Columns – The Portland Press Herald Tue, 24 Jan 2017 05:49:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Maine Voices: Teens should join the crowd of those who avoid substance abuse Mon, 23 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 In the wake of the passage of the referendum to legalize recreational marijuana for those 21 and older, I feel a need to write to the parents of Maine teens.

I’ve been a public school life skills teacher for over 25 years. I currently work as an alcohol and drug prevention education specialist for a nonprofit organization. In my work, I talk to students across the country about the extent of alcohol and other drug use and its implications for their teenage bodies and brains.

Teens perceive marijuana use by their peers to be much higher than it really is. The University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Study has been collecting data on teenage use of alcohol and other drugs for over 40 years. According to this study, the percentage of eighth-graders using marijuana over the past year is 12 percent. Twenty-five percent of students in grade 10 and 35 percent of high school seniors have used marijuana in the past year.

Before I present these numbers to teens, I ask them if they think their peers use marijuana. Their answer is unanimously “yes.” I then ask them to estimate the percentage of people in their age group who use marijuana. Consistently, they estimate that anywhere from 25 percent to 70 percent of their peers use marijuana. They are shocked to hear that use is lower than they thought.

Teens tend to underestimate the extent to which many of their peers actually practice healthy lifestyles; therefore, I use the study’s data to emphasize that if 12 percent of eighth-graders are experimenting with marijuana, 88 percent are not. Seventy-five percent of 10th-graders and 65 percent of 12th-graders in the U.S. are not using marijuana. The idea that not “everyone is doing it” can be a relief to teens.

It is never too early to talk to teens about marijuana, particularly edible forms of the drug. When the marijuana industry moves to Maine, teens need to recognize that edibles are marketed to resemble products that are familiar to them such as candy bars, gummy bears, Pop-Tarts, lollipops and brownies.

Teens are concerned that they may unwittingly be offered marijuana candy by a peer as a teenage “prank.” Products like these are infused with THC, the ingredient that gets you high, and labeled with names like Hashee (like Hershey) or Pot Tarts and Keef Kat Bars. The candies can look so similar to the real thing that they can be hard to distinguish even though THC warnings appear on the label. As parents, we can help them understand the difference between regular candy and marijuana-infused edibles.

Here are some other facts that may help you when you talk about marijuana with your teens:

The brain is not fully developed until age 25, making teenagers more vulnerable to drug dependence or addiction than adults.

 A family history of addiction can increase a teen’s risk of becoming dependent on or addicted to marijuana.

 Marijuana affects memory, making learning new information more difficult.

 Teenagers’ social and emotional maturity, motivation to do well in school and their ability to make healthy decisions are compromised through marijuana use.

 Marijuana affects motor coordination, making it more difficult to drive a car when under the influence.

The term “medical” is applied to some forms of marijuana. It does not mean that all marijuana is medically safe, which is a false perception held by some teens.

 The concentration of THC in marijuana is often much higher in marijuana products today than it was 20 years ago.

 Marijuana edibles must travel through the digestive system before reaching the brain, taking it longer than smoking marijuana to produce a high. Unaware teens may consume repeated quantities of edibles trying to build a desired effect before the initial dosage hits their bloodstream, resulting in toxic amounts of THC in the body and sometimes causing teens to experience panic attacks or paranoia.

Now that Maine has passed a law allowing marijuana to be used recreationally by adults who are at least 21, it is our responsibility to educate teens in Maine on the impact of this drug on their brain’s neurochemistry and their cognitive and emotional development. The better armed they are with this information, the more tools they have to navigate the road of risk that marijuana presents to their teenage brains and bodies.


]]> 0, 23 Jan 2017 10:34:52 +0000
Alan Caron: Climate change deniers aim to silence science Sun, 22 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 As Maine has struggled to build a 21st century economy, we’ve faced many challenges, most of them man-made and some geographic. We’ve been painfully slow to accept how the world is changing around us, and unwilling to hear the warnings from economists about how manufacturing, forestry, farming and fishing would change.

Instead, we’ve spent too much time locked in senseless battles based on region and political differences and whether we live in cities or the countryside. And we’ve watched as the state’s economy has lost momentum and energy and our young people have left.

Now we’re doing a similar thing with climate change. We’ve been reluctant to heed the warnings of scientists who study these things every day. We’ve ignored the signs that are appearing all around us. We’ve confused political views with facts. As a result, the challenges for Maine, and for our economy, are growing.

Now we’re not only cold, remote, expensive, disorganized, discouraged and disgruntled – we’re also ill-informed.

Climate change is going to alter much of what we now see in our minds when we think of Maine. Some familiar things will become rare, while others that we have little experience with will become commonplace. Think of ticks, peach trees, new plant diseases, possums, vultures and insect-borne diseases.

Some people still maintain that climate change isn’t real, and they’ve employed a string of senseless and sometimes dishonest arguments to make their point. They’ve ridiculed computer projections, derided scientists and blamed cow flatulence and dead trees – anything but the role that burning coal, gas and oil plays. Now they say that climate change is a conspiracy among all of the world’s scientists, engineered by China.

Losing ground in the public debate, climate deniers are now moving toward another strategy, led by the new president: silence science. Cut funding to agencies, like NASA and NOAA, that collect and publish temperature data from around the world. Book burning can’t be far behind.

The problem with gagging scientists, from an economic standpoint, is that it will leave American businesses flying blind against global competitors who aren’t. And while they’re building technologies for the future, we’ll be reopening coal mines.

Most common-sense people seem to understand that our climate is changing, and that burning fossil fuels over the last hundred years or so is the major culprit.

Here’s what the scientists – while they’re still free to speak – have been telling us.

• 2016 was the warmest year on record, beating out 2015, which beat out 2014. Sixteen of the last 17 years have produced global temperatures records.

• Alaska and New England are warming faster than the rest of the country.

• New England will feel the effects 20 years earlier than other places.

• Our average annual temperature will rise by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over historical levels within 20 years, making us more like southern New England than Maine.

• The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than almost any place on the planet.

• Sea levels in New England could rise by as much as 10.5 feet by 2100, or twice what was earlier predicted. That would put 30 percent of Boston and many parts of our coastline under water.

What does all of that mean for the Maine economy? Warming climates force everything to migrate north: plants, trees, animals, insects, diseases and people. Already, we’ve seen Maine’s iconic cod pushed further offshore and northward. That’s why you’re not buying much cod at the supermarket that was landed in Portland or Massachusetts. Most of it now comes from Iceland and Norway.

Next up will be lobsters and other shellfish. Lobstering is booming now, in part because southern lobsters have moved in. But they won’t stop moving. Connecticut, not so long ago, had 300 lobsterman. Today there are only about half a dozen. In Rhode Island, lobstering is virtually nonexistent.

In agriculture, forestry and recreation, we can expect longer growing seasons but more rainy, icy winters and far less snow. That will release and sustain both diseases and insects we’re not prepared for. Think about explosions of ticks, new flying insects, tree and plant diseases. Then add human diseases we have no experience with.

Humans also will migrate, with the possibility of waves of people seeking refuge in places like Maine to escape the heat and violent storms to the south. While Maine needs more skilled people to grow the economy, let’s face it, managing change has not been our strong suit.

The most immediate and compelling challenge we face is that our political leadership, in Maine and in the White House, just doesn’t get it.

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

]]> 0, 20 Jan 2017 18:16:42 +0000
Maine Observer: Opening the eyes to the virtues of squirrels Sun, 22 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Most people think of gray squirrels as tenacious thieves who raid their bird feeders and interfere with their good intentions of feeding and watching birds in their yards. It frustrates them that squirrels possess the keen native intelligence to outsmart most anti-squirrel tactics they employ to bar them from their premises. Others, like me, in the minority, find some virtue in this creature who does what he needs to do to stay alive.

On the outdoor stage, squirrels are vibrant characters in a silent nature film. They are nimble acrobats in a three-ring circus, who perform death-defying feats for me to see throughout the theater of the four seasons. They leap through the air like Spiderman springing from building to building, and careen across telephone wires like tightrope walkers.

It’s when autumn’s dazzling colored leaves have grown old, and swirl down to mingle with the ground, that you can vividly see squirrels scampering up and down bare branches and tree trunks with their tails spread over their backs like parachutes.

When Old Man Winter breathes snow and ice upon our spirits, observing wildlife is scarce, but squirrels stay on the stage. I peer out my windows eager to see them chasing each other up and down and around, crisscrossing towering trees that reach to the sky, like capricious children playing tag with wild abandon. I focus my eyes on one squirrel on a lofty limb and follow him. I worry if he will fall as he runs along unsteady, pencil thin branches that sway in the wind; but his sharp claws never seem to fail him. He rockets from branch to branch, and sprints up and down the tree trunk like a well-greased zipper.

Squirrels are part of nature’s checks and balances. Yes, they steal seed out of bird feeders, pull up new plants and eat bulbs from gardens, but they’re doing what comes naturally to them to survive. They prey upon nesting birds and their eggs, but cats, hawks and owls prey on them. Occasionally, they may damage trees by chewing bark and branches, but since their two upper and two lower teeth continually keep on growing, they need to gnaw to keep their teeth filed down.

They can hurt a tree’s new growth if they eat its buds and shoots, but on the other hand, if they overlook and don’t retrieve a seed or nut that they buried, it can germinate into a seedling tree in the spring, which helps replant our forests, or add to the natural landscape in our own yards.

I’m grateful for the lovely old oak and maple trees in my neighborhood who perform many kind deeds, one being to provide a habitat for squirrels. Like curtains opening up at a play I’m eager to watch, I anticipate seeing the daily show of squirrels in action as they go about their routines. If they packed up their nuts and took their act away, I’d surely miss them!

]]> 0 Fri, 20 Jan 2017 18:38:51 +0000
Like-minded groups erode moderation in Washington Sun, 22 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 WATERVILLE — In his farewell address, Barack Obama compelled public officials to find a sense of common purpose. Don’t hold your breath.

The go-to explanation for gridlock in Congress is polarization and gerrymandering. But a growing pool of evidence suggests a more significant transformation is the culprit.

Whether springing from lifestyle preferences, partisan interests or some mix of factors, the ideological homogenization of American communities has hastened. This process, dubbed “geopolitical sorting,” threatens to cripple Washington.

Bill Bishop, in his 2008 book “The Big Sort,” was the first to chart the steady, systematic transformation of voting patterns. In 1976, for example, he found that fewer than one-quarter of counties in the United States produced a landslide presidential outcome – meaning the winner received more than 60 percent of the vote.

By 2004, that figure had jumped to over one-half.

In the 2016 presidential election a stunning 71 percent of counties had a landslide outcome. Even though the overall outcome was close, there was a blowout in nearly three-quarters of the roughly 3,200 counties (or county equivalents). Hillary Clinton won 199 counties by 60 percent or more, and Donald Trump won a staggering 2,035 by that margin.

A whopping 40 percent of counties yielded a winner who received over 70 percent of the vote.

Flipping it the other way and keeping in mind the additional drag of minor-party candidates, the losing presidential candidate received less than one-third of the vote in an astonishing 62 percent of counties.

For the first time in history, every state that had a Senate race produced a winner that matched the party of the winning presidential candidate.

So Bishop’s sorting has gained speed. And it really doesn’t matter if the root of the change is the shifting voter preferences (so-called “changed minds”) or the conscious decision of movers (“changed places”); the outcome is the same.

But perhaps our notion of “neighborhoods” and “friends” should extend beyond physical location?

Unfortunately, the promise of the internet to broaden perspectives and associations has morphed into echo chambers, blinders and the purifying of sources, arguments and facts. We don’t explore new ideas and perspective, but share, like and retweet concordant ones. We fence in and we fence out.

What does geographic and information sorting have to do with governance? Tons. James Madison reasoned that through balances and shared powers the system would force moderation and incremental change. It would be a stable, safe system, albeit a slow moving one.

It has worked modestly well. Some have always been on the far left, sure, and others on the extreme right. Yet compromise was possible because there was a vibrant center in most states and in enough congressional districts.

While that may still be true at the national level, in a growing number of states and communities the center has vanished.

Consider that 97 percent of House incumbents were reelected in 2016 and only a handful of open-seat contests were competitive. The average margin of victory was 37 percent – up 2 points from the previous election. Only 17 out of 435 House races were decided by 5 percentage points or less.

Today, few lawmakers value moderation. They don’t worry about the next general election, but fret mightily about the ever-looming primary contest. To their base, any whiff of compromise becomes sedition. Lawmakers are, above all, rational.

Even worse, social psychologists tell us that like-minded groups enforce conformity and foster extremism. The more we gather in our ideological bubbles, the more we reject temperance and negotiation.

It is not a surprise that one of the final vestiges of forced moderation, the filibuster, is on the endangered species list.

Madison, making the hard sell for the ratification of the Constitution, argued that one large nation, an extended republic, would keep groups averse to the will of the whole at bay. The common good was more likely to emerge when factions dissolved into a pool of other competing factions.

If not lying awake, Madison is surely tossing and turning in his grave.

]]> 0 Madison, seen in a portrait by Gilbert Stuart around 1821, reasoned that balances and shared power would produce stability.Fri, 20 Jan 2017 18:44:59 +0000
Gina Barreca: In Trump’s era, it’s more important than ever that the people lead Sat, 21 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Spending some leisure time at the Department of Motor Vehicles a few days ago, I overheard two men talking: “Did you hear about all those women going to Washington this week?” one asked. His pal waved away his friend’s concern with a reassuring reply: “Not all of them. Just the smart ones.”

It’s true that a lot of smart women – and men – are heading to D.C. this week. But they aren’t going to celebrate the inauguration of Donald Trump, who took office with the lowest approval ratings of any recent president. Instead, hundreds of thousands of citizens are convening to make the point that women’s rights are human rights. They’re gathering to encourage conversations about justice and equity and to raise awareness about the wisest approaches to our country’s future.

The new president might not be interested in wisdom, which means that we, the people, must be.

Trump doesn’t seem to want smart people around him. Even Trump hangers-on who appear smart, like Monica Crowley with her Ph.D. from Columbia University, turn out not to be all that bright. Remember what the Wizard of Oz told the Scarecrow: I can’t give you a brain, but I can give you a diploma.

Just as the lack of a high school diploma doesn’t mean you’re stupid, the possession of a Ph.D. doesn’t mean you’re smart, especially if you lifted whole sections of your dissertation without attribution the way Crowley apparently did. (Maybe Melania taught Monica to plagiarize. I bet there’s a lot we can all learn from Melania.) And yet there are indeed differences between smart and stupid, between informed and ignorant and between wise and ridiculous.

Look, I’m not worried about whether people in the new administration will have a piece of paper issued by an Ivy League institution or not. I’m worried about the carefully groomed and artfully constructed celebration of ignorance I regard as part of Donald Trump’s administration. In my old Brooklyn neighborhood, there used to be a joke saying, “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” but now we should be asking “If you’re so rich, why aren’t you smart?”

Being articulate, capable of logical reasoning and able to use language constructively is not an affectation. Using your language clearly and effectively is not showing off. Life is not a game of “Scrabble” where you’re awarded points for big words, but language is how we communicate.

Actually, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway might disagree about the need for language. Conway wants us not to go by what comes out of his mouth but instead to “look at what’s in his heart.”

You know who did think it was important for American citizens to be well-informed, arguing that the very fabric of our nation’s life depended on it? Thomas Jefferson (Trump can Google him). In 1820, Jefferson wrote, “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society, but the people themselves: and if we think them not enlightened enough … The remedy is not to take (power) away from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”

Why isn’t it good enough simply to Google Thomas Jefferson? Because having access to information is different from understanding a subject. Education, whether it comes from a school, university or library, is portable property. You can’t just make up knowledge all by yourself. There are foundations upon which enlightened judgments are based. Or put it this way: Life is not a black pair of pants, and the accumulated wisdom of civilization is not lint. You don’t just sit around and pick up it up from unchecked sources.

It’s essential to refine what Jefferson calls “discretion” because the decisions of the American electorate need to be based on more than individual tastes. This country was founded on values better than ruthless ambition, histrionic opportunism and a passion for golden things.

This inaugural week, especially, we should remind ourselves that Americans are not merely the consumers of government: Those who lead our country derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. (That last part is Jefferson, too.)

Those women and men marching on Washington are reminding us that we are more than ourselves: We are The People.

]]> 0 Fri, 20 Jan 2017 19:45:56 +0000
The humble Farmer: Secret to a happy marriage? Not having to have the last word Sat, 21 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 For almost 30 years, I have written and broadcast tens of thousands of words describing in detail what it is like to be married to a person who must run the whole show. It can be done, and you should know that there is nothing unpleasant about passing one’s golden years in a social environment resembling that of a trained animal.

Marsha and I have a happy marriage because we are compatible. A psychologist might say this is only because my utterly passive ego is content to be subservient to her id. Compulsive organizers and planners can and will tell you what they and you are going to do every day for the next week. It can be fun if you simply buckle up and go along for the ride.

For example: Although I had my shower before my eyes were open this morning, she had to remind me that I had not yet had my breakfast and that I’d better get at the income tax because tomorrow I had to buy new back tires for the car.

As the years pass, you forget how to hang a wash, do dishes or make a bed. Try to do any of these things and you are elbowed aside by someone who can do it better. And after being relieved of the onerous burden of thinking for a few years, your ability to do simple household tasks or make a decision atrophies and becomes no more than a mental appendix.

It has not escaped our attention that most discontent in households is the fault of those who are unable or unwilling to simply say nothing or respond with a smile and a “Yes, dear.” In all our years of marriage, I have not argued with my wife. I state my case and drop it. Before she can get out of the room she usually sees that what I said makes sense and changes her mind. In other words, she is quick to base her decision on reason as long as she is the one who has done the reasoning.

I don’t remember seeing my mother and father argue, so I was never trained in the art of verbal jousting. In later years, I lived next to argumentative neighbors; although their interesting problems almost burned out the bearings in my tape recorder, it was obvious that standing nose to nose in a driveway and shouting does not enhance a marriage.

Having long observed the human condition, I’ve learned that, at home and on the street, after saying my piece it is prudent to simply turn my back and walk away.

For years I watched the daily bickering in a newspaper’s blog. Without saying much of anything, people simply snarled and snapped and chewed away at each other. From my reading, I believe I’ve figured out something you were aware of a long time ago, and that is: Which of two parties knows that he or she has put forth the most forceful presentation? It is the one who doesn’t feel that he or she has to have the last word.

The same thing applies in a marriage: Least said, soonest mended. Marriage is not a political stage where you might have good reason to call a colleague a crook one day and consider him or her for a seat in your Cabinet the next.

Again: The key to a happy marriage is compatibility. You have seen marriages fail between two laid-back people because they are not compatible. Their house is falling down around their ears, there are old lawn mowers and inoperative snowmobiles surrounded by weeds in their front yard and a percentage of their children board with Grandma.

You have also seen marriages between two people who promise each other that they will “share” in the division of labor in their home. Aren’t they the ones who are divorced after two or three years because of irreconcilable differences? The differences being that neither one will accept the responsibility of saying nothing or “Yes, dear.”

If you now have a better understanding of the magic glue that holds together some of the very strange marriages in your neighborhood, you have made my day. Do remember that people who must control others make excellent caregivers for those of us who no longer play ice hockey. Best of all, those who have been married to a controlling partner for 50 years won’t even realize that they are senile and elderly when they do get there.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website:

]]> 0, 20 Jan 2017 19:49:18 +0000
LePage should apologize to African-Americans who fought for freedom Sat, 21 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 As a student of African-American history, I find Gov. Paul LePage’s “history lesson” to John Lewis incredibly unsettling.

While many people have rightly pointed out how wrong LePage got his history when he said that President Rutherford B. Hayes fought Jim Crow laws in the South, what I find more concerning is the white savior complex LePage flaunts in the face of a man like Lewis, an African-American activist who did so much to ensure that the promises of freedom and democracy enshrined in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are enjoyed by all Americans.

LePage’s myopic view of the history of American freedom as merely white men’s history is disturbing at best, and dangerous at worst. In hailing Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes as the harbingers of black freedom and civil rights, LePage insultingly obscures the actions of countless African Americans who put their lives on the line to expand freedom and democracy in America, and effectively forced men such as Lincoln and Grant to act.

As such, LePage should apologize for ignoring the hundreds of African-Americans who colluded to overthrow slavery and make America a truly free country. He should apologize for forgetting about Gabriel Prosser and the 25 other slaves who were hanged by Virginians in 1800 after organizing a slave rebellion intent on eradicating slavery from the nation. Prosser and his accomplices were influenced by the ideals of freedom, liberty and equality that had been espoused by the Founding Fathers during the American Revolution.

LePage should apologize to Nat Turner and his followers, who carried out the most successful slave uprising in United States history and forced slaveholders and the rest of the country to once again question the institution of slavery and its relationship to freedom. He should acknowledge the actions of thousands of other slaves, such as Frederick Douglass, who committed their own personal rebellions by fleeing to freedom. Men and women like Harriet Tubman, who assisted these refugees along the way and in doing so undermined slavery, also deserve an apology.

LePage owes an apology to the slaves who, in May 1861 at the outset of the Civil War, showed up at Fortress Monroe in Virginia seeking freedom behind Union lines. He should apologize for forgetting about the thousands of black men, women, and children who absconded from the plantations of their enslavement and risked their lives to reach Union lines to gain their freedom. These men and women labored and languished in refugee camps as they aided the Northern war effort.

Long before Lincoln turned the war to preserve the Union into a war for freedom, enslaved people in the South understood the true stakes of the war. They effectively shaped federal wartime policy and spurred Lincoln down the path to eventually issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. LePage should apologize to the 198,000 African-American men who fought in the Union Army and Navy to abolish slavery, secure their freedom and protect the future of the nation.

