The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Columns Tue, 25 Oct 2016 12:23:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Charles Lawton: ‘No’ on referendum Question 2 is a pro-education vote Tue, 25 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 On Election Day, Maine voters will be asked to give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down to Question 2, which would impose a 3 percent state income tax surcharge on filers with taxable incomes over $200,000.

Proponents project that the surcharge could raise $157 million in year one – to be channeled, under law, to the state’s public elementary and secondary education funding mechanism, with certain strings attached to ensure that the money doesn’t go to administrators.

Why should Maine citizens who believe that investing in education is the most important public policy challenge facing our state today vote “no” on Question 2? Let me count the ways.

 First, public initiatives are a terrible way to govern. They represent a de facto vote of no confidence in our system of government. They take decisions about the public good that we elect representatives to decide for us through deliberation, public hearings, discussions, careful thinking and voting procedures and transfer them to unelected interest groups with the most to gain and the largest marketing budgets.

Second, this particular initiative, much like the “law” it is intended to replace – a goal that says the state should contribute 55 percent of the total cost of pre-K-12 public education – is almost certainly destined to become an equally futile feel-good gesture that will be ignored by future Legislatures in the heat of their own budgetary battles. Just imagine how secure this “lockbox” of “rich people’s money” will be when some future governor asks, “Well, shall we close the hospitals or the schools?”

Third, this initiative totally ignores Maine’s long-standing tradition of local control. Even if this new tax were to be imposed and money collected and allocated to the state’s public education subsidy program, all the state can do is pass the money on to local school districts. What those bodies actually do with the money is entirely up to them.

The tradition of local control would mean that any additional money would simply be allocated as it is today – through a local budgetary process involving voters and a local bargaining process involving teachers and staff.

Fourth, if passed, this law would have the economically catastrophic effect of raising Maine’s marginal income tax rate to the second highest in the nation.

Maine is a state in which the number of deaths each year now exceeds the number of births. It is a state in which public pre-K-to-12 school enrollment has been declining for years. It is a state in which nine of 10 new jobs projected to open over the next decade are to replace workers leaving the labor market rather than altogether new jobs.

It is a state that desperately needs to attract workers with high skills and high aspirations who expect high wages. These are workers whose children will help stem the enrollment decline that has turned even fixed educational spending into the inevitable reality of ever-rising cost-per-student ratios.

Without these workers, major Maine employers such as Wex, Unum, L.L. Bean and others will be forced to look to expand outside Maine. In a state desperate to attract new workers and their families, raising the top marginal income tax rate is an act of colossal, self-defeating stupidity.

• Fifth, and most importantly, Question 2 would pour more money into the existing, poorly understood school funding formula – one based on equality of property tax value per student while ignoring all other demands for community services – thus exacerbating the property tax inequities embodied in that formula.

In trying to put more money into education, this initiative would increase property tax disparities among communities and regions and further undermine and delay efforts to reform our out-of-whack property tax system.

Indeed, if Question 2 did somehow get more money into the school funding formula, the first choice available to voters would occur in the communities that voluntarily spend more than the minimum local commitment required for receipt of any state aid: e.g., “Should we reduce our property taxes by allowing state funds to replace the ‘local extra’ money we have been contributing?”

To the extent that this outcome should prove true, Question 2 would have the ironic effect of transferring money from rich income tax payers to rich property tax payers, leaving education untouched while inflicting serious damage on the causes of both economic development and property tax reform.

For all of these reasons, voters should reject the “clear, simple and wrong” solution embodied in Question 2. Instead, they should keep the goal: Raising an additional $157 million is as good a target as any.

But rather than continuing a “more of the same” policy, it’s time to launch a serious effort to identify an educational investment strategy, a series of new initiatives to connect schools to the knowledge, skills and attitudes that all Maine children will need to build and live successful lives in an increasingly different and vastly more complicated world than the one that created our current education funding system.

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

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Kathleen Parker: White-tie dinner shows why so many prefer Trump to Clinton Tue, 25 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 If Beltway insiders and other East Coast elites ever wondered why so many Americans prefer Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton, all they need do is watch a rerun of last Thursday’s 71st annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.

There they were in their finery, A-listers from the once-cherished institutions of church, state and the Fourth Estate – including the two aforementioned major-party presidential candidates; Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the evening’s host; and, hardly least, Maria Bartiromo’s candy apple red dress, long sparkling earrings and elbow-length gloves.

Oh, but the delectable humor, jarring jokes and quivering quips – the titters they brought to bleached smiles and knowing nods – and all for the good of disadvantaged children for whom the dinner raised $6 million. What could be better than dining with a few close friends, amusing oneself as the future president and the inevitable loser trade insults, as millions of viewers remember why they hate Washington?

Homage also was paid to the dinner’s namesake, Al Smith, the first Catholic to run for president of the United States and at a time (the 1920s) when Catholics were viewed as Satan’s spawn by people such as Trump’s own father – who took part in a Ku Klux Klan-sponsored, anti-Catholic rally, as Washington Post political writer Philip Bump has documented.

God bless America, how far we’ve come.

But not really, as Trump came to remind the boo-and-hisser crowd. As though he cared. And, as though all the deplorables and Trump sympathizers watching at home weren’t perfectly delighted by Trump’s performance.

To them, the dais was a diorama of self-congratulatory elites, smugly tittering at insider humor and then, suddenly, betraying white-tie outrage at their redneck Gatsby, who hocked up his couth and hurled it into the nearest vat of Dom Perignon.

The dinner is supposed to be a gentle roast at which political foes parry a bit but always with rubber rapiers. Attendees faithfully present themselves as priests and priestesses of the Highest Order of Civility, Good Humor & Charitable Hearts. A good time is supposed to be had by all.

Trump knows the rules, all right, and even mentioned that he’d been attending the dinner for years, beginning when he was a young man accompanying his father. But being Trump means never playing by the rules.

He began his remarks well enough, looking comfortable in a formal environment bloated with swells. But Trump carries within him a little bit of Gollum mixed with a touch of Truman Capote.

Like Gollum, he loathes what he loves and can’t resist sabotaging himself. Like Capote, he turns on his own. If Capote alienated all his “swans,” the belles of Upper East Side New York, by betraying their confidences in “La Cote Basque, 1965,” Trump betrayed the hopes of his powerful and wealthy colleagues that he could be trusted to behave.

Some of his jokes were very funny: “After listening to Hillary rattle on and on and on, I don’t think so badly of Rosie O’Donnell anymore,” he said. When Clinton took her turn, she jabbed back with: “And looking back, I’ve had to listen to Donald for three full debates, and he says I don’t have any stamina!”

But about midway through, Trump’s lightness turned dark.

“Here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics,” he said of Clinton, who was seated next to Dolan. (Boos.) Trump was referring to the WikiLeaks email in which an exchange among Clinton campaign staffers seemed to be condescending to Catholics.

He earned more boos when he said Clinton was so corrupt that she’d been kicked off the Watergate Committee. And, “She knows a lot about how government works. And according to her sworn testimony, Hillary has forgotten more things than most of us will ever, ever, ever know.”

Reading over the transcript, the jokes don’t seem so bad – or so good. Delivery really is everything. But watching the speeches in real time, Trump’s cuts contained a palpable hint of malice that wasn’t present in Clinton’s.

To the booing select, Trump’s performance was the final nail in his coffin. But to the great “unwashed,” you can be sure, Trump was doing his job and sticking it to the elites, which is what tens of millions of Americans deeply yearn to do.

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

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Maine Voices: Let’s hope World Series winner avoids arrogance of Red Sox, Yankees Tue, 25 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 CUMBERLAND — The World Series begins Tuesday night, and baseball fans in a major Midwestern city are awfully excited. The Cleveland Indians haven’t been Major League Baseball’s champions since 1948, when they won a quintet of post-season games in an eight-day span.

Things have changed radically since then: Their one-game playoff win over the Boston Red Sox that year took 2 hours and 24 minutes to play, and their four World Series triumphs over the Boston Braves lasted (in order) 2 hours and 14 minutes, an hour and 36 minutes, an hour and 31 minutes, and 2 hours and 16 minutes.

That’s an average game time for those five contests of exactly two hours, which is about as long as it takes to play five commercially polluted, pitching change-fraught innings of just about any televised game these days.

However, despite Cleveland’s nearly seven-decade stretch without a World Series title, America hasn’t embraced the Tribe as lovable, long-overdue underdogs in this year’s Fall Classic because their opponents, the Chicago Cubs, are even more victory-starved.

The Second City South Siders last won the series in 1908. That was the same year that a 46th star was added to the U.S. flag (representing the state of Oklahoma), Henry Ford produced his first Model T automobile and women couldn’t vote in the November presidential election (or any other elections, for that matter).

Even the terminally hard-hearted must concede that 108 years between championships is a long drought, so it’s no wonder much of America has embraced the suddenly formidable Chicagoans. But giddy Cub fans should proceed with caution.

Not long ago, another large group of avid baseball fans was championship-starved. As the 21st century began, the Boston Red Sox hadn’t won the World Series since 1918. But even more galling to New England baseball enthusiasts was the success of their team’s arch-rivals, the perennially snooty New York Yankees.

The only emotion even close to the limitless devotion that Sox fans had for their team was antipathy for the haughty, perennially successful (26 titles) Bronx Bombers and their arrogant and entitled followers. Not only were the despicable New Yorkers perpetually obnoxious winners, but the contemptible manner in which they obtained their titles, outbidding every other team for the game’s top talent just because they could, truly stuck in Boston’s collective craw.

Then came the magic autumn of 2004, when the Sox stormed back from a 3-0 deficit to eliminate the hated Yankees in the American League Championship Series, then swept the St. Louis Cardinals in four straight World Series contests, ending their 86-year title drought.

Demons exorcised, the team rapidly won two more titles, in 2007 and 2013, and contended for several others.

But new and deep-pocketed ownership began overpaying already-wealthy mercenaries every bit as rashly as their New York rivals ever did. A top Sox pitcher-pundit who fancied himself an entrepreneur defaulted on a $75 million loan from the state of Rhode Island, later getting fired from a cushy sportscasting gig for issuing more insensitive and inappropriate sound bites and tweets than anyone not currently running for president.

And the two best hitters on Boston’s 2004 and 2007 championship teams tested positive for banned substances, causing speculation that the team’s powerful offense was at least partially fueled by performance-enhancing drugs.

This year’s Sox improved by 15 wins over 2015, jumping from last place to first in the process. But less than 24 hours after their elimination from the American League playoffs, much of the team’s rabid fan base, egged on by agitators masquerading as columnists and bloviating talk radio hosts, shrilly demanded the ouster of the team’s manager.

Winning that elusive championship in 2004 ended 86 years of frustration in New England. But it also helped turn once-cuddly Red Sox Nation into the Evil Empire North. These days, the only discernible difference between fanatical Boston rooters and foaming Yankee fans are the accents.

No one outside New England currently considers the Red Sox underdogs, or even remotely lovable. Everyone, it seems, hates a too-frequent winner.

Good luck to the Chicagoans in their efforts to break a 108-year title-less streak. But Cub fans should be careful what they wish for.

They just might get it.

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Another View: Legalizing cannabis would put Maine on shaky moral ground Tue, 25 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It seems that, in this debate, the morality of legalizing and taxing marijuana was overlooked. Proponents may point at the hypocrisy of penalizing pot, while taxing alcohol and tobacco, but this is a false analogy to a morally problematic policy.

In the case of tobacco, we tax it as a disincentive to its use, not as a way to fund public services. If our only means to fund government is to inebriate the population and then tax their intoxication, then we are surely living in a failed state.

If the campaign succeeds, why stop at pot? Will initiatives to legalize psilocybin mushrooms or peyote cactus be next? LSD precursors can be easily extracted from the seeds of common plants. Should these also be packaged into candies and sweets?

As if our nation’s heroin epidemic and fascination with prescription medications weren’t enough, at what point do we become a population so addled by drugs that our society stops functioning?

This is terrible public policy.

We can take meaningful action without creating a pot free-for-all.

We need more job training and social engagement programs. Give people tools to build purposeful lives and they won’t need to escape into mind-bending drugs.

These would be moral, social and financial victories – victories that do not force the state to expand its role in promoting the public’s inebriation.

This issue demands action, but Question 1 isn’t the path. Our inaction allowed predatory, out-of-state companies to shape our values for us.

We need to deny the profiteers their revenues at our expense. We must challenge our legislators to create policy that corrects the failures of the past, recognizes the realities of the present, and sets a course of moral leadership for Maine’s future.

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Maine Voices: For these restaurateurs, raising minimum wage is the decent thing to do Mon, 24 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When my wife and I opened Vena’s Fizz House, an Old Port bar and restaurant, in 2013, we made each other a promise: We promised that we would pay our bartenders and servers a fair wage, instead of the current sub-minimum wage for tipped workers of $3.75.

We made this pledge for a couple of reasons: first, we have both worked in the restaurant industry for many years before we became teachers, so we understood the precarious and stressful nature of relying on tips for income.

Second, we strongly believe in the simple fact that if you pay a decent wage, you will retain employees who will feel valued, work harder, be more invested and, ultimately, save you time and money.

As former teachers who taught for nearly two decades each, we know exactly how it feels to work hard, love what you do, but never be paid fairly for your investment in your work. We knew that if we were going to ask our employees to invest their time and energy in our business, we would have to invest in them.

Our soda-makers, bartenders and servers – traditionally tipped positions – all start with a base wage of $9 per hour, and every employee has the opportunity to move up through the ranks. Our head bartender has been with us for about 19 months and already earns $11 per hour plus tips. And we will happily raise our employees’ starting wage to $12 and beyond as the state minimum wage increases.

We hope you will join us in supporting Yes on Question 4 on Nov. 8. It would raise the statewide minimum wage from the current $7.50 an hour to $9 next year and then by $1 per year until it reaches $12 in 2020.

More importantly for our industry, it would raise the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers from the current $3.75 to $12 by 2024. Going forward, the minimum wage would increase along with the increase in the price of goods.

One Fair Wage – where all working people are guaranteed the same minimum wage by their employer – is in place in seven states, and the restaurant industries are thriving there. So is tipping.

Some of the greatest eating cities in this country, places like San Francisco, Seattle and Las Vegas, have One Fair Wage, as do rural states like Montana and Alaska. All the data suggest we can have a fair wage system and great, thriving restaurants. The National Restaurant Association’s own projections say the seven states with One Fair Wage will have stronger restaurant industry growth in the years to come than the national average.

All of my employees know they will always make at least the true minimum wage hourly, so their tips – the value of which has not changed with a higher base wage – are truly a gratuity to supplement fair pay. The servers, bartenders and soda-makers all readily share their tips after each shift, instead of fighting for tables and customers, because they know when they work together, they will all do better and things will run more smoothly.

Vena’s Fizz House is a relatively new addition to the Old Port – we opened just over three years ago – but we have quickly gained a reputation for our attention to detail and personalized service. My wife and I are extremely proud to have been featured in Food & Wine magazine, as well as to have been recognized by The Food Network’s Alton Brown as one of his Top 8 list of national stops and by the Portland Food Map.

None of that would have been possible, however, without the support and dedication of our staff. They are the faces of our business and the reason why we have grown so quickly.

We’re excited that this referendum will mean we are no longer putting ourselves at a competitive disadvantage in order to provide our employees with a fair wage.

How can we expect to retain the amazing talent in this city’s restaurant industry when we continually tell them they are worth less than those working in other professions? How can we continue to penalize our tipped employees – in Maine, 82 percent of whom are women – for choosing to work in our vibrant and thriving restaurant industry?

When we were teachers, we both supplemented our income with jobs in restaurants and retail and were subject to the subpar wages and subpar treatment from customers that come with making such a low wage. We hope you will join us and the owners of over 600 other Maine small businesses in voting Yes on Question 4.


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Maine Observer: Catch a falling leaf, just for fun Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 While most people enjoy the fiery palette of fall foliage, and many enjoy tracing, with their eyes, the dipsy-doodle paths of falling leaves, only a few are members of the Leaf Catchers Club.

To be a card-carrying member (more on that later), you must catch a leaf after it falls from a tree and before it hits the ground. It’s not that easy, and the almost constant Maine wind makes it harder.

The purpose of the Leaf Catchers Club I founded in my high school is to encourage fun, laughter and smiles. Get outdoors. Breathe in and enjoy the landscape. Reactivate the child within. The club is a “student organization,” but many teachers, coaches and parents have also joined.

I keep a poster in my classroom. Club members bring their leaves in, tape them to the poster and sign their names. It’s based on trust, which is why “integrity” is added to our motto of “speed and dexterity.” October is the only leaf-catching membership month.

I don’t remember how or why I started encouraging leaf catching, but now I know I continue the club, in part, for those teenage students who never seem to smile. Most of them, in my experience, have been girls.

I teach in extremely rural Maine where tall, leafy trees are plentiful. Sometimes we study haiku poetry, a Japanese genre often rich in natural imagery. Then we go outdoors to be inspired by nature and to write … almost always in October. I mention the club, and the students take it from there. If you’ve ever seen the beaming face of a young fisherman with a just-caught fish, you’ve seen the face of a leaf catcher.

My favorite memory is of one of those unsmiling, tough-luck teenagers locked onto the trunk of a 15-foot maple, shaking a few leaves loose. Then she and a similarly impassive friend ran in circles, laughing crazily before falling, all smiles, to the leafy ground.

During the annual meeting, I welcome all club members by shaking their hands with the secret handshake. It’s silly – that’s the point. Membership cards, also silly, quote Byron: “West wind … Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! / One too like thee: tameless, and swift, / And proud.” I serve maple-flavored, maple leaf-shaped cookies. Our motto is “Carpe folio” (“Seize the leaf”).

Be careful as you go after your leaf. As you look up, your feet are left on their own below. You might twist an ankle or run into something. However, in over 15 years of leaf-catching clubs, no one has reported an injury.

There’s nothing wrong with passively taking in Maine’s fall foliage. But hundreds of proud, smiling leaf catchers, with color in their cheeks, are worth emulating. When’s the last time you had a chance to pirouette in the crisp fall air while something fell from heaven into your waiting hands?

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Analysis: Mainers suffering high anxiety over election Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Have you had trouble sleeping over the election? Worried you were about to be run off the road because your bumper sticker had sent someone else into a fever pitch of nastiness? Or found yourself on Facebook, steam coming out of your ears as you indignantly give what-for to that misogynist, racist creep who maybe went to high school (in another state) with someone that you met once and friended?

You are not alone. You are so far from being alone. The heinous, horrible debates are over and the gavel will come down in the case of Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump on Nov. 8. But in the meantime, what about our collective blood pressure? This can’t be good for anyone, on either side of the political fence.

Fifty-two percent of American adults reported that the election is a very significant or somewhat significant source of stress, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association released earlier this month.

Mental health professionals themselves report being disturbed, both for their patients and for themselves, by the way the presidential race has unfolded. William Doherty, a professor at the University of Minnesota and a licensed marriage and family therapist, started a manifesto in opposition to “Trumpism” (first bullet point: Trumpism “is antithetical to everything we stand for as therapists”). Over 3,000 therapists have signed it already.

Portland’s Gail Clinton, a trained psychiatrist who uses talk therapy in her practice, is one of the 10 or so Maine medical professionals who put their name to Doherty’s manifesto. Clinton (no relation to the candidate) said that in her practice, she started noticing election-related tension in her patients about six months ago.

“But it has really accelerated in the last weeks and certainly months,” Clinton said. “Even in the last week it has accelerated.” Although the APA survey found men and women to be almost equally stressed about the election, in Clinton’s practice, she said “definitely more women that I work with are upset.”

Elise Magnuson, a Portland psychologist and president of the Maine Psychological Association, agreed. Trump’s taped, gleeful boasts of sexually predatory behavior have alarmed many women and brought back deeply stressful memories of being groped, grabbed and treated as prey.

“I do think that this is very relevant for a lot of women,” Magnuson said. “Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 will report receiving unwanted sexual attention by the time they reach adulthood.”

How do they cope? How should they cope?

“APA recommends remembering that the presidency is only one of the three executive branches of the government,” Magnuson said. “Other things that do commonly help is time outside, particularly in our gorgeous Maine fall. Time with friends. Journaling. Meditation. Exercise. It cures everything.”


Sharon Bearor is trying to chill, but it’s hard. She’s a registered nurse, which in theory might make the Portland resident better equipped to deal with the stressors of the 2016 presidential election. For her personally, these include three separate negative encounters on the road because of a pro-Hillary Clinton magnet on her car, including being berated by two men in a car. “I was kind of listening to music and enjoying my little space,” she said. “I started crying.”

During the debates she let the rage at Trump flow, standing right up next to the television, swearing and tweeting freely, even though, she says, she’s not an angry person by nature. “I’m peace, love, Rolling Stones and Joni Mitchell,” she said. “But this guy? He makes my skin crawl.”

Duncan Newcomer, one of the signatories to the anti-Trump manifesto, is a psychotherapist and minister in Belfast.

“I think Trump has disturbed people in a really profound way by his violence and his anger and his irrationality,” Newcomer said. Among those he counsels, “people are pretty agitated. As am I.”

He has even had dreams about Trump. And for him, those would be nightmares.

Stress levels are undoubtedly high on both sides, although it proved harder to get Republicans to admit to it on the record than Democrats. When Press Herald reporters interviewed Trump supporters at his recent rally in Bangor, they spoke of being afraid of increased terrorism, should their candidate not be elected. Some supporters, like Gov. Paul LePage, picked up on Trump’s completely unsubstantiated claim that were he to lose, it would be because the election was rigged. Which of course, would send voters into a panic.

