, Senator. Asking Donald Trump to apologize to anyone or to stop scapegoating minorities is like asking him to dye his hair green or raze the Trump Tower.

What we are talking about, incidentally, isn’t just a lack of civility on Trump’s part. It is about character and temperament. As David Brooks rightly noted in The New York Times on June 10, “The classic conservative belief … is that character is destiny. Temperament is foundational. Each candidate has to cross some basic threshold of dependability as a human being before it’s even relevant to judge his or her policy agenda. Trump doesn’t cross that threshold.”

Now, in an interview with The New Yorker magazine’s Washington correspondent, Ryan Lizza, Collins has admitted she has reached a turning point.

Rejecting Trump’s reckless views, Collins told Lizza she just might vote for Hillary Clinton in November. “I worked very well with Hillary when she was my colleague in the Senate and when she was secretary of state,” Collins told Lizza in an interview to be published in the magazine June 20. The senator said it is “unlikely” that she would vote for the certain Democratic nominee, but said she was “keeping her options” open.

Sen. Collins can continue to twist herself into a pretzel trying to stand by Trump, no matter the cost to the nation or, in truth, to her legacy. Or she can say, in effect, “Enough.”

Sixty-six years ago, a Republican senator from the state of Maine risked her political career by standing up to a populist demagogue much like Trump. On June 1, 1950, Sen. Margaret Chase Smith took to the floor of the Senate, only two years after her election as the first female senator in the country, and lambasted Sen. McCarthy for turning the Senate into “a forum of hate and character assassination” in his phony and largely baseless campaign against Communists in the U.S. government.

With only limited support from her colleagues who had yet to confront McCarthy’s reckless behavior, Smith denounced McCarthy (sitting two rows in back of her) for his behavior and exploitation of “fear, ignorance, bigotry and intolerance.”

McCarthy survived for four more years of mistreating and demonizing innocent people before the Senate censured him in 1954 after the Army-McCarthy hearings, which led to his defeat.

Smith’s speech was titled “A Declaration of Conscience.” Sen. Collins, now is the time; this is your Margaret Chase Smith moment. You can continue to waffle. Or you can help toss Donald Trump’s quest for the presidency into the dustbin of history.

What say you?

 

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Maine Voices: Transgender medical, health issues widely misunderstood http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/12/commentary-transgender-issues-misunderstood/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/12/commentary-transgender-issues-misunderstood/#comments Sun, 12 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=921108 Since the federal departments of Education and Justice issued guidance last month directing public schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity, 10 states have filed suit. Two weeks ago, Maine’s governor – acting as an individual, not a representative of our state government – joined these suits.

As pediatric health care providers who direct medical services for transgender youth in Maine, we applaud the federal government’s action because it protects a particularly vulnerable and often misunderstood segment of our population.

Over the last several weeks, there has been a serious lack of context and understanding of the medical science and health risks faced by transgender individuals, particularly children and adolescents.

As with all other public issues, we cannot make or change legislation – particularly policy intended to create a safe and accessible environment for all children – without fully understanding all of the details. It is essential to educate the public and lawmakers about this complicated and serious topic.

MANY FACTORS

Sex, typically categorized as male or female, is determined by factors that include chromosomes, gonads, internal and external reproductive organs. Sex is not equivalent to gender identity.

The American Psychological Association defines gender as “a non-binary construct that allows for a range of gender identities and that a person’s gender identity may not align with sex assigned at birth.”

Gender identity is the innermost concept of self as male, female or somewhere on the gender spectrum. Sex and gender identity align in the majority of the population, and when they do not, individuals may categorize themselves as transgender. Scientific studies indicate that a major component of gender identity is “hard-wired” and, like sexual orientation, is not a choice.

The Pediatric Endocrine Society does not support the ideology that sex chromosomes or genitalia determines gender identity, and endorses a gender-affirmative approach to care provided to transgender youth. Children and adolescents are at risk of suffering mental anguish from discrimination if they do not have a supportive environment in school, including using the restroom or locker room that is consistent with their gender identity.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to work with such youth knows that they merely want to be who they know themselves to be, and to feel safe at school.

The Gender Clinic at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital has recently grown exponentially and now provides comprehensive care for more than 130 children and adolescents. Indeed, many of these young people are our neighbors, members of our religious communities, and friends of our own children.

For them, the ramifications of ill-informed public policy can be gravely serious. Please consider:

n More than 40 percent of transgender adolescents contemplate suicide and about 25 percent attempt it.

n Rates of depression are two to three times higher in transgender youth than in their non-transgender peers.

n Data indicate that many clinically significant mental health issues in transgender adolescents derive from discrimination, peer rejection and lack of social support.

Transgender youth have optimal outcomes when affirmed in their gender identity through support by their families and their environment, including public schools.

SAFE ENVIRONMENT

As parents, pediatric health care providers and members of the Pediatric Endocrine Society’s Special Interest Group on Transgender Health, we join other academic professionals and societies involved in the care of children and adolescents in supporting policies that promote a safe and accepting environment, as well as adequate mental health and medical care for gender non-conforming and transgender youth.

We encourage all Mainers to not only understand the medical and health issues involved for transgender children and adolescents, but to also agree with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which in 2014 ruled that schools cannot discriminate against transgender students.

We hope that Maine will set an example for the rest of the country and strive to understand these complicated issues, engage in a civil discourse and then take action that emphasizes individual rights, safety and equality.

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Alan Caron: Trump’s real challenge starts now http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/12/alan-caron-trumps-real-challenge-starts-now/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/12/alan-caron-trumps-real-challenge-starts-now/#comments Sun, 12 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=920916 Five weeks ago, Donald Trump dispatched his remaining Republican opponents to become the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. That gave him a predictable bump in the polls and a month’s head start on Hillary Clinton. It also gave him two months to unify the party before the summer convention.

By almost any objective standard, the last five weeks have been a disaster for Trump, in which he’s wasted time and lost support. There are tepid endorsements from Republican leaders who must support the nominee, but many party leaders and funders remain on the sidelines.

Trump already has made a series of rookie errors in a race that won’t allow for many mistakes, including his recent attacks on a judge from Indiana who happens to have Mexican parents. His comments about that judge were called “racist” by Paul Ryan, and the majority of Americans agree.

Trump now has just five weeks left to unify the party before the gavel goes down on the Republican National Convention. If those five weeks are anything like the last five, the prospects of a united campaign in the fall are dimming every day.

In a presidential race, the national convention is a window that allows millions of new voters to take a look at the candidates. Conventions are a springboard into the fall’s election. If they produce a picture that voters don’t like, or when they produce little or no “spring,” the result is often a stupendous belly flop in November.

Without significant changes in the trajectory of Trump’s campaign, this convention will be dominated by media speculation about who isn’t there, who isn’t speaking and why. And by comments from other Republicans about Trump’s fitness for the office.

The race is a long way from over, but the challenges for Trump will only escalate. He was perfectly suited to running in a crowded primary that never produced a strong anyone-but-Trump alternative. He had name recognition and a larger-than-life persona. And he combined a huckster’s knack for outlandish promises with a magician’s skill at card tricks.

He also got the luck of the draw, running in a crowded field of opponents that turned out to be a mile wide and an inch deep. That allowed him to pile up “winner-take-all” primaries with an average of 38 percent of the vote, which soon enough forced out his remaining opponents.

Trump became the champion of the most frustrated and angry elements of the Republican base, which has at its core older white men who are losing their jobs and their hopes, and are looking for someone to sucker punch.