LePage should apologize to the courageous African-Americans who stepped forward to give testimony to federal officials about the terrorism white paramilitary groups like the Ku Klux Klan inflicted on them under Grant’s presidency. The information these men and women provided revealed the wanton violence and intimidation that black people faced in the South and catalyzed President Grant to approve legislation to increase federal oversight in the South.

Activists like Ida B. Wells deserve an apology from LePage as well. Wells risked her life to collect and publish evidence that proved that the thousands of victims of lynching in America were overwhelmingly innocent of the crimes of which whites accused them.

Finally, LePage should apologize to civil rights activists like Medgar Evars, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer and, yes, John Lewis, who organized a grass-roots movement to press for the spread of democracy in America by demanding voting and civil rights.

Sure, Lincoln, Grant and other presidents passed legislation that assisted African-Americans in securing the fruits of freedom, but they acted only as a result of the pressure placed on them by the brave actions of African-Americans. LePage and all Americans would do well to remember this. A simple apology would suffice.

]]> 0, 21 Jan 2017 00:08:48 +0000
Commentary: At least this time we don’t have to pretend the president is good Fri, 20 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 WASHINGTON — The New York Times announced Wednesday– it was the paper’s top story, above the fold – that Donald Trump is unpopular. The Times’ news coverage and editorial page have castigated and second-guessed virtually everything the president-elect has said or done, so the story reads more like an after-action review than a news item. But fair enough. Polls conducted by several different organizations really do place Trump’s approval ratings in the low-to-mid-40s.

Why is this, according to the Times report?

“Where other presidents used the weeks before their inauguration to put the animosities of the campaign behind them and to try to knit the country together again, Mr. Trump has approached the interregnum as if he were a television wrestling star. He has taken on a civil rights icon, a Hollywood actress, intelligence agencies, defense contractors, European leaders and President Obama. The healing theme common at this stage in the four-year presidential cycle is absent.”

I’m not sure I need reporters to supply madcap similes to help me understand the situation they’re describing, and that phrasal verb “taken on” sounds a little weaselly to me; the president-elect “took on” John Lewis and Meryl Streep because they “took on” him. Still, it’s true that Trump hasn’t indulged in the usual rhetoric of unity and healing. He hasn’t pretended he could “knit the country together,” as the Times reporter put it.

And what a relief that has been.

The healing theme would have sounded comically false from Donald Trump, for one thing. He is an adversarial candidate and an adversarial personality; his aims are disruptive and negative.

There’s something intrinsically false about the rhetoric of healing and unity, no matter who it comes from. A friend of mine, a professor of English with left-of-center tendencies in politics, likes to say that “the rhetoric of consensus is always coercive.” Any time you talk about what “we” believe as Americans – what “this country” was founded on, who “we are” as a nation – you’re forcing a certain kind of unity that many of your listeners, maybe most of them, are excluded from.

The rhetoric of consensus may be appropriate on occasions of high ceremony – an inauguration, a State of the Union address – but otherwise it sounds false and cheap to everybody but the winners. It may turn out to be one of the happier unintended consequences of Trump’s election that we won’t hear very much of it for the next four years.

There is something brutally, refreshingly realistic about Trump’s manner, or about the whole Trump persona. He is a deeply flawed man, but he doesn’t try very hard to pretend otherwise. Even his most enthusiastic supporters, or many of the ones I’ve talked to, are happy to acknowledge Trump’s failings. They may argue about which traits are failings and which are mere foibles hyped by his critics, but they did not vote for him because they thought him scrupulously honest or because they believed his character to be unimpeachable. Indeed, there must be very few people on either side who believe Trump to be a thoroughly good man. Effective in his way, maybe. Capable of disrupting what ought to be disrupted, almost certainly. But good?

Of course, we’ve had bad men in the White House before, but it took years to realize it. Most voters didn’t grasp the depth of Richard Nixon’s character flaws (I say this despite my admiration of the man) until after his re-election in 1972. Even some of Bill Clinton’s closest advisers didn’t appreciate the president’s duplicitous character until 1998.

I wonder if we might benefit from having a more realistic understanding of the new president’s character at the outset of his administration. Instead of viewing our head of state with the usual rosy hopefulness we know in our hearts to be destined for disappointment, perhaps now’s the time to cultivate a sort of transactional attitude toward the man: If he does well, we’ll think about keeping him. If he does poorly, we suspected it all along and we’ll get rid of him. That strikes me as a healthier and more small-r republican way to view any president – indeed, any politician. He’s only our president, after all, not our savior.


]]> 0 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 19:07:34 +0000
We’re likely stuck with ‘fake news,’ just as we always have been Fri, 20 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 FARMINGTON — In his Jan. 14 Maine Voices column, “There’s nothing ‘fake’ about real news written by responsible journalists,” Chet Lunner explained that real news is “meticulously researched, vetted, double-checked (and) precisely written and edited.”

Lunner, a veteran reporter of wide experience and founding president of the Maine Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, may hope to restore the power and prestige of what are often called the traditional media by praising their virtues and damning the vices of rival sources. He’ll be disappointed. Last year, Gallup found that just 20 percent of those polled had confidence in newspapers, and 21 percent in TV news. Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times and Christiane Amanpour of CNN didn’t help much by declaring their inability and unwillingness to take a neutral position on Donald Trump.

Will Rahn of CBS News confessed in a Nov. 10 commentary that “we were all tacitly or explicitly #WithHer (Hillary Clinton), which has led to a certain anguish in the face of Donald Trump’s victory.” Rahn goes on to make a point that Lunner seems to overlook: that millions who voted for Trump were rebuking not only the political system “but also the people who cover it. Trump knew what he was doing when he invited his crowds to jeer and hiss the reporters covering him. They hate us, and have for some time.”

If we accept Rahn’s analysis, Trump the candidate benefited from making himself a spokesman for people who loathe the press. Trump the president will benefit by discrediting all negative reports in advance, regardless of whether they are “meticulously researched, vetted, double-checked (and) precisely written and edited” or not.

Consequently, those hungry for news will increasingly turn to those categories Lunner places under the heading “fake news,” i.e., “propaganda, rumor, satire, lies, slander, gossip, innuendo, unconfirmed reports, opinion, hearsay, commentary, rhetoric, comedy, hyperbole, send-before-midnight infomercials, ‘political speech’ and tweets.”

Some of us (e.g., me) think we see many of these elements cropping up pretty regularly in the established media, but that does not excuse or deny fake news. It exists. It has always existed, if only because politics and paranoia agree as well as bacon and eggs.

As more news consumers wander away from Lunner’s idealized “responsible journalists” and the revenues that finance their work dwindle, it’s hard to see how the careful researching and editing he describes can be sustained. The decline of our traditional media’s audience comes in large part from technological developments that multiply the options of those delivering and consuming news, fake or real.

Along with a description of the ideals of responsible journalism, the columnist mentions the two means by which this responsibility is enforced: 1) Strict code of ethics; 2) Fear of lawsuits. The first will not retard the fake-flow; rumor-mongers, gossips and political operatives are not famously ethical. A fear of lawsuits has some promise in theory, but American journalists are not known to favor British standards for libel, slander and defamation.

So this leaves regulatory measures by the Federal Communications Commission or private corporations. This will be censorship. But calling it “censorship” will probably fall into the category of “fake news,” so we will call it “regulation.”

A Democratic California state senator named Bill Dodd hopes to reduce the evils of “fake news” at the consumer end. He has introduced a bill to incorporate media literacy education into school curricula. His legislation will charge the California Board of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission with responsibility for developing a framework for incorporating media literacy into school curricula.

Conservatives and Republicans, reflecting on Dodd’s party affiliation and the performance of the California Board of Education, will probably be able to think of a number of things that could go wrong with this plan.

I’ll say no more on that, but since the tradition of freedom of speech is coming under severe examination in some academic circles, it seems timely to mention that the traditional argument for the free speech ideal relied on the belief that truth must eventually prevail in “the marketplace of ideas” if left unimpeded by external authority. This can’t be reconciled with any of the methods for curbing fake news being proposed so far. We are probably stuck with it forever.

]]> 0 News story Harry Potter Spin-Off to be Filmed in Schaumburg, IllinoisThu, 19 Jan 2017 22:19:40 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: Obama reveals his true self during his final days in office Fri, 20 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Barack Obama did not go out quietly. His unquiet final acts were, in part, overshadowed by a successor who refused to come in quietly and, in part, by Obama’s own endless, sentimental farewell tour. But there was nothing nostalgic or sentimental about Obama’s last acts. Two of them were simply shocking.

Perhaps we should have known. At the 2015 White House correspondents dinner, he joked about whether he had a bucket list: “Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.”

Turns out, he wasn’t kidding. Commuting the sentence of Chelsea Manning, one of the great traitors of our time, is finger-in-the-eye willfulness. Obama took 28 years off the sentence of a soldier who stole and then released through WikiLeaks almost half a million military reports plus another quarter-million State Department documents.

The cables were embarrassing; the military secrets were almost certainly deadly. They jeopardized the lives not just of American soldiers on two active fronts – Iraq and Afghanistan – but of locals who were, at great peril, secretly aiding and abetting us. After Manning’s documents release, the Taliban “went on a killing spree” (according to intelligence sources quoted by Fox News) of those who fit the description of individuals working with the United States.

Moreover, we will be involved in many shadowy conflicts throughout the world. Locals will have to choose between us or our enemies. Would you choose a side that is so forgiving of a leaker who betrays her country – and you?

Even the word “leaker” is misleading. Leak makes it sound like a piece of information a whistleblower gives Woodward and Bernstein to expose misdeeds in high office. This was nothing of the sort. It was the indiscriminate dumping of a mountain of national security secrets certain to bring harm to American troops, allies and interests.

Obama considered Manning’s 35-year sentence excessive. On the contrary. It was lenient. Manning could have been – and in previous ages, might well have been – hanged for such treason. Now she walks after seven years.

What makes this commutation so spectacularly in-your-face is its hypocrisy. Here is a president who spent weeks banging the drums over the harm inflicted by WikiLeaks with its release of stolen materials and emails during the election campaign. He demanded a report immediately. He imposed sanctions on Russia. He preened about the sanctity of the American political process.

Over what? What exactly was released? A campaign chairman’s private emails and Democratic National Committee chatter, i.e. campaign gossip, backbiting, indiscretions and cynicism. The usual stuff, embarrassing but not dangerous. No national security secrets, no classified material, no exposure of anyone to harm, just to ridicule and opprobrium.

The other last-minute Obama bombshell occurred four weeks earlier when, for the first time in nearly a half-century, the United States abandoned Israel on a crucial Security Council resolution, allowing the passage of a condemnation that will plague both Israel and its citizens for years to come. After eight years of reassurance, Obama seized the chance – free of political accountability for himself and his potential Democratic successor – to do permanent damage to Israel. (The U.S. has no power to reverse the Security Council resolution.)

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. who went on to be a great Democratic senator, once argued passionately that in the anti-American, anti-democratic swamp of the U.N., America should act unwaveringly in opposition and never give in to the jackals. Obama joined the jackals.

Why? To curry favor with the international left? After all, Obama leaves office as a relatively young man of 55. His next chapter could very well be as a leader on the international stage, perhaps at the U.N. (secretary-general?) or some transnational (ostensibly) human rights organization. What better demonstration of bona fides than a gratuitous attack on Israel? Or the about-face on Manning and WikiLeaks? Or the freeing of a still unrepentant Puerto Rican terrorist, Oscar Lopez Rivera, also pulled off with three days remaining in his presidency.

A more likely explanation, however, is that these are acts not of calculation but of authenticity. This is Obama being Obama. He leaves office as he came in: a man of the left, but possessing the intelligence and discipline to suppress his more radical instincts. As of Nov. 9, 2016, suppression was no longer necessary.

We’ve just gotten a glimpse of his real self. From now on, we shall see much more of it.

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

]]> 0, 19 Jan 2017 19:05:27 +0000
Financially ailing hospitals need a rate increase, not another tax increase Thu, 19 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 AUGUSTA — The proposed two-year state budget hurts hospitals to fund tax cuts. If the spending plan is enacted, Maine hospitals would lose more than $66 million per year when each of the various cuts are fully implemented. Hospitals in Maine oppose the budget as drafted and urge the Appropriations Committee to oppose it as well.

Medicaid provides coverage for medical care, nursing homes and a variety of other health care services to nearly 240,000 low-income Maine citizens. Generally speaking, when the Medicaid program is in a financial crisis, the state seeks to make cuts like the ones proposed in the budget.

However, the Medicaid program is not facing a financial crisis, or even a challenge. In fact, the Medicaid budget is balanced. The cost of the program has grown less than 2 percent per year for several years now. The proposed budget shrinks the Medicaid program in order to fund tax cuts.

There are a number of reasons why the Medicaid program’s costs have slowed in recent years. The primary reason is that enrollment in the program has dropped by more than 75,000 people. When fewer people are served, state costs go down.

But hospital costs go up. Almost all of the 75,000 people who lost coverage are eligible for free care in Maine hospitals because of a state mandate. The state cut people from Medicaid knowing that hospitals would be obligated by Department of Health and Human Services policy to continue meeting some of these patients’ health care needs for free. This shift of responsibility from the state to the hospitals has contributed to Maine hospitals losing about $250 million per year in uncompensated care costs, which are costs associated with care that is provided but for which patients do not pay.

These changes have also contributed to a sharp reduction in the operating margins of hospitals. The average operating margin for Maine hospitals is about 1 percent: That is, 99 percent of the revenue that flows into a hospital flows out in the form of expenses such as nurses’ salaries, prescription drug costs and the like.

Unfortunately, a third of hospitals are operating at a loss. An additional $66 million in cuts is not sustainable.

The state budget hurts hospitals in four ways.

 First, it increases the state tax imposed on hospitals for the third time in six years to about $103 million annually.

 Second, it cuts the reimbursement rate for small, rural hospitals, known as critical access hospitals, by more than $6 million per year.

 It cuts reimbursement to primary care physicians who work for hospitals by more than $16 million. This cut is particularly curious since the LePage administration has repeatedly said more care should take place in the primary care setting.

 Finally, the budget would eliminate Medicaid coverage for another 20,000 people. Hospitals would lose over $36 million per year once those cuts were fully implemented. And, under state law, every single one of those individuals would be eligible for free care. That care, however, is not comprehensive: For example, hospitals are not pharmacies and do not provide free prescription drugs to people.

If cuts of this magnitude were to be enacted, services would be cut, hospital employees would lose their jobs and the survival of some Maine hospitals would be threatened. And Maine people would be sicker.

It’s not as if hospitals have seen pay increases from Medicaid, either. In fact, Maine hospitals are paid about 72 cents for each dollar of care provided to a Medicaid patient. This is down from approximately 77 cents five years ago. Hospitals need a rate increase, not a tax increase. The state has not raised hospital rates in over a decade; in fact, hospital outpatient rates were cut 10 percent three years ago.

Thankfully, the Appropriations Committee has rejected each of these cuts in recent years. Each of the hospital proposals in the budget has been tried before. Local elected officials understand the devastating impact these proposals would have on the health of their citizens and the health of their local economies.

On behalf of Maine’s 36 hospitals, their 30,000 employees and hundreds of thousands of patients, we urge legislators to oppose the cuts proposed in the biennial budget.

]]> 0 patient gets a CT scan at Mayo Regional Hospital. The population in rural Maine is trending older and poorer, which translates to lower payments – read government reimbursements – to local hospitals.Thu, 19 Jan 2017 19:17:06 +0000
Dana Milbank: Trump press plans shocking, if not surprising Thu, 19 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 I followed the routine on Tuesday that I had hundreds of times covering the Clinton, Bush and Obama presidencies.

I flashed my White House press pass at the guard at the northwest gate, cleared security and walked unmolested up the North Lawn driveway to the West Wing.

I entered the press room, dropped my briefcase at the Post desk, then crossed into the briefing room to see the president’s press secretary take questions from all comers.

Over the decades, thousands of other journalists have performed this ritual, a potent symbol of the unparalleled freedom of the press in America: journalists freely accessing the very seat of power – the West Wing of the White House – and demanding answers of high officials.

Now, Donald Trump is considering putting an end to this. Over the weekend, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus confirmed that they were weighing a plan to kick reporters out of the West Wing in favor of a larger site elsewhere in the White House compound.

That they are even considering such a move is shocking, yet not surprising.

Journalists have had a regular place to work and to question officials in the White House proper since the McKinley administration, and presidents and White House officials of both parties and journalists of all varieties have honored the custom.

Journalists were there the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and evacuated side by side with Bush officials when it was thought a hijacked plane was headed for the building.

Tuesday was Obama press secretary Josh Earnest’s 354th and final press briefing, and the first since the talk of evicting reporters from the White House. Earnest was at least as alarmed as the journalists.

“Was there ever any consideration by anybody in this White House of shutting this briefing room down, of taking reporters and moving them out of the West Wing?” asked ABC News’ Jon Karl.

“No,” Earnest said, “there was not.”

“The fact that all of you represent independent news organizations and have regular access to the White House, have regular access to … the briefing room at almost any hour and can hold people in power accountable is really important,” he said. For White House officials, “sometimes that’s a little inconvenient, sometimes it’s uncomfortable,” he said, “but it’s necessary for the success of our democracy. … And your ability to do that is going to be affected if you don’t have regular access to the White House.”

Bill Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry used to note that his office was 50 feet from the Oval Office and 50 feet from the briefing room – an important symbol of the American free press. To this day, journalists can walk into Earnest’s office, mere steps from the president’s, and pose questions.

The Trump administration’s talk of discarding a system that endured through two world wars suggests more substantive changes are not impossible. During the campaign, Trump banned news organizations he didn’t like (including The Post) and kicked a disfavored journalist out of a news conference. During the transition, he has sometimes ditched the “pool” of journalists traveling with him in case of crisis.

Will he now ban unwanted organizations and reporters from presidential events and Air Force One and slip the “protective pool” of journalists assigned to follow him? Will he prosecute reporters for guarding their sources, attempt (as he threatened) to roll back First Amendment protections and use the Justice Department to go after owners of news outlets he doesn’t favor?

At Tuesday’s briefing, Earnest gave a sentimental valedictory, and Obama dropped in to praise his spokesman. But the topic kept returning to the Trump transition’s talk of carting reporters out of the White House.

Earnest encouraged the White House press corps to “protect the things that are worth protecting,” including the daily briefing.

“The symbolic value of this podium in this room in front of all of you is powerful, and it sends a strong message not just to the American people, but to people around the world,” he said.

CBS News’ Mark Knoller asked whether there were days Earnest dreaded the briefing.

Earnest admitted there were. Still, he said, “it will take some getting used to seeing somebody else standing up here doing it.”

“Or not,” he added.

There was laughter, but it wasn’t really a joke.

“Do you feel like this is the last briefing of this kind that we might see for a very long time?” asked CNN’s Michelle Kosinski.

“I hope not,” Earnest said. “But I don’t know.”

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

]]> 0, 18 Jan 2017 19:43:35 +0000
Commentary: An EPA administrator is needed who will help, not hurt Maine’s environment Thu, 19 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 This holiday season, our Christmas tree farms were under attack – and not from hatchet-wielding holiday revelers.

Climate change makes extreme weather, like drought, wildfires and even hurricanes, more frequent and more severe. And experts even suggest it may be the reason the drought is decimating our pine tree farms this holiday season.

Thanks to climate change, northeast Christmas tree farmers got drought in their stockings this year. Across New England, farmers are losing as much as 80 percent of their plantings, forcing them to cut selling seasons and lose income. As one story put it, “It’s a tale that climate scientists and forest ecologists say may become more common with warmer temperatures associated with climate change.”

But it’s not just a war on Christmas we have to worry about. Maine’s coastline is threatened by sea level rise, which causes harmful flooding and erosion. Our coasts and the tourism industry that depend on them are in danger.

Climate change is also causing the tick population to boom, as more ticks and larvae survive shorter, milder winters. These ticks spread Lyme disease, and even affect our hunting. In 2014, the winter tick-related mortality caused officials to reduce the number of the state’s moose-hunting licenses by 25 percent and then another 9 percent in 2015.

And nearly 130,000 adults and children in Maine suffer from asthma, which is made worse by climate change and the dangerous ozone smog it exacerbates.

That is exactly why President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Environmental Protection Agency administrator is bad for Maine.

Mr. Trump has nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA – the very agency that Pruitt has been vigorously opposing. Pruitt is a renowned climate denier, who’s used his position of power to prevent lifesaving public health protections like the Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan sets the first ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants, our country’s biggest source of the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. It would prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 asthma attacks in children every year by 2030.

Climate change threatens our coasts, our economy, and our prosperity. The lobster industry is Maine’s most lucrative commercial fishery, bringing in $457 million in 2014. But climate change puts Maine’s fisheries in the crosshairs, with climate impacts like warm water, acidification and disease all contributing to declining seafood populations, from lobster to shrimp to cod. It even harms the blueberry and maple syrup industries. Climate change would increase the costs of business in Maine by threatening economic activity and services while pushing insurance premiums higher to pay for increasingly frequent natural disasters such as floods and wildfires, putting 32,069 Maine small businesses at risk.

Climate change makes extreme weather more frequent and more severe. Total Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster spending in Maine was almost $5.26 million in 2015. The effects on Maine can be felt in every part of the state.

Mainers understand the threat. That’s why 76 percent of Mainers support treating carbon pollution as a pollutant and 62 percent support setting limits on carbon pollution from existing coal fired power plants.