Not Adam Ratterree, who is chairing the Waldo County residents for Trump. He said he has observed some tension from others, but he is fine. Given how badly Trump is flagging in the polls, particularly after recent news items about his sexually predatory behavior, is he prepared for a Clinton presidency?

“I really don’t want to see that,” Ratterree said, serenely. “As far as my calm demeanor about it, what is going to happen is going to happen.”


Although the survey found that it didn’t matter whether respondents were Democrats or Republicans, the APA did conclude that those who use social media are more likely than those who do not to be experiencing stress (54 versus 45 percent, respectively). Sandy Johnson, a Realtor in Portland, reports that her stress level has gone down since she ditched Facebook a few months ago for political reasons.

“I was overcome with revulsion at some of the stuff I was reading,” she said. “I was off the charts. I was so angry and upset about everything.”

Of her Facebook decision she says, “It was liberating, let me tell you.”

Exercise, as psychologist Magnuson noted, is a definite balm.

“I do find working out helps some,” said David Rogers Treadwell, who regularly submits opinion pieces to the Times Record in Brunswick. He’s tried to keep his political passions from taking over his columns, but so much for what the American Psychological Association says: He’s unabashed about his liberal angst on social media. “I get out my stress by posting on Facebook,” he said. “That helps. I don’t hold back.”

Then there’s acupuncture. Beth Herzig, a licensed acupuncturist at Rocky Coast Acupuncture in South Portland, said the election “is coming up in conversation with almost everyone. People are really down about it.” There are specific treatments, including the “five-point protocol” that are “wonderful for calming the nervous system,” in general, Herzig said, although there is no specific pressure point that releases the pent-up fears of either liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans.

In the case of this particular election, it might help to be siding with neither. Matt Roy, a lifelong Republican who is running in Lewiston for an open seat in the Maine House of Representatives, is voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Both Trump and Clinton “scare me,” he said, and he knows Johnson doesn’t stand a chance of winning. (Well, he’s got hopes for Utah.) Maybe that’s why Roy is more Zen about this election than others.

“I’m sure deep down, we all have our anxieties about the future,” he said. “But everyone has anxieties about the future.”

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Cynthia Dill: Surprising myself with my choices in the early-voting booth Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I typically vote on Election Day, but this year I voted early because I’m signed up to volunteer as a “voter protection” lawyer on Nov. 8 in the bordering battleground state of New Hampshire. I think the job will entail milling around a gymnasium or an Elks hall with a group of cheerful senior citizens, snacking on homemade brownies and making polite conversation as American democracy peacefully happens. Because there’s never been any real voter fraud, nor is there any legitimate reason to believe voter fraud will happen this year. But who knows? Maybe in some sleepy little town in the White Mountain hollows a legal controversy of national proportion will erupt and I’ll be called upon to spring into action and defend the Constitution. That would be exciting.

It certainly was exciting to vote for Hillary Clinton for president of the United States, and regular readers know why I so strongly support her candidacy. Clinton has the experience, intelligence and temperament to be the leader of the free world, and her moral compass has led her on a lifetime path of public service and fighting for justice.

Chellie Pingree is an under-appreciated, reliable workhorse for the First Congressional District, and voting for her was a no-brainer. She’s a steady, seasoned lawmaker and successful businesswoman who miraculously is able to quietly make real gains for Maine and the country as a member of the minority party in Washington. Pingree’s expertise and reputation around food, sustainability and economic issues adds real value to her seat in Congress, and she has helped veterans all over in substantial and meaningful ways.

As to Question 1, the legalization and regulation of marijuana, I surprised myself and voted no. This in spite of my strong support of medical marijuana and innate belief that recreational use should be legal. Alysia Melnick, the political director for the Yes on 1 campaign, won me over in the debates, but then Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, and District Attorney Stephanie Anderson, a Republican, came out opposing the bill and I got spooked. Feeling guilty for not reading the language of the legislation, on top of my lingering questions about how this new industry can be effectively regulated when federal banks refuse to transact business with marijuana businesses, jerked me to a no vote.

More surprising than my vote on Question 1 was my spontaneous rejection of the very heartfelt advice I often give others about voting, and that’s if you don’t comfortably know the candidate or the issue, skip it and leave it blank and vote for what you do know. Look at Brexit, the vote in England to leave the European Union. More than half of the voters supported it in large part only because they were pissed off at the government about immigration and a lagging economy. Many pro-Brexit voters had no idea it would cause a complete transition of power and ex-communication from Europe. I may regret my vote on Question 1.

I also voted no on Question 2, too, even though I support the concept of raising taxes on high-income families to support public education. A big problem I have with Question 2 is Gov. Paul LePage. If the initiative passes, he will sabotage the law that springs from Question 2 because he personally hates teachers unions. I dread the drama and veto of the budget or any other law needed to pass to implement this new tax, plus I do not believe tax policy is properly done by referendum. I also have cautious optimism that a Clinton presidency will bring federal changes to the tax code that will raise money for public education, and the state should follow.

I voted yes on Question 3 because a person on a no-fly list due to suspected terrorism or who beats kids and tortures animals should not be able to buy an assault weapon willy-nilly from Uncle Henry’s list or at the Cumberland County Gun Show. Warnings that a background check is the first step down a slippery slope of big government taking away guns and repealing the Second Amendment is the biggest crock of beans since Y2K.

I voted yes on Question 4, the bill that seeks to raise the minimum wage gradually to $12 an hour in 2020 and, thereafter, roughly tie it to inflation, plus increase wages for restaurant workers. The current minimum wage law is a loophole being used by some companies to exploit employees who have no good alternatives. Taxpayers foot the bill for entitlement programs that low-wage workers need to make ends meet while the companies they work for pay their CEO 350 times what their average worker earns, most of them women. If a large or small business can’t afford to pay a decent wage for a hard day’s work, then the business model is flawed.

I voted yes on Question 5, the so-called ranked-choice voting bill, because the election of Lepage, twice, to the Blaine House was a travesty. His stain on Maine politics will not come out for several washings. In the meantime, Maine is the perfect place to experiment in a safe and thoughtful way with the democracy process to try and make it better. The implementation and technology challenges may cause us to reverse or change course, but that’s a chance I am willing to take.

I voted yes on Question 6, the infrastructure bond. The low interest rates we will pay on the debt coupled with the low gas-tax revenue available without it for roads, bridges, ports, airports, bicycle and pedestrian trails, makes this an easy one. We need to upgrade and maintain our infrastructure to maintain our standing in the world.

To be a volunteer lawyer on Election Day this year is good, and to have the opportunity to vote and express myself is great.

God bless America.

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

Twitter: dillesquire

]]> 24, 23 Oct 2016 14:38:40 +0000
Alan Caron: Voters united at last, over distaste for sore loser Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Donald Trump stumbled into the last debate, wounded and bleeding. It seemed impossible that he could come out in even worse shape. To do that, he had to find a trapdoor into a deeper cellar than the one he had already wandered into. He not only found it, but he promptly jumped in. And whatever chance he had to reset the trajectory of the campaign went with him.

When asked, twice, by moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, if he would accept the outcome of the election, he refused to answer. Trump will now go down in history as the first major-party presidential candidate who not only proclaimed that the election was “rigged” before it happened, but who also refused to respect the outcome of the election unless he wins.

Most folks would never tolerate their kids talking or acting like that about a ball game or a test at school.

Trump did succeed in one goal, in that debate. He united the country. But the unity was against the nonsense he’s been peddling lately about “rigged” elections. We Americans will acknowledge our many faults, and no party or ideology or system, including our elections, is perfect. But the integrity of our elections has always been a deeply held and nonpartisan American value, and the foundation of our democratic system.

It is a system that has been sustained and nurtured through every challenging period and hard-fought election battle in our 240-year history. And safeguarded by states and courts, towns and cities, patriots and citizens.

The sanctity of our elections is the work of thousands of Americans, here in Maine and across the country, who maintain voter lists; organize them by precinct; check machines and pencils; prepare to greet you on Election Day at the local polling place; and work late into the night carefully counting and recounting ballots.

Many do that work for free or for a small stipend. They do it, mostly, out of a love of our democratic traditions and for the example that America sets for others in the world. They deserve our deepest gratitude.

What they don’t deserve is careless talk by self-serving politicians. Conspiracy fears run amok. The crazy blather of far right-wing radio is brought to the mainstream of the country. All by people who assume the worst in others, state their fears and suspicions as settled facts, and recklessly make sweeping charges, without a shred of evidence, against people who disagree with them.

Donald Trump should apologize to the people who run our elections, but of course he won’t. He never apologizes to anyone because, in his mind, he doesn’t make mistakes, except those that are someone else’s fault.

So let’s apologize on his behalf. When you vote on Nov. 8, take a moment to thank the people who are working at the polls. Congratulate them for getting through another grueling and stressful day.

This election has now become more than a vote for a Democrat or a Republican, as this latest controversy makes clear. It’s an opportunity for America to send a message to Washington and the world. We want change, but not senseless and mean-spirited division. We want energetic debates, but civility. We want to include people rather than exclude them. And we want co-operation to become a strength again, rather than a weakness.

Trump and Clinton have provided us with two starkly different visions of America and our future. Donald Trump offers a relentlessly negative view of an America besieged by forces beyond our control and ruled by stupid and dangerous elites. He offers the appeal of the strong man who promises to “drain the swamp” in Washington, seal the borders, expel 15 million immigrants, corral American businesses so they can’t go overseas, further reduce taxes on the rich and roll back gains for women, minorities, the environment, consumers and workers.

Hillary Clinton offers a more hopeful view of an America on the mend after a Great Recession. She calls for reining in the power of corporate America, raising taxes on those who have gained far more than everyone else in recent years, reinvesting those dollars in education and infrastructure, and continuing progress for women, minorities, gays and lesbians, climate change and working people.

Those who say that there isn’t much difference between the two parties, and that it’s hardly worth voting except as a protest, need to take a harder look at these competing visions. What kind of future we’ll have is on the ballot this year.

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

]]> 5, 22 Oct 2016 16:37:20 +0000
Maine Voices: A call to resist ‘toxic masculinity’ Sun, 23 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WATERVILLE — It’s hard to find much good in the news these days when it comes to men. The release of the “Access Hollywood” tape of Donald Trump’s conversation with Billy Bush; the growing number of allegations that Trump kissed, groped and otherwise assaulted women; and Trump’s lame it’s “just words,” nothing more than “locker room talk” defense have all put contemporary masculinity in the crosshairs.

A number of commentators have highlighted Trump’s “toxic masculinity” and suggested that in its hyper-macho posturing, bullying and lack of empathy for others, it masks an underlying fear and anxiety of not measuring up, of being inadequate, of losing control. Others have noted the “precarious masculinity” of Trump’s white working-class male supporters, and suggest that many men see in Trump and his talk of male dominance and success someone who can restore their lost power and status.

White working-class men are suffering, economically, socially and physically. And so it is understandable that these men would identify with Trump, desperately hoping that he will save them from their despair.

But what about other men, men with power, privilege and prestige, men like Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Pence, Jimmy Fallon, Matt Lauer and Billy Bush, who have happily served, in public and in private, as “beta boys” to Trump’s “alpha male”? Why are they falling all over themselves to serve him, to defend him, to treat him gently, even playfully, to laugh at his crude comments?

The answer to this question takes us back to “toxic masculinity,” and to the fear and shame and self-silencing that those of us who identify as men learn at a very young age that other boys and men will judge us as inadequate, weak, cowardly, “soft” and “feminine” if we don’t suck it up and play along.

Yet, in spite of all the Trump-inspired bad news about men and masculinity, there is, thankfully, some good news, too.

First of all, it’s good news that so many men spoke up and spoke out in response to the Bush-Trump video. From politicians like President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, to celebrities and media figures, to academics, to a whole host of professional athletes, there has been a chorus of condemnation directed against the notion that the Bush-Trump conversation is typical of “locker room talk,” and and against the assumption that nonconsensual physical contact is acceptable.

In addition, organizations that promote healthy masculinity and work with boys and men to reduce the incidence of sexual assault, like Mentors in Violence Prevention, A Call to Men and Maine’s own Boys to Men, continue their critically important efforts.

Second, there is mounting evidence that respectful, equitable, nonviolent and emotionally adept forms and expressions of masculinity are not only possible, but also lead to positive outcomes for boys and men, educationally, physically, psychologically and socially.

For example, psychologists Carlos Santos, Niobe Way and their colleagues have found that middle-school boys who resist conventional hypermasculine norms are more engaged in school, remain in closer, more emotionally supportive relationships with their mothers, siblings and friends, and exhibit fewer depressive symptoms than boys who do not resist.

My students and I are finding similar things as we talk to young men at Colby College who embody forms of healthy masculinity – young men like 2012 graduate Eric Barthold, 2014 graduate John Kalin and 2016 graduate Chris Millman, who are leaders in sexual violence prevention and social justice efforts on campus, young men who are scholars and athletes and musicians and mentors to children in the community, young men who resist the pressures to be “beta boys,” and who have the courage to stand up and speak out about misogyny, sexual violence, homophobia and racism on campus.

Talking to these young men is helping us to understand the complex contours of what we have come to think of as healthy masculinities, as well as to chart the developmental and educational conditions and experiences that enable some young men, like our informants, to grow up to be good and just human beings.

The path from boyhood to healthy manhood isn’t easy. It’s full of challenges, pitfalls, stops and starts. Resisting the toxic masculinity of the Trumps of the world can sometimes be very dangerous, and even life-threatening.

But in these difficult days, when masculinity seems to be on trial at every turn, it’s important to know that Trump and his kind don’t speak for all men, and to have faith that better men will prevail in the end.

]]> 10, 22 Oct 2016 16:42:10 +0000
Port City Post: Talent for tap dancing can lead to overconfidence, bigly Sat, 22 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 An empty nest allows extra time for some potentially foolish decisions – like raising chickens, meditating or taking a hip-hop class, for example.

As we mature, our self-consciousness goes low as our impulsiveness goes high. We decide to do things that we might not do during our more relevant decades, like getting a tattoo or walking our dog in our pajamas.

If a friend told me that she had signed up for a tap dancing class, I’d be very polite and enthusiastic, but I would also hope that she would not go as far as inviting me to her recital. I think I’m busy that night.

It’s hard not to look upon the choice of an aging pal to start taking a tap dancing class without seeing it as just another desperate attempt to stay alive, upright and ambulating.

But here I am telling you about my decision to finally take a tap dancing class. It’s something I’ve wanted to try for years. I now own a pair of shiny-new tap shoes and a 10-class pass to Casco Bay Movers. It’s jazz hands all around, my friends.

Be happy for me because I plan on being the best tap dancer ever.

As it turns out, I am already great at tap dancing. I mean really, really great. I’m bigly and fantastic at tap dancing. I can hear an eight-count beat from a hundred miles away. Shuffle ball change step, shuffle ball change step and stomp.

I was born to tap and because of my natural ability to tap, I’m quite confident that I could also become president of the United States or have my own reality show or climb Mount Everest or become a movie star. Why not? After all, greatly begets greatly and then we become, well, terrifically terrific!

I’m already the best student in my class. And speaking of my class, it is a very good-looking group of people. I went around the room so I would know who the hell I was tapping with. There are some seriously bad senoritas in my class rocking their right to tap. If I weren’t tapping with these women, I would probably be dating them.

Tap is all about love and “love” is a fantastic word and I know words. “Love” is the greatest word ever besides “beautiful” and “strong,” of which I am both.

The beauty of me is that I believe in me and my ability to tap. Don’t feel insecure around me when you see me tap. It’s not your fault. Shuffle off to Buffalo, one two three four five six seven eight, ball change.

Nobody has more respect for tap dancing than I do. Fa-lap, fa-lap, fa-lap, one two three four five six seven eight.

And women are the best tappers ever. Nasty women are unbelievably great at tap dancing. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

Tap is winning. Tap is love. Tap is nasty. Let’s all hold hands and make a big wall of sound with our tap shoes and then life will be safe, secure and goodly.

Let’s make America great again, one nasty ball change after the other. Love and tap trump hate, and I just want you to be happy.

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:

]]> 5, 21 Oct 2016 18:04:32 +0000
Garrison Keillor: Worry about Trump’s new role dampens glee over election finally ending Sat, 22 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 This election is winding down, thank heaven, and barring a bombshell backstage video in which Hillary Clinton is heard talking about how she loves to stroll into a men’s room and let out a whoop and yank the waistbands of men at the urinals and yell “Snuggies!” the outcome is in sight, and finally we’ll be done with Nate Silver and Politico and RealClearPolitics and the ranting and raving on YouTube and the borderline psycho posts on Facebook by people we wish we weren’t related to, and we can get back to real life.

The bitterness of it has been exhausting. The “issues” were piffle, there was zero illumination, the election was all about hostility. The ugly billionaire nitwit versus the Babylonian anti-Christ. The Trumpites stuck with him despite his hopelessness because his candidacy gave The New York Times fits, and the Hillareans stuck with her because the alternative was him.

So here we are, loathing each other. Too bad, but we are a righteous people and we need to have someone to loathe.

Look at the English language. The words that express peaceful harmony are so few, so pale, so flaccid, while the words that express disgust, dismay, revulsion constitute a vast and delicious vocabulary. “You’ve got bubblegum for brains, you jackass, you nincompoop, you fathead. You are so average, did you eat dumb flakes for breakfast?” – it goes on and on and on.

Shakespeare is loaded with insults from our rich Anglo-Saxon heritage. It’s a language for people who don’t like each other. You want harmony, go talk Sanskrit.

So here we are, bilious and consternated, and in three weeks, it all comes to an end. Apparently, Mr. Trump will not call up Hillary on election night and offer her congratulations. He may file a lawsuit instead. His followers will be encouraged to believe that the election was rigged by Wall Street hedge fund managers in cahoots with the vaccine industry, followers of Saul Alinsky and aliens living in Roswell, New Mexico, but whatever – it will be over.

The shouting will die down. The “Lock her up” T-shirts will go into the bottom drawer. Families will gather for Thanksgiving and bite their tongues and avoid eye contact. There will be Christmas. The inauguration will take place, and Barack and Michelle and the girls will go to their new home and get out the Scrabble board and pop a kettle of popcorn. And next spring, the 2020 campaign will begin.

I worry about Donald Trump. What is he going to do? He has damaged his brand. The steaks, ties, home furnishings, fragrances, whiskey, resorts, condos, golf club memberships – when you associate yourself with white supremacy, male chauvinism and invincible ignorance, this is not smart marketing.

He can’t go back to the tower. Manhattan is about 83 percent Democratic. Why live among people who don’t appreciate you and ride around in a black limo with smoked-glass windows through crowds of pedestrians giving you the finger? It’s no way to live.

Does the man have friends? Or only associates? This is the big question. Is Sean really and truly his friend? Or Howard? Or Rudy? Do they go out for lunch and tell jokes about the two blondes who went to the drive-in theater in February to see “Closed for the Season”? I doubt this.

He should pick up his traps and move to Nebraska. He is leading in Nebraska, about 2-to-1. There are wonderful warmhearted people there who love and admire him, so he would fit right in. Look at Broken Bow, a town of 4,000 on Highway 2 in Custer County. He could get a nice 3BR there for $150K. There’s a municipal airport, a hospital. The restaurants are good if you like beef. You can play golf from May through September and after that you can use a fluorescent orange ball and play in the snow.

He’d be far away from The New York Times. He could make Broken Bow great, put marble floors and walls in the public school, put up a marble statue of George Armstrong Custer. He could attend a good evangelical church every Sunday and go to Bible reading Wednesday night, where maybe he can learn more about those two Corinthians.

He’d need to be careful about touching women suddenly without permission, though, because many of them are armed. If he grabbed one, she might cut him to ribbons. Even if she were a Christian.

]]> 3, 21 Oct 2016 18:07:23 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: WikiLeaks disclosures about Clinton a warm gun but still non-smoking Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The case against Hillary Clinton could have been written before the recent WikiLeaks and FBI disclosures. But these documents do provide hard textual backup.

The most sensational disclosure was the proposed deal between the State Department and the FBI in which the FBI would declassify a Hillary Clinton email and State would give the FBI more slots in overseas stations. What made it sensational was the rare appearance in an official account of the phrase “quid pro quo,” which is the currently agreed-upon dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable corruption.

This is nonetheless an odd choice for most egregious offense. First, it occurred several layers removed from the campaign and from Clinton. It involved a career State Department official (he occupied the same position under Condoleezza Rice) covering not just for Clinton but for his own department.

Second, it’s not clear which side originally offered the bargain. Third, nothing tangible was supposed to exchange hands. There was no proposed personal enrichment which tends to be our standard for punishable misconduct.

And finally, it never actually happened. The FBI turned down the declassification request.

In sum, a warm gun but nonsmoking. Indeed, if the phrase “quid pro quo” hadn’t appeared, it would have received little attention. Moreover, it obscures the real scandal – the bottomless cynicism of the campaign and of the candidate.

Among dozens of examples, the Qatari gambit. Qatar, one of the worst actors in the Middle East (having financially supported the Islamic State, for example), offered $1 million as a “birthday” gift to Bill Clinton in return for five minutes of his time. Who offers – who takes – $200,000 a minute? We don’t know the “quid” here, but it’s got to be big.

In the final debate, Clinton ran and hid when asked about pay-for-play at the Clinton Foundation. And for good reason. The emails reveal how foundation donors were first in line for favors and contracts.