Now comes the tough part. Here are Trump’s most difficult challenges:

Acting like a president: Trump is still running a primary campaign, attacking Republicans and saying outlandish things. That worked well in the primary, but the scale of a national campaign requires him to pivot quickly to respond to new demands and a more aggressive investigative media. Those Republicans who are waiting for Trump to change and become more “presidential” should prepare themselves for the worst.

A new audience: Running a campaign for the support of mainstream, general election voters is not remotely like running a primary campaign. Simplistic formulas on issues like immigration, national security and the economy produce nodding heads in primaries but can and will be made to look like cartoon answers in general election debates.

Democratic unity: Trump is the most unifying force Democrats have seen since Watergate. This week, President Obama forcefully endorsed Clinton and will campaign with her on Wednesday. Sanders said that after this weekend’s final contest in Washington D.C., he looks forward to working with Clinton to defeat Trump. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a respected leader among progressives, has jumped in as well. The process is accelerating to produce a united convention this summer.

The team: Trump is the opposite of a team builder, which is making it difficult for him to attract and retain seasoned campaign veterans and effective surrogates. Within a few weeks, Trump will be campaigning against a dream team of Democratic heavyweights, including Clinton, Obama, Sanders, Bill Clinton and Warren. Together, they have experience in five presidential elections. Trump’s bench, in contrast, is essentially empty.

The math: The race for president is a state-by-state contest. In this race, the outcome will be decided in these states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Obama won all of those states in 2008 and all but one in 2012. Clinton currently leads in at least eight of them.

Trump better get in gear quick or his time will run out.

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: Rape victim’s courage lifts us all up http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/12/cynthia-dill-victims-courage-lifts-us-all-up/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/12/cynthia-dill-victims-courage-lifts-us-all-up/#comments Sun, 12 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=920922 Have you read the letter? Not the newspaper stories about the letter, but the actual letter? The one the young woman wrote for the sentencing hearing of Brock Turner, following a searing criminal trial that found him guilty on all three counts of felony sexual assault?

If not, you must. It’s a true American story, heartbreaking and inspirational. Gritty and authentic. Infuriating and but oddly liberating. Painful and yet promising.

After reading her statement I am shocked, awake, human. Sobbing.

That’s how breathtakingly powerful the words of this 23-year-old are – like a plunge in a frigid lake. My mind and soul are flooded with a consciousness that’s been numbed lately by the day-to-day grind of making a living, making dinner and making my way through the presidential election.

Turner faced a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison, but because of his swimming skills and privilege, he got off easy. Turner’s father lamented his son’s potential punishment, calling it a “steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action,” and suggested to the sentencing judge that his son exhibited the appropriate degree of contrition because he had lost his ability to enjoy a good rib-eye steak on the grill.

The judge’s six-month sentence on top of the heinous acts by Turner and the tone-deaf letter of his father would be impossibly depressing for parents everywhere, if not for the extraordinary words of the victim. Her letter presents an alternative script to the frightening play streaming in our minds – a play in which our kid is the sister, one of the Swedes or the writer.

There are actually two sisters in the story. The younger sister persuaded her older sister to attend the Stanford University party where she was brutally raped behind a dumpster. But the two together are sisterhood. The love and selflessness the sisters have for one another is so deep it hurts.

“My sister picked me up, face wet from tears and contorted in anguish. Instinctively and immediately, I wanted to take away her pain. I smiled at her, I told her to look at me, I’m right here, I’m okay, everything’s okay, I’m right here. My hair is washed and clean, they gave me the strangest shampoo, calm down, and look at me. Look at these funny new sweatpants and sweatshirt, I look like a P.E. teacher, let’s go home, let’s eat something. She did not know that beneath my sweats, I had scratches and bandages on my skin, my vagina was sore and had become a strange, dark color from all the prodding, my underwear was missing, and I felt too empty to continue to speak. That I was also afraid, that I was also devastated. That day we drove home and for hours my sister held me.”

And then later, the writer tells Turner:

“I want to say this. All the crying, the hurting you have imposed on me, I can take it. But when I see my younger sister hurting, when she is unable to keep up in school, when she is deprived of joy, when she is not sleeping, when she is crying so hard on the phone she is barely breathing, telling me over and over she is sorry for leaving me alone that night, sorry sorry sorry, when she feels more guilt than you, then I do not forgive you. That night I had called her to try and find her, but you found me first. Your attorney’s closing statement began, ‘My sister said she was fine and who knows her better than her sister.’ You tried to use my own sister against me. Your points of attack were so weak, so low, it was almost embarrassing. You do not touch her.”

The sisters are love.

The Swedes are the two graduate students who were biking and discovered the rape. These young men chased Turner and caught him. They saved the writer by apprehending her attacker, and they saved her by feeling deeply pained by his actions. One of the Swedes “was crying so hard he couldn’t speak because of what he’d seen.”

The writing about the Swedes saves us, too. We want our sons to be brave and sensitive, and we need role models. We are grateful to the Swedes, but not nearly as grateful as the writer.

“Most importantly, thank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet. I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another. To have known all of these people, to have felt their protection and love, is something I will never forget.”

The Swedes are heroes.

And we will never forget the writer. To be so incredibly eloquent and brave in the face of adversity and injustice is remarkable.

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining,” she wrote.

The writer shines and saves us most of all. She is a lighthouse.

The writer is courage.

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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The humble Farmer: What goes around comes around on the 1926 Model T axle http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/11/the-humble-farmer-what-goes-around-comes-around-on-the-1926-model-t-axle/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/11/the-humble-farmer-what-goes-around-comes-around-on-the-1926-model-t-axle/#comments Sat, 11 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=921072 Late one foggy summer afternoon, my 19-year-old friend Philip showed up and said he needed help. He was on his way home from the Owls Head Transportation Museum, where he volunteers.

Philip wanted a better front axle for his 1926 Model T – the car I was driving to school when I was 17. He recently came into possession of that car because 40 years ago his great-grandparents “Gramp” and Gladys Wiley were relatives, next-door neighbors and my closest friends. What goes around comes around.

NEITHER SHAKE NOR SHIMMY

In 1953 there was no problem with the front axle on that car, so I didn’t see that there should be any problem with it now. For the past 60 or so years it hadn’t done much of anything but gather dust in Winslow Robinson’s hen house.

But Philip said he wanted to put new bushings in the front end to tighten it up. A close inspection revealed that the holes in the axle where the kingpins went in were a little worn, and it would be nice if he could have a better axle.

There is neither shake nor shimmy in that Model T. A week before, Philip had let me drive it to my 63rd high school reunion, and it handled like a dream. How many people do you know who drove to their high school reunion in the same car they drove to school over 60 years before?

Not everyone at the reunion was overjoyed to see us pull into the parking lot. There was at least one woman there who turned her head and wouldn’t even look. One cold night, she walked 3 miles to get home when I got stuck in a hole in Victor Dennison’s gravel pit. There are some things better forgotten.

On cold days, I took out the front seat and put in the round kerosene heater we’d used in our bathroom when I was a kid. If you have never driven to school on a cold morning with a cozy kerosene stove heating your car, you don’t know what you are missing.

In 1952, more financially secure than I am now, I actually had two 1926 Fords that I drove to school – one, the two-door sedan that Philip now drives and, just before that, a four-door touring car that had no top. In December 1952, I was coming home from school in the touring car when the right front tire went flat.

ROLLOVER AFTER FLAT

Back then, when wheels would come off, I’d be slowed down for a day or so, but a flat tire was no cause for alarm and I continued to drive home on the rim. Old Fords had wheels with wooden spokes. By 1952 the spokes were already 26 years old.

The one on the right front was obviously decayed because, almost abeam of Bate Maki’s house, the pounding shattered it. The car slid to the right into the ditch, turned 90 degrees to the right and flipped over, dumping me like water out of a teacup.