We need an Environmental Protection Agency administrator who protects our environmental laws, is guided by science when crafting and implementing policy, puts public health ahead of special interests and has the qualifications necessary to safeguard the American public from climate change.

Scott Pruitt meets none of those criteria and is in the pocket of the very industry the EPA was created to oversee. In fact, the industry has invested nearly $350,000 in Pruitt’s campaigns, and is looking for a return on that investment.

Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King should oppose Pruitt’s nomination. They should do so not just for our Christmas trees, blueberries, lobsters, and maple syrup, but for our kids and our future. Scott Pruitt is bad for Maine and bad for our health. Mainers deserve better.

]]> 0, 19 Jan 2017 11:21:26 +0000
Greg Kesich: A pre-Inauguration Day letter to my daughters Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Hi, kids: On Friday, America will inaugurate its 45th president. It will also be your first inauguration as adults.

It feels like this is the point where my generation hands over the future to yours. Sorry, but it doesn’t look as good as I’d been hoping.

Barack Obama was sworn in as president eight years ago when you two were in the sixth and ninth grades. I thought we had come to a turning point in history.

The policies of the 1980s and 1990s had failed, the nation was in the middle of an economic free-fall driven by unlimited greed at the top, and American troops were bogged down in two unwinnable wars.

Obama came along and told me what I wanted to hear: That we were not as divided as our politics would suggest. That we could all move forward together if we just could get past our petty differences. That we were all part of an American story of ever-expanding freedom and justice.

I admit, I fell for it.

Eight years later, the rich are richer than ever, but the poor and middle class are no better off. Politics is even more toxic, and a living embodiment of that will be taking the presidential oath on Friday. The people’s movement I’d hoped for is being led by a billionaire who stiffs contractors and maybe is being blackmailed by Russia.

So, OK. I didn’t see that coming.

Things don’t look so good to me, which should give you some reason to hope. As you know, I’ve been wrong before.

Instead of looking forward, let me take a step back. The ceremony that takes place Friday on the Capitol steps has been decades in the making, and it has little to do with Donald Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton or any number of famous names who will be getting the credit or blame, depending on your point of view, for putting the country in the position it is in today.

I came of age in the years after Vietnam and Watergate. People didn’t challenge just the president and the military, but all of the institutions in our society.

We were taught to question everything. At various times, the courts, the colleges, the churches, labor unions, the political parties, charities, even the news media itself have all come under investigation, and not one of them came out clean.

A lot of wrongs were righted, but there were other consequences as well. Now we live in a country where nobody trusts anything.

Some people say we need to go back to America in the 1950s, where all those institutions were strong and prosperous and everyone was unified. That would be a terrible idea, and fortunately it is impossible.

Many people who actually lived in the 1950s did not find it to be the paradise you hear about. America was less than great if you were black, gay or an immigrant, or if you were interested in watching something on television on a Sunday night other than a guy who could spin plates on pool cues.

Those institutions that we remember so fondly could be oppressive. Conformity was stifling. People couldn’t wait for the 1960s to come along and shed themselves of those bonds. The decades that followed led to more individual expression and more opportunities.

And it turned out that there was good reason to stop trusting politicians. The Pentagon Papers showed that the president lied about Vietnam – not just Richard Nixon, but a whole string of presidents.

The problem of living in a society where there is so little trust, however, is that we become vulnerable to con men.

It’s too easy to discount anything you don’t agree with by screaming “Fake news!” It makes us easy to manipulate and hard to lead.

The task for your generation won’t be going back to a time when we were great, but building institutions that you can trust, ones behind which people can put aside self-interest and work together for the common good. We need new kinds of political parties, labor unions and other organizations that can give ordinary people a powerful voice, and new kinds of media outlets that allow everyone to argue with a similar set of facts.

Don’t trust leaders, but learn to trust each other. Don’t fall for every conspiracy theory that comes along – the bad guys aren’t that organized.

Don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s right, but don’t expect other people to be perfect, either.

And don’t be discouraged by what you see in Washington. This is the last gasp of something old.

It’s time for you to build what comes next.

Listen to Press Herald podcasts at

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

Twitter: @gregkesich

]]> 0 Patriquin/Staff Photographer.Wed. July,25, 2012. News room mug shots Greg Kesich. (Photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer)Tue, 17 Jan 2017 21:46:55 +0000
Maine Voices: Don’t let plan for freezer warehouse, a vital need on waterfront, slip away Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 The Port of Portland has been offered a generational opportunity: a modern freezer warehouse, accessible by sea, rail, air and highway, available to every food producer in the region, and built with private capital. But there’s a hitch: The proposed warehouse would be built in the waterfront port development zone, an area zoned with a maximum height of 45 feet, and the warehouse must be 68 feet tall to accommodate enough pallets to make the project economical on the limited available land.

The zone is the heart of Portland’s industrial waterfront. The container terminal is in the zone, and the zone extends to the Sprague Marine Terminal near the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge. The area has a rich history in shipping. A gas plant once resided there, converting shiploads of coal to lamp gas, and not so long ago the massive “china clay” docks, handling kaolin for the paper mills, towered over West Commercial Street precisely where the freezer warehouse would be sited.

There are comparable buildings on Portland’s waterfront today. Sprague Energy’s white newsprint warehouses, located adjacent to the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge on what was the Merrill Marine Terminal, are 60 feet tall. The Pierce Atwood building, a former cold storage warehouse, is about 70 feet. Most of the property on the north side of Commercial Street is zoned to allow buildings up to 65 feet in height, such as the Marriott Courtyard hotel.

The freezer warehouse would not be painted white, and it would not be a box. Rather, it would be an attractive, modestly scaled structure resembling an office building, and indeed, the building would include the North American headquarters for Eimskip, the Icelandic shipping line. The warehouse is an appropriately sized project in an appropriate zone, and it’s something Maine badly needs.

The Port of Portland has always handled food. Yet for decades the port has been without a cold storage warehouse usable in conjunction with deep-water shipping. Every serious study of the Port of Portland, whether privately commissioned or government-sponsored, has identified a cold storage warehouse as conspicuously lacking among the port’s assets. There are dozens of superb business opportunities that Portland has lost because the port lacks a freezer warehouse.

The benefits of such a warehouse would extend throughout the state and region. More and more, Maine’s farmers, fishermen and other food producers recognize that to compete across the world they must produce value-added food: not just fish fillets, berries or pork, but also ready-to-cook portioned fish, frozen berry desserts and gourmet sausage.

While the freezer plant is under construction, salespeople will fan out across Maine to show food brokers and producers how a frozen product can add to their bottom line. The freezer warehouse would be able to handle pallet loads, allowing Maine’s smaller food producers – those who could not now fill a container – inexpensive access to distant markets, including Europe and Asia. The freezer warehouse is a game-changer for Maine’s niche food producers in the Portland area and throughout the state. The freezer warehouse is truly a project of regional significance.

The 300-year history of the Port of Portland makes clear that a healthy port must be tended with care. Cargoes decline and new cargoes take their place, some moving in modern containers, some in bulk and some in break-bulk, and all by sea. A healthy port adapts to and provides accommodation for new cargoes, and even across the centuries, that port continues to thrive.

Such has been the experience of the Port of Portland, though not without exception. Readers will recall the cement silos proposed in the 1990s for the western waterfront, which met with organized opposition from residents who chose to live overlooking the western waterfront. Those three silos were finally built – but they were built in New Haven, Connecticut, where they, their ships and their many well-paid employees are still busy. Let’s not let that happen to the freezer warehouse.

]]> 0 Tue, 17 Jan 2017 21:27:08 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Let us not accept Trump’s bizarre behavior as the new normal Tue, 17 Jan 2017 11:00:03 +0000 Sometimes, you’ve got to go through it to get to it.

That’s a personal motto with which I have occasionally consoled myself since I was a teenager. It means that for as much as we naturally seek to avoid the unpleasant situation, to find a way over or around it, there are times in this life when the only option is to go through it, to endure the unendurable thing and pick up the pieces on the other side.

That philosophy has succored me through breakups, deaths and career reversals. I find myself turning to it again to gird for the inauguration of the 45th president.

For years, many of us have sought to avoid, to go over or around, the consequences of the Republican Party’s retreat from seriousness. Meaning its studied outrage, its practiced hysteria, its obstructionism, its bigotry, its withdrawal into a facts-free alternate universe, its embrace of human cartoons like Sarah Palin, Ben Carson and Herman Cain. But avoidance is no longer an option, and the impossible is upon us.

The Great Trumpkin is rising from the Trumpkin patch.

Cliff Clavin just got the last laugh on the gang at “Cheers.”

The most flagrantly unfit man in history is about to be sworn in as president.

And for the first time in my life, I am not optimistic about America’s future – at least not its next four years. There is no disaster, up to and including a nuclear exchange, that would surprise me under the incoming administration.

If you need a silver lining, I can offer only this: Assuming America survives the next four years in any recognizable form – by no means a foregone conclusion – I suspect Donald Trump’s debacles and the sheer tiresomeness of the man himself, will so thoroughly discredit this strain of Republicanism as to destroy it completely.

Maybe then the country will be in a mood for serious people – Democratic and Republican – with serious ideas again. That’s what passes for hope these days. Meantime, I have made a resolution: I will, at all costs, retain my capacity for outrage.

Yes, that will be easier said than done.

The capacity for outrage is like a physical muscle in the sense that it tires from being overworked. And certainly, Trump has worked our capacity for outrage like a drill sergeant.

Shock upon shock, insult upon insult, falsehood upon falsehood, he has been a daily deluge of the unbelievable and the unthinkable until you don’t even know what to respond to first. Shall we answer the misogyny? But then, what about the bigotry? Shall we decry the incompetence? Will that leave us time to deal with the ignorance? The man is a white noise of badness.

The danger is that it comes to seem normal, that you stop seeing how truly bizarre it is. One of the things that makes us human, after all, is our resilient adaptability. Whether sickened by cancer, swamped by flood, broken by bankruptcy or savaged by war, we always find a way to accommodate ourselves to the new circumstance. With good humor and quiet courage, we accept the new normal.

But I refuse to do that now.

Doing it now would feel less like an act of courage and good humor than one of surrender, of forgetting that there was once a time dignity, intelligence, honesty and statesmanship were traits we desired and demanded in our leaders. But if we forget that, we forget us, and then we are well and truly lost.

Love of country demands better. Martin Luther King once said he was “proud to be maladjusted” to the inequities and inequalities of his time. That works for me.

So I am proud to be maladjusted to Donald Trump.

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

]]> 0 Tue, 17 Jan 2017 06:00:03 +0000
Maine Voices: Consider what ranked-choice voting promises for 2018 Tue, 17 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 YARMOUTH — An article published online late last week by the Independent Voters Network revealed that former state Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, is considering a run for U.S. Senate against incumbent independent Angus King. Should he be worried?

Most people consider Sen. King’s re-election in 2018 a near certainty. But not so fast. It’s been speculated for some time that Gov. LePage is also considering challenging Sen. King. Yes, I’m talking about the Paul LePage who got 48 percent of the vote in 2014, trouncing his two opponents in a state that also gave an electoral vote to President-elect Donald Trump in 2016.

So how does this play out? One could envision Diane Russell energizing the dreams of 15 or 20 percent of voters from the Bernie Sanders left, Republican Paul LePage holding strong to his 40-plus percent base, and Angus King winding up back home in Brunswick in a distant second place. And voila, a minority of Maine voters launches LePage on to the national stage.

Fortunately, from my perspective, Maine’s elections will use ranked choice-voting in 2018. That translates to an instant runoff between LePage and King, and King returning to Washington with 55 or 60 percent of the vote, just as we expected all along, and just as a true majority of Maine voters find acceptable.

So Diane Russell should dive right in. We have no spoiler problems in Maine anymore. Justin Alfond? Ethan Strimling? Go for it. We want to hear their hopes and dreams for America.

Of course, all this assumes that the Maine Legislature and secretary of state do their jobs and implement ranked-choice voting in 2018, as the people have demanded by public referendum, and as state law now mandates.

Let’s turn now to the 2018 governor’s race. Lots of speculation there, too. And assuming that Susan Collins takes a pass, the field is wide open. If you’re worried about the state of politics in this country, and you care about Maine, and you think you have something positive to offer our great state, what better time than now to run for office?

My speculation is that there will be eight or 10 Democratic Party candidates, eight or 10 Republican Party candidates, a Green Party candidate, a Libertarian Party candidate and three or four independents.

If that happens, it is a wonderful thing. Wonderful that we’ll have an engaged group of citizens stepping up to the best of America’s democracy by running for public office. Wonderful that they will bring with them a diversity of ideas, vision, experience and talents.

And thanks to ranked-choice voting, we have an ingeniously efficient way to whittle down these 15 or 20 candidates to the one among them who best represents the views, ideals and hopes of Maine voters most broadly – someone who is most likely to bring us together, rather than divide us.

But again, this sensible whittling down of the field assumes that the Legislature and secretary of state do their jobs and implement ranked-choice voting in 2018, as the people have demanded, and as state law mandates.

Maine is getting national attention for putting into law a reform that definitively improves democracy in multi-candidate races. In crowded party primaries, as we will likely see in the 2018 governor’s race, there will be a sequential narrowing down of candidates to a nominee with the broadest appeal to each party’s voters.

That is the ingenious system that Maine voters put into law when they passed ranked-choice voting.The same sequential narrowing down of candidates will then happen in the general election, assuring a final winner with the broadest appeal to all Maine voters.

In the upcoming U.S. Senate and governor’s races, I truly welcome anyone who wants to run. At this crazy time in American politics, I welcome anyone stepping up and running for any public office, whether it’s Town Council, School Committee, sate representative, governor, U.S. Senate or anything else. I say dive in. But I can say that only because we have ranked-choice voting.

If the Legislature and secretary of state somehow fail in implementing ranked-choice voting for 2018, even though state law clearly mandates it, and even though the people have clearly demanded it by public referendum, then our democracy will have been blatantly compromised.


]]> 0 Bailey, campaign manager for the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, counts up the votes in a demonstration at Foulmouthed Brewing put on by the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting of what it's beer tour will look like this September. The committee is ranking beer in beer flights to demonstrate how ranked voting works to the public. The campaign will hold it's event at Foulmouthed Brewing on Sept. 11. Brianna Soukup/Staff PhotographerMon, 16 Jan 2017 23:15:31 +0000
Kathleen Parker: Real concerns about Russia, Comey should rise above partisan fighting Tue, 17 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Republicans can argue until their last breath that Trump objectors are sore losers, but isn’t more at stake than “mere politics”?

This phrase has been rendered quaint by such serious issues as: Russian hackers apparently trying to tilt the election toward Donald Trump; the FBI’s possibly politically motivated practices; Trump’s initial resistance to the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community; Trump’s refusal to release tax records, which might mollify concerns about his relationship with Russia.

These aren’t partisan issues, or shouldn’t be, as evidenced by the Justice Department inspector general’s decision to investigate how FBI Director James Comey handled the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email and private server. The focus will be on Comey’s statement in July that Clinton and her colleagues were “extremely careless” with classified information but that he wasn’t recommending criminal charges – as well as his announcement to Congress just a week and a half before Election Day that, because of new information, he was reopening the investigation.

This fresh look pertained to new emails found on the laptop of Carlos Danger, aka Anthony Weiner (but, really, why the name change?), estranged husband of top Clinton adviser Huma Abedin.

The emails subsequently were found to be inconsequential, but if there were any fence-sitters left at that point, at least many of them probably toppled into Trump’s camp, from sheer exhaustion if not outright disgust.

Let me help you: Eleven days to go and the man who had said there’s nothing to see here suddenly says, Hey, there might be something after all! And no one’s supposed to think this affected the election?

How could it not have? Anecdotally, I can report at least a dozen friends who say, “That was it for me.” But polling, too, suggests a consequential voter shift in the final days of the campaign.

FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s polling/analysis group, reported that Clinton had an 81 percent chance of winning in mid-October. About a week after Comey’s announcement, that number dropped to 65 percent.

This rapid shift didn’t occur because people suddenly recognized that Trump is a brilliant foreign policy strategist. It’s true that undecided people often return to their party at the last minute, but this might not account for Clinton’s sudden drop.

While it’s impossible to prove that Comey had any impact, there’s enough reason for dissatisfied Americans to continue to protest the results – even on Inauguration Day.

For certain, Comey acted against bureau policy never to interfere politically or discuss investigations so close to an election. If there’s any justification, Comey may have felt that the information would be leaked anyway.

Adding suspicion to skepticism, the hacking and release of Democratic National Committee emails also may have affected election results, though, again, it’s impossible to know how much since, as far as I’m aware, we can’t read people’s minds (yet).

Thus, we’re left to draw inferences from suppositions from what little else we know.

We do know that our intelligence community concluded that Russia hacked the DNC, and Trump finally accepted this last week.

To concede that Russia was behind the hacking (rather than a 400-pound person sitting in a bed somewhere, as Trump at one point theorized) was, presumably, to admit that Russia helped him win. Well, didn’t it? Didn’t Trump loudly call upon Russia to hack Clinton’s emails?

For the undecided (or the unpersuadable), let’s pose a hypothetical: What if Clinton had publicly asked Russia to hack Trump’s records and release his tax returns – and Russia did?

And what if the FBI announced less than two weeks before Election Day that it was going to investigate fraudulent practices at Trump University? Let’s say that Trump’s number dipped dramatically and he lost.

Do you reckon Republicans would be a tad upset?

The inspector general’s investigation into Comey’s conduct, as well as Congress’ investigation into Russia’s apparent interference in the election, are urgent, overdue, and probably useless.

Mostly, Comey is guilty of poor judgment. And Russia is being Russia – a fact best quickly absorbed by the soon-to-be president.

Yes, democracy needs saving and the republic’s foundation is showing wear. But isn’t the crucial question the very one that can’t be answered: Did we really elect Donald Trump to be president of the United States?

We may never know precisely who sowed the wind, but to be sure, we’re all going to reap the whirlwind.

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

]]> 0 - In this Dec. 9, 2015 file photo, FBI Director James Comey prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington. Comey's announcement that his bureau was reviewing new emails possibly relevant to Hillary Clinton's private email server investigation has thrust him into the public spotlight again just days before Election Day. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)Tue, 17 Jan 2017 10:53:29 +0000
Commentary: Mainers to celebrate immigration at The Other Inaugural Ball Tue, 17 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 One of our favorite works of art in Maine is a series of charcoal drawings on paper squares about 2 feet on a side and pasted like posters on the outer wall of a little café called Java Joe’s in Farmington, where they are slowly dissolved by the weather.

The simple and poignant portraits, by the artist known as Pigeon (aka Orson Horchler), depict a wide array of humanity, different races, faces, different hairstyles, smiles, frowns, types of dress, hopes and dreams implied. The title of the work, printed in large letters on the brick wall above, is simple, too: Mainers. The artist has explained that his subjects were all born abroad but all live and work now in Maine. The owner of the café recently asked Pigeon back to reinstall the temporary work. Why? Because people like it.

If a work of art can offer welcome, an artist can, too.

And that’s how The Other Inaugural Ball – coming on Jan. 21 – was born. A gallery owner, a painter, a writer, then another, a singer, a printmaker, and then our friends, and their friends, and their children, and their neighbors, conversations about what positive contribution we might make in what was starting to feel like a negative environment, how we might form a coalition that would grow into a network of mutual support that depends on everyone, all shapes and sizes, that accommodates difference (including political difference), that can and will not only endure but thrive, get us all through the inevitable crises to come.

We felt that rather than despair in the wake of recent blanket denouncements of certain religions, certain races, various ethnic groups, certain nationalities, certain political factions, and rather than remain passive in the face of vandalism and hate mongering both subtle and overt, we’d try to come together, make a statement together. A statement both simple and complex: diversity brings riches, and we Mainers are the beneficiaries of these riches. And as such, we must all show one another gratitude, must not only work together, but celebrate together. Our little group, being Maine artists, quickly became a bigger group, and then bigger yet, reaching out beyond the arts, Mainers showing one another gratitude, expressing our joy at being part of the great American tradition of immigration.

It’s the shared duty of all Americans, and certainly of Mainers, to ensure that the guarantee of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which is at the core of the American experiment, is held out to the newest among us. That we put out the welcome mat, and more than that, continue to offer the assistance and protections that keep our own lives feeling secure. And take action to face the reality of fear, like children hearing news reports that might just refer to them or their parents, like store owners wondering who’s painted slurs on the walls of their American dream. That in the process of becoming new Mainers, we become we. That we – this new, magnificent we – make use of all the building blocks at our disposal, that we work from common interest toward the common goal of inclusion, true community, universal acceptance.

We thought a day of art would be the best response to the inauguration going on down in D.C. We wouldn’t spark further division by barking out demands or complaints or diatribes or insults. Instead, a ball, The Other Inaugural Ball, which would bring together all corners of the community for a night of fun, communication, positive fellow feeling.

And why not bring in all of the arts – musicians, dancers, writers, painters, performers, actors, on and on? And rather than a single evening bash, why not use some of the wonderful gallery spaces in town to show work by people who care, to hear the voices of our best poets – Reza Jalali, Wes McNair, Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Portland’s poet laureate and Betsy Sholl, former Maine poet laureate – to put on view the work of our best artists – Abby Shahn, Accra Shepp and Peter Rolston – to dance to the spins of DJ32French; to experience the wonderful Theater Ensemble of Color; to eat food from all the corners of the world that have come together to build our contemporary Maine.

Keynote speaker Fatuma Hussein, founder of the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine, will speak directly to the refugee experience, the importance of courage, and why immigrants help Maine thrive.