The soullessness of this campaign – all ambition and entitlement – emerges almost poignantly in the emails, especially when aides keep asking what the campaign is about. In one largely overlooked passage, she complains that her speechwriters have not given her any overall theme or rationale. Isn’t that the candidate’s job?

It’s that emptiness at the core that makes every policy and position negotiable and politically calculable. Hence the embarrassing about-face on the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the popular winds swung decisively against free trade.

So too with financial regulation, as in Dodd-Frank. As she told a Goldman Sachs gathering, after the financial collapse there was “a need to do something because, for political reasons … you can’t sit idly by and do nothing.”

Giving the appearance that something had to be done. That’s not why Elizabeth Warren supported Dodd-Frank. Which is the difference between a conviction politician like Warren and a calculating machine like Clinton.

Of course, we knew all this. But we hadn’t seen it so clearly laid out. Illicit and illegal as is WikiLeaks, it is the camera in the sausage factory. And what it reveals is surpassingly unpretty.

I didn’t need the Wiki files to oppose Hillary Clinton. As a conservative, I have long disagreed with her worldview and the policies that flow from it. As for character, I have watched her long enough to find her deeply flawed, to the point of unfitness.

Against any of a dozen possible GOP candidates, voting for her opponent would be a no-brainer. Against Donald Trump, however, it’s a dilemma. I will not vote for Hillary Clinton. But, as I’ve explained in these columns, I could never vote for Donald Trump.

The only question is whose name I’m going to write in. With Albert Schweitzer doubly unavailable (noncitizen, dead), I’m down to Paul Ryan or Ben Sasse. Two weeks to decide.

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

]]> 6, 20 Oct 2016 19:47:52 +0000
M.D. Harmon: Trump may be an outlet for Americans’ anger, but defeating him will not end it Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The other day I met a fellow who, I discovered, also has a degree in political science, and after we talked a bit, I said to him, “Oh, you’re a quant.”

He seemed a little bit taken aback, but not because he thought it was an insult; his reaction seemed more along the lines of “What else would I be?”

The term “quant” was coined in 1979 (according to Merriam-Webster) as shorthand for “quantitative analyst.”

It describes a social science professional who focuses on how human behavior can be quantified – reduced to charts, tables, graphs and numbers – in place of “softer” intellectual analysis.

That’s OK as far as it goes – professionals like Charles Murray do excellent work teasing normative truths out of numerical tables – but because you can’t measure everything (or even the most important things) by numbers, it has turned most current non-quantitative political analysis over to historians, journalists and similar observers of the human condition.

Thus it has fallen to non-specialists to peer behind the curtain of opinion polling, crime rates and economic statistics to look at what is motivating Americans’ psyches from the inside out these days.

To start, the decidedly non-Donald-Trump-friendly political consultant Reed Galen wrote Tuesday in his “The American Singularity” column that, “According to a Politico/Morning Consult survey out this week, 41 percent of all voters (73 percent of Republicans) believe that the election could indeed be stolen from Trump. … His words shock the American political soul, are cause for concern and are a pro-active threat to how we conduct ourselves in the public square.”

Where, one wonders, could Trump backers have gotten the idea that the political process is stacked against them? Oh, that’s right, the recent revelations about Democratic corruption from WikiLeaks, clandestine videos and FBI document dumps.

If they’ve been allowed to hear of them, that is.

As The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel noted last week: “If average voters turned on the TV for five minutes … chances are they know that Donald Trump made lewd remarks a decade ago and now stands accused of groping women. But even if average voters had the TV on 24/7, they still probably haven’t heard the news about Hillary Clinton: That the nation now has proof of pretty much everything she has been accused of.”

Even as the major media downplay and even ignore them, revelations have emerged of paid provocateurs picking fights at Trump rallies that get blamed on his backers; slurs against Catholics as backward and benighted; Clinton’s expressed need to have contrary “public and private” positions on issues where the private ones favor fat-cat supporters of her campaign and family foundation; and direct coordination between some of those covering the campaign and Clinton’s staff.

Such events appear to be why, Galen notes, that Clinton “is the embodiment of what so many Americans (and almost all Republicans) see as a country run by elites who truly care little for their well-being. Clinton’s example is less stout, less noisy and less ugly (than Trump’s), but no less insidious, odious or threatening to the Republic.”

Should she win, Galen says, and again acts “to save the big guys at the expense of the little, the ensuing wildfire will be more than just an election can hope to head off. Trump may be an outlet for the anger of many Americans, but his defeat will not end their disaffection.”

That’s an idea echoed and expanded on by (no surprise) classical historian Victor Davis Hanson, who wrote Tuesday on National Review Online that “a political neutron bomb” has exploded in our political institutions, leaving them hollow shells.

Once the Bernie Sanders insurrection was disposed of (by close coordination between the Clinton campaign and supposedly “neutral” party officials) Democrats found apparent unity – as a Clinton family enterprise, in the full Sicilian sense.

As Hanson says, “Collate the (Clinton adviser John) Podesta e-mails. … Review Hillary’s Wall Street speeches and the electronic exchanges between the media, the administration, and the Clinton campaign. The conclusion is an incestuous world of hypocrisy, tsk-tsking condescension, sanitized shake-downs, inside profiteering, snobby high entertainment – and often crimes that would put anyone else in jail.”

Republicans, meanwhile, are torn asunder: “No one quite knows what the party will become after Donald Trump sprinted away with the Republican nomination and then discovered that most of the Republican establishment, implicitly and explicitly, would rather lose to Hillary Clinton than win with him. Many said they quit the Republican Party when Trump was nominated, as many perhaps will quietly quit when it returns to normalcy. After the election, don’t expect a rapid reconciliation.”

There’s little danger of that. But if traditional governing institutions have been gutted, what will fill their vacant roles?

I doubt it will be pleasant.

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

]]> 5, 20 Oct 2016 19:45:53 +0000
As Americans vote in 2016, they should remember the lessons of history Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 FALMOUTH — As America votes in 2016, thoughts go back to 1945 when, with youthful eyes, we witnessed an America celebrating the end of World War II and a nation relieved that “our boys are coming home.”

Elementary school children at the time, we were vague in our understanding of the war’s meaning. Later, when proceeding up the educational ladder, we would become aware that our elders were themselves attempting to understand the meaning of these years now blessedly past – and to learn from the tragic experience. In our election season, we would do well to reflect on this spirit of learning that prevailed in that postwar era.

Amid the celebrations of the end to the loss of so much blood and treasure, and with the horrors of Hitler’s Germany revealed, America pondered how the long nightmare had come to be. How did a Germany steeped in Western civilization, comprised of people who were primarily Christian and lived in a democracy, allow an Adolf Hitler to come to power?

We who were children at that time of victory were to grow up in an America – and in an educational system – committed to understanding this horrific phenomenon.

As teenagers in junior high and high school, we were introduced to this quest. By the time we reached high school, and later in college, we discovered that some of our teachers were now those former “boys” who had returned. Not surprisingly, they taught with an engaging sincerity and with a commitment that the lessons learned never be lost on us.

We learned that by 1930, the German people had suffered greatly. The sacrifices of a lost World War I, the economic catastrophe of inflation and then the Depression put them and their democracy to a severe test.

During the tumultuous decade of the 1920s, Hitler and his Nazi Party made great political gains. This rise to prominence took place despite many warning signs.

Hitler’s deeply flawed character was easily evident. His narcissism, his braggadocio, his opportunistic lies were readily apparent. With skillful demagoguery he appealed to emotions, exploiting the fears and anger of his people.

It was easy for us to contrast Hitler’s approach with our earlier study of our own Abraham Lincoln who, in the midst of America’s greatest crisis, appealed to our reason, built our nation up and urged us to seek “the better angels of our nature.”

Hitler stooped to appeal to the worst nature within his fellow citizens. He tore his country down, he bellowed his campaign theme to make Germany great again – and he boasted that only he could do it. He attacked that which he claimed was foreign within their borders. He drew on the fear of terrorism and preyed on (and, in a sense, prayed for) any evidence of it that he could seize on for political gain.

How, facing this clear and present danger and living in a democracy, did Germans end up with Adolf Hitler? This disastrous result occurred although the German people never gave the Nazi Party a majority vote in a free election. In the final analysis, Hitler did not need a majority vote – merely a plurality.

Unfortunately, the German people did not have the advantage of a two-party system such as ours that would have offered them a choice between two major candidates. They had many parties from which to choose.

Left with several choices on their ballots, voters were able to let rigid ideology, past voting habits and even personal pique guide their individual vote. Each voter who didn’t want to vote for the Nazi Party could select from a multitude of other parties the one party that best matched their own particular political inclinations. Votes were thus dispersed among the many parties rather than combined to support but one major-party candidate opposed to Hitler.

In this way, millions of voters were able to vote with a “clear” conscience: They had not voted for Hitler. In this way, the Nazi Party obtained a plurality. In this way, the path was cleared for Hitler to become Germany’s leader.

Postwar America strove to understand the German political experience. As we Americans cast our ballots in 2016, the lessons learned should serve us well.

]]> 61, 21 Oct 2016 00:15:47 +0000
Current fisheries science supports increasing menhaden quota Thu, 20 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 KENNEBUNK — Maine’s lobstermen recently caught a break with the reopening of the state’s menhaden fishery. A key source of local, fresh bait for Maine’s lobster fishery, menhaden has been an increasingly common presence in Maine waters. But the fishery’s reopening is only a temporary patch on a long-standing problem.

Scientists have determined that the menhaden stock is in great shape. But the fishery suffered steep cuts in quota by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the interstate body that manages menhaden, because the stock assessment conducted in 2012 had erroneously concluded that the stock was overfished.

The most recent menhaden assessment, conducted in 2015, found that the opposite was the case: Menhaden is not being overfished and has not been overfished since the 1960s. In short, the fishery is being managed sustainably. When read in conjunction with other metrics from the assessment, including all-time low levels of fishing mortality, it is clear that the menhaden stock is poised for long-term success.

Last year, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, in recognition of the sustainability of current menhaden management, raised the coastwide quota by 10 percent. While this increase was a positive development for fishermen, the quota still remains well below what it what it was nearly five years ago.

We have made dramatic gains in our understanding of the stock. Since the current science clearly supports the sustainability of the menhaden stock, the quota can clearly be safely increased.

In the year since the 2015 assessment, additional science continues to support a quota increase. The marine fisheries commission also conducted an analysis earlier this year to determine the potential impact of a quota increase on the menhaden population. The assessment consisted of nearly 9,000 simulations, testing a variety of different potential harvest level raises.

At all levels tested, the scientists’ conclusion was that there was a zero percent chance of overfishing if the quota were to be raised. There are few decisions of resource allocation that can be made with such certainty.

Today, menhaden fishermen are back out on the water, thanks to an “episodic exemption” from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. This allows them to continue to fish above Maine’s low menhaden quota when the fish become abundant in state waters. This year’s episodic exemption in Maine supports the assessment’s conclusion that there are large numbers of menhaden in Atlantic waters.

This phenomenon is not limited to Maine. Large schools of menhaden have been reported throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic, especially in states like New York and Rhode Island. Both of those states were also granted episodic exemptions this year after experiencing unusually large menhaden runs in their state waters. There is currently no reason why the quota cannot be reasonably increased.

Even states with larger quotas, such as New Jersey, have had trouble keeping up with the menhaden schools in their waters. Garden State fishermen met their menhaden quota early in the summer, leaving enough menhaden crowding into local waterways to cause menhaden die-offs. These incidents support the ASMFC’s scientific conclusions that the menhaden stock is healthy, and menhaden management is sustainable.

All of which raises this question: Why has the quota remained at its current artificially low level, given the flawed assessment that the quota is predicated on? As it stands, lobstermen are paying exorbitant prices for bait this year because of a summer shortage of fresh bait such as herring and menhaden.

Maine’s lobster industry generated nearly $2 billion in economic activity for the state in 2015. Lobster landings alone were valued at more than half a billion dollars. Our coastal communities depend on this revenue for their economic vitality, and Maine lobstermen depend on a steady bait supply to generate landings. In addition, menhaden fishermen also lose thousands of dollars each year by virtue of the artificially low cap.

This month, when the issue of raising the menhaden quota is again brought to a vote, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has the opportunity to reverse its flawed decision to cut the menhaden harvest. Mainers would be greatly served by a prompt ASMFC vote to increase the quota to a reasonable level.

]]> 0, 19 Oct 2016 23:36:01 +0000
Dana Milbank: With talk of fraud, Trump trying to create post-election chaos Thu, 20 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — We are three weeks from the election, and very close to the edge.

Retiree Gerald Miller, a volunteer at Donald Trump’s rally here, is confident his man will win Nov. 8 – unless there’s foul play.

Miller, wearing a National Rifle Association pin and a tea party cap over his long hair, shares Trump’s concern that the election may be “rigged” by the Clinton campaign. “It is enough to skew the election. They can swing it either way,” he said, particularly because Hillary Clinton may have “the FBI working for her” in committing the fraud.

So what happens if Clinton is declared the winner? “Donald Trump is going to holler fraud if he doesn’t win,” figured Miller, who is white and says he has post-traumatic stress disorder from “racial violence” he suffered in the military. “I think we’re on the verge of a civil war, a racial war. This could be the spark that sets it off.”

I fear that Miller may be right.

Objectively, Trump is in big trouble; master handicapper Stuart Rothenberg wrote for The Washington Post online Tuesday that Trump’s path to Electoral College victory is “nonexistent” and said he could win fewer than 200 electoral votes.

But I spent a couple of hours before the rally in this indoor show ring talking to many Trump supporters and found them in states of denial and fury. I didn’t find one who expects Trump to lose. To varying degrees, most agreed with Trump that the election process is rigged. And some predicted ominous things if Trump loses – if not violence, then a mass rejection of the legitimacy of the democratic process.

Ann Macomber, a Christian, retired teacher and Trump volunteer handing out fliers saying “Hillary Clinton is coming for your guns,” told me the voting system in Colorado has been “infiltrated”: dead people voting, voters with bogus addresses, precincts that report more votes than registered voters. “It’s happening. It’s sad,” Macomber said. “If we lose this election, we can’t trust anything in America anymore. We’re not sovereign.”

Some observers dismiss Trump’s talk of a “stolen” and “rigged” election as just more rantings of a narcissist who can’t accept that he is almost certain to lose. But the talk of election fraud is more nefarious than that and clearly an effort to destabilize the post-election environment.

In early August, Trump consigliere Roger Stone declared that there is “widespread voter fraud” and argued that “if there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate … we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.” In an interview with the conservative outlet Breitbart, Stone said Trump has to “put them on notice that their inauguration will be a rhetorical … bloodbath.”

Now the head of Breitbart News is the head of the Trump campaign, and Trump, who had quieted the fraud talk when he was improving in the polls, is raising it more than ever.

“Voter fraud is all too common,” Trump told a few thousand people Tuesday afternoon in Colorado Springs, but if you mention it, he said, “they say bad things about you, they call you a racist.” He scolded Republican leaders for saying “everything is peachy” with the election process and warned that this could be the year “America truly lost its independence.” Warned Trump: “It’s going to be a one-party system. This is your final shot.”

He particularly scolded the press, which “created a rigged system and poisoned the minds of so many of our voters.” But he also found corruption in voter surveys (“I don’t believe the polls anymore”) and in his opponent (“many times worse than Watergate”).

“We won’t let them stop maybe the greatest movement in the history of our country!” Trump said, prompting chants of “USA!,” some foul language shouted at the press corps and, after the rally, a mass chant of “Shame on you!” directed at the press risers.

The candidate’s reckless closing message that nothing is on the level – not Democrats, not the press, not the polls, not Republican leaders, not even the integrity of the voting process – has left many of his supporters prepared to declare the election results illegitimate.

Joseph Salmons, wearing a “Les Deplorables” T-shirt and pin, told me the election won’t end anything. “The movement’s starting. Even if he doesn’t win, it’s going to tip,” he said.

But tip into what? “I sincerely hope people don’t lose their minds,” Salmons said.

If they manage to keep their cool, it will be despite the best efforts of Trump.

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

]]> 34, 19 Oct 2016 20:13:58 +0000
Commentary: Falsehoods, vitriol may win elections, but they throw democracy for a loss Thu, 20 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Regardless of political party affiliation or policy position, the vast majority of Mainers and other Americans agree that the destructive rhetoric, name-calling and mudslinging in the current election cycle have reached a level never seen before. It would seem at times that the very fabric of our society, a unifying force for good, is frayed beyond repair.

Finger-pointing in the service of refusing to work together has paralyzed us anddeposited us in the corners of a political boxing ring from which there is no winning. People feel the negative effects of attack ads, name-calling, falsehood and vitriol that flood the airwaves and print media. It is disheartening. The lack of civil discourse in our public debates and campaigns is sometimes hard to avoid.

As a society, we say we do not like negative campaign tactics, but, ironically, many cannot help but be drawn in. Negative campaigning works, at least with regard to voter polls, even when it does nothing to better the lives of our fellow citizens.

Drew Westen, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University, has extensively studied the psychology of politics. He explains why negative campaigning works in this way: “Emotions such as anxiety, fear and disgust involve very different neural circuits than, say, happiness or enthusiasm. A candidate’s job is to get all those neural circuits firing – both the ones that draw voters in and the ones that push them away from other candidates.”

Indeed, in study after study, statistics show that Americans cannot avoid the wreckage of negative attack ads. If attack ads and untruths did not work, politicians would not use them.

Even if attack ads “work” on some level, does the end ever justify the means? In my own Lutheran and Episcopalian churches, and in the nine member denominations of the Maine Council of Churches, we do not believe so.

Taking an action or making a statement just because it “works” does not make it moral or ethical. To acquiesce to negative and deceitful campaigning simply because it wins votes is akin to allowing unethical medical experimentation on people and animals, something I would hope the reader finds repulsive. In other words, effectiveness is not the litmus test for morality.

At the Maine Council of Churches, our Preamble on Civil Discourse states that “for a flourishing democracy we need to have debate based on mutual respect and honesty, but communications around political campaigns have become meaner, more deceitful and disrespectful. The impact has been confusion, division, and discord among the electorate.”

The MCC is committed to seeing civility restored to the political process. As a gathering of churches with sometimes divergent views, we model the power and strength that can accrue from civil discourse in a spirit of justice and love for one another. We stand firm when we are on common ground, for we believe that we are called to do no less.

Among the provisions of our Covenant on Civil Discourse is the mandate to act respectfully toward others; to refrain from personal attacks or characterizing one’s opponent as evil; to refuse to make untrue statements; to value honesty, truth and civility (while striving for workable solutions), and to disavow statements by those working on one’s behalf if those statements don’t meet those same standards.

I would encourage the reader to check out our website. There you will find a number of resources on civil discourse. You can also see the list of the close to 200 Maine candidates for local and national office who have signed our Covenant for Civil Discourse. Is there a politician missing from the list? Is it worth a call to him or her to ask if they are willing to pledge to be civil and to avoid negative campaigning and name-calling?

As the political campaign season fills the media with ads and accusations, we ask all people of good faith and conscience to hold our politicians and political organizations to the highest standards of honesty and respect. But civility is not only for politicians. As citizens, we also have a responsibility to be civil. In our households, places of work and recreation, and yes, even in our houses of worship, we can model to one another what it means to be civil in our political conversations.

We can avoid telling untruths, and we can talk about others without calling them names. We can listen to the opinions of others with respect, even if we do not agree with them. Together, we can speak and act in peace, confident in our ability to build a just and prosperous society.

]]> 0 Wed, 19 Oct 2016 20:24:16 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Documentary shows nation still bound by its oppression of black men Wed, 19 Oct 2016 10:00:32 +0000 “Not whips and chains – all subliminal;

instead of (the N-word), they use the word criminal”

– Common from “Letter to the Free”

In the end, she gives us grace. And by then, you really need it.

The end credits roll over pictures celebrating everyday joys of African-American life. A beaming girl rides a pony. Boys flex. Fathers cuddle daughters.

The anger and pain that have sat heavily in your chest for more than 90 minutes begin to lift ever so slightly at these reminders of black life still stubbornly managing to be lived even in the midst of state-sponsored oppression. Otherwise called, without irony, the U.S. justice system.

In “13th,” the troubling new documentary from director Ava DuVernay now streaming on Netflix, the American prison-industrial complex is laid bare as a machine designed for the suppression of an inconvenient populace. Meaning black men – the nation’s bogeymen for two centuries and counting.

Like “The New Jim Crow,” the game-changing 2012 book by Michelle Alexander, “13th” doesn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know if you’ve been paying attention. Its triumph is to fit the pieces together, to make visible the pattern that was there all along.

Namely, that much of what we call justice is a 150-year effort to win back what was lost at Appomattox. Yet somehow, we never quite see.

Six point five percent of the country accounts for over 40 percent of its prisoners.

The liberal looks at this and says, “Isn’t it a shame what poverty does to them?”

The conservative looks at it and says, “Isn’t it a shame they embrace thug culture?”

The overt racist looks at it and says, “Isn’t it a shame they’re naturally criminal?”

Hardly anyone looks at it and says, “The system is working as designed.” Hardly anyone says, “This is not about criminality, but control.”

DuVernay says it forcefully, explicitly and convincingly. In “13th” – the title comes from the constitutional amendment that ended slavery – the director of “Selma” draws a line from Appomattox through convict leasing, through lynch law, through the Southern strategy, through mass incarceration, through the commodification of black bodies and black misery by private prison entrepreneurs. All the way up to now.