If you were involved in an auto accident that did more than $50 damage, you had to report it to the state police. Because I’d paid Tom Bragg only $23.50 for the car, I saw no need to report the accident and was able to hide the vehicle along a nearby side road. That night I played for a dance at Rockland High School with my mother and didn’t dare tell her I’d rolled over in my car until we’d finished the gig.

Did I mention that Philip is learning how to restore antique cars at a school called McPherson in Kansas? I gave the axle business some thought, realized that he was now the Model T expert and put on my coat.

We looked at half a dozen Model T axles in three locations before he saw one that looked good to him. He’d get down on his knees and sight along those axles and find a little bend in each one of them.

AXLE PUT TO USE

Do I need to tell you that when I was 17, a bent axle meant absolutely nothing? The problem was with the half-rotted wood in the wheels, which would sometimes shatter on corners. I know that at least 13 wooden wheels or rear axles broke on me in a two-year period.

You’ve seen sailors who race boats all sitting on one side so the boat wouldn’t flip over. I remember getting three trustworthy companions to stand on the left running board so the car wouldn’t roll over when I made a sharp left turn into the church driveway. The car didn’t roll, but the right front wheel broke and we plowed a furrow up through the church lawn.

The axle Philip wanted still had wheels and the front spring attached to it, so we had to take it apart. When he gently placed the axle in his car and climbed in behind it, he mentioned that Model T axles cost $150 online.

I’m glad Philip found a use for that axle. I’d been saving it for him since his grandmother was 15.

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

www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html

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Maine Voices: Ranked-choice voting passes every test of true democracy http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/11/maine-voices-ranked-choice-voting-passes-every-test-of-true-democracy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/11/maine-voices-ranked-choice-voting-passes-every-test-of-true-democracy/#comments Sat, 11 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=921192 AUGUSTA — The League of Women Voters of Maine is a nonpartisan organization that encourages informed and active participation in government. We have been doing this work since 1920, when women first got the vote. We are part of a national federation of state and local chapters all over the country and in every state that works for voting rights, election integrity and the democratic process.

The league never endorses candidates or parties. We do take positions on issues and advocate for public policy outcomes – but only after our members have studied, discussed, and reached broad consensus agreement on that issue.

In 2011, after three years of study, we announced a position in favor of ranked-choice voting in Maine. In coming to this decision, we followed in the footsteps of sister Leagues around the country that began endorsing ranked-choice voting in 1999, including leagues in Vermont, Washington, California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina and South Carolina.

In a recent column, M.D. Harmon called on Maine voters to reject ranked-choice voting, asking rhetorically whether supporters of the idea believe that “plurality winners … lack legitimacy in office” and declaring that “this wasn’t an issue until Gov. LePage won the Blaine House by consecutive plurality votes.”

In the case of the league’s support, that is simply not true. The issue is better governance. We believe that better governance comes when candidates, of any party, are elected by a majority of Maine voters.

League members in Maine believe that elections should be decided by majority vote. Maine has not elected a first-term governor with a majority vote since Kenneth Curtis won in 1966, 50 years ago. In nine of the last 11 races for governor, candidates were elected by fewer than half of voters. In five of those races, candidates were elected by fewer than 40 percent of voters.

Like many of our sister leagues around the country, we endorsed ranked-choice voting as the best solution for Maine because it’s the only reform that gives voters the freedom to support their favorite candidate without worrying that their vote might be wasted or, worse, split with like-minded voters to unintentionally help elect the candidate you like the least.

We believe it will reduce negative campaigning and the money spent on negative advertising because candidates will need to appeal to a broader range of voters for first- and second-choice rankings to build a majority of support. As a voter, you are less likely to rank a candidate as your second choice if that candidate has launched personal attacks against your favorite candidate.

Ranked-choice voting also helps create a richer and, hopefully, more civil dialogue on the issues and increases the diversity of views available for voters to consider by allowing candidates from outside the two major parties to compete.

Under the current system, with more than two candidates in a race, politicians can win a primary and even a general election by talking only to a narrow base of supporters. Candidates appeal to their base and often engage in negative campaigning because it’s an effective strategy for winning elections. They remind their supporters why they dislike or fear the other candidate, rather than telling voters what they stand for themselves. Candidates who appeal to voters in a more positive way are more likely to govern as collaborative leaders.

Poll after poll tells us what we already know: Americans feel that our democracy is “out of balance,” that government is not addressing issues important to “us,” and that the power of wealthy special interests means we’re all not truly equal citizens. Americans want a fair, honest democracy and are hungry for ideas that move us toward more equal participation in civic life.

We fought to restore same-day voter registration in 2011 and to strengthen Maine’s first-in-the-nation Clean Elections law last fall because these policies, like ranked-choice voting, put more power in the hands of voters and move us toward the fairer, more honest democracy so many of us desire.

The implementation of ranked-choice voting in Maine’s state and federal elections will not be without challenges, but we have the right to determine how our democracy works and an obligation to our children and grandchildren to make the system work better. Ranked-choice voting is worthy of that effort for the civic benefits that it can bestow and will pay off many times over in a stronger democracy and a more responsive government.

— Special to the Press Herald

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Charles Krauthammer: Both parties seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/10/charles-krauthammer-both-parties-seem-determined-to-snatch-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/10/charles-krauthammer-both-parties-seem-determined-to-snatch-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory/#comments Fri, 10 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=918900 The morning after, the nation awakes asking: What have we done?

Both parties seem intent on throwing the election away. The Democrats, running against a man with highest-ever negatives, are poised to nominate a candidate with the second-highest-ever negatives. Hillary Clinton started with every possible advantage – money, experience, name recognition, residual good will from her husband’s successful 1990s – yet could not put away until this week a socialist backbencher in a country uniquely allergic to socialism.

Bernie Sanders did have one advantage. He had something to say. She had nuthin’. Her Tuesday victory speech was a pudding without a theme for a campaign without a cause. After 14 months, she still can’t get past the famous question asked of Ted Kennedy in 1979: Why do you want to be president?

So whom do the Republicans put up? They had 17 candidates. Any of a dozen could have taken down Clinton, unloved, untrusted, living under the shadow of an FBI investigation.

Instead, they nominate Donald Trump – conspiracy theorist (from Barack Obama’s Kenyan birth to Ted Cruz’s father’s involvement with Lee Harvey Oswald), fabulist (from his own invented opposition to the Iraq war and the Libya intervention to the “thousands and thousands” of New Jersey Muslims celebrating 9/11), admirer of strongmen (from Vladimir Putin to the butchers of Tiananmen).

His outrageous provocations have been brilliantly sequenced so that the shock of the new extinguishes the memory of the last. Though perhaps not his most recent – his gratuitous attack on a “Mexican” federal judge (born and bred in Indiana) for inherent bias because of his ethnicity. Textbook racism, averred Speaker Paul Ryan. Even Trump acolyte and possible running mate Newt Gingrich called it inexcusable.

Trump promptly doubled down, expanding the universe of the not-to-be-trusted among us by adding American Muslims to the list of those who might be inherently biased. Yet Trump is the party’s chosen. He won the primary contest fair and square. The people have spoken. What to do?

First, dare to say that the people aren’t always right. Surely Republicans admit the possibility. Or do they believe the people chose rightly in electing Obama? Twice. Historical examples of other countries choosing even more wrongly are numerous and tragic. The people’s will deserves respect, not necessarily affirmation.

I sympathize with the dilemma of Republican leaders reluctant to affirm. Many are as appalled as I am by Trump, but they don’t have the freedom I do to say, as I have publicly, that I cannot imagine ever voting for him. They have unique party and institutional responsibilities.