Together we can solve all the problems we face. Apart, the problems will only multiply.


]]> 0 Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:22:16 +0000
Maine Voices: Cybersecurity would be enhanced if we just collect less data Mon, 16 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 NORTH YARMOUTH — Russia’s information operations against the United States and the media’s Russian hacking-centered election after-party make clear that nothing is secure in our cyberworld. As the owner of a Maine cybersecurity company, I know that the list of hacked organizations is long and distinguished.

It’s personal for many of us. A few years ago, my security background investigations – updated every five years since the mid-1980s – were stolen from the federal government. That data, which included candid assessments about my character and habits from friends and acquaintances, is in the hands of the Chinese. To prevent blackmail in the future, I’m disclosing publicly that I love black coffee and am a Dallas Cowboys fan from way back. Let the fake news begin.

The Obama administration has been subject to some sharp critiques on its lackluster cyber initiatives. President Obama has focused on protecting critical infrastructure. What is “critical” ranges from things like electrical systems to more unexpected areas, like agriculture. While these efforts are important, much of the work has focused on organizing meetings and voluntary standards.

Protecting government systems also has moved slowly and is hobbled by familiar factors: old systems that must be replaced at great cost and a bureaucracy that rewards itself for programs instead of results.

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to make cybersecurity a priority. We wish him luck, because there are technical, legal and organizational hurdles galore. They are often underpinned by a central fear: We want our cyberwarriors to be effective, but at the same time, we are wary of the tools that reach into our lives.

Are we comfortable with an Obama (or, soon, a Trump) administration being in charge of voting machine security and the integrity of the results, as was seemingly proposed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson last fall? The phishing attack on Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta was old art. But new threats are already here with the growing “internet of things.” Thermostats and other small devices are connected to the Web, but are poorly secured.

Their risk was highlighted recently when thousands of Chinese-built security cameras were hijacked and used to send data to cripple a major internet gateway. More unnerving was that the attack seemed to be fine-tuning its process, looking for just the right mix of data and devices needed to be debilitating. This was not Barron Trump and a can of Monster Energy drink.

Organizing an effective defense and response to activities as we’ve seen from Russia or China will be expensive and come slowly. But while we grapple with defending both our virtual homeland and our privacy, we should look to quick wins that can change the cybergame fundamentally.

First, Washington should escalate its offensive cyber operations. These operations should be targeted against criminal elements outside the United States, who, conveniently for us and the rule of law, are often also in service of foreign governments. U.S. policy should be to apply the full weight of our intelligence and military services in the same way we did in the war on terror. There’s plenty of room at Gitmo now.

Easier still, we should make the risk of identity theft a thing of the past. How? By placing the burden of fraudulent loans on lenders. To some extent, this system exists, but you or I have to prove that there was a fraud. This is stressful and time-consuming.

Credit cards provide a better model: When you claim a fraudulent charge, a simple form is usually all it takes to reverse it. Merchants and banks bear the cost of these reversals, but most importantly, it incentivizes their practices to prevent it. Our goal should be to return to the good old days when you just didn’t care who knew your Social Security number.

Finally, an important policy that’s often overlooked is to avoid data collection altogether. You cannot steal money from an empty safe. We should establish laws and policies to aggressively restrict data collection and retention.

A prime threat I see frequently is the call to collect more and more student data. Under regulations enacted by the Obama administration, student data can be collected and provided – without your knowledge or consent – for a research purpose with only the flimsiest assurance of protection. And how prepared is your cash-strapped school to protect data from cybertheft?

I, for one, don’t count on such data being uninteresting. The potential for embarrassment alone – as seen in this political season – is priceless.

]]> 0 specialist works at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) in Arlington, Va., Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. Ground zero in the nation’s fight against cybercrime hides in plain sight, in a nondescript suburban office building with no government seals or signs. Only after passing a low-key receptionist stationed on the seventh floor does one see the metal detectors, personal cellphone lockers and a series of heavy doors marked “classified” _ all leading to the auditorium-sized National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)Mon, 16 Jan 2017 16:55:18 +0000
Maine Observer: Paris the dog is lovely this time of year Sun, 15 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 “Let’s have lunch in Paris,” my husband likes to say.

“Great,” I’ll reply to his suggestion. Of course, this is our little Maine in-joke. We can have lunch in any one of the major cities or countries of the world without leaving the country – Lisbon, Norway, Naples, even Peru or Poland. There are many more, and there are good reasons why the town fathers in the mid-1800s chose the names they did and it is fascinating research, but that is not the point of this story.

One particular, brilliant September day, we headed to Paris (the one in Maine) to pick up our new 9-week-old, 3-pound female apricot shih tzu-toy poodle puppy.

She was born in Paris, on Bastille Day (July 14), so what else should she be named but Paris? Bringing this shy, fluffy, sweet puppy into our lives has made all the difference.

That was almost 11 years ago, and a near-death experience she had last summer reminded me how grateful we are to still have her through this winter.

Our first family “farm dog” as our son referred to her, Gingerbread, was a rescue retriever-collie mix who was faithful, loyal and utterly irreplaceable but succumbed to Lyme disease long before we moved to Maine. We waited until after our first grandchild was born to become dog owners again, probably as a result of an overflow of maternal instincts.

Paris has never failed to evoke comments and smiles wherever she goes. She has stopped truckers, kids, store clerks, anyone who comes in contact with her – our blind, 102-year-old mother-in-law included.

For years, in South Portland, then in Brunswick at our store, Mulberry Cottage, she was often carried around by our salespeople to stop her from announcing the arrival of each new customer.

Big dog owners make comments like “Eight pounds, that’s not even a big cat!” or “What can she do? Her mouth isn’t big enough for a Frisbee or ball” or even, “She looks like a stuffy toy!”

When our neighbor informs us the barred owl is back hanging out, we are sure to put a leash on Paris and go out with her. The image of her being scooped up and carried off is just too terrifying.

But – and it is a big “but” – Maine has long winters and even longer springs. It never fails to make you smile if you can put something cuddly and warm in your lap.

Especially when it’s something that’s mostly quiet, stares at you with two button black eyes and doesn’t eat more than a half cup of dog food a day. And it’s even better if she can dance on her hind legs or do her business on command and bring smiles to even the most hardened pre-teen.

So, bring it on Maine! We will make it till spring on our island in Casco Bay, because in our hearts we will always have Paris.

— Special to the Telegram

]]> 0 Sat, 14 Jan 2017 13:58:03 +0000
Maine Voices: Women have fought this fight before Sun, 15 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 GRAY — One hundred years ago this month, the National Woman’s Party sent silent sentries out to stand in front of the White House gates.

Holding banners draped with their signature colors – purple, white and gold – their purpose was to call attention to the fact that (incredibly) most women in the United States still did not have the right to vote. National Woman’s Party leader Alice Paul and her supporters wanted Congress and the president to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women voting rights, rather than leaving it up to the states to decide.

At first reporters treated them with condescension. “How cute,” they said, in effect, “the little ladies are trying to bother the president, but he has more important business and they should just go back home where they belong.”

As the country prepared to enter World War I the activists stepped it up, bringing signs with printed messages that berated President Woodrow Wilson for protecting democracy abroad while refusing to recognize women’s legitimate demand for democracy at home.

America was a scary place in those days. The inflammatory messages printed on the banners enraged onlookers, who attacked the brave women and tore the signs from their hands as Washington, D.C., police stood by with orders not to intervene.

By June 1917, police were arresting the National Woman’s Party picketers and throwing them in the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia, a clear violation of their rights under both the First Amendment and the Clayton Act, which Congress had passed in 1914 and which guaranteed the right of peaceful picketing.

Few voices rose in protest. America was at war, and if civil liberties had to be trampled to support the war effort than so be it. Congress passed the Espionage Act in 1917 and amended it with the Sedition Act in 1918 to further restrict free speech. Those who raised their voices against the war and conscription, including Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs, were jailed. Big business saw the opportunity to rid themselves of troublesome union leaders; radicals, including members of the International Workers of the World, were especially targeted.

But it wasn’t just the war. In 1917 it was illegal to send information about birth control through the mail, or to speak about birth control publicly. In many states it was illegal for doctors to prescribe birth control for women unless they there was medical necessity.

And forget about abortions. Women of means could generally find a sympathetic doctor to help them, but poor women were sentenced to forced birthing, even if they couldn’t afford to support their growing number of children. And there was no national welfare system, or Obamacare, or public housing to help them out.

I’m struck by the parallels to 2017. Now we have President-elect Donald Trump threatening to sue the media, and conservative billionaires financing lawsuits that bankrupt news outlets, all to create a chilling effect on free speech.

Here in Maine, Gov. LePage threatened to withhold funds from a nonprofit, desperate for funds to serve youth in need, if they hired his political rival as executive director. LePage won that round; free speech lost.

Now conservative Republicans in Congress are falling over themselves to defund Planned Parenthood, which would deprive millions of low-income women and men access to affordable, professional health care and birth control. It feels as if we’re spinning backward in time to the bad old days of 1917. Women’s right to choose not just to end an unwanted pregnancy, but whether to get pregnant at all, is under attack once again.

To ward off despair, I remind myself that the National Woman’s Party sued the District of Columbia over the illegal arrests and imprisonment, and won.

Now, as Trump’s inauguration looms, the Woman’s March on Washington is a signal to him, to his administration, and to Congress that we won’t be silenced, and that we’ll use our free speech rights, our skills, our passion and, ultimately, our votes to prevent them from dismantling the protections that our foremothers – and fathers – fought so hard to achieve.

— Special to the Telegram

]]> 0 century ago, the National Women's Party went to Washington to protest a government that would not recognize their human rights. It's the same struggle that is going on today.Sat, 14 Jan 2017 13:58:10 +0000
Cynthia Dill: Say no to lowering concealed-carry age Sun, 15 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 At the height of an opiate crisis, let’s take away their health insurance and instead give 18-year-olds a loaded concealed handgun and some marijuana. What could possibly go wrong?

L.D. 44, if passed by Maine’s 128th Legislature and signed by Gov. Paul LePage, will lower from 21 to 18 the age at which a person can carry a concealed handgun. At the polls, Mainers decided pot will be legal, and Republicans across the country are vying to repeal Obamacare, which would result in about 75,000 people losing their health insurance in this state, including, most likely, low-income young people. Treatment for addiction is expensive and virtually impossible to obtain without health insurance. Without treatment, addicts often turn to crime to feed their addiction. And handguns are tools for crime.

Most 18-year-olds are seniors in high school. Many do not yet know how to do laundry. Legislation enabling them to carry around a concealed loaded handgun is as good an idea as raising their speed limit on Interstate 295 at rush hour. It’s a bad answer to our manufactured crisis of ridiculous levels of gun violence. Again we are on the gerbil wheel of NRA-speak and can expect the same tortured logic. True lovers of liberty are free to be shot. Strengthening laws makes us weak. The mass shooting of innocent children is inevitable.

The sponsor of L.D. 44 is what some might call a “fresh face” in politics: a rising star – a young gun – and maybe he is. Only time will tell. As a first-term senator last session, Eric Brakey successfully carried the water for the NRA to get Maine’s first “constitutional carry” law passed for those 21 and older, so maybe he sees this year’s bill as icing on the proverbial cake. He’s “finishing the job” so bigger, better work will come, along with media attention and cocktail parties. No doubt young “hunters” in his Auburn district were clamoring for the right to carry their Smith and Wessons and Glocks under blaze orange hoodies with their Game Boys.

Ultimately, though, whether L.D. 44 passes has less to do with the bill’s sponsor than it does with the rest of us. If we want to reduce gun violence we can. Nothing in the Second Amendment says the United States has to be the leader of thoughts and prayers about senseless gun-related deaths. We do not have to accept over 750 children being killed by guns, out of roughly 13,000 deaths last year by gun violence. From 2005 through 2015, 71 Americans were killed by terrorists on U.S. soil, while 301,797 were killed by gun violence that disproportionately affects black men. One in five kids are without enough to eat in Maine, while kids younger than 3 have gotten ahold of guns and shot someone at least 59 times this year in America.

Republicans who complain about “outside special interests” controlling factions of the left need to look in the mirror. If an 18-year-old is not mature enough to have a beer with the snack his mother tucked in his backpack, why are we giving him a loaded gun to hide in his pants?

The problem in part is party capture. The Republican Party is beholden to the gun lobby, and it controls the state Senate and the Blaine House. Unless some of Maine’s Republicans are independent enough to buck the party line and risk becoming a bullseye, it will be up to Democrats to stop the bleeding. But this is not complicated. The gun lobby cares as much about preserving Maine’s hunting culture and “freedom” as drug dealers care about pain. Billions of dollars of profit is made off the gun industry, and its lobbyists are expertly trained to spin the threads of blood-moneyed legislation into imaginary flags that don’t tread on you or me, just kill or seriously injure us.

To say no to L.D. 44 is the tough love Maine kids need, but just like we can expect most Republicans to let us down when it comes to rational gun laws, we also can expect a handful of Democrats to be seduced by NRA money and jawboning about alleged liberty interests and “hunting” rights. Republicans and Democrats are susceptible to caving in the face of common sense. These legislators must be held accountable too, for not doing what they can to reduce gun violence. Democrats hiding behind rural districts or conservative constituencies must be reminded that the overwhelming majority of people want more gun safety laws passed, not fewer.

Democrats who enable the NRA in Maine should be held accountable because they can stop the wave of NRA bills being passed in Augusta since LePage took office. What’s the use of a muscle unless one is willing to flex it now and again? The speaker of the House should reward NRA appeasement by any Democratic member with swift and effective political consequence. No NRA placater should chair a legislative committee or otherwise have opportunity to exert influence on a process that has allowed guns and senseless gun violence to proliferate at rates that are absurd. Votes should have consequences.

L.D. 44 is not about jobs, the economy, freedom or the Second Amendment. It is a bill custom tailored for the gun industry, by the gun industry, to increase already-staggering profits, and it will increase incidents of gun violence. Its passage is not the way life should be.

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

Twitter: dillesquire

]]> 0, ME - APR. 8: Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn introduces his bill LD 652 during a Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee hearing on several gun bills on Wednesday April 8, 2015 at the State House in Augusta. (Photo by Joe Phelan/Staff Photographer)Mon, 16 Jan 2017 14:30:51 +0000
Alan Caron: Under Trump, Republicans will have to pick their poison Sun, 15 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 In a few short years, two things seem likely to happen. The country will look back fondly at the Obama years. And many of the people who voted for Trump will deny they ever did.

Strap yourself in, friends, for what promises to be a wild ride during Trump’s first year, as he tries to roll back the clock on civil rights, women’s rights, environmental protection, health care and climate change while also trying to reduce taxes on his billionaire friends and their struggling cousins, the lowly millionaires.

Wondering what the next year will look like? Look no further than eight years ago, when Republicans openly promised to block anything the incoming president tried to do. Now reverse the roles of the two parties.

Republicans have argued that they were only being obstructionists because that’s what Democrats did when George W. Bush was elected. Democrats say Republicans did it first, when Bill Clinton was elected. And so it goes, in an endless cycle of “they started it,” all the way back to the nasty fight between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

There will be some noise over Trump’s Cabinet choices, but that is musket fire compared with what’s coming. Democrats will mostly hold their fire for the big fights over heath care, a massive defense buildup, tax cuts and this year’s sleeper issue, climate change.

Ironically, Trump’s biggest problems over the next few years may not be with Democrats as much as with traditional Republican fiscal and military hawks, who have spent decades fighting two things that Trump seems indifferent to: budget-busting programs and the Russian bear.

You’ll remember that most Republicans in Congress couldn’t even look at Trump during the election without wincing. They thought him ill-informed and ill-equipped to be president. Now most of them are running around Congress with the gleeful giddiness that comes from newfound power and perks for your friends.

None of that will last long once the Trump team gets down to specifics. Much of what Trump promised during the campaign involves big spending that runs against Republican orthodoxy. We’ve already had a preview of what that means, as Trump’s promise to deliver the largest public works spending program in history lies dead on the floor of Congress. Trump didn’t know that wasn’t a Republican thing to do.

Republicans will agree on a variety of relatively small and symbolic things, like building something they’ll call a wall along the southern border, but the big promises from Trump on trade, health care, military spending and taxes all carry the risk of exploding the national debt and plunging the country into a new recession.

Health care is shaping up as the first major migraine for Republicans. Trump has promised to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. Republicans are slathering over the repeal part but lack any collective sense of what to replace it with.

Here are the political and practical realities for Republicans. Repealing Obamacare is politically popular among Republicans. But not replacing it is a huge political risk for 2018. That’s led some Republicans to propose a kind of sleight-of-hand card trick in which they repeal Obamacare, with great fanfare, but don’t have that repeal kick in until after the next election cycle.

Trump this week said that repealing and replacing Obamacare should happen quickly and within “hours” of each other. Welcome to the real world, Mr. President. Congress is no reality show, and there isn’t a chance in the world of that happening.

So the first great fight in the Congress won’t be between Trump and Democrats. It will be between Trump and Republicans.

There are now 20 million people who have health insurance who didn’t have it six years ago. The majority of them can afford it because they receive a subsidy. That subsidy is paid by a “mandate” that requires everyone to either buy insurance or pay a fine.

Republicans hate the mandate, but after watching the polls for a while, they’ve joined other Americans in liking some of the benefits of Obamacare, which Trump has promised to keep.

All of that leaves Republicans with some hard choices. Kick people off health care and have them once again flood into emergency rooms, driving up insurance costs for everyone and risking a voter backlash in 2018. Keep some form of mandate but call it something else or fudge the numbers. Keep the good things in the current law and absorb trillions of dollars in new taxpayer spending. Or keep the framework of Obamacare but rename it RyanCare.

In other words, Republicans now have to pick their poison. Let’s hope they have health insurance.

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

]]> 0 Chibroski / Staff Photographer. Wednesday, August 8, 2012. Alan Caron portrait for Column.Sat, 14 Jan 2017 17:46:29 +0000
Maine Voices: There’s nothing ‘fake’ about real news written by responsible journalists Sat, 14 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 CAPE ELIZABETH — I hate how people are throwing around the term “fake news.” Technically, there’s no such thing.

There’s news – and then there’s propaganda, rumor, satire, lies, slander, gossip, innuendo, unconfirmed reports, opinion, hearsay, commentary, rhetoric, comedy, hyperbole, send-before-midnight infomercials, “political speech” and tweets.

There’s a difference, and the people who publish the news have traditionally done a crummy job of explaining themselves. News, as practiced for years by “ink-stained wretches” like myself (I worked in five Maine newsrooms and was a national correspondent based in Washington, D.C.) is a meticulously researched, vetted, double-checked, precisely written and edited product.

What you read or watch from a traditional news operation has routinely been reliably sourced, verified and very carefully written, for two main reasons:

 The reporters and editors subscribe to a strict code of ethics.

 They don’t want to be sued. (Publishers frown on that.)

In the typical American newsroom of a mainstream newspaper like the one you’re reading, a reporter will call her sources and write the story that forms from her notes. That draft then goes to the reporter’s editor – in larger newspapers, to another editor or two – before it gets placed on the page. Mistakes like misspellings, unverified assumptions, insertion of opinion or other errors are screened out. Controversial stories get even more stringent review before they see the light of day. And when they make mistakes, journalists admit them and hold themselves accountable.

Here’s how information via Twitter reaches its audience. Somebody types it into their smartphone and hits a button. Done.

Internet-based sites like BuzzFeed are somewhere in the middle. They may have editors on staff, but the whole operation has been seduced by a technology and culture that value speed over accuracy.

Please, dear reader, understand: Just because it lit up our smartphone screen doesn’t mean it’s the truth, the whole truth or anything close to the truth. Toddlers can type. Monkeys can type. All that Twitters is not gold.

We need to all step back and pay closer attention to the stark differences between solidly sourced, carefully reported news and the latest tweet from whoever has the fastest thumbs. Citizens reacting – or overreacting – to unsubstantiated or flatly incorrect information is not a new problem in our society (The Salem witch trials come to mind.), but technology has exacerbated the problem.

Today, every Tom, Dick and Harry with a smartphone can instantly “publish” anything they like, so it’s become everybody’s job to think like an editor, starting with the classic question: “Sez who?”

Who said it? What do they have to gain? What’s their history on this issue? Do they represent one political philosophy or another? Is this information backed up by independent research, or is it opinion disguised as fact? By the way, PUTTING IT IN CAPITAL LETTERS DOESN’T MAKE IT TRUE, EITHER.

There’s no reason why “citizen journalists” – another term I heartily dislike – can’t use the new technology effectively and for the public good, by observing guidance such as the code put forth by the Society of Professional Journalists.

“Though Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media are new to the market, it does not excuse journalists using those platforms from the evolving rules and ethics of journalism,” writes Alex Veeneman, a Chicago-based journalist and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Ethics Committee.

“The Society’s Code of Ethics calls for journalists to seek truth and report it, and that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy. Seek truth and report it presents a two-fold role in the social media age – informing audiences with the most up-to-date information but also using it to get the facts, verifying user generated content and help it tell the most accurate and impartial story possible.”

Earlier this week, National Press Club President Thomas Burr issued a statement on the topic, which said in part:

“With the proliferation of false news stories dotting the internet, it is important for American leaders to discern the difference and not intentionally conflate misleading and fake stories from dogged and investigative news that is fundamental to our country.”

Don’t get me wrong. Journalists are not high priests, free from human failings. But the ones I’ve known try very, very hard to be fair and accurate. To those professionals, words matter, and “fake news” is a dangerous contradiction in terms.