Cue Donald Trump. On screen, a black man is being spat upon at one of his rallies. A black woman is being shoved. A black man is being sucker punched. And Trump is loving it.

“Knock the c–p out of ’em, would you? Get ’em out of here. In the good old days, this doesn’t happen, because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, they would not do it again so easily. Like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.”

As he speaks, the images change.

It’s 1965 and Rev. C.T. Vivian is being knocked down the courthouse steps.

It’s 1960 and protesters are being hauled off lunch counter stools.

It’s 1957 and reporter L. Alex Wilson is being kicked and pummeled down the streets by the good people of Little Rock.

All as Trump is reminiscing about the good old days. And a chill skitters up your spine.

We like to think we have distance from the past, don’t we? We profess to be mystified by it.

How could people have done such things? If I had lived at that time, a man will assure you, I’d have never tolerated it. But, as attorney and author Bryan Stevenson reminds DuVernay’s camera, “the truth is, we are living at this time – and we are tolerating it.”

It is an unanswerable truth, a truth that leaves conscience maimed. The credits roll just then.

And yes, you are thankful for that small bit of grace.

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

]]> 13, 18 Oct 2016 21:36:21 +0000
Maine Voices: By opposing Question 3, LePage wouldn’t disarm domestic abusers Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Gov. LePage has made addressing domestic violence a cornerstone of his time in office. During a very shaky six years, his efforts to protect women from domestic abusers has arguably been his most laudable initiative.

That’s why his comments during his Oct. 1 weekly radio address were so disappointing. By joining the gun lobby in opposition to Question 3 on November’s ballot, LePage is turning his back on domestic violence victims across the state.

The governor’s position on background checks is really puzzling. There’s video of him telling a debate audience during his campaign for re-election in 2014 that he would support universal background checks as long as they went to voters for approval. Now he’s opposing them across the board, making the false claim that background checks – even for convicted felons and domestic abusers – violate the Maine and U.S. constitutions.

Not only is he factually wrong, he’s also morally wrong-headed.

The Maine Constitution provides a robust framework for protecting the rights of Mainers to bear arms. It does not, however, say that criminals and domestic abusers should have unfettered access to guns. Maine law already prohibits the possession of guns by these dangerous people, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that background checks are entirely consistent with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

LePage is just plain wrong about the facts.

What’s more disturbing to me, though, is how philosophically wrong the governor is. Just recently, LePage proposed requiring ankle bracelet monitoring for those accused of domestic violence. His heart is in the right place on this. He wants to do everything he can to protect the victims. But without Question 3, those same domestic abusers will be able to purchase guns on the unlicensed market, no questions asked.

And there’s no shortage of guns available that fall through the loophole in current law. A recent study shows there are nearly 3,000 guns offered for sale every year by unlicensed sellers.

LePage’s worldview is one of well-armed but ankle-braceleted domestic abusers. It’s a horrifying contradiction.

The governor is an outspoken advocate for gun rights, but that doesn’t mean he has to be a lackey for the D.C. gun lobby. He seems to be forgoing his genuine concern for abused women in favor of the irrational position of the same D.C. gun lobbyists who opposed Sen. Susan Collins’ bipartisan effort to keep suspected terrorists from buying guns. It’s utterly disheartening.

We have to face the facts, and two things are clear.

First, background checks work. How do we know? In states that have adopted laws similar to Question 3, the rate of women murdered by their domestic partners with a handgun has been cut nearly in half.

 Second, the shocking fact is that half of all murders in our state are of women killed by their intimate partners.

Since Colorado passed a similar law in 2013, over 1,000 prohibited persons – including domestic abusers – have been prevented from getting a gun in the unlicensed market. Background checks for all gun sales will help protect women’s lives.

Many believe that Maine already has background check laws in place. This is only partially true. If a convicted felon, domestic abuser or someone who is severely mentally ill goes into a gun store to try and buy a firearm, they will fail a background check and be prohibited from buying that gun.

But right now, that same dangerous person can walk out the door and buy a gun from someone they meet online or through a classified ad with no background check. This is a fatal loophole. This newspaper’s editorial board recently compared this to a bar that refuses to sell alcohol to minors, but then lets them freely drink by entering through the back door. It just doesn’t make sense.

Question 3 closes this deadly loophole by requiring background checks for all gun sales. Put plainly, there would be no more “easy access” to guns for domestic abusers.

So in light of all of this, when LePage says he opposes Question 3, it feels like he’s throwing away years of good work, and abandoning abuse victims all over Maine who have come to respect his work on their behalf.

If someone is so dangerous that the governor wants them to wear an ankle bracelet, then they’re too dangerous to have a gun.

I hope the governor will take a long, hard look at his position and side with women all over Maine who have come to believe in him as a sincere advocate by supporting “Yes on Question 3.”


]]> 16 Tue, 18 Oct 2016 18:54:05 +0000
Greg Kesich: Question 1 on Maine ballot reveals the real dangers of marijuana Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Before we vote Nov. 8, it’s time that we had a serious discussion about the dangers of marijuana.

We are talking about distorted perceptions and disrupted thinking – and that’s just in the referendum’s opponents.

The “Vote No on 1” crowd seems to be slipping dangerously into a delusional state with less than three weeks to go before Election Day. Its leading spokespeople are scaring themselves with figments of their own imaginations. It’s almost as if a wave of paranoia swept through their minds, and it’s making them blurt out things that they would know weren’t true if they were in a normal state.

Exhibit A is Maine’s top prosecutor, the otherwise sensible Attorney General Janet Mills, who issued a news release last week to announce that saying “yes” to a question that begins “Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age …” would actually be legalizing pot for people of all ages.

Mills said the new law would wipe out the existing statute that outlines the penalties for juvenile violators.

“The effect is it makes it legal for anybody of any age – 2 years old, 20 years old, 80 years old – to possess up to 2½ ounces of marijuana. That’s disturbing to me,” Mills told WCSH last week. “I have to think it’s something more than a drafting error because they deliberately wrote a 30-page bill. It’s very troublesome, the language of the bill.”

I hear what she’s saying. Two-year-olds smoking anything is indeed a troubling notion. And to think that the people behind a referendum campaign would intentionally do something this awful is even worse.

What are they trying to do to us? What kind of world do we live in? What’s going on?

But if you find yourself feeling this way, just focus on your in-breath and listen to some chill music. Maybe light a candle and some incense.

Because this is not going to happen.

First of all, the question is being pushed by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. Last time we checked, alcohol was pretty strictly regulated to prevent children from buying it.

Teens have been known to steal alcohol or to get some help from adults to buy it illegally, but those are criminal offenses.

Regulating something “like alcohol” is another way of saying that it’s not for kids,

Lawyers for the campaign say that Mills is wrong, and the referendum would repeal only the part of the law that affects fines for adults who use or possess pot. But even if they are wrong and Mills is right, don’t expect to see legal dope dealers at the day care when Nov. 9 rolls around.

That’s because the Legislature would still have to write the rules for retail sales, and there would be more than enough time to fix anything that needs fixing before any legal pot were to be bought or sold.

Does anybody think there would be a single vote in the Maine House or Senate against reinstating penalties for drug use by minors? This would go through quicker than a resolution recognizing Sleep Disorder Awareness Week or National Clean Up Your Virtual Desktop Day. The governor might even sign it.

Speaking of the governor, he is experiencing his own version of the pot terrors.

In a video released by his office last week, Paul LePage, staring into a camera with all the ease of an ISIS hostage on beheading day, reported that marijuana kills.

“THC levels in marijuana snacks are so high, they could kill children and pets.”

Wow. Scary. Sort of.

It’s true that a significant number of children and pets have been killed by marijuana overdoses. The number is zero, which is a very significant number.

Unlike alcohol, aspirin and drain cleaner – all legal products – the illegal substance marijuana has no known lethal dose.

There are plenty of good reasons not to vote for Question 1 next month. Marijuana takes hold of some people’s lives and does not let go. It is especially destructive for young, developing minds. It’s no joke.

If you think that keeping pot illegal is still the best way to stop people from doing something that millions of them are breaking the law to do right now, you should vote “no.”

But if you are worried about 5-year-olds legally sparking up spliffs behind the kindergarten, or coming home to find your dog with his paws in the air after getting into your pot-infused Gummi Bears, relax.

It’s just the pot talking. It can make you think some weird things.

Listen to Press Herald podcasts at


]]> 83, 18 Oct 2016 18:17:13 +0000
Kathleen Parker: The greatest fear of all is what happens after the election Tue, 18 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — If I were to distill a recent public discussion about the state of our nation to one word, it would be “worried.”

Not fearful, not angry, but worried – about the future; about an election season that has made evil-clown sightings seem weirdly apt; but mostly about what will happen after the election. How do we mend the deep divisions that have evolved during this thoroughly nasty – and, at times, X-rated – campaign season? How does the country salve its wounds and reunite in common purpose?

Audience members here at the Poynter Institute’s “Community Conversation,” at which I was invited to speak last Thursday, posed these and other questions. The 150 or so attendees were a cross-spectrum mix of students, professionals, retirees and a few notables – a diverse group, in other words, with no protesters, rabble-rousers or armed combatants in search of a revolution. The latter may have been occupied in nearby Lakeland, where Donald Trump had pronounced a global conspiracy against him the day before.

Clinton supporters at the Poynter event told me privately that they were afraid to put “Hillary” signs in their yards for fear of retribution, not from roaming vandals but from once-friendly neighbors. My suggestion that this campaign was reminiscent of the run-up to the Iraq war, when politically opposite friends avoided each other, was received with nods of agreement.

Whether for Trump or Clinton, neither side can conceive of what compels the other. In this duplex of horrors, Clinton is a corrupt, lying, hypocritical career politician, and Trump is a sleazy, lying, narcissistic autocrat and an (alleged) sexual predator. Never the twain shall meet.

Once the votes are counted, who knows what’s next? President Obama’s final two months may require his coolest touch yet.

Meanwhile, the questions posed here did not readily present answers. What’s needed, I posited half-seriously, is a superhero. Someone to rise from the marshes and cut through the fog of our discontent, someone who can summon our better angels and help restore the country’s self-respect.

At least for now, one is optimistic without reason.

We can know with near certainty that a defeated Donald Trump will unleash the armies of Mordor, comprised of a fan base that will embrace his dark conspiracy theory that the election was rigged. To their minds, his loss couldn’t possibly be linked to a very long list of objectionable, as well as dishonest, statements he’s made, only one of which is the sex-talk video we needn’t view again.

Talking dirty has become the new normal, as anyone walking down a city street can confirm. And the objectification of women isn’t remotely limited to Trump’s warped view. As disgusting as Trump’s verbal (and possibly physical) assaults have been – and, yes, hurtful, too, as Michelle Obama so passionately said last week – a certain contingent of his supporters are reluctantly willing to overlook the nastiness for the sole reason that they dislike Clinton more.

Others aspire to loftier goals, such as preventing a liberal Supreme Court or reducing the tax burden with an eye toward economic growth. These are certainly legitimate reasons. But Trump’s willingness to pave the way for a “revolution” were Clinton to win should be sufficient evidence that this man isn’t fit for the office.

To what extent are Trump sympathizers willing to express their disappointment? Well, who knows? But many will have seen the interview with a woman at a Trump rally last week who said she and her comrades are prepared to take their country back, cheerfully reminding the interviewer that “you’re in the South. We’re all Second Amendment pros.”

Is she talking about a well-regulated militia, perchance?

This is the mindset Trump has nurtured these past many months. These are the people he will summon at the end. These are the reasons the less-emotionally taut are so worried.

More worrisome still is the opposite result: What if Trump wins? We can presume that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be delighted, his possible WikiLeaks alliance having paid off. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who has called Trump a “wise politician,” will order extra platters of chicken wings to celebrate.

As the Japanese proverb goes: When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.

Remember, too, that Trump has vowed as president to make it easier for people to sue the media, which, constitutionally, he can’t. But as all authoritarian figures tend to do, Trump has to blame someone else for his failures. The media are handy bait for the credulous and misinformed.

Don’t be afraid, but be worried.

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

]]> 54, 17 Oct 2016 18:46:58 +0000
Charles Lawton: Nobel laureate Bob Dylan reminds us to listen to one another Tue, 18 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 You’ll never know the hurt I suffered
Nor the pain I rise above,
And I’ll never know the same about you
Your holiness or your kind of love
And it makes me feel so sorry.
– Bob Dylan, “Idiot Wind”

On my morning run several days ago, I passed a neighbor’s house on which was displayed a large sign proclaiming “Deplorables for Trump.” One presidential candidate promises, if elected, to jail the other. Our governor says that supporters of raising the minimum wage should be prosecuted for attempted murder.

If nothing else, our current election will go down in history as among our angriest, as one with the most potential to do lasting damage to our system of representative democracy. The unrestrained vitriol displayed on both sides and the headshaking disbelief at what opponents say and seem to believe is downright frightening.

Pondering this enormous anger – rage, actually – I am reminded of the career and creations of our newest Nobel laureate in literature. The man first described to me many years ago as “perplexing Bobby Zimmerman” by a colleague at the University of Maine at Farmington, who knew him at a summer camp in Minnesota, grew up to become the troubadour who created the emotional milestones that capture the feelings of our age.

He is a man who also generated strong reactions – of praise, of criticism and of betrayal. His critics (quoting from his acceptance speech of the MusiCares 2015 Person of the Year award) said that he “made a career out of confounding expectations.”

He also, I believe, embodies the attitude and the journey we all must emulate if we are to move from this most divisive election to any meaningful repair of our civic structure. Like all would-be saviors, the author of “Idiot Wind” is undoubtedly “a nuisance to live with at home.”

But compared to the litany of transparently insincere apologies scripted by public relations wordsmiths that we have all become accustomed to hearing, there can be no doubt about the depth of personal sorrow our Nobel-winning troubadour feels about his failure to cross the interpersonal borderline depicted so savagely in that monument to “the howling beast” of anger.

In his MusiCares acceptance speech, Dylan describes the origins of his work, how he went to sleep singing folk songs, woke up playing folk songs and traveled the length and breadth of the country listening to and singing folk songs. He describes how he “met other singers along the way who did the same thing, and we just learned songs from each other.”

Declining the “solitary genius” designation, he concludes, “If you had sung that song (‘John Henry was a steel drivin’ man’) as many times as I did, you’d have written ‘How many roads must a man walk down?’ too.”

While that conclusion may just slightly overstate the songwriting abilities of most of us, it does speak to the value of trying to see things from other points of view than our own. It does say that any “greatness” America may have comes from every region, every idiom, every person. That is the value of a troubadour – he or she is not a decider, not a convincer, not a salesperson, but an explicator, one who captures the feelings of things and expresses them in ways all who care to listen can understand.

And so, in some small way, I try here to play the troubadour of the Maine economy, saying what I feel to be true for all who care to read. More than anything, what this state and this nation need following whatever results our elections provide is not smug “I told you so, you loser!” victory dances, but heartfelt efforts to listen to one another and make every effort to “bind the nation’s wounds.”

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

]]> 7, 18 Oct 2016 10:49:00 +0000
Maine Voices: It’s time to question whether referendums are a good way to tackle problems Tue, 18 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 There’s been a lot written lately about the growth of citizen-initiated referendums. But not enough has been said about how to prevent the problems they present and improve what’s worthy in the process.

What’s wrong with referendums? More and more, they’re becoming a device for single-interest groups, on both the right and the left, to fast-track their legislative agendas by getting the public to vote a question into law, thus circumventing the normal vetting and prioritizing that take place in the Legislature.

We’ve seen popular referendums decided in anger and fear, like Brexit and anti-immigration laws in Europe. Others have tackled real problems but presented dubious solutions, like rent control. In these cases, majorities have voted measures into law discredited by experts and sometimes previously rejected by elected representatives.

The poster child for referendum abuse in Maine is Las Vegas entrepreneur Shawn Scott. He drove the referendum that eventually allowed slots at a Bangor racetrack he owned, which he promptly sold for a $51 million profit.

Like any good gambler, Mr. Scott knows a sucker when he sees one. He was back in Maine this year with a new referendum proposal giving him exclusive rights to establish a racino in York County. Those plans failed because invalid signatures were found on his petitions. But he’s already planning for next year.

Less brash is this year’s referendum Question 2 to raise top-end taxes to increase teacher pay. Yes, the wealthy should pay more to fund social needs, but who decides why education is the beneficiary, as opposed to, say, mental health or drug addiction? Basically, because a well-organized, deep-pocketed union got their question on the ballot first.

Referendums today are rarely “people’s campaigns” in the way most of us understand that term. Petition management companies – available to anyone with the money to pay them – typically drive the petition-circulating process.

One of these firms, National Petition Management, is so sure it can secure the signatures needed to get your question on the ballot that it promises “if your percentage of valid signatures falls under our contracted rate, we’ll make up the difference at our own expense.” These companies helped place several referendums on this November’s ballot.

The idea of paying someone based on the signatures they collect favors big money in politics and doesn’t exactly instill confidence that the process is being conducted in a fair and impartial fashion.

But the whole point, of course, is to get a question on the ballot, where anything can happen. Here, legislation with potentially complex and far-reaching consequences gets presented to voters in a roughly 25-word query packaged in sound bites and verbal triggers.

Anyone with the desire to make a truly informed and responsible decision about a referendum must read the proposed law, something a responsible elected official would do as part of his or her duties. Yet expecting the average voter to slog through a bill like the one to legalize marijuana – 30 pages long – is like counting on an iTunes user to read their service agreement before upgrading.

The point is not to banish popular referendums. Rather, it’s to identify those that are poorly conceived or that serve as a tool for special interests to skirt normal legislative channels.

How can we do this? One way is to bring integrity to the process of collecting petition signatures. Amazingly, courts have looked askance on limiting the practice of paying consultants to hustle signatures. We need creative legal strategies to address this.

Another idea, championed by Massachusetts, requires that petition signatures represent a cross-section of voters from all areas of a state. We should also explore limits on how soon a referendum may be re-introduced if it has once been defeated.

Especially important is providing voters with unbiased and readily accessible data about a referendum question. The state of Oregon, for example, has pioneered the Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission, which calls for a randomly selected, diverse group of 24 Oregon citizens to spend five days meeting with experts, sponsors and opponents regarding each referendum question on the ballot.

The group then drafts a Citizens’ Statement on their findings, including key facts about each measure and arguments for and against its passage, which is published in a voters’ pamphlet distributed at every polling place in the state.

Ultimately, mistrust of the political system is driving the rise of referendums. We need leaders motivated by consensus, not ideology, division or filibuster. Maybe that’s too much to expect. But if we can create these changes locally and move forward from there, we might experience the kind of renewal that is grass-roots democracy at its best.


]]> 31, 17 Oct 2016 20:03:00 +0000
Maine Voices: Effort to legalize marijuana is full of smoke and mirrors, Cumberland DA says Mon, 17 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Even if you think marijuana should be regulated and taxed like alcohol, you should vote “no” on Question 1.

Why? Because a “yes” vote will enact L.D. 1701, 30 pages of legislation that does not treat marijuana like alcohol.

Instead, it creates a profit-driven industry that will aggressively market product, increase consumers and continuously push more potent (and, therefore, more addictive) products, while insisting they are not harmful. Think Big Tobacco 2.0. On steroids. And it will obliterate medical marijuana in Maine, as it has in Washington state and Colorado.

Let’s take a look at what Question 1 will actually do instead of what the proponents want you to believe it will do.

The legislation completely legalizes pot use for kids by repealing the section of the law that prohibits it. Right now, adults 21 and over may possess up to 2½ ounces (that’s 150 joints) of pot and face a civil penalty only (i.e. fines).

Question 1 will make it legal for people over 21 and under 21 to possess and use up to 150 joints of pot. This law does not protect kids – it set them up as a huge new market for commerce.

The legislation establishes pot shops. Colorado now has more pot shops than Starbucks, McDonald’s or even pharmacies. Under the would-be law, pot shops are supposed to sell only to persons over 21, but there is no penalty for selling marijuana and marijuana products to youths. This law treats the marijuana retailer differently from an alcohol or tobacco retailer, who could lose their license for allowing sales to children.

The legislation does nothing to protect the public from impaired drivers. Unlike with alcohol, there is no prohibition against driving while smoking or consuming marijuana. And although operating while impaired by marijuana would be a crime, it’s not enforceable because there is no marijuana corollary to the blood alcohol test threshold of .08.

Marijuana hits all three parts of the brain (as opposed to alcohol’s one), and there is no standard metabolism rate. There is no known number of nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol in the blood that proves impairment. So if somebody tests at 5 nanograms or 8 nanograms of THC, that means, well, nothing.

The legislation wreaks havoc on employers. It specifically prohibits an employer from penalizing an employee for using marijuana in a location other than the employer’s property.

This is in contrast to the medical marijuana law, which provides limits on the use of marijuana by employees. Because of the conflicts with the medical marijuana law and federal law, it will be impossible for employers to know how to respond to a stoned employee or a problem employee who happens to use marijuana.

This bill gives landlords no rights to impose (and tenants no rights to enjoy) smoke-free policies. The medical marijuana law allows a landlord to restrict smoking on their property if they adopt a 100 percent smoke-free policy. This bill specifically allows the smoking of marijuana in any “nonpublic” place.

 This bill gives the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry a mere nine months to set up a huge regulatory bureaucracy; develop rules, policies and protocols, and train law enforcement in the investigations, searches, etc., necessary to enforce the new laws.