For some, that meant endorsing Trump in the belief that they might be able to contain, guide and perhaps even educate him. To my mind, this thinking has always been hopelessly misbegotten but not necessarily – nor in all cases – venal.

Which brings us to Ryan, now being excoriated by many conservatives for having said he would vote for Trump.

Yet what was surprising was not Ryan’s tepid semi-endorsement, which was always inevitable and unavoidable – can the highest elected Republican official be at war during a general election with the party’s democratically chosen presidential candidate? – but his initial refusal to endorse Trump when, after the Indiana primary, nearly everyone around him was falling into line.

That was surprising. Which is why Ryan’s refusal to immediately follow suit created such a sensation. It also created, deliberately, the time and space for non-Trumpites to hold the line. Ryan was legitimizing resistance to the new regime, giving it safe harbor in the House, even as resisters were being relentlessly accused of treason for “electing Hillary.”

In the end, Ryan called an armistice. What was he to do? Oppose and resign? And then what? What would remain of the Republican Party’s conservative leadership? And if he created a permanent split in the party, he’d be setting up the party’s conservative wing as a scapegoat if Trump loses in November.

Ryan had no good options. He chose the one he felt was least damaging to the conservative cause to which he has devoted his entire adult life.

I wouldn’t have done it, but I’m not House speaker. He is a practicing politician who has to calculate the consequences of what he does. That deserves at least some understanding.

One day, we shall all have to account for what we did and what we said in this scoundrel year. For now, we each have our conscience to attend to.

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

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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M.D. Harmon: Sanders should consider what’s happening in socialist Venezuela http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/10/m-d-harmon-sanders-should-consider-whats-happening-in-socialist-venezuela/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/10/m-d-harmon-sanders-should-consider-whats-happening-in-socialist-venezuela/#comments Fri, 10 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=918996 Clio, the Greek Muse of history, may not have much of a sense of humor (tragedy’s more her speed), but boy, her irony spell is getting a real workout nowadays.

In classical mythology, the Muses are nine daughters of Zeus who give inspiration to creative people and enterprises.

And Clio’s current ironic accomplishments, all firsts in American history, are these:

First, she has raised up as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee a person who says whatever he happens to be thinking at the moment. Oddly, this is regarded as a virtue by his supporters.

Second, she has given us a person who thinks that her gender is a qualification for office.

While Hillary Clinton may become the first woman to gain a major party’s nod as its candidate, her real “first” is to be the first target of an FBI investigation to aspire to that status. (Unless the investigation precludes it before the Democratic convention in July.)

Third, Clio has given us a remarkably popular major-party presidential candidate who is an avowed socialist – while simultaneously giving us a socialist-run country in our own hemisphere that is at the inevitable end stage of left-wing policies.

You’d think Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters (and Clinton supporters who lean his way and want her to, too) would ponder what’s happening in Venezuela right now, but there’s no sign of it.

Though there is some wry amusement in all this for the rest of us, it’s still not a good thing that so many people are blind to Clio’s lessons.

Particularly since they’re so obvious. The late British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, is reported to have said: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money” – and Venezuela has.

Its descent into deprivation was begun under the now-deceased strongman Hugo Chavez, and his disciple Nicolas Maduro currently misrules in his stead. Some recent headlines about their legacy:

“Venezuela drifts into new territory: Hunger, blackouts and government shutdown,” The New York Times, May 28. Quote: “This country has long been accustomed to painful shortages, even of basic foods. But Venezuela keeps drifting further into uncharted territory. … Electricity and water are being rationed, and huge areas of the country have spent months with little of either.”

” ‘We want food!’, Venezuelans cry at protest near presidency,” Reuters, June 3. Quote: “Despite their country having the world’s biggest oil reserves, Venezuelans are suffering severe shortages of consumer goods ranging from milk to flour, soaring prices and a shrinking economy. … Critics say Venezuela’s economic chaos is the consequence of failed socialist policies for the last 17 years, especially price and currency controls.”

“Dying infants and no medicine: Inside Venezuela’s failing hospitals,” The New York Times, May 15. Quote: ” ‘The death of a baby is our daily bread,’ said Dr. Osleidy Camejo, a surgeon in the nation’s capital, Caracas, referring to the toll from Venezuela’s collapsing hospitals.”

“Venezuela’s crisis is the latest example of why socialism doesn’t work,” The Daily Signal website, June 3. Quote: “Even the most basic services and products are becoming inaccessible as a result of cronyism, interventionism and a controlled prices policy. … The inflation rate is the highest in the world: It is expected to be at 720 percent by the end of 2016.”

There are dozens more, but let’s end with this:

“Stump the socialist: Bernie would rather not talk about Venezuela,” HotAir website, May 28. Quote: Sanders was being interviewed May 26 by Univision correspondent Leon Krauze, who asked: “Various leftist governments, especially the populists, are in serious trouble in Latin America. The socialist model in Venezuela has the country near collapse. Argentina, also Brazil, how do you explain that failure?”

Sanders replied: “Right now I’m running for president of the United States.”

And that’s all he would say. But, claiming he can still move the needle because Democratic superdelegates “don’t actually vote” until the convention, he refuses to drop out.

While polls on a Trump-Clinton race vary, here’s what Rasmussen said Monday: “Right now Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are going nowhere. Rasmussen Reports’ regular polling shows them both hovering around 40 percent support, where they’ve been for weeks. … In both matchups, though, there remain an unusually high number of voters who prefer some other candidate or are still undecided. Undecideds in single digits are not unusual at this stage of the election season, but when nearly one-in-four voters say they’ll vote third-party or stay home, it’s time to wonder why.”

D’oh! Seriously? I think we all know why.

So, if you don’t like the current choices, send me an email saying what you would like to happen. Do you still plan to vote? For whom? I’ll give the results (the printable ones, anyway) in a future column.

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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Maine Voices: This privately-owned land should be made for you and me http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/10/maine-voices-this-privately-owned-land-should-be-made-for-you-and-me/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/10/maine-voices-this-privately-owned-land-should-be-made-for-you-and-me/#comments Fri, 10 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=919038 Dear Maine,

Hi. It has been years since I left you, and I bet you’re a bit surprised I’m writing after all this time.

Yeah, I know, it was abrupt. Most people who knew us thought you and I were happy together there in The County and that lovely town of Presque Isle. But when given the chance I jumped at a move to California, and there are some days I still regret ending things between us.

I’m really sorry I haven’t written; I still think of you often all these years after I moved to the West. Life out here in California is distracting (yeah, earthquakes, fires, drought) and a bit nuts sometimes, but I’ve never forgotten you or your people, who I loved. I tell people that during two years in Maine, I made as many friends as I’ve made after 16 years in California.

I really miss you, Maine, especially this time of year, when you were full of the early summer green I fell in love with. But I have something I should have told you years ago, and it’s mostly the reason why I left. You need to know that you really stink in one big quality-of-life aspect: public land. It’s true.

While many of your residents can still hunt, fish and ride all-terrain vehicles on vast private lands, they’re not yours – the people of Maine’s. You see, beautiful places aren’t well-protected until they’re given to the people, and even then it can still be a challenge. Out here in the West we have fantastic resources of open space available to all of us and yes, they’re our land, public lands, and only a few cranks in Nevada and Utah would change that.

I know it’s probably hard to understand if you haven’t been to the West, but Maine, you have so little public land that as a park and recreation professor, I just couldn’t bear working with you any longer. I was starving for access to public lands, even after I looked really hard for places to bring my park management students.