]]> 0 from USA Daily News 24, a fake news site registered in Veles, Macedonia. An Associated Press analysis using web intelligence service Domain Tools shows that USA Daily News 24 is one of roughly 200 U.S.-oriented sites registered in Veles, which has emerged as the unlikely hub for the distribution of disinformation on Facebook. Both stories shown here are bogus.Fri, 13 Jan 2017 21:20:53 +0000
Garrison Keillor: Hanging out down South: I could live in a place like this Sat, 14 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 I’ve been down in South Carolina and Georgia, an old Northern liberal in red states, enjoying a climate like April in January and the hospitality of gracious people, many of whom voted for He Who Does Not Need Intelligence, but they didn’t bring it up so neither did I.

I walked into Jestine’s Kitchen in Charleston and a waitress said, “Is there just one of you, sweetheart?” and her voice was like jasmine and teaberry. There was just one of me, though I wished there were two and she was the other one. She showed me to a table – “Have a seat, sweetheart, I’ll be right with you.” Liberal waitpersons up North would no more call you “sweetheart” than they would kiss you on the lips, and if you called one of them “sweetheart” she might hand you your hat. I ordered the fried chicken with collard greens and mashed potatoes and gravy and read a front-page story in the Charleston Post and Courier, and then the waitress brought the food and I dug in and it was luminous, redemptive – all that chicken and gravy could be. If this is what Makes America Great Again, I am all for it.

Charleston was where the ugliness started, what they call the War of Northern Aggression, what I call the War of Criminal Apprehension. I mean, they destroyed government property, they shot at Old Glory.

“A Confederate named Robert E. Lee

“Committed treason quite freely

“And General Grant

“Beat him up cause you can’t

“Attack federal troops – I mean really.”

We won the war because we had a righteous cause and better songs. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord” vs. “I wish I was in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten” – there’s no comparison. Ours has watchfires in it, flaring lamps, a trumpet, jubilant feet. The old times in the land of cotton were not enjoyed by the people who picked the cotton, but by the ones who sat on the porch with their mint juleps and wrote bad poetry about sunsets and weeping willows.

Like Lee, Republicans are smarter and more daring strategically, but what a sordid cause, that of the Count of Mar-a-Lago, no flaring lamps or trumpet, just glaring looks and Twitter, and it’s reassuring as you wander through Savannah and its 22 squares, most of them with a statue or a fountain, live oak trees draped with Spanish moss, and Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home and her bedroom window looking out at the twin spires of the Cathedral of St. John, to know that in Savannah, the Count got beat, by about 55 to 40 percent.

I sit in The Grey, a cafe in an old Greyhound depot, now serving Georgia oysters and a pork chop with grits and gravy, and a couple stops by my table, Henry and Octavia, who comment on my red socks – her father favored red socks – and, realizing I am not from here, they recommend I visit the old cemetery nearby and the Moon River that Johnny Mercer wrote about, which is not far away and though it is not “wider than a mile” – he only said so to rhyme with “crossing you in style” – it is worth visiting, especially a Geechee-Gullah oystering camp along it. And they sing me a little Gullah tune that goes, “Oh me, how good I feel, I come possession of an automobile. Now I can have chicken and I don’t have to steal because things are coming my way.”

A social encounter inspired by the mere fact of red socks: I thought to myself, “A person could live in a town like this.” I’ve spent time with people whose politics agreed with mine and who were cold fish indeed and now that I’m elderly and have time on my hands, maybe I’d enjoy hanging out with amiable, sweet-talking right-wingers. I’m just saying.

I’m an accidental Democrat anyway, only because my grandma was one. She kept quiet about it, living amongst hard-shell Republicans who believed that FDR was a drunk and there was no Depression and welfare was for shiftless people, but I sat in her kitchen as she baked bread and fried chicken and she said that women are as good as men and deserve to go to college if they can do the work, and black people are as good as whites, and people deserve a living wage, no matter how humble their work, so they can raise a family. I believe in that because she did and because her bread was so good and her fried chicken, too.

]]> 0 KeillorFri, 13 Jan 2017 20:32:29 +0000
Commentary: Trump and Congress must act quickly to stabilize insurance markets Sat, 14 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly promised voters he will repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Now he and his congressional allies have an obligation to fulfill that promise.

Despite some hysterical claims to the contrary, Congress isn’t going to throw millions of Americans out of coverage. Under Obamacare, most newly insured people have been enrolled in Medicaid, a welfare program, while the bulk of those covered in the troubled exchanges are getting generous taxpayer subsidies. Thus far, at least, congressional leaders appear focused on avoiding further disruption and securing a smooth transition, particularly for those enrolled in the exchanges and Medicaid.

Meanwhile, there is another, more pressing, problem. There are more than 10 million people in the individual market who get no ACA taxpayer subsidies for their insurance yet are being hit with staggering premium increases.

Moreover, there are also about 15 million Americans in the small-group markets – small-business employers and employees – who are likewise facing escalating premiums.

In the Obamacare exchanges, the average increase in the benchmark plan premium will be 25 percent for 2017 in the 39 states using the platform, and the exchange deductibles are positively breathtaking. For plans with the lowest premium costs, the so-called bronze plans, the average deductible for single coverage is $6,000 annually, while family coverage climbs to more than $12,000.

Premium subsidies aren’t available for many in the middle class. A single person making more than $47,000 is out of luck for help in offsetting her premium costs. And if she makes roughly $15 an hour, she will likely be ineligible for cost-sharing subsidies.

Trump and Congress are inheriting unstable insurance markets. In droves, millions of Americans expected to sign up in the exchanges have not; middle-class folks, especially young folks, clearly don’t see much value in high-priced insurance with crazy deductibles.

So a larger proportion of older and sicker people, whose claims costs are often higher than their premium contributions, are driving costs higher. And the individual mandate penalty, which is riddled with exemptions, isn’t much of an incentive to buy Obamacare coverage.

There has also been the steep reduction in health plan competition since the inception of the exchanges in 2014. By underpricing the product, perhaps in hopes of federal bailouts, and then failing to recover sufficient revenues, many of the plans have been losing money, and major plans have withdrawn from the exchanges altogether.

The Obama administration’s political remedies to enhance competition in the exchanges have either failed or become another excuse for more taxpayer bailouts. Note the stunning collapse of the co-op program – 18 out of 23 have disappeared from the markets – and the equally important but overlooked dismal performance of the federally sponsored multistate plans administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. They enroll just 440,000 people, or 4 percent of the entire exchange population.

The new president and Congress must act decisively to stabilize the insurance markets that exist as well as lay the groundwork for the improved markets they envision. Through a combination of early administrative and legislative actions, they can reduce costs and stabilize the insurance markets. Among the many other provisions to be enacted or implemented, they must do at least the following:

Reduce the costs in the individual and small-group markets by liberalizing insurance rules, particularly the federal benefit and insurance rating rules, which artificially drive up premium costs for young families.

Reduce the costs of employer-sponsored insurance. Administratively, this can be done by liberalizing the “grandfather rules,” thus allowing employers greater flexibility to alter or modify their plans, delaying the employer mandate reporting and penalty requirements. Legislatively, Congress should kill the employer mandate entirely.

Provide individual tax relief for Americans buying health insurance if they do not or cannot get health care coverage through the place of work.

Trump and Congress must move quickly to prevent even greater disruption to the badly damaged health insurance markets. While Obamacare was designed to insure the uninsured, now Obamacare costs threaten to uninsure those who are insured. It’s time to act.

]]> 0 Fri, 13 Jan 2017 20:58:37 +0000
Barbara Bush: DeVos should be confirmed secretary of education Fri, 13 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 I am enthusiastically endorsing Betsy DeVos to be our next secretary of education. Mrs. DeVos has a real compassion for children and a proven record of championing reforms to improve literacy and learning in our nation. I am confident that she will provide the leadership we sorely need to raise the bar on education in America and provide better opportunities for our most vulnerable students.

For the past 25 years, I have worked to find solutions to the high illiteracy rate in America. This is one of the most significant problems contributing to the intractable nature of poverty in our country and we need more leaders like Betsy DeVos who understand the stakes involved. Sadly, there are 36 million adults in America today who are either functionally illiterate or have low literacy skills. We need to get serious about promoting proven solutions at the state level that put a premium on ensuring children are proficient readers by the third grade. Research shows that students who are not reading at grade level by the third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma. The economic consequences of poor reading skills will haunt these unfortunate children throughout their lives.

Betsy DeVos has helped pass reforms to drive gains in literacy. The Great Lakes Education Project she founded in Michigan was instrumental in passing a comprehensive reading law last year that provides extra tutoring to struggling students and other intervention strategies to ensure that kids are leaving third grade with the literacy skills they will need to succeed in later grades. Reading is truly the building block of a successful education, and Mrs. DeVos has fought hard to ensure that elected officials in her home state and across the nation are giving literacy its proper attention.

I also believe Mrs. DeVos has the right priorities on important issues such as school choice, early childhood development and accountability in education. I have worked with Mrs. DeVos’ advocacy organizations for years and I know that her commitment to children runs deep. She believes passionately that children should have access to high performing schools regardless of their race, income or zip code. That is why she has fought valiantly to give parents of at-risk children the right to send their kids to charter and private schools when the public school system is letting them down.

The problems in American education are complicated. There are no quick and easy one-size-fits-all fixes. Rather than trying to micromanage our schools with a top-down approach from Washington, D.C., Betsy DeVos will rely on the creative energies of the state laboratories of democracy. Sending more funding and authority over our schools back to the states will empower governors and reformers at the local level to experiment with innovative reforms that ensure our children are obtaining the skills and knowledge they need to compete in the modern economy while measuring success each and every step of the way.

I believe Mrs. DeVos is an educator at heart. She is a woman who has dedicated much of her adult life to fighting some really tough battles on behalf of our nation’s school children, including mentoring children for decades in her home state of Michigan. There are powerful forces in our education system that are resistant to change. Mrs. DeVos has the courage to do the thing for parents and their children.

I know Betsy DeVos is the right woman to help usher in an era of education reforms that can drive significant improvement in student achievement. She has a big heart, a strong backbone and she wants to serve in Washington for only one reason: to make a difference in the lives of America’s school children. We need more people like Mrs. DeVos in our nation’s capital. She is the type of leader and reformer who can bring positive and lasting change to America’s classrooms.


]]> 0 Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos supports charter schools and vouchers. President-elect Donald Trump's incoming Cabinet embodies a sharp turn from the Obama administration. Associated Press/Andrew HarnikFri, 13 Jan 2017 12:33:30 +0000
Commentary: Maine Sen. Susan Collins should vote for the Affordable Care Act Fri, 13 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Health care is a human right, not a luxury. As a medical student, I see what happens when people lack access to care: manageable chronic diseases can turn into life-threatening catastrophes. Unpredictable events – like a car accident or appendicitis – become not only medical emergencies, but financial nightmares.

As a future doctor, I know what will happen if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. Mainers will get sicker. Many will go bankrupt. Some will die.

That’s why, on Monday, I traveled to the nation’s capital on behalf of over 4,500 medical students and other future health professionals to urge Congress to repair the ACA – not repeal it. There, I met with a lawmaker some have deemed the “most important person” in the health care debate: Maine’s very own senator, Susan Collins.

Over the last few weeks, Sen. Collins has publicly expressed her reservations, even co-sponsoring an amendment to delay the proposed ACA repeal timeline. When I met with her, she told me she knows how important it is to ensure coverage for Mainers. However, when push came to shove Wednesday evening, Sen. Collins voted in favor of ripping health insurance away from millions.

Perhaps she forgot the numbers. By some estimates, 95,000 Mainers could lose coverage if Congress repeals the ACA without immediate replacement. Over 500,000 Mainers, almost 40 percent of the state, currently have pre-existing conditions; their insurance coverage, no matter where it comes from, could be threatened by an ACA repeal. Amidst the conversations about arcane health policy, it is easy to forget the crux of this debate: Is it acceptable to leave our friends, families and neighbors without the dignity of knowing they can access a doctor when they need one?

For me, this is personal. I come from a family deeply invested in the well-being of Maine communities. My father, Martin, served as majority whip in the state Legislature in the 1980s. My mother, Anne, has worked to restore fisheries and encourage economic development along the coast for over 30 years. My younger sister, Rosamond, spent a summer in college working on Mike Michaud’s gubernatorial campaign. Their examples inspired me to enter medicine. When I finish my training, I want to return to Maine and serve the communities that raised me by keeping Mainers healthy and giving them the opportunity to live to their fullest potential.

Sen. Collins probably had similar aspirations when she first ran for office. That’s why it’s so disappointing to see her contemplating placing Mainers in harm’s way.

I’ve heard from Mainers across the state who depend upon the ACA: lobstermen who got coverage for the first time, a pregnant woman who lost her employee-sponsored insurance and a quadriplegic man living on a fixed income who didn’t qualify for MaineCare.

I heard from obstetrician-gynecologists in Augusta and Biddeford who have seen appointments for pap smears, mammograms and long-acting contraception increase since the ACA and are worried that if it is repealed, Maine women will lose access to these absolutely essential services.

They all agreed that while the ACA isn’t perfect, it’s providing critical protection. A vote to repeal it without a better plan is a vote against Maine.

Ensuring that every Mainer has access to modern medical care is not a radical ask. Every decent society takes care of its citizens in this basic way.

I am concerned that Sen. Collins has lost her moral compass and will sacrifice the lives of the most vulnerable Mainers to curry favor with Republican leadership. I fear she is placing party politics over the well-being of her constituents, and my future patients.

As a medical student and, more importantly, as a Mainer, I would find that morally reprehensible. Sen. Collins herself has said that ACA repeal without replacement would be irresponsible. Doing that in the face of political pressure would display profound cowardice.

Maine deserves a leader who can stand up against her own party when lives are on the line. If Sen. Collins is not willing to display this necessary courage, she has failed us as our representative. We must demand more.

My parents taught me that to be a good Mainer is to look out for my friends and neighbors and to make sure no one is left behind. I’m only asking that Sen. Collins does the same.


]]> 0 Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, calls conservative Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama a leader of integrity. Attacks on his past are unfair, she states.Fri, 13 Jan 2017 18:55:16 +0000
Maine Voices: Is biomass energy carbon neutral? Not when you look at the facts Fri, 13 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 WYTOPITLOCK — Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King have proposed an amendment to the Senate clean energy bill that would officially classify biomass energy as “carbon neutral.” This designation would mean that all uses of biomass for energy would be considered to add no net carbon to the atmosphere; thus, they would qualify for renewable energy credits and other favored treatments.

The science, however, does not support such congressional designation. Indeed, 65 scientists with backgrounds in energy, soils, forest ecosystems and climate change sent a letter to the Senate arguing that it is not a good idea to declare all biomass energy as “carbon neutral.” “Legislating scientific facts,” they wrote, “is never a good idea, but is especially bad when the ‘facts’ are incorrect.”

The argument for biomass being carbon neutral assumes that the amount of carbon being emitted by harvesting and burning is balanced by the carbon being sequestered and stored by trees, regardless of what is cut, how it is cut, what is left behind, what is the rate of cutting, what is used for biomass, how much energy goes into processing and transportation or even how efficiently the biomass is used.

These factors, however, can determine whether biomass is part of the solution to global climate change, or part of the problem. Calling biomass “carbon neutral” does not make it so.

Most of the carbon in forest ecosystems is stored in the soil. Recent studies have shown that heavy cutting, especially whole-tree removals that expose or disturb the soil, can lead to soil carbon losses that can last for decades. Those arguing for the carbon neutral status of biomass are not accounting for such ecosystem losses from intensive cutting.

There are no regulations in Maine to prevent such heavy cutting. There are no regulations to prevent landowners from cutting more than growth. And there are no regulations to prevent conversion of extensive areas from mature to immature stands.

It takes decades to grow a mature tree. It takes minutes to burn that same tree. We need to start reducing carbon emissions in the atmosphere now. If a landowner cuts heavily on short rotations, the stand, and ultimately the ownership landscape, will not be able to recover the original ecosystem carbon storage even after a century.

If climate change is truly a concern, then the dual goals should be to increase carbon sequestration and reduce carbon emissions. To increase carbon sequestration, it would be better to manage for higher-volume forests with bigger trees. To reduce carbon emissions, it would be better to reduce burning both wood and fossil fuels; but if they are burned, that should be done in the most efficient way.

The biggest market for biomass in Maine is for wood-fired electric generators. Current commercial biomass electric power plants in Maine, are, in general, less than 25 percent efficient – less efficient than fossil fuel electric power generators. The stack emissions of carbon dioxide (as well as pollutants such as aromatic hydrocarbons or particulates) from these biomass electric plants are greater per megawatt of electricity than the emissions from fossil fuel-fired plants, including coal-fired plants.

It is far more efficient to use the heat generated from burning biomass to heat buildings than it is to use it to supply electricity. It is possible to have close to 90 percent efficiency if the wood is burned primarily for heat – with electricity as an added benefit. This dual use is called “co-generation,” or combined heat and power.

Low-grade wood does not have to be burned. There are other possible markets that could be encouraged in Maine, such as cross-laminated timbers, which isolate the wood’s carbon from the atmosphere for decades. These products can replace steel and concrete, which have more embodied energy in production.

Declaring all uses of wood for energy “carbon neutral,” therefore, can reward both climate-unfriendly forest practices and climate-unfriendly biomass burning. But the impacts are also inefficient economically. Burning wood to create electricity is not competitive, unless it’s subsidized. In 2016, Central Maine Power testified that over the last 20 years, biomass power plants in Maine have received $2.6 billion in ratepayer subsidies.

These subsidies haven’t been enough to prevent plants from shutting down anyway. The Maine Legislature voted last year in favor of an additional $13.4 million in subsidies to prevent further biomass energy plant shutdowns. Subsidizing higher-cost electricity will, according to CMP, lead to $23.4 million in higher electricity costs in just the first year. Making the public pay with tax money and higher utility rates adds economic insult to the allowable ecological injuries.


]]> 0, 13 Jan 2017 09:02:43 +0000
Commentary: I can’t support $60 million Portland school bond, City Councilor Ray says Thu, 12 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 I am a teacher. I have taught in public schools.

I know that good schools are central to the well-being and prosperity of a community. I also know that here in Portland, we need significant updates at all 17 of our schools.

Passing a narrowly focused $60 million to $70 million bond will not help us to achieve that goal. In fact, it will do the opposite. It will leave the most pressing needs in our school system unmet while raising property taxes, eliminating teaching positions and decreasing municipal services. Here’s why:

While the idea for this bond came from a good place, it is focused on renovating just four elementary buildings. That’s because concerned parents banded together to seek improvements at their children’s neighborhood schools – and those schools have significant needs. But so do many other Portland schools.

A recent systemwide assessment of our school facilities concluded that across the district, we’ll need to make a minimum of $321 million in capital improvements over the next 20 years. These improvements are not optional. They include things like life safety and security upgrades, sanitary waste system overhauls, and foundation repairs. Passing a bond focused on just four schools now will make it impossible to perform these updates without significant cuts to other parts of the school budget.

Let’s talk numbers for a minute. If we pass this bond and don’t cut teachers, ed techs and bus drivers or significantly decrease other city services, property taxes would increase by 30 percent during the first three years of borrowing. That means that a September 2021 tax bill for a property valued at $225,000 would be $6,336. That’s too much for many local taxpayers to pay, especially when we have other options.

There are opportunities for state funding to help defray the costs of updating our schools. The state has a Major Capital School Construction fund for complete school rebuilds or renovations. The state also offers a Revolving Renovation Fund for smaller projects like adding an elevator or upgrading an electrical system. But school renovation projects that have been bonded locally are not eligible for state funding.

So, if we pass a bond for these four schools – two of which would likely receive major capital construction funds – we will be leaving a lot of state money on the table.

Applications for the current round of major capital construction funds are due in April 2017. We’ll know by June of 2018 which of our schools, if any, qualify for the next round of state funding. Some advocates for the four-school bond have said they don’t want to wait that long. That doesn’t make sense.

We can’t have four elementary schools under construction at the same time. We wouldn’t have enough space for our students. Therefore, the construction schedules would need to be staggered.

If we pass this bond in June, construction on the first school wouldn’t begin until spring of 2019 at the earliest. The second school wouldn’t be started until 2020 – two years after we’d know our state funding options. Bonding four schools at once is not just fiscally irresponsible, it’s poor planning. There is a better path forward.

The systemwide assessment that was completed in December includes a 20-year plan to update all 17 of our schools, two additional school facilities, and general district items like the phone system and replacement school buses.

This plan, with its $321 million price tag, covers the essential needs that we must address to ensure that all our schools are safe, healthy, accessible and structurally sound. The $60-$70 million bond currently being debated has never been the right starting point for this conversation. This systemwide survey showing that we have $321 million in capital improvements to complete over the next 20 years is.

This is the way to move forward. If you want to hold your representatives’ feet to the fire on school improvement, this is what you should be demanding. We must implement the 20-year systemwide capital improvement plan to upgrade and maintain all our schools. We must pursue every possible option for state funding. We must invest in our faculty and staff. And we must use local tax dollars wisely over time to make all our schools first-rate facilities.

This approach is equitable and fiscally responsible, and it will get us where we need to go. But it won’t be possible if we ignore the larger picture in favor of a well-intentioned but narrowly focused bond.

]]> 0 Wed, 11 Jan 2017 19:17:01 +0000
Dana Milbank: Flip-flopper McConnell shifts his principles according to who’s got power Thu, 12 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is a tough and wily operator. But he is opposed by an equally relentless and worthy adversary: Mitch McConnell.

Nobody in recent memory has argued so frequently and so passionately against himself as the Kentucky Republican. Oyez, oyez, oyez: Let us hear the case of McConnell v. McConnell.