The Department of Agriculture, of course, has no experience, let alone expertise, in substance abuse, the law of search and seizure, commercialization of drugs or training law enforcement. It’s like asking the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to develop rules and enforce a whole new tax code.

This new regulatory and licensing structure will divert scarce police resources from crime to regulatory enforcement. It will also divert scarce court resources with endless licensing appeals.

Now for the cost: This bill will not save money or resources. The tax revenue imagined by the proponents will be outstripped, by a factor of at least 10 to 1, by the costs generated by the law. That’s the way it is with cigarettes and alcohol, and will be with marijuana.

The “yes on 1” campaign rhetoric is characterized by smoke and mirrors and downright dishonesty. That’s because the motive behind this effort is Big Marijuana commercialization at a time when we are already in the center of a gargantuan, devastating and overwhelming substance abuse public health crisis in our state.

Let’s take the time to develop a smart and sensible approach to marijuana based on public health and not on what’s best for Big Marijuana. Vote “no” on 1.


]]> 67 Mon, 17 Oct 2016 10:28:21 +0000
Cynthia Dill: After Trump, Buffett offers a refreshing take on taxes Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Call me old-fashioned, but I find it deeply touching that Warren Buffet never took a carry-forward loss on his personal income tax return. And I was comforted when less than 24 hours after Donald Trump accused Buffett of taking a “massive deduction” in last week’s awkward presidential “debate,” the 86-year-old Oracle of Omaha issued a humble G-rated, 237-word statement.

“I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when I was 13. (Though, being a slow starter, I owed only $7 in tax that year.) I have copies of all 72 of my returns and none uses a carry-forward,” he said.

A slow starter? At age 13? That’s adorable.

“Mr. Trump says he knows more about taxes than any other human. He has not seen my income tax returns. But I am happy to give him the facts,” Buffett said.

Contrast that with Trump’s boasting in the debate that he used his $916 million business loss in 1995 to evade paying personal income taxes for years, his refusal to turn over his returns – on top of being a letch who gropes – and suddenly the thought of sifting through 72 years of Buffett’s tax returns seems like a walk in the park or a dip in the clear blue sea.

The nightmare of Trump’s small hands uncontrollably groping a growing number of women on airplanes and in nightclubs and dressing rooms is nauseating, so in honor of Monday’s deadline for rich people to file tax returns after a six-month extension, treat yourself. Don’t think about the number of women Trump has assaulted; instead, imagine all the little numbers in Buffett’s big returns. It’s a much better numbers story: a hardworking boy who became a successful man who doesn’t grope.

Buffett’s numbers, when pieced together, are that mosaic we call the American Dream. Millions and millions of little numbers in boxes, columns and rows on thick ivory sheets of paper telling a story of spectacular success that spans decades of both Republican and Democratic administrations. Let us be reminded of what is good and great about America so we don’t lose sight of it.

The end of this ugly campaign hasn’t been written yet, but Buffet’s story is destined to have a happy ending because he’s pledged to give away 99 percent of his wealth to charity. With a net worth of $64 billion, Buffett doesn’t hide behind an audit. He’s a rich man who without hesitation supports Hillary Clinton for president of the United States, even though her tax plan will cost him a lot of money.

“I have been audited by the IRS multiple times and am currently being audited. I have no problem in releasing my tax information while under audit. Neither would Mr. Trump – at least he would have no legal problem,” Mr. Buffett said. And he’s brawny, too, challenging Trump to meet “any place, any time” to field questions about their income tax returns.

“My 2015 return shows adjusted gross income of $11,563,931. My deductions totaled $5,477,694, of which allowable charitable contributions were $3,469,179. All but $36,037 of the remainder was for state income taxes.

“My federal income tax for the year was $1,845,557. Returns for previous years are of a similar nature in respect to contributions, deductions and tax rates,” Buffett wrote.

Trump’s tax plan would make Buffett a richer man. Trump calls for the elimination of the estate tax and for the very highest earners, the top 0.1 percent like Buffett, to see their rates drop from 40 percent to 33 percent, in addition to slashing the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, according to The Washington Post.

Clinton’s tax plan, on the other hand, is described as “the most explicit and ambitious plan to tax the rich ever laid out by a major-party presidential nominee.” It will limit some deductions high earners can claim and end the tax benefit known as carried interest, as well as increase taxes on some capital gains and ramp up the estate tax, bumping the rate from a maximum of 40 percent today to as high as 65 percent for individual estates valued at more than $500 million.

Clinton’s plan will help working families, especially low-income parents with young children, doubling the existing child tax credit and expanding it to an estimated 14 million more families. Her plan also creates new tax credits for out-of-pocket health-care expenses and for caring for a parent or grandparent. She wants to impose a 4 percent additional tax on the less than 1 percent of individuals who earn $2.5 million or more per year and, tipping her hat to the Omaha Sage, Clinton wants a new minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent, modeled on the “Buffett rule,” for individuals earning $1 million or more.

Be still my beating heart.

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

Twitter: dillesquire

]]> 11, 15 Oct 2016 20:39:51 +0000
Alan Caron: Trump’s problem with women – and reality Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Donald Trump has had a demoralizing few weeks. He’s been rocked by one misstatement or scandal after another. He’s at war with everyone and every institution, and he’s threatening to punish them all. According to Trump, there’s a grand conspiracy at work to deprive him of victory in which everyone is ganging up on him and telling lies. His campaign is now engulfed in flames and spiraling toward the ground.

Trump, of course, says he’s blameless.

Trump’s one good day in the last few weeks came during the second debate, when he did better than in the first. But that is only because the bar was so stunningly low. In all five independent national polls since then, Hillary Clinton was declared the winner.

Trump said all the polls were fixed.

Trump made one massive mistake in that debate, and it has predictably come back to haunt him. When pushed to explain the videotape in which he boasts about groping women, he said he “talked about it but never did it.” He might as well have put a large red target on his back. Within days, several women had stepped forward to say that Trump had indeed done exactly what he bragged about.

Trump said they are all liars.

Trump’s explanation of the original tape has inflamed the situation further. He says it’s just “locker-room talk,” which is the new way of saying “boys will be boys,” as though this is how we should teach our sons to act. Most women on the receiving end of jerks like Trump would call it something else, like disgusting or creepy, hurtful or abusive. Maybe even illegal.

An army of women is now on the march, and they are not amused. As Michelle Obama said in an emotional and compelling speech this week, “enough is enough.” Clinton said, in an interview, that she is “all that stands between us and an apocalypse.” If that’s true, it is the women of America who seem determined to save us from “the boys” getting their hands on power that they can’t be trusted with.

Trump’s problems with women have passed a tipping point. While he still leads among men in national polling, that lead has shrunk to just 5 percent. But he trails among women by 15 percent, and that number is growing. With women representing 53 percent of voters, the math doesn’t add up for Trump.

All of this is a subset of a larger problem, which is Trump being Trump. People who become president get there because they can both energize primary voters and expand their support after the primary. Trump has done well with the first task and failed miserably with the second.

Not that Trump hasn’t tried. For a while, he brought in new people. He worked with the national party on fundraising and field operations. Seasoned veterans of national campaigns helped him with messaging. He began to read from a teleprompter rather than rely on stream-of-consciousness riffs in his speeches. And his polling numbers began to rise.

But Trump’s attempts to broaden his support among women, more educated suburban voters, Hispanics and moderate Republicans were short-lived and at times painful to watch. He seemed to be awkwardly out of his element talking to a mainstream America that doesn’t think and act like him.

Quickly enough, his bad habits began to take over. He couldn’t help himself. The new suit didn’t quite fit the old body. The struggle between the new Trump and the old one intensified. And the damaging late-night tweets began again as his campaign managers cringed.

By now, Trump has fully retreated to his small arenas of adoring fans who feast on the red meat he feeds them and lap up his every scathing attack on the Clintons, Republicans, the media, government and outsiders. Whether the bully or the victim, he’s once again at the center of every story. Never mind that these “huge” rallies, as he calls them, are far smaller than Romney’s were four years ago, just before he lost.

The real problem is that there simply aren’t enough of those folks to win any election outside of the deep red states. And the conspiratorial and hateful messages he’s using to energize his base are turning off everyone else.

Trump has now all but given up trying to broaden his appeal – or he simply doesn’t understand how to do it. Either way, the end of this conversation is near. And the women of America are going to have the last word.

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

]]> 6, 16 Oct 2016 18:37:13 +0000
Maine Observer: Maine fan bids ‘Big Papi’ adieu Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When I saw the headlines the next morning I wondered how anyone who saw David Ortiz’s last game at Fenway could get it so wrong: “A bad evening for a good team.” “No dramatic finish for David Ortiz.” “Indians sweep aside Ortiz’s last bit of magic.”

Of course, my son, Kurt, and I, along with fans from across New England, hoped Ortiz would do something amazing as he has so often. But he was intentionally walked in his final at-bat in the 8th and when he made it to second on Hanley Ramirez’s RBI single, Manager John Farrell sent in Marco Hernandez to run for him. It all made perfect baseball sense.

And yes, the Red Sox lost the game 4-3 to Cleveland and were swept from the division series, but it was after Travis Shaw popped out to end the game that the magic happened.

Instead of the usual headlong rush to the exits, most people stayed put. We waited what seemed like a very long time for the after-victory activities to wind down.

The Indians and their fans, who were seated all around us behind the Cleveland dugout, celebrated, hugged and were interviewed. The Sox went off to a team meeting in the clubhouse.

Still we waited, thousands and thousands of us, even though we had no assurance we weren’t waiting in vain.

Fans tried to start some kind of chant – “Thank, you Papi” and “We’re not leaving” – but it never took hold. I think most of us assumed that Ortiz wouldn’t interrupt or intrude on Cleveland’s celebration.

Some impatient fans yelled, “Get off the field!” But most of us simply stood in silence.

Eventually the Indians left the field and even the media seemed to think all had been said and done. Then some of the remaining reporters began to hurry across the field and thousands of us turned our heads toward the Sox dugout at nearly the same moment.

Ortiz came up the dugout stairs wearing a bright red shirt and standing a head taller than anyone near him. The theme song from “The Natural” began to play on the loudspeaker and I couldn’t help looking up at the three World Series banners over my head.

When his face appeared on the big screen, Ortiz looked so serious that at first I thought he was unhappy to be called back to the field. But later he told reporters that when he walked out to the mound, he realized it was for the last time.

“I was trying to hold in my emotions,” he said, “but it hit me at that last second. I couldn’t hold it in no more.”

Ortiz tipped his cap to the crowd, turning slowly around Fenway Park, sometimes holding his hand to his heart, to say goodbye to us all. And we cheered a man, his career and his character and tried to thank him. He left wiping away tears and so did we.

That’s a dramatic finish no one will ever forget.

]]> 0 Sat, 15 Oct 2016 20:35:13 +0000
Maine Voices: To really help a stricken Haiti, support Konbit Sante Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Hurricane Matthew reminds us once again that disasters happen, and that they are decidedly not equal-opportunity events.

Nature’s fury can overwhelm even the best preparations, as we have seen happen on the East Coast of the United States, but the level and scope of suffering are extremely disproportionate for people who live in abject poverty and are not protected by strong governance and health systems. We see this as each day the death tally rises and the level of devastation becomes better understood in southwest Haiti.

Konbit Sante, a local Maine-based organization, has been working in northern Haiti for 15 years, and in that time has repeatedly witnessed both the disasters and the local and international responses. We have also witnessed and benefited from the generous impulses of people, many of whom are our neighbors here in Maine, who want to help when they see the images that we are seeing today from southwest Haiti.

We are grateful that the area and people with whom we work were only minimally affected by this latest hurricane, but we have received many concerned inquiries about how to be most helpful in these circumstances.

Some thoughts on what is helpful and what is not:

While people have a great desire to personally help those in need, in most cases a period of major crisis is the worst time to make a first visit to a different country and culture. It is much more effective to identify people and legitimate organizations who already have long-term relationships with the communities in the affected areas and support their response.

In some cases, volunteers with specific expertise are needed, as the relief organizations will generally make known. But more often, the funds used to support the travel of people who were not recruited could be put to better use if they were donated directly to local responders.

There is often an impulse to collect and send materials that we all imagine would be useful under the circumstances. There are instances where critical materials are not available in-country where this becomes necessary, but it is better to support organizations’ procurement of the specific materials they need for relief efforts.

After the earthquake in Haiti, the airport tarmacs were famously overloaded with well-intentioned but often not useful materials, hindering the timely passage of vital supplies. Those organizations working on the ground can provide guidance about how best to support those material needs.

The scope of a disaster is very often related to the realities and contexts in which people live. During the height of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, we learned that it would be impossible to build enough cholera treatment centers if nothing is done to reduce people’s vulnerability to its spread, and so we invested in community prevention efforts.

And so it is with all disasters: While it is important to respond after the fact with support for relief, it is also important to invest in work that strengthens health and other systems that decrease people’s vulnerability to the next disaster.

The response to this latest tragedy in Haiti is taking time to put together. As a small and flexible organization, Konbit Sante is collaborating with others in northern Haiti to bring needed material and financial resources to a small hospital, St. Boniface Hospital, in the affected area in the south, so that St. Boniface can scale up its capacity to treat and prevent cholera, as the anticipated rise in cases in the area is already occurring.

We have the legal status and experience to bring critical humanitarian materials into the country, such as the 640,000 water disinfection tablets that we just purchased from Medentech in Ireland. As approved purchasers of World Health Organization’s medicines and supplies in Haiti, we are buying the recommended IV fluids and oral rehydration salts for treating cholera patients at risk of death from dehydration.

We have the relationships and collaborations to handle the logistics of getting these materials where they can have the greatest impact, quickly. By redirecting funds that have been entrusted to us by the ongoing generosity of our donors, volunteers and supporters, we have been able to respond quickly during this emergency relief phase without having to conduct a fundraising campaign.

Going forward, even as this disaster inevitably recedes from the headlines, we will continue to work to strengthen the capacity of the health system in our area to meet the great everyday health needs of their community, to reduce their vulnerability to disasters and to more effectively respond.


]]> 0, 15 Oct 2016 20:15:41 +0000
Maine Voices: Background checks will make us a bit more secure, Sagadahoc County sheriff says Sat, 15 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BATH — Many people have asked what my position is on Question 3 – perhaps even more so because I was not listed as one of the 12 Maine sheriffs who are publicly opposing the proposal to expand background checks on private gun sales.

The fact is I needed to give this serious consideration and not jump to judgment. I have studied the proposal closely. I agree with my fellow sheriffs: This is not a partisan issue. I believe that this is a public safety issue.

Much has been said about this referendum being the deterioration of our Second Amendment rights. The Second Amendment says that “… the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” If the referendum passes, no one would lose their right to keep and bear arms – at least no one who is already allowed to own a weapon. It would simply require a background check by a licensed firearms dealer at his shop during a private gun sale.

If the prospective buyer passes the background check, they would be allowed to purchase the weapon. This is really no different from any Maine citizen currently walking into L.L. Bean, Cabela’s or any licensed dealer’s shop and making a purchase.

Our state already has laws that prevent people from “keeping and bearing arms,” and we are perfectly fine with this, because these people have committed serious crimes or have documented mental health issues. But I find it interesting that any one of these restricted people can currently purchase a weapon in a parking lot or in someone’s garage or basement.

I admit I struggled with the provisions in Question 3 regarding the transfer of weapons to family and friends. One of the biggest claims of those opposed to the referendum proposal is that it makes it a crime for a law-abiding citizen to transfer or loan a firearm to a family member or a friend.

However, the exceptions included in the proposed law seem to cover almost any situation in which a transfer or sale would take place. A key factor is whether the person transferring the firearm knows that the person they are giving the weapon to is restricted or disqualified from owning or possess a firearm in the first place. This would have to be proven in court before a person is ever convicted of violating this law.

It has been said Maine does not have a problem with violent crime and is one of the safest states in the nation. I believe this and am proud of it, but I don’t see the connection to this referendum.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve been told that Question 3 will not prevent criminals from getting weapons. To a degree, I believe this, but the measure may make it more difficult than it is now.

Let’s face it: We’ve passed laws to prevent drunken driving and domestic violence, but we still have people who drive drunk and people who commit crimes against family members. Laws are intended to reduce the number of such acts. So I agree that this law in and of itself will not prevent all restricted people from acquiring guns, but it just might make it harder for them to do so.

I understand why many folks in Maine oppose this law, and the great thing about democracy is we are welcome to have opposing views. We let the majority of the people determine what rules we have to govern us. We as individuals make up our minds based on our experiences.

As elected officials, we sometimes have to give great weight to the people we serve and protect. I understand why 12 of Maine’s 16 elected sheriffs oppose this. I’ve spoken with many of them; they’ve given me their reasons and I respect them. For many, their position is based on their thoughts, beliefs and experiences. It is no different for me.

Within my county I have received as many requests to support Question 3 as I have to oppose it. I’ve heard from wonderful, law-abiding, family-focused people from all walks of life, including hunters and collectors of firearms, and I value each contact and perspective.

However, I am also influenced by my own experience. I am a gun owner, and although I no longer hunt, I take great pride in the right of ownership of firearms for the protection of my family and property.

But I am a public safety officer as well. Earlier this year in my very own county, I was one of the first police officers to arrive on the scene of an accidental shooting that claimed the life of the mother of two young children.

This event occurred as the result of a firearms transaction in a parking lot; the victim was an onlooker. I believe this happened because the firearm wasn’t handled as carefully as it might have been if the parties had to meet at a gun dealer’s shop to carry out the sale (a requirement of Question 3). As a result, a person is dead, and I cannot ignore that.

It may not be a perfect law, and it surely won’t stop every bad person from ever getting their hands on a gun, but it might stop some. I will support Question 3.

]]> 12 Fri, 14 Oct 2016 22:10:43 +0000
Commentary: They might not be high fashion, but treasured old clothes are priceless Sat, 15 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Every autumn I look forward to pulling a particular item of clothing from the back of the closet, brushing it off and wearing it again: It’s a coat I bought in late 1989, made of bright pink wool.

It’s not as if this garment goes with anything; nothing else in the world even complements this color. No other color wants to be seen next to it. It’s not a shade others would regard as autumnal, having no smoky, sunset undertones or hints of hauntingly early harvests. Put a plastic hat on me and I’d look exactly like a life-size bottle of Pepto-Bismol wearing this coat.

Now ask me if I care.

Everybody has a beloved piece of apparel. Graphic novelist Mimi Pond, author of the best-selling “Over Easy,” shares my penchant for outerwear. Her gotta-keep garment is a “1950s black swing coat that I’ve owned since I was about 17. Replaced the lining around 1980 or so, I still wear it. It’s been to operas and it’s served as a blanket for impromptu camping.”

That’s a coat that lives to serve.

Mimi also has “a pair of American flag knee socks from circa 1969, but those stay in the Museum of Personal History.”

We all have a version of Mimi’s Museum of Personal History. If I asked you, “What is the oldest item of clothing you still wear on a regular basis?” I bet you’ll have a quick answer that will be followed by an equally swift justification. You’ll sing the praises of the boots you bought at L.L. Bean in 1976, like my friend Anne Schwartz.

Or, like my friend Donna, you’ll tell me about your robe, which will force me to tell you about mine. A piece of terrycloth so old, it probably no longer technically qualifies as a robe. It actually looks like a costume from “Night of the Living Dead,” or “The Walking Dead” or whatever The Dead do now – dance? (Will we soon see a show called “Dancing With the Dead Stars”? And wouldn’t that be great?)

You’ll have a story to connect to the cloth, a text to go with textile, and you’ll explain how a sentimental chord is struck to go along with the literal cords braiding the edges of the jacket that you wore to a protest march in 1969.

There’s usually one shirt, scarf or sweater that, despite being no longer flattering, in fashion or intact, that you fetishize. Maybe, like Helen Lukash and Brooks Clark, you’ll have stories about shoes resoled so many times they’d more accurately be called “reincarnated.”

Part of you insists this item is essential even if you recognize its hideousness. It’s one of those things you might even grab if your house were on fire, now that photographs are on thumb drives.

It’s a non-negotiable item. Even if your family members, life partners and best friends think it’s hilarious, abhorrent or simply puzzling, they’ll have pry it out of your hands with a crowbar.

There’s the flannel shirt worn by your grandfather; the fabric is worn so thin it’s virtually transparent, but you believe it imparts some of his strength to you when you need it. There’s your grandmother’s shawl, which, despite years of washings, still uncannily bears traces of her lavender perfume.

There are dove-colored kid gloves from your aunt who, believing they were too nice to wear, never took them out of the original box. These beauties you keep in your car and slip carefully over your fingers whenever it’s chilly or damp, reminding yourself not only of your dad’s favorite sister but also of the need to make good use of what’s at hand.

These favorite pieces are slightly numinous, carrying with them moments of the past that wrap around the present.

When I put on that bright pink coat, not only am I making sure I’m easy to find in a crowd, I’m putting on a cross between a suit of armor and a baby blanket. It gives me strength and it gives me comfort.

Of course I know it’s only stuff. Yet I understand why we all have one thing about which we say: This I’m keeping. This is mine.

]]> 1 Fri, 14 Oct 2016 19:30:12 +0000
The humble Farmer: The seeds of contentment might lie in properly reading the signs Sat, 15 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 You might remember reading somewhere that to everything, there is a season. There is a time to plant and a time to harvest.