Yeah, Baxter and Acadia are pretty awesome, but that was all you could offer my University of Maine students – a five-hour drive for a class on protected places. I ended up sending many of them to do internships in the sprawling public land systems of the American West. Some of my former students are still here. They say hi. They say there’s nothing for the folks at home in Maine to fear: Our rural communities in the West wouldn’t give away the prosperity that public lands visitors bring for anything.

See, you’ve been told since you were young that you had plenty of open country to hunt, camp, paddle and roam in. But that land wasn’t yours, Maine – it was a timber company’s. Wild country? The Allagash Wilderness Waterway (this is really hard to say) is simply … an embarrassment.

I know, I know, you were always so proud of it. But it’s about size. Maine, it’s not wild land when you can see roads, listen to the rumble of logging trucks and hear the maw of chainsaws from a campsite. Trees? The northern part of the state is covered in dog-hair timber scarcely 6 inches thick. To see big trees I had to drive Down East, or even (I’m sorry, Maine!) over to New Hampshire.

Maine was about as wild as an Iowa cornfield is wild. I mean, it was “natural,” but a cornfield can give you only so much breathing room.

Maybe one day you’ll understand and will draw larger lines around your little public places and make them bigger. Even the people of rural Utah are glad they have the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in their region, but boy, did they ever set up a yowl when it was created. Now it’s an economic tourism engine that rural Utah would not part with.

Maine, I miss you, but you really need to enlarge your vision of the value of large-scale public parks and protected forests. I say this with love: Your kids deserve better.

I think of you often. I know it’s been years, but I just wanted to say hello.

With love from California,

Dave

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Maine Voices: USM engineering students giving back through service learning http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/09/maine-voices-usm-engineering-students-giving-back-through-service-learning/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/09/maine-voices-usm-engineering-students-giving-back-through-service-learning/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=917006 During the spring 2016 semester, teams of engineering students from the University of Southern Maine examined three different projects at Windham Public Schools: converting parking lot lights from high-intensity discharge bulbs to LEDs, replacing rooftop air handlers and converting to a natural gas-based hot water system.

The students found that by replacing the HID lights with motion-sensing LED lights, the district would see a payback on its investment in just two years.

These results were incredibly encouraging, said Bill Hansen, director of facilities at Windham Public Schools: “Having a fresh set of eyes take an initial look at a project is very valuable. It’s a huge advantage to have these three projects investigated so that we can move ahead.”

Hansen has served as a mentor and co-educator for USM students working on projects in his district. A licensed mechanical engineer himself, Hansen recognizes that “the opportunity to get out into the field as a student is huge.”

Over the past two years, USM engineering students have partnered with not only the Windham School Department but also with schools in Portland, Gorham, Windham, Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth to improve their facilities.

These partnerships stem from an engineering economics course taught every spring semester at USM by Ivan Most. The course includes a service-learning project, in which teams of students partner with the facilities director of a local school district to consult on a facilities project at the school. The projects range from planning for the installation of solar panels to a cost-benefit analysis of installing a new HVAC system.

Norm Justice, facilities director at Gorham Schools, hosted two teams of USM students this spring as well. He echoed Hansen’s sentiments and found it to be very valuable to foster a connection with USM. “Part of our goal as a town and school district is to partner with the university,” said Justice.

Students working in Gorham took this partnership to the next level by developing an activity for David Palmer’s eighth-grade science students at Gorham Middle School.

The eighth-graders collected data on carbon dioxide levels and temperature in their own classroom, and learned how to analyze and interpret the data. These data were used by the USM teams in their analysis of the geothermal system at the middle school. Hands-on projects such as these, in which young students can interact with relevant data, are sure to spark an interest in some of the next generation of engineers.

These projects illustrate how USM students have gained real-world engineering and consulting experience, while meeting the needs of their communities.

When Most learned that the facilities departments of many area school districts are run by a single director and often have a long list of projects they wish to plan, analyze and implement, he saw an opportunity for his engineering economics students to learn through service.

As an engineer and educator, Most recognizes the value of experiential learning for student engineers. “These projects give students a consulting engineering experience that not only encompasses problem solving, but also includes the personal skills necessary for success in the consulting environment,” he said.

His students agree. Alyssa Chaplin, a recent graduate who took the course this spring and plans to pursue work in HVAC engineering, said that she gained more valuable experience from service learning than she did purely through classroom work. Chaplin said the project helped her to “understand what it’s like in the real world and better understand what consulting is.”

Most is committed to giving back and recognizes the unique responsibility to the community that engineers have. In his own words, “Service learning teaches (our students) the importance of pro bono work as a professional,” he said. “They have an obligation to society to give back for the opportunity their engineering education gives them.” Through this project, he hopes to impart this sense of responsibility onto his student engineers.

Fostering relationships between higher education institutions and community partners is a win-win.

When community partners invest their time and expertise as co-educators, learning is enhanced, trust is built and real change can happen. Experiential service learning strengthens education by providing a thorough understanding of community needs and an application of knowledge to real contexts. And when higher education partners with the community, as Most’s class has done, students are able to make lasting connections between content and community.

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Dana Milbank: Paul Ryan and Co. go on impossible mission to reassure poor blacks http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/09/dana-milbank-ryan-and-co-go-on-impossible-mission-to-reassure-poor-blacks/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/09/dana-milbank-ryan-and-co-go-on-impossible-mission-to-reassure-poor-blacks/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=917207 Seven white men and a white woman, Republican members of Congress all, boarded vehicles on Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning for a voyage deep into Anacostia, a largely black and poor section of Washington.

Their mission: to reassure nonwhite voters frightened by Donald Trump, their party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

Their odds of success: exceedingly low.

The lawmakers must have perceived their mission to be risky, for they traveled with a veritable arsenal: a Capitol Police “mobile command center” truck, a canine unit, four or five squad cars and a half-dozen black police vans. Police closed the street to traffic, and security officials wearing plainclothes and earpieces kept a watchful eye in all directions as a white van disgorged the lawmakers at the residential addiction-treatment program they were visiting. House Speaker Paul Ryan zoomed up moments later in his two-Suburban motorcade.

The lawmakers, six of them in matching blue dress shirts, sat at a table in the shelter’s basement, then invited the cameras in to capture a few seconds of their supportive nods and ingratiating smiles while African-American residents told their tales of recovery. Later, they reassembled outside, where the Republican officials gave a news conference while residents of the shelter, House of Help City of Hope, stood silently in the background.

To his credit, Ryan takes poverty seriously and talks about it often. He made it the first item on his six-point policy agenda. But if Ryan thinks his outing to the Anacostia shelter is going to offset the yuuuuge damage Trump is doing to the party with Latinos, African-Americans, women, immigrants and others – well, to borrow a favorite Trump epithet, he’s a loser.

The first six questions for Ryan after his remarks at the shelter Tuesday were about Trump’s racist campaign to disqualify the judge in a fraud case against Trump because the judge is Hispanic:

“Do you have any regrets about your endorsement” last week?

“How can you continue to support the candidate?”

“How concerned are you that … it’s going to undercut what your party is trying to sell here?”

Ryan was blunt. “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” he said. He acknowledged that “these kinds of comments undercut these things (his anti-poverty rollout), and I’m not going to even pretend to defend them.”

But he elevated party unity above his concern about the party standard-bearer’s racism. “I’m going to defend our majority and … I see it as my job as speaker of the House to help keep our party unified,” he said. “If we go into the fall as a divided party, we are doomed to lose.”

That was a frank rationale for Republican officials’ deal with the devil. Maybe party unity will protect their congressional majorities in the short term. Their tolerance of a bigoted nominee could also mean losing nonwhite voters indefinitely, and with them their standing as a national party.