In November, magnanimous McConnell spoke of restraint: “I think it’s always a mistake to misread your mandate, and frequently new majorities think it’s going to be forever. … We’ve been given a temporary lease on power, if you will.”

That was wise. Republicans won the White House and both chambers of Congress, but the president-elect lost the popular vote by almost 3 million and Republicans lost seats in Congress.

Yet, two months later, McConnell is treating his “temporary lease on power” as if it were St. Edward’s Crown.

He is hurrying through a repeal of Obamacare – using a procedure he once decried as a “power grab” – before Republicans come up with an alternative.

He’s preparing to use the same technique to overhaul the tax code. He is pushing ahead with nine confirmation hearings this week, five on Wednesday alone, the same day the Senate is scheduled to hold dozens of budget votes and President-elect Donald Trump planned a news conference. This will help protect the nominees from public scrutiny – even though most have not yet received the required vetting.

In politics, where you stand often depends on where you sit. If your party doesn’t control the Senate, for example, you’re more likely to value the filibuster. But McConnell’s principles are particularly situational.

Back in 2009, when he was minority leader, McConnell insisted, among other things, that nominees shouldn’t get hearings unless “the Office of Government Ethics letter is complete and submitted to the committee in time for review and prior to a committee hearing.”

Now, the OGE director warns that the GOP is rushing through “several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process,” leaving some “with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues.” The director noted that this violates the law.

But McConnell has reversed McConnell. “Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, illustrated McConnell’s reversal by sending him on Monday the same letter McConnell sent Democratic leader Harry Reid in 2009 demanding complete ethics reviews before hearings. Schumer crossed out “Harry” in the salutation and substituted “Mitch.”

Back in 2010, McConnell argued that using the budget process of “reconciliation” to pass Obamacare with a 50-vote majority in the Senate rather than a 60-vote supermajority “would be one of the most brazen single-party power grabs in legislative history.”

So what is McConnell doing now? Using reconciliation to eliminate Obamacare with a 50-vote majority.

Back in 2007, McConnell said that “we can stipulate” that “in the Senate it takes 60 votes on controversial matters.”

Now McConnell has signed on to using the same 50-vote maneuver to enact tax reform.

Back in 2011, McConnell proudly declared that “I voted for the Ryan budget.” But in 2014, when his opponent tried to tie him to the Paul Ryan budget cuts, McConnell’s campaign said that “there is no way to speculate” whether McConnell supported the Ryan budget in 2011.

A year ago, McConnell said he would block consideration of President Obama’s nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy “until we have a new president.”

Now, when Democrats floated the (improbable) notion that they wouldn’t act on President Trump’s nominee to the same seat, McConnell said that is “something the American people simply will not tolerate.”

McConnell said his position against filling the vacancy last year was so that “the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice.”

He said the opposite in a years-ago law-review article, when he argued that making “purely political decisions” in considering a Supreme Court nominee isn’t “an acceptable practice.”

In a typical McConnell speech in 2012, he argued that “the unique role of the Senate has been to protect the voice of the minority.”

Now he’s facing pressure from fellow Republicans to eliminate the filibuster, one of the main protections of minority rights in the Senate.

It’s too soon to say who will win this battle, but it promises to be another epic showdown between McConnell and McConnell.

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

]]> 0, 11 Jan 2017 19:15:01 +0000
Harness racing industry doesn’t get tax subsidies or ignore retired horses Thu, 12 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 GORHAM — In his Jan. 7 Maine Voices column, Robert Fisk declared that the state is “subsidizing … Maine’s harness racing industry.” The truth is that no taxpayer money is going into the harness racing industry.

Fisk states that “an $8.44 million taxpayer subsidy” went into racing in 2015. Again, let’s get it straight: Not a dime of citizens’ tax dollars went into racing. Even the cost of running the Maine State Harness Racing Commission, a state panel, is paid for by the harness racing industry.

The so-called subsidy is actually an agreement worked out among the harness racing industry, financier Shawn Scott and, later, Penn National Gaming to allow a casino into Maine by piggybacking on harness racing. Because the state controls gambling at racetracks and casinos, the money from betting at racetracks and in the casinos funnels through the state government.

The state of Maine takes a huge cut of this money. Each year, 1 percent of the gross revenue from the Hollywood Casino is taken in taxes. In 2015, that was over $4.3 million from the Hollywood Casino alone.

On top of that, the state also takes 39 percent of Hollywood Casino’s net slot revenue in taxes; 4 percent of that goes to the Gambling Control Board and another 10 percent to the Fund for a Healthy Maine. Of the 46 percent of net slot revenue that the state takes from the Oxford Casino, a big chunk goes to public K-12 and higher education. In all, the state General Fund and Gambling Control Board keep nearly $10 million of the over $45 million collected in tax revenue from the two casinos.

In contrast, the harness racing industry received a total of only about $8.4 million in 2015. These funds go to purses, drug testing, the cost of the Harness Racing Commission, support for commercial tracks and off-track betting, administration of the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association, retired horse care and promotion.

Unfortunately, a few lawmakers, including Fisk, a former legislator, think the state is entitled to any money that passes through its hands. Once again, casino revenues are not citizen taxpayer dollars. They are from taxes on the casinos, the highest-taxed business in Maine.

Some of the casino profits that are going back to harness racing are added to a fraction of the money bet at tracks and a sum paid by the Maine Sire Stakes horse owners to form the purses that horses race for. This is a small fraction of the total cost of harness racing. Most of the money in harness racing comes from breeders and racehorse owners and goes to farmers, feed dealers, veterinarians, farriers, trainers and drivers.

Fisk goes on to criticize the apparent lack of industry support for unwanted horses that was described in Colin Woodard’s article of Dec. 18. An example of Woodard’s negative slant is a quote by Robyn Cuffey, who stated that horse owners “are not putting a dime” toward the care of retired racehorses.

Cuffey is providing a good service. She is given retired racehorses, retrains them and sells them. Some of the original owners pay for the horse’s care while it is being retrained. Often the retraining is a donated service provided by volunteers.

While this service is helpful, many racehorse owners care for retired horses themselves. I have four retired horses at my farm at the moment. They will live out their lives here. I invite anyone to come and see how they are cared for.

I know other horse owners who keep or pay for retired horses. The racehorse industry in Maine also contributes $5,000 a year for the care of retired racehorses. Very few, if any, racehorses in Maine are sent to slaughter plants in Quebec, as Woodard reported and Fisk repeated.

Fisk would also like to see the “$3 million of the track’s (Scarborough Downs’) annual subsidy” go to the care of retired horses. In 2015, the “subsidy” to Scarborough Downs was just over $1 million; as Woodard reported, Scarborough Downs was allotted $3 million from the casinos that year, but $2 million was earmarked for purses.

While I am sure that Mr. Fisk is genuinely concerned about the care of retired racehorses, he uses factual errors, misrepresentation of facts and blatant sentimentality to bolster his arguments, and in the process, does a real disservice to the many women and men who love and care for racehorses in Maine.

]]> 0, ME - SEPTEMBER 24: Nick Graffam of Falmouth steers DW's Abby around the half-mile track at Cumberland Fair while "catch-driving" in the seventh race on Monday, September 24, 2016. (Photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)Wed, 11 Jan 2017 22:55:06 +0000
Leonard Pitts: Trump’s words don’t reflect what’s in his heart? Wrong – they’re a megaphone Wed, 11 Jan 2017 11:00:40 +0000 How about if we let Jesus answer Kellyanne Conway?

Donald Trump’s indefatigable apologist was at it again Monday on CNN, defending her boss against, of all people, Meryl Streep. The 19-time Oscar nominee got under Trump’s famously thin skin with a speech at Sunday night’s Golden Globes.

In it, she chastised him for, among other things, mocking Serge F. Kovaleski, a New York Times reporter who has arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that causes abnormal muscle development and severely restricted joint movements. Trump, lying as is his wont, has frequently denied what he did, even though the proof is as near as a Google search.

He denied it again while tweeting about Streep. Conway, appearing on CNN, took umbrage when anchor Chris Cuomo expressed skepticism.

“Why don’t you believe him?” she asked. “Why is everything taken at face value? You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.”

It bears repeating because even by the standards of Trump World, it’s a humdinger. Don’t listen to what the president-elect says, she says. Go by what’s in his heart.

Jesus saw that one coming 2,000 years ago: “A good man,” he taught, “brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

For those of you playing along at home, that’s Luke 6:45, the Son of God calling shenanigans on the son of Fred, and on Conway’s bizarre insistence that somehow people have – repeatedly – misread his intentions all these months.

Sorry, but if the eyes are windows to the soul, then the mouth is its megaphone, and Trump has used his repeatedly and effectively to tell us what sort of person he is.

So it’s funny, but frankly also chilling, to see Conway scurrying around at this late date, in effect asking America to grade Donald Trump on a curve. Don’t go by what comes out of his mouth?



She does know this man is about to be president, right? She realizes, doesn’t she, that a president’s words can incite revolution? That they can move the stock market? That they can get people killed?

Yet this woman thinks the problem with Trump’s mouth is the fact that we listen to it. In other words, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Is that to be the message our ambassadors give our foreign friends – and foes – for the next four years?

“Oh, don’t worry about it, Mr. Prime Minister. That’s just Donald. He’s just talkin’.”

Yeah. That’s totally not ridiculous.

To hear Conway tell it, some combination of Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama has been hiding in plain sight all along, except that somehow, Trump’s unruly mouth failed to properly represent Trump’s saintly heart and it’s all your fault, anyway, for believing words and actions have meaning.

The trouble is, inconvenient realities like this one insist on telling a different story. Indeed, the Kovaleski case is the whole tragedy of Donald Trump in microcosm: the scorn, the bullying, the pettiness, the lying, the self-delusion.

In the face of that, Conway’s entreaty to disregard Trump’s mouth and look into Trump’s soul is beyond asinine. Sorry, but Jesus – big surprise – was right.

“The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Trump’s mouth has made it starkly clear what fills his heart.

And, sadly, what does not.

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

]]> 0 Columnist Leonard Pitts. (Olivier Douliery/TNS)Tue, 10 Jan 2017 19:34:38 +0000
Maine Voices: Trump should follow Reagan’s precedent: Make ‘illegal aliens’ legal Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 President-elect Donald Trump made immigration policy a centerpiece of his campaign, and as he takes office in the coming weeks the issue will undoubtedly remain a top priority for him and for many Americans. With his political party holding both chambers of Congress, as well as a clear interest in immigration reform from the American public, there is the opportunity for the Trump administration to achieve substantive reform of U.S. immigration policy.

During his campaign, the president-elect focused on securing the southern border of the United States by constructing a physical wall. He also advocated for a more aggressive deportation policy for illegal immigrants. Since the election, though, he has suggested that the deportation efforts would focus on individuals with a criminal background, similar to the current policy under President Obama.

There is another option for reducing the population of “illegal aliens”: Make them legal.

This is a bolder, more comprehensive, approach, which has been undertaken in the past. It is worth remembering that in 1986, President Ronald Reagan implemented a sweeping legalization program that resulted in nearly 3 million people becoming legal residents of the United States. He’d said during his 1984 re-election campaign: “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though some time back they may have entered illegally.” It is time again to make a bold move like the one President Reagan made three decades ago.

If President-elect Trump chooses not to deport all of those who are here illegally – just as successive Republican and Democratic administrations have chosen not to do – then our immigration policy should be reformed to allow them to stay with the full protection of the law and the obligation to pay taxes.

A path to citizenship should be provided, allowing those who came here illegally to fully contribute to our society without fear of deportation or unjust treatment. This remedy is especially important for those children who were brought here by their families and are now adults or nearing adulthood.

Deporting them to a country that has never been their home would be cruel. Instead, these “dreamers” should be made full citizens of the United States and be allowed to realize their full potential as human beings.

In addition to providing a path to citizenship for immigrants who are already living in the United States, the Trump administration and the new Congress should also make reforms to encourage talented science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals to come to our country. STEM professionals are in demand throughout the world, and the United States is no exception.

There is a false notion underlying legal immigration that any job that goes to a foreign-born worker is a job lost by a U.S. citizen. In reality, hospitals, universities and technology businesses hire foreign workers because they are in desperate need of their skills.

As an immigration lawyer who works with such institutions across the country, I see this happening every day. While the United States is competing on a global stage for these talented professionals, our government is hamstringing the STEM sector by cutting off the number of H-1B visas granted each year at 85,000. Over the past few years, 200,000 to 300,000 of these work visas have been requested annually by U.S. companies, so two-thirds of requested visas are not granted. That means that talented doctors, computer scientists, drug researchers and engineers are contributing to the economies and scientific gains of other countries – not the United States.

The United States simply cannot afford to lose STEM professionals to other countries, as the global economy will continue to be driven by innovations in science and technology. We need to shift our immigration policy to welcome more STEM workers, and lifting the cap on H-1B visas would be a major step in the right direction.

The new administration has a mandate to fix our immigration system. It can be done – but only if the solutions are smart and compassionate and address the real needs of our communities and businesses.

]]> 0, 11 Jan 2017 08:48:28 +0000
Greg Kesich: Checks and balances on president soon to get a major workout Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Meryl Streep will not be leading the revolution.

It’s nice to know that the multiple award-winning actress used a moment at the Golden Globe Award show this week to voice her opposition to violence, bullying and demeaning portrayals of people with disabilities.

But speaking out against the government won’t exactly get you blacklisted in today’s Hollywood, so criticizing (by inference) the president-elect is a fairly safe move for a beloved liberal. It was an occasion for some social media chatter and not much else.

Susan Collins won’t be leading the revolution either, but she did something this week that was far more subversive than Streep’s comments but didn’t draw anywhere near as much attention.

Collins introduced an amendment with four Republican senators that would delay the repeal of Obamacare for about a month, giving members of Congress more time to come up with an alternative.

It may not sound like much. Putting off a decision until early March is hardly radical when you are talking about repealing a law that is famously thousands of pages long.

But it puts everyone on notice that there are at least five Republican senators who are not comfortable with repealing the law without a replacement in hand, and only three Republican defectors would be needed to stop repeal dead in its tracks.

Collins didn’t win many liberal friends Tuesday when she introduced Sen. Jeff Sessions to the Judiciary Committee as Donald Trump’s nominee to be attorney general. But outrage over Sessions’ appointment should not overshadow the fact that she has launched the most effective defense of the Affordable Care Act that we are likely to see this winter. Delay may save health insurance for millions of people, and could keep the government from defunding Planned Parenthood, something that liberal lions in the Senate are only in a position to talk about.

Collins has made it clear in the past that she is no fan of Obamacare – she never voted for it and has been a consistent advocate for a more market-driven approach to health coverage – but she’s not about to turn a campaign slogan into policy either. Her concern for the 20 million Americans (and 80,000 Mainers) who got coverage because of the reform law stops her from getting sloppy with its repeal.

Which puts her in the vanguard of a revolution of sorts – call it “the checks and balances revolution.”

Ever since Trump’s election, people have compared him to a Third World dictator who would wield power any way he pleased. In response, others have said that America is different. We have institutions that would prevent even a president from grabbing too much power.

We are going to find out if that’s true, but this move by Collins and the others is encouraging.

Any delay to the ACA repeal effort is sure to make the final result better, because the more you think about the issue, the less simple it starts to look.

When you really dig into it, the ACA does a lot of things that most Americans want. After you make it illegal to deny people insurance because they are sick and allow adults under 26 to stay on a parent’s policy, you may have to keep at least some of what makes the critics so mad – like mandating that everyone has to buy a policy – to keep the markets from collapsing into chaos.

Repealing the ACA could turn into a big rebranding operation. Throw some gold paint on it, call it “Trumpcare” and move on.

The president has tremendous power to direct government, but if institutions like the Senate or the courts can stand up to him, he won’t be able to run it like he runs his businesses (into bankruptcy).

The Senate stopped Franklin Roosevelt from packing the Supreme Court in 1937. The Supreme Court forced Nixon to turn over the tapes in 1974. These institutions have been tested before, but we are going to find out if they can still flex their muscles today.

One institution that has not yet found its footing is the Democratic Party.

If A-list celebrities were the only ones allowed to vote, Hillary Clinton would be working on her inaugural address. Donald Trump couldn’t even attract Ralph and Potsie from the “Happy Days” cast and had to settle for Chachi as his celebrity endorser.

But Democrats should remember that while people like Meryl Streep and Bruce Springsteen were warming up the crowds, Trump was filling large venues with people who wanted to hear what he had to say.

Until Democrats can do that, there won’t be any alternative to the Trump agenda.

In the meantime, Collins and the other co-sponsors can do something that no Democrat can, which is slow down the Obamacare repeal and keep insurance coverage for millions of people.

That would be pretty revolutionary.

Listen to Press Herald podcasts at

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

Twitter @gregkesich

]]> 0 Patriquin/Staff Photographer.Wed. July,25, 2012. News room mug shots Greg Kesich. (Photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer)Tue, 10 Jan 2017 22:31:38 +0000
Charles Lawton: Sure, all politics are local, but now all economics are, too Tue, 10 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Back in the 1980s, then-Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill famously declared: “All politics is local.” This aphorism served as a useful tool for navigating the ideological divide between him and Republican President Reagan, and allowed them to achieve significant advances in, among others, the issues of tax reform and modifications of Social Security.

Today, we face similar challenges in both of those issues as well as others involving health care, international trade and government regulation of economic policy. Today, however, the divide is less between Democrats and Republicans than between globalists and nationalists, and the applicable aphorism that could guide a pragmatic rapprochement between the two sides is: “All economics is local.”

For nationalists, the simple solution to the loss of jobs to international competitors is: “Slap a tariff on the imported product, and keep the jobs here.” The pragmatic response of global producers is: “Build plants in target markets, and import the parts from the most competitive suppliers.” Both Fords and Toyotas become “American” cars and the easily identified “jobs” problem becomes a scattered (and thereby less political) problem of finding the logistical and supply-chain location of a myriad of far smaller and less well-known parts suppliers. In Maine, the phenomenon is manifest in the decline of former well-known legacy paper mills (International Paper, Great Northern Paper) producing advertising flyers and tissue paper sold in the U.S. and the simultaneous strengthening of the local (Westbrook) branch of the international company (Sappi) that uses its invented and patented in Maine “release paper” technology to supply high value design components to global industries ranging from automobiles to shoes and apparel.

A simple-minded nationalist policy to “protect U.S. paper mills” would, in actual application, help some regions of Maine while hurting others. The same effects would apply to virtually every sector of Maine’s economy. We need look no farther than the effects on our largest industry, tourism, of the rising value of the U.S. dollar relative to the Canadian dollar to see the negative consequences of simple, across-the-board solutions applied to complex, interconnected problems.

Equally true is the growing recognition among all Maine businesses that the most serious threat facing our economy is the ever more clearly emerging shortage of workers. Forget about the complex, highly skilled labor force of the future, our first and foremost problem now is simply to replace the workers we have today. According to the most recent projections from the Department of Labor, about 90 percent of the job openings over the next decade will be to fill expected vacancies created by current employees who retire or die. Maine’s overriding economic problem today is talent acquisition.

And therein lies the usefulness of the “all economics is local” aphorism. In the old days, economic development at the local level was largely about real estate – create an industrial park, bring in the utilities and troll for commercial/industrial catches. Today, the central resource is people. Therefore, the key to developing a community is its attractiveness to capable workers. This means creating a range of housing options, quality schools, ease of access to major transportation links, availability of high-speed internet access and a close relationship between businesses and educational enterprises.

And increasingly, these characteristics are within the realm of local policymakers to affect. While many lament the lack of financial support from Augusta and the increasing burden on local property tax payers, municipal leaders in tune with the opportunities for growth in Maine and with their power to make the most of those opportunities have far greater power than they think. Working closely with businesses that are increasingly obsessed with “talent acquisition,” it is increasingly within their power through innovative educational programs, business welcoming regulatory practices and a focus on diversifying zoning and housing policies to make their towns and cities places where the workers Maine’s businesses so desperately need will want to live. While national and state governments are likely to remain mired in the ideological battles of the recent past, cities and towns have the opportunity to appeal to and build on the pragmatic call to action that the election results of 2016 seem to indicate their citizens want.

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

]]> 0 stack of marked logs ready to be processed off Route 4 in Turner. Players in Maine's forest products industries are trying to adapt to changing markets, such as mills that <a href="And players in Maine's forest products industries are frequently changing to adapt to change markets. ">recently converted to produce specialty products</a>.Mon, 09 Jan 2017 19:37:48 +0000 Maine Voices: Take sides with the water protectors, in Maine or North Dakota Tue, 10 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

– Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963

BANGOR — I had to act. When I saw the live Facebook stream of the attack on water protectors near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, I drove out to North Dakota to stand with them.

Seeing rubber bullets, tear gas, concussion grenades, water hoses and high-tech sonic equipment deployed against citizens peacefully protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline reminded me of footage of Selma, Alabama, in 1965, when unarmed peaceful Freedom Riders were brutally attacked by police. I thought America was done with this type of government-led violence, but racism and the power of money still rule.

When I arrived, I spoke with a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who was present for the events of Nov. 20 and 21. He recounted the terrible morning when the National Guard and law enforcement fired rubber bullets and sprayed water on campfires that people were using to stay warm, before turning the hoses on the people themselves. The temperature was below freezing; over 300 people were injured, and 26 were hospitalized with injuries including hypothermia.

Thousands showed up over a two-day period prior to eviction day, Dec. 5. Action training was given, a very sobering training on how to protect oneself and look out for the safety of others during actions taken by authorities, water protectors or both. Trainers shared that all communications were being monitored by authorities and that informants for the oil company and law enforcement were known to be in camp.