This was brought to mind when my bed-and-breakfast guest Alton said that when he was young, he planted some potatoes. His potatoes appeared to be doing very well. The tops were high and green. But his wife’s grandmother muttered something about “not planting under the right sign” and that the potatoes were not going to amount to a hill of beans.

Alton Lawson was born and brought up in North Carolina. He told me tat the old people in his part of the country always did everything by the astrological signs. He said that his wife’s grandmother was right: Because he planted under the wrong sign, all he got for his labor was a crop of potato tops.

Because I always put in a few veggies in the spring, I asked Alton to tell me more about these beneficial signs. He said his brother-in-law does everything by the signs. Cuts his hay by the signs. Sets his fence posts by the signs. Alton says that when you set a fence post by the sign, it won’t move about.

I asked how I could learn more about signs. He said it’s in the almanac.

A day or two before, I had chanced to receive from Judson D. Hale the latest copy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which, it seems, is now published in Dublin and not Peterborough, New Hampshire. We perused the pages and, sure enough, there were planting charts, astronomical data and enough information on the dozen signs to occupy a student for weeks.

Al then told me that the fellows who race stock cars won’t drive a green car. And if you eat peanuts in the pit, you’ll be thrown out.

Realizing that we had moved away from sound science predicated on astrological signs and into superstition, I quickly shifted our conversation over to banjo picking and decided to continue my studies on my own.

So do you plant by the signs? The cognoscenti will tell you that from new to full moon, you plant crops that grow on top of the ground, and when the moon is waning, you plant potatoes and radishes and other underground crops.

When the moon is overhead, it has the power to pull millions of gallons of water into Cutler Cove behind my brother’s house. We must therefore wonder if the moon has enough power to pull small green tendrils toward the sky.

How does that work, anyway? It is something that I have never heard discussed at Grange meetings, so perhaps it is time to revise our programs.

I have yet to understand why we should plant by the signs or if it makes any difference at all, so I now turn to you for help.

To muddy my thinking, we recently read that the first representations of the Orion’s Belt constellation were carved on a hunk of mammoth ivory some 30,000 years ago. To further complicate matters, the artist was looking at light that took 30,000 years to get here.

We are told that stars are constantly moving, so even if they didn’t burn out years ago, it is unlikely that they are in the same place they were when the zodiac was finally created in Iraq a mere 3,000 years ago.

Signs aside, most of us plant when it isn’t raining or when we are lucky enough to find the time. Like your typical old Maine man, I’ve spent a goodly portion of many winters dreaming about the garden bountiful I’m going to plant in the spring.

And every winter I forget we never do have a spring in St. George. As I recall, this year it didn’t get warm enough on the coast of Maine to step out of doors until after the Fourth of July. Heron Breen at Fedco usually sends me enough squash seeds for 30 or so hills, but by the time it was warm enough to think about getting something in the ground, it was too late to put in an order. So we won’t be eating squash this winter.

When Alton first mentioned signs, it brought to mind a newspaper item about a woman up in the northern part of The County who claimed she’d been kidnapped and locked in her car trunk for three days. It was suspected she had manufactured an excuse for not going to work.

Sure enough, when the sheriff examined the trunk, he became suspicious: There was no indication that anyone had lived in the trunk for three days. The sheriff knew that if there are bears in the woods, you will see signs.

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

]]> 0 Fri, 14 Oct 2016 19:31:45 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: Trump’s ‘lock her up’ campaign is an affront to democratic decency Fri, 14 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The second presidential debate – bloody, muddy and raucous – was just enough to save Donald Trump’s campaign from extinction, but not enough to restore his chances of winning, barring an act of God or of Putin.

That Trump crashed because of a sex-talk tape is odd. It should have been a surprise to no one. His views on women have been on open display for years. And he’d offered a dazzling array of other reasons for disqualification: habitual mendacity, pathological narcissism, profound ignorance and an astonishing dearth of basic human empathy.

To which list Trump added in the second debate, and it had nothing to do with sex. It was his threat, if elected, to put Hillary Clinton in jail.

After appointing a special prosecutor, of course. The niceties must be observed. First, a fair trial, then a proper hanging. The day after the debate at a rally in Pennsylvania, Trump responded to chants of “lock her up,” with “Lock her up is right.” Two days later, he told a rally in Lakeland, Florida, “She has to go to jail.”

Such incendiary talk is an affront to elementary democratic decency and a breach of the boundaries of American political discourse. In democracies, the electoral process is a subtle and elaborate substitute for combat, the age-old way of settling struggles for power. But that sublimation only works if there is mutual agreement to accept both the legitimacy of the result (which Trump keeps undermining with charges that the very process is “rigged”).

The prize for the winner is temporary accession to limited political power, not the satisfaction of vendettas. Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez and a cavalcade of two-bit caudillos lock up their opponents. American leaders don’t.

One doesn’t even talk like this. It takes decades, centuries, to develop ingrained norms of political restraint and self-control. But they can be undone in short order by a demagogue feeding a vengeful populism.

This is not to say that the investigation into the Clinton emails was not itself compromised by politics. FBI director James Comey’s recommendation not to pursue charges was both troubling and puzzling. And Barack Obama very improperly tilted the scales by interjecting, while the investigation was still underway, that Clinton’s emails had not endangered national security.

But the answer is not to start a new process whose outcome is preordained. Conservatives have relentlessly, and correctly, criticized this administration for abusing its power and suborning the civil administration (e.g., the IRS). Is the Republican response to do the same?

Wasn’t presidential overreach one of the major charges against Obama by the anti-establishment Republican candidates? Wasn’t the animating spirit of the entire tea party movement the restoration of constitutional limits and restraints?

In America, we don’t persecute political opponents. Which is why we retroactively honor Gerald Ford for his pardon of Richard Nixon, for which, at the time, Ford was widely reviled. It ultimately cost him the presidency. Nixon might well have been convicted. But Ford understood that jailing a president for actions carried out in the context of his official duties would threaten the very civil nature of democratic governance.

What makes Trump’s promise to lock her up all the more alarming is that it’s not an isolated incident. This is not the first time he’s insinuated using the powers of the presidency against political enemies. He has threatened Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, for using the newspaper “as a tool for political power against me and other people. … We can’t let him get away with it.” Trump has gone after others with equal subtlety. “I hear,” he tweeted, “the Rickets [sic] family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $’s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!”

He also promises to “open up” libel laws to permit easier prosecution of those who attack him unfairly. Has he ever conceded any attack on him to be fair?

This election is not just about placing the nuclear codes in Trump’s hands.

It’s also about handing him the instruments of civilian coercion, such as the IRS, the FBI, the FCC, the SEC. Think of what he could do to enforce the “fairness” he demands. Imagine giving over the vast power of the modern state to a man who says in advance that he will punish his critics and jail his opponent.

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

]]> 35, 13 Oct 2016 19:52:36 +0000
M.D. Harmon: Referendum questions problematic if you want to limit government Fri, 14 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Mainers are facing five referendum questions Nov. 8 (six if you count an uncontroversial transportation bond of the sort that are approved routinely).

But the others all come from the political left, and contain provisions that are problematic – or worse – for people like me, who prioritize limiting the size and scope of government power. In ballot order, they are:

1) “Do you want to legalize the possession and use of marijuana by persons who are at least 21 years of age, allow state and local regulation of retail sales of marijuana, and allow state regulation of the cultivation, manufacture, testing and distribution of marijuana?”

Its sponsors must believe that the biggest thing our society lacks is another legal mind-altering intoxicant.

Further, they apparently think we should legalize it before we have any way to test if people driving cars are stoned on it.

Do people really believe that our society is doing so well that increasing the number of people who can tune in, turn on and drop out is exactly what the doctor ordered? Bummer.

2) “Do you want to establish a Fund to support kindergarten through 12th grade public education by adding a 3 percent surcharge on Maine taxable Income above $200,000?”

All this would do is raise taxes on Maine’s highest earners to the second-highest rate in the nation. Are we doing so well economically that we can tell the entire nation that our state wants to put punitive taxes on its most productive citizens? That’s a heck of a way to persuade business leaders to move here.

3) “Do you want to change Maine law to require background checks prior to the transfer of firearms between individuals, with some exceptions for certain circumstances?”

While ads for this useless folly focus on sales, the law also criminalizes entirely innocent “transfers” like lending your gun to a buddy the day before he goes hunting.

Plus, while former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has found a cop or two to promote it in ads financed by his millions, a large majority of elected sheriffs oppose it, and there’s a very effective TV commercial giving their views.

The proposal is a back door to universal gun registration – it wouldn’t work without it – and it would do nothing to stop the most common ways criminals get their guns: stealing them, buying them from other crooks or finding a “straw purchaser” who can pass a background check for them. All those ways are already illegal. Hey, let’s make them more illegal!

4) “Do you want to raise the minimum hourly wage of $7.50 to $9.00 in 2017, and in $1.00 increments up to $12 in 2020; and to raise it for service workers who receive tips from the current rate of $3.75 to $5 in 2017, in $1.00 increments up to $12 in 2024?”

The flaw here is the idea that every job should pay enough to allow a person to subsist on it alone, the so-called “living wage” standard.

But many minimum wage jobs are held by teenagers getting their first work experience or people seeking to augment their current income, and higher minimums price them out of the market.

Salaries are an expense to an owner, just like flour is to a baker. The cost of a worker has to be balanced against that worker’s contribution to the bottom line.

Sound harsh? Remember, no bottom line equals no jobs and no workers.

And that segues into the iron economic law that says when you raise the cost of something, demand for it declines. So this idea violates both common sense and basic economics. No wonder leftists like it so much.

5) “Do you want to change Maine election law to allow voters to rank their choices of candidates for U.S. Senate, Congress, Governor, State Senate and State Representative?”

The case for this is based on a presumption and a superstition. The former is that most voters like more than one candidate, when it is just as likely that they really like only one of them.

When all the others are “last choices,” why negate your first vote, which could provide a plurality win for your favorite, to elect someone you dislike?

Second, the idea that majorities somehow legitimize officeholders is a matter of faith, not experience.

I never heard a single liberal say Angus King or John Baldacci were not legitimate governors because of their plurality elections. And Bill Clinton didn’t get a majority either time he ran for president.

So, if it never mattered to leftists before, why should it matter to the rest of us now?

But if all that “no” voting sounds too negative, you can always vote “yes” on the transportation bond. Improving infrastructure is actually something government is supposed to do.

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

]]> 21, 14 Oct 2016 19:13:56 +0000
It’s time for employers to de-emphasize criminal history when hiring Fri, 14 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WILTON — Providing a fair chance for all citizens seems a basic tenet of our culture. If you’ve made a mistake or a poor choice or have committed a crime, most of us are ready to help you pick yourself up and start all over again.

However, for those who have been released from incarceration and are attempting to re-enter society, getting a fair chance while seeking employment, an often-difficult endeavor, has been made more so by the box on job applications that asks for the applicant’s conviction history.

“Felons need not apply” has come to be the contemporary phrase for discriminatory practices similar to those with which previous generations of immigrants, people of color and adherents of certain religious creeds have had to contend.

Led by President Obama and his directives on federal hiring practices, as well as by laws passed in 24 states, there is a counter-movement proposing what are known as “ban the box” or “fair chance” initiatives.

Obama has forbidden federal agencies from asking job applicants about their criminal histories until after they have had a chance to prove their qualifications. In addition to the passage of “fair chance” legislation at the state and county levels, major employers such as Wal-Mart and Target have dropped the “box” from job applications.

According to a recent New York Times editorial: “These … policy changes can be traced to the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, a group of more than 20 federal agencies led by the attorney general. … The council and its member agencies have been especially focused in removing unfair barriers to employment that have become pervasive since employers turned to computer-based arrest and conviction records for job-screening purposes.

“These records are notoriously inaccurate and frequently contain mistakes, including records of arrests that either were dismissed or never led to conviction,” the editorial stated.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took an important step in 2012 when it updated a ruling on the use of criminal history in making hiring decisions.

The commission recommended against automatically denying jobs to applicants based on their arrest and conviction records; instead, the agency said, companies should take into account the seriousness of the offense, when it had occurred and whether it was relevant to the job. Companies have faced rigorous enforcement actions for failing to observe the EEOC’s guidance.

In Maine, recidivism during the first year after release is 23 percent, a rate that grows as the number of years of freedom increases. While many factors play into reoffending, the National Employment Law Project concludes that employment has been found to be a significant factor in reducing recidivism. The organization has also found that a 1 percent drop in the unemployment rate causes a 1 percent to 2 percent decline in some criminal offenses.

The Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, with the support of Maine Equal Justice Partners, the Maine Council of Churches, the Children’s Alliance of Maine, the NAACP, the Maine Democratic Party and other groups, has developed “fair chance” legislation that will be introduced to the next Legislature.

The intent of the legislation is clear: “An employer or hiring authority shall not inquire into or consider an applicant’s conviction history until after the applicant has received a conditional offer of employment;

“A Licensing authority shall not inquire into or consider the conviction history of an applicant for licensing until after an applicant is found to be otherwise qualified for the license;

“Job applications and licensing applications shall not inquire into an applicant’s conviction history.”

By ensuring that no person shall be disqualified from employment solely or in part because of a prior conviction, this extends a “fair chance” to those re-entering the work world.

The legislation and its supporters recognize, at the same time, that there are legitimate reasons to prohibit certain offenders from specific jobs: e.g., barring registered sex offenders from working in children’s day care programs.

The proposed legislation is clear on this issue as well: “If a statute explicitly requires that certain convictions are bars to employment or licensing, then those convictions shall be considered as well.”

As the campaign season winds down, and as we gather information regarding our voting decisions, it is worth asking candidates where they stand on “fair chance” legislation. It’s an important measure of how willing we are to provide support to the nearly 1,200 persons released each year from the Maine prison system.

]]> 53, 13 Oct 2016 23:19:08 +0000
Dana Milbank: In backing Trump, religious right undermines its moral standards Thu, 13 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The late Jerry Falwell, leader of the Moral Majority and founder of Liberty University, built the religious right into a major political force.

His son Jerry Jr. is well on his way to destroying it.

Falwell junior, now Liberty’s president, was among the first and most prominent evangelical Christian leaders to embrace thrice-married, foul-mouthed casino mogul Donald Trump, declaring in January that Trump had lived his life in the spirit of Jesus.

This endorsement validated Trump’s character for millions of evangelicals, helping to propel Trump to the Republican nomination. Falwell continued to campaign for Trump, spoke at the Republican National Convention and likened Trump to Winston Churchill in an August op-ed in The Washington Post.

Now the “Access Hollywood” video, in which Trump boasts in vulgar terms about sexually assaulting women, has caused late defections from Trump by Republican officeholders and conservative thought leaders.

But Falwell is standing by his man. He speculates that the leak of the video “might have even been a conspiracy among the establishment Republicans,” including House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Falwell allowed that what Trump said in the video was “reprehensible,” but he argued on New York’s WABC Radio that “we’re all sinners” and dismissed Trump’s words as “dumb comments on a videotape 11 years ago.”

Trump is creating a lot of wreckage as his campaign founders and he lashes out on Bill Clinton’s sexual misdeeds and even the late Ted Kennedy’s 1969 Chappaquiddick scandal. One of Trump’s victims is likely to be the religious conservative political movement, as many of its leaders have averted their gaze from Trump’s misogyny, hoping ends justify means.

Ralph Reed, formerly of the Christian Coalition, claims that for evangelical voters, “a 10-year-old tape of a private conversation with a TV talk-show host ranks pretty low on their hierarchy of their concerns.”

And Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, dismissed Trump’s lewd video by saying the candidate was only “trying to look like he’s macho.”

These religious political leaders’ continued support of Trump undermines their claims to speak for traditional morality. And their political calculation – that they’re supporting Trump because he’d appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court – appears to be backfiring, as well. Trump’s woes are putting the Senate (and perhaps the House) in jeopardy for Republicans, potentially depriving them of whatever defenses they would have had against Hillary Clinton’s nominees and policies.

In the past, religious-right leaders claimed to care about personal morality. “We will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character,” Reed said back in the Monica Lewinsky days. Evangelical leader James Dobson advocated Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 because he set a bad example about “respecting women.”

But Dobson supports Trump, excusing his behavior because the candidate is a “baby Christian.”

Theologian Wayne Gruden, who had endorsed Trump, now says, “I cannot commend Trump’s moral character, and I strongly urge him to withdraw from the election.”

And James MacDonald, who has been on Trump’s evangelical advisory council, called Trump’s words on the video “the kind of misogynistic trash that reveals a man to be lecherous and worthless.”

But where are the high-profile figures in the movement, such as Reed, Robertson and Falwell? In January, Falwell said Trump “lives a life of loving and helping others, as Jesus taught.” He likened Trump to his father.

And now, no regrets. Falwell said that years from now, “I don’t think anybody is going to be sitting around thinking about whether Donald Trump said this or that on the videotape in 2005. I think they’re going to be sitting around saying, ‘Gosh, I wish we had different Supreme Court justices.’ ”

Or maybe they’ll be wondering how differently things might have turned out if Falwell, with his ends-justify-the-means logic, hadn’t made a deal with the devil and destroyed the moral credibility of the movement his father built.

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

]]> 7, 12 Oct 2016 19:08:54 +0000
Maine Voices: Calling Chinese music ‘garbage’ is dumping on diversity Thu, 13 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I walked into the WMPG studio in Portland on Oct. 3, ready to host my Chinese music show, “Ba Yin Box.” I had prepared a collection of Great Wall-themed music of various genres, performed by multiple generations of Chinese artists.

Soon after the show started, the studio phone flashed and I picked it up. It was a male voice: “What kind of garbage are you playing? You’ve been playing this garbage for weeks and I’m sick of it!”

This caught me off guard. It was the first time that I had received such an angry call. Ever since the show was launched in June, listeners had mostly expressed delight, curiosity and encouragement.

“Nobody listens to this garbage!” the caller went on. “We’re all trying to get back to work here Monday morning and you put on this garbage? I support WMPG, but I don’t support you!”

Well, it was quite all right that he didn’t support my show. I understand that listeners have preferences. But overall, WMPG supporters appreciate it being an open and inclusive station.

And what did the caller mean when he stressed “we” and “you”? “We” are the real folks who are trying to work, and “you” are obviously not one of “us.” “You” are putting on this unfathomable alien music to disrupt “our” lives. Was that what he meant to say?

I could only explain to the caller that my show was part of WMPG’s midmorning global music lineup, and that there was a Chinese community in southern Maine.

“They contribute?” he cut in.

Well, if he meant contributing to WMPG, the station does not collect racial or ethnic data on its donors. Besides, a community radio station serves the community, regardless of who donates or how much they donate.

As it happens, there is support from the Chinese community. The Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine has pledged sponsorship for “Ba Yin Box” to increase exposure to Chinese culture and to expand its outreach in Maine.

I have also invited community members into the studio to share their knowledge and experience of China, such as a Chinese language teacher, a former business executive, a local historian and the owner of a new restaurant. I guess if the caller had listened to my show long enough, he would have known that people who are supporting the program live here in the community; they work, and they contribute.

Finally, I advised the caller to call the station manager or the program director about his complaint, but he declined. “No. I’m not going to talk to them. There is no use talking to them. I’m just telling you to stop playing this garbage!”

So ended the phone call, and I rushed back to my show. Only later did I wonder why the caller refused to talk to the manager. If he supports WMPG like he said, shouldn’t he want to engage actual decision makers to help improve its programming?

Why should he feel powerless in front of station management while lashing out at me? Is it because he identifies me as a weak target, toward whom he can unleash his verbal abuse and feel a sense of superiority? Is that not bullying? Does that not make him a coward?

The phone call has turned out to be both alarming and enlightening. It reminds us what community radio is and what community means. It is not about shutting down voices but about sharing space with different voices. A community can thrive from different points of view, but a community cannot survive when disagreement turns into bullying.

Unfortunately, we have witnessed this type of behavior, first in our state politics and now on the national stage. Politicians can openly insult and intimidate people they dislike and get away with it. Do we want to continue to condone such behavior? Do we want to continue to indulge such leaders?

As one of the growing number of immigrants in Maine, I hope that we will not lose sight of the democratic ideal that America champions in this election season. And I hope that Maine will continue to be more open and inclusive. It should not have anything to do with the color of one’s skin, the accent of one’s speech or the music one plays, but the civil and democratic spirit that we can all share as we build the community that Maine deserves.


]]> 5 Wed, 12 Oct 2016 19:13:06 +0000
Commentary: ‘Yes’ on Question 2 would help education, now that Legislature has failed mandate Thu, 13 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 NEWPORT — Passing Question 2 will help solve Maine’s education funding crisis, one perpetuated by those we’ve already asked to fix it.

In 2004, Maine voters overwhelmingly mandated that the state fund 55 percent of the cost of education. Subsequent Legislatures and governors have yet to comply with this law, funding progressively less every year. In 2015-16, the state paid only 47.5 percent.

We feel this failure as local property taxes continue to rise even as we are forced to make deeper cuts to our schools.

Voters in my school district, Regional School Unit 19, are among those who’ve seen the worst of this trend despite having the most power to reverse it. We’re represented by two of the most powerful men in Maine, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Andre Cushing.

Those titles carry an incredible amount of influence, which both have used to advance their priorities. But their legislative records and budgets passed on their watch indicate that those priorities have not involved ensuring the level of state education funding voters demanded.

Citizens in towns comprising RSU 19 should be outraged by this, especially considering our recurring budget crisis and the fact that the state’s contribution to RSU 19 schools has decreased by over $2 million in five years. Voters should contact their elected representatives to ask why they have continually failed, especially as they’ve run on a platform of keeping taxes low.