Ryan argued that his agenda would fare better under Trump than Hillary Clinton, and that’s probably true. House Republicans have proposed cutting about $1 trillion over a decade from programs such as food stamps and welfare. Trump, for his part, has said food stamps “shouldn’t be needed often,” and he has complained that people “make more money by sitting there doing nothing than they make if they have a job.”

At Tuesday’s event, Ryan didn’t cite the deep cuts he plans for anti-poverty programs, only obliquely mentioning the need to “measure success based on results,” not dollars.

Another of the lawmakers, Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama, was more direct: “We get to save the taxpayers money because we won’t have to be doling out more money for these programs that don’t work.”

Democrats say the programs do work: that the average family uses food stamps for only eight to 10 months, and that, when you figure in programs such as the earned-income tax credit, the child tax credit and food stamps, government efforts have reduced poverty by some 40 percent.

But that’s an argument for another day – or another year. Ryan has said that passing legislation such as the anti-poverty agenda this year is “really not the goal.” The goal for now is to remove the taint of Trump. And it’s going to take more than an armed tour of Anacostia.

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

dana.milbank@washpost.com

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Commentary: Transgender Mainers deserve more than our silence, Maine House speaker says http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/09/commentary-transgender-mainers-deserve-more-than-our-silence-maine-house-speaker-says/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/09/commentary-transgender-mainers-deserve-more-than-our-silence-maine-house-speaker-says/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=917210 NORTH BERWICK — Estimates of the transgender population of the U.S. are incomplete and limited, but researchers put the figure at about 0.3 percent.

Many Americans – and many Mainers, for that matter – do not know anyone who is transgender (or think that they don’t); have never met or spoken with someone who is transgender (or don’t think that they have), and still don’t really understand what it means to be “trans.”

The phrase “gender identity” sounds alien to many, often ridiculed as another attempt at political correctness by individuals who have never felt the imprisonment of the seemingly innocuous gender box since birth.

Yet 41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide, choosing to leave this world rather than face another day in its hatred.

Calls for unisex bathrooms and anti-discrimination laws have reached a resounding pitch in an effort to combat screams about public safety that cover thinly veiled hatred. Unfortunately, many well-meaning Mainers have been caught in the middle.

Like many Mainers, I support the full and unequivocal rights of the transgender population; however, this piece is not meant to be a litany of all of the reasons I support those rights.

I want to talk to the Mainers whose voices haven’t been heard in this debate: the hardworking Mainers who aren’t engaged in the trench warfare and heated rhetoric surrounding this issue.

Despite a mostly shared determination to eliminate discrimination, across our communities there remains a silent discomfort that shadows this debate in new ways – a discomfort many Mainers have struggled to name as we’ve watched the news and worried about the supposed threat to our children.

And while we don’t talk about it, beneath that quiet internal discomfort grows a truth that affects the futures of us all.

In what is becoming a hallmark of American history, in our fear, in our ignorance and in the empty place of an answer strong enough to defend against hate, we have once again turned our backs on each other.

Good people shy away from defending transgender rights, avoid the hard questions at the dinner table and turn off the news so we can ignore the pit in our stomach that says we should be braver, that we should have said something.

And we walk away instead of standing up, even as transgender youths beg for equal rights, for the peace we take for granted. We walk away because we don’t understand them; we walk away because we are afraid.

When did we decide that the safety of one Mainer meant more than another’s? That as long as we claimed it was in defense of our families, we could terrorize someone else’s?

And elected officials right here in Maine, including our governor, have pushed for discrimination against transgender youth in punishment for the sin of existing. If these elected officials have their way, our children and neighbors could face legalized discrimination every time they step beyond the safety of their front doors.

Over 75 percent of transgender youths feel unsafe at school, compromising their self-esteem, threatening their ability to learn along with their classmates and making it less likely that they’ll graduate and go on to receive the higher education or job training they need to succeed.

Later on in life, these transgender youth will face diminished prospects and be sent home from their jobs and remain unemployed at twice the rate of the general population, punished for something they cannot control no matter how hard they work.

We must be better, and we must do better. For the female student who enters a bathroom at her school, terrified of being beaten because she was born a boy. For your son who watches as you, embarrassed and at a loss for words, let a neighbor demean and threaten that person he saw in a restaurant, that person who he thought was transgender. For all of our transgender brothers and sisters.

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral. Returning violence with violence only multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”

Fellow Mainers, we have to stop deepening the darkness. Inaction and silence do not absolve us of the responsibility to refuse to accept discrimination, segregation or violence against any single person, in our state and across our country.

We must stand by and support our community members who are transgender. Because at the end of the day, they are simply our neighbors, our children, our family members and our friends, and they deserve the same rights and protections that are afforded to each of us as citizens of this great state.

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Leonard Pitts: Allying oneself with a ‘noisy buffoon’ has been known to backfire http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/08/leonard-pitts-allying-oneself-with-a-noisy-buffoon-has-been-proven-to-backfire/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/08/leonard-pitts-allying-oneself-with-a-noisy-buffoon-has-been-proven-to-backfire/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 10:00:54 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=915449 In 1933, Franz von Papen was hungry for revenge.

Having been ousted as chancellor of Germany through political subterfuge, he wanted payback against thermer ally who had succeeded him. So he struck a new alliance, this one with Adolf Hitler, leader of a rising popular movement called National Socialsim, or Nazism, and maneuvered to have him appointed chancellor. Von Papen didn’t think much of his partner. Like most political observers, he considered Hitler a noisy buffoon. Von Papen was certain he could control him once in power.

House Speaker Paul Ryan seems to have made a similar calculation last week in endorsing another noisy buffoon, Donald Trump.

He is not, of course, the first Republican to do so. While the likes of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney have shown statesmanlike courage and refused Trump their support, other big names have shown all the spinal fortitude of Gumby. This includes New York Rep. Peter King (who once called Trump a “feckless pretender”), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (who said Trump was less qualified for the presidency than “a speck of dirt”), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (who described him as “the most vulgar person” to ever run for president) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, (who proclaimed him “a madman who must be stopped”).

It is not unheard of for a politician to hang a philosophical U-turn on a candidate once the primaries are decided. But it is unheard of – perhaps even unprecedented – for so many to do so having criticized the candidate in such harsh and personal terms. Paul now thinks a man less qualified than dirt should run the country? Jindal now wants to give a “madman” access to the nuclear codes?

That’s not a U-turn. That’s a U-turn in an 18-wheeler with bad brakes doing 90.

Now Ryan adds his name to this list of moral imbecility. After weeks of ostentatious agonizing, he finally declared his support in a statement that, like so many others, was mainly noteworthy for its tepidity. “I’ll be voting for @realDonaldTrump this fall,” he tweeted. “I’m confident he will help turn the House GOP’s agenda into laws.”

The very next day, Ryan was forced to condemn his nominee for another spasm of the graceless, clueless, classless behavior that has long characterized him. Meaning Trump’s claim that a federal judge hearing the case against the apparent fraud that is Trump University should recuse himself because he is a “Mexican” and therefore unfit to fairly judge a man whose attacks on undocumented Mexican immigrants are the stuff of political legend. It didn’t seem to matter to Trump that this particular “Mexican” was born in Indiana. Indeed, he doubled down, later adding that a Muslim judge would also be unfit.

This blatant bigotry, said Ryan, was “out of left field.” Which is bull. When you know a man is adored by David Duke and other white supremacists, when you’ve seen him tweet racist material, heard him call Mexicans “rapists” and say the border should be closed to Muslims, you don’t get to play the startled ingenue when he says something racist.