A news conference made clear that all actions taken by the Standing Rock Sioux water protectors had been done and would be done in a “peaceful and prayerful” manner, in the words of David Archambault II, spokesperson for the tribe.

The national media didn’t turn out in great numbers to cover Standing Rock until the beginning of December. I had tried in vain in Bangor to get the local ABC and CBS affiliates to run stories, but apparently local stations will run only stories that their national affiliates would run. Where have the mainstream media been? Does the color of one’s skin make a difference? Does the power of money?

On Dec. 4, a group of about 200 veterans led by Wesley Clark Jr. gathered at Cannon Ball, North Dakota, just south of the encampment to hear Iraq veteran and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii thank them for standing in solidarity with the water protectors. When she was finished, Clark emphasized that the Sioux Nation was in charge and the veterans would follow the Sioux Nation’s lead, helping out the people in camp rather than pursuing direct action.

More veterans continued to arrive during the day. A walk was in the works to the area where the barriers and law enforcement on Highway 1806 could be seen when word spread in camp that the easement allowing the pipeline to run under the river had been denied. A great sense of relief and celebration spread throughout the ranks of the veterans and the camp.

How do the actions of our government at Standing Rock apply to Maine? The administration of Gov. LePage is trying to make it easier for mining companies to dig into mountains here in Maine. That will pollute the pristine water in Maine’s lakes and streams.

The actions taken in North Dakota are directly tied to Maine. By standing up for clean water in North Dakota, we stand up for clean water in Maine and other parts of the U.S. If we fail to stand up and speak out for the water protectors, then we are complicit in pulling the triggers that send the rubber bullets or the tear gas into the water protectors.

Martin Luther King Jr. made that very clear. If we do not stand up against the violence against our neighbors, then we condone such violence. If we do not speak out against violence, then our silence speaks loudly for us. So where do you stand? For violence or against violence? For protecting water or polluting water?

In the coming years, water, a necessity of life, will be more valuable than oil. We must stand up for the water protectors and clean water, speak out against violence and take action.

]]> 0 sun rises over Oceti Sakowin camp during the ongoing protest against plans to build the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota,Mon, 09 Jan 2017 23:04:39 +0000
Abrupt repeal of Obamacare could cause instability, collapse insurance markets Tue, 10 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 For 30 years, Maine has been at the forefront in addressing problems in the health insurance market that make health insurance unavailable or unaffordable.

Maine governors and state legislators of both parties as well as independents collaborated to devise innovative laws, with varying degrees of success, to help stabilize the health insurance market in Maine and make it fair for consumers and health insurers alike. Nonetheless, this has been difficult due to the relatively small size of the market and the uncertainty about who would purchase policies each year.

As former chief insurance regulators in Maine, we believe that the best form of consumer protection is to ensure that consumers can make informed decisions when purchasing coverage from financially sound companies in a healthy competitive marketplace. The health insurance market, like other markets, seeks a measure of predictability for the firms offering products in those markets. We are concerned that some of the contemplated actions in Washington, D.C., could have terrible consequences for thousands of Maine citizens.

Maine has been a leader in empowering consumers and seeking to create a stable market for insurers. Since 1992, Maine citizens have had protections for pre-existing conditions. However, many Mainers have struggled to buy and keep their health insurance because of cost. The market reforms that Maine and other New England states had already adopted served as the model for the ACA, such as protecting people with pre-existing conditions. The ACA has helped nearly 85,000 Mainers afford health insurance by reducing their monthly premiums (also called advanced premium tax credit) and has helped reduce out-of-pocket expenses like co-insurance and copays through cost-sharing reductions.

The ACA also tried to strengthen the individual health insurance market, which is inherently fragile. Historically, the business risk in the individual health insurance market was driven by the likelihood that only sick people would enroll, along with the regulatory requirements imposed on the market participants. The ACA includes a number of important elements designed to stabilize and shore up the private individual health insurance market.

To ensure that both healthy people and those with medical needs enrolled, the ACA requires everyone to be covered and includes a tax penalty for people who choose not to do so. This mandate is important because insurance pools operate under the law of large numbers and must have healthy people in addition to sick enrollees. The ACA’s requirement for individuals to be insured also helps keep the individual health insurance market predictable for insurers and the risk pool stable. The basic principles of insurance only work if people purchase insurance as a part of a large pool on an ongoing basis – without knowing whether one will need to file a claim this year, next year or ever.

The problem is that the “repeal” approaches under consideration in Washington create uncertainty with negative implications for private health insurance markets, especially the individual market. Knowing the rules enables insurers to assess whether they can be viable in a state or a market. In some states there is already only one statewide insurer; a further loss of insurers means that there would be no private health insurance options. Absent private insurance options, individuals would be responsible for the full cost of their medical care or compelled to rely on public programs. Neither option offers financial security for the individual or the government.

Also, insurers in the individual market and in the exchange marketplaces used several key assumptions based on existing law when they set their premiums for 2017. These assumptions included the individual responsibility requirement and the risk stabilization mechanisms. If Congress were to repeal the law without first replacing it with new provisions that keep people covered and based on sound actuarial analyses, such action would render the assumptions built into 2017 rates for the individual market incorrect and likely contribute to insurer withdrawal.

For insurers staying in a market, an uncertain regulatory environment could impose financial pressure on insurer solvency. These concerns would further destabilize individual markets, possibly resulting in large premium increases, the need for state financial support, and even regulators stepping in to prohibit insurers from enrolling new customers in order to prevent an insolvency.

As we know in Maine from careful study and bipartisan efforts over many years, any changes to the individual health insurance market must be pursued with extreme caution. As former insurance regulators, we are very concerned that abrupt or ill-considered changes to the current system without the careful and considered input of objective actuarial and market analyses could cause the individual health insurance markets to collapse in many states, and in Maine, thousands of Mainers to lose their health coverage.


]]> 0, 09 Jan 2017 19:44:08 +0000
Maine Voices: Sessions’ record suggests he wouldn’t do justice to women’s rights Mon, 09 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 AUGUSTA — On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the nomination of U.S. Sen. Jefferson Sessions to become the 83rd attorney general of the United States.

The hearing comes more than 20 years after John Salvi, a deeply troubled abortion opponent, murdered two staff members and injured five others at two women’s health centers in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Salvi fled and was arrested in Norfolk, Virginia, within 48 hours. His 1994 murder spree was the latest during an 18-month period in which Dr. David Gunn was murdered in Florida (1993); Dr. George Tiller was shot in both arms in Kansas (1993); and Dr. John Bayard Britton and his bodyguard, James Barrett, were shot and killed in Florida (1994). These victims were all abortion providers. (Tiller survived the 1993 attack; he did not survive a subsequent attack in 2009.)

The effect of the Brookline killings on abortion providers was regionwide and immediate. In Maine, the state’s largest provider of abortion care closed his practice. (Later it was revealed that a shot had been fired into the door of the building housing the doctor’s practice and a threatening note pinned above the bullet hole.) Within months of the Brookline violence, three physicians in Maine’s midcoast area followed suit.

In response to the provider crisis, Gov. John McKernan convened a meeting at the Blaine House of abortion providers, including several physicians, and three nonprofit women’s health care providers. The doctors gathered at Maine Family Planning’s Augusta site and were transported to the governor’s residence by state troopers.

At the news conference following the meeting, McKernan encouraged the state attorney general, Michael Carpenter, to find a solution that allowed women safe access to abortion care.

Carpenter’s office provided critical assistance in helping one provider, Maine Family Planning, to locate a safe site in Augusta where since 1996 women have been able to access abortion care and where medical residents from across the state are trained to provide the service.

Meanwhile, at the federal level, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno founded the National Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers and dispatched federal marshals across the nation, wherever credible threats of possible violence were reported.

Twenty-three years later, we have Jeff Sessions as Donald Trump’s nominee to become the U.S. attorney general. Why should Maine women and their families be concerned?

As the very first U.S. senator to come out in support of Donald Trump’s candidacy, Sessions – a lawyer, a former aspirant to the federal bench and now the likely attorney general in a Trump administration – said he wasn’t sure that grabbing a woman by her genitals constituted sexual assault.

As a senator, he has voted against funding for the Violence Against Women Act, has sponsored and supported numerous attempts to limit access to abortion, and has voted to defund abortion providers.

Sessions is a darling of the anti-abortion lobby, having recently served as an honorary co-chair at the 40th anniversary dinner of Americans United for Life.

He has a 0 percent lifetime rating from NARAL, and the John Birch Society rates him among the four most conservative members of the U.S. Senate.

As the nation’s top law enforcement officer, he and his Justice Department will be responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws intended to protect a host of groups who have every reason to fear this man’s ascension to power, including women seeking to access abortion care and the medical professionals who risk their lives to make that care available.

During a time of extreme abortion-related violence, Gov. McKernan – a Republican – and Maine Attorney General Michael Carpenter – a Democrat – joined U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and set aside whatever political differences they may have had to enforce the law. Judiciary Committee members need to do the same by questioning Sessions closely about his willingness to vigorously enforce the laws meant to protect women and those who serve them.

A strong signal needs to be sent that Sessions and President-elect Trump will be held accountable by those of us in Maine who support a woman’s right to decide her reproductive future, both for their actions – and for their failures to act.

]]> 0, 09 Jan 2017 11:18:27 +0000
Cynthia Dill: ‘Intersectionality’ defines Women’s March on Washington Sun, 08 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 There is a difference between a march and a protest: One moves forward, the other pushes back. There’s also a difference between a sore loser and someone who accepts the sting of defeat with humility and lives to fight another day.

On Jan. 20, the 45th president of the United States will be sworn in, and festive, well-deserved celebrations will be had by the new commander in chief, his family and his supporters.

On Jan. 21, all defenders of human rights are cordially invited to take their first step forward in the Women’s March on Washington. The mission is to celebrate and exercise the freedoms Americans are blessed to enjoy regardless of who wins an election.

“In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore,” according to a press release from march organizers. “The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”

The march location is the intersection of Independence Avenue and Third Street SW in Washington, D.C., and the theme is women’s rights as human rights. But this is not your grandmother’s Buick. Liberal white feminism focused mostly on abortion rights is not the face of the anticipated crowd. The prism through which marchers will march is one of “intersectionality,” a term coined by a law professor that now serves as currency in social justice circles seeking to recognize multifaceted levels of identity and power.

Race and gender intersect in life, but not always in law or special-interest groups. Eager to redress an absurd legal decision that found no unlawful discrimination against a black woman named Emma DeGraffenried who was denied employment at General Motors – even though the company had a policy that gave certain jobs only to men and all other jobs only to white women – UCLA law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw gave this invisibility a name. What happened to DeGraffenried was not like what happened to white women or black men, so the discrimination she and other black women experienced at General Motors fell through the cracks. She was invisible, and justice was blind.

“The black jobs were men’s jobs, and the women’s jobs were only for whites. Thus, while a black applicant might get hired to work on the floor of the factory if he were male, if she were a black female she would not be considered. Similarly, a woman might be hired as a secretary if she were white but wouldn’t have a chance at that job if she were black. Neither the black jobs nor the women’s jobs were appropriate for black women since they were neither male nor white,” Crenshaw told the Washington Post.

Women who are not middle class and white who felt invisible in the previous iterations of the evolving women’s movement will be on the front lines of the Women’s March on Washington, an obvious step in the right direction.

“Intersectionality is an analytic sensibility, a way of thinking about identity and its relationship to power,” Crenshaw said. “Originally articulated on behalf of black women, the term brought to light the invisibility of many constituents within groups that claim them as members but often fail to represent them. Intersectional erasures are not exclusive to black women. People of color within LGBTQ movements; girls of color in the fight against the school-to-prison pipeline; women within immigration movements; trans women within feminist movements; and people with disabilities fighting police abuse all face vulnerabilities that reflect the intersections of racism, sexism, class oppression, transphobia, able-ism and more. Intersectionality has given many advocates a way to frame their circumstances and to fight for their visibility and inclusion.”

The journey ahead under the Trump administration is uncharted, and it is fraught with peril given the tone of the campaign and many of the nominees for Cabinet positions, but there is opportunity for justice, peace and understanding if we can navigate the crossroads. Defenders of human rights have the dual capacity and obligation to acknowledge the peaceful transition of power while strengthening their ranks and charging their battery. At least that’s what Teresa Shook, a retired attorney in Hawaii, thought when she first posted the idea for a march on Facebook shortly after the election results were in. What if a bunch of women not happy with the offensive rhetoric of the campaign marched en masse on the capital in solidarity at the inauguration?

The idea of a Women’s March on Washington was so simple and catchy – so powerful – that it went viral and morphed. It’s a good sign that organizers so far have been able to navigate the crossroads and clear the intersections for the event. The mission of the march remains simple and powerful – a good first draft of what might be the new movement: stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health and our families, recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.

Old dogs love new tricks, and the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. Shook has since passed off the march baton to a diverse group of intersectional organizing experts because she saw them.

“I guess in my heart of hearts I wanted it to happen, but I didn’t really think it would’ve ever gone viral,” said Shook, who is in her 60s. “I don’t even know how to go viral.”

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

Twitter: dillesquire

]]> 0, ME - SEPTEMBER 28: Cynthia Dill, a new columnist, was photographed on Monday, September 28, 2015. (Photo by Yoon S. Byun/Staff Photographer)Fri, 06 Jan 2017 18:54:59 +0000
Alan Caron: Rural Maine may well be a critical element of our future economy Sun, 08 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Rural Maine’s story is a hard one. Like most of rural America, it has been in decline for decades as jobs in farming, forestry and fishing having fallen victim to machines and competition.

There are plenty of people in southern and coastal Maine who don’t think much about rural Maine and what it means to this state. They drive through rural areas to get to the ski slopes or the lakes, or maybe to drop a canoe in a stream or climb a trail, but they don’t spend a lot of time looking out the window.

They like the wilderness, of course, and they want to do whatever they can to protect it. Mostly, they want rural Maine to remain forested and beautiful, but they don’t think much about the people who live there or what they’ve been going through.

They should think some more.

Rural places are essential to who we are as a state, and so are rural people and small towns. They have for centuries defined Maine, our heritage and our cultural DNA. And given our vast forests, much of which was once farmland, rural areas may well be a critical element of our future economy, as new inventions and technologies open new doors to the land, the woods and the sea.

Rural areas are also critical to our politics, as we recently discovered. It was rural folks, after all, who largely propelled Donald Trump to the presidency, and who twice elected Paul LePage governor of Maine.

Since the 1950s, the people of rural Maine have seen their way of life change. They’ve watched farms and friends leave, seen their towns lose energy and their schools shrink or close. Familiar shops have been shuttered. And the factories that once supported thousands of families, directly and indirectly, have too often gone silent.

Along the way, town volunteers have aged without enough young people to pick up the slack. Those kids who stayed long enough to graduate from high school went off to somewhere else, and more often than not, they never came back except to visit.

Politicians have promised to bring it all back, just as they’ve promised to revive manufacturing. But most rural folks don’t believe that anymore.

The reasons why rural areas have been declining are simple and apparent. Labor-intensive work in growing and cutting and mining raw materials and manufacturing has been supplanted by machines that do the work once done by large crews. Big families aren’t essential to farming anymore. Massive logging machines now do the work that hundreds of men once did with saws and horses or skidders. And a handful of trawlers have supplanted thousands of small fishing boats.

The economy is like a forest sometimes. The older trees need to fall to the forest floor so that sunlight can penetrate the canopy and reach the seedlings struggling to grow below.

That is what has been happening in Maine, in a kind of slow-motion transition. The new seedlings that are growing include young farmers who have increased the number of farms over the last two decades, and people who are inventing new uses for the forests and the sea while expanding our state’s reputation for quality, dependability and wholesomeness.

They are the leading edge of the next rural economy in Maine, and they’re helping to re-energize some of our rural towns, especially those that are looking forward, building fast internet connections and innovative schools.

Many of the people who are shaping the future of rural Maine will be gathering in Bangor next month for a Summit on Rural Maine’s Next Economy, hosted by Envision Maine and an array of organizations including the Bangor Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and the Maine Forest Products Council.

The all-day event will feature close to 50 presenters who are working every day to revitalize the rural economy and expand opportunities for the future.

As with other Envision Maine events, this promises to be an uplifting and energizing day for all who attend. I urge you to consider being part of this conversation, whether you live in rural Maine or not.

After all, we’re a small family here in Maine. Our urban siblings are doing OK, but not so much those in rural areas. So we need a kind of modern barn-raising to help them help themselves, a place where we can gather together to listen and learn and find new ways to reinvigorate rural Maine together.

To find out more or to register, go to

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

]]> 0, 06 Jan 2017 18:53:19 +0000
Mental health services save lives Sun, 08 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 FALMOUTH — I read with great sadness the story in this newspaper about John Norton, a smart and talented young man with a bright future cut short after a nearly two-year struggle with schizophrenia.

In the wake of his suicide, John Norton’s parents were determined to share their story. His mother said they wanted to help other families dealing with the pain and confusion of schizophrenia. I applaud their courage and conviction. And, as I read the story, I was struck by how similar the Norton family is to my own. But for the grace of God, their tragedy could be mine.

I have a 21-year-old daughter. She is wonderful, intelligent, talented and generous. She also lives with child-onset schizophrenia. Her symptoms began when she was in the sixth grade. Over the past 10 years, she and our family have learned how to live with this devastating illness. It has been the hardest challenge I have ever faced, and this illness has profoundly re-defined my family.

Last year, I spoke publicly about my daughter’s diagnosis for the first time. Like the Nortons, I want to do my part to shine a light on the reality of mental illness – not only to remove stigma, but also to inform a conversation about how to take care of Mainers and their families who are living with serious and persistent mental illness.

Ironically, families like ours are lucky to live in the time we do. We now understand, for example, that illnesses such as schizophrenia are medical disorders, and involve disturbances in brain biology. In the same way that there are warning signs and identifiable risk factors for diabetes or heart disease, there are symptoms and risk factors which precede the onset of schizophrenia. Screening can detect these warning signs in young people before their first psychotic episode, and psychosis can actually be avoided. They can be helped to transition to successful, independent lives as adults with much healthier brains. Such early intervention also saves money by decreasing hospitalization, incarceration and costly services for substance abuse and associated medical illness.

This cutting-edge approach to mental illness can be seen right here in Maine. The Portland Identification and Early Referral, or PIER, Program at Maine Medical Center offers the kind of psychiatric services that can make a real difference in young patients’ lives. In 2013, PIER worked with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to win a competitive federal grant award worth $5 million over five years to provide these services in our community and throughout Maine.

Unfortunately, Gov. LePage’s administration this summer terminated the receipt of federal funding for key aspects of the program, without warning or explanation, and without legislative oversight. It rejected $3 million in federal funds that covered early screening and intervention for young people at high risk for developing serious mental illness. Those in the high-risk state are demonstrably ill, and very likely headed for greater deterioration. These cuts are a significant loss of opportunity for early intervention. I don’t mention these cuts to pick a political fight with the governor. I feel I need to call attention to them because I know firsthand how the loss of mental health services can have painful and costly results.

A little over a year ago, my daughter suffered a profound relapse during a gap in services. Her condition deteriorated quickly, bringing a cast of characters into her head that threatened to kill her family if she didn’t kill herself. She wisely went to our local emergency room, seeking inpatient care, and had to wait five days in a windowless room in the ER before being admitted. She responded well to inpatient care and returned home.

With the help of medication, therapy and in-home daily living and transportation support, she slowly and painstakingly improved. Today, she is stable and holding down a part-time job.

As the governor is fond of saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” It’s not enough to profess to care for Mainers living with mental illnesses. We must support them and their families with robust and accessible evidence-based programs that help them live healthy, stable lives. And we must use our limited resources in the most cost-effective way. Severe, persistent mental illness is detectable and treatable in early stages.

As a new member of the Legislature’s budget committee, I’ve pledged to fight not only to protect existing state resources for mental illness prevention and treatment, butalso to expand our state’s commitment to those services. For families like mine and the Norton family, they are a matter of life and death.

]]> 0 an umbrella in a storm, people with mental illness need help to protect themselves from forces beyond their control.Fri, 06 Jan 2017 19:10:02 +0000
Maine Observer: Trying to break the language barrier Sun, 08 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Me talk English real good. French, not so much.

So my wife and I bought the Rosetta Stone software as a mutual Christmas present to learn the language of love, gay Paree and downtown Biddeford. I’ve always wanted to learn a second language, and since I’m retired now I figured this was a perfect time. I studied Spanish in school, but it didn’t stick. Spanish speakers are rare in Maine anyway, and since many people around here speak French, I decided French was the way to go. Plus, my wife and I like to travel to Quebec, where we need to find bathrooms and order mussels. In French-speaking Canada, I need only say “bonjour” (good day) and the locals start talking back to me in perfect English, which is a little embarrassing.

I did consider the problem of learning Parisian French when my target audience spoke Quebecois, but I didn’t want to complicate the learning process any more than necessary.

Voila! Decision made.

An additional benefit, I deduced, was a better brain. Neuroscience research suggests new language acquisition builds synapses in the cranium, those critical connections to clear thinking. Since the possibility of a brain transplant was years in the future, I figured I had better work with what I had. Keep the existing brain cells firing.

When I opened the software to begin my studies, I had forgotten how terrible I was at language learning. And French, a beautiful sounding language, can be a bear for English speakers.

All those nasal vowels. I quickly discovered French pronunciation is best reproduced by pinching my nose and talking like the cartoon skunk Pepe Le Pew.