But voters need to know what answer is acceptable before asking, because Fredette and Cushing have specious arguments ready.

Indeed, a recent joint campaign mailer proclaims they “voted to allocate an additional $15 million for school funding … . We will also launch a blue ribbon commission to reform public education … .”

That sounds impressive.

But the $15 million was allocated only after schools found themselves facing another shortfall because of more projected state funding cuts. It was also long after school districts had further slashed education because of the proposed cuts, weakening our communities and state. This would be like your boss withholding your paycheck and then deciding to give you 5 percent of it after one of your children starved to death.

The 2012 Legislative Council spent $450,000 to hire Picus and Associates to analyze Maine’s education funding. Even by the most basic standards, Picus estimated, the state is underfunding education by $260 million annually. Now they want to create a blue ribbon commission to study the same thing? This would be like my 5-year-old commissioning a study to determine why there’s crayon on the wall.

Let’s assume I, as a farmer, tell my employees to harvest 55 percent of the tomatoes before a frost; I’ll take care of the rest myself. They harvest 47.5 percent and call it good. After I complain, they pick 5 percent of the remaining tomatoes, come back expecting praise and suggest spending money to study why my business is suffering.

Our elected officials explain that it’s complicated. There are lots of programs to fund.

Maybe my farmhands noticed the grass needed mowing, a fence needed repair and the tractor had a flat tire. They picked 47.5 percent of the tomatoes, mowed 25 percent of the grass, repaired the fence and patched the tire.

By some standards, that’s pretty good. But I, as the employer, specifically directed them to focus their energy on the tomatoes. If all the tomatoes get picked, then and only then can we focus on other problems. School funding is like that.

There are actually very few spending policies Maine voters have directly mandated. But those we have, by definition, are our highest, collective priorities. In other words, they are not on the same level as other policies. Nor should they be treated as such. If you don’t understand the distinction between levels of obligation, try paying only 47.5 percent of your mortgage this month. After all, you likely have a long list of other priorities.

Mainers value education because we understand that the future of our communities depends upon our children’s ability to become diverse, productive, happy adults, ready to face a rapidly changing world. We sent this message to our elected officials and created a law to dictate our priorities to them. We have a procedure to deal with those who haven’t done what we’ve asked.

Meanwhile, please vote “yes” on Question 2 – Stand Up for Students (something elected officials should have been doing since at least 2004). Passing Question 2 provides $157 million for K-12 education and requires the money directly benefit classroom instruction and student learning.


]]> 80, 12 Oct 2016 22:39:58 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Guys can be raunchy, but they don’t boast about sexual assault like Trump Wed, 12 Oct 2016 10:00:20 +0000 Look, I’m a guy, all right?

So I’ve spent a lot of time doing guy things in guy places: barbershops, locker rooms, even men’s prisons. Back during my music critic days, I hung out backstage with a veritable army of rock lords and soul men.

But I have never, not ever, not once, heard a man speak the way Donald Trump and Billy Bush do in that 2005 outtake from “Access Hollywood” that was unearthed Friday by The Washington Post.

You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, alien creatures in Alpha Centauri have seen it – the astounding clip that required the august New York Times to use the F-bomb and occasioned a lively live debate on CNN over repetition of a certain synonym for the female genitalia.

In the clip, Trump speaks with casual crudity about his propensity for sexual assault, about how he kisses women without permission as though their bodies were his entitlement, how he grabs them by the pudenda like, one assumes, grabbing one’s dog by the leash, one’s bag by the handle or otherwise taking control of one’s property.

“And when you’re a star,” he says, “they let you do it. You can do anything.”

All while Bush is giggling dementedly along, playing Milhouse to Trump’s Bart Simpson – except that Bart has a better moral compass and Milhouse a sturdier backbone.

A day later, CNN reported on a 2004 radio interview in which Howard Stern wonders if it’s OK to call Trump’s daughter Ivanka “a piece of ass,” and Trump says, wistfully, “yeah.”

It’s hard for me to conceive of any father who wouldn’t want to smash the face of the man who described his daughter thus, but Trump goes with it.

His defense to all of this, echoed by his coterie of sycophants, is that boys will be boys. It’s just “locker room” talk, they say.

Forgive me if, as a guy, I take particular offense at the attempt of the Republican nominee for president to conscript me and mine as conspirators in his loathsomeness, to make us guys human shields for his repugnant juvenility.

Don’t get me wrong. I claim no sainthood for my gender. We are not strangers to raunch. And I’m sure your average server at Hooters could tell tales of male misbehavior that could curdle your milk. But nonchalantly boasting about sexual assault? Casually concurring with some professional lecher who demeans your very own daughter to your very own face?

Don’t put that on us. There is nothing inherently male about that. No, that behavior reflects the stunted emotional maturity of a then-59-year-old frat boy, a pampered rich kid who never grew up.

And how telling is it that a raft of Republicans, headlined by Sen. John McCain and House Speaker Paul Ryan, has withdrawn support for their nominee since the video was released?

They were able to stand with him through his bigotry, his Islamophobia, his bullying, his misogyny, his mockery of a disabled man, his endorsement of violence, his manifest ignorance and his general noxiousness, but boasting of sexual assault was the deal breaker? Why?

Of course, those Republican leaders are all profiles in courage by comparison with the one in three American voters who still, astonishingly, consider this piece of scum worthy of the Oval Office.

Fine. That’s their right, and democracy requires no IQ test. But let them not rationalize Trump’s godawfulness by retreating into the fiction that this is just How Men Are.

Donald Trump is no man. He’s just a really poor excuse for one.

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

]]> 27, 11 Oct 2016 20:50:36 +0000
Maine Voices: York County anti-fluoridation activists working against both science and history Wed, 12 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BIDDEFORD — I find it disturbing that the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District board and its superintendent have chosen to support a small group of local residents who support the anti-fluoride group Fluoride Action Network and its unscientific internet attack on community water fluoridation.

The Fluoride Action Network has flooded the Web with its propaganda, and it uses this medium shrewdly. That doesn’t make it right. The water district board and Superintendent Norm Labbe are not doctors or public health experts, and are not there to make judgments about the safety and efficacy of community water fluoridation.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal agency responsible for keeping us safe from diseases, and which employs hundreds of scientists trained to the doctoral level, supports community water fluoridation.

They study the science of community water fluoridation on an ongoing basis and have consistently supported it. In fact, the CDC has declared fluoridation to be one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century.

Last Dec. 22, Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., the surgeon general of the United States, released a statement supporting the safety and efficacy of and need for the continuation and promotion of community water fluoridation. It can be found on YouTube and on the surgeon general’s website.

Community water fluoridation is also supported by the U.S. Public Health Service, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the World Health Organization, as well as the American Dental Association and the American Dental Hygienists Association. The American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute support water fluoridation, as does the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Over 100 respected medical and health organizations support fluoridation. So does the American Water Works Association. No widely respected health organization opposes it, yet the superintendent and board of the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District think they know better.

In 1983, I was a young dentist, fresh out of Tufts, with a new practice. A patient of mine convinced me that joining the local Rotary Club would be a good way to increase my visibility in the community, while providing useful service to it.

New Rotarians are often asked to present a luncheon talk on a subject of their own choosing. Mine focused on the benefits of community water fluoridation. The Biddeford-Saco water system at that time was not optimally fluoridated, and many of my pediatric patients were coming in for their visits with significant and multiple areas of dental decay.

Rotary being Rotary, I was soon surrounded by a number of my fellow members, asking why our citizens were not receiving the benefit of community water fluoridation. Within a few weeks, I found myself chairman of a fluoridation drive.

A group of about 20 local residents began collecting signatures and promoting the benefits of optimal levels of fluoride in the Biddeford-Saco water system. Many people, including more than a few of my colleagues, said that this referendum would never pass – but in 1985, it did, by a landslide.

The Biddeford-Saco water utility has done an exceptional job of maintaining optimal and safe levels of fluoride in our drinking water over the intervening years, and the results have been spectacular. The decay rate in local children decreased dramatically (and would be even less if sugary sports drinks were eliminated in favor of good old water). Many young people in our communities reach adulthood without a single restoration of any kind in their mouths.

I’ve done many things during my 35-year career in dentistry, including co-founding a free clinic, serving as a founding trustee of a new dental school, helping to bring the Donated Dental Services program to Maine and serving as president of a number of local, state, national and international groups.

I consider that successful drive to bring the benefits of community water fluoridation to our citizens to be my most important achievement, and I bristle at those who use scientifically unsupported arguments to try to take those benefits away from our citizens.

Depriving the children and adults in the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District of optimally fluoridated water – that means they add only 0.4 parts per million, because the water already has 0.3 ppm, according to the district manager – will lead to a resurgence of tooth decay, as is shown in numerous studies, for the many residents who get water from this public utility. Don’t listen to those who would bring the dental health of our children back to the 19th century.

— Special to the Press Herald

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Greg Kesich: Trump can’t win, but our broken system won’t end after the election Wed, 12 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 OK, I’m calling it. With zero precincts reporting, Donald Trump cannot be president of this country.

He brags about committing violence against women. He judges people by their race, religion and national origin. He talks like a Third World dictator who would use the criminal justice system as a personal revenge machine.

He cannot win this election, even though appealing to the worst part of the American character will get him millions of votes – including one from a certain resident of Augusta.

“Is he a slimeball?” mused Maine’s Gov. Paul LePage in a radio interview Tuesday. “I’d be the first to say that he’s not my ideal of the kind of guy I want my daughter going after.”

But Trump has other qualities that, in the governor’s opinion, make being a “slimeball” forgivable.

“Sometimes, I wonder that our Constitution is not only broken, but we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country and bring back the rule of law because we’ve had eight years of a president, he’s an autocrat, he just does it on his own, he ignores Congress and every single day, we’re slipping into anarchy,” LePage said.

Given the week we have just lived through, it’s a stunning statement, and not just because it cites three different political systems that begin with the letter “A.” We know Paul LePage. He calls people of color “the enemy.” He claims refugees fleeing oppression are freeloaders. He would deny life-saving medicine to people who have overdosed on drugs because it provides “an excuse to stay addicted.”

It’s not news that LePage is a blowhard. But hearing an American governor call the U.S. Constitution “broken” and suggest that we need some “authoritarian power” to fix it should show everyone how far we have sunk.

LePage is right. There is something broken in our system. The proof is Donald Trump’s success in this campaign.

If Trump hadn’t repeatedly sabotaged himself, we might really be electing a wannabe authoritarian dictator this year. That’s something that America needs to fix before another candidate who is a little smarter and less accident-prone takes a run.

A lot of the blame goes to the Republican Party. Since the 1960s, it has used anti-civil rights white grievance as fuel for the conservative agenda. This time around, Trump was able to dump conservative trade policy, conservative foreign policy and some aspects of social conservatism, and still have plenty of support from Republicans to win the nomination and pull into a September tie for the presidency on grievance alone.

But before liberals get too smug and superior, let’s acknowledge their role in this.

We are about to elect a president in Hillary Clinton who is running on a platform of not being a racist, paying her taxes and refusing to make fun of people because of their weight – kind of a low bar.

If Donald Trump were not in the race, we would be writing about a Democratic Party that has run out of gas ideologically. If she wins, Clinton will be the second-oldest person ever elected to the office, and she champions ideas developed in the mid-1960s when the world was a very different place. The Democrats are going to win this election because Trump is handing it to them, but if a normal Republican had been on the ballot, it’s hard to see how Clinton could have overcome her personal baggage.

It’s not just the political parties that have let us down. We in the news media are going to have to figure out a better way to cover politics.

To avoid looking biased, we write about tactics instead of policy. We love conflict and can’t look away when candidates go after each other. We treat elections like a sport, where predicting the winner seems like the goal.

Which makes us a sucker for a guy like Trump, who knows how to make our jobs easy.

Other institutions could also do some soul-searching.

How do evangelical Christians end up supporting a guy who gives Howard Stern permission to call his own daughter “a piece of ass”? How do schools graduate students who don’t know that a president can’t throw his political opponents in jail? Why do voters believe more in invisible conspiracies than what they can see with their own eyes?

Donald Trump will not be president. But millions of people think that he should be, and like our governor, they will still be around on the day after Nov. 8.

Listen to Press Herald podcasts at

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Charles Lawton: For high-quality job growth, focus on creating a skilled labor force Tue, 11 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Many elections ago – in the days before campaign managers had to worry about their candidates finding the phones they thought they had hidden and tweeting at 3 a.m. – there was a harsh reminder intended to keep the Big Guy (or Girl) on message: “It’s the economy, stupid!” In Maine today, that terse instruction could be rephrased as “It’s not about jobs, stupid; it’s about workers!”

Consider the following stark contrast taken from our recent economic history. Between 2010 and 2014, the number of Maine residents holding a job increased by 22,000. Over the same period, the size of Maine’s labor force increased by only 2,000. And even that tiny increase was made possible only because an additional 17,000 workers (and would-be workers) age 65 and over offset the loss of 15,000 workers in the 16-to-64 age cohort.

In other words, the unemployed, immigrants from outside the state and older workers are what have kept the Maine economy afloat during the “recovery” of the last six years.

Now, look forward 10 years. Maine’s civilian labor force – the population age 16 and older that is neither in school full-time nor in the military and is either working or looking for work – will be at 690,000 in 2024, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics projections.

Assuming a 4 percent unemployment rate, that leaves us with a total of 662,000 people in Maine with jobs eight years from now. That amounts to a whopping 6,000 more jobs than the 2014 total – hardly a booming future and certainly not enough to keep even a fraction of our best and brightest here in Maine.

From the textile mills of the 1830s and ’40s to the electronic equipment assembly plants and call centers of the 1970s and ’80s, Maine’s long history of industrial development has been built on an ample and readily available supply of capable and dedicated workers. Hard as it may be to accept, however, that era is over.

The fall of the Iron and Bamboo curtains and the digitization of information have spread manufacturing all over the globe, and changing reproductive choices have diminished our birth rate to the point that the number of deaths in Maine has exceeded the number of births over the last several years.

And you may ask, “But doesn’t that make job creation all the more important?”

Yes, of course. But in “Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?” debate, it is increasingly clear in economic development that the egg of the worker comes before the chicken of the job. From the Silicon Valley in California and the Research Triangle in North Carolina to the newer examples of Google in New York City and General Electric in Boston, it is clear that the jobs that demand high levels of skill and pay high wages are increasingly located where the workers able and willing to fill them are located.

If Maine is to prosper in this new economy, its best policy option is to focus on the egg, on the labor force, on the supply of highly skilled, highly motivated, highly collaborative people who want not just “a job” but an engaging challenge.

And this dual reality – the critical importance of talent acquisition to employers, and the critical importance of challenging engagement to the worker – is where the opening for economic development policy occurs. Maine’s educational institutions and its employers must join in new collaborative ways to engage students in the joys and sorrows of engaging in a challenge and thus in the learning that is its inevitable result.

Forget about teaching to the test. Forget about the dysfunctional counsel that “everyone should go to college.” Forget about pouring more money into the existing system. It will be squandered like so many 4-by-8 sheets of plywood tacked over a picture window facing a gale-force hurricane.

Concerned Maine citizens must come to believe that the reality of only 6,000 new jobs over a decade for a population of more than 1.3 million is a looming emergency, one that calls for not more of the same but for extraordinary measures.

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

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Maine Voices: Question 5 would improve political process and grow Maine’s economy Tue, 11 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 CAPE ELIZABETH — Earlier this year, the Maine Economic Growth Council released their annual and dismal “Measures of Growth” report, which found that Maine continues to have a poor climate for attracting and maintaining jobs.

Over the past five years, Maine’s economy has shrunk by 1.2 percent, while the economies of New England and the United States have grown by 6 percent and 9.4 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Democrats in Augusta and the LePage administration have been trading insults over who is to blame.

Political stalemate in Augusta is a threat to Maine’s future prosperity. Polarization and gridlock are a direct outcome of winner-take-all elections. When politicians can win primary and general elections with 36 percent, 37 percent or 38 percent of the vote, they become accountable to ideological and partisan bases, and to special interest lobbyists with money to spend to gain undue influence.

We need a system that works – one that values dialogue, not division. One that values consensus, and that doesn’t frame opponents as enemy combatants. We need a system in which candidates with the best ideas to grow Maine’s economy, not those with the biggest bank accounts, have a fighting chance.

If approved by voters this November, Question 5 would give voters more voice and more choice in elections. It would encourage politicians to reach beyond their bases to attract the first- and second-choice rankings needed to build majority coalitions and win elections.

Question 5 would foster greater dialogue and less divisiveness on the campaign trail. Candidates opposed by a majority of voters could never win, and voters would never have to choose between the “lesser of two evils” or feel like their votes were “wasted.”

As a businessman, what is most intriguing to me is how Question 5 can help improve the political process, which is necessary to growing Maine’s economy and creating prosperity for Maine people.

Stalemate in Augusta hurts Maine’s business climate in two specific ways:

First, business owners and entrepreneurs don’t like uncertainty, and a state with an acrimonious political environment like we have in Maine poses more risks. Capital – leading to jobs – tends to be attracted to states with predictable and functional political environments.

 Second, and perhaps more importantly, political collaboration would make the state’s authorities more effective in addressing the core issues that plague Maine’s economy. Imagine the governor and Legislature working together with education experts to reverse declining math scores among eighth-grade students – engaging in meaningful dialogue, finding common ground and reaching consensus to solve problems that are critical to developing a 21st-century workforce in Maine that attracts employers and jobs.

Ranked-choice voting has been used across the country for years, including in Portland, where voters have found the ballot easy to use. Exit surveys in Maine showed that more than 40 percent of voters reported less negative campaigning in elections where ranked-choice voting was used, and that more than 80 percent of voters ranked at least two candidates in a three-way race.

Voters in other U.S. cities with ranked-choice voting support its use, and they report higher satisfaction with elections. Not only have voters in U.S. cities with ranked-choice voting reported less negative campaigning, but candidates have reported more civility, too.

Betsy Hodges, mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota, has talked extensively about her experiencing running in a ranked-choice voting election, and how it informed the way she governs as the leader of a major American city. North Carolina’s longtime director of elections, Gary Bartlett, who conducted a statewide election and multiple regional elections using ranked-choice voting, has also spoken out in support of this reform.

No state has been grappling with the challenge of non-majority winners and races defined by the “spoiler effect” and “strategic voting” longer than Maine. In nine of the last 11 elections for Maine’s governor, candidates won with less than half of all votes.

We have a unique opportunity this year to combat extreme politics and negative campaigning. Ranked-choice voting isn’t a panacea, but it’s been tried and tested, and it’s something we can do now to empower voters and encourage politicians to engage with one another differently. Question 5 will help to put us on the path to solving problems once again, so we can grow Maine’s economy, create jobs and improve our quality of life.

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Commentary: Maine looks very much like the divided nation we have become Tue, 11 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 ‘As Maine goes, so goes the nation.” It was a popular slogan about American politics until the 1936 presidential election. Alf Landon, the Republican nominee, carried Maine that year against Franklin D. Roosevelt – along with only one other state.

James Farley, an FDR political maestro, rewrote the slogan: “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont.”

But in 2016, Maine looks very much like the divided country we have become. It also has a longshot opportunity to play an important role in the presidential outcome. Only Maine and Nebraska divide their electoral votes by congressional district. While Hillary Clinton looks comfortably ahead in the state overall, several polls have shown her running behind in the state’s 2nd Congressional District.

If that district went to Trump, the state would give Clinton three electoral votes and Donald Trump one. And since there are a number of reasonably plausible scenarios that point to a 269-269 split in the Electoral College if Maine gave all four of its votes to Clinton, a single Maine elector going the other way could matter.

At the moment, this is largely the stuff of fantasy because it’s hard from the current polls to see Donald Trump getting anywhere near close enough to a majority for one electoral vote to make a difference.

Yet even if it does not prove electorally important, the split in Maine reflects social, economic and political divisions that are instructive for the nation as a whole. The state’s 1st District is more affluent, more liberal coastal Maine, including the hip and elegant city of Portland. The 2nd District is the Maine of struggling mill towns and rural areas. The 1st District looks a lot like the part of white America that is rallying to Clinton. The 2nd District looks a lot like Trump’s natural base.

On a visit here last week, I had coffee at Arabica, one of Portland’s delightful downtown cafes, with Dieter Bradbury, the deputy managing editor for news at the Portland Press Herald, and his colleague Kevin Miller, a reporter who has covered Maine politics, the environment and other beats for a decade.

“We have the perfect mix of the rural-urban split,” said Miller. “Especially in the 2nd District, we have a lot of mill towns that are struggling, and a lot of the mills are closing up. An “older white, male demographic,” he said, is sensitive to the decline in the lumber, paper, shoe and furniture industries. Cities such as Millinocket and East Millinocket have been hit especially hard by change.

Bradbury noted that not all of the difficulties can be ascribed to trade – consolidation within the various industries themselves has also played a role. But trade treaties, including NAFTA, are certainly a factor, and they open the door to Trump’s appeal.

Maine can also lay claim to Trumpian politics before Trump. The state’s controversial Republican governor, Paul LePage, has offended a large part of the state with an extraordinary range of comments to which the word “insensitive” does not do justice. In speaking of the war against drugs this summer, for example, he declared that “the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in, are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.”