Does Ryan really believe this guy will be guided by “the House GOP’s agenda”? Does he really think a man who has reached this lofty point by ignoring convention will suddenly agree to be constrained by it once he has achieved power commensurate with his ego?

Apparently, he does. And that’s pathetic.

Some people will resist comparing Ryan with von Papen. But history teaches, when we allow it to. It imparts lessons, if we only listen. The lesson here is that leadership requires sound judgment, the ability to see what is right in front of you and understand it for what it is. Von Papen did not. He saw only a noisy buffoon he thought he could control. Ryan should take note.

Because, as it turned out, von Papen was wrong.

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

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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Maine Voices: Building boom should be rebuilding our state’s middle class. It’s not. http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/08/maine-voices-building-boom-should-be-rebuilding-maines-middle-class-its-not/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/08/maine-voices-building-boom-should-be-rebuilding-maines-middle-class-its-not/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=915218 When I grew up on Munjoy Hill (I graduated from Cheverus in 1973), Portland was a different city.

As someone who has enjoyed a lifetime career working in the building trades, one difference among many stands out to me.

In 1973, I could stand up on North Street and look out across Portland and see a path for myself, my classmates and friends and many, many others. It was a path to earning my way into the middle class by working as an apprentice in construction. I learned skills I could build a career from and support a family with. I loved building the place where I grew up. It was exciting just to have that chance right here in Portland.

With a new-building boom here in Portland and elsewhere in southern Maine, I would expect to see young workers learning new skills and seasoned, highly skilled workers getting good jobs where new development is breaking ground. That’s new development worth tens and tens of millions of dollars. I’ve never seen anything like it.

We’re talking about hundreds of jobs that should be good-paying jobs with health benefits and skills training, with certified safety training and retirement benefits, with take-home pay that adds up to income security for working families.

In short, with this building boom we have a real opportunity to start re-building Maine’s middle class.

That’s not happening.

Instead, we hear developers and general contractors crying about the lack of skilled workers. Karl Ward, CEO of Nickerson & O’Day construction in Brewer, told the Maine Public Broadcasting Network recently that he’s about “20 people short right now and I can’t find them. … Skilled construction workers are pretty hard to find.”

Matthew Marks, CEO of Associated General Contractors, chimed in for the 180 members of the trade organization, telling the Press Herald’s J. Craig Anderson that Maine’s skilled construction workers have simply left the state in search of higher-paying jobs elsewhere in New England.

Then he contradicts himself by claiming that “low pay” offered by the group’s member companies did not drive workers away. (See “Skilled worker shortage crimps new construction in Maine,” May 17.)

I’ll just be blunt about this: Low pay is the main reason why Associated General Contractors’ member companies can’t find the skilled workers they need.

But Ward and Marks aren’t completely wrong. Low pay isn’t the only reason.

Low pay without benefits is another reason why.

Low pay on unsafe construction sites and without Occupational Safety and Health Administration-certified safety training is another reason.

Low pay and the misclassification of skilled workers as “independent contractors” is yet another reason.

Low pay without access to registered apprenticeship programs is the reason why young workers won’t try their hand at learning a construction trade on any job offered by an Associated General Contractors member builder.

And that leads me to the most heartbreaking difference I see between today’s Portland and the Portland where I grew up and worked: Developers and general contractors no longer live up to the partnership they used to value with skilled workers in Maine’s building trades. Once there was a wealth of construction jobs in Maine, and we shared that wealth. That shared partnership built Maine’s middle class.

And if we become partners again, we can rebuild our middle class and give our working families a fair chance.

Because when you stop and think about it, it’s not what we build that’s most important here: our schools and hospitals, new hotels and condominiums and apartments, office buildings and infrastructure.

What’s most important is what we build together: strong, prospering communities, solid working-class families, affordable housing and all of the ties that bind us to the towns and cities in Maine where we live and raise our children and take care of our parents and friends.

There are 4,000 skilled workers in the Maine building trades. The Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council runs registered apprenticeship programs to give young workers their first steps toward skills that will last a lifetime. We run OSHA-certified safety training classes because we care if our workers come home for dinner. We offer health care and benefits because construction work is more than a hard day’s work – it takes a toll on a body.

So let’s look at the whole story – the story that Associated General Contractors’ member companies don’t want to tell and that the Portland Press Herald sadly missed.

Let’s build together, and let’s rebuild Maine’s middle class. We have that opportunity right now.

 

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Commentary: ‘Hearing’ on Maine Warden Service conduct a one-sided sham, legislator says http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/08/commentary-hearing-on-warden-service-conduct-a-one-sided-sham-legislator-says/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/08/commentary-hearing-on-warden-service-conduct-a-one-sided-sham-legislator-says/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=915248 AUGUSTA — In my 42 years of public service, I have never witnessed such a one-sided proceeding as the dubious hearing held last Wednesday by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, which was supposed to investigate the conduct of the Maine Warden Service during undercover operations.

How can a committee engage in fact-finding when only one side is heard? The responsibility of the Legislature is oversight and investigation. The IFW Committee process authorized by bipartisan leadership was a total failure, and the whole state is visibly aware that a coverup and whitewash were the result.

I know that members of Maine’s criminal defense establishment wanted a chance to testify at this hearing, that the media’s representative on the Right to Know Advisory Committee wanted answers, that members of the public and defendants with no record of predisposition wanted to testify, and that various legislators wanted to be heard.

People in the legal system who have serious concerns about the warden service’s law enforcement practices have urged me to press on and seek justice over these critical issues, which underscore the integrity of Maine’s criminal justice system. That’s why I’m writing this column.

What did we get as a result of these concerns? Only two people were allowed to testify: IFW Commissioner Chandler Woodcock and Maine Warden Service Col. Joel Wilkinson. They were accompanied by Brenda Kielty, ombudsman for public access with the Maine Attorney General’s Office. State Sen. Paul Davis, IFW Committee chairman, and state Rep. Stanley Short, a committee member, met in secret with Woodcock and Wilkinson two weeks ago, providing them with all the softball questions well in advance of this charade of a hearing.

No hard questions were asked. Instead, the questions appeared slanted to ridicule the messenger: award-winning reporter Colin Woodard and the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

The warden service and the inland fisheries department are in clear noncompliance with the Freedom of Access Act, which guarantees the public’s right to know. When Kielty, the state public access ombudsman, was asked about redacted documents, she replied that she had nothing to do with the redactions and that Mark Randlett, the IFW’s legal counsel at the Attorney General’s Office, was the one who handled the redactions. When Davis asked if Randlett were present to answer questions, the answer was “no.” Why wasn’t he summonsed to appear?

The Press Herald exposed not only Freedom of Access issues but also issues of civil rights, the right to a fair trial and criminal procedure – all jurisdictions of the Judiciary Committee. Yet the sham hearing didn’t allow any testimony to underscore these issues.

In fact, Davis didn’t explore anything. The entire proceeding centered on Davis reading from one newspaper article, ignoring the fact that other people have come forward to express concerns about the warden service.

It was interesting to learn from Wilkinson, in justifying the undercover entrapment, that William Livezey, the undercover agent, is a good Christian who doesn’t drink unless he is working. Every member of the IFW Committee thought this testimony was funny, laughing out loud. Shameful.

Davis, the IFW Committee chair, glossed over the questions that legislative leadership had authorized members of the Judiciary Committee to ask. Our role was not taken seriously, even though the memo we received from the Speaker’s office clearly acknowledged that the Judiciary Committee has sole responsibility over FOAA issues.