My wife and I saw the sci-fi movie “Arrival,” about a human scientist/linguist who learns to communicate with the Heptapods (the alien race) by deciphering their inky calligraphy. The actress, a plucky Amy Adams, invokes the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which posits that the language you speak affects the way you think. In the movie, it’s all about the difference between how we – humans – and the aliens experience time. We experience time linearly, while they experience it circularly. Amy achieves this remarkable feat in two hours of screen time, convincing me that it’s easier to learn how to talk to a seven-tentacled alien about theoretical physics than it is to ask your average French waiter to please bring the check.

But I persevere and hope for the best, building those synapses, improving my age-addled brain.

Funny stories abound about language learning gone terribly awry. The best one I’ve heard comes from a good friend (and great storyteller) who relates the tale of a man traveling in a foreign land and who is reasonably comfortable with his mastery of the native tongue.

When questioned on a bus about how he is enjoying his stay in the country, the man responds with a few well-chosen words. The bus passengers erupt into laughter. Later, he learns he had clearly and confidently announced: “I have an erection!”

Note to self: practice, practice, practice!

]]> 0 Fri, 06 Jan 2017 21:40:42 +0000
I don’t get what’s the big deal about sports Sat, 07 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 I am American, born and raised in this country, and yet I am not a sports fan. Some of you will find this hard to believe and are already writing letters to the government, asking for my citizenship to be revoked.

And yet I feel about sports the way that Dorothy Parker felt about skiing: “Skiing is very difficult and none of my business.” Big sports is none of my business.

So you can imagine how I felt when I learned that the football coach at my university was recently awarded $3.4 million when it was decided he was no longer right for the job. My first thought was to compare this coach to Marla Maples, who married Donald Trump and gave birth to a Trump child. Ms. Maples was reportedly paid as much as $2 million when her relationship terminated. It seems to me that with a $3.4 million payout, the football coach didn’t get severance; he got alimony. And he didn’t even have to go through labor.

I have genuine admiration for individual athletes, but I can’t appreciate what others find marvelous about sports. People have tried to explain it to me. For example, art dealer Jeff Cooley has been passionate about rowing ever since he crewed in college and it’s always baffled me. But I’ve now had several terrific undergraduates who row, and I asked Jeff to tell me again what it is that I’m missing. He summed it up in six words: “Teamwork, camaraderie, discipline, challenge, adrenaline, friendship.”

OK, I have a sense of that. I’ve known runners, swimmers, climbers and martial-arts folks who hold a special place in my imagination. I have friends and former students who play tennis, pole vault and play field hockey. In my 30 years in the classroom, I’ve taught students who excel at these activities and I cheer them on – just as I cheer them on when they do great work in my classes.

One friend, writer Jill Brehm Enders, speaks with enthusiasm about the coaches she had when she was growing up in Ohio. “They shaped my character and to this day, I hear myself chanting in my head ‘You’ve got this’ when life is unbearable. It’s reflexive – just as the tendency to hold on to hope until the last second even when ‘my team’ (my dream) is ridiculously behind.”

Another friend, Amy Lennard Goehner, a former boxing reporter who got hooked on watching the Friday night fights with her grandpa when she was 5, was one of those who argues that the love of a team is about far more than simply the love of the sport.

She illustrated her point with an anecdote: “The night after the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 (for the first time since 1918), a Boston cop caught a man scaling the wall of a closed cemetery. The man said he needed to visit his dad’s gravesite. The cop assured the man he wasn’t in trouble, and told him to take a look around. Several other guys had had the same idea. They needed to tell their dads – the ones who had never seen the Sox win the Series in their lifetimes – that the Sox had finally done it.”

Maybe it needs to be in your DNA or instilled early on in a child’s life. My father had no interest in sports; I suspect his young, tough life was tribal, competitive and fierce enough to make organized games where grown men were split into artificial rivalries seem foolish rather than entertaining. His crew flew in Liberator bombers from 1943 to 1945 over Germany.

My husband, too, is impervious to the lure of teams, groupthink and mascots. When, at a party, a guy cheerfully said to Michael, “How ’bout them ‘Noles?” my husband replied in all seriousness, “Did you have them removed?”

We all need to play, we all need to exercise and we all need our communities; if athletic activity can answer all three basic needs at once, sign me up. (Not literally.)

And yet, after all arguments explaining the virtues of big-time sports, I will never understand how this fascination leads to giving coaches who are dismissed more than $3 million.

I say this as a citizen – at least until your letters reach Washington.

]]> 0 Fri, 06 Jan 2017 19:57:26 +0000
State’s propping up harness racing industry makes less and less sense Sat, 07 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 FALMOUTH — Colin Woodard’s thorough piece (“Casino funds could offer hope for retired harness racing horses,” Dec. 18) raises another issue: subsidizing a dying business. Maine’s harness racing industry continues in steady decline despite an $8.44 million taxpayer subsidy in 2015 and similar annual allocations from slot machine revenue since 2005.

The continuous financial outlay is further called into question, given the well-documented checkered history of harness racing, one that includes animal cruelty in which fines are an ongoing cost of doing business, drugging has a long and shady past and overbreeding results in many “surplus” horses being sent to slaughter plants in Quebec.

The life of a harness racing horse is not some bucolic scene. It’s often miserable for the horses as racers, and after a short career, typically three to five years, they become unwanted.

As Woodard notes: “It’s the uncomfortable secret of Maine’s harness racing industry: Each year, some 200 horses end their racing careers at ages 3 to 14, but will live to be 30.”

The industry has always needed an outlet to rid itself of animals it deems as unproductive. The article begins with a description of the awful condition of Yankee, a 10-year-old racehorse bound for the slaughterhouse by his previous owner, but saved by a rescue.

With Scarborough Downs likely to close this year (further indication of a industry in free fall), the Maine Harness Racing Commission finds itself with $3 million of the track’s annual subsidy. A proposal to use some of that money for the care of these young, retired horses is long overdue. As Robyn Cuffey, respected re-trainer of racehorses, told Woodard: “I’m still trying to figure out why the people who made all the money off these horses are not putting a dime back into taking care of them afterward.”

State Rep. Don Marean of Hollis claims that such a proposal is a “pipe dream” and that any unallocated funds will be diverted to pay the operating costs of the harness racing commission. A Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association lobbyist, spokesperson and board member, Marean also frequently mentions that the commission donates $5,000 for distressed horses – less than 1 percent of the $8.4 million subsidy.

This would have been a perfect time for a much-needed public relations boost to embrace a minimal allotment and recognition of the need, but the industry instead showed its real hand again. Marean declared: “The numbers you are getting are fabricated on emotion and the need of some rescues looking for monetary support.” It is all about money – these magnificent animals are treated as a disposable commodity.

Marean, who led the opposition to an anti-horse slaughter bill in 2013, claims in the article, “The entire industry is struggling to stay afloat with the competition from the casinos and … online gambling.” These same sentiments were expressed by Sharon Terry, owner of Scarborough Downs, when she had requested further subsidies for the track.

All of this raises the larger question: Isn’t now finally the time for our state legislators to examine the merits (or lack thereof) of the state funneling millions of taxpayer dollars into an outdated, inhumane, discredited and dying industry that has shown a precipitous decline for decades, despite the state’s significant financial attempts to revitalize it? Yes, a fund to help retired racehorses would be great, but not having retired racehorses is better.

The harness racing industry’s struggles are anything but new. In the early 1990s, the industry was in full panic: Business as measured by the live handle (the total amount waged on harness racing) was down over 30 percent, from $45.2 million in 1987 to $29.8 million in 1991.

The solution to this free fall? Off-track betting parlors: neighborhood pubs for fans to gamble on races by live TV. OTB parlors were touted at the time as the salvation of the harness racing industry, but 25 years later, both harness racing and off-track betting are withering, with revenues down now to just a scant $4 million.

Then slot machine revenue allocation was implemented to “rescue” the industry yet again. Since it opened in 2005, Hollywood Slots has distributed over $80 million in slot machine profits to the harness racing industry, directly and indirectly. The infusion of revenue as boosted purses and encouraged horse owners to invest in faster horses, but attendance and money wagered on harness racing have continued to decline.

With so many other significant state financial needs, it remains perplexing why the state continues to prop up an activity that is outdated, cruel and has drastically faded in popularity. Moreover, no animal that has served mankind so long, so well, so nobly, and in so many capacities, deserves such a fate.

]]> 0, ME - NOVEMBER 4: A field of trotters hits their pace at the start of a race at Scarborough Downs. (Photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)Fri, 06 Jan 2017 23:56:08 +0000
The humble Farmer: Televangelist Jim Bakker has a second coming Sat, 07 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 While settling my breakfast on the couch, I went through the channels and was pleasantly surprised to find that old master of the broadcast con, televangelist Jim Bakker, alive and well and still peddling. There was a book by the ubiquitous Mike Huckabee on Bakker’s well-filled rack, which tells you all you need to know about Bakker right there.

Watching those guys hustle is part of one’s education. When it comes to separating people from their money, they are consummate professionals. They are in a class by themselves. I’ve watched televangelist Rod Parsley with interest, but he actually whines for money, is transparently slick and would never be as rich as he is today had he not stood on the shoulders of old masters like Bakker. Although as greedy as Parsley, Bakker is never tiresome and is truly entertaining.

While rambling over his book collection, Bakker said something about how he couldn’t have written that book if he hadn’t been in prison.

Johnny Cash is the only other person you can think of whose incarceration served as a springboard to even greater fame and glory. Cash’s only crime was being born poor on a floodplain where the water was often 5 feet high and rising, and becoming addicted to prescription pills and alcohol. His entire career was one of giving to society, not preying on it.

Jim Bakker’s first wife was Tammy Faye Bakker, who died young (65). Some wag once said that when they scraped off Tammy Faye’s makeup, they found Jimmy Hoffa. That was an unkind thing to say. I remember seeing Tammy Faye on some reality TV show, and she came across as a very kind, caring and thoughtful person – the kind of person you’d like to have for a next-door neighbor.

When one thinks of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, the air-conditioned doghouse for their puppy comes quickly to mind. When their goods were auctioned off to reimburse folks who had been cheated, the doghouse alone went for $4,500. You remember hearing about that doghouse. It isn’t the actual doghouse that sticks in your mind but your questions about the many good people who sent Bakker their grocery money to pay for it.

Can it be almost 30 years ago that Bakker was indicted for conspiracy (whatever that might entail), eight counts of mail fraud and 15 counts of something else? To many of us, his month-long trial seems like yesterday. Few of us thought he’d live out his 45-year sentence in federal prison. But here he is again, this time without Tammy but still peddling books from a screen in my living room.

He didn’t rob me, so I’d say that having to spend any prison time in the same cell with another old master of the con, Lyndon LaRouche, would be punishment enough.

We have been told over and over that it’s not wise to put young first-time offenders into a prison population with experienced criminals because prison is only a finishing school for crooks who would polish their skills. This might no longer be true, as it is children who created the science to unlock your car and steal your credit card.

But can you imagine what anyone with an inclination for fleecing the old and susceptible – or just plain everyday suckers – could have learned after a year in the same room with Jim Bakker or Lyndon LaRouche? Are you amazed that, after all that, Jim Bakker is only a click away from the living rooms of sweet old ladies who continue to line up at the post office to send him their Social Security checks?

If there were a Cabinet seat for religion, guess who has the credentials to be sitting in it long enough to go to jail again?

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

]]> 0 And Tammy Faye Bakker are shown talking to their television audience, Aug. 20, 1986 at their PTL Ministry in Fort Mill, S.C. (AP Photo/Lou Krasky)Sat, 07 Jan 2017 17:25:20 +0000
It’s time for a new approach to trade agreements Fri, 06 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — The ultimate defeat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement in 2016 was a stunning example of how millions of people can join together to defeat powerful business lobbyists and stop a corporate power grab.

The so-called free trade agreement would have had devastating effects on workers, the environment, food safety, access to medicine and our country’s freedom to make our own laws. Many chapters of modern trade agreements, including the TPP, have very little to do with trade at all but are simply designed to shift the balance of power away from people and their governments and over to multinational corporations.

Working in secret, with over 500 corporate advisers on hand but with the people shut out of the process, 12 countries finished negotiating the TPP in October 2015. Throughout the negotiations and after the deal was signed last February, a broad coalition of labor, environmental, family farm, social justice and other organizations and their members worked hard to stop the TPP.

The TPP could have been approved by a simple majority vote in Congress within a few months of its signing, but millions of Americans including thousands of Mainers spoke out against it, demanding that our elected representatives oppose the unfair trade deal. The TPP was dead on arrival in Congress, and there were never enough votes there to pass it.

While we celebrate this big win for people in the United States and around the world, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. We expect President-elect Donald Trump will honor his campaign promise and not try to revive the already-defunct TPP.

One real test of the incoming president’s stance on trade policy will be whether he announces an end to negotiations already underway for more TPP-style trade deals, like the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Trade in Services Agreement and the U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty. Another test will be whether he keeps his pledge to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade pacts with policies that put people and communities ahead of corporate profits.

This week’s announcement that Trump will nominate Robert Lighthizer as his U.S. trade representative indicates that there may be a change in the “free trader” mindset of the last two decades. Lighthizer is a respected trade attorney who is known for looking beyond trade ideology and considering the pragmatic outcomes of these agreements.

However, there’s also cause to be skeptical about where the administration is really going on trade policy. Many of Trump’s Cabinet nominees – including Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson and Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn – are from the millionaire and billionaire class and have strongly supported the TPP. Along with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Republican congressional leaders and many other high-level Trump appointees, they represent the exact perspective on trade that Lighthizer has criticized for many years.

There isn’t any reason why a renegotiated NAFTA or other trade deals can’t be tailored to benefit everyday people and stop our race to the bottom. A good place to start would be the elimination of the investor-state dispute settlement provision that was included in NAFTA (and many other trade agreements) and was also due for inclusion in the TPP.

This provision circumvents domestic courts and grants new rights to multinational corporations to sue our government in front of a tribunal panel of three corporate lawyers. These lawyers can award the corporations unlimited sums of money to be paid by American taxpayers if a law, rule or safety regulation is found to be in violation of their rights under the trade agreement. The decision made by these lawyers and their award cannot be appealed. Investor-state dispute settlement gives multinational corporations rights that we don’t even have as citizens.

Millions of Americans and people around the world were able to overcome tremendous odds to defeat the TPP. That coalition must now work to ensure that a renegotiated NAFTA and any future trade agreements don’t follow the same failed model.

]]> 0 protester holds signs against the Trans-Pacific Partnership during a Friday rally in Lima, Peru.Fri, 06 Jan 2017 10:52:21 +0000
Commentary: Attorney general nominee greatly distorts his record on civil rights cases Fri, 06 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions is trying to mislead his Senate colleagues, and the country, into believing he is a champion for civil rights. We are former Justice Department civil rights lawyers who worked on the civil rights cases that Sessions cites as evidence for this claim, so we know: The record isn’t Sessions’ to burnish. We won’t let the nominee misstate his civil rights history to get the job of the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

In the questionnaire he filed recently with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions, R-Ala., listed four civil rights cases among the 10 most significant that he litigated “personally” as the U.S. attorney for Alabama during the 1980s. Three involved voting rights, while the fourth was a school desegregation case. After criticism for exaggerating his role, he then claimed that he provided “assistance and guidance” on these cases.

We worked in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which brought those lawsuits; we handled three of the four ourselves. We can state categorically that Sessions had no substantive involvement in any of them. He did what any U.S. attorney would have had to do: He signed his name on the complaint, and we added his name on any motions or briefs. That’s it.

To understand why that was the sum total of Sessions’ work, it helps to know that the Civil Rights Division in Washington takes the lead in investigating and trying voting rights and school desegregation cases. Division lawyers decide which cases to bring, where to bring them and the contours of the legal theory presented to the court. When a complaint is filed, the custom is for the local federal prosecutor, the U.S. attorney, to sign it and perhaps other substantive court filings. This step is a mere formality.

Sessions’ attempt to pass himself off as a civil rights hero is particularly brazen given his history with the nominations process.

In 1986, as part of his rejected bid to become a federal district court judge, Sessions filled out a similar questionnaire and had to provide the same information about his most important cases. Yet he listed none of the civil rights cases he now touts, even though all of those cases either were in progress or had reached a decision by that time. Instead, he chose to highlight his criminal prosecutions.

In both the 1986 questionnaire and his confirmation hearings (at which one of us, J. Gerald Hebert, testified), Sessions indicated that he discussed civil rights cases with department attorneys only when they came to Mobile, Alabama, to get him to sign complaints. He also said he did not try any civil cases himself while U.S. attorney, focusing instead on criminal prosecutions. Indeed, he said it was Tom Figures – the same African-American assistant whom Sessions allegedly called “boy” – who handled all of the office’s civil rights cases. It therefore makes sense that his 1986 questionnaire included so many criminal cases and no civil rights matters. That renders even more suspect his recent efforts to claim his colleagues’ civil rights experience as his own.

Sessions’ dubious questionnaire is part of a concerted effort to make his abysmal civil rights record look exemplary. For instance, Sessions is touting his support for reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act 10 years ago. That took no special courage – the measure passed the Senate 98-0. But Sessions celebrated when the Supreme Court cut the heart out of the law in 2013, and has opposed all efforts to fix it since.

He is also playing up the fact that his U.S. Attorney’s Office tried cases with the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union. Yet he has called those same organizations “un-American,” and in 2010 he bashed several of President Obama’s judicial nominees for having what he called “ACLU DNA” or “the ACLU chromosome.” His recent assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, Sessions has a long record of hostility toward enforcing the rights that Americans cherish.

Sessions has not worked to protect civil rights. He worked against civil rights at every turn. Sessions knows that his real record on race and civil rights is harmful to his chances for confirmation. So he has made up a fake one. But many of us who were there – in Alabama in the 1980s, 1990s and beyond – are still around. We lived that story, too. And we are here to testify that Sessions has done many things throughout his 40-year career. Protecting civil rights has not been one of them.

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Charles Krauthammer: U.S. faces tough strategic decision as North Korea threat grows Fri, 06 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 You can kick the can down the road, but when Kim Jong Un announces, as he did last Sunday, that “we have reached the final stage in preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic rocket,” you are reaching the end of that road.

Since the early 1990s, we have offered every kind of inducement to get North Korea to give up its nuclear program. Pyongyang managed to extort money, food, oil and commercial nuclear reactors in exchange. But it was all a swindle. North Korea was never going to give up its nukes because it sees them as the ultimate guarantee of regime survival.

The North Koreans believe nukes confer inviolability. Saddam Hussein was invaded and deposed before he could acquire them. Kim won’t let that happen to him. That’s why Thae Yong Ho, a recent high-level defector, insisted that “as long as Kim Jong Un is in power, North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons, even if it’s offered $1 trillion or $10 trillion in rewards.”

Meanwhile, they have advanced. They’ve already exploded a handful of nuclear bombs. And they’ve twice successfully launched satellites, which means they have the ICBM essentials. If they can miniaturize their weapons to fit on top of the rocket and control re-entry, they’ll be able to push a button in Pyongyang and wipe out an American city. What to do? The options are stark:

• Pre-emptive attack on its missile launching facilities. Doable but reckless. It is the option most likely to trigger an actual war. The North Koreans enjoy both conventional superiority and proximity: a vast army poised at the Demilitarized Zone only 30 miles from Seoul. Americans are not going to fight another land war in Asia.

• Shoot down the test ICBM, as advocated by The Wall Street Journal. Assuming we can. Democrats have done their best to abort or slow down anti-missile defenses since Ronald Reagan proposed them in the early 1980s. Even so, we should be able to intercept a single, relatively primitive ICBM of the sort North Korea might be capable of.

Though such a shoot-down would occur nowhere near North Korean soil, it could still very well provoke a military response. Which is why the new administration should issue a clear warning that if such a test missile is launched, we will bring it down. Barack Obama is gone. Such a red line could be a powerful deterrent.

• Return tactical U.S. nuclear weapons to South Korea. They were withdrawn in 1991 by George H.W. Bush in the waning days of the Cold War. Gorbachev’s Soviet Union responded in kind. A good idea in general, but not on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang had railed constantly against their presence, but they did act as a deterrent to any contemplated North Korean aggression. Which might make them a useful bargaining chip.

• Economic leverage on China, upon which Pyongyang depends for its survival. Donald Trump seems to suggest using trade to pressure China to get North Korea to desist. The problem is that China has shown no evidence of being willing to yield a priceless strategic asset – a wholly dependent client state that acts as a permanent thorn and distraction to U.S. power in the Pacific Rim – because of mere economic pressure.

• Strategic leverage on China. We’ve been begging China for decades to halt the North Korean nuclear program. Beijing plays along with sanctions and offers occasional expressions of dismay. Nothing more. There’s one way guaranteed to get its attention. Declare that we would no longer oppose Japan acquiring a nuclear deterrent.

This is a radical step that goes against our general policy of nonproliferation. But the point is to halt proliferation to the infinitely more dangerous regime in North Korea. China is the key. The Chinese have many nightmares, none worse than a nuclear-armed Japan.

The principal strategic challenge facing the United States is the rise of revisionist powers – Russia, China and Iran – striving to expel American influence from their regions. In comparison, the Korean problem is minor, an idiosyncratic relic of the Cold War. North Korea should be a strategic afterthought, like Cuba. And it would be if not for its nukes.

That’s a big if. A wholly unpredictable, highly erratic and often irrational regime is acquiring the capacity to destroy an American city by missile. That’s an urgent problem.

North Korea may be just an unexploded ordnance of a long-concluded Cold War. But we cannot keep assuming it will never go off.

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

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