The comment led to calls for his resignation, but LePage hung on, bolstered by a passionate constituency of support that mirrors Trump’s. “Some people really love the governor, and a significant proportion of the population really dislikes him,” Bradbury said. “It’s a gap between the two that you can’t reconcile.” Bradbury added that LePage has said that Trump owes him a stipend or a bonus “for starting this whole thing about being outspoken.”

By the way, voters around the nation might take note of the fact that LePage won both election and re-election with a minority of the vote – only 37.6 percent when he was first elected in 2010 – because the moderate and progressive vote split, largely between the Democratic nominee and a third-party candidate.

As for that single electoral vote, Miller noted that the idea of the state splitting between its two congressional districts comes up every four years. This might, once again, be a case of misplaced speculation. But if there ever were a year when it could happen, he said, this is probably it. The social forces that are affecting (and dividing) the nation are as strong in Maine as they are anywhere in the country.


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Maine Voices: Shortage of detox beds puts early obstacle on addict’s road to recovery Mon, 10 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WESTBROOK — As a young professional in the social service field, a graduate student in social work and, most significantly, a woman in recovery, I’ve become increasingly appalled at the lack of detoxification beds available within the state of Maine.

Opiate addiction has undoubtedly become a public health crisis, yet in our state, which upholds the slogan “the way life should be,” there is nearly no access to the preliminary step of recovery: physical detox. As a result, the multitude of people who are physically dependent on opiates are dealing with a scarcity of state resources that not only keeps them from seeking a quality life but also could result in their death.

In light of a significant loss in the battle for facilities, particularly the closing of Mercy Hospital’s detox unit last year, programs like Operation Hope, piloted in Maine by the Scarborough Police Department, have undoubtedly made an impact. We gained a great resource in Operation Hope, launched only three months after the closing of Mercy Recovery Center, which allows those who are addicted to opioids to walk into the Scarborough police station to get help.

Operation Hope places nearly all of those seeking help in out-of-state rehabilitation centers; a total of over $2.5 million in services has been donated by these clinics. Through the great efforts of these facilities, volunteers, the Portland Recovery Community Center and the Scarborough police, addicts in our community have regained access to treatment.

Although Operation Hope has, to date, placed 200 individuals in treatment facilities, I wonder why we must send Maine residents elsewhere in order to offer them, by no exaggeration of the expression, the right to live.

In Portland, a slew of long-term treatment options exists. Choices range from long-standing rehabilitation programs like Crossroads’ Back Cove Women’s Rehabilitation Program to low-cost sober housing within the six current democratically run, self-sustaining residences that follow the Oxford House model.

However, none of these avenues addresses the primary barrier that faces addicts on every level of the socioeconomic ladder: the need for physical detox from opiates. In fact, the only easily accessible facility available for the acute stages of detox in the Portland area is Milestone, which, because of a shortage of beds, inevitably turns away dozens of people actively seeking recovery every day.

In fact, although opiate detox is just the initial hurdle of seeking recovery from dependence, little can be achieved in our community in addressing this epidemic until more detox beds become available. However, this need is likely to remain unmet. While the number of people seeking treatment for opiate addiction in Maine has rapidly multiplied in the last decade, the number of people eligible for MaineCare continues to decline. Undoubtedly, the limitations in eligibility have affected those who suffer from substance use disorder.

Although state officials have justified limiting MaineCare enrollment on the basis that it limits the risk of extraordinary cost to taxpayers in facilitating treatment for addicts, these savings are negated by spending on other related health care services, such as emergency room visits for people who have overdosed. While Gov. LePage continues to promote primary care for chronic opiate use, addicts who are uninsured can’t access these services. Moreover, until they are physically detoxed, such an approach is highly unlikely to make any difference whatsoever.

It seems unlikely that MaineCare eligibility will be expanded in the near future. Sadly, as a result, the availability of detox beds is likely to stay stagnant. While volunteers flock to ask out-of-state rehabilitation center to donate their services to Operation HOPE, we may ask this: Why it is so important for opiate addicts to receive treatment locally?

Aside from accessibility, the community-based approach to opiate addiction, and its counterpart, long-term recovery, answers this inquiry. If we are unable to offer initial three- to seven-day detox services in our community, seeking instead to send an addicted individual to one of the many charity beds nationwide, our community will continue to be subject to a false image of opiate addiction.

Among thousands of people with substance use disorder in long-term recovery, our focus will continue to be on those who are not getting better. Ultimately, this paints a skewed portrayal of the opiate epidemic in Maine: People are seeking help, but they face immense barriers, their quest for recovery doomed from the start because of a lack of detox beds.

— Special to the Press Herald

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Alan Caron: A crucial moment for Trump as second debate looms Sun, 09 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The first presidential debate is now fading in the rear-view mirror, and all eyes will be on Sunday’s second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

The first encounter had all the crazy excitement of a prize fight, and if you had a front-row seat, you got your money’s worth. There were jabs and wild roundhouses. Circling and dancing. Trash talking and even a few solid shots.

That debate occurred at a crucial moment in the race. Clinton’s once-comfortable lead in national polls was shrinking by the day. In critical swing states like Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, Trump was either close or ahead.

An audience of close to 100 million people tuned in that night, many taking their first long look at the two candidates. Trump’s goal was simple: assure Americans that he has the temperament and character to be president and keep the momentum going. Clinton’s goals were a little more complicated. She had to stop Trump’s momentum. Show herself as presidential. Appear trustworthy and likeable. And, of course, be both a nice and tough woman.

Five weeks ago, I wrote that this election was Clinton’s to lose, and for the four weeks that followed, she seemed determined to do just that. But one clear advantage she had, I said then, was in debates. “She’s a smart and seasoned debater. She doesn’t shoot herself in the foot every time she has a microphone in front of her. And she’s got tons of ammunition from Trump’s statements over the last year.”

All of that was on display in the first debate. Trump was out-prepared, out-maneuvered and out-argued. The only thing he won was the face-making contest. And the results began to show themselves almost immediately. Energized Democrats had a new spring in their steps as they began to emerge from their respective bomb shelters. And Clinton gained some grudging – but real – respect from Sanders holdouts and others on the fence.

In 26 swing state polls conducted since the debate, Clinton is only behind in one. Overall, she’s improved in almost all swing states and now leads nationally by 3 to 5 percentage points.

For Trump, the second debate has become a do-or-die affair. He has to stop the momentum created by his first performance while he still can. But it won’t be easy. Trump is lazy about preparation. He likes to make sweeping arguments but stumbles with details. And he has an off and on, if not indifferent, relationship with facts.

The debate uncovered a weakness in Trump that will be continually exploited by Clinton. He’s thin-skinned and reactive, and he keeps reacting long after the game is over and folks have gone home. Trump kept the battle with a former Miss Universe going for four days, in the same way that he kept the Gold Star parents story going after the Democratic convention. The guy just doesn’t know when to move on.

For a man who has made an art form of insulting others, Trump doesn’t seem to take it nearly as well as he gives it.

What Clinton learned is that Trump is like a baseball player who can’t hit a curveball. A good pitcher will keep throwing that pitch until the guy shows he can hit it or strikes out. And that’s exactly what you can expect from Clinton in the second debate.

Like many people born into wealth and privilege, Trump is accustomed to having demure and servile people around him, people who never challenge him and who obey orders. That is not what happens in a presidential debate.

And then there’s the matter of his words over the past year. Trump’s handlers are now trying to keep him glued to a teleprompter. But the guy’s been free-forming for a long time. And Democrats have filled their video vault with Trump quotes that don’t play so well outside of his adoring events.

The race isn’t over, of course. WikiLeaks is again threatening to release more stolen emails that it hopes will embarrass Clinton. The Russians may still have some tidbits from their cyber break-in of the Democratic National Committee. It’s even possible that Trump could have a stellar performance Sunday, or that Clinton will somehow forget how to win debates.

But whenever a candidate is relying on others to save him, things aren’t going well. If Trump staggers out of Sunday’s debate like he did the last one, he’ll soon learn that changing the trajectory of a race in the final four weeks is nearly impossible – Russians or no Russians.

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

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Cynthia Dill: There’s nothing ‘conservative’ about Donald Trump Sun, 09 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The stereotype of liberals being condescending is largely accurate. They really do think they’re smarter than today’s so-called “conservatives.” The problem that these “conservatives” have with the knucklehead stereotype is that they keep proving it’s largely accurate. What else explains the belief that Donald Trump’s business judgment will get uneducated white people in the hinterlands rich? City slickers may not recognize a skidder, but they easily spot the difference between the art of a deal and an artful dodger.

Imagine if Hillary Clinton or any Democrat running for president had run three companies into bankruptcy, lost $916 million in business deals and hired an ex-felon with a rap sheet longer than Melania Trump’s legs to be “his guy.” After meeting him twice, Trump hired Abraham Wallach as his executive vice president for acquisitions and finance based on a gut feeling that his business acumen was as sharp as his elbows.

While working for Trump, Wallach stayed busy on the side as an accomplished receiver of stolen goods. He was a thief and got caught stealing and defrauding people he knew multiple times. Had Trump had the stamina to complete even a minimal vetting process – a Google search, say – he would have picked up the story about Wallach stealing fine art off the walls of his neighbor’s house. Have “conservatives” who support Trump no concern that a Trump administration might plunder the West Wing and ransack the Museum of Natural History?

Wallach was Trump’s right-hand man – advising him on business deals that went bust – while his left hand was rummaging through the purse of his sister’s best friend. Trump’s executive vice president for acquisitions and finance stole her credit card for a $4,888.33 binge at Saks Fifth Avenue. And this is the guy rural “conservative” America wants in the White House?

There’s not even one thing conservative about Trump. He has no traditional moral values: He’s been married three times, and not getting venereal disease was his “personal Vietnam.” He dodged serving in real Vietnam. Trump wouldn’t know a Federalist Paper if it hit him on the head, and he probably thinks Alexander Hamilton got his start on Broadway.

Trump started adulthood with a million bucks from his father and blew it. And guess what happened? At the end of 1990, when he was facing an $18.4 million interest payment, his father sent a lawyer to the Castle casino to buy $3.3 million in chips and leave without cashing them, providing his son with an infusion of cash, reported the New York Times. If this is the kind of pull-yourself-up and dust-yourself-off story that resonates with the struggles of people who lost their job in American factories, then you can’t blame liberals for thinking them fools.

Do today’s “conservatives” believe the self-described “King of Debt” is going to rein in the U.S. debt? Do they realize the reason Trump could claim a $916 million loss on his tax return is because his businesses lost $916 million? How is that winning? Have they considered how Trump’s “brilliant” business strategy would work when applied to major government programs like Social Security or Medicare?

Trump is like Gov. Paul LePage in several important ways. They both mistake gastrointestinal distress with a gut feeling, and very poor decisions result. Do Maine’s “conservatives” remember when LePage met Gary Alexander on a plane, and based on his gut feeling agreed to pay him $1 million of our money for a plagiarized report about welfare reform?

Trump and LePage are both so temperamental, thin-skinned and high maintenance that their aura of chaos and rage is mistaken for strength by people weakened by financial desperation and social shame. They can’t see through the haze of personality that there is absolutely nothing of substance. No policies that will bring back the glory days of meat and potatoes on the table every night and a shiny Chevy pickup truck in every driveway. No ideas that brighten the future.

Trump and LePage bark out simple nonsense words in staccato style that “conservatives” mistake for great wisdom, but they aren’t nice guys like Chance in the movie “Being There.” They don’t have solutions for today’s complex problems.

Trump had a feeling about Wallach and hired the guy who puts Fagin in “Oliver Twist” to shame. Who’s he going to put in charge of the Treasury? Trump bankrupted at least three companies he named after himself – the Trump Taj Mahal Casino, Trump’s Plaza and the Trump Castle – and people not named Trump got hurt. Working people lost jobs and got stiffed while bankers and lawyers and Trump got ahead. Trump’s “brilliant” use of the tax code screwed guys very much like the ones now hell-bent on getting him elected, so it’s no wonder some liberals think today’s so-called “conservatives” are knuckleheads. They vote against their economic interests and brag about it.

What rural Maine will get in a businessman like Trump in the White House is what they get having businessman LePage in the Blaine House: nothing. There’s not going to be a Trump Tower in Caribou. Ivanka and her fancy sibs won’t be sipping bubbly in Bangor. The check is not in the mail for Grandma.

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

Twitter: dillesquire

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Maine Voices: Fitness class can kick up voter numbers Sun, 09 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BIDDEFORD — Most single women find time to work out. But to vote? Not so much. And that fact might determine the outcome of this year’s presidential election, including the electoral votes here in Maine.

Is it possible to turn their exercise habit into a voting habit? We examined whether single women’s dedication to fitness could be used to encourage them to vote, and got very interesting results. Single women might be the most important voting bloc in the coming election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

The good news for Clinton is that unmarried women, who represent half of all women and a quarter of the population, strongly favor her in polls.

In 2012, Barack Obama won the single women’s vote by 36 percent, and polls suggest that Clinton could do even better with this group. The good news for Trump is that unmarried women don’t vote in great numbers. According to the Census Bureau, in the 2012 election, single women were 20 percent less likely to vote than married women.

We performed a field experiment to examine whether new techniques might be effective in getting single women to vote. We did it in an unusual place: cardio-kickboxing class.

Group membership, especially in churches and civic organizations, has long been associated with voting. Our experiment suggests that single women’s vote turnout can be significantly (even dramatically) increased if they encounter information and encouragement regarding citizenship and voting in the group they are often most dedicated to: their workout class.

We focused on cardio-kickboxing for several reasons. Most importantly, fitness classes are among the few groups that single women join in large numbers. In many ways, single women have the characteristics of people who participate most readily in voting – unmarried women are on average more educated than single men, more likely to work full time and more likely to be raising children. These are the same reasons why unmarried women often feel too busy to belong to traditional civic or church groups, which tend to encourage voting.

But when it comes to dedication to their workout classes, you could almost say women are religious about it. In fact, divinity scholars have suggested that for secular Americans, fitness classes and gyms have begun to replace traditional religion and churches – providing a sense of community, a path to self-transformation and a sense of accountability.

Taking advantage of the fact that one of us (Megan) was the instructor for three cardio kickboxing classes full of unmarried women, we did a field experiment during the 2014 midterm elections. One class we left “untreated” – they just worked out. For a second class, we devised a plan to encourage civic engagement that we called “the church approach.” We used the model of some church groups and the way they encourage voting, but updated the approach to reflect the gym environment.

Before and after class and during breaks, Megan brought up the coming election frequently and enthusiastically. She connected women’s taking control of their bodies and their physical space to the idea of participating in choosing our leaders. She got a little preachy, as appropriate to a “church” approach. She brought in voter registration cards. She suggested carpooling to the polls.

For comparison’s sake, we gave a third kickboxing class a different treatment – one based in recent political science research regarding unobtrusive “nudges” that encourage voting. Megan made registration cards available, and she offered various dispassionate reminders about the election.

After the election, we verified the voting records of the classes at town hall. We found that the treatments had statistically significant and quite striking results for both groups – the church group and the nudge group each had a vote turnout over 20 percent greater than the rate of the untreated class Many of the women voted for the first time in their lives. So these results are doubly encouraging. Classes like cardio-kickboxing are a promising place to find unmarried women and encourage them to vote.

Follow-up interviews suggest that the women were not annoyed by the intrusion of politics into their workouts, even in the “church” group. The connection between two kinds of empowerment and taking control – working out and speaking out with a vote – made sense to them.

But the results also suggest that it is not necessary for class leaders to get “preachy” about it if they don’t want to. Some simple nudges work as well. But Megan found the “church” group more fun, and the women found it more inspiring. They were more likely to say they expected to keep voting in future elections.

Our research suggests that the Democrats would be wise to enlist fitness instructors into their efforts to turn out the vote among unmarried women – and the more enthusiastic, the better.

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Maine Observer: Scraping the hull reveals world of wonder Sun, 09 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 We were a gang of seven, a mix of family and friends, ages ranging from 40 to late 60s. The task was to haul out our small wooden dinghy and scrape all marine life from the hull, it being the end of the season.

Conrad was armed with the necessary tools – a bucketful of paint scrapers. My stepson Arin and I grabbed the two bikes from the barn and rode circles around the others. I had rolled up my right pant leg to avoid the grease from the chain; the next thing I knew all the walkers had rolled up their right pant legs in solidarity. In this way we painted a merry picture on the short walk to the town dock.

The boat had several inches of water in it from a recent rainstorm. Pulling it up, tipping the water out, getting it onto the narrow dock and flipping it was a precarious endeavor, but no one went overboard. Then the real show began – the hull was teeming with life.

Japanese skeleton shrimp writhed among the olive green rockweed and bronze bladderwrack. Roughly 2 inches long, these thread-like, umber colored creatures were waving about, snapping miniature claws, clearly unhappy to be out of the water.

Dozens of juvenile sea squirts were also adhered to the bottom. The oval, silvery, squishy blobs had ominous-looking dark spots in the middle. Patches of leathery orange sheath tunicates and ruffles of emerald green sea lettuce added to this extraordinary display.

A pungent, briny smell filled our noses as we bent over to inspect the wriggling mass. Exclamations abounded:

“Are they little shrimp?”

“They look like aliens!”

“Look at that – they’re calling to us!”

“I’ve never seen – ”

“There are stingy things inside these!”

“They are not of this world …”

After an extended period of cautious probing, picture taking and lively commentary, we went to work with the paint scrapers. Except for the occasional “Aaargh!” we worked quickly and quietly, trying to guide most of the slimy collection back into the sea. At last the grainy green of the boat bottom emerged, and we slipped it back into the water. At high tide, we would row it around to our neighbors, who kindly allow us to pull the dinghy out and over the rocks in front of their house. We then trundle it back to our shed atop a rusty old wheelbarrow.

Upon leaving the dock, our small group ended up going in different directions. I headed straight to the cottage to enjoy the last of the sun on the deck. Some stopped at the library to peruse the free books on the cart out front; others went to the alpaca farm next door to visit “the girls.”

When the rest of the group straggled back, with pant legs still rolled up, we beamed at each other in unspoken agreement. Truly – it could not get any better than this.

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Garrison Keillor: Question no one asks about Donald Trump: Is he humanoid? Sat, 08 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Eighteen years? He paid no taxes?

Are you sure this is standard practice?

No wonder he won’t release his returns.

The bigger the losses, the more he earns.

Airline, Trump U, and casinos

All went belly-up but he knows

Loss is gain. My projection:

He’ll make money from a lost election.

For Donald Trump, it’s been one first after another. First candidate to offer a health plan described only as really “beautiful” and “unbelievable.” First to be endorsed by the National Enquirer. First to have gone through six bankruptcies. First to say about his opponent’s TV ads: “It’s not nice. And I don’t deserve that.” Did Barry Goldwater say of LBJ, “He’s not nice to me”? I frankly doubt it very much. And what candidate has seen his name so often in the same sentence with Mussolini’s?

And then came The New York Times story: The man lost $916 million in one year. Not a great accomplishment for a guy who took courses at Wharton. (For someone who attended the Iowa Writers Workshop, yes, but not a businessman.) No wonder he is reluctant to show off his tax return.

You have to worry what his campaign is doing to his businesses. Angry, unemployed white people are not a great demographic for high-end stuff. Maybe instead of selling luxury condos and golf memberships, he’ll have to turn to trailer parks and tattoo parlors. Trump Pizza. Don’s Used RVs.

I’m serious. From what I read, his swanky new hotel down the street from the White House is practically deserted and the employees are required to wear tourist clothing and hang around the lobby pretending to be customers and engage in lighthearted conversation and order expensive drinks, which are actually Lipton’s tea on the rocks. I’ve heard this from various people.

Millions of Republicans will vote for him in the blind faith that he cannot possibly be elected. They are sure that a man with that particular scowling face, whose smile is a smirk, a face that says loud and clear “overprivileged rich boy who never grew up,” can never win the hearts of Middle America. Republicans have the most to lose since they tend to be more invested in stocks and bonds, and there is a consensus that a loose cannon in the White House will not play well on Wall Street. In other words, there will be a Trump tax to be paid – some people say 10 to 20 percent right off the top.

Investors are watching. The S&P 500 took an upward swoop in the course of the first debate as Hillary Clinton clearly dominated; meanwhile, Citigroup advised that if Trump’s chances improve, you should consider selling stocks and bonds and buying gold.

A downturn in the market won’t mean much to the unemployed coal miners of West Virginia, but Republicans with a nice retirement portfolio might take serious losses. Under the socialist regime of our Kenyan president, the Dow Jones has more than doubled. How conservative is it to elect a successor who is playing a persona, whose true thinking is unknown and whose likely course of action unpredictable?

I’m a tired old liberal. I don’t need a revolution; amiable competence is good enough. Decent schools, great hospitals, buses that run on time, smart cops and programs for the kids with disabilities.

The Second Amendment? Feh. In Wyoming, feel free, but on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, if you openly carry a weapon and you’re not a cop, you are a scary person and a threat to the community. In Waco, carry a bazooka on your shoulder, I don’t care.

The question that has never been asked is this: Why has Mr. Trump never shown his belly button? Does he have an umbilicus or not? Why the secrecy?

Could it be that he was one of those early test-tube humanoid babies bred in a Monsanto laboratory in Las Cruces in 1946 under contract to the Pentagon, which hoped to create a cadre of bogeymen who would walk straight into heavy gunfire, grinning, thumbs-up, and thereby dishearten the enemy? They had realistic skin and hair but their eyes were small and piggish and their fingers short.

Mr. Trump has taken heavy fire for the past year, and there isn’t a scratch on him. Lift up your shirt, sir, and let us see it.

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