The integrity of Maine’s legislative oversight is at stake here. Are we a police state or a state ruled by laws? Once again, in effect, we have the police investigating the police, no independent oversight, with the Attorney General’s Office aiding the obstruction of FOAA requirements.

What are they hiding? Obviously, the policies of warden service undercover operations, policies that detail the approved use of alcohol, plying suspects with booze to get them drunk, and then encouraging them to commit crimes. If the suspect still doesn’t commit the crime, the undercover agent commits the crime himself to egg the suspect on. That’s why 15 of the 16 pages of warden service undercover policies were redacted. The warden service can’t handle the truth.

Legislative leadership authorized an unfair, rigged, biased inquiry that did not allow for all sides to be heard.

I want to know what House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate Michael President Thibodeau plan to do to rectify this situation, so that all parties can be heard and receive their rights to a fair and impartial hearing before a legislative committee or other official fact-finding body.

— Special to the Press Herald

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Charles Lawton: As with a child, it takes a village to raise a new business http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/07/charles-lawton-as-with-a-child-it-takes-a-village-to-raise-a-new-business/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/07/charles-lawton-as-with-a-child-it-takes-a-village-to-raise-a-new-business/#comments Tue, 07 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=913628 With Maine’s third annual Startup and Create Week set to kick off in two weeks, it is time to take a look not at Maine’s human birth and death rates, but at our business birth and death rates.

Recognizing that not all of the companies that the Department of Labor classifies as “newly opened establishments” are truly “startups” – some may be reorganizations, breakups, those emerging from bankruptcy or from sales to new owners – it is, nonetheless, useful to see what the “birth” and “death” data say about the nature of business and employment growth in Maine over the past several years.

Looking at the number of business “births” – newly established entities filing payroll reports – the news since the trough of the Great Recession is generally positive.

The four-quarter moving average of the number of new business openings in Maine has risen from 927 in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 1,038 in the third quarter of 2015 (the most recent data available). Over the same period, Maine’s new business “birth rate” (the number of new establishments as a percent of the total number of reporting establishments) has increased ever so slightly from 2.5 percent to 2.7 percent.

This is certainly good news. But it does not match the activity in Massachusetts, where the number of new establishments rose from 3,887 to 6,495 over the same period, and the new business birth rate jumped from 2.3 percent to 3.4 percent.

It is interesting to note that the establishment “death rate” in Maine over the same period also fell slightly from 2.9 percent to 2.4 percent, while the death rate in Massachusetts remained about the same at 2.5 percent. This may indicate a greater business churn in Massachusetts with rising birth rates accompanying stable death rates being an indicator of failures being followed by renewed startup efforts – a positive sign of a strong entrepreneurial culture.

After examining the simple number of births and deaths – new businesses and dying businesses – it is important to trace this startup activity to job creation.

In Maine, the 927 new establishments in 2009 accounted for 3,503 employees, for an average of 3.8 employees per new company. In 2015, 1,038 new companies accounted for only 2,755 employees, for an average of 2.7 jobs per new company. In short, new Maine companies in 2015 are creating fewer jobs than did the new Maine companies of 2009.

Interestingly, the same phenomenon holds true in Massachusetts, where the average number of new jobs per new company fell from 3.6 jobs per new company to 2.9 jobs over the same period. This trend calls for a closer look at the regulatory procedures surrounding employment growth in new companies.

The central take-away from this quick overview of basic business demographics over the period of slow economic recovery since the end of the Great Recession is that while startups (new business formation) are important to economic vitality, they are far from the whole story. Maine needs to examine the entire ecosystem in which new businesses grow (or do not grow).

While it is encouraging to see Maine’s business “birth rate” rising, it is alarming to see how small the new “babies” are. We need to identify the elements surrounding healthy business growth and work to assure that they are more readily available in the economic culture and atmosphere in which new Maine companies must make the initial “life and death” decisions of their young lives, decisions that will go a long way in determining Maine’s future economic growth.

What are these elements?

As with young children, they are obvious and very basic when we consider the issue carefully – attention, celebration, care, mentoring, instruction, regular interaction with peers and some well-focused financial support.

Just as the saying goes about raising a healthy, energetic, creative, self-motivated child – it takes a village – so it is with new businesses. We must pay close attention not just to the process of birth, but also to the process of guiding the newly born to maturity.

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

clawton@planningdecisions.com

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Maine Voices: In Peter DeTroy, Maine and the nation lose ‘titan of legal profession,’ F. Lee Bailey says http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/07/maine-voices-in-peter-detroy-maine-and-the-nation-lose-titan-of-legal-profession-f-lee-bailey-says/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/07/maine-voices-in-peter-detroy-maine-and-the-nation-lose-titan-of-legal-profession-f-lee-bailey-says/#comments Tue, 07 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=913709 YARMOUTH — I am no fan of attending funeral services. For me, they embrace sadness and loss – usually. Last Friday was an exception. It was truly a celebration of Peter DeTroy, a towering presence in the legal profession, which is mourning his sudden and unexpected loss.

I am lucky to count myself as one of Peter’s myriad friends and admiring clients. The event was held in Merrill Auditorium, and I counted fewer than 200 empty seats of the 1,900 available.

I have spent a good chunk of my 83 years working with lawyers, especially trial lawyers, in every state but Montana as well as in several countries abroad. I think I have met many of the crême de la crême of courtroom “top guns,” and generally have learned something from each experience. But like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart grappling with an attempt to define obscenity (“I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it …”), I have no paradigm from which to create a verbal description of the “ultimate advocate.” It turns out that top-shelf trial lawyers come in many different flavors, with widely varying techniques, methods and courtroom tactics. The best I could do was to ask myself two questions:

Is this lawyer really prepared to try this case?

If so, can he or she wring maximum benefit from the facts in the evidence bag?

Until, that is, I met and retained Peter DeTroy. As we became closely acquainted, it was evident that when personal goodies were handed out to cradle occupants, he somehow managed to be at or near the front of the several lines that each of us goes through at the beginning of life. In a word, I think he had it all.

He was a man of formidable intelligence, which he upgraded at every opportunity in any way that presented itself. Because of his very high intelligence quotient, he had a prodigious memory.

He was a well-educated and very, very articulate man. His command of the English language was astonishing.

When in the courtroom, he moved with a fluidity that showed he was on “home turf,” ever courteous, soft-spoken but with words so well enunciated that witnesses, jurors and judges rarely missed his point.

Peter was a man of elegance and grace. His smile was warming. He was the very essence of a nice guy, even a wonderful guy. Unlike some of his colleagues, Peter could have tried cases in any jurisdiction before any judge, and emerge when the verdicts were in as a platinum professional who evoked respect from all.

If you are a trial lawyer, and have some triumphs, lumps and scars to show for your years in the well of the court, as well as the occasional attack, you cannot uncover a developing serious accusation against you without contemplating who might be a good choice to lead your defense when the battle is fomenting.

I have been attacked more than most lawyers, and have had the benefit of the services of some truly crackerjack courtroom magicians, as well as some who wilted when the heat got turned up. When Peter stood up for me as my lawyer, I felt totally comfortable that he would make no mistakes, and he did not. If I were to be charged with a serious crime tomorrow, I would again hire Peter DeTroy, if only he had not departed long before he should have been called to the Beyond.

But Peter has left a bountiful legacy. His modestly sized law firm has an active cadre of top-notch lawyers to fill his shoes, and he is in no small measure a cause of their excellence.

I have lost a most valued colleague and friend.

The state of Maine has lost a crown jewel, a titan of the legal profession whose name will echo in courtroom corridors for ages.

And the United States has lost one of the finest lawyers it ever spawned or developed, a consummate example of “the best.”

Safe passage, Peter. You are and will be much missed.

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